Savoring Pope Francis’ Encyclical: Refreshment for the Journey

Recently my friend Lisa Restrom, co-founder of Divest-Invest Individual, a movement of individual investors divesting from oil, gas, and coal and investing in the emerging new energy economy, inspired me with her urging on Facebook, to read Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Laudato Si on creation care and climate change. While I’d been reading the extensive coverage of the encyclical in the mainstream media, I had not yet delved into the full original document, so I downloaded it to my Kindle, and have been savoring it on my daily subway commute.

Lisa was right – it’s worth the read. While I knew from the excellent coverage that it would be rich in science, theology, and practice, what I didn’t expect was how the rich content and beauty of Pope Francis’ prose would refresh my spirit.

I was inspired by how well Pope Francis articulates how responding to climate change is part of what it means to be a Christian today, because the poorest and most vulnerable will bear the greatest consequences of climate change, yet are least equipped to adapt or advocate for help. Further, he makes the case that his message is for all people of good will who seek a just and healthy world, because as climate change impacts lives and livelihoods around the globe, we all have the opportunity to put our passion for justice into action by being part of the solutions.

In response to the encyclical, nearly 100 Catholic and evangelical leaders were inspired to publicly affirm our moral responsibility to act on climate change in this recent ad. As well, the Episcopal church’s recent divestment decision may have been facilitated by the timing of the Pope’s leadership. 

Yet with all these great public affirmations and with increasing attention to climate in the media, only 3% of Americans talk about climate change ‘often.’ So if you believe that climate change is a moral issue and have a passion for justice, your continuing leadership on climate is more important than ever. Here are some quotes from the encyclical that have refreshed me for my journey. I hope they provide sustenance to you for yours.

All it takes is one good person to restore hope! (My favorite)

It is good for humanity and the world at large when we believers better recognize the ecological commitments which stem from our convictions.

As Christians, we are also called ‘to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet.’ [quoting Patriarch Bartholomew]

Creation is the order of love…Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it is place in the world. Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection.

Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbor, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth. When all these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible tells us that life itself is endangered.

Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness.

Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous.  The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God. The history of our friendship with God is always linked to particular places which take on an intensely personal meaning; we all remember places, and revisiting those memories does us much good. Anyone who has grown up in the hills or used to sit by the spring to drink, or played outdoors in the neighbourhood square; going back to those places is a chance to recover something of their true selves.

The Psalms frequently exhort us to praise God the Creator, “who spread out the earth on the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Ps 136:6). They also invite other creatures to join us in this praise “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created” (Ps 148:3-5). We do not only exist by God’s mighty power, we also live with him and beside him.

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