A Call to Serve: the inside story of Pope Francis by Stefan Von Kempis and Philip F. Lawler (2013)
Pope Francis is surprisingly reticent: his only ‘interviews’ lie in his sermons. But what this book does surprisingly well is to highlight the keys to his character, and therefore to his public ministry. It is the ‘back-story’ of a young chemist who became a priest; who loves Beethoven, Borges’ writings, and the Danish film ‘Babette’s Feast’. His immediate actions following his election form a frame for the future: heading back to his guesthouse to settle his bill; not wanting to live in the Papal Palace but to try to remain as he had been in Buenos Aires, where he was a man who travelled by bus, did his own shopping, cleaning, cooking. Now he lives as close as he can to the workers, among whom he celebrates the daily Eucharist. He washed the feet of the poor at Easter, and he tends to prisoners of all colours and faiths, “I believe in [man] in his dignity and greatness.” His vision is to renew the Church and to serve the world. In Buenos Aires, he encouraged his priests always to “make contact with the families who do not come to us”. How? ‘We organise missions in public squares, where many people usually gather: we pray, we celebrate the Eucharist, we offer Baptism which we administer after a brief preparation.” Quotations that will stay with me: “We try to reach out to people far away, via digital means: the Web and text messaging.” “The Church must head for the periphery, bringing Christ to the people on the margins. We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a Church that is self-centred. If the Church remains closed in, self-centred, it will grow old. And if I had to choose between a bumpy Church that goes out into the streets, and a sick, self-centred Church, I would definitely choose the former.” I believe we would all agree, and work for that way of being church.
Mrs Lavender Buckland LLM
Published by SPCK, ‘A Call to Serve’ is normally priced at £12.99. Mention the website to order a copy for only £11.99 with FREE POSTAGE , until 31st August 2013.