Jeanette De Melo is the editor in chief for the Register. She recently became co-host to Register Radio along with Thom Price and Dan Burke. Before joining the Register staff in 2012, she served as the Archdiocese of Denver’s communications director, spokeswoman and general manager of the Denver Catholic Register, El Pueblo Católico, and the archdiocesan website. Prior to this position, she was the associate communications director for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, where in addition to managing media relations, she co-produced a weekly archdiocesan television program.
I am catching up on a backlog of Register Radio shows. Two weeks ago on Register Radio, my guest was journalist Alejandro Bermudez. We spoke about his new book, Pope Francis, Our Brother and Our Friend, recounting interviews with Argentine Jesuits, who are personally know Pope Francis as a spiritual brother.
Alejandro was the translator for On Heaven and Earth, (listen to an interview about this book). His latest book includes a series of interviews of 20 people: 10 Argentine Jesuits and 10 others, including laypeople and priests.
Alejandro explains how some of the Jesuits would not go on record easily because they don’t agree with Bergoglio on everything. Yet, all of the interviewees, said Alejandro, shared a tremendous amount of genuine respect of Pope Francis and considered him a remarkable man. Not everyone was of the same mind as Jorge Bergoglio but they all did know him quite well.
One of the journalist’s favorite descriptions of Bergoglio is that he is a rare mix of a desert saint and a brilliant manager.
Liberation theology turns out to be a recurring theme throughout the book. It’s a topic that has also come up since Pope Francis has been elected. The Jesuits interviewed all agreed that Bergoglio was not your classic Latin American theologian. They explain that the whole movement that inspired liberation theology in Latin America was very different in Argentina, because Marxism never had any significant appeal on the theological reflection. The liberation theology that had an impact on Bergoglio’s formation was void of the political ideology but, rather, very much centered on the religious experience of the Catholic people, such as those who may not even attend Mass every Sunday but who are impacted through popular devotion. Bergoglio, thus, explained the interviewees, developed a sensitivity toward those who only experienced the Church through the sacraments and less frequently than the weekly Mass-goes. He wanted to evangelize and catechize them.
For the book, Alejandro spoke to a variety of other people from all walks of life in addition to the Jesuits he interviewed. These people —a homeless woman, a Catholic politician, a Jewish rabbi, a couple journalists, and more — all provided different viewpoints to paint a better understand Pope Francis and his decisions. One thing becomes obvious through these interviews, understanding Argentina and the Argentinian people is key to understanding our new pope.
Listen to the interview here.
Our Lady of Lourdes
In the second half of the show, Dan Burke interviewed Bishop Nicolas Brouwet (who recently appeared on EWTN Live, watch his interview here), whose diocese is home of the famous Marian shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Bishop Brouwet describes an experience he had in Lourdes as a young man. He went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes for 3-4 days with his grandparents. He says it was “very good for me” to see the wide range of people praying together at that time.
There are 69 officially recognized miracles from Lourdes. The bishop summarized the message of Lourdes as “how to be valuable to God, how to answer to God’s call.” You can meet the Lord and be recentered in your faith at Lourdes.
When you go to a local shrine or grotto devoted to Lourdes, Bishop Brouwet says that you can find the spring of Christ from your dark place. In the darkness of all life, we can come to the fountain and know that the fountain of God is greater than our sin.
The spiritual power of pilgrimage — whether to Lourdes or locally — is a way to “go to the Father’s house,” and our life can be like a big pilgrimage. It can be a way to help us “stand up and walk again” in the face of life’s difficulties and challenges. A pilgrimage recenters you and gives you “a few days to be close to the Lord and understand the sense of your life.” We need to do that, with others if possible, to break the patterns and set aside the time for reflection.
In a pilgrimage, said Bishop Brouwet, “you are poor” and “you feel your poverty.” It’s “very important to realize we are not almighty, but are in the hands of God.”
There was some terrible flooding over the summer, but Bishop Brouwet says that though everything is open, there will be many repairs and rebuilding that will have to be done in the winter, after All Saints Day.
To learn more about Lourdes, go to lourdes-france.org. Dan encourages everyone to consider a time of retreat for a transformative time in Lourdes.
Listen to the interview here.