TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Care for our common home

This week we are celebrating Laudato Si’ Week, honouring the fifth anniversary of the encyclical letter on ecology and climate, signed by Pope Francis on 24 May 2015.

The first paragraph of Laudato Si’ – On care for our common home, reads:

“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

In the tradition of the Stewardship of Creation from Catholic Social Teaching (CST), we are summoned to respect, care for and share the resources of the earth, which are vital for people’s common good.

The way we live and the choices we make affect the lives of others, not only human life, in fact, but also the other forms of life found on earth.

How do I show respect for Creation? We must all respect, care for and share the resources of the earth, which are vital for the common good of people. Care for animals and the environment is a common and universal duty, and changes in the environment call for a change of mentality and the adoption of new lifestyles. Our duty is to seek to promote care for the earth and its resources.

Certainly, our summer fires here in Australia and those of the Amazon towards the end of last year have given us a lasting visual impression that something is not quite right. And for those who watch nature programs, particularly on the ice caps of our precious planet, the rate of change is alarming.

Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for our common home, Laudato Si’, is an inspiration during moments of difficulty. It encourages us to reflect on the values we share, and to create a more just and sustainable future. During the week, I invite you to read, or to re-read, this encyclical letter and contemplate the power of its message and your response.

The theme of Laudato Si’ Week is “everything is connected.” During this week, we come together as one people around the world to prayerfully discern the lessons of this moment. While the world experiences a history-defining crisis, we reflect and prepare to build a better world.

Laudato Si’ has been welcomed as a document of deep and abiding beauty, and it has prompted people around the world to reflect more deeply on the Creator and creation. Its vision of integral ecology, which sees connections between how we treat God, nature, and each other, offers simple but profound truths about the bonds that unite us. It is inviting us to be protectors of creation and the poor.

There are a number of resources to be found if you visit the Caritas website https://www.caritas.org.au/act/our-common-home

The whole Encyclical captures the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental justice in building and protecting Our Common Home. The Pope highlights the ‘intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet’ (13) and how the poorest are the worst affected by our ‘environmental crisis’ (16). Protecting the planet requires an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and, at the same time, protecting nature.

Pope Francis makes his appeal in paragraphs 13 and 14 of the encyclical:

I urgently appeal… for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. (p. 14)

It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching, can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face. (15)

All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents. (14)

There is still great hope - Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. (13)

These paragraphs, and indeed the whole encyclical, remind me of many of the people I have met in exploring the establishment of the Hunter Community Alliance. Those, who are involved in the environmental movement, are from all age groups, are deeply passionate and are driven to imprint on everyone our need to act and to act now. I have seen them break down in public meetings, such is their concern for our home, the planet we call earth. They speak, as does Pope Francis about our goal to become painfully aware ... and thus to discover what each of us can do about it. (19)

There are many movements and I find those involved to be the human face of Pope Francis’ encyclical, in both their beliefs, way of life and their actions. The following words from Laudato Si’ speak strongly of their convictions:

Climate change...represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. (25)

Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and respect. (169)

The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. (21)

Pope Francis points to ‘a throwaway culture’. (22)

He speaks of the scarcity of fresh water for the poor, especially in Africa. (27-31)

Pope Francis calls for a revolution of our hearts and minds, a transformation of societies and lifestyles, to live in harmony with God’s creation. ‘Everything is connected.’ (91)

He calls on us to challenge: ‘The modern myth of unlimited material progress’ ‘Individualism’ and ‘the globalisation of indifference’ towards others’ suffering.

We are called to play our part:

as individuals ‘There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions.’ (211)

and collectively ‘Society... must put pressure on governments to develop more rigorous regulations, procedures and controls.’ (179)

He recognises the importance of placing Indigenous communities at the heart of any approach to ecological and social justice:

Land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God … a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on the land, they themselves care best for it. (146)

Throughout Laudato Si’, Pope Francis reminds us that we are people who live in relationships based on hope and love:

The Spirit of life dwells in every living creature and calls us to enter into relationship with him (88)

For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but help well up within us, since we were made for love. (58)

There is still great hope - Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. (13)

May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope. (244)

Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society. (91)

We are indeed connected, and we must commit ourselves to playing our part. Some with whom I have shared meetings with during the months of COVID – 19, regarding our response as a Hunter community to the emerging community needs, are fearful that the more recent progress made in raising awareness for the environment will be lost or overlooked as we keep working towards our response to the ongoing global pandemic, shifting our focus from health to economic recovery. And yet, I think the pandemic provides us with the strong and timely reminder that we are all one and very connected.

I will finish this week’s message with Francis of Assisi’s The Canticle of the Creatures in the hope that it will be prayed during this week and beyond:


Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honour, and all blessing.

To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no human is worthy to mention Your name.

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.

And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

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,
and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.

Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your
love, and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no one living can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.

May your week go well as you immerse yourself in the beauty of creation which surrounds us.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.