Sisters and Friends of Mary Aikenhead gathered recently in Donnybrook, Dublin, for an afternoon on Laudato Si presented by Fr Francis OFM. It was an inspiring and energising afternoon permeated by the spirit of St. Francis.
The afternoon presented many challenges, two central ones I share here.
Laudato Si (LS) as a faith vision.
The spirit of God is at work in this encyclical, enlightening our minds, touching our hearts and hopefully moving us to action on behalf of our planet. Pope Francis is inviting us to see things differently. Yes we are growing in awareness of the interconnectedness of all creation and this encyclical invites us to deepen and own this. Creation is presented as a Divine Encounter. ‘God’s Love is the fundamental moving force of all created things’ LS 76 and can only be ‘understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all and as a reality illumined by the Love which calls us together into universal communion’. LS 75. We are all – humans and the natural world part of nature, included in it, in constant interaction with it. We are a ‘Splendid Universal Communion’. Fr Francis posed the question: when was the last time you shouted for joy on seeing a dandelion? As Christians we are called to accept the world as a ‘sacrament of communion’. LS 9. What a wonderful faith vision and what a challenge to all of us to have this bigger, universal, more inclusive, faith.
It is we human beings who have to change.
The encyclical, like the gospel, challenges us to a change in life style. The call is for a ‘bold cultural revolution’. The solution is not just in technology but in a change in humanity. LS invites us to gaze with Jesus on our earth, to have a contemplative vision. We cannot change what is going on around us unless we change what is going on within us. We are one strand in the sacred web of life with everyone and everything else. If we harm the earth we harm ourselves. A change in humanity can only happen at an individual level, the only person we can change is ourselves. We need to go to the ‘root of the problem’, to look at our hearts.
‘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
- not to succumb to sadness for what we lack’. LS 222.
Is not this the spirituality we aspire to as Christians and as Sisters of Charity? Yes this is possible. Remember ‘what is deepest in us is of God’. (T. Merton). Let us continue to strive for that interior peace. When we are at peace we do not need to be in control, to possess. And ‘never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has’ (Margaret Meade). I think the wonderful thing about the afternoon is we came away inspired, believing this is possible and above all not feeling guilty but positive.
‘Can you hear within yourself, the sound of the earth crying?' (Ticht Nhat Hanh).