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New Series: Laudato Si'

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Earlier this year, Pope Francis published his much-anticipated encyclical on the Care for our Common Home, Laudato Si. This challenging encyclical letter grapples with the seemingly intractable matters of environmental concern and human ecology. Stark questions lie at the heart of the Pope’s challenge. What is the purpose of our life in the world? What kind of world do we want to live in? What kind of world do we want our children and grandchildren to live in? What are our responsibilities to God, to one another, and to His creation?

In a new series of posts, Dominican students will consider Pope Francis' confrontation of ecological issues. What emerges from Francis’ document and prayerful reflection is that the answer to all these questions is found in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. The fundamental Christological basis of what Francis has to say is, all too frequently, missed by the secular commentators. Naturally enough, they prefer to focus on the politics and policies where they feel they are on safer ground. But Francis is presenting us with an unmistakably spiritual summons.

And, it is a summons that requires action - urgent action, no less - but action rooted in the truth of Jesus Christ. Francis remarks, "what they all need is an “ecological conversion”, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience." [217]

The very title of the encyclical, moreover, reflects the spiritual dimension: “Praise be to You”. These words are taken from St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures. And the figure of St. Francis is important. The Pope describes the Seraphic Doctor as “the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. […] He shows us just how inseparable is the bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace”. [10]

But there’s an apparent tension here. If Laudato Si is addressed to “every living person on this planet” [3], where does that leave people who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ? How can the Pope centre his vision on Christ, and yet appeal to a wider audience? Well, he can do this because these are matters that can be known by the light of human reason, without recourse to supernatural faith in God. Moreover, many of the environmental matters to which Pope Francis addresses his thoughts have a scientific basis. He wants to bring about about a fruitful dialogue between faith and science - a dialogue that leads to action, which is urgently needed.

In the coming weeks, it is hoped, our reflections will bring out spiritual dimension of this rich encyclical as well as discussing some of the practical challenges they present. We hope you will join us!

All the posts in the Laudato Si' series:


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