In a collection whose original Italian publication marks the first year of his papacy, Pope Francis gathers homilies, sermons and brief essays that point to his most important concerns.
Francis—formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires—has been widely hailed as the open, thoroughly modern leader that the Catholic Church has been seeking. Some of his programmatic interests are ancient, however: He devotes three pieces to Mary, “mother of evangelization” and “icon of womanhood.” He writes and speaks at greater length, however, on the plight of the poor and the duty of the church to them: “Our faith in Christ,” he said in one sermon, “who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members.” Conservative churchmen may find those words to befit Paulo Freire more than the pontiff, but Francis doubles down by frowning on “careerism”—specifically, priestly careerism, the desire to achieve recognition as something other than a pastor—and excoriating “the cult of the god of money”: “God our Father gave us the task of protecting the earth—not for money, but for ourselves, for men and women.” Consumerism, he adds with respect to the second, is an enemy of the good, encouraging waste; Francis counsels that every time edible food is discarded, we should think of it “as if it were stolen from the table of the poor, from the hungry.” Elsewhere, in a moment that distinguishes him from his immediate predecessors, he urges the churchly to extend charity not just to feeding the poor, but improving their condition so that they will be poor no longer.
Refreshingly humane, focusing on people rather than institutions. Admirers of Francis and students of church history alike will find this a useful introduction to the pontiff’s thought.