It’s hard to believe it’s been an entire year since ...

It’s not every week that we print an In Focus that reads like a novel. But if that’s what you’ve been holding out for, it’s here. Find a quiet corner and dig in.

“The year of two popes” (Pages 11-13) could only have been written by Matthew Bunson, expert on all things Catholic and, of course, author of the first biography of Pope Francis.

In his 2,000-word article, Bunson puts the resignation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (the one-year anniversary of his surprise announcement is Feb. 11) into a context that was impossible to do at this time last year. Not only does he paint a historical picture, he offers a unique analysis on the succeeding era of Pope Francis. These are fascinating times for our Church, and Bunson examines the reasons behind that.

Bunson’s article, however, is just one piece of this week’s In Focus. While much has been made of the differences between Popes Benedict and Francis, Russell Shaw looks at the similarities between our two pontiffs (Page 14). His result? That the popes are more in sync than they might at first seem.

Editor's preview of this week's issue

Finally, tying the whole package together, is a cartoon by Jason Bach, who has made a name for himself among Catholics for his light-hearted drawings pertaining to the Faith. The cartoon was commissioned by Our Sunday Visitor, and we invite you to visit us on our Facebook and Twitter pages (see links below) to share it with your friends and family. We hope you enjoy it.

Three other things to note:

1) Our Faith story (Pages 18-19) on the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality North American Volunteers celebrates both the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes (Feb. 11) and the 10-year anniversary of the development of the “virtual pilgrimages” featured in the article. For the elderly, disabled, sick or those unable for any other reasons to travel to the south of France for the Lourdes experience, these pilgrimages that can be embarked upon in your own parish, school or community may just fit the bill.

2) To celebrate National Marriage Week USA (Feb. 7-14), Bob and Gerri Laird, a couple very prominent in Couple to Couple League circles, contributed a personal essay on the joys of their 43-year marriage (Page 10). Aside from the fact that their story is just a delight to read, the piece illustrates the ever-essential foundation in God that it takes to transform a marriage into a vocation.

In times like these, when stories celebrating strong marriage bonds in the news are few and far between, the Lairds’ story is both refreshing and essential.

3) Finally, while Feb. 14 might be synonymous with “Sweethearts Conversation Hearts” and romantic steak dinners, J.J. Ziegler writes on the lesser-known, but greatly important, Sts. Cyril and Methodius who share a feast date with St. Valentine (Page 8). It’s guaranteed to put Valentine’s Day in a new light.