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  • Writer's pictureEric Knabel

What I'm Reading Right Now: Let Us Dream

This book caught my eye while strolling through, of all places, Target. In a surprising move, I bought it. It's not surprising because I avoid books written by religious figures, but because I have a notoriously difficult time with non-fiction. No matter how much the subject interests me, I've always struggled. Ask the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu -- their book on spirituality is spending its second consecutive year in my "Reading" pile. As any good publisher will tell you, the title and the cover have to draw the reader's interest. Like many Catholics and non-Catholics alike around the world, I followed the election of Pope Francis with keen interest back in 2013. His compassion for the poor and his servant's heart have made believers out of even the Church's biggest critics, and his commitment to his mission has been inspiring. In a time where the future looks bleak to so many of us, I was interested in his thoughts about the future.

From the first few pages, I discovered that his message was a specific one, rather than the general one I was expecting. He speaks mainly about the COVID-19 pandemic, and how we as a people have struggled while adapting to increased solitude, isolation, and morbidity. The book breaks down into three categories: seeing, deciding (or discerning), and action. The Pope is an embodiment of the adage that a genius can take complex things and make them appear simple. He discusses how the pandemic has provided humanity with a unique opportunity to assess where we've been, and how we can create a new reality from the lessons we've learned. Not surprisingly, the Pope offers insight that what ails society can be learned from those on the fringes of our society, namely the homeless and the poor. He describes how we can fall victim to what he refers to as "bad spirit," and how it keeps us from realizing our true potential as human beings. And while none of us like to hear or read about how we're falling short, he is not critical in the dogmatic sort of way that has led many away from organized religion over the years. It was easy to envision a scenario where the reader is just sitting down with the head of the Catholic Church and discussing matters of the spirit over lunch. I wonder if Pope Francis is a salad guy or a dessert guy...

For the hardcore Catholics out there who probably view Francis as "too liberal" anyway, prepare to be more disappointed. Some may find his descriptions of some members of the faithful as modern-day Pharisees, bound by tradition and lacking empathy, a little disconcerting. He speaks of progressive things that the Church has traditionally avoided addressing. On the other hand, those who read this book expecting to tear down the walls and rebuild the Church will be similarly disappointed. I'm afraid that the Pope is still very much Pro-Life, and he doesn't seem willing to discuss married folks or women becoming priests any time soon. And while he seems to shy away from these issues, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because these issues are often not relevant to the situation at hand.

That leaves those like me, lost sheep who desperately seek a shepherd. I came away from this book inspired, ready to serve my fellow human and my Creator as well. I have contemplated returning to church (once that becomes a thing again). I'm grateful for having read this, even though it proved tedious at times. That being said, the issues I had were directly related to me, and not the Pontiff. I wholeheartedly recommend this book, especially for anyone who is struggling with faith in this time of darkness.

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