After Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became Pope Francis, I am sure that many individuals sought to learn more about this new Vicar of Christ. I was certainly one of these individuals. I scoured the internet to find out what I could about Pope Francis and the more I learned about him, the more I wanted to know about his background, his words, and the manner in which he would lead the Church. Robert Moynihan's 'Pray for Me' is a great introduction to Pope Francis. Moynihan explores the upbringing of young Jorge Bergoglio, as an Argentinian born to immigrants that were neither extremely wealthy nor extremely poor. He shares tidbits of Bergoglio's childhood that help piece together the story of the man who continues to capture the hearts of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. He writes about Bergoglio's love of soccer, a childhood crush on a girl (apparently he one day said he'd either marry her or become a priest), his upbringing, and his calling to the priesthood. Quoting friends, family, parishioners, and some pretty unlikely indivuals (like Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortensen), Moynihan brings to light many of the moments in Bergoglio's life that helped define the Pope that continues to surprise us.
We learn of his grandmother's simple faith and how this faith continues to move him now (he still quotes his grandmother in his homilies). We learn about the poverty he confronted as a priest and bishop and how he called parishioners and priests alike to action so that the poorest of the poor could receive communion, be fed, and be reintegrated into the community. We learn more about that moment in his young adult life when God's grace and mercy touched him in a way that solidified his vocation and ultimately inspired the papal motto "miserando atque eligendo."
At the time of this book's publication, we were only just beginning to know Pope Francis (and we still are getting to know him). However, this book has turned out to be somewhat prophetic. At least, it has helped explain some of the words and actions of Pope Francis since its publication. While writing this book, Moynihan did not follow in the footsteps of various media outlets by speculating about Pope Francis's intentions for the Church and inventing secret agendas for every word and action of Pope Francis. Instead, he gives readers an inside look into the people and things that have shaped Pope Francis and lets them make their own conclusions. There are some instances where Moynihan gets a bit sentimental, but he still seems to understand Pope Francis's mission (a good example is when he explains to a journalist friend about the manner in which Pope Francis gave a silent, private blessing to a group of journalists versus the traditional spoken prayer). Moynihan seems to understand Pope Francis quite well...partly because he is Catholic (and thus, actually understands the Pope in a way that secular media may not) and partly because he writes and analyzes situations as a journalist. With that being said, is is quite obvious that Moynihan really did his homework collecting homilies, eyewitness accounts, and interviews to piece together Pope Francis's biography and mission.
One of my favorite parts about this book was that Moynihan dedicated a section to the words of Pope Francis himself. Moynihan breaks down these homilies into sections such as "The Future," "Suffering," "Culture," "Sin," "Loneliness," "Death," and various other topics. I can picture readers dog-earing sections as they become relevant to their lives....because the lessons present in each second are beautiful.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a good idea of who Pope Francis really is and not what the media wants him to be. There are plenty of misunderstandings and misinformation when it comes to Pope Francis, so it was quite nice reading a book that remains centered and attempts to stick to the facts rather than assumptions. I found myself falling in love with Pope Francis over and over again as Moynihan quoted some of the homilies he had given over the years preceding his papacy. I fell in love after reading some of the stories from his childhood and early adulthood...especially when I began to realize just how much I have in common with him in terms of upbringing, family ties, jokes, etc. This book was a quick, refreshing read and will certainly help you get to know Pope Francis a little bit better.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed herein are my own. I was not paid for my review. I was given a free copy of "Pray for Me" by Blogging for Books for review.