Friday, December 07, 2007

Review: Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI: Keepers of the Faith

Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI: Keepers of the Faith (Great Life Stories) by Susan Provost Beller
2007, Franklin Watts, 111 pages, paperback
ISBN-10: 0531178471

Reviewed by Ana Braga-Henebry, M. A.

There is a whole lot be liked in this book, beginning with the title! The author has researched numerous interesting anecdotes about the lives of these two holy men so dear in the heart of many Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and the result is a fresh, easy to read and captivating double-biography.

An attractive format, crisp, clean layout, this will be a good resource for any homeschooler needing an overview of the life of our beloved John Paul the Great and a glimpse into the contemporary pope Benedict XVI as well. Susan Provost Beller does a fine job telling of their childhoods, the world they grew up in, their family sorrows and of their personal temperaments.

About every age page, there are side blurbs in blue background, about one third to one half of the page: they may feature explanations of an interesting curiosities such as Benedict XVI's love of cats or all about the Popemobile; or they may be of historical content, such as a table of papal nationalities.

The volume is generously illustrated and they complement very well the text. A timeline, a list of available resources and an index make it very user-friendly.

I was very pleased with the way the author of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI: Keepers of the Faith treats delicate issues of religious faith in her book. I did find, however, a few problematic points, listed below. Taking these into consideration, I would recommend this book.

Red Flags (I found these to be the most important ones, watch for a few more minor ones):
  • Dominus Jesus is described as a document "which doesn't leave room for much compromising with other religions" (I am paraphrasing a bit). Compromising with other religions, of course, is not true Ecumenism.
  • A statement about how the Church needs to be "creative" in thinking about AIDS problems in Africa etc. (Like if the Church's changing teaching on contraception would eliminate AIDS. Indeed, that Church has been creative. Look at this article on the National Catholic Register to see that when abstinence is promoted AIDS cases sharply decline.
  • There is a picture of a consecration during a papal mass with a caption that says "here's the pope consecrating (or blessing) the wine". We know, as Catholics, that the moment of Consecration is light years beyond "blessing".

Available at your favorite bookseller or from Scholastic.

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