By Archbishop Michael Jackels | Witness Publisher
Our Holy Father Pope Francis has written an Encyclical Letter on issues related to ecology. It is called Laudato Si, Praised Be, which is taken from the Canticle of Creatures by St. Francis of Assisi.
Pope Francis writes this Encyclical as a pastor, teaching moral guidelines drawn from a reflection on Sacred Scripture applied to daily life in the modern age. There are two important principles in the area of ecology: stewardship and solidarity.
From the creation stories in the Book of Genesis we learn that God entrusts all of created life – earth, air, water, plants, animals and human beings as well – to the care of men and women.
The divine command to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion does not mean we are free to pillage and exploit any part of created life for selfish purposes. We are to till the earth, yes, but also to tend it – stewards to care for created life.
Solidarity is another corrective for selfishness. This is a central theme of the teachings of Jesus: see ourselves as part of, not apart from others; accept responsibility for others, rather than excuse ourselves; acknowledge that who we are, what we can do and what we have is not just for me, but meant to be shared.
There is an example of solidarity, practiced in relation to other people, in the Acts of Apostles (4:34). The first followers of Jesus lived with such concern for the good of each other that there was no needy person among them.
In reading the Encyclical, it’s possible that we will disagree on the cause of environmental concerns, or how to correct the problems.
But hopefully we can agree that it is in our common interest for each of us to care for created life: earth, air, water, plants, animals and human beings as well, especially those who cannot protect or provide for themselves.
This Encyclical is a call for us to do something. Maybe we will protest, like the disciples when Jesus told them to feed the multitude: what can I, one person, do? But if in our little ways we each care and share, if we practice stewardship and solidarity, all created life will flourish.