Pope Francis’s Mega Interview: Music & Literature Recommendations

I liked this new pope from the beginning, and for the weakest of all reasons. He looks a bit like my (deceased) maternal grandfather (who taught me to fish).

He (the Pope) has the habit of shooting from the hip which also delights Yours Truly but consternates and flummoxes the press. That nervous group has taken to parsing his words like a spiritualist examining tea leaves. The analogy is exact: both sets of folk believe they have unambiguously discerned in this spare evidence The Future, which curiously ever shines brightly.

Maybe the biggest effect came from the interview released a couple of days ago, which everybody is calling a blockbuster. Major news agencies the world over commented on it.

The New York Times reported, “Pope said exactly what our editorial board has been saying for years.” On the other hand, the Lost Angeles Times said, “Pope agrees with us.” Planned Parenthood issued a press release praising the Pope’s “stance” on abortion (PP’s Motto: “Abortion: Every Woman’s Birth-rite”).

And then there is the blogosphere which erupted in posts entitled, “Here’s what the Pope really said”, “He didn’t mean that but this,” and “Nothing to see here.” (Best compilation site for these is Big Pulpit, incidentally.)

No interpretation coming from the Briggs ranch; instead a link to the interview itself. Even if you’re not Catholic you should read it, because there are about a billion of us, a significant swath of humanity. Pays to pay attention to what that many people profess to believe. A Big Heart Open to God.

But to hold with tradition, I will cull just those quotes I think most important. And these are the Holy Father’s recommendations on what to read and listen to. Not only are these fantastic cultural “artifacts”, the Pope, being a frugal man, has picked works which cost little or no money.

Literature Dostoevsky (most of his books are free) and Hölderlin (Project Gutenberg has one, Archive a few, Amazon a few free, but you’ll have to go to your library for most). Pope Francis particularly recommended The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni (also free at Gutenberg). Cervantes (here free). El Cid.

Painting Caravaggio (best site), Chagall (not the best site, another with plenty of examples; Chagall is still “copyrightable”); especially his White Crucifixion.

Music “I love Mozart, of course. The ‘Et incarnatus est’ from his Mass in C minor is matchless; it lifts you to God!” This will take one hour of your time and will require something of you besides mere passivity. Coincidence with the painting?


Beethoven whose “most Promethean interpreter for me is Furtwängler” (here is the 5th). Bach (St Matthew’s; what else?). Wagner’s Ring “but not all the time” (here’s Furtwängler with the Prelude to Lohengrin).

Cinema Fellini’s La Strada (also free!).

We’ll let the man himself have the last word on what makes a “classic.”

Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones. There is a nice definition that Cervantes puts on the lips of the bachelor Carrasco to praise the story of Don Quixote: ‘Children have it in their hands, young people read it, adults understand it, the elderly praise it.’ For me this can be a good definition of the classics.

Update And here I thought I was joking. NARAL hilariously jumps the gun on Pope Francis “Thank You” card. The satirists job grows more difficult daily.


  1. Katie

    What I liked best about the interview is his remembrance his days as a teacher and how he involved his students in the material. Ah, we mustn’t forget that he is still teaching.

  2. Briggs


    Amen, sister. That is exactly it. The proof of that might lie in things like this.

  3. For me the interesting thing is that the Church has brought in a heavy hitter in the form of a Jesuit. This is right out of the repertoire of Madison Avenue. The Jesuits were formed in the 16th century as a foil to the Protestant Reformation. Their main armaments are empathy and populism. They created the Baroque style with lots of pomp and curlicues and brilliant colors, especially red and gold. They are big on pageantry and especially bigger than life outdoor events like we recently saw in Brazil. They are all things to all people, like St. Paul, in order to bring the people together under one culture. They were successful in the beginning as is witnessed by the fact that we Catholics are one billion strong today. Let’s hope and pray for their continued success in bringing people together and keeping hope for the future alive. It is like a breath of fresh air.

  4. DAV

    I got the impression he didn’t actually state a stance other than “be tolerant” (vs. “finger wagging”) or the Church will have a harder time getting its point across.

    So I’m really don’t know why Planned Parenthood, etc. think they’ve gotten a nod and a wink.

  5. Tom Galli

    He is a Jesuit, a teacher and an intellectual. He lives his vow of poverty and that must be causing great consternation among our American Archbishops and Bishops in their palatial mansions. He believes the role of the church is to minister to all people, regardless of faith. He will bring dramatic change to an institution that has remained largely unchanged since early in the Holy Roman Empire. He might be a role model for American politicians who haven’t figured out the art of leading change.

  6. Sera

    Mass in B Minor easily beats Mass in C Minor. But let us agree that this new pope will bring about some necessary changes while keeping some necessary traditions intact.

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