VATICAN CITY — For Catholics a new year begins Nov. 30, the first Sunday of Advent.
Our new book, “Pope Francis: A Guide to God’s Time,” explains the church’s liturgical year using the pope’s homilies. The book is published by Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Libreria Editrice Vaticana (the Vatican publishing house). You can order it directly from the bishops’ publishing office or on Amazon.
As a journalist, I read Pope Francis’ morning homilies and Sunday Angelus addresses looking for “news.” Usually with Pope Francis that means finding odd, interesting and colorful turns of phrase.
“God spray” and “bat Christians” come to mind. In the first instance, the pope said God is a real being capable of and desiring a relationship with each person; he’s not some kind of esoteric mist or “god spray.” The second phrase comes from a homily about lukewarm Christians who seem to prefer to dwell in a dark cave like bats rather than walk in the light.
Last spring I went back over the homilies Pope Francis delivered in the first 14 months of his pontificate. This time I was not looking for news, but for his explanations of how the Catholic Church divides up its calendar into seasons, special times of preparation and special times of celebration: the liturgical year.
The result is this book, which is illustrated with 91 beautiful photographs taken by my Rome colleague Paul Haring. (Reviewing the pages before publication, my attention always strayed to the photos. I can’t pick a favorite, but the one to the left definitely makes me smile every time I see it.)
The title comes from one of Pope Francis’ homilies. The pope is someone who is constantly looking at his watch because he sees a careful management of his time as a spiritual discipline and as sign of respect for the people he is supposed to meet at a certain hour. But in homily that inspired the title, he said that when we go to Mass, we enter into God’s time “without looking at our watches.”
In the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he lives, Pope Francis celebrates a morning Mass and gives a homily almost every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. He recites the Angelus or Regina Coeli on Sundays and major feast days — and uses those occasions for a commentary on the Mass readings. Then there are the Masses — with a homily — for Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week and Easter, the proclamation of saints and other special events.
“Pope Francis: A Guide to God’s Time” mines all those homilies and commentaries to find Pope Francis’ secrets to prayer, happiness and holiness. The book also provides many quotes from Pope Francis on the Eucharist, peace, mercy, forgiveness and, of course, on the evils of gossip, which he has started referring to as a form of “terrorism.”
In the United States, the book is available in English and in Spanish. In Rome, it’s also available in Italian.