Put Out into the Deep

The Lessons of Laudato Si’

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

May 24th marked the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on the environment entitled Laudato Si’. Remember, Laudato Si’ are the words of the prayer of Saint Francis composed to praise all creation. Our Holy Father clearly said that “We are the custodians of God’s creation,” and that is why the moral content of his encyclical is so important.

The Church’s teaching on the environment is one based on human ecology. It is not a scientific analysis of the current situation, but it gives us the moral principles on which we must judge our care for the earth and for one another.

As the earth continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the encyclical’s message is just as prophetic today as it was in 2015, because it reminds us of our interconnectedness. The lessons of the encyclical are relevant to this current situation because we realize that we are interconnected and interdependent. COVID-19 showed us how deeply connected we are to one another and how an epidemic in one country can spread throughout the whole world to become a pandemic.

Our responsibility for the earth and one another is a constant theme that Laudato Si’ gives us. Laudato Si’ also offers us a vision for building a more just and sustainable world. We see that right now, the whole world is hurting. We see, too, that the earth is hurting because we have not taken care of God’s creation as we should have.

COVID-19 forced us to stay inside and not go out. As a result, we conserved energy. With fewer cars on the road, pollution has gone down. We can see the blue skies and the nighttime stars a bit more vividly. All of this is because of a temporary reduction in greenhouse emissions during the coronavirus lockdown. It is important that we realize that little steps can make a big difference when it comes to saving the environment and making the world a better place.

The cover of the English edition of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’, On Care For Our Common Home.” The encyclical was released at the Vatican on June, 18, 2015. (Photo: CNS/Courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)

In our own diocese, we try to be good stewards. We invest responsibly in companies that are environmentally sound and do not pollute the environment or, in any way, exploit it. At the same time, we must be more sensitive to the world around us. Each one of us has a responsibility to make the world a better place as we leave it for those who will come after us. It is so important that we recognize our personal responsibility.

Pope Francis speaks to each one of us personally. He gives us great lessons, as he will only ride in small cars; and does not use more of the resources of this earth than he really needs.

Another important lesson we learn from this pandemic is that this global emergency has deeply affected the poor and the most vulnerable, especially the elderly. We recognize that those who are most fragile seem to experience the worst effects of the virus, and the social injustices that underly the stratification of our societies.

We need to make more of an effort to unify ourselves so that we can find real solutions to the present problems that the environment and our society present. It is so gratifying to see the efforts being made during this pandemic to feed those who are unable to feed themselves, either due to illness or lack of resources.

The present crisis gives us an opportunity to make sure the world, after this crisis, is more sustainable and more just than before. The coronavirus experience will leave a deep mark on our society and our history well into the future. In many ways, this does coincide with the ecological crisis that we find.

Laudato Si’ was a big step into the deep waters of the environment that surrounds us. Our Holy Father has called us to be good stewards and custodians of the earth and all that it offers us. We give thanks for this world and its Creator, and we must accept this responsibility of being the best custodians of what God has given us.

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