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Laudato Si'

The Connection between Migration, the Environment and Poverty
“There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.” -Laudato Si

"Laudato Si' Our Common Home” An Ecology of Dignity for All

Saint Bonaventure tells us that St. Francis would call all creatures, no matter how big or small, by the name of sister or brother, not from a sense of mere romanticism, but from an understanding and conviction about the source of all things. “His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection” (Laudato Si’, 11). Francis endowed all of creation with a sense of dignity because he not only saw the world as a reflection of the one Creator, but as a way to live “in harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself” (Laudato Si’, 10). “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 14.5).

How we name things often determines the dignity we grant them. If we name the world as our property, it is ours to exploit. ”We no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters unable to set limits on their immediate needs” (Laudato Si’, 11). If we name it as gracious loving gift of the Creator given to all into which we are integrally connected, then as Pope Francis says “sobriety and care will well up spontaneously”. It is our responsibility as receivers of this wonderful gift of creation to understand that we are all integrally and ecologically connected in a web of life. Our actions whether taken in love, calculated selfishness, ignorance or simple carelessness affect the web to which all our sisters and brothers, creatures large and small are connected. Let us awaken to choose a path of love and gratitude toward the one Father and Mother of us all.

“Our Common Home” and Intentional Change

By Debra Schneider, Catholics for Peace and Justice 
We’ve all been waiting with great anticipation for Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology.  Now that it is here, many of are finding that a discussion of our human effects on “our common home” can be overwhelming, confusing, scary, and politically toxic. After all, what Pope Francis is really dong is raising a huge issue of moral change.  Let’s face it Americans in general don’t like change. It’s messy and chaotic. It perceptually upsets our experience, our beliefs, our habits, our families, our freedoms, our pocketbook – or so we think.  At the same time we are acutely aware of the polls on how many Americans believe (~63%) and don’t believe in climate change (~18%). Some good news.  According to the Yale Project on Climate Change the number of Catholics who believe in global warming and support policies to reduce it is higher than other traditions. The question remains, what do we do now?

We might consider beginning with, as Pope Francis calls it, “the common destination of goods”.  He says, “…we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone.  For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the Creator, since God created this world for everyone.” So, perhaps we begin by asking ourselves, have all our advances in culture, industry and technology been just and even for all our sisters and brothers on this planet?  Or have we become too focused on ourselves, on what we want and what advertising tells us “we need and deserve”. Have we confused our cultural of freedom with unintended, or intended, egocentricity and selfishness?  

But, before we point our finger, have we reflected on our own potentially unintended and careless habits?  Should we ask our self, how have I lost sight of loving my neighbor who is here now and will be in the future - after all God is timeless, it is only us who see in a finite way.  Do I appreciate the loving gift of creation that God has, in Wisdom, placed us in?  As Francis says, “We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”  “We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.” (Laudato Si’, 2)

Which brings us back to change. Still more good news. Intentional change is a positive thing. It is about what I choose to do and the habits I choose to change. It’s about learning how my actions and consumption habits may be negatively affecting my life and the lives of others. Then choosing to do something different.  We can choose a culture of freedom, love our neighbor and share our inheritance all at the same time.