Category Archives: Books

Pope Francis: Keys to His Thought

Many of thee books I read or glanced at over the recent six months have not been too helpful in understanding the newly elected Pope, Francis. A recent publication, Pope Francis: Key to His Thought, has promise. Penned by Monsignor Mariano Fazio, Vicar of the Prelature of Opus Dei in Argentina since 2010, begins the substance of his narrative when he first met Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio in Rome in 2000. Fazio was then working at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross; he was rector there from 2002-2008.

The author’s thesis is based on many friendly meetings with Francis and thus sketches in a lively manner some of the key ideas that are fundamental in knowing who the Pope is as a person and as a shepherd. I think this perspective opens wider the door of our opinion of the new pope and hopefully engenders in us a spirit of greater collaboration based on something concrete versus the media hype that is prevalent these days.

Monsignor Fazio’s text covers Francis’ “urgency to defend human life and marriage, and the need to ‘go out to the periphery’ to meet people where they are. The latter concern is reflected in the strong encouragement given by Cardinal Bergoglio to the so-called “shantytown priests” for the envangelization of the poorest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. This effort was grounded on sacramental catechesis and educational projects that foster human dignity, and was never to be confused, Bergoglio always insisted, with an overly political ‘liberation theology.'”

As Fazio says, “I have three letters he sent me in recent years. Whenever I sent him anything, he would respond in writing, in his own hand. The format was always the same: a large card with an image of La Virgen Desatanudos (Our Lady Undoer of Knots), a title originating in Augsburg, Germany (Maria  Knotenlöserin) that he had made known in Buenos Aires . . . In the blank space he writes in small letters, much like Benedict XVI, a few personal and affectionate lines. Here are some: ‘I wish you a holy and happy Christmas. May Jesus bless you and our Lady take care of you. And, please, I ask that you pray and have others pray for me’ . . . These notecards were always accompanied by two holy pictures: one of St. Joseph and the other of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, saints to whom he had great devotion . . . On the back of the picture of St. Joseph is the famous text of St. Teresa of Jesus about the efficacy of devotion to the Holy Patriarch. On various occasions when, having spoken with him, I asked for his blessing, he always invoked these saints and in addition placed me under the protection of St. Josemaria.”

Pope Francis: Keys to His Thought is available from  Scepter Publishers.

The lay person’s true calling

“The Christian should be a credible witness… He should work to make the culture one in which he can comfortably live and express his faith. And the person best placed to do this is not the cleric or the religious but the layperson.”

Francis Cardinal Arinze
The Layperson’s Distinctive Role

Order from Ignatius Press

Oakes on nature and grace

Just finished reading and editing a terrific and challenging book on nature and grace yet to be published by my friend Jesuit Father Ed Oakes. It is  tentatively titled, The Candle Within: A Theology of Grace as Seen Through Six Controversies (expected from CUA Press). Oakes is writing this text as a seminary and university text. The Candle Within is likely to be his last significant work, save an essay, since he is battling pancreatic and liver cancer.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for Edward.

Servant of God Father Augustus Tolten, pray for Edward.

Late summer reading

Just in case you’re looking for something to read this summer (what’s left of it) …

Francesca Ambrogetti and Sergio Rubin, Pope Francis: His Life in His Own Words

Father Robert Barron The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path

Pope Benedict XVI, What It Means to Be A Christian

Father Peter John Cameron, O.P., Praying with Saint Mark’s Gospel: Daily Reflections on the Gospel of St. Mark

Mary Eberstadt, Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution (Ignatius Press, 2013).

Father Michael Gaitley, MIC, The ‘One Thing’ Is Three

Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Conversions in the Christian Life

Father John Hugo, Weapons of the Spirit (Dorothy Day retreat master)

Ralph Martin, The Fulfillment of All Desire

Barnabas Senecal, OSB, Beauty in Faces & Places (NP, 2012).

Girgis Shrif, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George, What is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense (Encounter Books 2012).

YouCat is essential reading

At the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid, Pope Benedict unveiled what is called, YouCat, the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church. It was his hope and intention to make the beauty of the Catholic Faith be available to many. The Pope’s foreword says the text provides a tool for all, laity and clergy, “who are looking for answers to problems” as well as “paths for personal and group reflection.”

YouCat is worldwide success with some 27 translations (and counting). It is, without a doubt, an immense success from a publishing point of view. Recent news on YouCat speaks of Taiwanese Catholics welcoming their edition (天主教 青年 教 理). This good news comes on the heels of a report that 1.5 million copies of the YouCat were distributed for free by Aid to the Church in Need to Brazilian young people to help in WYD 2013.

It goes to show that a book can have a positive effect on faith formation, evangelization, with an emphasis on faith and reason. Just like the standard volume of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, YouCat covers doctrine, sacraments, the moral life, prayer and spirituality.

I find YouCat extraordinarily helpful and promote its use among people of all ages. It is categorically NOT only for young people. Adults of all ages benefit from an attentive use of YouCat. I used it in the RCIA and other adult faith formation forums. The authors/editors made certain that the text gives an excellent user friendly experience, its content is accessible and very handy. It has great images and several great features like definitions, cross-referencing and a good layout. I urge you to get a copy today! Follow the link above.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
coat of arms



Humanities Blog Directory