New book on Pope Francis

Crossroad Publishing has recently published an attractive coffee table picture book on Pope Francis with excellent essays on his background and perspective, as well as that of his predecessor. The pictures are very well done, and the writing quite accessible. The book is entitled: A Call to Serve: Pope Francis and the Catholic Church. If you slip and refer to him as St. Francis, don’t worry, you have plenty of company. With a name, personality, and background like that, it comes with the territory.

I found the writing particularly engaging. It speaks to both novice and the well read. It is broken down into manageable and user-friendly subtopics surrounded by colorful photos.

For a limited time, Crossroad is offering this at an outstanding price of $7 per copy, and $6 per copy for orders of 40 or more. This offer expires on June 14.  Here is ordering information provided by the publisher.

To order online – www.popefrancisbook.com

For bulk orders, email sales@crossroadpublishing.com

YouTube Video Clip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13OoeYvaCfM

If you mention this blog as a source for your interest, you unfortunately will not receive an additional discount, but you will likely get some sympathy.  Check it out and enjoy.

Pope Paul VI Anecdote

Excerpt from “Keys to the Kingdom”

By Lenora Grimaud

June 13, 2010

Father, this past week, I had the opportunity to view videos on the lives of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.  I wept with joy and thanksgiving for these two great servants of God.  God has been so gracious in giving the Church the last four popes, including Pope Benedict XVI.  Their lives reveal the struggle that the Church has been going through—her weaknesses and her strengths. 

I have to admit that I know very little or nothing about the popes between St. Peter and John XXIII.  I also must admit that before Pope Paul VI arrived on the scene, I did not even know what a pope was, or what his purpose was; where the papacy came from or why.  My Catholic formation was gravely lacking.  Years ago, when my Protestant friends challenged my beliefs regarding the pope, I defended the Church out of loyalty, not out of knowledge.

During my pilgrimage to Rome (sometime between 1970 and 1972), I had an opportunity to have an audience with Pope Paul VI.  This was the same pilgrimage in which I saw the Eucharist multiplied.  I had no desire to meet the pope, so I was greatly surprised when my Chaplain chose me to accompany him for an audience with the pope.  I was even a little indignant, as I thought of the thousands of people who came to Rome to see the pope, and who would give anything for an audience with him; people much more deserving than me.

As we were preparing to go for the audience, the people in my group said to me, “You must be so nervous and excited.”  I thought to myself, “Why should I be nervous, he is only a man.”  Then, I heard the Lord say to me, “This man is my servant.”  I began to weep, openly, and did not stop weeping until after the audience.

My knees were shaking as I bent to kiss the ring of Pope Paul VI, and I fell to the floor.  He helped me up.  Not knowing what to say, I addressed him as “Your Majesty.”  As he raised his hands to bless me I had, what I think was, an intellectual vision, and I saw Mary and the pope united in the same person.  It was as though I was seeing right into his soul.  He was one with the Blessed Mother, as Mother of the Church, and I saw them both as one person.  It was as though his heart was pierced; he was kneeling in prayer, weeping, and crying out to God, with his hands raised up.  He said, “Oh, Lord, why did you choose me?  Your people are so vast, and everyone is in a different stage of growth.  Whatever I say or do that will help one will hurt another.  Come Holy Spirit, give me wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to know how to guide and teach your children.”  He appeared to me, like a mother, weeping and interceding for her children.  While he was blessing me, I felt this great love and light emanating from him.  It was awesome and there are no words to describe it.

When I returned home and shared this experience with my protestant friends—simply witnessing, not preaching—my friends responded by saying, “I think the Lord wants us to pray for the pope.”

In 1972, not long after this pilgrimage, maybe a year, more or less, I returned to the States.  I was invited to give a “witness” at a charismatic Episcopalian Church.  I prayed and prayed, not knowing what I would say, and somewhat fearful of speaking before such a group.  My husband said to me, “Trust in the Lord, he will give you the words to say.”  This was strange for him to say, and out of character, because he would never do what he told me to do.

The Lord did give me the words.  I shared about my pilgrimage to Rome—about the Eucharist and Pope Paul VI.  The response was wonderful.  Even the Priest, not Catholic, was edified.  There were many former Catholics in the group, who believed they were excommunicated because they were divorced.  They came to me, crying, saying, “I want to come home, is there any hope for me?”

Later, as I reflected on this, I thought to myself, it is a shame that Pope Paul VI does not know the impact that he has had on these people.  Then, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to write him and tell him.  I struggled against this, thinking, “How can I write a letter to a pope?”  I wrote the letter, however.  One minute, I was a docile child speaking to her Father, and the next minute, I was a mother, speaking to her son—telling him not to retire but to remain where he was until the Lord came for him.  I prayed for discernment, again doubting that this was from the Lord.  Then, I thought, “It would be a miracle if he even received it, because he must receive thousands of letters every day, and I don’t even know where to send it.”  So, I felt that I had nothing to lose.  If God wants him to have this letter, he will receive it, and if it is not God’s will, he will not receive it.

While I was in Europe, I met a priest who was the secretary for a prominent Cardinal in Rome, and he gave me his card and told me that if I ever came to Rome, to let him know.  So, I sent the letter I wrote to Pope Paul VI, to this priest and asked him to deliver it.  To my surprise, within a couple weeks I heard from the priest, that the letter was on the pope’s desk.  Shortly after, on November 29, 1972, I received a letter from the pope’s secretary, thanking me on behalf of Pope Paul, with an Apostolic Blessing, and a gold medal—a dove with an olive branch in its beak.

Father, I was so proud of that medal that I even thought of having it made into a necklace that I could wear.  But, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my pride and attachment.  There was a woman who came to daily Mass, who was tormented by evil spirits.  These spirits would constantly taunt her and blaspheme Jesus and the Church. She could not get anyone to help her or deliver her.  I had befriended her.  When she saw the medal I received, she was filled with awe and tears.  Prompted by the Holy Spirit, I was moved to give her the medal from Pope Paul VI.  The woman was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, and was delivered from the evil spirits that tormented her.  As far as I know, she never heard those voices again.  Praise God!

Good Reading on Vatican II

The Church is currently undergoing an ongoing reflection on Vatican Council II.  Pope Benedict emphasizes its continuity with Tradition against those who would portray it as something radically new and different.

One press that has traditionally paid considerable attention to the Vatican II documents and their implementation has been Liturgical Press. Their website is litpress.org.

i recently had the opportunity to review three new titles on the subject by Liturgical Press.

Here are my reactions.

My favorite was “Keys to the Council: Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II” by Richard R. Gaillardetz and Catherine E. Clifford. I preferred this because it was crisp, accessible, well-founded, and non-ideological. A wide audience could benefit from this book, from beginner to scholar. It was well written too, which is not always the case with theological works. I didn’t sense a conservative or progressive bent. Simply, a concise and practical analysis of the documents, with appropriate background. It was interesting reading as well.

Much more hard-going in terms of reading was ecclesiologist Yves Congar’s True and False Reform in the Church. Initially published in 1950, it is interesting to read today. A theological timepiece you might call it. Not for the feint of heart, though. However, it makes many good points and is rewarding for those who stick with it. A good book by a renowned author.

Finally, Liturgical Press published Yves Congar’s “My Journal of the Council.” In a word, fascinating. Though many mundane details are offered, as to be expected in a journal, it affords us an outstanding perspective from a peritii (expert consultant) who offers commentary on everything from papal activities to his adventures in Rome.  This is between the aforementioned titles in terms of reading difficulty.

Since most who attended the council are now deceased, the last attending bishop dying not long ago,  this is an invaluable perspective from an objective and learned source. It is also available as an ebook. I found it very enjoyable, and due to its size, I simply skipped over parts I was not interested in. Congar was a great theologian who also received flak for his views prior to Vatican II, so he was actively in the theological mix of the time. Once you pick it up, I think you’ll follow my tendency of skipping around to entries of interest. Liturgical Press did us a great service in publishing this literary relic.

If you have any questions or comments, please send them along. You can order the books  directly from Liturgical Press at litpress.org. Their phone number is 1-800-858-5450.

Thank you for your interest.