A Too Merciful Look into a Pastor of Power

Pope Francis: Pastor of Mercy
By Michael J. Ruszala
Wyatt North Publishing
173 pages

Bio books on religious figures are usually a no-no for me. Michael J. Ruszala’s Pope Francis: Pastor of Mercy might have continued to sit on the shelf, except for my personal admiration for the subject of the  text. That said, most lives of popes tend to drip with needless deference and pious platitudes. At the same time, as Ruszala, those who explore the realm of faith best, are the committed. Likewise, many writers produce those kinds of works without a level of analysis that makes a look into the lives of what are in essence international men of power worth the read.

Michael J. Ruszala’s Pope Francis: Pastor of Mercy shows  a great deference in the handling of his subject, yet provides enough insight into the Pontiff’s views on mercy, social issues, the place of the People of God in the church and the world, and the deep need for more mercy on our planet, that an exploration of the very readable biography is not a waste.

One weakness of the book is that the author, who is a “director of faith formation,”a lay minister, at St. Pius X Church in Getzville, New York, is a self-described “active member of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists yet seems too wrapped up in the Church to make an objective analysis of the new pope possible. Even so, he writes like anyone who does not have direct and prolonged access to the Pope Francis. In effect, this is a great fan book. That said, if a reader has no idea about the background and views or the man in the white cassock who sits on St. Peter’s throne, Ruszala’s Pope Francis makes the perfect primer. The author makes reference to the pope’s activities and attitudes about service to humankind. He shows how the leader of a church known for homophobia, pedophilia and stolid patience in the face of international crisis, has challenged institutional hypocrisy and tried to make reparations for its sins. 

At one point in the book, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church describes himself as “a sinner.” In response to a “How would you introduce yourself?” query, the former Argentine cardinal, Jorge Bergoglio, states, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner. ” Ruszala culls that most of the best lines in the work, from the others’ interviews. Unfortunately, he leaves readers with a desire for more immediacy. That is not a crime, yet the distance leaves a reader with a sense of being too removed from the pope to gain a feel for the man. By the end of the biography, those who are not pious Catholics, or merely fans of the often smiling prelate, only come away with facts that might have been found in an encyclopedia.


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VGwrites

I am a storyteller, author, editor, blogger, and retired university professor of Creative Writing. Now in Central Florida, I still teach every now and then, but write most of the time. Most recently, I poetry was featured in Mo Joe The Anthology. My last book, 10 Stories Down, a poetry collection published in September 2011, is inspired by several long-term stays in Beijing. Life and Other Things I Know: Poems, Essays and Short Stories (Elephant Eye Press, 1999), was the first. Throughout the years, the list expanded to include: African American Children's Stories: A Treasury of Tradition and Pride, Grandma Loves You: My First Treasury, African American Stories: My First Treasury, Like A Dry Land: A Soul's Journey through the Middle East and contributions to Take Two, They're Small, an anthology of poems, memoir, essay and fiction on food. My poetry, fiction and essays have also appeared in Yellow Medicine Review, Washington Living, Upstate New Yorker, The Southern Quarterly, Reporter Magazine, Drylongso, Fyah, MentalSatin, Pinnacle Hill Review, Invisible Universe, Bridges, Ishmael Reed's Konch Magazine, New Verse News, and UpandComing Magazine.

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