The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope

Pope Francis has been great fodder for sensational news stories ever since he became pope. Will we see more of the same in 2017?

In 2016 news outlets announced that he was considering introducing deaconesses – female deacons – to the church, next stop female priests. Pope Francis merely said that he had wondered about the role of deaconesses too, and it should be studied.  I have difficulty in understanding on how one can extrapolate a comment on studying the issue to having  deaconesses and priests!  It does make for good headlines though.

I think it is important not to take what what reads in the media at face value.  The various Catholic news sources may not be as bad, though they have their own biases, as can be seen in the recent furor over the ‘dubia’.  Translations of complete transcripts however are more reliable, such as the recent one of Pope Francis’s Christmas address to the Roman Curia. By the way, that Christmas address is good reading as an overview of his guiding principles and actions.  Still, we can take this investigation in learning about Pope Francis even further.

What do Pope Francis’ words/deeds mean? Where are they coming from? To really understand a man, or in this case the Pope, it is instructive to learn about his life, and Austen Ivereigh does a great job in his 2014 book, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope. I enjoyed many insights into this fascinating leader of my church.  To whet your appetite a few tidbits are given below.

What was Pope Francis’s childhood like?  How and why did he decide to become a priest?

Learn about how this former vehement opponent of the charismatic members of the church changed his mind and why(291-292). And what formative experiences have teased out the delineation that Pope Francis now makes about the role of the episcopal and papal authorities. (Not one unified uniform church but one church in reconciled diversity?)

Find out about the then Argentinean bishop’s role in the 1968 regional conference of Latin American bishops.  This elaborated on the preferential orientation to the poor – the origin of liberation theology – to liberation not only from sin but sinful social structures that kept the majority poor. It brings to mind my recent post on the thoroughly Catholic AND.  

Then, what role does Pope Francis think the magestrium and the people of the church should play?  This should be of interest to all those who critique the Catholic church as an unwieldy bureaucratic organization.  Again we can look to this life story to see the people centered focus. That the activity of the church should not only be directed to the people but also be derived from the people. The people show how the church teaches, the magestrium what it teaches (111).

All Catholics are part of the church, and it is our participation in it, facilitated by this “radical reformer”, that makes it what it is each and every day. I do my part to understand what is happening and why, rather than simply relying on 2 second media sound bites. In doing so I am excited energized encouraged in many ways.  





“What is to give light..

 must endure burning.”

Wise words by the great psychotherapist Viktor Frankl. Something for us to ponder while we enjoy the brand new year and accept the realities of life.

Compliments of the Season and a Happy New Year to one and all! May you fill 2017 with whatever your heart desires without any regrets.


Life ‘n Teleology

With so many beginnings and endings – end of the Western calendar year fast approaching and the new beginning, my birthday recently past, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ today, my cousin’s wedding tomorrow – it is easy to be swept aside and forget the point of it all.  It is at these times that I am reminded of the following excerpt from Catholicism – A Journey to the Heart of the Faith:

“Aristotle said that the best activities are the most useless. This is because such things are not simply means to a further end, but are done entirely for their own sake.”


And in doing so one fulfills one’s teleology: being human, and what being human means.

For those who wish to learn more and understand the Catholic faith better I highly recommend checking out Catholicism – A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, by Bishop Robert Barron. And for the more visually inclined there is the Catholicism DVD box set  The Catholicism video series was also shown on PBS and was well received.

Christabel’s Bolinhas


  • 1 1/2 cups semolina
  • 2 cups grated coconut (grind in 1/4 cup water)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp clarified butter
  • 1/4 tsp cardamon


Make a syrup of sugar in 1/3 cup water, then add ground coconut and clarified butter. Mix well then add the semolina and cardamon.  Mix again and let cool.  To the cooled mixture add in the egg yolks, mix well, then let sit overnight. Make into balls, and put on pre-greased tray. Bake on greased tray in preheated oven for 30 min at 350.

Note that there is something in the middle of each bolinha to take it up a notch. What can you do to give this sweet your personal touch?.



Sweet Potato Pie


  • 1 pound sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ginger (crushed or powdered) to taste
  • 1 9 inch unbaked pie crust



Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done. Run cold water over the sweet potato, and remove the skin. You can easily soften the butter using a microwave.  I do so in 10 second bursts and you may need to do so differently based on the power of your microwave.

Break apart the sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter, and mash it together well. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, crushed ginger/ginger powder, and vanilla. Beat until mixture is smooth using a mixer. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust.  Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes (preheated oven), or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Do not get alarmed. The pie will puff up like a souffle, and then will sink down as it cools.

As usual the recipe can easily be modified to suit your tastes. To me that’s the fun of it.  Taking something and making it your own. The potato is sweet enough not to add sugar.  This time I removed all the white sugar and added a tablespoon of honey. I use ginger to give it some zing.  The pie is nice without it too.  Oh, I added some liqueurs to muddle the flavors a bit, while still ensuring the “sweet potato” came through.