By Sister Caryn Crook
Last week, Pope Francis released his long-awaited encyclical on the environment. I thought it was amazing. It was so steeped in Franciscanism that it seemed to me the spirit of St. Francis entered our Holy Father and wrote the document himself.
More than 800 years ago, St. Francis kneeled before the cross in the small church of St. Damiano. There he received his mission: “Francis, go rebuild my church for you see it is falling into ruin.” In his encyclical, Pope Francis tells us that “Our common home is falling into serious disrepair” and tells us what we — every man, woman and child on the earth — must do to save it. It also seems to me that Pope Francis speaks directly to the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities regarding our mission and directional statements; he has outlined how we as a congregation are to implement them to address the issues plaguing our world today.
Rooted in the Gospel we are sisters to all; serving with reverence, justice and compassion. Rooted in the Gospel and energized by the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare, we seek to be women of vision living in right relationship with God, one another and all creation.
Being rooted in the Gospel means caring for creation. From Genesis to Revelations, care for creation is the foundation of our relationships. We demonstrate our right relationship with God by reverencing what God has created, is creating and will continue to create. To live in right relationship with others is to share the gifts of creation by living simply so that others may simply live. Our congregation’s ministries address the Gospel mandate to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and heal the sick. To this we add: preserving our ecosystems, because they are interconnected. As Pope Francis states, “an analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban context, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment.” (#141)
The encyclical gives concrete ways we are to respond to ecological crises and therefore, more fully address world-wide human right issues. Pope Francis repeatedly speaks of dialogue. True dialogue involves the global community; it requires active listening skills. He calls us to conserve energy, decrease fossil fuel use and increase development and use of renewable energy. Pope Francis calls us to support current and future world summits on the environment such as the upcoming summit on climate change in Paris, France this fall. The biggest challenge Pope Francis has for us is that we change our lifestyles. First we need to adjust our attitudes. Indifference, nonchalant resignation, or denying that climate change exists keeps us from acting. We need an ecological conversion of heart, mind and soul which “entails gratitude and gratuitousness, recognition that the world is God’s loving gift, and that we are called quietly to imitate his generosity in self-sacrifice and good works.” (#220) We are to let go of compulsive consumerism and embrace living simply.
Can we do all this? What will you do? What I am going to do? I pray that our answer is “Yes Lord, Here I am. I come to do your will.”
Faith in Action
Ask your member of Congress to read Pope Francis’ encyclical and put aside any political or scientific argument, recognizing we all have a part to play in caring for Mother Earth.