Only Love Can Save Us
Author: Pope Francis
Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2013, 160 pp., $16.95 softcover; 800-348-2440
Pope Francis has taken the entire world by surprise with his authenticity, his teachings on God’s loving mercy and his call for Christ-like humility. Forgotten in the suddenness of his arrival as pope is the simple fact that he served from 1998 to 2013 as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he earned a reputation across Latin America and beyond for his spiritual insights, his prophetic leadership and his commitment to the poor and the defenseless.
“Only Love Can Save Us” is a collection of homilies, letters and talks from then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s years as cardinal in Argentina. The title is taken from a Te Deum homily he gave in May 2012: “Only the commandment of love in all its simplicity — steady, humble, unassuming, but firm in conviction and in commitment to other — can save us.” His talks, letters and homilies cover a wide range of topics that are relevant to every Catholic, including marriage, prayer, faith, education, evangelization, the elderly, children, the homeless, vocations and more.
The Spanish Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, describes Pope Francis in the introduction as “a man of God, simple, humble, poor, and a friend of the poor; a follower of Jesus who follows Our Lord in the only way possible — with the Cross — by shedding all, imitating him, and reflecting the face that Jesus himself has given us in the Beatitudes.”
Reading through the material of Cardinal Bergoglio’s time as archbishop of Buenos Aires, it is possible to appreciate what the members of the College of Cardinals saw in him that prompted them to elect him the successor to Peter and to entrust to him the care of the universal Church.
Catholic Women’s Bible
Editor: Woodeene Koenig-Bricker
Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2013, 1,926 pp., $29.95 softcover; 800-348-2440
Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Women’s Bible is a potentially valuable gift for women seeking to deepen their prayer lives through the study of Scripture. Catholics are understandably reluctant, at times, to buy biblical commentaries for women out of a concern of encountering radical feminist ideology under the guise of Scripture study. Combining the NABRE version with insightful and orthodox commentaries, the Catholic Women’s Bible offers the contributions of Ardella Crawford, Woodeene Koenig-Bricker, Sarah Reinhard, Zoe Romanowsky and Mary Elizabeth Sperry. The commentaries range across the whole of salvation history. As editor Koenig-Bricker writes, this Bible “is designed to help women deepen their spirituality and daily prayer lives by using the NABRE ... combined with eighty-four explanative and inspirational inserts written by and for women.” The commentaries look at women in all of the ways they appear in Scripture, from Deborah to Leah, Ruth to Sarah and Mary to Martha. They were daughters, wives, mothers, grandmothers, queens, widows, rich and poor, and their stories have powerful meaning to women today.
Artist: Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist
Publisher: De Montfort Music, $20 CD; www.demontfortmusic.com
The first ever recording from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, “Mater Eucharistiae,” offers a beautiful collection of hymns in English and Latin, as well as several original compositions by the sisters. The Dominican Sisters of Mary gained national attention when they reached the finals of the recent season of “The American Bible Challenge,” a television show hosted by Jeff Foxworthy on The Game Show Network. Especially notable on the album are the Latin hymns, in particular the Salve Regina, Angelus ad Virginem and Pange Lingua. The music is deeply imbued with Dominican spirituality and reflects perfectly the thriving community. A lovely gift.
Good Pope, Bad Pope
Author: Mike Aquilina
Publisher: Servant Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2013, 136 pp., $14.99 softcover; 800-488-0488
One of the most prolific writers in the Church today, Mike Aquilina turns his attention to the papacy and offers a brilliant meditation on the stories of individual pontiffs — both good and bad — who have served over the centuries. Aquilina writes: “The pope is the most remarkable man on earth. And that’s not because of who he is but because of what he is.… He is the Vicar of Christ, the visible head of the Roman Catholic Church.” But how, then, Catholics are asked, can this claim be made when there were so many seemingly bad popes?
Aquilina is unflinching in his coverage of both the great popes and the terrible ones. We meet Peter, Clement I, Leo I the Great, Pius XII and John Paul II; but we also encounter Benedict IX and Alexander VI. It is important to discuss both groups, because as Aquilina points out, even in truly dark moments, the story of the papacy is one of triumph. This is an ideal book for apologetics on the papacy.
Meeting Jesus Christ
Author: J. Brian Bransfield
Publisher: Pauline Books and Media, Boston, Mass., 2013, 234 pp., $15.95 softcover; 800-876-8035
“Meeting Jesus Christ, Meditations on the Word” is not a self-help book but a way of developing a personal encounter with Jesus Christ through 21 scriptural meditations. Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield builds each meditation around a Gospel account — such as “The Annunciation,” “Christmas: The Nativity of Our Lord,” “The Call of Saint Matthew” and “The Unjust Judge” — and provides rich and spiritually insightful reflections. His introduction, “The Light of the Word,” is especially valuable. Recommended for Lenten reading.
The Relevance and Future of the Second Vatican Council
Author: Cardinal Marc Ouellet
Publisher: Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif., 2013, 184 pp., $16.95 softcover; 800-651-1531
The Second Vatican Council has reached the important milestone of its 50th anniversary, and the event is an opportunity to continue to reflect on the labors and continuing legacy of the council in the life of the Church. Author Cardinal Marc Ouellet is prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America in Rome. He served in Latin America, was a university and seminary professor, was archbishop of Quebec for nearly a decade, and was considered a candidate to be elected pope in the 2013 conclave. He is ideally positioned to reflect on the continuing relevance of the council, and his thoughts are presented in a series of interviews with the French priest Father Geoffroy de la Tousche.
The interviews begin with Cardinal Ouellet’s own life, including his childhood vocation to the priesthood and his long and varied ministry. The discussion then turns to the council, and the interview covers virtually all of the key topics, especially its three main areas of sacrament, holiness and dialogue. They then proceed to the Dogmatic Constitutions on the Church and Revelation, vocations, proclaiming the Kingdom, and the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Cardinal Ouellet’s insights make for fascinating reading, starting with his observation that “the council wished to restore a more exact image of the Church, to offer it again to the world, and, at the same time, to offer the world an opportunity for dialogue, for exchange, so as to contribute to the unity of mankind, something one feels to be more necessary than ever today.”