“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years.”
–Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter on Ecology,
“Laudato Si” (Praised Be)
As we approach the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si, we re-post this piece that originally appeared in 2015 for your reflection. May we recommit ourselves to caring for the gift of our earth. For the full text of the encyclical, click here.
The following are excerpts from Laudato Si, prepared by the Catholic Climate Covenant, in Washington, DC., and published on June 18, 2015.
This sister [our common home] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.
The earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.
The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.
Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.
Policy and Political Leadership
There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.
The establishment of a legal framework, which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems, has become indispensable, before the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm overwhelm not only our politics but freedom and justice as well.
A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water.
International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good. Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility.
Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention.
True statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good.)
What is needed is a politics which is farsighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis.
Reality of the Problem and Necessity to Act
Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.
Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.
It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent.
Calls to Action
Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.
Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.
Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.
Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening in the world into our own personal suffering and thus discover what each of us can do about it.
Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.
We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively and replaced without delay.
Truly, much can be done!
Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change.
A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.
By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH
I just came across a new book* that invites the reader to imagine one’s prayer space as an inner chapel where God speaks to each of us personally. Pondering this as Mother’s Day approached, my mind was flooded with images from the infancy narratives described in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. In my imagination, I beheld scenes of the Incarnation…Visitation… trip to Bethlehem…Jesus’s birth… Flight into Egypt—and all of this Mary held in her heart. She must have had a great heart to accept what God was asking of her during some perilous times. That would require a large inner chapel!
During this global pandemic with its dangers and upheavals, mothers are asked to accept, and to do, quite a lot. Perhaps you are working from home while home schooling your children, looking after elderly relatives or neighbors, trying to keep some sense of normalcy for your family. Whatever your own situation is, what do you need from God or from Mary during these days? What do you wish to ask of them?
If you can, find a quiet time and place to pray, perhaps before the rest of the family is up or after they’ve gone to bed. Bring your hopes, fears, concerns, and questions to Mary, or Jesus, or other person of the Trinity. Talk with them as you would to a good friend. Then, just sit quietly and notice what you are feeling. Perhaps jot down your thoughts in a journal. Start with a 10 minute prayer period if you can, and increase the prayer time later, if circumstances allow.
Be assured that the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart are holding you in our prayers. We give thanks for all mothers…all women who have shared life and love with us. We pray for God’s abundant blessings on you and your families this Mother’s Day and every day.
*“The Inner Chapel: Embracing the Promises of God” by Becky Eldredge. Available at Loyola Press.
By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min
During this Easter season we, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, send you prayers and blessings for you and your family. Here we are, like the apostles, in our “upper rooms” -many of us since mid-March until today – and most likely for a while longer. How much longer, Lord?
How often the apostles left that room during those 40 days from Good Friday night to Pentecost, is not so important. They were in the Upper Room pondering and wondering what had happened, how it happened and why it happened. How the journey with Jesus ended was not what they imagined and hoped for? In the Upper Room, they waited, carried on conversations, tried to strategically plan for what to do next. Jesus left no clear strategic plan that they understood with their imperfect, partial or inadequate faith. I am sure they tried to support one another as one or the other began to flounder into worry, distress, or darkness. I like to imagine Mary, the Mother of Jesus, holding her own amongst them as ‘mother’ soothing their fears. Her faith was strong enough to carry them into the events they were about to encounter in the coming 40 days.
The Upper Room soon became an encounter with the Risen Jesus Christ. The closure did not prevent the ‘light of the world’ to seep through into their presence. When Jesus suddenly appeared he understood their hearts. He first says to them: “Peace be with you. Do not be afraid. It is I.” How unbelievable those moments must have been. Were their minds and eyes tricking them? Could it be he was there in their midst? I try to ponder what their diverse emotions were.
The Upper Room was to become the ‘place’ – a ‘sacred place’ where the apostles were to enter a new missionary formation experience. Here they were being tested and strengthened with a new or deeper faith and hope for the task ahead of them. Jesus had promised his Spirit would come to them. The Upper Room experience was a maturing period for each one to reimagine their vocation/ mission.
Perhaps, as we are in our “upper rooms” (homes), this is what is being asked of us. Jesus says to us today: “Peace be with you. Do not be afraid. I am here. It is I!” Let us rest our minds and hearts in/on the Risen Jesus. Let us keep our focus clear for our mission. Let us not falter. May these be days of new religious imagination, courage, compassion, and service to all those we are called to serve in a COVID-19 milieu.
By Sr. Elizabeth Langmead
President, Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart
We hope in God who frees us from the burden and illusion that we are control. Hope in God who calls us out of darkness into Light – into the knowledge that we are God’s and there is so much more to the story than we, in our limited vision can see.
The Light of Christ risen from the dead dispels the darkness and brings peace. Just as on the evening of that first Easter when the disciples gathered in a room, isolated, grieving and fearful, Christ offers us the gift of hope, the gift of peace. We hear Jesus invite us to give Him our despair, for we have been promised Light – the Light that shines in the darkness and will not be extinguished.
The Christian symbol for hope is an anchor, and the cross is our anchor. Amidst the storm we ground ourselves in the hope of new life. For us, the cross is not a symbol of defeat, no, it is a symbol of the triumph of God’s love over death. By the cross of Christ, we have been saved and nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God. Jesus is risen and walks with us.
We hope together and like any friend, God desires our happiness. More than any friend, God accompanies us in our sorrow. God will never leave us to face our fears alone. We can rest in God who will never abandon us. God who gifts us with God’s own Spirit of hope, a hope that resounds in the words of the poet, Emily Dickinson:
“Hope is the thing with feathers –
that perches in the soul –
and sings the tune without the words –
and never stops – at all -”
It is hope, ‘the thing with feathers,’ the anchor upon which we lean and are grounded, that gives us assurance of the unsurpassable, inexhaustible love and goodness of God who brings new life from death. God who gives hope amid tragedy and loss. It is God who is both the meaning of our hope and the way to attain it, who summons us and calls us by name. Hope marks us with resilience, trust, confidence, and perseverance. Hope gifts us with ways in which to live boldly in the unwavering conviction that Paul proclaims in Romans: “If God is for us who or what can be against us?… nothing can separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:31, 39 italics added)
How then does Hope change us? How are we to be People of Hope? How are we to be Resurrection – to be Justice – to be Compassion?
We thank each of you dear friends for your witness of hope especially during this global pandemic. We hold you in our hearts and prayer this Easter season like no other we’ve known. Let us stand together in Light and Hope sustained by our faith — an Easter people.
By Sr. Clare Walsh, MHSH
We are confined, masked, distanced as health care workers offer themselves so others may live, while essential workers help to carry the cross thus making the way less burdensome. Neighbors being neighborly, looking out for the most vulnerable. A Holy Week where we “keep watch”.
This is an anxious time, “a night different from all other nights”. Questions arise from deep inside our being. Throughout scripture, Jesus posed questions to engage us, perhaps none with more urgency than those questions asked during his passion and death.
His questions probe, drawing from life as it emerges, and looking for a response hidden within us. The questions of Jesus are where prayer has always been valid. The initiative is always His. The graced response is ours. In his questions, Jesus holds us within his gaze.
We cannot use Holy Week to escape COVID19…this global pandemic calls us to solidarity as we share suffering with our sisters and brothers around the world.
Jesus’s deepest desire is to be in relationship with us.
Would you want to spend some time these days allowing Jesus to lovingly ask you the questions he voiced in the darkest of times?
Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?
Do you know what I have done for you?
And, what shall I say?
Father, save me from this hour?
Whom are you looking for?
Shall I not drink the Cup given to me by my Father?
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
God Bless us all these holy and frightening days. We wait in faith-filled Hope.
By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D. Min.
Several years ago, while in Assisi, Italy with my University of Dayton students, I encountered the Stations of the Cross Rosary, or Chaplet, as it is to be called. We were waiting to enter the Carceri (St. Francis’ Hermitage in the mountains above Assisi). There on the side of the road was a stand vending religious articles. There, on the mountain, I discovered the beautiful Chaplet that has become central to my daily prayer particularly during Covid-19.
Covid-19 is preventing us from being physically present for our Catholic Services and particularly our Lenten Traditional Stations of the Cross. I remember when growing up that no one in the parish ever missed 7:30 Friday evening Stations Devotion during Lent. The entire parish was present. This Lenten Catholic Tradition was woven into the fabric of our Catholic spiritual lives.
Today, more than ever, the Stations or Way of the Cross prophetically speak to us as we listen or view daily news. We are experiencing a living Way of the Cross in the lives of millions of people around the world. It is imperative now for us to daily embrace afresh journeying the Way of the Cross as a means of daily connecting with and supporting one another.
During the 2000 Jubilee Pope John Paul II guided us through a moving Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum for Good Friday. It can be found with this link: http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/2000/apr-jun/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20000421_via-crucis.html
I treasure praying the Stations of the Cross Chaplet each day as a way toward connecting spiritually with all who are experiencing effects from Covid-19, related illnesses, suffering from angst, distress, ambiguity, despair, and death of loved ones in their lives. Each one of us is journeying through our own personal difficulty brought on by Covid-19. Yet, together, especially during this Holy Week, while we are isolated in our own personal spaces, we can spiritually reach out supporting one another along each of our Way of the Crosses with Jesus by our side.
For how to pray the Stations of the Cross Chaplet, click on this link:
Throughout this Holy Week, we invite all to join our Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart family united in prayer for recovery and end of Covid-19. Our Sisters hold each of you in prayer.
By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH
Know any Christmas-y songs about St. Joseph? No? Well, I know only one, and I cherish it because it’s midrash-like: it goes behind the scene, and evokes a rich line of thought (one of the purposes of midrash).
Actually, the scene is set after Christmas, when Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus are fleeing to Egypt to evade Herod’s soldiers, coming to execute all baby boys who could pose a threat to Herod’s power (think “the Holy Innocents”, whom we celebrated a couple of days after Christmas, bringing us back with a thud from all the holiday sweetness and light).
It’s one long trek to Egypt by foot and donkey, so the family takes a break when Mary sees a cherry tree up ahead. Some juicy cherries sound wonderful to her, so the song reports her request of Joseph to pick some for her.
Snarkily, Joseph replies, “Let the father of the baby pick cherries for you.” Wow! Was he ruminating during that whole long trip over Mary’s pregnancy- without-his-involvement, and the resultant upending of all their happy plans together? (Unexpected pregnancies and other life-altering events have been known to make good, even saintly, people snarky and then some!).
There’s no record of Mary’s reply – perhaps she was stunned to silence by her spouse’s uncharacteristic testiness. But someone else does reply: that “father of the baby” causes the cherry tree to bend down far enough for Mary to pick her own cherries!
I suspect the stunned silence shifted to Joseph, who had to rejoice in such an emphatic affirmation of the baby boy’s true origin, putting to rest all Joseph’s anger, hurt and bitterness.
Of course, “The Cherry Tree Carol” is made up: there’s no mention of cherries in the scriptures, as far as I know. But in the department of “be careful what you wish for”, could this be any better a response?
So many conversations could grow from this rich, imaginative carol! What could you say to Joseph? To Mary? Even to baby Jesus?
By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min.
Recently I inherited a Crown of Thorns plant. The truth of the matter is no one wanted it. Out of partial neglect over recent years, it simply developed spidery wild projections of thorny branches with little to no signs of life. It only irritated your skin if you moved too near and touched it.
No family member wanted to discard the plant because it had been the favorite plant of their mother’s while she had been alive. Yet, no one took the time to care for it. It had become an annoyance because the plant was perceived as lacking beauty. It simply had become a lifeless plant. Each time I visited the family I commented on the care for the plant. I felt the plant simply entered a state of hibernation.
One day when I returned home from the University the Crown of Thorns plant was positioned at my front door. The family was moving. Because of my affirmation of the plant over the years, I inherited it. It remained at my front door for a few days. Did I really want to bring it into my apartment, care for it, continue to believe that life surged deep within it?
Yes. I took the time to study further how to care for my Crown of Thorns plant. I offered it the best light in my apartment by my study balcony window, proceeded to fertilizer, and water it according to the instructions, misting it occasionally; and, oh, yes, talking to it every day. In less than two weeks I observed the first showings of tiny green leaves emerge from the spidery branches. Within two months the plant radiated a headdress of bushy emerald leaves. Now I am waiting for its lush pink flowers to fill in the green headdress. Yes, life hibernated within it over the recent years. If you believe, you will see and discover the hidden beauty within and around you.
Frequently I find myself meditating on my plant during morning prayer as the morning sun streams through the window cuddling the plant. I imagine myself composing a parable centered on my Crown of Thorns experience. I discover parallels with spiritual life stories my University students share between classes, or while meeting them walking across campus. I patiently listen to their angst concerning the emptiness, dryness, fruitlessness they may be experiencing in their spiritual lives. “I am empty of any feelings toward God. Has God abandoned me?” “Where is God now in my life?” “Where can I experience God’s life igniting a fire within me?” “Why do some of my friends feel God’s closeness and love and I am so empty, lifeless?”
I found that sharing the encounter with my Crown of Thorns plant sparks a meaningful dialogue on nurturing our spiritual life. Just as a life force may have appeared to be depleted for a few years in my plant, with a little bit of care and attention the life force emerged with splendor. We may feel dryness, emptiness, a loss of life and meaning at certain moments in our lives. We are called to believe in the beauty and richness of a Divine Life Force/Energy (God) which may appear hidden but is present within us. God does not abandon us. We need only pay attention. God’s Divine Energy is constantly flowing within, through and around us. We need only be patient. We need to lean deeply into the Divine Life Force surging within us even in our bleakest hours. I encourage my students in such moments to pause and become mindful of God’s unconditional ceaseless love for them. Or, by contemplating or imagining the Divine Force surging within affirming, comforting and radiating God’s unconditional love flowing through every fiber of their being.
PS: Called “Euphorbia”, the Crown of Thorns is one of the few succulents with real leaves – thick, fleshy, and tear-shaped. The leaves appear on stems that are armed with sharp, inch-long spines. The plant gets its common name from the legend that the thorny crown worn by Jesus at his crucifixion was made from this plant.
By Sr. Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH
The call is the motivating force that beckons us forward, no matter the doubts and fears. We are called to keep moving with the forces of the times as they change around us. We must trust that we are being led and are being called to lead. We must not give into our fears or false beliefs about who and what we are or what we can or cannot do. There is a force within us that guides and protects us no matter the unjust systems we confront in life.
We have been called from the beginning of time to be the birthing force of change in our world. We must not let apathy pin us to our seats but move onward, trusting even when the path forward isn’t clear.
The history of so many people who believed in Christ is full of accounts of humanity being moved to change. These peoples followed the guidance and prompting of God and courageously risked their very lives to see changes in vast systems of belief.
We are women who are meant to be unconstrained by the belief systems passed down by others. Instead, we must stand tall as we walk like Christ into a sinful world seeking, like Christ, transformation for all God’s peoples.