An extract from ‘A reflection on Laudato Si’ mi Signore – On Care for our Common Home’ written by Fr. Liam O’Callaghan
Chapter Six – Ecological Education and Spirituality (202-246)
In the final chapter, the Pope asks us to educate ourselves and others to develop new convictions and attitudes, including a new lifestyle, to help solve the complex problems facing us and the planet; this requires individual conversion but also community networks of education and action. He feels that an essential requirement for this is a spirituality which can motivate us to a more passionate concern. Consumerism can be destructive as we “get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending” (203) which leads us to a self-centred existence. But, Francis is positive about our ability to change, “humans are capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start” (205); he reminds us that this is what the Earth Charter in 2000 asked us to do. Education aimed at creating an “ecological citizenship” which brings about real changes in lifestyle is crucial and this “can take place in a variety of settings: at school, in families, in the media, in catechesis and elsewhere” (213); political institutions, the Church and its institutions such as seminaries, houses of formation and all Christian communities are specially mentioned.
The 20 centuries long rich heritage of Christian spirituality has much to offer to this renewal of humanity. Francis proceeds to offer Christians a rich array of suggestions for the needed ecological spirituality grounded in our faith, “I am interested in how such a spirituality can motivate us to a more passionate concern for the protection of the world” (216). Once again, inspired by St. Francis, the Pope is convinced what we all need is an “ecological conversion” (217) to a new way of living lightly on the earth. This will lead us to the wisdom found in different religious traditions and in the Bible, that “less is more” (222). This spirituality is nourished by the sacraments, in which we use the earth’s elements which are taken up in their symbolic power into our act of praise. Our world, based on the divine Trinitarian model is called to be a “web of relationships” which should move us to marvel at the manifest connections among creatures. “Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world” (241). Francis assures us that at the end, we will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God (243).
Fr. Liam is a Columban working in Pakistan.