Book Review – A Vision for Renewal: The Social Teachings of Pope Francis

By Gerald A. Arbuckle SM, 21 November 2022
Pope Francis meets with Inuit people during a visit to the State of Nunavut’s capital city Iqaluit in Canada, during his 37th Apostolic Journey. Image: Vatican News/Vatican Media


Book Review: A Vision for Renewal: The Social Teachings of Pope Francis by Michael Casey, OCSO, St Pauls Publications, ISBN: 9781925494853

]This is a gem of a book. In a little over a hundred pages, Michael Casey OCSO, skillfully explores and reflects on some key aspects of Pope Francis’ social teachings.

In the Introduction, the author posits this question: How does the Pope differ from his predecessors? First, Pope Francis speaks with extraordinary simplicity and frankness. Second, like all good educators, he repeats his main teachings but in ways that further advances their themes. And, third, his teachings are prophetically grounded in reality.

In the subsequent nine chapters, the author illustrates by examples the existence and relevance of these distinctive qualities.

Pope Francis is intimately aware of the chaotic and radical political, economic, and social changes globally affecting all aspects of life, including the church itself. Nothing seems secure anymore. Casey calls this in the first chapter a ‘Paradigm Shift’. As Francis says: “We are not so much living in an epoch of change, but a change of epoch.” The traumatising pandemic brought to the surface in dramatically sharp terms what the change of epoch means. When an event as massive and globally significant as the pandemic happens, the political, social, and economic reverberations take generations to play out, and they spin off in unpredictable and often tumultuous and violent directions. We daily witness this.

Yet “Despite these dark clouds,” says Francis, “I invite everyone to renewed hope … It can open us to grand ideals.” We “must all seek the common good together,” says Francis, “otherwise we will emerge for the worse.”

The author’s gift is his ability throughout to alert readers to the pastoral relevance of Francis’ teachings. Hence in the subsequent six chapters the author reflects on several significant topics dear to Pope Francis: Joy, Synodality, Inclusivity, Interculturality, Fraternity, and Our Common Home.

Then Chapter 8 answers this question: What are the implications of these themes for religious congregations? Michael Casey, as a religious himself, highlights the down-to-earth wisdom of the exhortations of Pope Francis for religious: “We cannot,” says Francis, “remain stuck in nostalgia for the past or simply keep repeating the same old things or everyday complaints.” Francis then explains what this statement means in practical terms.

The final chapter is headed ‘Challenge’. Casey writes with hope: “We should allow ourselves to be encouraged by [Francis’] visible humanity and good humour to come to the conclusion that, with God’s grace the task [of implementing his teachings] is not impossible.”

The front cover of ‘A Vision for Renewal: The Social Teachings of Pope Francis’ by Michael Casey OCSO. Image: Supplied

You can purchase A Vision for Renewal: The Social Teachings of Pope Francis by Michael Casey OCSO for $19.95 through St Pauls Publications

Gerald A. Arbuckle SM is the author of The Pandemic and the People of God: Cultural Impacts and Pastoral Responses (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2021).


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