St Barnabas Anglican Church, Warrington
Caring for our Common Home
Notes for Session 5
These notes are based on chapter 6 of the encyclical Laudato Si', Ecological Education and Spirituality.
"Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal."
1. Towards a new lifestyle.
"Compulsive consumerism is one example of how the techno-economic paradigm affects individuals...When people become self-centred and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person's heart is, the more he or she needs to buy, own and consume. It becomes almost impossible to accept the limits imposed by reality... our common concern cannot be limited to the threat of extreme weather events... Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and destruction."
"A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power... When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently. This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers."
"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."
2. Educating for the covenant between humanity and the environment.
"Environmental education should facilitate making the leap towards the transcendent which gives ecological ethics its deepest meaning. It needs educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology, and helping people, through effective pedagogy, to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care."
"Good education plants seeds when we are young, and these continue to bear fruit throughout our life... In the family we learn to ask without demanding, to say 'thank you' as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggression and greed, and to ask for forgiveness when we have caused harm. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings."
"All Christian communities have an important role to play in ecological education. It is my hope that our seminaries and houses of formation will provide an education in simplicity of life, in grateful contemplation of God's world, and in concern for the needs of the poor and the protection of the environment."
"Our efforts at education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature. Otherwise the paradigm of consumerism will continue to advance, with the help of the media and the highly effective workings of the market."
3. Ecological conversion.
"Here I would like to offer Christians a few suggestions for an ecological spirituality grounded in the convictions of our faith... such a spirituality can motivate us to a more passionate concern for the protection of the world."
"... the ecological crisis is a summons to a profound interior conversion. It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent... Living our vocation to be protectors of God's handiwork is essential to a life of virtue: it is not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience."
"Nevertheless, self-improvement on the part of individuals will not by itself remedy the extremely complex situation facing the world today... The ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion."
"This conversion calls for a number of attitudes which together foster a spirit of generous care, full of tenderness. First, it entails gratitude and gratuitousness, a recognition that the world is God's loving gift... It also entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion... I ask all Christians to recognise and to live fully this dimension of their conversion."
4. Joy and peace.
"Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption... [It] proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little."
"Such sobriety, when lived freely and consciously, is liberating. It is not a lesser life or one lived with less intensity. On the contrary, it is a way of living life to the full... Sobriety and humility were not favourably regarded in the last century, and yet, when there is a general breakdown in the exercise of a certain virtue in personal and social life, it ends up causing a number of imbalances, including environmental ones."
"One expression of the [right] attitude is when we stop and give thanks to God before and after meals. I ask all believers to return to this beautiful and meaningful custom. This moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labours provide us with goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with those in greatest need."
5. Civic and political love.
"Care for nature is part of a lifestyle which includes the capacity for living together in communion. Jesus reminded us that we have God as our common Father and this makes us brothers and sisters. Fraternal love can only be gratuitous: it can never be a means of repaying others for what they have done or will do for us."
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and for the world and that being good and decent is worth it. We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good."
"Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world... In this framework, along with the importance of little everyday gestures, social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a 'culture of care' which permeates all society."
"Not everyone is called to engage directly in political life. Society is also enriched by a countless array of organisations which work to promote the common good and to defend the environment, whether natural or urban... These actions cultivate a shared identity, with a story that can be remembered and handed on. In this way, the world, and the quality of life of the poorest, are cared for, with a sense of solidarity which is at the same time aware that we live in a common home which God has entrusted to us. These community actions, when they express self-giving love, can also become intense spiritual experiences."
6. Sacramental signs and the celebration of rest.
"The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, or in a poor person's face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things... This is not because the finite things of the world are really divine, but because the mystic experiences the intimate connection between God and all beings, and thus feels that 'all things are God'."
"The Sacraments are a privileged way in which nature is taken up by God to become a means of mediating supernatural life. Through our worship of God, we are invited to embrace the world on a different plane. Water, oil, fire and colours are taken up in all their symbolic power and incorporated in our act of praise."
""For Christians, all the creatures of the material universe find their meaning in the incarnate Word, for the Son of God has incorporated in his person part of the material world, planting in it a seed of definitive transformation."
"It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation... The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within."
"Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God,,, The Eucharist joins heaven and earth: it embraces and penetrates all creation... Thus, the Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing, us to be stewards of all creation."
"On Sundays our participation in the Eucharist has special importance. Sunday, like the Jewish Sabbath, is meant to be a day which heals our relationship with God, with ourselves, with others, and with the world. Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, the 'first day' of the new creation, whose fresh fruits are the Lord's risen humanity, the pledge of the final transfiguration of all created reality. It also proclaims '[humanity's] eternal rest in God'. In this way, Christian spirituality incorporates the value of relaxation and festivity... It protects human action from becoming empty activism: it also prevents that unfettered greed and sense of isolation which makes us seek personal gain to the detriment of all else."
7. The Trinity and the relationship between creatures.
"For all Christians, believing in one God who is Trinitarian communion suggests that the Trinity has left its mark on all creation... the world, created according to the divine model, is a web of relationships."
"The human person grows more, matures more, and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others, and with all creatures... Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity."
8. Queen of all creation.
"Mary, the mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned for the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the suffering of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power."
9. Beyond the sun.
"At the end we will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God...and be able to read with admiration and happiness the mystery of the universe, which with us will share in unending plenitude. Even now we are journeying towards the Sabbath of eternity, the new Jerusalem, towards our common home in heaven... In the meantime, we come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us, knowing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast."
"God, who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and strength needed to continue on our way. In the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present. He does not abandon us, he does not leave us alone, for he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward. Praise be to him!"