Today I’m alerting you to three new Catholic-themed books that almost certainly will have appeal beyond Catholicism.
The first is a collection of remarks, sermons, talks and papers issued in the first year of the pontificate of Pope Francis, a remarkable man who has taken the world by gentle storm. It’s called The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church.
In fewer than 150 pages, the collection is not exhaustive, of course, but it’s a representative gathering of the words and thinking of a man who says he wants a church of, by and for the poor.
What I found intriguing about these words is how orthodox they seem. Francis is repeating ideas that Christianity has stood for over and over again for 2,000 years. And yet somehow they seem a bit fresher coming from the first Jesuit pope.
Next I want you to know about A Nun on the Bus, by Sister Simone Campbell. The author is executive director of a Catholic social justice lobby called NETWORK, which in 2012 organized the now-famous “Nuns on the Bus” tour to highlight the needs of the poor and the ways in which government policy was negatively affecting them.
A second bus tour the next year focused on the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
This is an activist nun who explains that “the Gospel has social consequences that must be lived.” That, she writes, requires us to recognize that “we are a country based on community not on individualism.” Well, that’s what she writes despite much disturbing evidence to the contrary.
The book is not, however, limited to describing what happened at all the stops the national bus tours made. It also describes Campbell’s own life and how she was drawn into her decision to become a nun. One small complaint about the book: She doesn’t seem to know that “notoriety” is not a synonym for “fame.” Rather, it means being famous for a bad reason.
Finally, there’s Catholic by Choice: Why I Embraced the Faith, Joined the Church and Embarked on the Adventure of a Lifetime, by Richard Cole.
The author, a poet, describes how he went on a brief retreat at a monastery at a time when faith meant almost nothing to him. But while he was there something important and deep began to speak to him.
It tooks time, but eventually Cole discovered that he had fallen in love with the Catholic Church and, more specifically, the Mass. It filled a need in him he hardly knew he had. But it filled it so completely that he began to feel as if he were drowning in the times between one Mass and the next.
Although he wrote much of this book more than a decade ago, it took until now to realize how immature and self-centered he was in the early days of his conversion. Part of that may have had to do with his addiction to alcohol, which seemed to define his existence in ways that were all about him. Now, although he acknowledges great vulnerability and enthusiasm for his love of the church, he has a more mature and balanced faith.
It's an interesting read, one that will help non-Catholics understand better the particular appeal of Catholicism.
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THE PONTIFF'S RIDE
The popemobile isn't just the pontiff's ride, it's a way of making a point about the church and the papacy itself, this interesting piece contends. It's a lesson in meaning-making and how broad that can be.