Monday, May 26, 2014

The Church of Mercy and Mercy in the City (Loyola Press)

I love receiving books from a publisher I've never worked with before. It's kind of a high, because there is the anticipation of not knowing what to expect. Different publishers have different audiences they tend to focus on with regards to what they publish. Some publishers are geared more towards academics, and some are a little fluffier for the laity. Some focus on Scripture, and others devote a great deal of resources to producing books for our children. Then, there are those publishers who try to reach all audiences and refuse to be put into a box. I'm not sure yet what box, if any, Loyola Press can be put in, but I'm excited to share two of their latest books with you today.

The Church of Mercy is the latest book with a compilation of talks given by Pope Francis. Each book (by many different publishers) have chosen to address a certain audience. For example, Ignatius Press recently released a book on sin and humility, and Our Sunday Visitor has released one on hope and another on love. Loyola Press has chosen to focus on the theme of mercy. Drawing on talks given in 2013, this book addresses topics such as the Gospel, the Poor, advice for Pastors, and Mary. Each talk is designed to draw people closer to Christ who is the giver of mercy.

The parts which spoke to me the most were Part Two: A Poor Church for the Poor and Part Seven: The Choice of the Last. In these chapters, we see the heart of Pope Francis' papacy so far, the marginalized of society. He says, "Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society." He also says, "The Church must step outside of herself. To go where? To the outskirts of existence, whatever that may be, but she must step out." These are just a sample of the depth of wisdom and love that Pope Francis contains.

If you're looking for an idea of what Pope Francis had to say his first year as pope, this is a very good starting place. Though you could find these talks online (if you looked hard enough), they would not be so neatly assembled and categorized all in one place. Another perk for this book is that you don't have to read it in order. Pick a topic that is interesting to you or speaks to you and read that. Then, move on to the next topic that speaks to you. Then, after you get done with this book turn to a practical layperson's guide on mercy entitled Mercy in the City.

Mercy in the City is a book that I received by mistake. In fact, it was a book I wasn't even sure I wanted. I had never heard of the author, Kerry Weber, and I generally make it a practice not to read a Catholic book unless I've read the author before, or it has a ringing endorsement from someone I trust. Well, as the old saying goes, "You can't judge a book by its cover," and I shouldn't have been so snobby toward this book.

Mercy in the City is more than just a guide on how to live out the Corporal Works of Mercy in your day-to-day life, it is one young woman's personal journey through Lent as she attempts to live them out. For those unfamiliar with the Corporal works of mercy, they are feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; clothe the naked; shelter the homeless; visit the sick; visit the imprisoned; and bury the dead. The book is written in a casual tone with a first-person point of view and reads like a running diary. This makes it a more welcoming and inviting read, especially for younger adults.

Chapter 11 "In which I ignore a homeless man and converse with a homeless man" spoke the most to me. I, like most people, am not comfortable with homeless people and how to help them. I was raised to not make eye contact and politely decline giving them money when asked. The reason for this is the stereotype that they will just spend it on alcohol and drugs. Well, Ms. Weber not only shows us how it is possible to feed hungry, she also teaches us not to compartmentalize our lives. We cannot adopt the attitude of, "This is when I deal with homeless people, this is when I feed the hungry, and then I am done."

This book was a pleasant surprise to read. Ms. Weber put her Lenten journey out there for the world to see. She covers not only her quest to complete the Corporal Works of Mercy in her busy life, but also includes personal bits about her life including friends, dating, etc. Upon finishing this book, which won't take long because it is a quick read, you are left with a sense of hope...hope that there are more people like Ms. Weber in the world and hope that you too can perform the Corporal Works of Mercy more fully and more frequently. I'd recommend this book to the 20-30 something Catholics of the world.

These books were provided to me for free by Loyola Press. If you found the reviews helpful, click here and/or here, and hit Yes!