Seldom has a papal encyclical been anticipated with so much noise and discussion and even premature criticism and fear as our Holy Father, Pope Francis’ Laudato si (“Praise Be to You”); with a beautiful subtitle “On Care for Our Common Home.” This is the pope’s encyclical on the environment—easily found on Google—but most of us will admit encyclicals aren’t as engrossing as our favorite summer reading. Nevertheless, it deserves our prayerful attention; not just the commentary that journalists, pundits, radio hosts and television analysts provide.
Each of us, as Christian stewards, will find something that inspires and challenges us from Pope Francis’ prescription for a healthy planet. For many readers, the challenge might come particularly in the pope’s warnings about “extreme and selective consumerism.” In our culture, we’re taught that more is better – more production, more growth, more profits, more spending. But can the earth sustain this kind of economic dogma? Pope Francis echoes the Catholic teaching tradition that we should “replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing.”
The letter urges us to examine our lifestyles and invites us to prayerfully consider a significant shift in our own practices and habits. For example, one question we should ask ourselves: Can we live with less?
A visit to our closets is a good place to start, and while commit¬ting to buy less, we might ruminate on the mistaken values of our consumer economy and culture. Our pontiff points out that one-third of food that is produced is discarded. Again, our own kitchens present evidence of our complicity in this wastefulness.
The poor suffer the most from changes in the earth’s complex ecosystem, and that is readily evidenced by their struggle simply to find clean water. The pope also reminds us as Christians called to exercise good stewardship of the planet to consider what in our own life comprises “need” and what is “greed.”
Pope Francis urgently calls us to a renewed commitment to the Eucharist as well – something many commentators fail to mention – and asks us to re¬discover our common bond within this “act of cosmic love.”
For the Christian steward, improving the environment must be a topic of prayer, a chance to call our politicians to action, and a time to renew our commitment to that wonderful Catholic principle of the common good.
If you would like to download a copy of the encyclical, you can go to our website “stmarystars.org”, “News”, and then “Vatican”. We are offering study groups on the encyclical on Sunday nights at 6 p.m. and Thursday afternoons at 1 p.m.
A PRAYER FOR OUR EARTH
By Pope Francis
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.