This is the final entry in a three part reflection on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.
The first and second posts in this series discuss growing ecological problems and some characteristics of solutions that are needed to combat those problems. This post includes more specific lines of actions, specifically for Christians. The following is a list compiled in the encyclical of ways to address the issue of our changing environment:
- Dialogue on the Environment in the International Community
- Dialogue for New National and Local Policies
- Dialogue and Transparency in Decision-Making
- Politics and Economy in Dialogue for Human Fulfilment
- Religions in Dialogue with Science
It is clear that the first step in changing our world on a large scale is talking about it, and talking to the right people. Some of these conversations will be happening at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in December. This is at a global level, but the US Congress is in the position to make national conversations. Conversations can also take place within our churches and schools about the changes that need to be made to be better stewards of the planet. Yet, it is also possible to begin making changes on a smaller scale that starts with the concerned individual and moves outward as they educate and encourage others around them about their concerns.
There are people who oppose this conversation and change as being too difficult or not really important, and often Christians are among those people. “Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.” This to me is devastating, because I feel that in the belief in Christ and his teachings, there is a strong theme of connection and restoration, and accepting those themes but rejecting their practical application is not seeing those themes for the true value that they have in the Christian story. It is not that these themes are separate from the saving grace of Christ, but that they are integral and that redemption is not only for humanity, but all of Creation.
As a Christian, I believe we are called to change this earth and restore it to the beauty God intended for it, and that includes the challenge for us to examine the current lifestyle of want and waste in America. Our collective consumerism has consumed us to the point where it is difficult to resist and even more challenging to reject, but with faith as a motivation we can see a different side to choose. Being a Christian means that we have an opportunity to live a contemplative lifestyle, free of the obsession with consumption, satisfied by God and filled with his joy. “It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack.” This sounds like a wonderful life to me, and I hope that with reflection and thoughtfulness I will be content with less.
To close his letter, the Pope includes a few prayers, and I enjoyed this one. Even if you don’t pray, let it be something to help you meditate on the issues at hand.
A prayer for our earth
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace; that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.