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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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: 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.

When a prayer becomes a stumbling block

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In our parish’s Perpetual Adoration Chapel there are some prayer booklets. Adorers are asked to begin their Holy Hour with these prayers so that there is a continuous unity of prayer flowing through the chapel. The booklet is several typed pages and contains prayers such as the Divine Praises, a prayer for priests, a specific prayer for each priest who has served our parish during its history, prayers for deceased Adorers, and so on. It takes only a few minutes to pray these prayers and then your time in the Chapel is your own, to pray or meditate as you wish.

The language in some of these prayers is more flowery than my no-nonsense nature normally goes for, but that’s no big deal. For me, the problem comes in the words of the Prayer for the Holy Father (specifically the words I include here in bold):

Lord God, we thank you for the gift of Francis as Pope for our times. You have called him to this office at a very critical time in salvation history. We ask through the intercession of the Blessed Mother that you shower him with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit in full measure. Strengthen, protect, console and guide him in his efforts to defend the truths of the Catholic Faith against her enemies. May he always be the Sovereign Pontiff you are calling him to be, and may he work unceasingly to foster the restoration of the Church to her former glory.

We pledge our complete fidelity to our Holy Father when he proclaims the traditional teachings of Holy Mother Church. Grant us an unwavering faith that will persevere until the end in the midst of whatever darkness or persecution may befall us. We offer this prayer from the safe and secure refuge of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Amen.

To me, this prayer reads like someone has an axe to grind. Is there a claim in it that the Holy Father is not always proclaiming the “traditional teachings” of the Church?

As to “former glory,” that’s extremely subjective. What qualifies as “glory”? Hasn’t the Church nearly always undergone times of persecution, scandal, mismanagement and lukewarm faith? What is this “glory”? Should we seek glory in this world–even for the Church?

I feel like this prayer is a veiled criticism of the Pope and a wish for a throwback to some unspecified time in history that, in this prayer-writer’s nostalgic view, is somehow superior to our own.

So I’ve stopped using that prayer booklet. Instead, I begin my Holy Hour with the Divine Praises and the Angelus (since my hour begins at noon–it’s Angelus time!)

What do you think of this prayer? Am I reading too much into it?

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.

Kid Logic Emeritus

fantaThe other day Little Brother opened a Fanta, and I made the mistake of informing him that Fanta is Pope Benedict’s favorite soda.

I also made the mistake of mentioning that Pope Benedict is called “Pope Emeritus” now that he’s retired. Now he’s fascinated by the term “emeritus,” which he somehow thinks is a term that can only be applied to popes.*

He has just declared that he wants to be a professional soccer player (we knew that) and when he’s a soccer player emeritus, he’ll star in commercials.

Aspirations to the papacy have also been mentioned. I guess that’s for when he’s too old for soccer and the commercials deals run out. “I’m not going to be a pope, because there’s only one, Mom. Get your facts straight.”

That’s a lot of ambition right there. However, his hopes of playing on a national soccer team outside the USA have been dashed by the cold, hard facts:  both TheDad and I were born in New Jersey. We’re not immigrants. “I was kinda hoping Dad was born in Poland….are you sure?”

How does he even know the eligibility rules for national soccer teams?

*See the beauty of Kid Logic? Adults had no idea, before this past February, that “emeritus” could be associated with a pope. Kids, though, just take such things in stride.