As soon as the world learned that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been elected pope on March 13, publishers scrambled to produce new books on his life. However, Dr. Matthew Bunson, senior correspondent for Our Sunday Visitor, was already ahead of the game. During the interregnum period between popes, he was busy writing about Pope Benedict's abdication and the forthcoming conclave. After Bergoglio was elected, Matthew quickly turned to his past research on Bergoglio, much of it coming during the 2005 conclave when Bergoglio was widely believed to be the papal runner-up.
On April 5, after three weeks of intense work, Matthew successfully released the first original English-language biography of the new pope. Simply titled Pope Francis, the new book offers background on the Pope's upbringing, snippets from his homilies and writings, and clues to what we can expect from his pontificate.
Matthew recently sat down with me to discuss many of these topics and to introduce the simple and humble head of the Church.
Watch or download our interview below:
1:14 - What should we know about Cardinal Bergoglio's early life?
3:27 - What was Cardinal Bergoglio like as a priest and a bishop?
4:49 - What will the Pope's Jesuit identity mean for his papacy?
6:54 - What direction do you see Pope Francis taking the Church?
9:40 - Who is your favorite saint and why?
Q: What direction will Pope Francis take the Church?
Well, I've said since his election that we know where we're going with him. All we need to do is just hear the name he chose on the night of his election....We know he chose the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. That tells us where we're going.
There are two things about St. Francis of Assisi that people really need to focus on. First, of course, is his love of the poor, which is really a reflection of his love for Christ....The other thing is [St. Francis'] role in bringing about a profound spiritual reform in the Church. And I think that's something that Pope Francis is going to be pushing very aggressively.
Be sure to follow Matthew at the OSV Daily Take Blog and pick up your copy of Pope Francis.
What has been your favorite Pope Francis moment so far?
For all you C.S. Lewis fans out there, Amazon is running some great Kindle deals on many Lewis books:
- "Surprised By Joy" ($2.24)
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- "Reflections on the Psalms" ($2.24)
- "The Four Loves" ($2.24)
- "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer" ($2.51)
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- "All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis, 1922-1927" ($2.99)
- "The World's Last Night: And Other Essays" ($2.51)
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- "Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories" ($2.99)
- "On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature" ($2.51)
- "Poems" ($2.51)
- "The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings from C. S. Lewis" ($2.51)
After picking up some of those titles you might also want to check out my guide to Building a Catholic eBook Library on the Cheap.
(Keep in mind that you don't necessarily need a Kindle device to read these eBooks. Amazon provides free programs which let you view Kindle eBooks on your phone, PC, Mac, or tablet, all for free.)
What's your favorite C.S. Lewis book?
One perk of being a book reviewer is that publishers regularly alert me to their newest titles and send a steady stream of advanced review copies.
I try to review as many as I can, however I can't get to them all. So each month I highlight a few new and upcoming books that I'm particularly excited about.
This month I'm focusing on books about our new pope. Whether you'd like to learn more about his background, discover his papal plans, or taste his personal writings, these books will set you in the right direction.
(The descriptions below are either from the publisher or from Amazon.)
by Matthew Bunson
Our Sunday Visitor, 224 pages, paperback
Released on April 5, 2013
When the curtains were drawn and our new Holy Father stepped out into view of the 150,000 people waiting in St. Peter's Square, it was a humble and gentle man from Argentina who greeted them, not in triumph, but with a gentle wave.
He's a pope of "firsts" - the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, and the first to choose the name of Italy's most famous saint.
- He is the son of an immigrant railway worker, and sibling of four.
- He was an active, social young man who trained to be a chemist before pursuing a religious vocation.
- He is a Jesuit priest and beloved spiritual director who even as archbishop of Buenos Aires was referred to as Father Jorge.
- He is an outspoken leader who experienced firsthand the challenges of a society ravaged by war, economic despair and cultural unrest.
Pope Francis is still new to us, but in this biography you will get to know the man who became pope: A street priest at heart with a deep love for people and a pastor's touch. He teaches in word and deed the truths of the Church and God's merciful love.
Get inside access to the entire history-making event, from the startling resignation of Pope Benedict through the gathering of Cardinals for the Conclave and the installation of this Pope of the people.
Examine Pope Francis the man—his background, his ideas, his mission, and his challenges and opportunities as our new pope—including 16 pages of full color photos from Pope Francis' past and present.
by Andrea Tornielli
Ignatius Press, 200 pages, hardcover
Released on April 10, 2013
"Francis, rebuild my Church!" That is how St. Francis of Assisi heard the call of Christ. It is also how Jorge Mario Bergoglio, at the age of 76, and a Jesuit, seems to have accepted his election to the papacy with the choice of a name that no other pope has ever chosen.
Who is Pope Francis, elected in one of the shortest conclaves in history? Who is the man chosen to be the first pope from the Americas and the first Jesuit pope?
How does he see the world and his ministry? How does he understand his call to serve Christ, his Church, and the world? In short, what is the mind and heart of this new pope of a new world--of the Americas and the rest of the world of the 21st Century?
In the words, the ideas, and the personal recollections of Pope Francis--including material up to the final hours before his election--the most highly regarded Vatican observer on the international scene reveals the personality of this man of God, gentle and humble. The son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, he made radically following Christ and the way of non-violence the pillars of his pastoral ministry in a country, continually tormented by social and economic inequities.
This complete biography offers the keys to understanding the man who was a surprise choice, even a kind of revolutionary choice, for pope. It is the story of the humble pastor of one of the world's largest archdioceses; a cardinal who takes the bus, talks with common folk, and lives simply. It is the story of why the cardinal electors of the Catholic Church set aside political and diplomatic calculations to elect a pope to lead the renewal and purification of the worldwide Church of our time.
by Jorge Mario Bergoglio
Image, 256 pages, hardcover
Released on April 23, 2013
From the man who became Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio shares his thoughts on religion, reason, and the challenges the world faces in the 21st century with Abraham Skorka, a rabbi and biophysicist.
For years Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Argentina, and Rabbi Abraham Skorka were tenacious promoters of interreligious dialogues on faith and reason. They both sought to build bridges among Catholicism, Judaism, and the world at large.
On Heaven and Earth, originally published in Argentina in 2010, brings together a series of these conversations where both men talked about various theological and worldly issues, including God, fundamentalism, atheism, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and globalization. From these personal and accessible talks comes a first-hand view of the man who would become pope to 1.2 billion Catholics around the world in March 2013.
by Thomas J. Craughwell
Saint Benedict Press, 120 pages, hardcover
Released on April 23, 2013
On March 13, 2013, the world waited in hushed anticipation, eyes fixed on a small chimney atop the Sistine Chapel. Just after 7 p.m. Rome time, a billow of white smoke erupted and Catholics the world over rejoiced. Habemus Papam! We have a pope!
An hour later, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the humble Cardinal from Argentina emerged onto the loggia and chose the name Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.
After taking in the scene of Saint Peter's Square, Pope Francis greeted the pilgrims:
"You know that the work of the conclave is to give a bishop to Rome," the new Pontiff said. "It seems as if my brother cardinals went to find him from the end of the earth, but here we are. Thank you for the welcome."
These words encapsulate the humility, gentleness, and humor of the Church' s newest pontiff. In Pope Francis: The Pope from the End of the Earth, best-selling author Thomas J. Craughwell gives a first look at the life and journey of the first pope from the New World and offers a glimpse of what his pontificate could mean for the Church.
by Robert Moynihan
Image, 256 pages, hardcover
Released on April 30, 2013
From the founder and editor of Inside the Vatican magazine, the world's most well-informed, comprehensive monthly on the Roman Catholic Church, comes this enlightening introduction to the life and spiritual teachings of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, the first Pope of the Americas.
On March, 13, 2013, 115 Cardinals elected for the first time a Pope from outside of Europe. Pope Francis, a native of Argentina, is not just the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, he is also the first Jesuit to ever hold the Chair of Peter. This means a bridging of the Northern and Southern hemispheres and religious traditions in a way we've never seen before, signifying a new global vision for the 1.2 billion people who call themselves Catholic.
Now a leading expert on the papacy provides the ultimate introduction to this new Pope, including biographical information and an absorbing collection of Jorge Mario Bergoglio most persuasive words.
by Philip F. Lawler
Crossroad, 160 pages, paperback
Released on May 1, 2013
This thoughtful, lively introduction to Pope Francis’s life and his promising future in the Vatican details the historic events surrounding Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, the subsequent election of Pope Francis, and the particulars of the new pope’s spirituality and thought.
The book, jointly crafted by a Vatican Radio editor and journalist and the editor of the internet news service Catholic World News, artfully combines European and American perspectives and looks at the implications of the election of the first pope from the Americas who also is the first Jesuit pope in history.
This beautiful volume features an accessible format, anecdotes and additional background information broken into boxes, and full-color photography on nearly every page, all the while relating the gripping stories of a man who has confronted poverty, dictatorship, and revolution.
Which Pope Francis book excites you most?
Today marks the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, perhaps the greatest thinker in Church history. The Dominican prodigy is best known for his two massive "Summas", the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles, along with a wealth of other writings on Scripture, theology, and philosophy. Pope Benedict XVI recently noted St. Thomas' influence on the Church:
"It is not surprising that, after St. Augustine, among the writers mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Thomas is quoted more than any other—some 61 times! He was also called the Doctor Angelicus, perhaps because of his virtues, in particular the loftiness of his thought and purity of life...
"In short, Thomas Aquinas showed there is a natural harmony between Christian faith and reason. And this was the great work of Thomas, who in that moment of encounter between two cultures—that moment in which it seemed that faith should surrender before reason — showed that they go together, that what seemed to be reason incompatible with faith was not reason, and what seemed to be faith was not faith, in so far as it was opposed to true rationality; thus he created a new synthesis, which shaped the culture of the following centuries."
For a brief introduction to St. Thomas and his work, check out this video by one of his most devoted disciples, Fr. Robert Barron:
If you'd like do go even deeper, here are my favorite four books on St. Thomas:
- Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master by Fr. Robert Barron
- Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide by Dr. Edward Feser
- Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox by G.K. Chesterton
- A Summa of the Summa by Peter Kreeft
Thanks to Kevin Knight at New Advent, who has digitized St. Thomas' entire Summa Theologica, below you'll find an excerpt from the First Part which outlines St. Thomas' famous five proofs for the existence of God.
It should be noted that these aren't proofs for God in the mathematical or scientific sense. Instead these are arguments appealing to the logical evidence for God. Also, St. Thomas uses philosophical terms like cause, necessity, and existence which for him carry very precise technical meanings which are often different than how we use those words today. Thankfully, Kevin has linked many of these terms to their entries in the Catholic Encyclopedia so if you come across one you're unfamiliar with, click on the link to understand it better.
As per his usual style, St. Thomas begins with objections to his position. In this case, the two objections are the existence of evil and Occam's Razor. Next he appeals to an authority who disagrees with the objections (often the Bible, Aristotle, or St. Augustine), then he explores a possible answer, and then finally he refutes the original objections. The selection below will not only answer the question, "can we know God exists?", but will also give you a taste of St. Thomas' characteristic style.
Article 3. Whether God exists?
Objection 1. It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word "God" means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.
Objection 2. Further, it is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God's existence.
The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.
The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.
The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence — which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of asGod.
The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But "more" and "less" are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.
The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.
Reply to Objection 1. As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): "Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil." This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.
Reply to Objection 2. Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent, whatever is done by nature must needs be traced back to God, as to its first cause. So also whatever is done voluntarily must also be traced back to some higher cause other than human reason or will, since these can change or fail; for all things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and self-necessary first principle, as was shown in the body of the Article.
What do think of St. Thomas' arguments?