The arrival of Pope Francis has heralded a worldwide awakening of Roman Catholicism. What a joy it is to have a pope who can express the truths of our Faith with a simplicity and directness that reaches even the most hardened of hearts.
Clearly, the Holy Spirit has graced the Church with a pope suited to the needs of our time. That begs the question: What influences formed this pope and how did he reach the faithful before he became the Holy Father?
In a new book titled “Only Love Can Save Us: Letters, Homilies, and Talks of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio,” English versions of letters, homilies and talks given by Pope Francis during the time he was archbishop of Buenos Aires begin to answer those questions. Surrounded by so many sound bites from the pope’s recent interviews, I was thrilled to find that “Only Love Can Save Us” provides access to the anchor of Pope Francis’ faith teachings.
Midway through the first chapter, I realized that if I continued to highlight every sentence, phrase and teaching that I wanted to remember, the entire text would be fluorescent green! Instead, I kept a pad of sticky notes at hand so I could write out the sentence or sentences that I knew I would want to remember. As a result, my copy of “Only Love Can Save Us” has at least one sticky note on every page. My next project will be a compilation of all the sticky notes in a personal faith folder. What Pope Francis preached and taught during his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires is truly compelling.
When I began reading the book, I puzzled over the title. I expected to find a homily, letter or talk titled with that phrase. As I searched for the phrase in each of the homilies, letters and talks — covering everything from being Christians in appearance only to the well-being of the elderly — I found a thread of love that binds each of his talks together. Not quite satisfied, I persevered. Finally, through patient and careful reading, I uncovered an answer to the riddle of the title. In “The Homily of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires, during the Te Deum in the Cathedral of Buenos Aires,” I found what I was looking for: “Only the commandment of love in all its simplicity — steady, humble, unassuming but firm in conviction and in commitment to others — can save us.” It’s on a sticky note to be added to my Pope Francis-inspired faith folder.
Lori Neumann is OSV’s associate parish acquisitions editor.