LOPEZ: How did you get roped into writing the book?
CRAUGHWELL: I have been a student of Catholic history almost all of my life. When my friends at TAN/Saint Benedict Press came to me with this assignment, I just couldn’t resist the challenge. I did all the historical work while the cardinals were gearing up for the conclave. Then, once Francis stepped out on the balcony, I spent the next two weeks reading, writing, and thinking about nothing but Francis. I couldn’t have done it without the help of a very close friend, John Moorehouse, who spent years in Latin America and is fluent in Spanish. He tracked down Argentine sources about Francis and translated them for me. I can never repay John for his help, though I’ll try!
LOPEZ: You mention that the inaugural Mass for Pope Francis was on the feast of St. Joseph. Pope Francis can’t stop talking about Joseph — adding him to the Eucharistic Prayer and consecrating the Holy See to him. What’s the significance of this? What does Joseph have that modern times — and the Church — needs?
CRAUGHWELL: In the 1960s, Pope John XXIII inserted the name of St. Joseph into the canon of the Mass, what is known today as the Roman Canon, or the First Eucharistic Prayer. For reasons that defy explanation, when the new Mass was promulgated in 1969, the name of St. Joseph was deleted from the saints invoked in the three new, optional canons. It made no sense, because the significance of St. Joseph is impossible to overestimate. He is the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He is the foster father of Jesus Christ. God chose him personally to watch, protect, and raise the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. After Mary, no saint is more important. St. Joseph is also the patron of the Catholic Church — over which Pope Francis has absolute authority — and the patron of all those who labor. (Joseph was a carpenter.). And as we know, Pope Francis identifies with hard-working people. Consequently, St. Joseph — husband, father, working man — is always going to be relevant.
LOPEZ: What should people realize about Francis that might help them understand what’s happening in the Church today?
CRAUGHWELL: The Catholic Church is booming in Africa and Asia, but it has lost ground in Europe and in the Americas. Secularism has destroyed the faith of countless millions. John Paul II called for a new missionary spirit to reclaim what the Church has lost; Benedict XVI called for the same thing. But I think Francis has the best chance for jump-starting what has been an ailing missionary endeavor. His humility, his simplicity, his direct manner, his down-to-earth style appeal to so many practicing Catholics, fallen-away Catholics, and non-Catholics. This is anecdotal “evidence,” so take it for what it’s worth: A few weeks ago, I had lunch in New York with two close friends. One was baptized Catholic, and it never went beyond that. Another was raised Catholic but hasn’t practiced in decades, was not married in church, and did not baptize his daughter. Over lunch, they both spoke enthusiastically about Francis. I think the Holy Spirit has sent us the right pope at the right time. Deo gratias! as we say.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a director of Catholic Voices USA.