Sunday, May 19, 2013

Francis: Man of Prayer by Mario Escobar

Many people were surprised when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Latin American man virtually unknown among the majority of Catholics, became Pope Francis. To help us know what this might mean for the Catholic Church, Escobar explores the life and thoughts of one of the most powerful men in the world.

Bergoglio was born in 1936 into a family that had immigrated to Buenos Aires from Piedmont, Italy in 1929. As a teen, his heart was torn between a girlfriend and the priesthood. But when he was sixteen, he experienced a spiritual calling during confession. He broke up with his girlfriend and four years later entered seminary, choosing the Order of Jesuits. Escobar reviews his academic life and his experiences in Argentina during dictatorship.

He became a bishop at age 55 and archbishop in 1997 (he declined to live in the luxurious archbishop's palace and still took public transportation). He was ordained as cardinal in 2001. He quickly became well known and respected in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Escobar reviews the founding of the Society of Jesus in the sixteenth century, its history and theology. I didn't realize that, according to the rules of the Society of Jesus, any member who is named bishop ceases to be under the order's jurisdiction, or as Arregi said, ceases to be a Jesuit.

Other insights Escobar offers include how the papal electoral system evolved and currently works, a review of recent conclaves, Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, the choice of Francis for his name, the issues confronting the Pope, the possible impact of being the first Pope from the Americas and of being the first from the Jesuits, and more.

He ends his book with a number of quotes from Pope Francis and a chronology.

For a Protestant like me, this is a great introduction to Pope Francis and what his time at leading the Catholic Church may bring. I appreciated the historical information in the book too. The book is concise and would be of benefit to anyone wanting to know more about the current Pope and the future of the Catholic Church.

Mario Escobar has written about the Inquisition, the Reformation, and religious sects. He contributes to various publications. For more information see

Thomas Nelson, 224 pages. Publisher's product page.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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