Flowers bloom among the trees

By Br. Warren Perrotto, MSC

The month of April has two celebrations which honor God’s created world. April 22 celebrates Earth Day, and April 24 is Arbor Day.

On March 24, 2015, Pope Francis published his encyclical, Laudato Si, (LS) (Praise Be). This document responds to the current serious ecological and environmental deterioration crisis. The Pope wonders, “What is happening to our common home.” He asks (no. 160) “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up? He asserts that the root cause of the global crisis is that we live in a “throwaway culture.” (no. 16)

The Pope gives a warning alarm that our earth, “along with all the abandoned of our world, is crying out, pleading that we take another course.” (no. 53) Francis hopes this encyclical will raise people’s consciences to take the need to participate seriously in improving our earthly home’s ecology. Indeed, groups are attempting to fulfill Francis’ dreams by instilling Christian faith and values, following those that the Church upholds to safeguard and protect our ecology and environment to heal our wounded earth.  

However, to date, the message of Laudato Si does not seem to be affecting the Catholic people as it should. One reason given is that many Catholics are not aware of the encyclical. Another comes directly from the Pope Francis. He noted, “Yet, with the passage of time, I have realized that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point.” (To All People of Good Will On the Climate Crisis, October 4, 2023, no. 2)

All human beings have a social nature. To build a better world requires that we all work together to respect and to care for God’s creation. Self-interested persons and groups often usurp our natural ecology and environment for selfish gains and profits. Through one-sided, myopic, and biased opinions about human beings and all of creation, they enjoy complete control over all of the earth’s precious resources and commodities, which seriously impairs the earth’s natural processes, and billions of people are absent from receiving essential needs for survival. People excuse themselves from this behavior by noting Genesis 1:28. God says, “fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.” Pope Francis suggests that “dominion over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.” (LS, no. 116)

Stewardship of and care for God’s creation is a principle of Catholic Social Teaching. God calls us to have a loving relationship with all his creations, all living organisms, because creation is ordered to God’s glory, and we must treat it accordingly. It encompasses the respectful use of our resources and fosters the common good. 

Creation is sacramental because “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. This idea is “not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.” (LS, no. 233) God calls us to have a love relationship with his creation because creation is ordered to God’s glory and must be treated accordingly. If we take this God-centered approach, we realize that it transcends the scientific, technological and economic spheres. These latter three must always be subject to the former approach because it encompasses the respectful use of our resources and fosters the common good. 

Today, we face an ecological and moral crisis, but we cannot be prophets of doom or escape present realities. Now is the time for individuals and communities to love, honor, respect, and save our earthly home for us and future generations. Our task is not easy, but inspired by hope, we believe, “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes from the timeless choices of people willing to be coworkers with God, and it is without this hard work, time itself becomes an only of the forces of social Stagnation.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail). God will not abandon us when we accept the challenge to fulfill His promise for a better world. In the words of Pope Francis, “God, who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and the strength needed to continue on our way. In the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present. God does not abandon us or leave us alone, for God has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward. Praise be to him! (LS, 245.)

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