1. The future of the Catholic Church
For those who missed it, my review of a new book on Pope Francis was published late last week by the Englewood Review of Books. Here’s an excerpt:
As stories about the life of the new Bishop of Rome started to emerge, we saw that while these demonstrations of humility and simplicity may have broken with tradition for the papacy, they were nothing new for the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires. For years he had regularly visited the poor and the outcasts in his native Argentina, taking public transportation and walking through mud to get there. And just as he seemed determined to do in the Vatican, he had lived for many years in a relatively austere apartment. With “street cred” like this, the buzz surrounding Pope Francis has been understandable. In his slim new book Francis: A New World Pope, French journalist and religion writer Michel Cool paints a portrait of Bergoglio’s path to the papacy and seeks to put the election of the new Pope into perspective.
2. Fire in the pews
The story of the rapid growth of the Protestant church in traditionally Catholic Latin America has been widely told, from TIME to PBS, and from Al Jazeera to the Christian Science Monitor. But now, according to David Briggs of the International Association of Religion Journalists, it seems a Catholic resurgence is afoot, at least partially fueled by the rise of Protestantism (a friendly shout-out to Rob Moll for sharing the link):
Don’t cry for the Catholic Church in Argentina or anywhere else in Latin America. The church may have lost privileged status in many nations, and is dropping some market share to a rapidly growing Pentecostal movement. But the combination of increasing religious freedom and competition is also fueling a Catholic renewal movement, and equipping the church with the community-based revival necessary to meet challenges from the prosperity gospel movement to the secularization of many Latin American nations, analysts say… Greater attendance at Mass. The flowering of a Catholic charismatic movement with lay leadership and culturally sensitive worship that also shares the Pentecostal commitment to evangelism. And a revered global leader emerging from its ranks. A church in Latin America that was in danger of becoming a stale religious monopoly – witness the malaise throughout much of Western Europe – is reasserting itself in what is a vibrant religious landscape from Mexico to Brazil, according to some researchers.
3. ReVista on remembering
Speaking of that part of the world, the new issue ReVista, the journal from the Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard, is out and the theme is “Memory: In Search of History and Democracy.” Anyone interested in Latin America will find the issue is full of interesting and provocative stuff. I get the print version, but it appears the whole thing is available for free online as well.
4. Quitting the big leagues
This New Yorker piece was published a day before the World Series ended in late October, but I just read it this week. Adrian Cardénas played for part of one season for the Chicago Cubs. Then he retired, voluntarily. I’d wager you’ve never read a story quite like his:
I came to realize that professional baseball players are masochists: hitters stand sixty feet and six inches from the mound, waiting to get hit by a pitcher’s bullets; fielders get sucker punched in the face by bad hops, and then ask for a hundred more. We all fail far more than we succeed, humiliating ourselves in front of tens of thousands of fans, trying to attain the unattainable: batting a thousand, pitching without ever losing, secretly seeking the immortality of the record books. In spite of the torments—the career-ending injuries, the demotions, the fear of getting “Wally Pipped”—we keep rolling our baseball-shaped boulders up the impossible hill of the game, knowing we’ll never reach the top. Baseball is visceral, tragic, and absurd, with only fleeting moments of happiness; it may be the best representation of life. I was, and still am, in love with baseball. But I quit.
5. Castello Cavalcanti
I’m fairly certain PRADA has never showed up on my blog, but Wes Anderson has created a seven and a half minute short film (i.e., PRADA commercial) that stars Jason Schwartzman as an Italian racecar driver in the 1950s. Needless to say, I had no choice but to share it.
[Image: Cathedral in Granada, Nicaragua via onthegotours.com]