Sunday, April 13, 2014

Catholic Review: Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons

Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons by Mike Aquilina, September 13, 2013. 140 pages. Published by Servant Books. Source: Won.
Why did the author pick the popes you’ll meet in the pages of this book? Why not Gregory I, whom many would call the greatest pope of all time? Why not Leo X, who was pope at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation? Why not Leo XIII, who boldly stood up for the rights of workers?

Every pope is by definition a remarkable man. But the popes whose stories you’ll read here were chosen because they reveal how the papacy developed. They show us how Christ kept his promise to his bride, the Church, not only in her health but also in her sickness. The great popes advanced our understanding of Christian doctrine. But even more remarkable, the worst popes could do nothing to damage the teaching of the Church.

That’s why, even in its darkest moments, the story of the papacy is a story of triumph. And that’s why it’s worth knowing these twelve popes.
First Sentence:
How's this for an ugly scene?

Going into Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons I had no idea what to expect for two reasons. One, I was unsure just how the author was going to cover the papacy with just twelve popes from the beginning to JPII; two, because I was unfamiliar with the author's writing style, in other words, I had no idea if I would find his writing to my liking.

So, While I had no idea going in whether or not I was going to enjoy this one, I find myself sucked into the history of the church and reading about the continuous succession of the papacy from St. Peter onto Pope Francis. It is pretty interesting to think that there has never been a break within the apostolic line from the beginning till now, even when you take into context some of the popes from the early years when (some) of them lacked the spirituality that we are more used to seeing in the more recent popes.
    While there were definitely some throughout the past that were not cutout for the job of leading the Church, it was interesting to see how their blunders and less then stellar humanness couldn't even sink the burgeoning faith of the Church.

Okay, so, while I really enjoyed all that learned about the twelve popes mentioned in the book what really made it interesting and Mike Aquilina's writing and they way he was able to make you just want to read on and on. His ability to weave the histories of all these guys that would go on to lead the Catholic church through some of the most dangerous times just made me want to keep reading long after I was ready for bed-this is what happened when I start a good book right before bed.
   If that doesn't give you an idea of how well written it is then nothing will.
Even though there have definitely been some unfit for the role of shepherd of the church, as well, as some that left you questioning how they got elected to role, it was interesting to see him reference even the worst popes from the history of the church because it gives you an idea of just how human they are. But, what it also gives a better insight into is the term: infallibility. It shows, that while the popes are infallible when it comes to the faith and knowing Jesus, it also shows that while they may be infallible in that respect they are still human and just as flawed and bound to make mistakes as the next person.

Alright, so, what I enjoyed most about Good Pope, Bad Pope would have to be the chapter on St. Peter, the first Pope of the Roman Catholic church. As I read the chapter on him, I came to realize how important it was that Peter was chosen as the first leader of the Roman Catholic. It is his fallibility a human and his ability to learn from his mistakes, while repenting of them, that made him the perfect first leader.
    For me, I believe it shows how the Lord waits for us to come back to him and that even should we deny him, like Peter did, there is always still hope that we may obtain forgiveness and reconciliation for our sins.

Mike Aquilina's Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons is absolutely incredible! It has been nearly a week since I finished reading it and I'm still thinking about it and how well written and researched this book was. Seriously though, if you want a little history on the Apostolic succession and some back-story on some of the popes from the beginning to pretty recently this is the book for you. He delivers the book in an easily readable format that draws you in and keeps you reading.

Final Verdict: Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons- An excellent, engaging read about the papacy from the beginning to more recent times. Definitely an eye opener if you're only familiar with the more recent popes; while I was shocked over a couple of them, I found it interesting to take a hard look at how things have changed over the last 2000 years.

Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons earns

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