The current lockdown due to Coronavirus has driven home how interconnected we are across the globe. From watching the initial news reports and hearing stories in real time from friends around the world to contemplating the empty blue skies as the planes stopped flying over Wandsworth. The world and all wonderful aspects of creation are so deeply intertwined.
It's time to reflect on the goodness and beauty around us and make decisions on how to maintain these. We are living in strange times, but although we may be isolated, in many ways we have never been closer.
This is a conflicting time.
On the one hand, our planet is probably the healthiest it has been for a long time. Many species are surviving and global warming is slowing. The quality of our air is cleaner.
On the other hand, our species is under threat, some haven't survived, others are at risk. We are having to shield those most under threat. Our livelihood is under the spotlight.
The poor will always be the hardest hit. We see it already in this country. Those in poorer regions, and boroughs in London, have been hit hardest by the virus. We have a safety system in this country. I cannot imagine how life for the poor is in those countries without a safety net; health/social infrastructure and equal access to services.
Laudato Si offers us resolution: 'The Spirit of life dwells in every living creature and calls us to enter into a relationship with him' (Laudato Si' 88).
Pope Francis said: "In the world of finance it has seemed normal to sacrifice [people], to practise a politics of the throwaway culture, from the beginning to the end of life . . . It's a culture of euthanasia, either legal or covert, in which the elderly are given medication but only up to a point."
On the fifth anniversary of the encyclical Laudato Si': On Care of Our Common Home, Pope Francis invites Catholic communities around the world to celebrate Laudato Si' Week from 16 to 24 May 2020.
We might ask how relevant is this document in the context of a pandemic that has caused so much suffering and despair all over the world. Our heart goes out especially to those who have lost loved ones due to Covid19 and we are grateful to all who have put their lives at risk to look after the sick and dying.
Laudato Si' Week is an opportunity to reflect and pray about what is happening in the light of faith. This short reflection uses the "see, judge, act" model that is used in Catholic social teaching.
It is tempting to think that when the pandemic is over we will forget about it and life will go back to normal. In an interview recently Pope Francis advised us not to forget:
"But let us not lose our memory once all this is past, let us not file it away and go back to where we were. This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it. We have lost the contemplative dimension; we have to get it back at this time".
Reflecting on Laudato Si' and on scripture we can hopefully discern how we can move from using and abusing nature to protecting it.
An important concept of Laudato Si' is the idea of communion which reflects the interconnectedness of the whole created order. Laudato Si' shows us that "everything is connected". Covid-19 certainly brought our interconnectedness to the forefront.
"A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted. Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society." (91)
The encyclical says that "We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference." (52)
The word "ecology" comes from the Greek word for home (oikos) and resonates with the subtitle of Laudato Si', On Care of Our Common Home.
All of God's creation is part of this common home. As stewards of creation we hold the planet on trust for future generations. Pope Francis asks us: "What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?" He tells us that when we start to think about what kind of world we leave to future generations we realise we can no longer view things in a purely utilitarian way. The environment is a common good and something that each generation receives on loan which we must hand on to the next. When we think of our responsibility for future generations it makes us ask the question: "What is the purpose of our life in this world?
In Laudato Si' Pope Francis is continuing the work of his predecessors Pope Benedict XVI and St John Paul II. Pope Benedict said "the book of nature is one and indivisible" and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations and so forth and that "the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence". We must recognise, he said, "that the natural environment and the social environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless.(6)
Pope Francis explains that "When we speak of the 'environment', what we really mean is a relationship existing between nature and the society which lives in it. Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it. . . . We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental." (139)
"The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it." (Geneis 2:15)
"He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)
"Speak out for those who cannot speak, and for the rights of all the destitute" (Proverbs 31:8)
Laudato Si' Week is an opportunity to reflect more deeply on the gift of creation and our vocation as stewards of creation. The week will culminate on May 24th with a prayer for creation at noon time.
The encyclical is rich theologically but should be read prayerfully because it is intended to evoke a profound spiritual response to the environment. It is built on the understanding that our response to climate change cannot be purely scientific or technical, as it is rooted in the depths of our spiritual life. Our rich heritage of Christian spirituality has a precious contribution to make to the renewal of humanity.
Pope Francis explains how in the Sacraments nature is taken up by God to become a means of mediating supernatural life. "Through our worship of God, we are invited to embrace the world on a different plane. Encountering God does not mean fleeing from this world or turning our back on nature." The Eucharist is central to our ecological spirituality. Pope Francis says, "because the Eucharist embraces and penetrates all creation it is a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation. Our participation in the Eucharist is meant to be a day which heals our relationships with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world. And so the day of rest, centred on the Eucharist, sheds light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and the poor." (237)
Laudato Si' is a prophetic voice and helps us to develop a spirituality like that of St Francis. It provides a light to guide us and bring us hope in a world in need of healing.