Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: Pope Francis: The Pope from the End of the Earth

With the election of our new Pope Francis, one can expect that there will continue to be a flood of new books about him being published on a monthly basis for the foreseeable future.  Unlike Benedict XVI, there was barely anything published by or about him in English prior to his election.  So, for those who are interested in getting a book or two about Pope Francis, it is important to be able to discern which book might be for you.  It seems that every major Catholic publisher has a book coming out about Pope Francis, so which one should you get? 

I would always recommend, first off, purchasing one that includes a generous sampling from his own writings.  Don’t simply settle on what other people say about Pope Francis, rather, take the time to read what the man has actually said and written.  However, it is always helpful to have a biography close at hand as well.  There are, of course, many of them to choose from.  In fact, there are more biographies out there about him currently than actual collections of his own writings, but I am sure that will change over time. 

Until then, let me recommend Pope Francis: The Pope from the End of the Earth from Saint Benedict Press.  This is a beautiful little book that combines biographical material, full-color photos from before and after his election, and the text of two of his first homilies as Pope.  This book is written by Thomas J. Craughwell, who recently authored the timely Popes Who Resigned.  Craughwell does a wonderful job in providing a concise sketch of Cardinal Bergoglio from his birth up until his election as Pope Francis.  In addition to the biographical and historical information, Craughwell includes numerous supplemental sections concerning  Catholic beliefs, practices, and traditions.  For example, there are short essays on St. Francis of Assisi and St. Ignatius of Loyola, as well information on the Sistine Chapel and why Popes change their name after election.  The information he provides is neither overwhelming, not is it too little. 

One of the great features of this book is the more than 60 full color photos.  Some of the photos have been seen on television before, including one showing his well-known preference for riding on the bus in Argentina, but there are many others that I hadn’t seen yet, including him leading a Eucharistic procession.     It is also remarkable that they were able to get so many recent photos included as well, including his first meeting with Pope Emeritus Benedict and images from the Holy Thursday Mass with the youth of del Marmo detention center. 

Oftentimes, books like this tend to be massive in size, the proto-typical coffee table book.  Coming in at 6.25 x 7.75 and containing 176 pages, Pope Francis: The Pope from the End of the Earth is very compact in size and easily portable.  I really love this book.  Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who wrote the foreword, calls this book “a beautiful encounter-in pictures and in words-with Pope Francis.”  I completely agree.  I plan to purchase additional copies of this book to give out to friends and relatives as birthday and Christmas gifts.   The hardcover edition is $22.95, while eBook formats are available as well.

Thank you to Saint Benedict Press for providing me a review copy.


Theophrastus said...

The Francis book that I like is On Heaven and Earth since it was actually co-authored by Francis, and contains substantive material on Francis's thought.

The Pope From The End of the Earth book seems to be an "instant" book, and reads more like a magazine article than a book. It starts out by quoting John Zuhlsdorf as a source. The two homilies it contains are easily found on the Web.

Biblical Catholic said...

I think I'll wait....a biography/profile or whatnot that only took a month or so to write is not likely to be very good. I understand the desire for information right now, but I'm willing to wait.

I remember the first few sources about Pope Benedict only arrived in August 2006, about a year and a half after his election. That month, new editions of both Eamon Duffy's 'Saints and Sinners' and 'The Oxford Dictionary of Popes' which included Pope Benedict, were released.

I suspect that since he wrote a biography of the last two Popes that George Wiegel will eventually write a biography of Pope Francis. I'll wait for it.

In no way am I criticizing anyone who wants to buy or read this book...I am merely expressing my personal preference.

Timothy said...

I don't think this book tries to be anything but a short primer on Pope Francis. Unlike some of the other books out there currently, this book is aesthetically beautiful and a joy to simply flip through. I also have "On Heaven and Earth" which is fine, but certainly no where near a comprehensive collection of his written materials or speeches as Archbishop. Its nice, but leaves me wanting more as well, somewhat like many of Ratzinger's Interview books.