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The Next Pope: A Third-World Cardinal?

CONCLAVE: The Politics, Personalities, and Process of the Next Papal Election, by John L. Allen. Doubleday. 231 pp. $12.95.

Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M., editor of this publication. From 1985 through 1992 he worked at the international headquarters of the Order of Friars Minor in Rome.

“THIS IS A BOOK about the conclave,” writes John Allen, National Catholic Reporter’s Rome correspondent, “and hence about the election of the next pope. I discuss the issues, the parties, and the people that will be at the heart of the matter when the world’s cardinals next gather to elect a successor to St. Peter.

“My aim is to help interested people who don’t know much about the inner workings of the Catholic Church to understand what the big deal is about a papal election.”

Allen addresses this aim in five chapters: What Does the Pope Do?, Voting Issues, How the Conclave Works, Political Parties in the College of Cardinals and The Candidates.

Allen finalized this text last spring, but by mid-September death and age had reduced to 115 the number of cardinals under age 80. Pope John Paul II has appointed 111 of those voters, who must begin the conclave between 15 and 20 days after he dies or resigns.

According to Allen, the five major issues influencing the next papal election are collegiality in the Church (relationship of bishops, pope and Roman Curia); ecumenism and interreligious dialogue; globalization, poverty and justice; bioethics, sexuality and the family; plus women and laity.

John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis (February 22, 1996) sets the framework for the next conclave, with two major changes: The cardinals will live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, adjacent to St. Peter’s Basilica, and if no cardinal receives a two-thirds vote after 28 ballots over 12 days, the cardinals can elect someone by a simple majority (half plus one). The 20th century’s eight conclaves averaged 3.25 days.

Although Allen admits in his fourth chapter that speaking of “political parties” among these cardinals from 61 countries is very speculative, he identifies three “parties,” with one group having a liberal and a conservative wing. Allen links only 39 of the 120 cardinals under 80 to one of these groups.

“All things being equal,” Allen believes, the cardinals would like to elect a pope who is from the Third World, in his late 60s or early 70s, “and has long pastoral experience in a major diocese, though he is not innocent of the ways of the curia.”

Allen presents short bios of his 20 candidates, only nine of whom come from the Third World. Five of these 20 presently work in the Roman Curia. Allen offers a few lines about each remaining cardinal. An eight-page Glossary and a very usable 11-page Index complete this volume.

Any book of this complexity is almost bound to have some factual errors. Allen gives the impression that the first U.S. bishop, John Carroll, was directly elected. Although it is true that U.S. priests expressed a preference for him, that did not make him a bishop. Appointment by the Holy See did.

Allen correctly notes that in 1829 the pope had appointed only 24 of the 646 diocesan Latin-rite bishops outside the Papal States. Allen does not say, however, that the kings of France and Spain had each appointed more than that number. Allen decries papal centralization in the last 200 years, but if government leaders still had major input into episcopal appointments, many of the Third World cardinals whom Allen admires would not be cardinals today.

Contrary to Allen’s assertion, the Austro-Hungarian emperor’s veto in the 1903 conclave prevented Cardinal Rampolla’s election as pope. Although Allen writes that cardinals generally do not know one another, in May 2001 most of them participated in a four-day special meeting in Rome. Many cardinals have attended synods of bishops, serve together on committees and travel a great deal.

Three more minor mistakes: The current prefect of the papal household is a bishop (not an archbishop), Jerome Murphy-O’Connor is a Dominican (not a Carmelite) and Rome’s L’Eau Vive restaurant is run by a secular institute (not an order of nuns).

During the next conclave, Allen will be an expert news analyst for Fox News Channel. If the cardinals do not elect one of his 20 candidates, Allen will have a very interesting time reporting on the next pope.

You can order CONCLAVE: The Politics, Personalities, and Process of the Next Papal Election from St. Francis Bookshop.

WIT AND WISDOM OF THE SAINTS: A Year of Saintly Humor, by Victoria Hébert and Judy Bauer. Liguori Publications. 246 pp. $14.95.

PATRONS AND PROTECTORS: More Occupations, by Michael O'Neill McGrath. Liturgy Training Publications. 58 pp. $18.95.

Reviewed by JUDY BALL, managing editor of Every Day Catholic, published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. She’s also on the Internet staff for www.American, and writes its “Saint of the Day” feature.

WHEN I READ the Introduction to Wit and Wisdom of the Saints: A Year of Saintly Humor, I felt right at home. Since childhood, I’ve been attracted to reading about the saints. Even the serious and ascetic types have long had a hold on me with their dedication and single-mindedness. But when Wit and Wisdom promised to focus on the lighter side of God’s holy ones and “the comical events in their lives,” I was... well, in heaven.

But now, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve lost my sense of humor. How can I say this politely? Proceeding chronologically through the book, organized by feast date from January to December, I didn’t even smile until March.

To be sure, I found wisdom in January and February, words and insights that turned my head even if they failed to turn up the corners of my mouth. Alex de Clerq (January 6) counseled a nobleman who had lived a long life of vice and who vowed to repent of his past sins, “Any time, even though late, is pleasing to God.” And the wisdom of Teilo, a Welsh bishop (February 6), gave me a moment’s pause: “The greatest wisdom in a man is to refrain from injuring another when it is in his power to do so.”

But it wasn’t until the third month of the year—March 3, to be exact—that I actually found the wit promised in the title. I refer to the feast day of St. Katharine Drexel, whose spirit and prophetic ministry touched me deeply when I first became aware of her story at age 13 or so. This Philadelphia heiress gave up her immense family wealth to serve Native Americans and blacks and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

Speaking of her resolution to abstain from most sweets for much of the year, Katharine outlined what she planned to do without—cake, preserves, even grapes. But she made no such promises about anything containing chocolate, “for to deny myself such rare treats would surely be the sin of ingratitude.” Amen, St. Katharine! Stamp out ingratitude!

Overall, Wit and Wisdom of the Saints: A Year of Saintly Humor delivers more wisdom than wit. But it leaves us with a year’s worth of valuable insights into the holy and human persons to whom we rightly turn for inspiration—and even an occasional smile.

More smiles can be found in Patrons and Protectors: More Occupations. Here Brother Mickey O’Neill McGrath is at it again, drawing—pun intended—on his artistic skills, his rich insights and his impish sense of humor to remind us yet again: The saints who lived one, two or 15 centuries ago have something to say to us 21st-century followers of Jesus through their lives, and especially their daily labors.

This is the second in a series of three volumes that highlight saints at work. In this volume, we encounter the well-known and the obscure, including St. Gemma Galgani, patron of pharmacists; St. René Goupil, patron of anesthesiologists; and St. Apollonia, patron of dentists.

Directed at busy people, the book invites us to see the holiness of work. Brother Mickey brings to life familiar saints like Francis of Assisi (patron of ornithologists), who is depicted surrounded by birds and whose life reminds us “of the many-colored ways in which the Good News can soar around the world.”

Brother Mickey also introduces us to less familiar saints, including St. Zita, patron of housekeepers. She is depicted as a maid in a modern hotel, taking a moment to pray before setting out to accomplish tasks many would call tedious. But not St. Zita, who saw her chores as “a continuation of God’s work.”

Simple reflections on each saint are offered by persons engaged in occupations for which the holy one is known. Such an instance is St. Fiacre, patron of cabdrivers. A modern-day Chicago cabbie recounts the story of a life he helped save in his line of work.

Whatever our gifts, whatever our profession, Patrons and Protectors reminds us that we are at our best when we accept God’s invitation to be co-creators.

You can order WIT AND WISDOM OF THE SAINTS: A Year of Saintly Humor and PATRONS AND PROTECTORS: More Occupations from St. Francis Bookshop.

THE GATHERING, by William X. Kienzle. Andrews McMeel Publishing. 280 pp. $22.95.

Reviewed by the REV. LAWRENCE M. VENTLINE, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

FRIENDSHIP AND FRATERNITY are what former priest William Kienzle presents in The Gathering, his 24th and final book, prior to his death on December 28, 2001. (His first was The Rosary Murders in 1979.) This account is of two young women and four young men, whose friendship focuses on the Church.

Kienzle sets The Gathering in the 1940s in Detroit, his  hometown where he served as a parish priest and editor of The Michigan Catholic newspaper.

This writer enjoyed savoring each detail of The Gathering and trying to figure out who and what parish inspired Kienzle’s story, for the parish is elaborately painted with fondness and affection. It reminded me of my own experience of growing up in Detroit’s St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, a huge Romanesque edifice.

The Gathering had me going down memory lane in other ways, too. Identifying with the vocation of the four young men and two women, I revived my zest and excitement about serving as a priest.

As The Gathering points out, in the 1940s young Catholic men and women were encouraged and inspired to religious life. My own boyhood parish priests, Fathers Narkun, Harrington, Dabrowski and Popielarz, were instrumental in making me think about priesthood. When the struggles of The Gathering’s protagonists are described, I remembered my own doubts, fears and joys about a life of service. It also unites my own post-Vatican II formation with the book’s 40s formation.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters of Monroe, Michigan, movies, music and much of convent and seminary life surface in The Gathering. Fraternity, forged friendships, homosexuality, Church teachings and domestic abuse comprised issues of the time. When there is a suspicious death at the reunion of the group, now in their 70s, Father Robert Koesler, Kienzle’s priest-detective and alter ego, is called to solve a final murder mystery.

    A great read, The Gathering left this Kienzle fan imagining what future books would have brought. I suspect, however, that this one won’t be the last one. His wife, Javan, amid her grieving over her husband’s death, will piece together other pearls of the late William Kienzle. But he will be missed, indeed.

You can order THE GATHERING from St. Francis Bookshop.

GOD HUNGER: Discovering the Mystic in All of Us, by John Kirvan. Sorin Books. 192 pp. $13.

RAW FAITH: Nurturing the Believer in All of Us, by John Kirvan. Sorin Books. 192 pp. $13.

SILENT HOPE: Living With the Mystery of God, by John Kirvan. Sorin Books. 191 pp. $13.

Reviewed by JULIE DONATI, a Catholic school teacher who lives in Sugar Land, Texas. She is married to Marcello and has three children—ages 11, nine and a newly adopted baby. She is working on her M.A. in theology at St. Mary’s Seminary..

SPIRITUALITY, MYSTICISM, the hunger for God, holy longing, indescribable mystery, a deep-rooted desire for something—all are catchwords in today’s society. As St. Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in you.” Whatever the expression, the root lies in our search for the meaning of life, in the tension of a God who is present but cannot be seen.

John Kirvan explores our yearning for God by synthesizing the insights of selected mystical teachers and his own astute reflections in his engaging trilogy, God Hunger, Raw Faith and Silent Hope.

Kirvan, a retired Paulist priest, is the author of the 14-volume Thirty Days With a Great Spiritual Teacher series. His current three companion books are, as he states, his own personal spiritual diary where he invites the reader to probe more deeply into the mysteries of God.

As he writes in Raw Faith, these books are “at their roots prayerful journals of an unquenchable hunger for God, a journey that can be nourished only in faith and lived out in hope.”

All three books are designed to build on insights reaped in each volume, employing the same easy-to-use format. Kirvan speaks of God in “apophatic” language, or as he explains, “a God who cannot be seen or described.”

Each book has a specific focus. The first book, God Hunger, explores our initial, primordial, basic hunger for God. In Raw Faith Kirvan contemplates faith and the ability to believe in a world impregnated with disbelief. The third book, Silent Hope,  examines an often-silent God.

Kirvan draws on the wisdom of 10 different spiritual teachers from the Christian, Jewish and Islamic mystical traditions. Included are such familiar names as Henri Nouwen, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Thomas Merton, C.S. Lewis, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, Karl Rahner and more. Other less familiar figures include Rumi, Abraham Joshua Heschel and Ramon Lull. Yet all of them are great mystics and teachers.

The texts are divided up in a user-friendly layout, suggesting methods for using the exercises in a prayerful manner—yet without offering strict rules. Kirvan recognizes that we are all on individual and unique spiritual journeys.

In Part One of each book, Kirvan clearly explains the focus of that volume. The language is easy to read and the text is full of applicable, earthy spiritual wisdom. Part Two is composed of the writings and lives of 10 great spiritual teachers. Kirvan introduces each mystic with a short biography and a single word, a key insight that he calls “a different face of faith,” such as longing, looking, unknowing, the desert, the ordinary, trust and surrender.

Kirvan includes five spiritual exercises for the soul with each mystic as our guide. They begin with a mantra, or short phrase, by the mystic which contains a great spiritual truth. A longer reading or meditation follows that develops the passage. These are Kirvan’s own insights that he claims “are not meant to summarize the insights of a great teacher. They are merely a record of how one person responded to something they said.” He encourages us to find and trust our own response. This section is concluded with a short intercessory prayer.

The author is well-versed in Western spiritual traditions and quotes at will from a broad spectrum of mystics. In a deceptively simple manner, Kirvan blends insights from these teachers and applies them to the new in a powerful way.

The diminutive size of each volume makes it perfect to slip into a purse or briefcase to be read when one has a moment or two throughout the day.

I highly recommend this trilogy which can be read consecutively over the course of a weekend for a “mini-retreat,” or spaced over time, allowing the reader to slowly savor the words. These books will draw readers closer to the mystery that is God and enriched by the great Christian spiritual heritage.

You can order GOD HUNGER: Discovering the Mystic in All of Us, RAW FAITH: Nurturing the Believer in All of Us and SILENT HOPE: Living With the Mystery of God from St. Francis Bookshop.


Books can be obtained through St. Francis Bookshop on the Web or at 1618 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202, phone 1-800-241-6392. All orders must be prepaid. Add $4 for postage and handling. Ohio residents should also add 6.0 percent for sales tax. The Bookshop offers a free catalog.

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