by Laudato Si’ Movement | Sep 7, 2021 | Blog, News and Updates | 0 comments
Below is the September Laudato Si’ Encounter. This spiritual resource is produced monthly for Laudato Si’ Animators, Laudato Si’ Circles, and everyday Catholics to use and help them grow closer to our Creator. Have an idea for the resource? Let us know in the comments below.
“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (LS 13).
This month, during the Season of Creation, Christians worldwide will be uniting around the theme, “A home for all? Renewing the Oikos of God.”
Oikos is the Greek word for “home,” or “household.” By rooting our theme in the concept of oikos, we celebrate the integral web of relationships that sustain the well-being of the Earth.
This year’s symbol, Abraham’s tent, signifies our commitment to safeguard a place for all who share our common home, just as Abraham did in the Book of Genesis.
You’re encouraged to place Abraham’s tent in a local garden as a sign of hospitality for the excluded. Communities are invited to pray with and for the most vulnerable in their community.
The tent can also be present in liturgies or events throughout the Season of Creation as a symbol of the community’s intention to create a home for all.
We hope that this Season of Creation renews our baptismal call to care and sustain this ecological turning so that life may flourish, and all creatures may find their place to flourish in our common home.
By Suzana MoreiraLaudato Si’ Movement Theological Consultant
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off… And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off… And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” (Mark 9:42-43, 45, 47).
“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” (LS 2).
How could we possibly get rid of body parts and not have grave consequences to our health?
Instead of looking into the literal meaning of these words in the Gospel of Mark, we must find in between the lines what God reveals for our deeper conversion and commitment to a life of missionary discipleship. Jesus’ words are a harsh reminder that we cannot be flexible to sinful ways.
Drawing from this radical call that we must cut off and pluck out whatever strays us from the path of love and justice, we may approach Jesus’ teachings reflecting about how it speaks to the ecological sins we still commit today. What must we get rid of in our lives to avoid the grave consequences to the health of our common home?
If our hands cause us to sin by avoiding labor and looking for easy-to-cook foods, heavy cleaning products, unnecessary technologies, and animal-tested cosmetic products, it is better we cut off the laziness of our hands and look for healthier foods, natural cleaning and cosmetic products, and avoid buying technologies we do not need.
For it is better to work hard with our hands to cook what we need and to use non-harmful products than to cause human labor exploitation, animal exploitation, and force our common home to fall deeper into the pollution due to those industries that supply our lazy needs.
If our feet cause us to sin by using the fastest transportation at all times, with no regards to the type of fuel being used, it is better to cut off the indolence and prioritize walking, using a bicycle, an electric car, carpooling, or public transportation.
For it is better to spend more time getting to places or investing more money in a different type of car that is more sustainable, than to cause our common home to grow increasingly warmer due to our transportation carbon footprint.
If our eyes cause us to sin by not looking at where our trash goes once it leaves our sight, thinking that when we “take out” the trash it is no longer our responsibility, it is better to pluck out our indifference and recognize that nothing is ever thrown “out,” but simply placed in a different part of our common home.
For it is better to research waste management in our neighborhoods and recycling and composting options, than to cause our common home “to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” (LS 21).
For us to be missionary disciples of Christ in a world being degraded by our lifestyles, we must recognize our ecological sins and help one another in this ecological conversion to guarantee a healthier planet, which in turn is what can sustain healthier people.
In this path of ecological conversion through which we seek to follow God’s call to care for creation, we must recognize as well those who are also “driving out demons” (Mark 9:38) in the name of a healthier planet.
All around the globe there are grassroots movements, private and public initiatives, non-governmental organizations, international companies, and political endeavors seeking to build the same path we are working on for a more just, clean and sustainable future.
To all of these individuals and groups outside the Church whom we find on this common path, Jesus says “whoever is not against us is for us” (Mk 9:40).
Let us go forth together, cutting off and plucking out our ecological sins, and building a cleaner and healthier common home.
2. Are there environmental initiatives in my neighborhood that I can take part in?
Pedernales, Ecuador, 2018
If we want to address the climate crisis, we must first protect the oceans. Today it is difficult to enact sustainable fishing laws, but humanity cannot live on this planet with a dead sea.
“God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement” (LS 89).
Hoheria populnea, the lacebark tree I planted 20 years ago.Photo and text by Richard Woods, O.P.Laudato Si’ Movement Theological Consultant
It is not always easy to trust in God, but it is most important to do so when it is hardest to. Jesus trusted God to the end of his life, even in the darkest moments of betrayal and abandonment. He showed us the way. That way lies Resurrection and Life.
And that’s where the lacebark tree enters. Each flower is a little miracle. All together they are a stunning triumph of life, a sacrament of hope, and a repudiation of death.
Flowers developed on Earth only when insects and other animals appeared that could see – and see in color. They are meant to be seen and smelled and loved. Floral gardens, but wildflowers too, perhaps especially, are the closest we can get to understanding the Court of Heaven. That may be why the Bible begins and ends in a garden. Jesus rose to new life in a garden.
I am reminded of a passage in Nikos Kazantzakis’ great book, Report to Greco,“I said to the almond tree,‘Sister, speak to me of God.’And the almond tree blossomed.”
By Linda Mercedes ZablahLaudato Si’ Animator, Honduras
I remember that when I was a little girl I liked to go out to the garden and sing to the birds, the flowers, the trees, thanking God for his beautiful Creation.
My childhood was very simple. I would climb mango and avocado trees, and play with my brother to make earthen cakes. I would roll around in the grass, spinning on the little hill there, and I always loved to be in the garden when it rained.
The mission to care for our creation began 27 years ago, in 1994, when I was finishing my junior year in high school. By then, I was already aware that the Planet was going through environmental problems.
I remember that one very special night, I was listening to instrumental music from the Lion King movie. And as if it was a movie, I could visualize a beautiful forest, full of beautiful flowers, a river, and many birds and animals.
Suddenly, the instrumental music was changing, and I could hear everything abruptly. I imagined how men and machines came in and began to cut down the trees, leaving everything in flames, sad, desolate, black.
The melody continued and I could imagine how in that place a little girl arrived, and in the middle of so much darkness, she cried and cried. At that moment God spoke to her and gave her hope, and she began to clean the place and to plant, and she saw how the trees grew again.
She was happy, very happy, and the whole community started planting and taking care of the forests, recycling paper, and motivating others to take care of the trees and creation. Tears were rolling down my face. From that night on, I was never the same. The Lord planted in me a strong calling to not only dream, but to begin to act.
Photos courtesy of Linda Mercedes Zablah
I knocked on the door of Scott Paper Company, now Kimberly Clark, and asked to speak to the manager to help me implement a paper recycling program at school, since students and teachers were throwing all of the paper and notebooks in the dumpsters.
In Honduras, there were no recycling programs of any kind. They supported us and created the first recycling program in San Pedro Sula. At school I founded the recycling club and we made posters to raise awareness, made from reused paper on the back, and we painted them.
We made a beautiful play for Earth Day, with the same instrumental music from the Lion King and whatever came to my imagination on that special night when God called me.
Among the activities we did to encourage care for our planet: I gave messages over the school loudspeaker every morning, calling for a change of lifestyle, saving paper, reusing it and eventually recycling it. We also took field trips to Scott Paper Company to see the recycling process and encourage the children, and we marched around the city on La Patria Day with banners alluding to caring for creation and a T-shirt with the recycling club logo.
After a year of running the recycling program, I talked to the mayor and we invited all the principals of the public and private schools to a talk to motivate them to start recycling in their schools. In 1995, many schools adopted the paper recycling program, and thank God, some of them still continue with the program. They also recycle other types of waste that are handled in the country.
I graduated high school and went to study in Statesboro, Georgia, USA. I was very happy because there they recycled and it was easier for me to separate the waste, learning that other types of waste could be recycled, something I had not seen in my country. Then I returned to Honduras in 2000 to work with my father and recycled everything that could be recycled in the city. I was always aware of how to reduce, reuse, and finally recycle.
Over the next few years I got married and had three children. I was always true to the call of creation care, passing on the message to my family and friends. However, deep inside me, I knew that I needed to do more to follow through with the Lord’s call, and that God still had much to work for my ecological conversion.
Photo courtesy of Linda Mercedes Zablah
I began to understand about organic food, chemicals, genetically-modified seeds, the damage of plastic, among a lot of information that was coming to light. One night when I understood that plastic bags take many years to decompose, and while I was cutting up a watermelon, I thought to myself, “God created the watermelon. The watermelon came from the Earth. How can I throw its rind into a bag if it will take hundreds of years before the bag falls apart and touches the Earth?”
I felt what the watermelon would feel. I was suffocating. From that day on, I started composting, giving back to the Earth, what she so generously gives us. I have been at it for 11 years now, without giving up.
I also had a calling to spend more time in creation, contemplating, praying and praising God. I marveled at all the little things in His creation. The ant, the seeds, the little flowers in the field, every sunset, the clouds, the wind, the birds, the butterflies.
I felt more and more amazed by everything. The life of St. Francis of Assisi, which I read in a book I had at home, also moved me. I admired and longed to emulate his simplicity and love of creation.
In 2015, when Pope Francis published the encyclical Laudato Si’, I felt a beautiful and invigorating call to continue learning and sharing with others the call to conversion.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit and the words of Pope Francis, I wrote a letter to the Franciscan School, where my children were studying, to propose to them an ecological conversion project and to create a collection center for recycling, since, in our country, there are no public collection centers to take sorted waste.
Photo courtesy of Linda Mercedes Zablah
The project began in September 2017, and they authorized me to create the environmental committee. I gave talks to teachers, parents, maintenance staff, students and suppliers of the school, repeating the strong call of Pope Francis towards an ecological conversion, simplifying, living in austerity like St. Francis of Assisi, avoiding plastic in school meetings, and having contact with God’s creation.
Thanks to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I composed a song to promote the care of our common home, with the name “Cuida La Tierra,” which we sang at school and also played on Radio Luz throughout 2018 and part of 2019, supporting the campaign of the Catholic Church of Honduras: “The Church Cares for our Common Home.”
The Diocese of San Pedro Sula held a vigil that took place at the Olympic Stadium, and I was able to share the song along with a group of young people from St. Vincent de Paul Parish.
For two consecutive years, I taught the “Ecological Droplet” in the school for parents, to help awaken them. With the environmental committee, we sent weekly messages to the parents’ chats and created informative signs. I also participated in Radio Luz for six months, sharing the Ecological Droplet with the radio listeners.
Due to the pandemic, we could not move in the country with my family, and for Easter 2020, the Lord called me to share part of my ecological conversion with the school chats and with my spiritual growth groups with the Motto: “You Jesus, in the small.”
During this COVID-19 pandemic, I have lived new experiences that have led me to continue to awaken. Currently my family and I are planting and harvesting ecologically in the small yard where we live. In March of this year, I wrote and submitted the story entitled: “The Girl and the Tree,” sharing part of my ecological conversion. Also during the pandemic, I have given talks via Zoom.
Since I moved in 2019 to this residence in San Pedro Sula, I proposed to the Community Board of Trustees to form an environmental committee. After a year of waiting and meeting neighbors who could support the project, they accepted the proposal and we created the environmental committee and the recycling program.
My ecological conversion journey also continues through celebrating Earth Day, inviting neighbors to compost, and making time for meditation and prayer.
During my ecological conversion journey, I have gone through difficult moments that have been physically and emotionally tiring. God is the one who renews me daily.
It is wonderful to know that in the small things I have done, the glory is the Lord’s. That the call has been from God and that all the inspirations have been from the Creator. And when I see some fruits, I am moved and I look to heaven, I thank God and I repeat to myself the words that St. Teresa of Calcutta wrote:
“Sometimes we feel that what we do is just a drop in the sea, but the sea would be less if it lacked a drop.”
I say goodbye, with the phrase that the Holy Spirit used to inspire me: For You Jesus, in the Small.
The Laudato Si’ Circle, “Common Home of Catania”
“My favorite part of our Laudato Si’ Circle is the meeting, the relationship, and the dialogue between different realities. In the Laudato Si’ Circle “Common Home of Catania,” Catholic, Christian, and Muslim realities work together to safeguard God’s creation in the awareness that “we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth” (LS 92).
“The ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and the care of our ‘common home’ are the areas that the Laudato Si’ Circle works in, and the following words animate our Circle: dialogue, hope, together, and relationship.
“At each monthly meeting, while growing mutual knowledge, we discover the beauty and richness that comes from the composition of diversity and acting in a broader context, that of all women and men of good will, where we bring our contribution.”
Antonio Chiarenza, Laudato Si’ Circle – “Casa Comune” Catania
During the Season of Creation, join Christians on six continents and sign the “Healthy Planet, Healthy People” petition to tell world leaders how to care for our common home.
Act today: Sign the “Healthy Planet, Healthy People” petition.
The Season of Creation is a unique moment for all of us to take prophetic action ahead of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference in November.
Once you sign the petition, you’re encouraged to organize a petition-signing event that helps your friends and family join you. Learn more here with our free petition resources!
Signing the petition takes only a few minutes, but your support of this powerful initiative will show world leaders what they must do to protect God’s creation.
Stories and statements written by Laudato Si’ Movement represent the work of the organization and/or more than one staff member of the movement.