At the outset of his encyclical Laudato Si‘, Pope Francis invokes St. Francis, noting how the saint “communed with all creation” and felt a deep bond of affection with all creatures. St. Francis leda life of simplicity that leads to joy and gratitude. Rather than pursuing glory and irresponsible dominion, the Holy Father calls us to “a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in universal communion.” Things can get in our way but there is path forward:
We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is a conviction that ‘less is more.’ A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfillment. Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack.
This way of life has been a hallmark of monastic and religious life for centuries, but now Pope Francis believes such a lifestyle is essential for our very survival on this planet, remarking: “The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion.” We will not repair the damage done to our common home, the earth, unless we have this change within:
Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the common good because, lived out authentically, it is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life. Nature is filled with words of love, but how can we listen to them amid constant noise, interminable and nerve-wracking distractions, or the cult of appearances? Many people today sense a profound imbalance which drives them to frenetic activity and makes them feel busy, in a constant hurry which in turn leads them to ride rough-shod over everything around them. This too affects how they treat the environment. An integral ecology includes taking time to recover a sense of harmony with creation, reflecting on our lifestyle and our ideals, and contemplating the Creator, who lives among us and surround us, whose presence ‘must not be contrived but found, uncovered.’
Posted: July 2, 2015