Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future by Pope Francis in conversation with Austen Ivereigh

(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020), 144

Fr. Missimi gave me this book, which is Pope Francis' reflection and response to the Covid pandemic. I remember watching the election of Pope Francis while on spring break in Panama City Beach in 2013 and his address before the US Congress from my desk at SpaceX in 2015, and I'm still trying to figure him out.

Half of what he says is traditional and unsurprising for a Pope, and the other half is either foreign to me or said in such a different way that it really doesn't resonate and I don't think I truly understand him.

Perhaps this is a result of the cultural disconnect, or a deliberate attempt on his part to craft his language to appeal directly to those outside the Church. For example: "We must dignify the peripheral areas of our cities, integrating them by means of social policies that recognize and value the cultural contribution that they can make." What does this actually mean, and what actual policies would a legislative body craft that achieve this? Some of what he says leaves me a bit uneasy (especially when he talks about economics and UBI), and some of what he says just leaves me confused (his concept of "overflow" where the solution to a problem comes with unexpected creativity).

In some sense Pope Francis is a modern Christ figure: he is unexpected, and he is always focusing on the margins. Perhaps he gives a way of interpreting his statements seemingly in tension with each other with a reference to John Henry Newman's Grammar of Ascent: "in embracing what often appear at first sight to be contradictory truths and trusting in the kindly light to lead us, we will eventually come to see the greater truth that lies beyond us" (56).

Notes

Part I: A Time to See

  • "In a crisis you have to choose, and in making your choice you reveal your heart." (1)
  • Covid is just the most visible crisis: we also have crises of war, weapons spending, hunger, climate change etc: we need to protect ourselves from the “unseen pandemics”
  • He warns us against the three ways of escaping reality: narcissism, discouragement, pessimism
  • This crisis is not just about Covid, but also what Covid has uncovered
  • His ecological awareness was influenced by the writings of the Patriarch Bartholomew
    - Crisis is a time of purification
  • St. Gregory the Great's Morals and the Book of Job: (Soloman’s laxity, 38)
  • The nurses who helped save his life when he was 21 showed him how to use science and also how to go beyond science (40)
  • He read the 37 volumes of History of the Popes by Ludwig Pastor: "Once you know that papal history, there's not much that goes on in the Vatican curia and the Church today that can shock you." (42)

Part II: A Time to Choose

  • The Lord by Romano Guardini: seek truth with discernment, but not absolutes (55)
  • Grammar of Ascent by Newman: "in embracing what often appear at first sight to be contradictory truths and trusting in the kindly light to lead us, we will eventually come to see the greater truth that lies beyond us" (56)
  • We do not possess the truth, the truth possesses us
  • Gustav Mahler: “Tradition is not the repository of ashes, but the preservation of fire” (57)
  • "The voice of God never imposes but proposes" (61, cf 2021-07-20-Witness to Hope#^5a5335)
  • He looks to some women economists: The Value of Everything by Mariana Mazzucato, "doughnut economics" (64)
  • You know inauthentic ideologies by their rigidity and authoritarianism: "Since Vatican II we have had revolutionary ideologies followed by restorationist ones. In every case, what marks them out is rigidity. Rigidity is the sign of the bad spirit concealing something." (69)
  • "Those who declare there is too much 'confusion' in the Church, and that only this or that group of purists or traditionalists can be trusted, sow division in the Body. This, too, is spiritual worldliness." (71) → this seemingly foreshadows his motu proprio of 2021-07-16 Traditionis Custodes which restricts the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass
  • "Jesus did not found the Church as a citadel of purity nor as a constant parade of heroes and saints...It is something much more dynamic: a school of conversion, a place of spiritual combat and discernment, where grace abounds along with sin and temptation. Like its members, the Church can be an instrument of God's mercy because it needs that mercy." (72)
  • the solution is self-accusation: accuses ourselves confident of God’s mercy rather than accusing others

Part III: A Time to Act

  • Don’t forget that we come from a people: “salvation will come from the people” - Fr. Zossima from The Brothers Karamazov Part II, Book VI, Chapter III (106)
  • He focuses on the three L's of the Popular Movements: Land, Labor, Lodging; he also supports UBI (128)

Epilogue

  • Be on the lookout for the "twitch upon a thread" that stirs your heart (136, cf. Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton)
  • "Certainly the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives o the day when all that is hidden is revealed." –Edith Stein (137)
  • poem Esperanza by Alexis Valdés (139)

Bibliography

  • Morals and the Book of Job by St. Gregory the Great (38)
  • History of the Popes by Ludwig Pastor (42)
  • Grammar of Ascent by Newman (56)
  • The Value of Everything by Mariana Mazzucato (64)
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (106)
  • Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (136)

Created: 2021-08-25
Updated: <%+ tp.file.lastmodifieddate("YYYY-MM-DD") %>

Please drop me a note to share your thoughts or if you have a book to recommend: m.kudija@gmail.com