Celebrating first five years of pontificate

A new book from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on his Papacy” (Sheed & Ward, $29.95), beautifully captures the highlights of the first five years of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate. 

The essays and reflections are divided into sections looking at the pope as pilgrim, pastor and prophet, and are written by USCCB staff members and American prelates, including Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans. Completing the package are more than 100 color images of the pope. 

The book, edited by Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, USCCB director of media relations, also features forwards from King Abdullah of Jordan and from Shimon Peres, president of Israel, who eloquently summed up the mission of the pontificate: “Pope Benedict’s journey is a journey of love, and we are only too happy to join him on this road.”


"The Calling"

How do you respond when God is calling you to make difficult, even painful choices in living out your vocation? 

That is the question in David A. Ranghelli’s documentary, “The Calling,” which follows three people as they strive to follow God’s will amid family pressures, geographical challenges and their own doubts.  

Father Philip Scott, founder of the religious community Family of Jesus Healer, which is made up of both brothers and sisters, feels called to move the order from Tampa, Fla., where it was established, to his native Peru. While he grapples with the logistical challenges of such a move and how to serve the poor of Lima, the mother superior of the Family of Jesus Healer sisters, Mother Mary Elizabeth, faces a challenge of her own. A late vocation to religious life, she has two grown daughters who are struggling with her move to South America, and she feels torn between her commitments to her biological and religious families. 

Then there’s Orlando Castillo, a young man in his early 20s who feels drawn to religious life. He decides to leave his upper-middle-class life to spend six months with the Family of Jesus Healer in Peru. His decision is difficult for his parents to accept, especially since he only has limited ability to communicate with them while in Peru. 

“The Calling” takes viewers between Florida and Peru and gives them an unflinching view of the three protagonists’ struggles. The outcome may not always be to the viewer’s liking, but their actions have clearly been thought — and prayed — about at great length. For screening and ordering information for the film, visit


Virtual Vatican Necropolis tour

Every day, 200 or so individuals are given access to the Vatican Necropolis — or Scavi — underneath St. Peter’s Basilica to see the resting place of St. Peter. For those who cannot manage to get a ticket for the tour, let alone find room in their budgets for a trip to Rome, a new feature on the Vatican website gives them an up-close view of the mausoleums, complete with an introduction by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

The virtual tour affords online visitors panoramic views of the various mausoleums and details images of features in the tombs, although it does take a bit of practice to figure out which icons to click to navigate through the tour. Yet the online tour, which cannot replace an actual trip to the Scavi, has the benefit of not inducing a sense of claustrophobia on its visitors, and you can take your time on the tour without having to worry about a tour guide hurrying you through the rooms.