To this beautiful world wherein there is much hope, but also the experience of much division, Pope Francis of Rome addresses a letter (see link above) to all Catholics, people of other religions, and all persons of good will.
No matter what one’s political affiliation, care for our spatial and terrestrial environment is a common concern. In like manner, whether one agree or disagree on the facts and causes of eco-development or degradation, the management of the earth’s challenges and potential concerns us all. We are all deeply connected with the whole of creation. By logical extensions says Pope Francis, ‘when we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings’. The trees of her forest are our common lungs; the waters of the earth are the breasts from which we drink.
The earth in particular is akin to our mother, the womb from which we come. Then again, we have often heard the expression that ‘the child is the Mother of the Man (or woman)’. In this sense, since we are all deeply connected to nature, to sin against nature is to sin against ourselves. Thus Francis states that ‘when we mistreat nature, we mistreat human beings’, including ourselves.
Some people call themselves agnostic or even atheists in terms of religious belief. They suspect or fear that the earth and all interplanetary systems are the result of some sort of pan-cosmic fate. Or, they believe that all query might be reduced to, and satisfactorily explained by, scientific theory and research.
In fact, science and religion should embrace and give each other a holy kiss. A healthy and reasoned Catholic religious imagination does not deny the insights of scientific understanding. We share a keen concern to understand more and more through science about this ‘mother’ which is our home. At the same time, we do not experience ourselves and creation as reduced to a random or predictable result of cosmic energy acting upon matter. Rather, we also experience ourselves in profound mystery and on endless hope-filled quest. We are, it has been said, “Spirit-in-the-World”, graced in mystery.
In this graced and yet mysterious situation which is ours, science and faith can walk with each other with both curiosity and awe. Curiosity, because we seek to know. Awe, because we also know that there is no absolute reason that proves why we have the right to be. Our existence itself is religiously interpreted as founded in the expressive love of God. God. A slight yet heavy word — Being in pure mystery! Yet also the one Jesus calls his “Trustworthy Father”.
Francis of Assisi called the earth his mother, the sun and fire his brothers, the moon and the water his sisters. In this spirit, I confide to you the reflections of Francis, our present Pope named after “The Poverello” (little poor one) of Assisi.
Since the Pope addresses us from the Apostolic See, this and his other teachings on the environment and care for creation are now considered part of the Corpus of the Church’s moral and social teaching. (Google, for example, his first encyclical entitled “Laudato Si”/”Be Praised my Lord…”).
This does not mean that Francis addresses us under the rubric of infallibility. But it does mean that these documents call us — and all persons of good will — to serious discussion and to religious reflection of mind and will.
May we receive this document in Peace.
May our reflections upon it bring us much Good.
Sincerely, in pilgrim quest with you,
The corporal works of mercy are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, burying the dead.
The spiritual works of mercy are counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, consoling the afflicted, forgiving offenses, bearing patiently those who do us ill, praying for the living and the dead.
POSSIBLE QUESTIONS FOR FAMILY DISCUSSION:
- In our area of land and sea, do you see any areas of concern wherein Mother Nature needs our help to make our environment more healthy?
- Are there a few concrete suggestions you can make among yourselves regarding your family/household practice?
- Are there ways that you can take nature and see her as a ‘sacrament’, inviting us to give praise to God the Creator?
- Are there suggestions you might have regarding how the parish might be more environmentally conscious in its practices or on its campus?