With Pope Francis’s visit to the United States just a happy memory for us – what things will stick with us? For many, it was his vision of caring for our common home – his hope for the earth. I have to admit that I was so excited to hear Catholic social teaching talked about on the major networks, explained by news anchors, and discussed by panels of experts and television personalities. It was amazing actually. Even if people didn’t agree on things – they were talking. I really think that’s what an encyclical should do - get people talking, opening the channels for dialogue and making people pay a little more attention to issues.
As for Laudato Si’, the Pope wrote much about stewardship. He said that humans have been given a responsibility to care for the earth, our common home, and must revisit what that stewardship might entail in each generation. We know more now than we did fifty years ago about what industrialization does to our planet or how the consumption of the wealthy nations has changed the face of the earth and contributed to the poverty of so many. We have seen what air and water pollution can do to living beings and affect the way we live. We are alerted to the melting icecaps, rising sea levels and temperatures of the earth. We are experiencing changing weather – extreme weather and that has a great impact on communities and how people live as well as what the future holds for them.
He wrote of the loss of plant and animal species and the disrepair the earth is suffering. A rather sobering question he raises is about those species that are no longer on earth or are endangered. We may not know the value of little algae or plankton or the value of an insect or plant. But they were created by God – a reflection of the image of God. Who are we to decide whether or not something is necessary or important? Pope Francis really wants us to see the interconnectedness between human beings and the earth. Our lives today keep many people far from connected or in communion with nature. We are urban creatures that have to seek out times to be in nature and find those connections.
“Care for nature is part of a lifestyle which includes the capacity for living together and communion. Jesus reminded us that we have God as our common Father and that this makes us brothers and sisters. This same gratuitousness inspires us to love and accept the wind, the sun, the clouds even though we cannot control them.” (paragraph 228)
“We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world and that being good and decent are worth it.” (paragraph 229)
Perhaps the most beautiful thing in the encyclical is the idea of HOPE. Christians are people of hope and faith. We know that all things are possible with God. The earth is not a failure – we don’t have to look for the capacity of life on Mars – but we do need to take responsibility, be open, and be willing to change our lifestyles so a future is guaranteed! There is much for us to learn but God willing, we will learn in time and be able to leave this amazing planet to our children and theirs – and beyond.
For some great resources, check out www.CatholicClimateCovenant.org. There are great things for families to do and learn, for youth, small groups, neighborhoods and parishes. Now is the time!