I have always been passionate about the social teachings of the church, and in my studies I had the opportunity to explore documents that raised my awareness of justice issues and see how the church encourages her missionaries to address them in light of Gospel values.
Laudato Si' encyclical
It is that time of year again. I gratefully and quietly pick the sour pie-cherries from our trees. There is much time for reflection as I join with the rhythmic plucking of these small rosy treasures watered by snow melt and water from the Rio Grande and nurtured by the New Mexico sun.
I am delighted about Pope Francis’ first papal encyclical, “Laudato Sí, on Care for Our Common Home,” our mother Earth. What kind of Earth will we leave behind? I feel this as a very strong invitation from Pope Francis to go beyond our immediate needs, our comfort at the expense of generations yet unborn, and consider the future of our human race and planet.
Last Saturday I returned from visiting friends in Philadelphia where city officials just announced massive new security measures for Pope Francis' late September visit. A new fence is being constructed that will surround large swaths of central city venues where the Pope will appear. No automobiles are permitted, causing major inconvenience to residents and restaurant workers alike. Public transit tickets are only available by lottery and attendees are being warned to expect long walks and electronic screenings. All city schools and government offices will be closed.
Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Sí, accents both the challenges and responsibilities we have to safeguard God’s creation. While there are many passages worthy of reflection and discussion I will concentrate on the connection he makes between climate change and poverty. A quotation in the encyclical from the Bolivian Bishops Conference resonated deeply within me: “Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest.”
Pope Francis's long-awaited encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’ tells a story and issues a call to all people to act on behalf of our common home. It offers much more than a treatise on the environment and climate change; it sets a cosmological context of belonging to creation as relatives, as brothers and sisters (11). It calls for an ecological spirituality and conversion (216), and offers a moral framework for both individual and collective response to care for our common home. As an Earth lawyer and Catholic sister striving to awaken people to the peril of Earth's desecration and the promise of acting as a single community of life, I hear Francis's story with gratitude and relief.
Pope Francis’ encyclical,"Laudato Si’, on Care For Our Common Home," unequivocally names human behavior as a major cause of global climate change and urges all sectors of society to examine our actions, policies and behaviors in light of this urgent situation. It speaks to how the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor are one and that all forms of poverty – environmental and human – need to be addressed in an interconnected way. However, as I read the encyclical I was struck with how it is much more than a moral exhortation on a very complex issue.
“Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning.”
Because the law of belief (lex credendi) is the law of life (lex vivendi), there is a deep connection between ancient religious prayers, beliefs and rituals at the heart of our ecological disconnectedness. What we profess in faith, the language used to express those beliefs, and the structure of worship that ritualizes those beliefs, are all wired into our religious DNA. We are programmed for heaven above not an earth in evolution; God up above not God up ahead.
Much has already been written about Laudato Si’, the encyclical released last week by Pope Francis on the care for our common home. Initial reactions range from the celebratory to the critical and come from all corners of church and society. Even my 81-year-old father asked me on the phone the other day if I was excited about the encyclical. To be truthful, excited is a mild descriptor.
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