By Maria G. Covarrubias
On June 18 the new encyclical from Pope Francis was released. Laudato Si which literally means “Be praised.” In this encyclical Pope Francis addresses the care of our common home “the Earth.” He talks about the risks we need to take to save our human race and our planet. One cannot separate ecology from economies, or economies from ethics, or ethics from politics. “Everything is connected,” Pope Francis writes at several points in the encyclical. He also asks a main question to all of us: What kind of a world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are growing up?
Each and every one of us need to understand and act upon the fact that creation is a common good belonging to all and meant for all. We are all equally responsible for caring for it as a whole. Pope Francis expresses that “the careless habits of mind and heart that allow us to pollute and waste also allow us to treat other human beings as disposable.”
“A true ecology approach,” Pope Francis writes, “always becomes a social approach that must integrate questions of justice in debates of the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” These powerful words echo God’s call for justice and love. It is a call repeated over and over throughout scripture in the Old Testament in the prophets; and in the New Testament in the witness of the disciples and most profoundly by Jesus himself.
Our call for justice is rooted in this heritage that has been exclaimed in many Church documents like this encyclical today. Catechesis helps us understand who we are as Catholics, what we do and to whom we belong. A catechist has the responsibility to help those he/she catechizes become familiar the principles of justice and peace.
One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Many people in the world are suffering for shortage or lack of clean water. In California, we are experiencing a serious drought and this should be a concern for each of us. The most important thing is to recognize the urgency of the problem, and to accept that the only way to solve it is “by our decisive action, here and now.” It gives us an opportunity to do a regular examination of conscience to reflect seriously on how each lives in communion with God, others, oneself, and nature. By doing this, we are also teaching our children and youth to take responsibility for all these precious and necessary resources.
As Catholics, our faith must move us to care for nature and the most vulnerable. In addition, we have the wonderful resource of prayer, trusting that the Lord will provide what we need. Recently, during one of our sessions in the Catechist Summer Institute, we taught the need for creating and celebrating rituals in our catechetical sessions. One form of prayer/ritual found in scripture and Catholic tradition is processions. Many cultures use processions to ask for good climate during planting season. In this session we taught this form of communal prayer and actually had a procession to ask for rain.
Pope Francis ends his encyclical by saying “let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for the planet never take away the joy of our hope.”
Questions for reflection:
How am I treating creation? In what specific ways can I save water? How am I teaching my children/grandchildren to treat all elements of creation with respect? As a catechist, how do I address the care for creation and specifically water in my catechetical lessons?
Maria G. Covarrubias is the Director of Catechetical Ministry for the Diocese of San Bernardino.