Saturday, July 13, 2013

Crossroad Publishing: A Call to Serve

Unless you've been in a coma or living under a rock, you know that we have a new pope. In fact, today marks the four month anniversary of Pope Francis' election to the papacy. In that short time, there have been dozens of books published about him. I personally had a Top Three selection of Pope Francis books, and somehow A Call to Serve from Crossroad Publishing wasn't even on my radar. I'm glad they sent it to me though, as I'm not sure I would have requested to review it otherwise. (Disclaimer: Crossroad Publishing is a publisher, I'm not overly familiar with. They have some great books in their collection and unfortunately some questionable ones too, i.e., Richard Rohr. As with all publishers, not just this one, be sure you select Catholic authors faithful to the Church and her teachings, lest you fall in error.)

A Call to Serve is written by two noted Catholic journalists - Stefan von Kempis (editor of Vatican Radio) and Philip F. Lawler (Editor of Catholic World News). In this book, one gets both a written and pictorial journey of Pope Benedict XVI's retirement, the conclave, Pope Francis' election, and some of the media-worthy events of Pope Francis after his election. Also included in this book are challenges that Pope Francis will face in his papacy, including reform of the Curia, the growing threat of Islam, and ecumenism/reunion talks with the Eastern Orthodox Church, to name a few.

The first thing you'll notice when opening this book is the abundance of crisp and beautiful pictures. If you followed the retirement and conclave closely like I did, a lot of these pictures won't be new to you. You will see the lightning bolt hitting St. Peter's Basilica, the seagull atop the roof of the Sistine Chapel, and the glorious white smoke announcing Pope Francis' election. If you didn't get a chance to keep up with news coverage, these images are a big selling point for the book. It's not the live coverage you could have experienced, but it does justice to the events that transpired, and I personally enjoyed reliving the experience.

My favorite chapter in this book was entitled "Series of Surprises." In this chapter, the two authors discuss some of the controversial acts of humility that Pope Francis exhibited after his election, including the washing of the feet of residents in a juvenile detention center. If the man in charge of 1 billion Catholics can humble himself to this degree, we should too. There is also a chapter dedicated to the conclave. I had great hopes for that chapter and hoped the authors would clearly spell out the events that take place during a conclave. This could have been a great opportunity to educate both Catholics and non-Catholics. Instead, the chapter mainly focused on the front-runners before the conclave and how no one expected Archbishop Bergoglio to become pope.

Overall, I would give A Call to Serve 4 out of 5 stars. It was good, but I had higher hopes for the chapter on the conclave. I also wish this book had been hardcover instead of softcover, as this would make the perfect book to put on your coffee table. Those two criticisms aside, it was still a very good book, and it was refreshing to escape the secular media trying to grasp and explain the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis. I recommend it for those looking to read the viewpoint of two Catholic journalists or those just looking to see if they missed anything that happened in the whirlwind of events.The wonderful photographs really do  make the book come alive and could even be used to explain some of the basics of Pope Francis to your children.

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