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A Fast Take on ‘What Would Pope Francis Do?’ with Sean Salai, SJ

Tiziani Fabi/AFP

A Jesuit who predicted there would never be a Jesuit pope answers questions about his book on ... the Jesuit pope!

Aleteia posed six questions to author Sean Salai about his new title, What Would Pope Francis Do? Bringing the Good News to People in Need, published by Our Sunday Visitor. Salai entered the Society of Jesus in 2005.


1) What inspired the book?

The folks at Our Sunday Visitor wanted to do a book illustrating the call of Pope Francis to go out to the margins. They liked my writing at America Magazine and thought I might be the ideal person, as a fellow Jesuit, to write an accessible book with lots of stories for people in the pews. So it was really a matter of my being the right person in the right place at the right time — a Jesuit and professional journalist who understands the Ignatian language of Francis.

2) If you could give this book another title, what would it be?

“Pope Francis: Stories from the Margins.”

3) What story or anecdote in this book most personally resonated with you?

I open the book with my experience of watching the pope’s election in a Tampa Jesuit high school classroom with teenage boys. A week earlier, I had told them there would never be a Jesuit pope, and I pulled up Cardinal Bergoglio’s biography to show them the one guy who wouldn’t be elected. It was a very funny and touching moment in my life — one I’ll never forget — when the only Jesuit cardinal walked out on that balcony and proved to my students that I was wrong!

4) Did writing this book teach you anything?

In illustrating six themes from Evangelii Gaudium, I told a number of stories about my own Jesuit religious formation, illustrating the Jesuit side of the pope. Researching this topic, I was deeply touched and moved to realize how much of my own vocation was reflected in the formation of Pope Francis. As I say in the book, every Jesuit life is the life of St. Ignatius in the training we undertake, and there are certain things like the Spiritual Exercises which form a deep bond transcending time and culture.

5) If there is one person you want to reach with this book, who would that be?

I would hope to reach at least one person deeply in need of God’s love.

6) What is the ideal beverage to have in hand while reading your book?

Yerbe Mate, the “Jesuit tea” our missionaries propagated throughout Latin America as an alternative to alcohol among the natives, is a favorite drink of Pope Francis and one that I enjoy very much. That would certainly be appropriate. But any drink that helps one relax and find God in reading would be great.

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