The Enchantment of Assisi

Ricardo Simmonds, Environmental Policy Advisor, USCCB

Ricardo Simmonds, Environmental Policy Advisor, USCCB

Thirty years ago in Assisi, on October 27, 1986, Pope John Paul II sponsored a historic meeting among the world’s religious leaders to pray for peace. “On that day I heard the world’s heart-beat,” said a cardinal. To describe the historic event, the Polish Pope coined the term “spirit of Assisi” and the meetings with world religious leaders have been repeated by popes ever since.

Last week it was up to the Pope called Francis, who broke a one-thousand-year tradition in papal nomenclature to honor the saint of Assisi[1], to sponsor the event. The “spirit of Assisi” and its call for ecumenical unity was already evident in the ecological encyclical Laudato si’, named after a canticle pronounced by the Umbrian saint. Humility, simplicity, brotherhood, and care for the poor and for creation have all been hallmarks of the current papacy. In fact, a quick look at the ecclesial landscape of today gives the impression that St. Francis seems as relevant and revolutionary as he was eight hundred years ago when he walked through the forests of Umbria.

Speaking from personal experience, it almost feels like Francis is living and breathing in those forests to this day. This summer I walked the Via Francigena (Franciscan Way) from Rome to Assisi along the very same paths travelled by the saint. From the moment I encountered the first Franciscan shrine on the Via, the monastery called La Foresta (the forest), I felt like I had stepped into an enchanted world. At La Foresta one can kneel in the ancient chapel where Francis prayed and wind down into the cave where he composed the famous Canticle of the Sun, Laudato si’… This enchanted aura persisted for the next ten days as I weaved my way through olive groves and medieval villages all the way to La Verna in Tuscany, where St. Francis received the stigmata.

Perhaps I was so struck by this enchantment because of the contrast with the empty sterility of the world outside[2]. This sense of loss and indifference in the world was the point of Pope Francis’ prophetic address last week at the birthplace of his namesake: “God asks this of us, calling us to confront the great sickness of our time: indifference. It is a virus that paralyzes, rendering us lethargic and insensitive, a disease that eats away at the very heart of religious fervour, giving rise to a new and deeply sad paganism: the paganism of indifference.”

St. Francis, with his life and witness, proposed an antidote to the malaise of indifference. As a young wealthy man, Francis of Assisi was “upset” with the opulence of his time and decided to live a life of simplicity. The Pope suggests that St. Francis associated the indifference to the suffering of the poor with the indifference shown to Jesus himself: it was the love of Christ who was being rejected. The Pope explained: “ ‘Love is not loved’; this reality, according to some accounts, is what upset Saint Francis of Assisi. For love of the suffering Lord, he was not ashamed to cry out and grieve loudly (cf. Fonti Francescane, no. 1413). This same reality must be in our hearts as we contemplate Christ Crucified, he who thirsts for love… Before Christ Crucified, ‘the power and wisdom of God’ (1 Cor 1:24), we Christians are called to contemplate the mystery of Love not loved and to pour out mercy upon the world.”

The key to the enchantment of Assisi is the love that comes from Christ crucified. This is the secret recipe to the grace that flowed from the man of Umbria and enchanted the world around him. Like St. Francis, we are called to do the same: “On the cross, the tree of life, evil was transformed into good; we too, as disciples of the Crucified One, are called to be ‘trees of life’ that absorb the contamination of indifference and restore the pure air of love to the world.” We must be these “trees of life” in a dying world. But concretely, how can this be done?

Pope Francis gave a very specific answer earlier this month: “there is nothing that unites us to God more than an act of mercy…” In this same address which opened the Season of Creation[3] the Pope introduced a new item on the list of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. “So let me propose a complement to the two traditional sets of seven: may the works of mercy also include care for our common home. As a spiritual work of mercy, care for our common home calls for a ‘grateful contemplation of God’s world’ (Laudato Si, 214) which ‘allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us’ (ibid., 85). As a corporal work of mercy, care for our common home requires ‘simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness’ and ‘makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world’ (ibid., 230-31).”

If we want to become “trees of life” in this world, inhaling indifference and exhaling love, we need to unite ourselves to the “Tree of Life”, Jesus Christ.

The small quotidian gestures such as picking up trash, contemplating nature on an afternoon walk, recycling and reusing, enjoying the starlit sky and turning off unnecessary lights can unite us to the gentle reverence of Jesus Christ. This love in action can also lead us to greater awareness of the needs of others and acts of mercy and solidarity towards them.

Like a great Poinciana tree, composed of miniscule leaves that inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, these small acts of love can begin to breathe life into an indifferent world.


Ricardo Simmonds is the Environmental Policy Advisor for the Office of Domestic Social Development, within the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the USCCB.

Going Deeper

Visit the USCCB Environmental Justice Program page.

Check out organizations supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development working for environmental justice.

[1] The last Pope to choose a new papal name was Pope Lando in 913. I am excluding John Paul I who in 1978 chose to honor his two immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI, by combining their names.

[2] The reflection on the disenchantment of modernity is not new, and in the background we can hear the voices of Schiller, Max Weber, Charles Taylor and others who explored the many reasons why life in our secularized modern world can feel stale and empty at times.

[3] The Season of Creation begins on September 1st and ends on October 4th, Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

A prayer for creation

Contemplating the sunrise when we crossed the Tyrolean Alps

Contemplating the sunrise when we crossed the Tyrolean Alps

Let me begin with a little known story about the Pope. When Pope Francis was a young priest in Argentina, he was appointed rector of the Jesuit seminary. One of the first things he did was to convert the seminary grounds into a farm where “students collected honey, milked cows, and cleaned out the pigsty [and] where they often met the rector in his plastic boots.” For young Fr. Bergoglio caring for the farm meant learning humility, being in touch with the poor, feeding the hungry, and finding an ideal space for prayer and contemplation – a place where the word of the Gospel became flesh. One could make the case that the Pope’s encyclical Laudato si’ and integral ecology were already taking shape in his farm experiment. The experiment worked: the seminary boomed and there was a huge increase in vocations.

The idea that Christian prayer must be connected to the created world is also central to Pope Francis’ message for the “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation”, whose one-year anniversary we celebrate today. Quoting Laudato si’ the Pope reminded us that “the life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature” and that Christians are called to a profound “spiritual conversion… whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them.” Doesn’t this sound like something the Pope could be teaching the seminarians at the farm?

More important than the farm itself is the ideal that lies behind it, which has to do with the relationship between prayer and creation. I will call this ideal “prayer in the flesh”, taken from the title of a talk by Fr. Bergoglio. His point was that some Christians are unaware that they suffer from a modern heresy he calls ‘neodocetism’ and that we need to bring prayer to the level of concreteness, to the level of our bodies. We can pray when we touch the hands of a beggar, walk on trails, clean a pigsty, eat with the hungry, milk a cow, look at the sky, etc. Jesus is present in these moments when our flesh engages everyday reality. As in Bergoglio’s farm, care for creation can serve as a locus for us to live ‘a spirituality of the flesh.’

This summer I took this ideal of ‘prayer in the flesh’ and decided to put it into practice. I invited three young men and a guide to undertake a pioneer pilgrimage for the Year of Mercy. In May we left from Rome on foot and walked to Krakow for World Youth Day on July 25th. We walked every day for two-plus months covering over 2000 km (about the distance from Washington, DC to Dallas, TX) along a ‘scenic route’ through Italy, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland. This pilgrimage was certainly an experience of prayer for creation: we prayed together and alone, during the day as we walked and stopped at shrines, during Mass and adoration. But we also prayed in creation: through the beauty of landscapes, incredible churches, and art– and prayed in the flesh: through blisters, injuries, weight loss, sores and muscles, and even the in gratitude for the incredible food.

What did I get out of this experience of ‘prayer in the flesh’? So many things which I cannot fit into a short blog post. But I can share one important lesson I learned: patience. You just have to learn patience on a trip like this because everything just takes so long! It would take about two days by car and two hours by airplane to cover the same distance we walked in two months. Impatience, resentment, complaints, weakness, stoicism, grumbling, and long faces don’t really get you any further any faster. All you can do is put on a good face in the morning and walk your ‘today’ until tomorrow comes. If it rains, you take a break. If it rains all day, you get wet. If you go without dinner, you try to get a big breakfast the next morning. You learn that God is in charge and He doesn’t always give us what we want, but always gives us what we need. And this… requires… patience. A long pilgrimage like this is a masterful lesson in patience that is learned because it is lived in the flesh.

The day I arrived in Krakow I gave a presentation about Laudato si’ and our pilgrimage for the Year of Mercy. I was lucky to have a brief chat with a cardinal, and he asked me only one question: “So what did you learn about mercy?” After bumbling around for an answer a word came forth from the inside: “patience.” Mercy takes patience, the kind of patience of the father who is waiting, for years, for the prodigal son to arrive. “Merciful like the Father” is also “Patient like the Father” – not anxious or stressed waiting, but hopeful waiting. It’s not the impatience of the prodigal son, nor the resentful and fake patience of the older brother. These are not the rhythms of mercy.

This was the lesson I learned through my ‘prayer in the flesh’ and the one God had in store for me. But Jesus has many lessons in store for each one of us. And, we don’t have to go on long journeys to distant places to find them, but only look at the concrete world around us in the circumstances and places we live, and make a decision to do something incarnate with our prayer: celebrating a meal with friends, gardening, spending an evening in the park with the family, cleaning the garage, or going for a walk. These of course must be accompanied by encounters with Jesus Christ at Mass, adoration, confession, biblical reading, prayer groups, etc. But the Pope’s emphasis lies in the invitation for us to bring our prayer into the flesh.

For this second World Day of Prayer for the Care for Creation the Vatican suggests the following prayers. And the Season of Creation we begin today is a wonderful time for us to bring this prayer into our daily lives.

ricardo simmondsRicardo Simmonds is the Environmental Policy Advisor for the Office of Domestic Social Development, within the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the USCCB.

10 Practical Ways You Can Care for Creation

Headshot of young woman with short dark hair, glasses, with striped shirt

Yolanda Park, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Stockton

Here in the Diocese of Stockton, California, we are living out our call to care for God’s creation and God’s people. The Environmental Justice Program of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Stockton sees addressing our concerns about dangerous air quality, responding to our historic drought, and doing our part to fight climate change as essential to caring for the poorest and most vulnerable residents among us. These families contribute the least to environmental damage, but suffer from it the most.

You and your parish can respond to Pope Francis’ Call to Action. Here are 10 practical ways you can protect creation – it will benefit your wallet, your neighbors near and far, and hopefully your spirit as well.

  1. Turn off your engine rather than idling when you are stopped for more than a minute – when dropping kids off at school, waiting for a train, or chatting with the neighbors. This limits the emissions that pollute our air and cause respiratory illnesses like asthma.
  2. Use Fair Trade products to support local artisans and farmers and protect the environment. Learn about Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade and the impact it has on vulnerable communities around the world.
  3. Store food in reusable containers, not plastic wrap or foil, to cut down on your household trash. This kind of waste fills up landfills, litters neighborhoods, and contributes to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
  4. Avoid using Styrofoam at your parish functions. Styrofoam can rarely be recycled, and it takes 500 years to decompose in landfills! If you can’t use “real” dishes, opt instead for recyclable or biodegradable plates, cups, and utensils.
  5. Conserve water by shortening shower time, not letting water run when brushing your teeth or washing your car, and ensuring your sprinklers are watering plants, not the sidewalk or street. Consider landscaping that is drought tolerant or resistant to local pests – you’ll save water and limit use of pesticides.
  6. Recycle bottles, cans, plastic, paper, and old electronics. This can also be a great way to raise money for your parish, youth group, or mission trip. Make sure your electronic recycler does not ship e-waste overseas, where components are often dismantled in unsafe conditions or even by children.
  7. Do a home or parish energy audit. You will be able to identify where you can patch air leaks, switch out light bulbs, or improve insulation. You’ll conserve energy, reduce emissions that contribute to climate change, and save money!
  8. Start a parish or community garden. You will eat healthier and can donate the abundance to a local food pantry. This is especially meaningful if you live or worship in a low-income neighborhood, many of which lack access to fresh, healthy food. Compost the garden waste and you’ll have great nutrients to put back into the soil next year.
  9. Suggest and help organize an environmental awareness day at your parish, especially for the World Day of Prayer for Creation on September 1st, or as part of October’s Respect Life Month.
  10. Ask your elected representatives to support legislation that limits carbon pollution, protects natural resources, supports international efforts to fight climate change, protects environmental health, or promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy.

These actions may seem small compared to the threat of climate change, but Pope Francis reminds us that “many things have to change of course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change.” (Laudato’ Si, 202)

Yolanda Park is Environmental Justice Program Assistant at Catholic Charities, Diocese of Stockton. For more ideas, you can visit their website, follow them on Twitter, or find them on Facebook.


Going Deeper!

Join Pope Francis to care for God’s creation on Sept. 1. Numerous resources for this day are available on the USCCB environmental justice page and the WeAreSaltAndLight.org Laudato Si’ page, including prayers, discussion guides, individual action steps, and more.

CRS Student Ambassadors: Inspired to be Light in the World

young brunette woman in a blue floral dress

Rita Marino, CRS Student Ambassador at Villanova University

In life, it is so easy to turn a blind eye to the plight of others. Perhaps our lives appear too hectic or the issues too large. However, despite distance, race or circumstance, we are all brothers and sisters—part of God’s family. Our everyday decisions impact both the people and the environment around the globe.

It is when we disconnect from the consequences of our actions that the world suffers. It is when we fail to curb our material consumption, ignore the cries of those in pain, and worry only about ourselves, that we fall out of harmony with each other.

July 24, 2016, marked the beginning of a special multiday event where almost 120 students and staff, representing 47 colleges across the nation, united in Baltimore for the Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassador Leaders Together, or SALT, summit.

During the conference, ambassadors and advisors learned more about CRS’ primary concerns for the year—climate change, human trafficking, and migration, while indulging in fair trade coffee, and receiving training to strengthen collegiate chapters.

As a participant in the conference, I cannot shake the feeling of global interconnectedness, after hearing presentations about displaced Syrian families seeking resettlement, farms in Indonesia yielding miniature-sized corn because of climate change, and battered young women being coerced into sex trafficking. I realize just how connected we are as human beings.

In the words of CRS President and CEO Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo, who spoke at the summit, “You are too young to be hopeless.” The world’s problems may appear too big of a hurdle, but it is our responsibility as Catholics—and as human beings—to approach both people and the land with love and respect.

One of the most important aspects of our hope is that although it may exist abstractly in our hearts, it is expressed tangibly in our actions. Ambassadors and staff possess the knowledge and conviction to not only hope for a better world, but also to actualize it. This was demonstrated on the last day of the summit when students met with U.S. senators and representatives to advocate for policies that support solidarity.

On my campus at Villanova University, we are living solidarity through efforts to combat climate change and help Syrian refugees. During the 2015-2016 school year, Villanova Ambassadors collected hundreds of advocacy letters for climate change during the Theology Colloquium, cosponsored the 3rd annual interfaith prayer vigil to benefit Syrian refugees, and organized a “5k run for refugees.” We look forward to seeing how we will incorporate the three issues of climate change, human trafficking, and migration into our work in this coming school year.

Through education, courage and our voices, positive change arises. May the year 2016-2017 school year be filled with strength and love.

Rita Marino is a CRS Student Ambassador at Villanova University. She is a fall 2016 intern for the CRS Northeast and Mid-Atlantic office and a blogger for the CRS University blog.

The Catholic Relief Services SALT Summit brought together college and university student leaders and advisors July 24–26 to learn how to organize and engage their campuses to work for global solidarity through CRS. Watch this video from Catholic News Service to learn more about their efforts:

Through the CRS Student Ambassador program, CRS trains chapters of student leaders to mobilize their peers and bring to life the mission of global solidarity on campus.

The Beginning of the End of Poverty on the Pine Ridge Reservation

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, (the first Native American Saint and patroness of ecology and the environment). Let us be thankful this day of all life that springs forth from Mother Earth and how the Creator continually provides that we may live. May we desire to imitate St Kateri’s desire to love God above all things.

I had the good fortune of attending the recent groundbreaking ceremony for Thunder Valley Development Corporation. The valley was filled with the heartbeat of a Nation as Lakota drums echoed in harmony and singers sang traditional Lakota songs and each person in attendance turned a shovel of dirt from Mother Earth to commemorate this historic event. The event was hosted at the thirty-nine acre site located north of Sharps Corner in South Dakota. The festivities initiated the birth of a regenerative, self-sustaining and self-sufficient community located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Ultimately, the site will feature single family and multifamily residences, a youth shelter, childcare facility, and commercial and industrial buildings as well as community gardens and a school that teaches the Lakota language, history, and culture.

Hundreds of people attended the event from across the Nation and the State of South Dakota, but none were more excited and hopeful than the hundreds of Oglala Lakota youth and families that came to be a part of this historic event from across the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Mission of Thunder is “to empower Lakota youth and families to improve the health, culture, and environment of all communities, through healing and the strengthening of cultural identity”.

Once completed, Thunder Valley will serve as a model community throughout Indian Country for other community development initiatives. It reflects a modern community that utilizes green technology, modern energy efficient building practices, and incorporates the Lakota culture and intrinsic values into its original scope of work.

When the houses are completed, there is already a system in place that offers families financial incentives and financing for their first home. The plan was very well thought out. It is not a government program that gives people houses rather it is a program that is designed to assist people into home ownership and help them maintain and take care of their home. You can already witness the pride that people have just talking about the Thunder Valley Community.

Thunder Valley Development Corporation is one of many organizations supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). The organizations selected for funding by CCHD are evaluated locally and nationally before the proposals are submitted to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for final approval. The activities of the organization are being watched by many tribes and community development organizations throughout the United States. The development process and goals of the organization are exemplary and other places will want to replicate many of the facets involved in the development of Thunder Valley.

Nick Tilsen, Executive Director of Thunder Valley, said in his closing remarks; “Today is the beginning of the end of poverty on the Pine Ridge Reservation.”

A twelve-minute video was developed to showcase the development of Thunder Valley.  Please check out the video.

Let us pray for the success of the model community at Thunder Valley and the work among the staff and all involved.

Deacon Marlon Leneaugh is Director of Native Ministry for the Diocese of Rapid City South Dakota and serves as the local CCHD representative. He is an enrolled tribal member of the Sicangu Lakota Tribe and has been an ordained deacon for nearly 24 years.


Going Deeper

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for July 2016 is to respect indigenous cultures and traditions. Watch the video and reflect.

Visit the webpage of the USCCB Subcommittee on Native American Affairs to find out more and access relevant resources.  Visit CCHD’s Map to find out how CCHD works to empower persons in low-income communities around the country.

10 Ways You Can Celebrate Earth Day!

three women extend their armfulls of green leaves with white text: "Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone." (93) #LaudatoSi Photo from Jennifer Hardy, CRSEarth Day (April 22)  is the perfect time to help Catholics in your area respond to Pope Francis’ call to “be ‘protectors’ of creation”!

Here are ten ways you can celebrate Earth Day!

1. Get Catholic Climate Covenant’s free, downloadable Earth Day 2016 Program Guide.

2. Watch the video on Care for God’s Creation from the Catholic Social Teaching 101 video series by Catholic Relief Servics and USCCB.

3. With family or friends, pray this Laudato Si’ prayer in English  and Spanish.

4. Use these resources for liturgy and preaching on the Sunday before or after Earth Day to call attention to our role in caring for God’s creation.

preschool children at a Catholic school use a watering can to water seedlings as they learn about Care for creation

5. Learn how local community organizations, including those funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, are addressing environmental issues. Join their efforts!

6. Gather with a group of friends and reflect on Laudato Si’ using USCCB’s discussion guide in English and Spanish.

bright and colorful covers of two illustrated children's books "Green Street Park" and "Drop by Drop" with URL loyolapress.com/twofeetoflove7. Gift Green Street Park or Drop by Drop to your parish’s religious education program or school.  Both of these children’s books are about kids caring for creation.

8. Get inspired by what others are doing to Act Together to care for creation.

Pope Francis carries his crosier held together with a splint and tape as he arrives in procession to celebrate Mass at Kosevo stadium in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, June 6. The photo is accompanied by white text: "We are not faced with two separate crises, one envronmental and the other social, but one rather complex crisis which is both social and environmental." Laudato Si #139 (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

9. Share this Laudato Si’ bullet insert, in English and Spanish, in your parish.

10. Advocate! Participate in this current action alert.

 

How will you celebrate Earth Day? Let us know in the comments below.

¿Cómo podemos responder al llamado del papa Francisco a cuidar de nuestra casa común?

La Cuaresma, la intención de oración del papa Francisco y las lecciones de su viaje a México

Justamente este mes en su video de intención de oración, el papa Francisco pidió a la gente de todo el mundo que “cuidemos de la creación” y de nuestra casa común. Hizo hincapié en que tanto “[c]reyentes y no creyentes estamos de acuerdo en que la tierra es una herencia común, cuyos frutos deben beneficiar a todos”. Él nos llama a reconocer “[l]a relación entre la pobreza y la fragilidad del planeta”.

Durante su visita a México la semana pasada, el papa Francisco dio testimonio de los efectos de la exclusión social, económica y ambiental al poner a los marginados —migrantes, presos, trabajadores y pueblos indígenas— en el centro de su viaje. A través de su visita a Chiapas el papa envió un poderoso mensaje. Allí se alzó en solidaridad con la población indígena del país, que viene resistiéndose cada vez más a los abusos a los derechos humanos y ambientales.

En una santa Misa con representantes de las comunidades indígenas de Chiapas, el papa Francisco exclamó que no podemos ignorar el clamor de la Creación, diciendo que “entre los pobres más abandonados y maltratados, está nuestra oprimida y devastada tierra”.

En su homilía en Chiapas, el papa Francisco dijo:

Esta hermana clama por el daño que le provocamos a causa del uso irresponsable y del abuso de los bienes que Dios ha puesto en ella. Hemos crecido pensando que éramos sus propietarios y dominadores, autorizados a expoliarla. La violencia que hay en el corazón humano, herido por el pecado, también se manifiesta en los síntomas de enfermedad que advertimos en el suelo, en el agua, en el aire y en los seres vivientes. Por eso, entre los pobres más abandonados y maltratados, está nuestra oprimida y devastada tierra, que “gime y sufre dolores de parto” (Rm 8,22)” (Laudato si’, 2). El desafío ambiental que vivimos, y sus raíces humanas, nos impactan a todos (cf. Laudato si’, 14) y nos interpelan. Ya no podemos hacernos los sordos frente a una de las mayores crisis ambientales de la historia.

A la luz de las crisis ambientales que enfrentamos y el clamor de la Creación y los pobres, el papa Francisco reitera su llamado a que examinemos el camino que estamos recorriendo y que hagamos un examen de conciencia: “Qué bien nos haría a todos hacer un examen de conciencia y aprender a decir: ¡Perdón!, ¡perdón, hermanos! El mundo de hoy, despojado por la cultura del descarte, los necesita”.

Si miramos alrededor, vemos muchos signos de esta “cultura del descarte”, que se deshace de cosas y personas como “sobrantes”, ya sean las personas sin hogar que viven en nuestras calles, los trabajadores que producen bienes de consumo baratos por salarios ínfimos en las maquilas de Juárez, o los pueblos indígenas que han sido desplazados de sus tierras o las han visto contaminadas por otros “mareados por el poder, el dinero y las leyes del mercado”.

El papa Francisco, durante este periodo de Cuaresma, nos llama a examinar nuestros pasos y el camino actual que estamos recorriendo, para rechazar una “cultura del descarte” y abrazar una cultura de solidaridad y encuentro.

El papa Francisco llama a la Iglesia y al mundo a reconocer la urgencia de nuestros desafíos ambientales y sumarse a él en embarcarse en un nuevo camino. Como dijo el papa Francisco durante su visita a nuestra nación, “Ahora es el tiempo de acciones valientes y de estrategias para implementar una ‘cultura del cuidado’ y una ‘aproximación integral para combatir la pobreza, para devolver la dignidad a los excluidos y simultáneamente para cuidar la naturaleza’”.

Como individuos, podemos adoptar medidas importantes para responder al llamado del papa Francisco de cuidar nuestra casa común examinando nuestro estilo de vida, reduciendo nuestro consumo y siendo conscientes de nuestras opciones. También podemos contribuir a una escala más amplia a un cambio duradero trabajando activamente dentro de nuestras comunidades para abordar los desafíos ambientales en nuestros barrios, pueblos y ciudades, y promoviendo políticas ambientales que protejan a los pobres y vulnerables en nuestro país y en todo el mundo.

¿Cómo responderá usted al llamado del papa Francisco a cuidar de nuestra casa común?

Francisco nos recuerda que “[n]o hay que pensar que esos esfuerzos no van a cambiar el mundo. Esas acciones derraman un bien en la sociedad que siempre produce frutos más allá de lo que se pueda constatar, porque provocan en el seno de esta tierra un bien que siempre tiende a difundirse” (Laudato si’, 212).

Profundice:

  • ¿Existe una organización comunitaria local a la que pueda unirse (o crear) para promover el bien común y construir una ecología integral? Para encontrar un grupo de la CCHD, busque en el sitio web PobrezaUSA. Eche un vistazo a las Historias de esperanza para informarse de cómo organizaciones apoyadas por la Campaña Católica para el Desarrollo Humano están trabajando por la justicia ambiental.
  • Y para empezar la conversación en su parroquia o comunidad local, mire la guía de discusión y otros recursos educativos sobre la encíclica en el sitio web del Programa de Justicia Ambiental de la USCCB.
  • Infórmese de cómo las comunidades católicas en todos los Estados Unidos, incluyendo parroquias, diócesis, escuelas y comunidades religiosas, están cuidando de la creación, en WeAreSaltAndLight.org.
  • ¡Apoye el llamado del papa Francisco a cuidar de nuestra casa común! Diga a sus senadores que cuiden de la creación ayudando a organizaciones sin fines de lucro a hacer mejoras necesarias en la eficiencia energética y protegiendo un estándar nacional de carbono.
  • Adopte la Promesa de San Francisco de cuidar de la Creación y de los pobres. Se trata de una promesa y un compromiso de personas, familias, parroquias y organizaciones católicas de vivir nuestra fe cuidando de la creación de Dios y de los más vulnerables.

ceciliaCecilia Calvo es la coordinadora del Programa de Justicia Ambiental de la USCCB en el Departamento de Justicia, Paz y Desarrollo Humano de la USCCB.

How Can We Respond to Pope Francis’ Call to Care for Our Common Home?

Lent, Pope Francis’ prayer intention and lessons from his trip to Mexico

Just this month in his prayer intention video Pope Francis asked people around the world to “take good care of creation” and to care for our common home. He emphasized, both “[b]elievers and unbelievers agree that the earth is a common heritage, the fruits of which should benefit everyone.” He calls us to recognize “[t]he relationship between poverty and the fragility of the planet.”

During Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico last week he gave testimony to the effects of social, economic, and environmental exclusion by putting those on the margins — migrants, prisoners, workers and indigenous peoples — at the center of his trip. Through his visit to Chiapas the pope sent a powerful message. There he stood in solidarity with the country’s indigenous population, who has increasingly withstood environmental and human rights abuses.

In a holy Mass with representatives of the indigenous communities of Chiapas, Pope Francis exclaimed, we cannot ignore the cries of Creation, the poor and the earth who “is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.”

In his homily in Chiapas, Pope Francis said:

This sister 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. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rom 8:22)” (Laudato Si’, 2). The environmental challenge that we are experiencing, and its human causes, affects us all (cf. Laudato Si’, 14) and demands our response. We can no longer remain silent before one of the greatest environmental crises in world history.

In light of the environmental crises we face and the cries of Creation and the poor, Pope Francis reiterates his call for us to examine the path we are traveling on and to examine our conscience: “How worthwhile it would be for each of us to examine our conscience and learn to say, “‘forgive me!’, ‘forgive me, brothers and sisters!’ Today’s world, ravaged as it is by a throwaway culture, needs you!”

If we look around, we see many signs of this “throwaway culture,” which discards things and people as “leftovers,” whether it is the homeless who live on our streets, the workers who produce cheap consumer goods for abysmal wages in the maquilas in Juárez, or the indigenous peoples who have been displaced from their lands or seen them contaminated by others “intoxicated by power, money and market trends.”

Pope Francis, during this period of Lent, call us to examine our steps and the current path we are traveling on, to reject a “throwaway culture,” and to embrace a culture of solidarity and encounter.

Francis calls the Church and the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges and to join him in embarking on a new path. As Pope Francis said during his visit to our nation, “Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a ‘culture of care’ and ‘an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.'”

As individuals, we can take important steps to answer Pope Francis’ call to care for our common home by examining our lifestyles, reducing our consumption, and being conscious of our choices. We can also contribute on a broader scale to lasting change by working actively within our communities to address environmental challenges in our neighborhoods, towns and cities, and advocating for environmental policies that protect the poor and vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

How will you respond to Pope Francis’ call to care for our common home?

Francis reminds us that “[w]e must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unbeknown to us, for they call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread” (Laudato Si’, 212).

Go deeper:

  • Is there a local community organization you can join (or create) to promote the common good and build an integral ecology? To find a CCHD group, look on Poverty USA’s website. Check out the Stories of Hope to learn how organizations supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development are working for environmental justice.
  • And to start the conversation in your parish or local community, look at the discussion guide, and other educational resources on the encyclical on the USCCB Environmental Justice Program website.
  • Learn how Catholic communities around the United States, including parishes, dioceses, schools, and religious communities, are caring for creation, at WeAreSaltAndLight.org.
  • Support Pope Francis’ call to care for our common home! Tell your Senators to care for creation by helping nonprofits make needed energy-efficiency improvements and protecting a national carbon standard.
  • Take the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor. The Pledge is a promise and a commitment by Catholic individuals, families, parishes and organizations to live our faith by caring for God’s Creation and the most vulnerable.
Cecilia Calvo, USCCB

Cecilia Calvo, USCCB

Cecilia Calvo is the coordinator of the USCCB Environmental Justice Program at the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

 


¿Cómo podemos responder al llamado del papa Francisco a cuidar de nuestra casa común? La Cuaresma, la intención de oración del papa Francisco y las lecciones de su viaje a México

Justamente este mes en su video de intención de oración, el papa Francisco pidió a la gente de todo el mundo que “cuidemos de la creación” y de nuestra casa común. Hizo hincapié en que tanto “[c]reyentes y no creyentes estamos de acuerdo en que la tierra es una herencia común, cuyos frutos deben beneficiar a todos”. Él nos llama a reconocer “[l]a relación entre la pobreza y la fragilidad del planeta”.

Durante su visita a México la semana pasada, el papa Francisco dio testimonio de los efectos de la exclusión social, económica y ambiental al poner a los marginados —migrantes, presos, trabajadores y pueblos indígenas— en el centro de su viaje. A través de su visita a Chiapas el papa envió un poderoso mensaje. Allí se alzó en solidaridad con la población indígena del país, que viene resistiéndose cada vez más a los abusos a los derechos humanos y ambientales.

En una santa Misa con representantes de las comunidades indígenas de Chiapas, el papa Francisco exclamó que no podemos ignorar el clamor de la Creación, diciendo que “entre los pobres más abandonados y maltratados, está nuestra oprimida y devastada tierra”.

En su homilía en Chiapas, el papa Francisco dijo:

Esta hermana clama por el daño que le provocamos a causa del uso irresponsable y del abuso de los bienes que Dios ha puesto en ella. Hemos crecido pensando que éramos sus propietarios y dominadores, autorizados a expoliarla. La violencia que hay en el corazón humano, herido por el pecado, también se manifiesta en los síntomas de enfermedad que advertimos en el suelo, en el agua, en el aire y en los seres vivientes. Por eso, entre los pobres más abandonados y maltratados, está nuestra oprimida y devastada tierra, que “gime y sufre dolores de parto” (Rm 8,22)” (Laudato si’, 2). El desafío ambiental que vivimos, y sus raíces humanas, nos impactan a todos (cf. Laudato si’, 14) y nos interpelan. Ya no podemos hacernos los sordos frente a una de las mayores crisis ambientales de la historia.

A la luz de las crisis ambientales que enfrentamos y el clamor de la Creación y los pobres, el papa Francisco reitera su llamado a que examinemos el camino que estamos recorriendo y que hagamos un examen de conciencia: “Qué bien nos haría a todos hacer un examen de conciencia y aprender a decir: ¡Perdón!, ¡perdón, hermanos! El mundo de hoy, despojado por la cultura del descarte, los necesita”.

Si miramos alrededor, vemos muchos signos de esta “cultura del descarte”, que se deshace de cosas y personas como “sobrantes”, ya sean las personas sin hogar que viven en nuestras calles, los trabajadores que producen bienes de consumo baratos por salarios ínfimos en las maquilas de Juárez, o los pueblos indígenas que han sido desplazados de sus tierras o las han visto contaminadas por otros “mareados por el poder, el dinero y las leyes del mercado”.

El papa Francisco, durante este periodo de Cuaresma, nos llama a examinar nuestros pasos y el camino actual que estamos recorriendo, para rechazar una “cultura del descarte” y abrazar una cultura de solidaridad y encuentro.

El papa Francisco llama a la Iglesia y al mundo a reconocer la urgencia de nuestros desafíos ambientales y sumarse a él en embarcarse en un nuevo camino. Como dijo el papa Francisco durante su visita a nuestra nación, “Ahora es el tiempo de acciones valientes y de estrategias para implementar una ‘cultura del cuidado’ y una ‘aproximación integral para combatir la pobreza, para devolver la dignidad a los excluidos y simultáneamente para cuidar la naturaleza’”.

Como individuos, podemos adoptar medidas importantes para responder al llamado del papa Francisco de cuidar nuestra casa común examinando nuestro estilo de vida, reduciendo nuestro consumo y siendo conscientes de nuestras opciones. También podemos contribuir a una escala más amplia a un cambio duradero trabajando activamente dentro de nuestras comunidades para abordar los desafíos ambientales en nuestros barrios, pueblos y ciudades, y promoviendo políticas ambientales que protejan a los pobres y vulnerables en nuestro país y en todo el mundo.

¿Cómo responderá usted al llamado del papa Francisco a cuidar de nuestra casa común?

Francisco nos recuerda que “[n]o hay que pensar que esos esfuerzos no van a cambiar el mundo. Esas acciones derraman un bien en la sociedad que siempre produce frutos más allá de lo que se pueda constatar, porque provocan en el seno de esta tierra un bien que siempre tiende a difundirse” (Laudato si’, 212).

 

Profundice:

  • ¿Existe una organización comunitaria local a la que pueda unirse (o crear) para promover el bien común y construir una ecología integral? Para encontrar un grupo de la CCHD, busque en el sitio web PobrezaUSA. Eche un vistazo a las Historias de esperanza para informarse de cómo organizaciones apoyadas por la Campaña Católica para el Desarrollo Humano están trabajando por la justicia ambiental.
  • Y para empezar la conversación en su parroquia o comunidad local, mire la guía de discusión y otros recursos educativos sobre la encíclica en el sitio web del Programa de Justicia Ambiental de la USCCB.
  • Infórmese de cómo las comunidades católicas en todos los Estados Unidos, incluyendo parroquias, diócesis, escuelas y comunidades religiosas, están cuidando de la creación, en WeAreSaltAndLight.org.
  • ¡Apoye el llamado del papa Francisco a cuidar de nuestra casa común! Diga a sus senadores que cuiden de la creación ayudando a organizaciones sin fines de lucro a hacer mejoras necesarias en la eficiencia energética y protegiendo un estándar nacional de carbono.
  • Adopte la Promesa de San Francisco de cuidar de la Creación y de los pobres. Se trata de una promesa y un compromiso de personas, familias, parroquias y organizaciones católicas de vivir nuestra fe cuidando de la creación de Dios y de los más vulnerables.

Cecilia Calvo es la coordinadora del Programa de Justicia Ambiental de la USCCB en el Departamento de Justicia, Paz y Desarrollo Humano de la USCCB.

Pope Francis’ Messages to Africa

Pope Francis visited three African nations November 25-30 (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters, June 6, 2015)

Pope Francis visited three African nations November 25-30, 2015 (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters, June 6, 2015)

“Passing to the other side” – the theme of the Holy Father’s recent Apostolic Visit to Africa – references the crossing of the sea when Jesus calms the storm and calls on his disciples to faith. This image is poignant for a continent that many see either poised for a leap ahead to a new “African Century,” or doomed to continued stagnation caused by conflict, bad governance, and environmental degradation. Pope Francis offered the people of Africa calm guidance in a stormy time.

1. “May you always be concerned for the needs of the poor…”

Throughout his three-country visit, he reminded political and religious leaders that the way of Jesus is to serve those who are poor and marginalized. Pope Francis made this point in the middle of the slum of Kangemi, a place where 150,000 people live in tin shacks with no access to clean water nor proper sewage facilities.  He quoted an African proverb, “there is always room for one more seat at the table” to illustrate the wisdom of the poor, but he condemned poverty and exclusion as “…wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries.”“A highlight of my visit will be my meetings with young people…”

Africa is the youngest continent in the world. In 2010, 70% of Africans were below the age of 30. The Holy Father reminded leaders that, “[t]o protect [youth], to invest in them and to offer them a helping hand, is the best way we can ensure a future worthy of the wisdom and spiritual values dear to their elders….” He called leaders to feed the aspiration of the youth for a more peaceful and just society.

2. “Corruption is something which creeps in. It’s like sugar: it’s sweet, we like it, it goes down easily. And then? We get sick!”

Pope Francis addressed the problem of corruption in Africa in response to a question from a Kenyan girl, “Can corruption be justified simply because everyone is involved in wrongdoing, everyone is corrupt?”

Pope Francis replied, “Corruption is not the way to life. It is a path which leads to death.” He added that it steals a person’s joy and harms those living in poverty. It also robs society of peace.

3. “There is a clear link between the protection of nature and the building of a just and equitable social order.”

In his first speech in Africa the Holy Father said, “We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to future generations, and an obligation to exercise a just stewardship of the gifts we have received. These values are deeply rooted in the African soul.” The Pope cited an African proverb that says that we don’t inherit land from our ancestors, but rather borrow it from our children and are responsible for passing it on in better shape than we found it.

This message is so important to Africa, a continent that is rich in natural resources, but mired in poverty.

4. “Passing to the other side, in the civil sense, means leaving behind war, divisions and poverty, and choosing peace, reconciliation, development.”

The theme, ‘Passing to the other side’ was most prominent in the final leg of Pope Francis’ visit to CAR, a country that is desperately struggling to emerge from a bloody two-year conflict.  In a gesture that raised this peripheral country to the world’s attention, Pope Francis opened the Jubilee Year of Mercy doors to the Cathedral in Bangui and announced that, “Today Bangui becomes the spiritual capital of the world. The Holy Year of Mercy comes in advance to this land. A land that has suffered for many years as a result of war, hatred, misunderstanding, and the lack of peace. But in this suffering land there are also all the countries that are experiencing the Cross of war”.

5. “Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury”

Pope Francis stressed the need for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue throughout his visit. In Uganda, he along with Anglican and Catholic bishops prayed at the monument of the holy martyrs where in the late 1880’s 45 Catholic and Anglican men and women were killed for their faith.  He noted that “[e]cumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury. It is … essential, something which our world, wounded by conflict and division, increasingly needs.”

The Holy Father spent even more time discussing interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims, especially in Kenya and the CAR where violent conflict has been perpetrated in the name of faith. At the central mosque in Bangui, CAR he stated that, “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters….”

 

On the plane home, the Holy Father told a team of journalists: “Africa is a martyr. She is a martyr to exploitation in history. Those who say that from Africa come all calamities and all wars do not understand well, perhaps, the damage that certain forms of development do to humanity. And it is for this reason that I love Africa….”

 

Hilbert headshotSteve Hilbert is a policy advisor on Africa for the Office of International Justice and Peace at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Five Simple Ways to Thank Food Producers

vegetables-752153_1920As Thanksgiving approaches, I hope you are anticipating time with family and friends, or at least, some way to celebrate your gratitude for God’s many blessings in your life.  It is good that our nation has the wisdom to set aside a day to give thanks to God for his many blessings, as a nation, as families, or as individuals.

Among the many things for which we are most grateful are freedom, family, health, faith, and, especially on this feast of Thanksgiving, food!  In a world where hunger is a daily struggle for many, it is particularly important for us to reflect upon our many blessings.  

Thanksgiving has been a time to give thanks for another year’s harvest, and for a stable and safe food system in our country. Perhaps we could look a little deeper behind the food that we will enjoy this Thanksgiving and reflect upon the many men and women who work to put that food on our table.

Here, I am thinking of the many farmers, ranchers, growers, and field laborers who produce our food. For while we are certainly thankful for their tireless work, the circumstances in which many of our food producers labor don’t always reflect this gratitude: migrant farm workers are sometimes exploited by their employers, exposed to demeaning and harmful conditions and paid less than a livable wage; small family farmers are threatened by powerful economic pressures and are often forced to give up their way of life for the sake of “efficiency” and consumerism; and beginning farmers, those who wish to dedicate themselves to producing for others, are often faced with near-insurmountable obstacles when getting started.

This Thanksgiving, perhaps we can take the time to pray for all of them, particularly those laborers who suffer unjust working conditions.  And perhaps we may be moved beyond gratitude to some practical actions that could bring about a more just food system.

Here are five suggestions:

1. Buy local. The best way to support food producers, especially ones with smaller operations, is to do so directly with your dollars. Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program or become a member of a local food co-op. Or, use a directory like Local Harvest to identify food producers in your area and make a visit!

2. Volunteer. There are a lot of organizations out there working for a more just food system, and they need your help. Check out volunteer opportunities with groups like Food Tank, Migrant Worker Justice, and the National Young Farmers Coalition.

3. Communicate with policymakers. There are some great initiatives seeking justice in our food system, but they won’t go anywhere if our policymakers don’t know they have public backing. If you want to see a food system that’s more supportive of food producers and protects the dignity of farm workers, tell your elected officials.

4. Support dedicated organizations. Groups like Catholic Rural Life are dedicated to applying Catholic social teaching to issues in agriculture. Consider supporting their good work by making a donation.

5. Spread the word! Many people are simply unaware of the need for justice in our food system. Help change that by spreading the word via social media about the importance of being grateful for and supportive of our food producers (You can start by sharing this post!)Bishop-Etienne-291

God bless you and your loved ones this Thanksgiving!

 

Bishop Paul D. Etienne is the bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyo., and the president of Catholic Rural Life.