by Pope Francis
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
To review a book by our Pope should make any person tremble! The trembling for me is a sense of joy in the content of the book. It is a book that you want to remember every word. Page after page gives us the insights and wisdom to lead a good/holy life. On the front cover the reviewer states:”In the Covid crisis, the beloved shepherd of over one billion Catholics has seen the cruelty and inequality of our society more vividly exposed than ever before. He has also seen in the resilience, generosity and creativity of so many people, the means to rescue our society, our economy and our planet.” He exhorts us not to let the pain be in vain.
Beginning with the prologue the Pope calls us to be our best. “In moments of crisis you get both good and bad: People reveal themselves as they are. Some spend themselves in the service of those in need, and some get rich off other people’s need. Some move out to meet others- in new and creative ways, without leaving their houses—while some retreat behind defensive armor. The state of our hearts is exposed.” Pope Francis points out to us the problem of retreating from the crisis and the need to change our roles for the good of all. He states that to act like the Samaritan in a crisis means to let myself be struck by what I see, “Knowing that the suffering will change me.” We embrace the Cross as we know it will change us by giving us the courage to stop lamenting by moving out and serving others “by enabling change which will come only from compassion and service.” He exhorts us to protect ourselves from the pandemics we can’t see “How will we deal with the hidden pandemics of this world, the pandemics of hunger and violence and climate change?”
With courage the Pope tells us: “ I see an overflow of mercy spilling out in our midst, Hearts have been tested. The crisis has called forth in some a sense of courage and compassion. Some have been sifted and have responded with the desire to reimagine our world others have come to the aid of those in need in concrete ways that can transform our neighbor’s suffering.” This fills the Pope with hope that we might come out of this crisis better. “But we have to see clearly, choose well, and act right.”
The Pope presents the how of dealing with the pandemics. He states: “This crisis has called forth the sense that we need each other, that the people still exists. Now is the time for a new Nehemiah project, a new humanism that can harness this eruption of fraternity, to put an end to the globalization of indifference and the hyperinflation of the individual. We need to feel again that we need each other, that we have a responsibility for others, including for those not yet born and for those not yet deemed to be citizens. We can reorganize the way we live together in order better to choose what matters.”
In the section on a time to act, he again calls us to think differently. He states: It is striking how neoliberal currents of thought have sought to exclude from the political arena any substantive debate about the common good and the universal destination of goods. What they promote instead is essentially the efficient management of a marker and minimal government control. But the problem is that when the economy’s primary purpose centers on profit, it is easy to forget that the earth’s resources are for all, not the few.”
In the postscript by Austen Ivereigh, he notes that “In response to the crisis, Francis wasn’t simply serving up diagnoses and prescriptions, what concerned him was the process of transformation itself: how historic change happens, how we resist or embrace that process: the dynamic of conversion. As I know decades of spiritual leadership from researching his life, this was –among his many gifts—his particular charism, forged in his native Argentina that now as Pope he was drawing on to walk with humanity. He sought to communicate the urgency of opening the people to the grace that was always on offer in times of tribulation, and so let God shape our story.
The Pope’s book is filled with encouragement and hope with the tenderness of being all our spiritual director. It is a book that I will read again and again and encourage you to read it with the purpose of transforming our world.