Friday 4 June 2021

Caring for Our Common Home

The sixth anniversary of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on Caring for Our Common Home, occurred a week and half ago on 24 May. As part of these celebrations there was a 10 day Laudato Si, from 16 to 25 May. Pope Francis invited all people to engage in this joyful celebration and called on all Catholics to reflect more deeply on his appeal “for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet” (LS14), leading to an ecological conversion within ourselves and our communities.

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis explores the factors that have led to the environmental crisis our world is facing, including the growth of a throwaway culture, the effects of pollution, the loss of biodiversity, the role of technology, and the shadow side of globalisation that has led to a decline in the quality of human life, often associated with the growth of urbanisation, especially in developing parts of the world. The challenge for each of us and the world is to engage with an integral ecology that enables a sustainable approach to development, factoring in the common good of humanity, with politics and economics entering into “a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life” (LS 189).

In 2019, Fr Arturo Sosa SJ, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus announced four universal apostolic preferences (UAP) of the Society of Jesus for the decade 2019-2029. The fourth UAP is collaborating in the care of our common home. In exploring this Fr Sosa said, “Pope Francis reminds us that all human beings share responsibility for the care of creation, considered by many people “mother earth”.  He went further saying,

Laudato Si reminds us that “disinterested concern for others, and the rejection of every form of self-centredness and self-absorption, are essential if we truly wish to care for our brothers and sisters and for the natural environment. These attitudes also attune us to the moral imperative of assessing the impact of our every action and personal decision on the world around us”. It is logical to conclude that what Christians ‘need is an ecological conversion’, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ becomes 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” (LS 208, 217).

Our experience of the global pandemic over last year has reminded us that we live in a global ecosystem and that things that take part of the world can very quickly impact all of us. In encouraging the call to conversion, Fr Sosa indicated that it begins “by changing the habits of life promoted by an economic and cultural system based on the consumption of an irrational production of goods”. We see this mirrored in other societal slogans such as “live simply so that others may simply live”, and “be the change you wish to see in the world”, both attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.

Here in the College, a student assembly focusing on the environment was held in Laudato Si week and the theme of the Student Mass this Wednesday was Caring for our Common Home. The student reflection was given by one of our Year 8 students, Alex, who encouraged his fellow students to think about how they can make a difference in caring for our common home. He said,

“Today we celebrate the theme of ‘Care for the Common Home. This mission unites ALL Jesuit schools globally through our shared Universal Apostolic Preference to Care for the Common Home.  After the recent environmental student assembly, we gather together today to shine a light on the impermeable nature of our environment. We can all care for our “Common home” in different ways. These range from simple actions such as picking up rubbish to more involved action such as planting your own garden or making informed decisions around purchasing products that are sustainable and minimise impacts on natural habitats of animal life. Do we consider the way we use electricity? Our own carbon footprints? Our recycling habits and our commitment to reducing waste?”

Each student who attended the Student Mass was given a prayer card containing Pope Francis’ prayer for our earth, taken from Laudato Si (LS 246). This prayer may be of use to you and your families as we continue to reflect upon the gift our common home and our response to the complex situation facing our world today.

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

Fr Tom Renshaw