Thank you to

William Docherty

For this review

At first sight this could be mistaken for another book by a Pope who is prolific in putting out books.  However, on closer inspection it is one you will be glad you didn’t miss.

The book invites us to look at the possibility of a better future.  In the current situation of coming out of a pandemic this is a thought many of us are having as anything is surely better than the past period of isolation and restriction.

 

Francis uses three episodes in his own life where he has been in a crisis and explains how he used these times as a moment to relaunch into better times.

 

He then looks at the pandemic in the same light.  He looks at the global pandemic as a perfect opportunity for all of us, of any faith and none, to look at what we have become in relation to our fellow pilgrims through life.

 

He starts by looking at the situation we were in before the pandemic when many social ills had beset society.  The culture of profit over everything else and political ideas which are aimed at getting the most for the few while the many suffer in poverty, hardship and loneliness.  And he contrasts this with the effort made by so many during the pandemic to go the extra mile for their brothers and sisters.  From the health workers and other emergency services who put themselves on the front line to the ordinary people who organised food parcels and looked after elderly and infirm members of their communities.  And he concludes that this is a perfect opportunity for humanity to pause and consider taking a new path where togetherness and love of others is the prime focus.

 

One of the most striking lines in the book is where he considers the question being asked by so many – where was God during the pandemic? – and he answers it beautifully: that God  was right there in the key workers who put themselves at risk to look after those most affected and he was there in the ordinary men and women who took up the mission of ensuring that their neighbours had food and drink at a time when they were most vulnerable. It is actually like the beatitudes being lived out by so many people.

 

A beautiful little book and one which has arrived at just the moment when it was most needed.

Thank you to

Carole O'Connor

For this review

I read voraciously so to be asked to choose one book and then review it, presented more than a challenge. How do you choose a favourite amongst all your ‘children’?

I was as surprised as anyone to have an image of Max Lucado’s book You are Special immediately spring to mind. I discovered this book late on in life and I am now the proud owner of a beautiful pop-up version of the book!

You are Special, through the story of the Wemmicks, is an allegory of our world today. They don’t deal in currency of Bitcoins or Euros, rather, it is gold stars and grey dots. Just as society today brands those who have ‘designer’ and those who don’t, the stars and dots are a visible representation of thoughts and feelings of the other people in the village. Gold dots are given out to those who seem most deserving, likable and talented whereas the grey dots are handed out for being less than, not quite meeting mark or downright lacking. Punchinello, the hero of our story, has many grey dots.

This is a simple book and marketed ostensibly as a children’s book but it carries a very profound message. It’s the message of identity and therefore a book for children and adults alike. It is also about the enormous, loving heart of God.

The story evolves and we see Punchinello going to see Eli who carved him because Pulchinello is now covered in grey dots and his friend Lucia has no grey dots and no gold stars. Pulchinello wants to know Why?

On arriving at Eli’s door, Pulchinello’s first shock is that Eli knows his name and has been waiting on him.Instead of experiencing a rebuff or disinterest Punchinello is immediately met by the immense love Eli shows him. This is nothing he has felt before and he is a little overwhelmed.

After his first visit a grey dot drops off. Pulchinello continues to go back and visit Eli and dots keep falling off!  Punchinello begins to experience that which we all long for, the unconditional love of God and the incredible plan he has for our lives.  All we have to do is seek him out.

The unfailing truth is that we are loved whether we have dots, stars or nothing at all. We are unique in His eyes and that never changes. Eli gently explains to Punchinello the dots only stick if you allow them.

“You are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes. Punchinello thought deep in his heart, I think he really means it. And when he did, a dot fell off to the ground.’

My recommendation: if you are feeling a little down, things aren’t going how you hoped or you are just having a bad day, have a read at Punchinello’s story and I promise the grey dots will fall off and you will be left with the insurmountable belief in God who doesn’t make mistakes.