Homilies and other short inspirational writings by the leader of the Catholic Church.
Inner freedom, writes Pope Francis (Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children from Around the World, 2016, etc.), “means, in a certain way, freeing yourself from your culture and its mindset.” The sentiment could have come straight out of the 1960s, and it’s one of several surprises to be found in this slender collection. Most popes over the course of history have been concerned not so much with this life as the next one, and this one doesn’t let that emphasis slide, either. If “the secret to a good life is to love and to surrender to love,” it is also to surrender to the Holy Trinity, Mary, and other celestials. Indeed, the organizing principle of the good life, by the author’s reckoning, is the Beatitudes, those blessings on the downtrodden and unfortunate from the Sermon on the Mount: “Read them every day, try not to forget them. They are the Law that Jesus gives us!” If there are moments reminiscent of the gentle encouragement of the Dalai Lama—“Don’t stifle your dreams,” for instance, and “Let’s talk about the Lord with joy”—there is also plenty of Jesuitical rigor, especially when the pope turns to more controversial matters: it seems clear, for example, that although Francis allows that women have a role to play in the church, that role will not include priestly professions anytime soon. Family-centered and practical—especially on difficult matters of familial contention—these homilies are, on the whole, gentle encouragements to do the right thing, at least as the pontiff interprets right and wrong.
The author’s 2015 encyclical Laudato si’ makes for more inspired reading, perhaps, but this sometimes-stern but often friendly collection offers clear insight into the pope’s doctrinal concerns.