Let Us Dream:
The Path To A Better Future
A Review by Dwight A. Moody
Good things come in small packages, it is said; and this small package—a 144-page book—is a good thing: good to read, good to share, good to study, good to use as the occasion for contemplation and action.
Let Us Dream expresses and extends the concerns of Pope Francis not just to the Christian community but to the whole human community, with special attention to those on the margin. For instance: “It was precisely here that the Church was born, in the margins of the Cross where so many of the crucified are found…. The road to the geographic and existential margins is the route of the Incarnation. God chose the peripheries as the place to reveal, in Jesus, His saving action in history” (120).
But throughout the book, Francis has in mind the whole human community. In that sense, the book is a version of that common papal sermon urbi et orbi—for the city and the world. Yes, the middle part focuses more squarely on the Church, by which Francis generally means the Roman Catholic Church (but which I take to refer to the whole Christian Community) and in which he explains and defends the synods of bishops he has convened: why he did and what they accomplished and why they are important.
That second part is called “A Time to Choose” by which he refers to the gift of discernment. This Christian discernment is shaped by these values: the preferential option for the poor, the common good, the universal destination of goods, the solidarity of the whole human race, and finally the autonomy of others as agents of their own destiny (52f). These values are the guiding principles of what we know as Catholic Social Teaching but which could easily be renamed Christian Social Teaching.
This follow the first part, “A Time to See” in which Francis first establishes his fundamental orientation: “You have to go the edges of existence if you want to see the world as it is” (11). Here he reflects on the global COVID crisis, on its impact on marginalized communities, and on the distortions of this reality by some media. He mentions also the death of George Floyd and the outpouring of support and protests around the world.
Francis follows up this with a testimony of his own journey to appreciating the dangers to our earth and its environment. “And so, through many encounters, dialogues, and anecdotes like these my eyes were opened. It was like an awakening. In the night you see nothing, but little by little dawn breaks and you see the day” (31). It was this awakening that inspired him to assert “that an ecological conversion is necessary to save humanity not only from destroying nature but from destroying itself” (34).
Finally, he moves from seeing and choosing to acting. From the COVID in part one and the CHURCH in part two, he finally engages CAPITAL in part three. Here he challenges the dominance of capitalism that emphasizes the individual at the expense of the community and that celebrates accumulation of wealth instead of distribution of wealth. He elevates the People over against elites (political, economic, religious, intellectual, et al) and asserts that the People have a collective soul that struggles against despair and degradation and toward dignity and decency:
Pope Francis offers a biting critique of “market economies” which, he asserts, “generated vast inequality and huge ecological damage. Once capital becomes an idol that presides over a socioeconomic system, it enslaves us, set us at odds with each other, excludes the poor, and endangers the planet we all share” (110).
In particular, Francis draws attention to the issue of migration: “The dignity of our peoples demands safe corridors for migrants and refugees so they can move without fear from deadly areas to safe ones. It is unacceptable to deter immigration by letting hundreds of migrants die in perilous sea crossings or desert treks. The Lord will ask us to account for each one of those deaths” (114).
This is a powerful word for our times, produced through a collaborative process of question and answer, of writing and recording, with journalist Austen Ivereigh during the days of COVID shutdown earlier this year. It is timely, and readable, and accessible; it is perfect for book clubs and bible classes. And because it is composed of 44 sections (including the prologue, epilogue, and poem) of on-average one thousand words each, it is ideal for daily meditations. In fact, that is the best way to experience this book and its vision for a future for the human race.