LAUDATO SI’: A Community Conversation - Chapter Two

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laudato_si_conversation

Today, we continue our community conversation on Pope Francis’s newly released encyclical On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’). For instructions on how to participate, an overview of the chapters, and information on how to download or purchase the encyclical, visit the Laudato Si’ landing page here at CatholicMom.com. ! Lisa Hendey

Chapter Two: The Gospel of Creation

Today, Claire Dwyer and Cindy Costello reflect upon Chapter Two.

Claire Dwyer:

In Chapter two Pope Francis brings us back to the very beginning: Who we are, who we are in relation to the rest of creation, and what we were created for.

God created the world and everything in it lovingly and deliberately, the Pope reminds us. (77). He recounts that while each creature has a “particular goodness” (69), each in a sacramental sense manifesting some aspect of God, man is the high point of the creation account, given a special dignity by being endowed with the very image and likeness of God. Indeed, he says, anyone devoted to defending human dignity “can find in the Christian faith the deepest reasons for this commitment.” (65)

However, man, in choosing sin, caused disorder to enter the world: disorder with his relationship with God, with each other, and with the world itself. (66) No part of creation has been untouched by the disaster of original sin. Ultimately, all of the imbalances we face, including ecological ones, are the result of sin.

Man lost his sense of place in creation, and of his relationship to God. On one extreme, nature itself came to be seen as divine. (78) However, while nature reflects God, it is not God. Creation is separate from its Creator, “there is an infinite distance between God and the things of this world.” (88) On the other extreme, nature is trampled on and man dominates and abuses that which is entrusted to him to “till and keep”. (67)

But the most grievous crime against creation is man’s sin to man. As the highest point of creation, justice calls us to prioritize people over the rest of the created world. “At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure. Certainly, we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst…” (90) One thinks of course of poverty, a theme which the Pope repeats like a refrain throughout the encyclical. The poor are the first to suffer the ecological injustices.

But because of the innate dignity of the human person, murder, especially of those most innocent and vulnerable, is by far the most heinous violation of our mission to care for creation: “It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted.” (91)

Yet we are not without hope. The seeds of redemption were planted even at the fall.

We, along with the rest of creation, are on a trajectory toward a new heavens – and a new earth – where sin and death will be no more, thanks to the saving power of Christ. (83,100)

Read Claire Dwyer’s bio and columns at CatholicMom.com

Cindy Costello:

Dr. Peter Kreeft writes in, Socrates Meets Jesus: History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ, “The medievals loved to say that God wrote two books: nature and Scripture.”

In chapter two of Pope Francis’ latest encyclical Laudato Si, the Holy Father links God’s two books together, proving this harmony of word. Using Scripture as his foundation, He reminds us that God Our Father is Creator of nature, and that love is the “fundamental moving force in all created things.” (75). Contrasting the cultural definition of nature as a system to be “studied, understood and controlled” (76), with the broader meaning of creation which is seen as a gift, Pope Francis condemns “unbridled exploitation of nature”. (67) God certainly does grant dominion to human persons made in His image and likeness (Gen 1:28), but he also makes it clear that we must remember “we are not God.” (67)

Secondly, Pope Francis finds the link that is present between all creatures. We learn that God wills the interdependence of creatures, to the extent of their being in the service of the other. We are “all of us linked by unseen bonds….that form a sublime communion.” (89) Humans especially, the Holy Father says, transcend all other creatures in the way they are made to serve each other, never objectify each other, and sustain each other by never favoring or excluding anyone. “Creation exists only in dependence to complete each other”, he says. (86) We see this especially in the beautiful complementarity of all that God creates, especially in the male and female persons called the communion in love.

A final connection drawn by the Holy Father in this chapter is that of the link between creation and redemption. The God who has the power to create the universe out of nothing, is the same God who has the power to save us from sin! (73-74) He did this in Christ, who through suffering, created us anew. How mysteriously joyful it is to understand that even our own sufferings are creative artwork birthed in an effort to make something beautiful and new.

Who holds all links together and directs them to their end? Christ! He is the Word through whom was made the universe and our Savior sent to redeem us. (Eucharistic Prayer II). Our ultimate destiny is the fullness of God in Christ. To the extent that our lives are intimately linked to His and are linked in a communion of love with others and with careful service of all of creation, we are led back to our Creator.

Read Cindy Costello’s bio and columns at CatholicMom.com

Questions to Ponder:

We invite you to share your thoughts in the comment box below

  1. Where in your life do you see disorder due to sin, either in your relationship to created goods, other people, or God? Do you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit who “can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, including the most complex and inscrutable?” (80)
  2. Where in our culture do we see evidence of giving a disordered priority to lesser creation, animals and plants, or the earth itself, over humanity? How can we help counterbalance this tendency?
  3. We may be familiar with reading God’s Word in Scripture. How can we read God’s Word in creation? Are we open to the mystery of His Presence in all things and persons?
  4. Do I recognize that creation, and its continual unfolding, is intimately connected to the work of redemption in Christ? Do I see myself as participating in that connection which creates something beautiful?

Next week, we will read and reflect upon Chapter Three of Laudato Si’. For more information on this conversation, visit our Laudato Si’ landing page.

Copyright 2015 Claire Dwyer and Cindy Costello

Image credit: Bessi, Pixabay, Public domain

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About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

7 Comments

  1. I really appreciate the clear explanation of Pope Francis’s connection between creation and redemption. It seems that so many of us have forgotten this very rudimentary understanding of theology. For me, respecting creation means I am a good steward of ALL God has given me – my food, my home and property, my body, my finances, etc. It means I care for myself AND the Earth, no matter where I am, because as Pope Francis states, “the Earth is our common home.” I’ve always known this intuitively, so that’s how I’ve tried to live.

    • Jeannie,
      Thanks for that great reminder- that all is truly a gift from God. Pope Francis really does close the gap. We are part of creation, and there’s great order and harmony to it all! We are moving toward the new heavens and the new earth- all in God’s plan of salvation. Being a good steward as you say, is being part of that process. It’s really all so exciting!

      • John Bratton on

        I have heard some people argue that because we are just passing through this fallen earth on our way to heaven, and also that it will be destroyed at the end of time, so there is no reason to take especially good care of it. Secondly, I have heard Christians say that it is more important and urgent to evangelize than to spend time working to protect animals and restore habitats. I think there is some truth in these statements, but that they are actually false dichotomies. We are not really forced to make such choices, but rather to follow God’s leading day by day, and even hour by hour.

  2. “God wrote two books: nature and Scripture”–I love that! Also, “The poor are the first to suffer the ecological injustices,” and of course the strange and disordered mindset by some that unwanted and vulnerable human beings are not as worthy of protection as the animals–both such important things to remember.

    I know for myself, in my own life, I often choose the comfortable option over the uncomfortable-but-planet-friendly option, even while harboring a real interest in more natural living and admiration for those who do so. And I love babies and I embrace NFP but often forget that there’s more to respecting ourselves and others and the world. Pope Francis has provided such a good reminder of all of these things! Thank you both for your insights!

  3. Tom Saltsman on

    Q: “How can we read God’s Word in creation? Are we open to the mystery of His Presence in all things and persons?”

    A: This is a great question. My short answer? “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

    My long answer? In my own life, I have looked for the face of Christ in all God’s creation, especially in those around me. It’s not always easy to find, especially in the kind of people that most badly need to read this encyclical. Yet even those with the most hardened hearts can feed us some truth that we badly need to hear. This unending search for Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in God’s creation and in humanity will humble our hearts. It will help us to see our enemies in a different light. It will strengthen our prayer life.

    When we have truly fallen in love with Christ above and beyond all the foolish “wisdom” proffered by Satan through his strident voices in the world, constantly campaigning for sin, the love of Christ in our hearts will leap for joy in Our Father’s Creation and in the good hearts and deeds of those around us. For me, such large and little discoveries throughout the day are another way to worship my Lord and to praise Him.

    It also needs to be said that this search will fail me if it is not nourished by Word and Sacrament because those badly needed things act as guides against my own foolish inclinations.

  4. I’m a little late in the game, but Chapter Two is so insightful. Like Claire said, it brings us back to the beginning. I really appreciate Pope Francis’ Scripture study that reminds us that God created everything out of love. He eloquently explains the importance of caring for ALL of creation.

    He recognizes the fact that humanity has the highest level of worth and that we have great responsibility to care for each other (first) and our surroundings (next). The ordering of creatures is such common sense, and it is reenforced in the Pope’s writings. I guess I’ve never fully understood how someone could value the life of an animal over the life of a human; how he could want to save the trees but discard a soul. “We have only one heart,” Pope Francis reminds us. “Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity'” (92). Caring for humanity and caring for nature go hand in hand.

    Pope Francis reminds us that we are not God, and that our “fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of direction, developing and limiting our power” (78). I think this is so key, for this day and age!

    And he gives us hope! “All it takes is one good person to restore hope” (71). I cannot get over how timely Pope Francis’ encyclical is, in light of the current events that are unfolding right before our eyes. This encyclical is giving me hope, for sure!

  5. There are times I feel very frustrated with those who seem more concerned with the climate or the welfare of animal life than with human life. This encyclical is helping me to see that perhaps I have more in common with those people than I previously thought. I believe we are all instilled with a desire to love and serve God, whether we realize it or not. Maybe for some, this desire for their Creator has primarily taken form in their concern for His animal and plant life. While this is a bit disordered and mis-prioritized, a concern for all that our Creator has blessed us with would be a common thread for maintaining dialogue, and hopefully bringing about a realization of the supreme dignity of human life. Sometimes we have to meet people where they’re at, and Pope Francis’ thoughts offer ample opportunity to do that!

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