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.

New skills helped me engage my community on Laudato Si’

Valeria Fuentes

Valeria Fuentes

Last week, the Social Action Summer Institute took place in Chicago.  Last summer, I received a grant as an alumnus of the CCHD internship program, to attend the 2015 institute, held in Portland, Oregon. It was an amazing experience which helped me to develop new knowledge of Catholic social teaching, and new skills in education and advocacy.

When I returned from SASI, I worked, under the guidance of CCHD in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, to educate Latinos in Baltimore about Pope Francis’ encyclical on Laudato Si’, help them apply those teachings in their daily lives, and learn how they can advocate for environmental justice in their communities.

Because of these opportunities, I am now working on climate justice in Maryland with an organization that focuses on helping Latinos become more involved in environmental advocacy. I am working in my own Baltimore community to arrange informal house meetings and workshops called cafecitos, where Latino families and youth learn how to use their voices to protect and care for the environment. Through this work, I believe that I can help give a voice to those who often think they do not have a voice.

Valeria Fuentes is a former intern with CCHD and  Catholic Relief Services. She is a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she also works as student program manager for the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Development.


Going Deeper 

Find out more about the CCHD Intern Program, which has provided leadership and training for over 350 emerging leaders to date.

¿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.

The Blessings, Challenges, and Opportunities of Rural Ministry

Bryce Evans, Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity

Bryce Evans, Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity

This past August, seminarians from the third year theology class at the Saint Paul Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota gathered for a week-long class on Catholic ministry in rural settings.  The course was led by Mr. Jim Ennis, national director of Catholic Rural Life, and Dr. Christopher Thompson, academic dean and professor of Moral Theology at the Saint Paul Seminary. PresentationFs on Catholic Rural Life included reflections from clergy engaged in rural ministry, discussion of Pope’s latest encyclical on the care of creation, and tours of local farms owned and operated by Catholic parishioners.

The week afforded us a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon a much-overlooked aspect of contemporary Catholic life: the unique blessings and challenges of rural ministry, along with the powerful opportunities it presents for evangelization and cultural renewal.

These can be easy to forget in an age in which the population is ever more concentrated in urban communities. Often this is at the expense of depleted rural communities, which, in the face of smaller family sizes and economic pressures, have survived in many places only through a more and more industrialized farming practice.  This is not to say that there are not yet many vibrant small communities to be found across our country. There surely are. But it can be easy for the Church today to focus its attention on “where the people are” as the primary place for the gospel to “confront the culture.” In doing so, we can neglect and underestimate the possibilities of “smaller places.”

There is a power in growing things, as there is a power in places that daily confront us with God’s handiwork in these growing things. Such places can teach us basic lessons and values that can easily get overshadowed in cityscapes, dominated as these are by what Pope Francis calls the “technocratic paradigm” and the illusion that human industry is the source of all things. The country, by contrast, confronts us with life, unplanned and unmanaged abundance, a force and a power in things that precedes all human invention. It connects us to the Creator, and helps people to find their place in the great symphony of created things.

In short, field and air, plant and animal have a knack for opening people up to God, far better than steel and concrete.

One of the matters discussed during the course of our week was the risk that even this place of opening might be effectively closed-up through the industrialization of farming and the simultaneous squeezing out of once vibrant communities. But this risk carries with it an opportunity to become a primary place for the re-assertion of basic human values, values that our society is in grave danger of forgetting.

If symphonies and galleries forget beauty, universities truth, and governments goodness, perhaps it is here, through the pulpit, altar, celebration, and discipleship of the rural parish, that we can witness the re-birth of culture (always necessary) through the re-integration of worship, community, and the tilling of the land.  It is no coincidence that culture and cultivation share the same word as their root (cult is Latin for worship).

For this seminarian, the biggest take-away from our week of considering the realities of rural Catholic life was excitement at the possibilities latent in such a ministry. A rural ministry demands great imagination and investment, but at the same time promises great yield.

As one of our presenters suggested to us in class, perhaps the best place to plant the seeds of the new evangelization is the place where seeds are planted in the dirt. As Our Lord put it: the fields are ripe for the harvest.

 

Bryce Evans is a third year seminarian at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, studying for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis.

Pope Francis: “Do unto Others” Has Global Implications

photograph of Bishop Oscar Cantu

Most Reverend Oscar Cantú, Bishop of Las Cruces

Pope Francis has now returned to Vatican City, but we remain inspired and moved to action by his words and actions during his visit to the U.S. and the U.N.

As Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, I would like to recall some of his powerful international challenges to our nation and world in his own words.

To the U.S. Congress

On Immigrants and Refugees

“We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners.”

“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War.”

Immigrants “travel north in search of a better life…for their loved ones. Is this not what we want for our own children?”

On Global Poverty

“How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty!”

“Now is the time for…combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” Continue reading