Pope Francis (Thomas J. Craughwell)
Saint Benedict Press, 167 pages, $22.95
This lavishly illustrated book is the best introduction to Pope Francis that I’ve seen. Of its 167 pages, perhaps 100 of them are photographs of the Pope beginning in his childhood and continuing through his priesthood, his time as a bishop, and, of course, as the holy father. The most pronounced traits we’ve seen so far in Pope Francis–his humility, his love for the poor, his zeal for ministry and preaching–are all evident from early in his life. Pope Francis came from humble beginnings, the son of working class, Italian immigrant parents. He excelled in school and was convinced of his vocation from a young age. After finding a pile of theology books on his desk, his mother said,
“Jorge! Come here! Didn’t you tell me you were going to study medicine?” “Yes, Mama,” he answered. “Why do you lie to me?” she asked, pointing to the theology books. “I’m not lying to you, Mama,” Jorge replied. “I am not lying to you, Mama,” Jorge replied. “I am going to study the medicine of the soul.”
Pope Francis has been a doctor of souls throughout his priesthood. This is most evident, perhaps, in his love for the poor, as seen in his recent visit to the slums in Rio during World Youth Day. This love for the poor flows from his appreciation for Catholic social teaching. As Craughwell explains, an authentic view of Catholic social teaching arises from the belief in the dignity of the human person. That belief provides the basis for all Catholic social teaching, be it the protection of the sanctity of life or a love for the poor. Throughout his pontificate so far, Pope Francis has expressed a particular love for the marginalized, the disabled, and children. All of these themes are beautifully portrayed throughout the book.
In his first general audience, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics worldwide to “move beyond a dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes, our movements or associations, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and the joy of our faith in Christ.” As we recently saw at World Youth Day, Pope Francis’s message will be clear and consistent–go out into the world and into your local community to spread the Faith in all its fullness. Pope Francis has given us a beautiful example of that mission and Craughwell’s book will give you a particularly insightful view of how Pope Francis has proclaimed that message throughout his life.