On Barb’s Bookshelf: Papal Encyclicals Plus, from Ave Maria Press

Who’s supposed to read what the Pope writes? Priests and bishops? Catholic journalists? Secular journalists? Historians?

Yes, but that’s not all. The Pope’s encyclicals and other writings are meant for all the faithful. They are addressed to all of us–and if we really want to understand the Pope’s message, there’s nothing like going straight to the primary source. (That’s true of any message. Here’s the English major in me talking: the more intermediaries you have, the better the chance of misinterpretation.)

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I read a lot of things online (on websites or on my Kindle) but for me, nonfiction demands a hard copy I can mark up, underline, highlight, and hang Post-it tabs all over. I’m all about the idea of a “collected writings” of the Pope–and Ave Maria has put that together with a new book covering the first 3 years of Pope Francis’ papacy (the papal exhortation Amoris Laetitia was published just after the third anniversary of the Pope’s election.) The title tells it all: The Complete Encyclicals, Bulls and Apostolic Exhortations of Pope Francis.

According to Ave Maria Press, the publisher of Volume 1, the book includes:

  • Lumen Fidei, June 29, 2013: The Light of Faith is an encyclical on the centrality of faith, the relationship between reason and faith, the Church’s role in the transmission of faith, and how faith results in redeeming the world.
  • Evangelii Gaudium, Nov. 24, 2013: The apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel has been called Pope Francis’s manifesto. It challenges all Christians to approach evangelization anew and overcome complacency in order to fulfill Christ’s great mission.
  • Misericordiae Vultus, April 11, 2015: In The Face of Mercy, the papal bull for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2015, the pope urges Catholics, “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy.”
  • Laudato Si’, May 24, 2015: Praise Be to You: On Care for Our Common Home is the landmark encyclical in which Pope Francis issued a call to the entire Church—and the world—on climate change, human responsibility, the role of faith in how we live among God’s entire creation, and the future of the planet.
  • Amoris Laetitia, March 19, 2016: Love in the Family is an exhortation published after the Synods on the Family. In it, Pope Francis ranges in his quotations and examples from St. Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther King Jr. to the film Babette’s Feast.

I admit to having skimmed Laudato Si’ and Amoris Laetitia online when they came out, but I haven’t really put in the time to really read and learn from Pope Francis’ writings. My plan is to dive into Evangelii Gaudium, because I work in the field of Catholic media and evangelization. But you don’t need a job in such a field to read that apostolic exhortation: Pope Francis makes it clear right up front that he is inviting “all Christians, everywhere . . . to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ” (p. 57) which is “the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization” (p. 60). Yes, there are specific sections if that exhortation that are directed toward priests, rather than the lay faithful, but there is much to be learned.

If you’re taking part in the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge, this book provides all of Pope Francis’ major writings in one place and will help you check off that “papal encyclical” box. (Yes, I’m stretching it a bit by reading an exhortation instead of an encyclical, but to be fair, it’s 3 times the length.)

So who should read the Pope’s encyclicals and other writings? If you’re Catholic, YOU should!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

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Be a Missionary: There’s an App for That!

Learn about a brand-new way to help the Church’s missions in far-off places, and TWO prizes you can win! I’ve got some swag to give away, and if you sign up soon, you can win a trip for two to Rome!

MISSIO, a unique new Catholic crowdfunding platform designed to make a difference for the poor and forgotten around the world, is now live at MISSIO.org and on the MISSIO app. MISSIO’s revolutionary concept uses technology to directly connect people with a mission project they’re passionate about.

Originally launched by Pope Francis, MISSIO was created by the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, the Pope’s official mission arm, which has been engaged in building up the Church and serving the poor for 200 years.

“Pope Francis has urged Catholics around the world to maintain a close and personal connection with the poor, just as Christ did,” said Oblate Father Andrew Small, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States. “MISSIO helps you do just that.”

“MISSIO makes the Mission Church visible on your mobile phone or computer screen,” Father Andrew continued. “In a world where everything is so accessible – from deliveries to the sports scores – why shouldn’t your faith, your Church be that visible? MISSIO provides that space, one that is safe, trusted, transparent, reliable – and effective.”

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Missio has a social-media presence as well as an app for iOS and Android. You can use Facebook Messenger to participate in a chat with Pope Francis! On Twitter, follow @1missionfamily.

Would you like to win some Missio swag? Just visit the Missio website or download the app, then leave a comment telling me what Missio project most interests you. You’ll be in the running to win a Missio coffee mug and T-shirt!

Giveaway open through 11:59 PM Eastern, February 1. Winner will be chosen by random drawing and notified by email and will have 48 hours to claim their prize. If prize is unclaimed, alternate winner will be chosen.

Some content from this post was provided by Missio.org. All rights reserved. Images used with permission.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: What Pope Francis Really Said

Every time Pope Francis writes an encyclical or makes an off-the-cuff remark on an airplane, the media (both Catholic and secular) jump all over it with various interpretations.

That’s a problem, states Tom Hoopes, author of What Pope Francis Really Said (Servant, 2016). Depending on your news source (or who you follow on Twitter and Facebook) you’ll get wildly different versions of the same wrong story. Add in our lack of critical-reading skills and our willingness to accept “fake news” at face value and you wind up with a great deal of confusion about the Pope’s teachings and motivations.

He is celebrated by some for saying things he never said and rejected by others for doing things they don’t really understand (ix).

That airplane photo on the cover isn’t just a convenient file photo. It’s a symbol of the world’s eagerness to take one sentence out of an entire speech and make a huge (and often hugely inaccurate) news story out of it. The problem is not that Pope Francis holds news conferences on airplanes. The problem lies in what people do with the statements he makes.

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I can’t remember so much attention being paid to things previous popes said and wrote. It’s good, because the world (including the Catholic world) is watching and learning, but it’s challenging, because it’s so easy to take things out of context. I eagerly read Hoopes’ book because I find myself having to say, “That’s not what he said” way too many times when the subject of Pope Francis comes up!

Tom Hoopes traces Pope Francis’ papacy chronologically, from a speech then-Cardinal Bergoglio made in the conclave to the World Meeting of Families in the fall of 2015. Beginning with the retelling of the Gospel story in which Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath and is vilified by the leaders of the synagogue for doing so, Hoopes mentions that Jesus refuses to be “stage-managed by what officialdom is asking him to do and instead [turns] his attention to those who are looking to have a real encounter with him.” (2) Pope Francis operates in much the same way.

Hoopes assures readers who have painted the Pope as “too liberal” of Pope Francis’ unswerving commitment to the dignity of marriage and the right to life, while reminding those who believe he’s “too conservative” that Pope Francis decries the violence that begets more violence and often leads to war. Hoopes also mentions that Pope Francis is not saying anything new. He paraphrases the Catechism of the Catholic Church, echoes Popes John Paul II and Benedict, and frequently references Scripture.

In a fast-paced world with a second-by-second news cycle that reduces entire speeches to 140-character tidbits, Catholics need to read What Pope Francis Really Said to catch up on the truth behind what Pope Francis has said in the past so that they can be prepared to defend, and live out, what the Pope says in the future.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book from the publisher, Servant Books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Pope Francis Takes the Bus

What’s Pope Francis really like? You’ve heard bits and pieces in news stories about him paying his own hotel bill, riding the bus around Buenos Aires and forgoing a plush Papal apartment in favor of a life in community. Italian journalist Rosario Carello has put together eighty vignettes from the life of Pope Francis in a book that will help readers get to know the Pope in his new book, Pope Francis Takes the Bus.

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The title of this book might make you think it was written for children. (Or maybe I’ve spent too much time reading Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! with the first-graders.) This impression is carried even further when you see that the table of contents is arranged alphabetically, like an ABC picture book: “F is for…Francis.” While the stories themselves can be easily understood by children, the vocabulary used in this book will challenge readers below the middle-school level. If your children are younger, consider reading it yourself and simplifying the word choice as you share the stories with your children. The stories are wonderful, and many of them involve children, so your younger family members will certainly enjoy hearing them.

This book centers on the Pope’s humility as his distinguishing trait. The anecdotes in the book are all designed to demonstrate that the Pope deliberately chooses to live that virtue.

I do think that there is a danger, in writing a biography of a Church figure, to canonize a person while he is still alive. Carello walks that fine line in this book, and that’s understandable, because he’s not out to make the Pope look bad.

If you’d like to learn about Pope Francis’ life through stories about more than just his papacy, this book is for you.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Lent and Easter Wisdom from Pope Francis

 

Lent starts tomorrow! Are you ready? No? Join the club. I’m still figuring out my give-ups and add-ons, my physical sacrifices and spiritual practices to put into place.

lent and easter wisdom from pope francisI’ve got a good book to help me stay encouraged and motivated all throughout Lent–and right through Divine Mercy Sunday as well: Lent and Easter Wisdom from Pope Francis by John Cleary.

This book is practical and not at all heavy-duty. There’s no way I could handle a Lent filled with complicated spiritual reading. Pope Francis is down-to-earth; the homilies, encyclicals, letters and addresses quoted here are accessible but still spiritually challenging.

Journal prompts for each day inspire reflection based on the Pope’s quotes, a Scripture passage and a prayer. I’m not the best journal-keeper, probably because journals are so open-ended, but this could work for me.

Each day’s section in the book is 3 pages or less. I like that it doesn’t end on Easter Sunday but instead continues through the whole Octave of Easter, reinforcing the concept that Easter is not just a day!

This is an undated book; sections are divided by the day in the liturgical year, so keep your church calendar handy. The bonus here is that the book isn’t tied only to 2016!

Buy this book through my Amazon link to support Franciscanmom.com!

The fine print: I received a review copy of this book; no other compensation was received and all opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Lenten Resources from Ave Maria Press

Lent sure is sneaking up on me this year; it comes very early! Ash Wednesday is next week, February 10. Here are a few excellent resources for personal and family devotions, brought to you by Ave Maria Press.

sacred reading lent 2016Sacred Reading for Lent 2016, from the Apostleship of Prayer, is a pocket- or purse-sized version of the full-year edition of Sacred Reading, reviewed here. It runs from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday and contains the Gospel for the day, followed by prayer prompts in the Lectio Divina prayer method. Down-to-earth and simple to use, this book takes the mystery out of this prayer process. It’s priced at only $1.75–a bargain, considering all that is contained in the book.

 

 

stations of the cross with the eucharistic heart of jesusStations of the Cross with the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus by William Prospero, S.J., is a unique take on the age-old Lenten devotion. I know many people who pray this devotion year-round, and these meditations can be used in either private prayer or a group Stations of the Cross prayer service. The meditations include quotes from Scripture and the Saints, and are focused on the Eucharist, bringing home the truth of Jesus’ bodily sacrifice on the Cross and in the Eucharist. This book sells for $5.95.

bringing lent home with pope francisBringing Lent Home with Pope Francis: Prayers, Reflections and Activities for Families by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is the Lenten resource I needed when my kids were younger! It’s ideal for families with school-age children and could be used in elementary-school classrooms as well as in the home. For each day of Lent, this book contains:

  • a quote from Pope Francis (from homilies, General Audiences, letters and addresses, and even Twitter)
  • a Parent Reflection to ponder in advance of praying together as a family
  • a short Family Prayer to pray together (this would work well at the breakfast table)
  • a short story from Pope Francis’ life
  • suggestions for fasting and almsgiving, focused on Pope Francis’ exhortation to keep mercy in mind
  • a concluding prayer, including a special intention and a full-day focus

The Parent Reflections in this book are classic Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle: quietly encouraging and deeply faithful. Throughout the book, the fasting and almsgiving prompts are often accompanied with concrete ways to help both children and adults achieve those spiritual goals.

This book is not tied to the 2016 calendar, so the purchase price of $3.50 is a true bargain for a prayer book that can be used in Lenten seasons for years to come.

Buy these books through my Amazon links to support Franciscanmom.com!

I received review copies of these books from the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Monday Recap: 10/5/2015

Monday Recap-What I've been writing

There’s been a lot of writing going on this week!

At CatholicMom.com:

PreK4 God Bless Our PopeA Catholic School Welcomes Pope Francis

 

 

 

1Progressive Dinner: Granma’s Rolls

Ranch TunaMacaroni Salad FI

 

 

Meatless Friday: Ranch Tuna Macaroni Salad

 

 

Saints for All Occasions FISaintly Greetings: Saints for All Occasions Cards

 

 

Stay with Me coverBook Notes: Stay With Me by Carolyn Astfalk (look for a longer review of this book on Saturday, right here!)

 

 

 

 

 

At Cook and Count:

Sally Magic Chicken T CSally’s Magic Chicken

 

Review of Saints and Heroes: Francis, the Knight of Assisi

On the heels of Pope Francis’ visit to the USA, here’s a way to keep your young children enthusiastic about serving the Church by helping others. CCC of America has bundled its Saints and Heroes video about St. Francis of Assisi with a fun activity poster with puzzles and word games about Saint Francis on one side and a commemorative Pope Francis mitre to fold and wear on the other.

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The video, in English, Spanish and French, clocks in at just over 25 minutes and presents the story of St. Francis’ change of heart and eventual founding of the Franciscan Order in a way children 8 and under can understand. One of the best moments came in the middle of the video, when Francis’ mother tells him that “God comes first–only He can tell you your destiny;” then Francis prays in the tumbledown chapel at San Damiano and is given the commission to build up the Church. (Of course, he misinteprets this at first, and the video shows how he later learns the true meaning of his mission.) Francis is shown preaching the Gospel, especially the Beatitudes, and being kind to strangers and to the poor.

My friends Cole and Ryan check out the video and activity poster.
My friends’ sons, Cole and Ryan, check out the video and activity poster.

As my own children are teenagers and young adults, I brought the movie and poster to church to ask my friends’ sons, who are are just the right age for the movie and activities in this bundle pack, to share their impressions of the video and poster. Their favorite part was the word-search activity on the back of the poster.

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This movie would be an excellent addition to a religious-education program as well as a family video library.

To purchase your copy of this Special Edition: Francis, the Knight of Assisi + Pope Francis Commemorative Poster at a special price, use coupon code BLOGGER30 at checkout. You’ll save 30% off the regular price!

saints and heroes bundle pack

Product images courtesy of CCC of America.
Other photos copyright Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS. All rights reserved.

Note: links to CCC of America are affiliate links. Thanks for sponsoring my blog through your purchase!

Fast 4 Francis: Welcome the Holy Father

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Yesterday, Tommy Tighe wrote about the report that about 31% of Catholics are completely unaware that the Pope will be here next month.

Clearly that 31% lives nowhere near Philadelphia, because everyone around here, Catholic or not, knows that the Pope is coming and that the city is going to just completely shut down. Or the world will end as we know it. Or something like that. It’s all-catastrophe, all the time around here.

While you won’t catch me anywhere near Philly during the Pope’s visit, I think it’s very cool that he’ll be here–and it’s good for the city. Really, it is. I think the mayor’s going a bit overkill on the lockdown part, but the visit is a good thing.

But no matter where you live, you can do something to help prepare for the Pope’s visit.

You can fast, and you can pray.

It’s Spiritual Bouquet time–for the Pope.

Fast4Francis is an opportunity for participants to embrace the Pope’s visit as an invitation to a deeper faith life and to pray for his safe travel leading up to and throughout his visit to the USA.

Darcie Nielsen, Assistant Director of Live the Fast, says “Prayers (novenas) and fasting together are powerful tools used in preparation for important events. This is a proactive effort to stimulate a fervent environment of prayer and faith for our Holy Father’s visit.”

The Fast4Francis novena will take place September 18-26, the nine days leading up to the pope’s arrival in Philadelphia.  Anyone from any faith may take part in the nine day fast. There are various tracks of fasting that participants can take part in. All tracks of fasting involve giving up certain foods, praying the prayers of the novena and taking part in a sacrament (like Holy Mass or Reconciliation). For example, Track 1 involves giving up coffee, Track 2, fasting from snacks and dessert, Track 3 involves skipping one meal, Tracks 4 and 5 bread and water fasts. Since prayer, fasting and almsgiving are inseparable, participants are invited to choose one of the Works of Mercy as well. Participants may also begin in one track and move to another or combine tracks during the nine day novena. For those who cannot fast, spending more time in prayer and/or going to adoration for the nine days is an ideal alternative.  As well, fasting can also entail giving up social media or television.

Pope Francis has said, “Fasting makes sense if it really chips away at our security and, as a consequence, benefits someone else, if it helps us cultivate the style of the good Samaritan, who bent down to his brother in need and took care of him.”

Want to learn more? Visit the Fast 4 Francis site and learn about the several suggested ways to fast and pray in preparation for the Holy Father’s trip to the USA.

Want to spread the word? You can print and share this flyer about Fast 4 Francis.

Image and press release material provided by Live the Fast. All rights reserved.