By Sr. Jeanette Gaudet, mfic
On the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si,” celebrations are being held world-wide for “Care for our Common Home.” When first published there were several attempts to discredit the Pope’s remarks about science in reference to the reality and dangers of climate change, yet in many ways the last five years speak for themselves!
Thinking about what to write for this article, I found myself urged on by the springtime warmth to rake our back yard and begin planting our garden. I felt gently egged on by another Sister who already filled two tables with egg cartons sprouting seedlings. Out in the warmth of nature I kept asking myself, “How is Jesus invitation to express love in actions of goodness and care for each other and all creation find a place in the social struggles of today? Allow me to back-track a bit.
I once heard it said that the best kept secret in the Catholic Church is its Catholic Social Teaching. A dear friend, missioned with me in Papua New Guinea, now recently deceased from Covid, actually taught the Social Documents of the Church to our young sisters in that country! Another sister working in an ecumenical setting here in the U.S., found that Church leaders from other denominations marveled that we Catholics can refer to so many documents that outline a moral approach to today’s social issues.
I did a little digging and found these themes in the Documents:
LIFE AND DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON
CALL TO FAMILY, COMMUNITY, AND PARTICIPATION
RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
OPTION FOR THE POOR AND VULNERABLE
THE DIGNITY OF WORK AND THE RIGHTS OF WORKERS
CARE FOR GOD’S CREATION
The above topics seem quite essential to living a good life! Beginning with Pope Leo XIII writing about the upheavals of the industrial revolution and conditions of workers in 1891, (think of Dicken’s, Oliver Twist!), several Papal writings are gathered under the heading of Catholic Social Teachings. Jesus himself addressed social issues of his day in many ways, from relating to the unspeakable Samaritans to dealing with Roman governmental politics. Below are the encyclicals named in the “Social Teachings” category:
- Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor) Leo XIII
- Quadragesimo Anno (On Reconstruction of the SocialOrder) Pius XI
- Mater et Magistra (On Christianity and SocialProgress) John XXIII.
- Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) John XXIII
- Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) Paul VI
- Laborem Exercens (On Human Work) John Paul II
- Laudato Si (On Care of the Earth) Pope Francis
- Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship) Pope Francis
Generally, we do not hear encyclicals highlighted in the media, or promulgated from many pulpits. They are not light reading, but perhaps Pope Francis has a style more down to earth especially “Laudato Si”. Many of the Social Documents contain nuggets of wisdom tucked away in a shell of intellectual and theological language that has never been cracked open for the average churchgoer? ** If you are interested in learning a bit more, a list of these encyclicals and a few sentences highlighting their content follow this article.
Our Parish mission statement on the Bulletin’s front page, calls us to “commit ourselves to learn, love and live the Gospel”. Helping Bristol Lodge, leaving baby’s items in the crib, or giving to Julie’s Place are good expressions of putting faith into action. Sometimes these actions though, can seem far removed from the “loving our actual neighbor“ that Jesus calls us too, or from the encyclicals speaking of social issues throughout history.
To learn, love and live the Gospel of Jesus, encyclicals can remind us to be more tangible in our expression of our faith in the issues of life today. “See, Judge and Act” is a common process for making faith real.
- We see or read of a need and imagine the faces of a specific homeless family.
- We judge or consider the reality of the newly homeless that suffer so much during this pandemic.
- We act and purchase some canned goods considering what we ourselves might want if we were in their shoes; we also whisper a specific pray for them. (Maybe you can think of even more concrete personal or parish actions?)
So what does all this have to do with saving eggshells? Pope Francis talks about all life being interconnected! Relationship is the key premise of his encyclical.
So we buy a dozen eggs. We eat them and save the shells which can house new seedlings, and nourish the earth with calcium where the chicken feeds, producing eggs which we eat and the cycle continues. Everything is connected. When we care for ourselves and our earth, we also care for others.
There are so many little ways
our love of neighbor can find expression in daily life,
if we have but eyes to see, a heart to judge
and the will to take some action!