My Very Brief Overview of Laudato Si

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Epilogue: Tanis is now in Saskatoon awaiting her second stem-cell transplant. She continues to meet each day head on--and I continue to learn how to walk. Both point to the pilgrimage that lies at the heart of making a better world. Every pilgrimage is a quest for illumination, a search for a full heart; it is a time to discover what is really going on within, to use the gift of freedom in a way that brings about deeper commitment and engagement in life-giving responsibilities.

Creating a short pilgrimage can help address key questions: ‘Do I need to momentarily take leave from the highly competitive world in which I live? Would I like to find relief from the speed of rapidification that I am asked to travel? How can I gain perspective? What is the best way to live in these times? This paper could be of interest to those who are attracted to the idea of creating their own Camino-like Walk, tailor made to fit their particular needs. Designing a Laudato Si walk provides an opportunity to so some writing, reading, and contemplating.

The reason the number and sequence of stations are important is that together they force a shift of gears, ensuring that we won’t become hung up in one place, one feature that has become overwhelming. You never know…repetition could start to bring about a more settled, energetic and engaged you in the space of a few months. At the end of the paper you will find a brief version of the five stations of the Laudatio Si Camino-like Walk that I developed. However, before that I leave you with a short overview of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si. (If you would like a more thorough summary of Laudato Si, google catholicvoicemedia.)

My Very Brief Overview of Laudato Si

In the introduction, we find a brief sketch of St. Francis of Assisi, the Saint Pope Francis offers as a model to emulate in these times. St. Francis was loved because he loved, was generous and joyful. His life showed how inseparable the bond is between love of God, love of nature, concern for the poor and commitment to society. St. Francis saw nature as a book from which he could read God’s goodness and beauty.

Chapter 1. ’ In the first chapter, and drawing upon the best scientific expertise available, Pope Francis looks at the current global environmental and social destruction. This he does so that we can become ‘painfully aware of what is happening to our common home, turn that awareness into personal discomfort (suffering) so that we can discover what we can do about the condition of our “common home”. Thus he gives a brief account of the pollution, climate change, issues with water, loss of biodiversity, decrease in quality of human life, the breakdown in society and widespread social inequality.  

Chapter 2. Pope Francis selects different Biblical accounts taken from Judeo-Christian tradition to inspire and instruct concerning the three closely intertwined relationships that exists between God, neighbor and nature. Accordingly, humankind is called to responsible care for the natural environment, a gift from God to be shared, one featuring intimate connections among all creatures.

Chapter 3. This chapter analyses the current situation, attempting to look beyond mere symptoms to get to the deepest causes. We can look to self-centered pragmatism, as amplified by technology, and now globalized, to see the root of our crisis.

Chapter 4. The ‘ecologies’ of the world are not separate entities. They are interrelated, interconnected and interdependent. Thus any solution advanced to address environmental and social upheaval must consider the entirety of the delicate biodiversity of the earth, and as affected by the cultures of societies; what must be avoided is a localized treatment that only focuses on an individual aspect. As my personal example, TV star Dr. Phil will tell his audience that if the destructive behavior of an adolescent is to change, the whole family must go into therapy. 

Chapter 5. So what approach does Pope Francis suggest is needed to bring about change, to bring about the world of peace and beauty that we need? Lack of dialogue stifles thought and progress. Dialogue is not easy; it requires listening, self-discipline, patience and generosity. The social and environmental crisis we face can only be addressed in the context of effective dialogue between, individuals, groups, political communities, economic entities, religion and science.

Chapter 6. In his encyclical, Pope Francis calls everyone to ecological conversion. This, he believes can only take place if people are properly motivated and engaged in a good process of education. It is for this reason that Laudato Si is immersed in the treasure of Christian spiritual experience, and calls all education sectors to participate, particularly schools, families, the media and in catechesis.

Below you will find an outline, designed to help those who might consider forming a Laudato Si walk of their own.

Station #1. This station is a 15 minute walk, stretching from my house to a place with water, trees, and natural life. The station occurs in the midst of the bustle of my daily living; my questions for me are, “Am I aware of my own poverty? What are my reactions as I live in the fast and competitive culture of high risers and asphalt? Are my reactions helpful in view of the person that I need to be?

Station #2 This station consists of about a 15 minute walk along Wascana Lake. The station is to be a time of renewal, a ‘mind-wash’,that comes from viewing the natural world and pondering the mystery of our planet situated in the enormity of the universe. Who can create this? But then, what about me? Am I willed, loved and necessary?

Station #3 is the chapel at Campion College. This is a place of theology and scripture. It includes the Book, Sacrament, the Cross and contemplations of myself in relation to God’s Word, to sinful and sacred Community. What about a Person being at the heart, the very principle of development? Am I in healthy relation with this Agent of life, change and improvement?  When I leave, where will I go? How will I go?

 Station #4 is the FNUC building and grounds. The acronym stands for First Nation University of Canada, but could also stand for finding and naming the cancerous undercurrent. The attitude of land and the dynamics of imperialism, whether in the form of standing armies of old or free market ideology, serve to attack environment and community alike. The First Nations people were the first in Canada to experience the abuse, and continue to experience this to this day.

Station #5 This station consists of the 40 minute study/walk home. What can I do about the conditions of our common home? This will include your own creative choices, and also ones suggested by people who have studied the matter in great depth. Simple changes are important.

My approach has been very personal. A deeper learning of Laudato Si will take place if the document is studied in a group setting. The Jesuit study guide is an excellent resource for guiding a group study.

JESUIT STUDY GUIDE: ‘On care for our common home’ is written by William F. Ryan sj and Janet Somerville with Anne O’Brian gsic and Anne-Marie Jackson. It has been published by CCCB $14.95 , 58 pages CCCB Publications, 1-800-769-1147. Email: publiatcccb [dot] ca, order online at www.cccbpublications.ca
A copy of the guide can be found at dialogue_guide_laudato_si_2.pdf