December 9th, 2015
Laudato Si’: consolation for activists?
The second evening on Laudato Si’ was led by Henry Longbottom SJ (a Jesuit scholastic studying Theology at Heythrop College). His presentation was titled ‘Laudato Si’: A Launchpad for Action?’ The presentation examined several practical ways of converting the text into a way of life and ways of spreading its message to those whom we encounter.
One helpful method which I use for evaluating experiences, is to look at how they have helped me to grow deeper in my love for God and for others. I have found that Laudato Si’ is a text which helps me to continually grow in these two areas,and any presentations and discussions on its content are always very consoling.
Two moments in the presentation have stayed with me. The first was a short guided meditation which invited us to imagine the Trinity gazing at the Earth and contemplating its creatures (including human beings) and their interactions with the environment. For me, the meditation reinforced the message that all creatures inhabit the same earth (Our Common Home) and all give glory to God by their existence. Looking with the eyes of love of the Trinity helps us to see that a ‘hurting’ world affects everyone and every thing. Such a contemplation helps us to be grateful to God who created the world to be lived in. (cf. Isaiah 45:18) The Laudato Si’ vision is an ecology of relatedness. The reality is that everything is related and we are dependent on our environment, on each other and on God.
This important insight within Laudato Si’ is one which I think needs to be said again and again. Henry highlighted this by stating that it is essential that we recognise that the ‘environment’ and people are two sides of the same coin. Whenever we hear the ‘cry of the earth’, we hear the ‘cry of the poor’.
The important question that always comes up in discussions on Laudato Si’ is ‘What can we do?’ Henry helpfully outlined a 3-step programme for eco-conversion. The first step, which I think is always helpful for cultivating a new virtue, is to not be discouraged but to keep up our efforts however small. The second is on working to cultivate new ecological habits and attitudes with respect to the consumption of resources. The third is collaborating with others who are on the same mission.
The second moment in the evening which struck me and was a bit challenging,was discussing case studies in groups. The studies were designed to help us to think practically about how we would present the Encyclical to others. Our group was given this scenario: Alice is 16. Shortly after confirmation, she stopped coming to Church, saying ‘Christianity doesn’t really speak to her anymore’. She is a keen vegetarian, animal and environmental rights campaigner. You have a few minutes to tell her about the Encyclical. What would you highlight?
The question made me realise that I haven’t made a conscious effort to share the ‘good news’ of the Encyclical with anyone. The reason for my hesitation is because there is already a lot of information in the public domain about climate change and action. Such a case study helped the group to realise that the novelty of the encyclical is that it devotes space not only to what we should do but on who we should be. We should try to be people who seek to cultivate right relationships with nature and each other. We can make our Churches and homes greener, but the challenge is on truly developing a ‘green’ heart. Working to identify and root out our disordered desires for objectifying nature and each other is more challenging than just being ‘green’.
Conversations on the Encyclical are always enriching. As I mentioned earlier, I find that anything which leads us to grow in love of God and each other is always worth following up. How does all this talk about the Encyclical make you feel?
Joel Thompson SJ is a member of the Hurtado Jesuit Community and volunteers at the local youth centre in Wapping.
Henry Longbottom SJ tweets as @greenjesuit.