Pope Francis did not write Laudato si for the priests, the bishops or the theologians. He wrote it for you.
The Holy Father’s second encyclical letter addresses environmental concerns. Translated as “if lauded”, the 100-page document provides the basis for a lecture to be given at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Denver, Colorado on November 11th by Marie Venner, of The Global Catholic Climate Movement. Her presentation, which coincides with the Feast of St. Albert the Great (November 15th), is the first of several events celebrating the Dominican Order’s 800th Jubilee throughout the Central Province (officially named the Province of St. Albert the Great).
“Given this patronal feast and the encyclical of Pope Francis, what better topic could we choose than: Catholicism engaging Climate Change: putting ‘Laudato si’ into practice?” said Fr. Ed Ruane, O.P., pastor at St. Dominic’s.
The Dominicans are uniquely positioned to host this lecture. Saint Dominic’s Order of Preachers, founded in 1216, has spawned many of the intellectual leaders of the Catholic Church, including St. Albert the Great, the natural scientist of the Church, and St. Thomas Aquinas, a student of St. Albert, whose Summa Theologiae is quoted several times in Laudato si.
So often the common perception of the Church is that it is hostile to scientific inquiry. In fact, many scientific breakthroughs have come not only from persons of deep faith, but even from priests, brothers and sisters who are scientists within the Church and its faith. A fundamental axiom of Catholic theology is that faith and reason work together and never contradict one another. Right reason corrects faith and faith enlightens reason. This ought to give us confidence to pursue questions with serenity.
“For a long time I’ve had this idea that saints are people who follow through on their inspirations which can seem a little crazy in their context,” said Venner. “But they find the moral courage. This is a time that requires a lot of moral courage and a change in thinking, which requires courage as well.”
Regarding climate, St. Albert made assertions well ahead of the widely accepted theories of his time. As an itinerant friar, he walked from city to city with his eyes wide open, loving the natural world and seeing it as a gift from God.
Laudato si comes from the canticle attributed to St. Francis in which he proclaims, “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our sister, mother earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs” and which Pope Francis reminds us that “the earth, our common home, is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.”
“This letter is to all of us, women and men, laypeople and even those who are not Catholics and who are non-believers,” Venner said. “It’s so important for each of us to read the letter, reflect on it as individuals, and discuss it with other people. The Pope has asked for dialogue.”
Not unlike St. Albert, Pope Francis seeks a sustainable and integral development of our common home because one sees God in the beauty of creation, which he calls itself a gospel, something given to us. He says the world “entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.”
Venner hopes to help people get a handle on the document and see the next steps they can take. She is in the process of listing the numerous suggestions Pope Francis makes in the document.
“It’s a letter to you and it’s very current. It pertains to how we live now, how our dependence on electronics is affecting us,” Venner said. “He talks about little things that impact our daily life as well as the big picture topics in a very simple and coherent, yet insightful way.”
“The most important thing is that it’s possible to change. Many people don’t know about the solutions we have out here ready to go,” Venner added. “Pope Francis said we need to make this shift and we need to make it rapidly.”
Catholicism Engaging Climate Change: Putting Laudato Si’ Into Action takes place at St. Dominic Parish in Denver, Colorado November 11th at 7:00PM. For more information visit www.StDominicDenver.org.