Pope Francis presents our father St. Francis as a model for contemporary Catholic eco-spirituality, referring to him more than ten times in this teaching.
“He (St. Francis) loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself.” Laudato Si’ 10
St. Francis is presented an example par excellence of Integral ecology, a new term introduced by Laudato Si’. This concept is a contemporary expression of a classic Franciscan philosophy of nature, of the relationship between God, humanity, and nature.
Integral ecology means developing–and living out!–a relational and caring worldview, and this demands that we address two inter-related crises: persistent, degrading global poverty and global environmental disruption.
“He (Francis) shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” LS 10
Care for the poor and care for the Earth–this approach is not new in the Church or the Order, but it is presented more forcefully and concretely in this encyclical.
Common good is presented as a moral value to guide our action, but Laudato Si’ expands our traditional understanding by including all of creation as a global commons, and the obligation to protect the Earth and its ecosystems for future generations.
We proceed together in dialogue. Pope Francis calls for collaborative approaches at the global, national, and regional scales, and between all sectors of society, to fashion a more just and sustainable world. Think of these dialogues as a shared practice of discernment that leads to bold action.
Ecological education and spirituality are proposed as key elements to help us grow in ecological consciousness and environmental virtue ethics.
“A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.” LS 202
Laudato Si’ calls for more and better education. This vision of education for social transformation is much broader than classroom activities. It should take place in schools, homes, communities, catechesis, and the media. It should result in “a new lifestyle,” one that is moderate, sober, and ecological.
Youth and young adults are commended for their environmental leadership.
“Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.” LS 13
Laudato Sí and our path to renewal
Pope Francis has provided a primer for 21st century Catholic eco-spirituality and socio-ecological transformation. He calls for a profound ecological conversion, in our hearts but expressed by our behavior.
“There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself.” LS 118
Pope Francis calls for a conversion heart, a spirituality that can motivate a more passionate concern for the protection of the world. What does the pope prescribe?
“An ecological conversion can inspire us to greater creativity and enthusiasm in resolving the world’s problems and in offering ourselves to God ‘as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable.’” LS 220
Penance is not a stance that inspires dread in us, but rather, joy! For we Franciscans know that it leads us in to greater intimacy with God.
“Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.” LS 217
- Prayer with God in nature is good. Chapter 6 of Laudato Si’ outlines an ecological spirituality that encourages prayer with creation.
- Our relationship with the Earth should be characterized by love, gratitude, praise, worship and appreciation of beauty. These are values are presented to all Christians.
- Care for the Earth and care for the poor go together. Our efforts for economic justice and environmental protection have to work hand in hand.
- Work for the common good is global. Ecological common good means good for everyone and everything everywhere! The term “common good” is mentioned 22 times. Laudato Si’ proposes collaborative approaches, worked out between many different sectors of society, to pursue a vision of protecting the planet and human flourishing.
- Prayer in communion. Our communities have a special responsibility to bring the message of the encyclical to life in our worship, common prayer, and public witness. The very title of Laudato Si’, Praise Be to You, is inspired, of course, by the poem of St. Francis. It is a prayer in the language of worship, and a liturgical vision is woven throughout the encyclical. The Lord can use these to further our ecological conversion—if we enter in to the grace they offer.
- Beauty is a path to God. Laudato Si’ presents love of beauty as a spiritual practice. St. Augustine claimed that beauty is a name for God, and many Franciscans throughout history have sought the face of God through natural beauty. Francis spent considerable time in hermitages, practicing contemplation surrounded by natural beauty.
For more resources on the Laudato Si’ encyclical, such as chapter summaries and discussion guides, visit our Laudato Si’ Resource Library.