…not just the natural environment, but also the human environment. The Church’s social teaching, he says, “is called to be enriched by taking up new challenges”
“Laudato si’, mi Signore, cum tucte le Tue creature” introduces a recurring theme in St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun, one of the first — if not the first — works of literature in the Italian language. Translated, it means, “Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures.”
Pope Francis takes up this theme as well in his newly released encyclical, named, he explains, for these words in St. Francis’ poem of praise: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.” It is the earth, our “common home,” that St. Francis addresses in this stanza, and it is this same earth to which the saint’s papal namesake wishes to direct our attention.
But it is much more than just the planet that Francis discusses in the pages of Laudato Si’. It is, in fact, the children of the Father who inhabit the earth who receive his primary attention. “‘The book of nature is one and indivisible,’” he says, quoting his predecessor Benedict XVI, “and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, and so forth. It follows that ‘the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence.’ ”
Quotes from Laudato Si’
The social dimensions of global change include the effects of technological innovations on employment, social exclusion, an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services, social breakdown, increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, and the loss of identity… the silent rupture of the bonds of integration and social cohesion.
On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views. But we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair.
The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin.
The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and “the first principle of the whole ethical and social order.”
A Christian Prayer in Union with Creation forms the last section of the encyclical, and concludes with:
…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.