(A beautiful letter Daniel imagined writing to Pope Francis in 2015. He never sent it nor was it published. It carries wisdom and hope for us today.)
Caro Papa Francisco,
After reading your encyclical Laudato Si’ I had a dream. Before I tell you about it may I thank you on behalf of millions who are finding new hope in your redeeming leadership. You are parting the veils for us, allowing us glimpses into the meaning of mystery, liberating us by the beauty of your vision. Like Plato and St Thomas Aquinas before you, your word for this way of seeing and of being is ‘magnanimous’ – the bigness of God in whose image our hearts were first created. ‘Let yours be great souls’ you wrote. Because of their failure of imagination small souls struggle to comprehend a great God.
This open magnanimity is at the heart of your current agenda. A significant theme at the October Marriage Synod concerns the possibility of extending a warm welcome back to the Table of the Lord to those for whom the table was first set. The ‘Year of Mercy’ begins in December with the opening of doors, a wonderful gesture of unconditional acceptance and belonging. And your recent encyclical Laudato Si’ reminds all people that they are priests, prophets and protectors of Creation and Incarnation.
Which brings me to my dream, caro Papa. In it you were proposing One Big Day for the whole world. One Big Day of Love for all humanity, a day that would offer energy and inspiration to all who are anxious to share and to ground your passionate dream for the earth. In the smallest parish, the greatest cathedral, the public places of faiths and cultures, it would be another Pentecost day to combine the power of ideas, the conviction of emotion and the authenticity of human experience. And hearts across the planet would catch fire.
For you the poor are the sacrament of God’s presence, the bloodied face of Christ’s pain. You look at them and you see the point of your pontificate. In Evangelii Gaudium you wrote about your ‘one dogmatic certainty – the presence of God everywhere’. Everything you do, write and say is utterly infused with that incarnational compassion. It would be a Day of Grace then, a unique day when people would commit to a radical, exciting and courageous transformation in their everyday lives through a renewed dedication to study, prayer and imaginative discussion.
It would be a Day of Big Mercy. In my dream you quoted from your ‘Misericordiae Vultus’. ‘Without a witness to mercy, life becomes sterile . . . Mercy is the force that reawakens us to a new life’. Is not this the kairos time to proclaim unconditional amnesty for the millions of crippled hearts who wait for one merciful word of welcome and belonging? All humanity, as you know, is always forgiven for everything, for ever. This day would be the moment when God’s People everywhere – six billion of them on this planet alone – would again celebrate that once-for-all Passover into a true inner freedom.
You remind us that only God is big enough to do magnanimous, extravagant, unconditional love. You have written so beautifully about creatio ex amore. ‘God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things.’ Would the heavens fall on us, then, if we Christians recognised and delighted in the incarnate divine love equally at home in all people, in all creation? Would fire and brimstone burn the table of love if we invited all hungry people to share the food on it, as Jesus did? Or if members of God’s same-sex children were allowed to celebrate their love in their Father’s house?
Or, since God lovingly chose a woman, Mary, for his intimate enfleshment in the world, and since Jesus adored his mother with a son’s devotion, would they both be angry if our sisters stood with our brothers at the family altar of creative love and divine mercy? Dear tango-loving Papa, do we dance to the beat of the divine heart, or struggle in the strait-jacket of an institution? Can we look at these issues with uncluttered ‘beginner’s mind’, with the mind of Christ? I’m only asking.
As in your encyclical, and again in my dream, you passionately revealed your love for our living, breathing Mother Earth – the body of our Mother God. It would be a Day of Reverence then for the deepening mystery of our evolving universe, a cosmic day of wonder reaching out into the darkness of uncharted space. It would be a Beautiful Day, celebrating creation in all its expanding mysteries as it celebrates the scientists who discovered them. ‘Only beauty will save the world’ said Simone Weil. And the Church.
When suddenly shocked at the task of saving the earth, of co-creating the unfolding future with God, concerned human beings are quickly discovering a new perspective. You are calling to us for an immense personal and communal awakening, a focussing on more worthy and soul-sized commitment, a new sense of serious purpose. Beyond religious and cultural mind-sets, a new consciousness of a spiritual energy, a universal, mystical intimacy is beginning to pervade the human community.
As caretakers of the earth up to now, we have been disappointing God. You paint a grim picture of our ‘filthy’ world. You repeatedly try to motivate us in tenderness and compassion towards restoring its beauty. You may be aware of RS Thomas’s poem ‘The Coming’ in which God shows his son a shadowy image of ‘a scorched land of fierce colour . . . radiant with slime’. Maybe on this special Day many will feel called to take the son’s place, to realise the dream, to work the vision, to transform the evil. And to suffer for it.
On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.
Dear Papa, have patience with my naivety – I’m only dreaming. Daniel.