We continue the study and reflection on Laudato Si’, the encyclical on caring for our common home.
If you missed Session 2 you can find it here
This Lent course is loosely based on the Lent course from Ecospirituality Resources. Feel free to follow or adapt it for your community.
Week 3: The Gospel of Creation and the Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis
We acknowledge that participants come from different backgrounds and traditions and will have different expectations. We encourage listening and sharing from each other. Lent is a challenge and a journey towards Easter and this course may help with that journey.
Sharing from last week
Before we start we may ask if anyone wants to share anything from the week. Part of Chapter One? An Action? Thoughts on the seven Laudato Si Goals? Something we’ve seen or read that connects with Laudato Si’?
Many wanted to share a thought or moment of awareness from the week. For some it was local: the importance of what are we do on a small scale at home, trying not to throw food away, the toad patrol at Foremark Derbyshire organised by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, and the Waste Not Want Not sign in Kedleston Hall kitchen. For some it was national: David Attenborough’s new series on Wild Isles, the reports of ploughing orchards up, and reviewing the recent UK budget in light of the concerns in Chapter One. For some it was global: thinking about the importance of water, identifying weak responses in recent announcements with regards decarbonisation and biodiversity, and the health impacts of pollution on children around Basra where we are finding it hard to repond to the cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth.
Last week we started with a song of praise, the Laudato Si Celebration Song from the African Franciscans, giving us a sense of global solidarity and interconnectedness. Thanks to the encyclical, we see how we share hope with people far away. This week we start back in the hills around Assisi and share a moment of connectedness with St Francis and the early Franciscans, a sort of intergenerational solidarity.
Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, who is the day and through whom you give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour; and bears a likeness of you, Most High. Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful. Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather through whom you give sustenance to your creatures. Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste. Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you light the night, and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong St Francis of Assisi [Laudato Si’ 87]
A moment of quiet reflection
The Cosmological Sensibility in Laudato Si’
Bishop Robert Barron provides an introduction to one of the key messages in the encyclical
Chapter 2 – The Gospel of Creation
Each group is given two quotes from Chapter 2 to reflect on. The quotes span each section within Chapter 2. Discuss how do these quotes relate to our own spiritual journey?
- The Light Offered by Faith
“…I would like from the outset to show how faith convictions can offer Christians, and some other believers as well, ample motivation to care for nature and for the most vulnerable of their brothers and sisters.” 
- The Wisdom of the Biblical Accounts
“…we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.” 
“These ancient [Bible] stories, full of symbolism, bear witness to a conviction which we today share, that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.” 
- The Mystery of the Universe
“The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.” 
- The Message of Each Creature in the Harmony of Creation
“We can say that ‘alongside revelation properly so-called, contained in sacred Scripture, there is a divine manifestation in the blaze of the sun and the fall of night’. [Catechesis]” 
- A Universal Communion
“A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted.” 
- The Common Destination of Goods
“The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property.” 
- The Gaze of Jesus
“…’God may be everything to every one’ (1 Cor 15:28). Thus, the creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One is mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end. The very flowers of the field and the birds which his human eyes contemplated and admired are now imbued with his radiant presence.” 
Feedback from the groups drew on the Cosmological Sensibility outlined by Bishop Barron; discussed the definition of dominion, stewardship and responsibility; not forgetting care for ourselves; the effect of individual responses in a more populated world; God in nature and nature in our Churches; recognition of the wonder of each and other parts of creation and how God is revealed to us; compassion and its transformative effect; the concept of ownership and rebalancing from what we want to what we need; love being an extra force like gravity that holds everything together and that everything is made of love.
Chapter 3 – The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis
Each group is given a paragraph from Chapter 3 to read and discuss. What would be different in our world if we took the critique of Laudato Si’ seriously in these areas?
- Technology: Creativity and Power
A paragraph on Power from section I on Technology: Creativity and Power
104. Yet it must also be recognized that nuclear energy, biotechnology, information technology, knowledge of our DNA, and many other abilities which we have acquired, have given us tremendous power. More precisely, they have given those with the knowledge, and especially the economic resources to use them, an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity and the entire world. Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely, particularly when we consider how it is currently being used. We need but think of the nuclear bombs dropped in the middle of the twentieth century, or the array of technology which Nazism, Communism and other totalitarian regimes have employed to kill millions of people, to say nothing of the increasingly deadly arsenal of weapons available for modern warfare. In whose hands does all this power lie, or will it eventually end up? It is extremely risky for a small part of humanity to have it.
- The Globalization of the Technocratic Paradigm
A paragraph on the Technocratic Paradigm from section II on The Globalization of the Technocratic Paradigm
111. Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalized logic. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.
A paragraph on Authentic Humanity from section II on The Globalization of the Technocratic Paradigm
112. Yet we can once more broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community. Or when technology is directed primarily to resolving people’s concrete problems, truly helping them live with more dignity and less suffering. Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it. An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?
- The Crisis and Effects of Modern Anthropocentrism
A paragraph on Practical Relativism from section III on The Crisis and Effects of Modern Anthropocentrism
122. A misguided anthropocentrism leads to a misguided lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I noted that the practical relativism typical of our age is “even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism”. When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests. There is a logic in all this whereby different attitudes can feed on one another, leading to environmental degradation and social decay.
A paragraph on New Biological Technologies from section III on The Crisis and Effects of Modern Anthropocentrism
134. Although no conclusive proof exists that GM cereals may be harmful to human beings, and in some regions their use has brought about economic growth which has helped to resolve problems, there remain a number of significant difficulties which should not be underestimated. In many places, following the introduction of these crops, productive land is concentrated in the hands of a few owners due to “the progressive disappearance of small producers, who, as a consequence of the loss of the exploited lands, are obliged to withdraw from direct production”. The most vulnerable of these become temporary labourers, and many rural workers end up moving to poverty-stricken urban areas. The expansion of these crops has the effect of destroying the complex network of ecosystems, diminishing the diversity of production and affecting regional economies, now and in the future. In various countries, we see an expansion of oligopolies for the production of cereals and other products needed for their cultivation. This dependency would be aggravated were the production of infertile seeds to be considered; the effect would be to force farmers to purchase them from larger producers.
It helps for each group to explain what the paragraph is about in a single sentence. Then to briefly explain how the world might be different if the paragraph was taken seriously.
Here are some thoughts from tonight
|Paragraph||Meaning||What might be different?|
|104||Power concentrated in a very few people||If power shared then this would make things easier and safer if we think of war|
|111||Belief that technology solves everything||A lot goes on behind the scene that is not discussed. E.g. rather than focus on electric cars as a solution, why not look at lifestyle choices too? Do we have to drive individual private cars? What about other models including public transport?|
|112||Freedom to direct how technology serves||Some examples given in paragraph – cooperatives, lower pollution, non-consumerist, helping people with more dignity and less suffering|
|122||Humans placing themselves centrally, serving own interests||Perhaps allocation of funding would be different giving rise to projects not currently of economic interest|
|134||Finding a balance for new biotechnology in agriculture||Introduction has been double-edged sword: need to be careful on roll-out to ensure society and ecosystems are respected|
Exodus 20:3-7 (The Message)
3 No other gods, only me. 4-6 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am God, your God, and I’m a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I’m unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments. 7 No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name.
John 2:17 (The Message)
“Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” 15-17 Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, “Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” That’s when his disciples remembered the Scripture, “Zeal for your house consumes me.”
How might you connect the scripture readings with the Laudato Si’ excerpts? What brief few words would you use to explain the message from scripture in light of your group’s paragraph from Chapter 3 tonight?
Our groups came up with the following
- Freedom to liberate
- Shake your gods
- Know who we serve
- Here are the voices
- Change of perspectives
A Christian prayer in union with creation  Father, we praise you with all your creatures. They came forth from your all-powerful hand; they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love. Praise be to you! Son of God, Jesus, through you all things were made. You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother, you became part of this earth, and you gazed upon this world with human eyes. Today you are alive in every creature in your risen glory. Praise be to you! Holy Spirit, by your light you guide this world towards the Father’s love and accompany creation as it groans in travail. You also dwell in our hearts and you inspire us to do what is good. Praise be to you! 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. God of love, show us our place in this world as channels of your love for all the creatures of this earth, for not one of them is forgotten in your sight. Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live. The poor and the earth are crying out. O Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty. Praise be to you! Amen.
For Next Week
Read Chapters 2 and 3 of the encyclical
Note: Many thanks to Derby Cathedral and St Mary’s Derby for organizing this course and especially to Peter and Gervas for preparing this session.
The basic structure of this course comes from the Laudato Si Reflection Resource from Ecospirituality Resources. We thank Terri MacKenzie S.H.C.J. from the Society of the Holy Child Jesus for producing the Laudato Si Reflection Resource.
The full Laudato Si’ Encyclical is available here.