Care of our Common Home

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Start your meeting with the Sign of the Cross and a prayer
Someone read:

Part of the Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon by St. Francis of Assisi

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour, of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Read the Reflection

There has been a lot of great material coming from Pope Francis over the last year including the Encyclical; On the Care of Our Common Home, Laudato Si, (Praise Be To You). It is a prophetic document which we only touched on last year. It has been followed by the Letter on the Year of Mercy in which we are encouraged to both give and seek mercy. Perhaps the actions suggested for living justice and mercy can be ways of putting into practice the teaching of Laudato Si in which Pope Francis urges us all to care for creation; we all need to share and be aware of the damage we have done and are doing. Perhaps that document influenced some world leaders to come to their historic agreement in Paris in November 2015, committing to implement policies to reduce carbon emissions. Let us hope this will help save the planet from all we have been doing to destroy it.

You might have heard that 2016 is also the United Nations 'Year of Pulses' – a time to celebrate the value of these legumes and to encourage a simpler, cheaper lifestyle. There are probably lots more special 'year of …' something being marked by different organisations, but I'd like to reflect on the implications of Laudato Si, even if in light of the special 'Years'.
We can't fail to have heard regularly in the news of the worst bush fires, highest temperatures for that month, tornadoes, blizzards, flooding, and highest rainfall; repeatedly broken records for every weather condition on the planet. Perhaps 'they' – the governments of the world, are now going to do something about it with this new agreement. And the 'Year of Mercy', are 'they' – the bishops and priests, going to do something special for us: Perhaps some workshops or more information to read? And let's not forget the 'Year of Pulses'! Will 'they' – the food processors or farmers, be expected to do something? Perhaps change the ingredients list on the processed foods we buy?

But wait a minute … I'm asking what 'they' might do. Is all of this anything to do with me and what 'I' might do? I think that all of these 'years' do, or should, affect my daily living, how I interact with family, friends, workplace and the environment.
In Laudato Si, Pope Francis begins by dedicating it to his patron, St Francis of Assisi and quotes from his canticle the lines about 'sister earth'. The Pope says: "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."
How is this relevant to my daily life? Can what I do make any difference in the big scheme of things?

Yes! Some things must be done on a large scale by leaders or governments – that is where our involvement by voting, writing letters or signing petitions plays a part. But there are significant personal actions we can take to live simply and sustainably. We can include issues of justice and equity into our shopping by not buying from companies that are known to exploit their workers, or buying Fair Trade when possible. Those of us who are older remember how things were done in past times; perhaps we need to rediscover those activities.

If you don't know the old traditional ways, try asking your mother or grandmother or another older person. My daughter's husband Mike has lots of handyman skills and has always been involved with young people, so he began a 'fix-it club' by inviting young adults from amongst the parish community. Once a month a group of young men meet at his home bringing whatever needs mending and he offers advice, tools or workspace. Sometimes he shows them how he mends toys or other things from around his home. All followed by social time of course. Is there something like that we could try? New migrants may want help knowing how to use local produce and they could share with us about new vegetables now available here from their homeland; or helping young couples with household knowledge that we have. A young woman recently shared that she was disappointed to have to throw away a lovely new top because a thread had pulled and created a hole. I was able to mend it, showing her how to do it for future occasions. I'm sure we could all do something similar, either the teaching or the learning.

Living simply includes getting back to basics in relationships. Our Marist charism includes saying no to greed, pride or self-promotion and power or exploitation. These attitudes damage our world, our families and our communities.

In his Letter about the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis says … "To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully. Let us therefore heed the Apostle's exhortation: 'Do not let the sun go down on your anger' (Eph 4:26). …As we can see in Sacred Scripture, mercy is a key word that indicates God's action towards us. He does not limit himself merely to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviours that are shown in daily living." MV 9

For me the key phrase is that love is something concrete, not an abstraction. This is further affirmed where Francis adds: "The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters." MV.10

I know many of you are doing the good things we are called to. But is there some small next step, something else achievable we could do? Perhaps we could encourage or teach others by our example and advice, (a spiritual work of mercy). Simply being more attentive and prayerful about our daily choices, or to take the time to read Laudate Si. Some say our world could be at a tipping point, headed toward a future that may not include people unless urgent action is taken toward sustainability in every area of life: agriculture and production without exploitation of resources or people, relationships without oppression or greed. Everything is to be based on love. As Marists we might ask ourselves: How might Mary respond to the call to care more deeply for our Common Home?

Pope Francis in Laudato Si:

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. (23)

The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that "man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature". (6)

Share your response

What images come to mind when I read 'throwaway culture'? How have I participated in or reacted to a throwaway culture?

How can I contribute to a sustainable future for the earth in my personal life, in my community, and as a global citizen?

What kind of world do we want to leave to those coming after us?

What do you do to make water or power savings in your home?

Does your church/parish centre/school/workplace practice good recycling? What could be improved?

Mercy Focus: Do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Eph.4:26) What are some ways you try to live this phrase in a concrete way?

Prayer Time:
For your own intentions and other needs
Conclude the meeting with the following:

Part of the Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon by St. Francis of Assisi

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather's moods, by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water, so useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister, Mother Earth who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers & herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.