LAUDATO SI’ FIFTH ANNIVERSARY YEAR: CONTEMPLATION AND COMPASSION – The many different ways in which we are all connected

Robaird O’Cearbhaill

The fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, a year-long observance, has brought focus to how many relevant activities were brought about worldwide by its publication, and reminders of how we should consider the very valuable ideas within.

Perhaps in the words of Niall Leahy writing for the London Jesuit Centre, we should look more simply at how challenging the complex Laudato Si’ is. “Trying to look at the big picture is a difficult task so he helps us along by offering a number of different ways of seeing and understanding the world, e.g. theological, environmental, economic, social, cultural, patterns of daily life, personal dignity. Each of them represents a specific way of connecting people or a different ‘ecology.’ The Pope is therefore helping us to become more conscious of the many different ways in which we are all connected to one another.”

   As Pope Francis wrote in the encyclical: “everything is closely related” and that “today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis.”

   In September the Holy Father focused on the encyclical addressing a delegation which showed how widespread the document’s influence has been: 250 representatives of Laudato Si’ Communities worldwide which are putting in place its values.  There he called for Laudato Si’ Integral Ecology “because we are all creatures and everything in creation is related. Even the pandemic has demonstrated this: the health of humanity cannot be separated from that of the environment in which we live.” The Pope explained that climate change unbalances nature bringing poverty and hunger to the most vulnerable and can push them off their land.

   “The neglect of creation and social injustices influence each other,” the Pope said, stressing, “there is no ecology without equality and there is no equality without ecology.” To address this he proposed to the Laudato Si’ Communities constituents to raise up integral ecology: contemplation and compassion.

On contemplation, the Pope said that instead of turning away from nature for  greed and profit we should stop and contemplate, notice others and creation. Contemplation needs  silence and prayer for harmony between body and mind, thought, feelings and action to go back to the soul, and we can see creation and look at those next to us instead of our phones, the Pope said. Those who contemplate meet God’s gaze and understand how each of us is of value to Him. The results are that there are those who “do not remain with their hands in their pockets but find something tangible to do.”

The Pope also underlined in his address the significance of “compassion.” When we feel others in the eyes of God as brothers and sisters, one family, the Pope said, “His compassion is the opposite of our indifference.”

   We become compassionate when we see with the eyes of God and regard others as brothers and sisters of a single family living in the same house. “His compassion,” the Pope said, “is the opposite of our indifference. Our compassion is the best vaccine against the epidemic of indifference.” With compassion we change from “I don’t care about you” to “you are important to me.”  Compassion links us strongly to the other, as we see in the Good Samaritan who had compassion, takes care of an unknown stranger, Pope Francis said.

   In a conversation on Laudato Si’ and the Integral Ecology with ecological experts and the Bishops of France, also last September, Pope Francis called for humanity, “disturbing degradation” to be converted to ecology. “There will be no new relationship with nature without a new human being, and it is by healing the human heart that one can hope to heal the world from its social and environmental unrest. One thing about ecological conversion is that it makes us see the general harmony, the correlation of everything is related.”

   The Pope said “the issue of ecology is increasingly permeating the ways of thinking at all levels and is beginning to influence political and economic choices, even if much remains to be done and even if we are still witnessing too slow and even backward steps. For its part, the Catholic Church intends to participate fully in the commitment to the protection of the common home.”

   The Church, he said, is not offering all solutions, but “she wants to act concretely where this is possible, and above all she wants to form consciences in order to foster a profound and lasting ecological conversion, which alone can respond to the important challenges we face. The challenge of ecological conversion, Pope Francis, must be met as the Bible teaches us that the world was not created out of chaos or chance, but God’s decision out of His love.

   Christians’s duty, he said, “cannot but respect the work that the Father has entrusted to him, like a garden to cultivate, to protect, to grow according to his potential.” The Pope said also that we will be held to account for our use of nature, adding that when nature is only thought of for profit by actions of the strongest, we lose harmony, and inequalities and injustice happen. 

    On those injustices and connectedness, Pope Francis decried “the same indifference, the same selfishness, the same greed, the same pride, the same claim to be the master and despot of the world that leads human beings, on the one hand, to destroy species and plunder natural resources, on the other, to exploit misery, to abuse the work of women and children, to overturn the laws of the family cell, to no longer respect the right to human life from conception to the natural end.” (Photo: John Bergström-Allen)