Monday, May 12, 2014

The Way of Humility and Education for Choosing Life (Ignatius Press)

It's a double Bergoglio book review kind of day here at Stuart's Study. Ignatius Press has recently released two books by Pope Francis (then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio), entitled The Way of Humility and Education for Choosing Life. I was fortunate enough to be granted review copies of each of them. My initial thoughts are, "Where have these writings been all this time?" It's a shame that his words were not translated and printed when he was still a Cardinal, but I am eternally grateful they are available now, and I will continue to enjoy them and read them as long as they keep printing them.

The Way of Humility is a 100-page book, which contains meditations from Cardinal Bergoglio dating back to 2005. It is divided into two parts with the first part addressing the topics of Corruption and Sin and the second part addressing self-accusation. Each part consists a series of mini-meditations that span 2-3 pages and contain sub-topics of the larger topic. For example, there is a meditation on Making Comparisons in the larger topic of Corruption.

In the first part, Corruption and Sin, Cardinal Bergoglio begins by defining what corruption is and distinguishing it from sin. He states that one can be sinful without being corrupt, but that sin can eventually lead to corruption. He also explains characteristics of corruption, like self-containment and ignorance of one's own corruption. Using a very blunt and easily understood metaphor, he states, "Corrupt people do not notice their own corruption. It is the same as when people have bad breath: they seldom realize it themselves. Other people smell it and need to tell them." He then goes on to explain about comparisons and judgment. Using examples from the New Testament like the Publican and the Pharisee, we see how the Pharisee used both comparison and judgment and can see that this was not just a one-time sin, but a heart that had been corrupted. I found his meditation on the corruption of the four groups of Jewish people in Jesus' day to be the most fascinating section of this part. In these brief pages, he brought to light how the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and even the Essenes had some form of corruption in their heart.

In the second part, On Self Accusation, Cardinal Bergoglio draws from reflections of St. Dorotheus of Gaza to illustrate his point. The meditations state that "Self-accusation requires uncommon courage in order to open the door to discovery of things we do not know about ourselves and let other people see beyond our facade." He also stresses that self-accusation calls us to a communal way of life and not an individual one. He also states that self-accusation is an act of humiliation that leads to humility. Cardinal Bergoglio then includes direct instructions from St. Dorotheus for the remainder of the text. Though, this second part of the book seems more geared to religious, there is definitely truth in here for laity as well. Overall, this was a thought-provoking and soul-examining book. If you are looking to become humbler, read what Cardinal Bergoglio has to say.

Education for Choosing Life is a series of messages given by Cardinal Bergoglio to educators in Argentina. One can clearly see this in the personal message he has for them about the recent "suffering, confusion, and indignation," they had suffered. However, just because the talk is geared towards a certain group of people doesn't make the message any less valid for a wider audience, particularly educators worldwide.

There are three main messages in this book. The first message is that teaching is an act of hope. In this first message, he proposes four things to teachers - 1. Speak the truth, 2. Align with the Christian value of fraternal solidarity, 3. Look for the best in schools, and 4. Propose models of life to the students. The second message is to be a country that educates students. By this he doesn't mean just making them useful citizens, cogs in the big machine of industry. No, he wants teachers to educate students who will transform the country and the world! The third and final message focuses on raising mature people. By doing this past mistakes can hopefully be avoided and a better society can be built. Apart from these three main messages, one can see a clear unifying theme of life and what it means to be human in this book. Cardinal Bergoglio wants to raise a generation of Catholic youth who will love the world and change the world for the better.

This is an excellent book for principals, teachers, catechists, parents, or anyone involved with educating the next generation. As I said earlier, the message may have been delivered to a specific set of people, but it is timeless and rings true no matter where you are in the world. What I found most helpful was that each chapter ended with prayers, reflections and questions to spur us to action. The reader can reflect on these solo or in a group, so if you choose to buy this book, buy two - one for you and another for a colleague. It might just be the spark that helps set the world on fire for Christ. May we all strive to instill in ourselves and the youth the love of Christ that alone can transform the world!

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