Eight years ago, Pope Francis released his second encyclical with the aim of uniting the Catholic world towards a common purpose. His literary proclamation, published by the Vatican in 2015, is titled: Laudato Si’: One Care for Our Common Home. It approaches environmental issues with a keen eye and a kind heart, deftly calling everyone to their roles as stewards of the Earth. And recommending that we assume our role together.
The term “Laudato Si’” means “Praise be to you.” It was written by the Pope’s own papal namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. But the Saint’s hymn doesn’t end with “my Lord.” In his Canticle of the Creatures, St. Francis of Assisi originally wrote, “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.”
Mother Earth, whose reverence is celebrated annually on Earth Day (April 22nd), is the one that “sustains and governs us,” according to St. Francis’ rhythmic hymn. It is not the other way around. The extraction of fossil fuels and the waste that modern lives carelessly produce indicate that far too many people still deny the harmful effects—effects that impact the health of our environment and society.
Thus, eight years ago, the Pope saw a need for guidance and togetherness. He developed the Laudato Si’ Action Platform—based off his encyclical—to guide Catholic-religious in their stewardship to the planet. Concrete action steps comprise the Platform, as does the promotion of a new kind of environmentalism called integral ecology.
Integral ecology does not forgo the social aspects of environmentalism. It is a practice that seeks to heal wounds of the poor and sees impoverishment as inescapably related to the climate crisis. In all, it views the healing of the Earth as a holistic endeavor which will serve to solve interpersonal difficulties as well as ecological ones.
Communities are working together. Since its invention, The Laudato Si’ Action Platform has been adopted by the global Catholic community. It is in this spirit of unity that The Pope and the Vatican announced its fourth annual Laudato Si’ Week, which will run from April 21st to to April 28th.
Laudato Si’ Week is meant to salute the progress that Catholic communities have made thus far in their Action Platform pledges, and to remind us of the work that remains. An eight-day event commemorating the ongoing, eight year-effort, it is heralded by a motto taken straight from Pope Francis’ writing: “Bringing the human family together to protect our common home” (LS 13).
Let us remember the Earth, lest she no longer sits beneath our feet. Come Earth Day on April 22nd, remember your own, personal commitment. In other words: what elements of the Action Platform can you pledge yourself to? What habits can we all change, both in our workplaces and at home?
And reach out to Caritas Vehicle Services if you feel there is a need in your community, such as adding hybrid or electric vehicles to your fleet to reduce your community’s carbon footprint.
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There is always something we can do to help the Earth. But our efforts must be consistent, integrated, and led by God’s Love (Caritas).