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Best Friend and Lord


A Feature Review of

Jesus: A Pilgrimage

James Martin, SJ

Hardback: HarperOne, 2014
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Jon M. Sweeney


Best known today as the chaplain to Stephen Colbert’s alter ego on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” or as the Catholic priest who presided at the funeral mass in New York City for actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Martin SJ also writes great books. He’s been doing so for a long time. I suspect the simplicity of the title of this one is deliberate.

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The Pope who Quit (One Year Ago)



 Jon M. Sweeney


I woke up on February 11, 2013 and was as shocked as everyone else. At least for the first few seconds.

By 10:30am I was sitting in the offices of CBS News in Chicago, being interviewed by Jay Levine for the evening news. He was asking a lot of questions about my book published a year earlier, The Pope Who Quit. What did I know? When did I know it? I didn’t predict that this would happen, I told Jay. I simply suggested that it could happen. There was a precedent, and there were signs.

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Pope Francis and the Future of the Church
A Feature Review of

Francis: A New World Pope

Michel Cool

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2013
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]
Reviewed by Tim Høiland


Ever since Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected by the papal conclave this past March, becoming the 266th pontiff and the first to take the name Francis, it seems the whole world has been abuzz with prognostications about what new directions the Catholic Church will take with the “People’s Pope” at the helm.


Indeed, from the moment he first appeared on the balcony at St. Peter’s it became clear that Pope Francis was serious about trying to live up to his medieval namesake. Notably absent was the regal dress of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. And before he blessed the people, he instituted a powerful reversal by asking the people to pray for him.
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Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out:

(Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)

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Next Book

Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History
By Eduardo Galeano

Read the Kirkus review


What are We Hungry For?

 A Brief Review of

Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God
Mary DeTurris Poust

Paperback: Ave Maria Press, 2012
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Sarah Winfrey


Food. For many of us it’s simultaneously a source of sustenance and one of frustration, of joy and consternation. So many of us have known the power that food can hold, how enjoying food can cross over into hating it and yet we continue to overeat anyway. We’ve experienced how we can use food to try and fill empty places inside of us that are not our bellies, and how we feel afterwards.


As we try to develop healthier attitudes about food, we become more aware of the origins of the food we’re putting into our bodies, we learn about whole foods and organic ones, clean foods, dirty ones, and the evils of high fructose corn syrup. The more we learn, though, the harder it becomes to actually eat, to consume foods that we love without worrying about whether we’ve made the best choice and, honestly, whether we can afford the best choice.

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The wonders of digital publishing in the ebook age have allowed wily publishers to profit much sooner from major world events, like the election of a new pope.

These ten new books/ebooks have appeared in the first week of Pope Francis I’s papacy. And given the extensive time and care that went into their publication, they are sure to be excellent!

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Next Book

The Last Pope: Do Biblical and Catholic Prophecies Point to Pope Francis I?
By Bob Thiel, Ph.D.


At least this one is free…

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Sacrifice and Belief

A Feature Review of

Why Priests? A Failed Tradition

Garry Wills

Hardcover: Viking, 2013
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Joseph Krall


Three days before the publication of Why Priests? A Failed Tradition (Viking, 2013), Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. His action comes after decades of dissent within the Catholic Church and massive revelations of abuse from within the Catholic hierarchy. At such a time, Garry Wills’s question – “Why do we need priests at all?” – is particularly pointed, and particularly relevant.

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Stanley Hauerwas maintains that the election of Pope Francis signals the Catholic Church’s solidarity with the poor…

*** Books by Stanley Hauerwas

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Garry Wills –who is a Roman Catholic — has a new book that raises a host of pointed theological questions about Catholic hierarchy…

Priests: A Failed Tradition

Garry Wills

Hardback: Viking, 2013.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Stephen Colbert digs right in and explores these questions in his classic style…

What do you think???

*** Other Books by Garry Wills


Pope Benedict XVI announced this morning that he was stepping down…


The last time a Pope stepped down out of the papal authority was in 1415.


Jon Sweeney has written an excellent book on the life and times of Pope Celestine VI, one of the (very few) popes who quit their office:


The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation

Jon Sweeney

Paperback: Image, 2012
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]


A timely Q/A with the author on the book via

Most people believe that popes serve until death– like the modern popes. Why do you think this story of Pope Celestine V has been somewhat hidden in modern times?
Well, it has been hidden and then not-so-hidden. I mean, there have been novels and plays about a pope who quits. Morris West’s The Clowns of God in 1981 spent twenty-two weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list in hardcover. Clearly, these stories are inspired by Celestine V – since he’s the only one who ever did. But, yes, people today don’t tend to realize what it meant to be pope in the Middle Ages.

What did it mean to be pope, then?
It was quite a different job back then. In fact, it wasn’t a job. It was a divine calling. To quit as pope in 1294, as Celestine V did, was at least shocking, and then treasonous and blasphemous to many. The pope was not simply a spiritual leader. That is a modern idea.

Who was this man who became Pope Celestine V? Where did he come from?
Peter Morrone, a hermit who lived in the mountains. He was in his eighties. He was a simple, simple man, who never desired or dreamed that he might be asked to be pope.

How did you conduct the research for this book?
I first encountered the name of Peter Morrone years ago while writing a book about Francis and Clare of Assisi. I wanted to come back to him again someday. So I was delighted by the opportunity to do that.

I spent two years writing The Pope Who Quit. I traveled to Rome and Naples and many places in between to see the sites for myself. And I spent thousands of hours in the library at Dartmouth College.

Do you think we’ll ever know what truly happened to Pope Celestine V?
No. We know so little for sure about the people of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. For instance, scholars are still debating whether or not Geoffrey Chaucer — author of The Canterbury Tales — ever existed.

Pope Benedict XVI has confirmed that he would not hesitate to relinquish his post if he no longer felt “physically, psychologically and spiritually” up to the job. How do you think that would impact the Church?
Yes, isn’t that amazing!? He said that in a book of interviews published in late 2010. I think that that book embarrassed a lot of the members of the papal curia. They did not like their Pope talking like a Celestine V!

If he were to ever step down, I think it would seriously rock the Church, just as Celestine V’s abdication did long ago. But, that said, it could happen.

Some thought that Pope John Paul II should have stepped down, too, when he was ill. Do you agree?
I don’t know, perhaps so. He certainly was no longer the administrative leader of the Church toward the end of his life. We know that for certain. Neither was Celestine V – and that is primarily why he stepped down.

The difference between the two is that in the television age a pope can lead by spiritual example, on television, inspiring the faithful. In the late thirteenth century, a pope could not lead in that way. A pope had to be strong – or else.

Read an excerpt of the book:

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