Saturday, July 2, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #45... Rebuilding a culture of care

This week's Laudato Si reflection comes at a good time, because a lot of what's said in paragraphs 228-232 has been on my mind lately. Our world seems to have taken the low road rather than the high on too many occasions in the last few months. This is what I feel like saying every single time:

Especially to a certain presidential candidate south of the border! He gets wayyyy too much media attention for his nasty comments, and doesn't seem very interested in creating positive change. And he's not the only one -- there are all sorts of public figures in the news whose personae are built on tearing down the good. But Pope Francis takes exception -- this week's section of his letter to the world, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, encourages us toward a culture of care. Section V is entitled Civic and Political Love, and it can be accessed by clicking here and scrolling down.

Even if the non-inclusive language in this section could use some improvement, Pope Francis says some very important things:
We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good (paragraph 229).
AMEN, brother. Sing it loud and clear! There are two problems here, as I see it -- 1) the public figures who grab headlines with their outrageous mean-spiritedness, and 2) the media who give them coverage. The solution? A small step -- protesting, boycotting those networks, "unfollowing" those public figures or otherwise letting them and their agents/networks know that they must work for a culture of care, not nasty negativity. Clearly, if we are to re-establish a culture that values our planet and its life, supporting people with small and narrow minds won't help. We need more people with wide and loving hearts to lead us.

That's why I love that the Pope holds up St. Therese of Lisieux's "little way of love" as an alternative in paragraph 230 -- and encourages everyone on the planet "not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship." St. Therese was a young woman who lived a short and hidden life in a small convent, focusing on the little things she could do to show love. Her autobiography, Story of a Soul, had a deep impact on me in my teen years, teaching that something as simple as acknowledging people with a smile is a tiny but important step toward defeating the negativity that can seem overwhelming in our world -- a tiny but important step worth taking.

"An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness," the Pope says. I suspect that, like St. Therese, he does many such things about which we'll never know. He knows and reminds us that it's these "random acts of kindness" and the "paying forward" of goodness that stops misery in its tracks. And every time he's caught doing one of these simple things, love for him fills the cyber sphere. That kind of "good press" blows me away.

Pope Paul VI might have been the first to use the words "Civilization of Love" for the World Day of Peace in 1977, but the phrase has been echoed ever since as something we need to create -- or there may be no civilization at all. Paragraph 231 emphasizes the importance of love in all spheres of human social activity -- cultural, economic and political. Encouraging "a culture of care" which permeates all of society is a good thing, but let's take it a step further and ensure that we also care for everything that God has made.

Paragraph 232 reminds us that even if we aren't the kinds of people who feel we can engage directly in political life, people like us can connect through organizations that "work to promote the common good and to defend the environment, whether natural or urban." When I became a Voluntary Simplicity practitioner, I wanted to save the world, but soon realized that, as an introvert, I'm not built to deliver impassioned speeches that can move people to change. God gave us all different gifts, and mine lead me to share what I know via these moodlings, encouraging change with my little suggestions and the sharing of the work of good people around me. I could never be a politician, or a TV host! I'm not crazy about leading workshops; I'm much happier working in my garden.

That doesn't mean that I don't support other organisations that can do more. Attending rallies, donating to an environmental cause, signing petitions and sharing information are all important because even the smallest of our actions can help to
cultivate a shared identity, with a story which can be remembered and handed on. In this way, the world, and the quality of life of the poorest, are cared for, with a sense of solidarity, which is at the same time aware that we live in a common home which God has entrusted to us. These community actions, when they express self-giving love, can also become intense spiritual expriences" (paragraph 232). 
I'm thinking of yesterday's moodling about Supersu's party boxes, and all the conversations about reducing waste that result because of them. Not quite "intense spiritual experiences," but people realize that they hold the same value of caring about our planet in those moments, and that they can make a difference, too.

The moral of this week's story is that it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the negativity in our world, but we all have the capacity to be agents of change. So in the week ahead, let's give some thought to the little things we can do to rebuild a culture of care for our Sister, Mother Earth, and for all her creatures.

I shared the video below in another moodling a few years back, but it's an inspiration that's too good to forget. We all need to care as much as the hummingbird, and do the best we can, as Wangari Maathai did. Have a good week, and don't forget your little acts of kindness for the earth and each other...

A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.


Next up: The other 3 Rs

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

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