Tag Archives: Laudato Si

Living Advent in the Light of Laudato Si’

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Aimee Shelide Mayer, M.A.
Coordinator, Echo Recruitment & Admissions

University of Notre Dame

Collen Mayer, M.Div., MTS, MBA
Director, Social Services
Catholic Charities of Tennessee​

Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined
to everything that is.

“A Christian Prayer in Union with Creation” (Laudato Si’ §246)

Sometimes it is hard to see that “all things speak of” God’s infinite love. During this busy pre-Christmas season of preparing final papers, projects, menus, mailing lists, guest lists, and gift lists, our focus is often turned away from God present in all of creation. But this Advent, we not only have the launching of the Jubilee Year of Mercy to ground us in praise for God’s all-encompassing love; we also have Pope Francis’ most recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, Care for our Common Home, to guide us on how to live Advent anew this year. And with the current summit on climate change occurring, we would be remiss to not prayerfully contemplate the sacramentality of God’s creation, as well as our ongoing complicity in its degradation.

Laudato Si’ provides both a theological rationale and concrete suggestions for nourishing and healing our relationship with God, others, and all of creation. This Advent, we are thus prompted to examine our lives in each of these three areas and note how we might better care for all of creation in light of Pope Francis’ pleading.

Caring for our relationship with God

In his encyclical, Pope Francis addresses not only Christians, but “every person living on this planet” in order to “enter into dialogue about our common home” (LS §3), a home created in love by the triune God:

The Father is the ultimate source of everything, the loving and self-communicating foundation of all that exists. The Son, his reflection, through whom all things were created, united himself to this earth when he was formed in the womb of Mary. The Spirit, infinite bond of love, is intimately present at the very heart of the universe, inspiring and bringing new pathways. (LS §238)

By reflecting on our relationship with the earth this Advent, we are necessarily led to examine our relationship with the triune God who created the universe and all it contains. Indeed, it seems that how we handle the gift of creation necessarily reflects our sentiments for the Giver. By responding to creation in love, we express our love and praise for God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Consider the following simple Advent practices to cultivate a sense of gratitude to God for creation:

  • Choose to incorporate a new spiritual practice from Laudato Si’ (e.g. spiritual reading, period of silence, work outside, etc.);
  • Spend quiet time enjoying creation (e.g. go on a walk, run, bike ride, hike, etc.);
  • Prepare for Mass by reading the Gospel and reflecting on it in light of Laudato Si’;
  • Honor the Sabbath by “fasting” from technology (computer, phone, TV, tablet, etc.);
  • Pray for an end to war and violence, including destruction of creation;
  • Examine your conscience to discern ways you have failed to care for creation; celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation; and
  • Include a prayer of gratitude to God for creation during grace before meals; commit to not wasting food during Advent.

Caring for others

Pope Francis further challenges us to see how our care for all of creation extends to how we care for all members of our human family—especially the poor. In his encyclical, he writes of the interconnectedness of all relationships:

We cannot presume to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without healing all fundamental human relationships . . . A correct relationship with the created world demands that we not weaken this social dimension of openness to others . . . Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence. (LS, §119)

For many, the Advent and Christmas season brings human relationships into a new focus as families and friends gather from distant cities to celebrate together. Fond memories, as well as unhealed wounds, often surface during such moments. For some, these are times full of joy and love. Yet, for those who have lost or become estranged from family, these weeks can be heavy and hard. How might we care for the Body of Christ this year in light of Pope Francis’ wisdom? Here are some possible in-roads this Advent:

  • Pray for healing from a wound you are carrying related to a family member or loved one;
  • Pray for a specific group in need each week of Advent (e.g. refugees, immigrants, prisoners, unborn, terminally ill, etc.);
  • Educate yourself on global situations of crisis & hope (e.g. care for the environment);
  • Perform one corporal work of mercy (Mt 25) per week (e.g. feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc.);
  • Choose a new cause or charity to donate to, learn from, and pray for regularly;
  • Commit to a regular volunteer opportunity each week (e.g. through Catholic Charities, a local service/justice organization, etc.);
  • Eat one simple meal a week in solidarity with those who eat simply every day (e.g. beans & rice; meatless meal);
  • Before meals, pray for those who go without adequate nourishment and all who labored to make your meal possible; and
  • “Purge” your belongings and give them to an organization that serves those in need.

Caring for creation

Pope Francis does not mince words when he talks about the effects of humanity’s actions on the created world:

The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth . . . These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish. To cite one example, most of the paper we produce is thrown away and not recycled. It is hard for us to accept that the way natural ecosystems work is exemplary; but our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. (LS §§21, 22)

Advent is a time to remember God’s own breaking into the created world through the person of Jesus. This world which God walked is the very same one we take for granted, plunder, and scavenge bare, turning it into “an immense pile of filth.” As God promises to level mountains and fill valleys (see Is 40:4; Lk 3:5; last Sunday’s readings), we continue to use creation for our own end. We turn valleys into landfills—homes for our refuse and rubbish—and level mountains through mountain-top removal, skimming and mining them to fuel the convenient “throwaway culture” we have created. Though he paints what may seem like a bleak picture of the future of creation, Pope Francis offers great hope in his encyclical. The Pope suggests concrete habits (LS §211) for us to begin to cultivate a new respect for our creation, currently groaning in travail. Here are some of his suggestions and a few others to consider adopting in the weeks to come:

  • Pray specifically for the earth and all of creation, especially those who are exploited;
  • Separate refuse you create (recycle, compost, and trash/landfill) and decrease trash production;
  • Save energy: turn off lights when you are not in the room;
  • Use less heat (even if you can afford more) and wear warmer clothes ;
  • Reduce water consumption (e.g. when showering, brushing teeth, washing dishes, etc.);
  • Go car-less! Bike, walk, or take public transportation whenever possible; carpool to work or outings with friends;
  • Compost kitchen produce scraps to fertilize the soil; plant something (even if indoors);
  • Cook/order only what can be reasonably consumed and learn where your food comes from (eat local!);
  • Educate yourself in environmental issues and responsibility;
  • Avoid the use of plastic, paper, and other disposable goods (plan ahead by bringing reusable options, e.g. coffee mug, silverware, reusable towels, etc.); and
  • Stay current on what Pope Francis is doing, saying, and writing.

As we seek to prepare a home for Christ in our hearts this Advent, we are also called to heal the physical home which God entrusts to us, and which Christ entered through his Incarnation. By reflecting on our relationship with God, others, and creation in light of Laudato Si’, we continue to learn what a life of perfect praise in union with all creatures will look like. And we pray for this ultimate union with the words Pope Francis intended for us to share “with all who believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator” (“A Prayer for Our Earth,” LS §246):

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.

Amen.

A Conversation between Pope Francis and John Dunne, C.S.C.

unnamedThomas Eggleston, M.Div. ’12 

Pastoral Associate, Our Lady of the Lake and St. Francis de Sales Catholic parishes

Holland, MI

I have Fr. John S. Dunne, C.S.C. on my mind. It may be because we are approaching the second anniversary of his death and I miss his presence in the world. But it is also certainly because of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. Throughout the encyclical the Pope makes connections, speaking of retreat and return to another way of living; he draws circles of connection. Circles: that is something that was seemingly always on the mind of Professor Dunne.

John S. Dunne, C.S.C. (1929–2013)
John S. Dunne, C.S.C. (1929–2013)

Fr. John taught and wrote about emanations and returns—a parting and a return. He speaks of the circle of the Word made flesh, which “can be seen coming out of silence and returning into silence, the silence of God. That silence is the same as the surrounding silence” (The Circle Dance of Time, 46) which we all have in ourselves—a center of stillness. The Christ emanates from the silence of God to take on flesh and in doing so reveals that we all have a center of stillness within us—that we are surrounded by the Presence of God and return to the stillness within us to participate in God’s great stillness. In the same manner, Pope Francis looks at the state of humankind with its frenzy and penchant for self-harm, noting that a return to former ways is now needed—the boomerang turn after the emanation curves back again toward the Beginning Stillness. To return to God, the Pope notes, is to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi who “in some way returned to the state of original innocence” (LS, §66) present in Eden before the spiral of emanation began. The operating models given to us by the God-Human too are circular—Christ emanates from the Father, redeems humanity, and returns to the original stillness, and humankind who was created for innocence seeks to return to it. This journey of return is both individual and communal; it is being lived out in each human life and also in the course of human history.

This post-emanation yearning for a return to the silence of God plants restlessness in the hearts of each seeking human. Dunne notes that the return to the center of stillness is an interior journey into one’s heart, all the while traveled within the journey of one’s life through time. With God as our companion, we can become friends with that restlessness because it leads us back to the Creator. To “rest in restlessness . . . comes with the ‘Thanks!’ and ‘Yes!’ of being at peace with one’s life” (Circle Dance, 67). This restlessness comes with the certitude of faith that we are creatures bound and ready to return to our loving Creator—that what we are living now is the slow curve of an emanation circling back to its source. The return to the Creator of Love is our destiny! But we don’t return the same as before; rather, we are changed, transformed, transfigured. On the return from our journey of emanation, our path curves back to complete the circle. “Consequently, we can ascend from created things ‘to the greatness of God and to his loving mercy’” (LS, §77). The journey away from stillness eventually curves back and returns, but returns the transformed and divinized human. The starting point of our life journey is a return to the Source of Life, and while that means the closing of a circle, we return changed; the starting and ending points are the same, but the journey of life has transformed the person.

concentricCirclesLife is filled with circles, some of which are aching for completion and others which have had their loose ends joined in peaceful conclusion. As Dunne observed, “There is a circuit or a circulation of knowledge and love, ‘a circle in the acts of the soul,’ Aquinas says, starting with the things of life and going from there to the mind, as we take things in by knowing them, and from there to the heart, as knowing leads to loving, and from there back to the things of life, as we go out to things by loving them” (The Church of the Poor Devil, 135). There are circles upon circles as love leads to love leads to deeper love. “Then the circle goes round again as the loving leads into new knowing and the knowing into new loving” (ibid.). And the loving God exists in the middle of the stillness at the center of the circle while the Christ accompanies us round and round leading us home. The Spirit guides our learning which leads to loving and to new loves and so on, and the learning is ever deeper and ever shining. This is because “the rich deposit of truth which it has received from Jesus Christ continues to reflect on these issues [of life] in fruitful dialogue with changing historical situations. In doing so, it reveals its eternal newness” (LS, §121) as the circle veers one way and deepens and reveals more. The deepening reveals the depth of the Truth which is an old Truth ever new.

Circles are everywhere in life and nature and in the spiritual journey of emanation and return. “There is nothing wiser than a circle . . . There is a great circle of love coming from God and going to God, and wisdom is knowing . . . . It is knowing we are all in love with God, I have come to believe, and the love comes from God and returns to God” (Journey with God in Time, 76). Now we, the living, are mid-journey—we know love and we are returning to Love. “Even now we are journeying towards the sabbath of eternity, the new Jerusalem, towards our common home in heaven” (LS, §243), where love meets Love and rests in its stillness.

Conversion Toward Creation

Tim O'MalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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Today is the first annual Day for the Prayer of Creation, inaugurated soon after Pope Francis released Laudato Si. In the letter inaugurating this day of prayer, in which we join together with Orthodox Christians throughout the world, Pope Francis writes:

As Christians we wish to contribute to resolving the ecological crisis which humanity is presently experiencing. In doing so, we must first rediscover in our own rich spiritual patrimony the deepest motivations for our concern for the care of creation. We need always to keep in mind that, for believers in Jesus Christ, the Word of God who became man for our sake, “the life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature or from worldly realities, but lived in and with them, in communion with all that surrounds us” (Laudato Si’, 216). The ecological crisis thus summons us to a profound spiritual conversion: Christians are called to “an ecological conversion whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them” (ibid., 217). For “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” (ibid.).

Pope Francis notes that this day will be one of conversion, of prayer, and of reflection upon humanity’s responsibility in creating ecologies of destruction rather than love. The genius of Laudato Si remains  its ability to locate our destruction of the created order in the sin that infects the human heart:

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters (2).

This day, then, is not simply a Catholic equivalent to Earth Day per. Rather, it is an invitation for us to awaken to the conversion that is required if we are to live aright in the community of creation. We must look anew at our relationship with the entire created order, to see how our desire to grasp and own wounds the earth and the global human community alike. In the context of prayer, we must discern new habits that demonstrate our love for the created order anew.

These latter habits can be big and small. Some years ago, my wife and I received a Keurig from my parents. For years, I had grown accustomed to making a cup of coffee from that Keurig machine, aware of the destruction inflicted by those tiny plastic cups. But, it was so convenient. After reading Pope Francis’ encyclical this summer, we stopped using these plastic cups. We have begun to purchase coffee again and to use refillable K-Cups. Because of the “bad” habit that I had developed, the vice, this new practice was more difficult than it would seem. But, by developing a new habit, it has increased my own awareness of the cavalier way that I treat the created order as a whole.

In fact, it’s not just K-Cups that I have grown accustomed to using without thought. In fact, it is the entire created order that we have come to treat as something to be thrown-away. This day of prayer, of conversion, and repentance is an occasion to recommit ourselves to love all of creation, especially those in creation we find the hardest time to love. This is not an abstract exhortation but a day for us to set time to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and to discern concretely how we treat the environment and each other as disposable objects for our own delight rather than gifts that elicit divine praise.

 

Laudato Si, Guardini, and Liturgy

Tim O'MalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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Pope Francis’ recent encylical Laudato Si on care for our common home has been analyzed by an array of media sources for its ecclesiological, political, and social-cultural insights. But, one thread that has not been entirely acknowledged is the  robust liturgical and sacramental vision that Pope Francis provides in the final chapter of the lengthy document, Ecological Education and Spirituality. If one does not attend to concrete ways that one can promote this vision, then of course, the encyclical remains nothing but words upon the page (or screen). Thus, in a series of articles, I hope to offer a liturgical commentary upon one section of the text, Sacramental Celebration and the Celebration of Rest.

EcologyYet, before doing this, I want to acknowledge the central liturgical and sacramental insight that guides the document as a whole. The text commences with St. Francis’ doxological exhortation to Christians everywhere to praise God for our Dear Sister Earth. Pope Francis notes that the ecological destruction affected by humanity is caused by a form of non-orthodoxy, non-right worship:

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters (no. 2). 

The desecration of creation is the result of a sin that mistakes humanity as lord and master of the universe. We have forgotten our status as creatures made in the image and likeness of God, as those who are meant to receive before we participate in the activity of co-creation. And indeed, the heart of Laudato Si is an acute diagnosis of the problem of self-worship. As Pope Francis writes:

A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot. The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality (no. 75).

It is no accident that at the center of the document is Romano Guardini, the liturgical and cultural theologian par excellence. For Guaradini was acutely aware of liturgical prayer’s role in revealing to humanity our identity as creatures in need of reform in the midst of the modern world. That the laws of liturgical prayer could move us away from self-worship toward divine love.

EndofModernWorldIn his The End of the Modern World, Guardini discusses the dissolution of a liturgical and festive culture in the medieval period, which guided the sense of time and space for the human being:

Re-enacted year in year out in the liturgy of each and every church in Christendom, this symbolic rendering of time became the very rhythm of temporal life. Every event of life for a man or for his family–birth, marriage, death, labor and rest, the advent of the seasons, the passing of the weeks, the deeds of the day–each of the them breathed the rhythm of the ecclesiastical year. That rhythm had become one with the single moment and with the span of man’s life even to his last extremity (21).

LakeComoFor Guardini, the loss of this culture is not simply reclaimable. The cultural structures of knowing and being that once dominated the world have been replaced by both modern ways of being and knowing and now the dissolution of the modern age itself. Humanity no longer lives a time that is infused with the liturgical year, with a form of festivity that orients human life toward worsip. That being said, Guardini moves forward with an optimism that in this age, the human being can create a space for freedom and self-gift, which will move us away from self-worship and destructive approaches to power:

…it must be possible to tackle the task of mastering nature in a way that is appropriate, but also to find a new sphere of freedom for the soul, to give back true security to life, to achieve an attitude, a disposition, a new order of living, standards of what is excellent and what is despicable, of what is permissible and what is impermissible, of responsibility, of limits, etc., by which we can hold in check the danger of destruction presented by arbitrary natural forces (Romano Guardini, Letters from Lake Como, 84-85).

For Guardini, liturgical prayer is a concrete Christian practice that offers the kind of formation toward freedom of self-gift. Though it is impossible at present to analyze the entirety of his magisterial The Spirit of the Liturgy, this text describes how the practice of liturgical prayer can move the human being away from self-worship, toward a salutary use of power. That is, for Guardini, liturgical prayer is an enactment of a realistic vision of the human person, one that enables us to see creation for what it is:

In the liturgy the voice of Nature makes itself heard clearly and decisively. We only need to read the Psalms to see man as he really is. There the soul is shown as courageous and despondent, happy and sorrowful, full of noble intentions, but of sin and struggles as well, zealous for everything that is good and then again apathetic and dejected. Or let us take the readings from the Old Testament. How frankly human nature is revealed in them! There is no attempt at extenuation or excuse. The same thing applies to the Church’s words of ordination, and to the prayers used in administering the sacraments. A truly refreshing spontaneity characterizes them; they call things by their names. Man is full of weakness and error, and the liturgy acknowledges this. Human nature is inexplicable, a tangled web of splendor and misery, of greatness and baseness, and as such it appears in the prayer of the Church. Here we find no carefully adapted portrait from which the harsh and unpleasing traits have been excluded, but man as he is (The Spirit of the Liturgy, 32).

Thus, in some ways, one can read Laudato Si as an application of the liturgical and cultural thought of Guardini to the present environmental crisis. And, like Guardini, Pope Francis gives prominence of place to divine worship as essential to healing the human being; of re-creating a culture in which human beings are not masters of the universe but worshipers of God.

The implications of this kind of liturgical-ecological culture will be unfolding over the coming days through attending to Laudato Si’s Eucharistic vision.