Pope Francis on the Environment: Part Ten

IV. JOY AND PEACE

222. “Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption…. Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack.”

I’m convinced that Pope Francis is a Saint.

223. “Even living on little, they can live a lot, above all when they cultivate other pleasures and find satisfaction in fraternal encounters, in service, in developing their gifts, in music and art, in contact with nature, in prayer. Happiness means knowing how to limit some needs which only diminish us, and being open to the many different possibilities which life can offer.”

224. “Once we lose our humility, and become enthralled with the possibility of limitless mastery over everything, we inevitably end up harming society and the environment. It is not easy to promote this kind of healthy humility or happy sobriety when we consider ourselves autonomous, when we exclude God from our lives or replace him with our own ego, and think that our subjective feelings can define what is right and what is wrong.”

In this encyclical, Pope Francis begins with a sincere concern for the environment, then he establishes the proper place for that concern in the scale of values, with love of God as the highest value, followed closely by love of neighbor. He emphasizes the importance of faith, prayer, grace, humility and all the virtues. Instead of promoting the narrow-minded over-zealous ecology of politicians and activists, he expresses the union of all the goods of creation, human life and the spiritual life, each in its proper place.

225. “Many people today sense a profound imbalance which drives them to frenetic activity and makes them feel busy, in a constant hurry which in turn leads them to ride rough-shod over everything around them. This too affects how they treat the environment. An integral ecology includes taking time to recover a serene harmony with creation, reflecting on our lifestyle and our ideals, and contemplating the Creator who lives among us and surrounds us….”

226. “We are speaking of an attitude of the heart, one which approaches life with serene attentiveness, which is capable of being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next, which accepts each moment as a gift from God to be lived to the full.”

227. “One expression of this attitude is when we stop and give thanks to God before and after meals. I ask all believers to return to this beautiful and meaningful custom.”

V. CIVIC AND POLITICAL LOVE

228. “Jesus reminded us that we have God as our common Father and that this makes us brothers and sisters. Fraternal love can only be gratuitous; it can never be a means of repaying others for what they have done or will do for us. That is why it is possible to love our enemies.”

What other author or proponent of ecology sees the love of God and neighbor as the most important part of that ecology? Pope Francis is suggesting to politicians and activists that they have gone astray in their ecology by not including God and the love of neighbor as higher values, but also as part of God’s one plan for all creation.

229. “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty.”

230. “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.”

231. “Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world. Love for society and commitment to the common good are outstanding expressions of a charity which affects not only relationships between individuals but also ‘macro-relationships, social, economic and political ones’. That is why the Church set before the world the ideal of a ‘civilization of love’.”

232. “Not everyone is called to engage directly in political life. Society is also enriched by a countless array of organizations which work to promote the common good and to defend the environment, whether natural or urban.”

233. “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.”

Insightful. This encyclical is not mainly about ecology, in the traditional sense. Rather, it is about the unity of the plan of God for all creation.

234. “This is not because the finite things of this world are really divine, but because the mystic experiences the intimate connection between God and all beings, and thus feels that ‘all things are God’.”

When we place environmental concerns above concerns for human persons in need, we divinize nature in a way that is worse than the pagan religions. The integral ecology of Pope Francis gives each good its proper place in the scale of values, so the love of God and neighbor prevails over our proper concern for the environment.

235. “The Sacraments are a privileged way in which nature is taken up by God to become a means of mediating supernatural life. Through our worship of God, we are invited to embrace the world on a different plane.”

236. “It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures.”

A version of ecology that incorporates the Eucharist and the love of God. Beautiful, comprehensive, and revolutionary.

237. On the last day, God takes away heaven and earth, and He makes a new heaven and a new earth. I have long believed that this event is not a replacement of the new with the old, but a radical transformation of the old into the new. As I wrote in my book, the Second Part of the Tribulation:

Does this renewal of the earth mean that the earth is taken away and replaced, or that it is transformed? The text of Revelation specifically says ‘new earth’ and that the ‘first earth’ has passed away (Rev 21:1). So we might conclude that, by some immense miracle, the entire earth passes away and is replaced by a new earth. In this theological position, the old earth would cease to exist, and the new earth would be created out of nothing.

But another theological position, one that seems much more fitting and likely, is that the first earth passes away in a sense similar to our old bodies. The new resurrected glorious body is not entirely new, but is patterned after the old body. For those who died recently, the old body itself is transformed, transfigured into the new. So it is theologically tenable, even fitting, to say that the first earth is transformed or transfigured into the new earth. But the new earth is so wondrous and amazing that it can be truly said that the former things have passed away. And although God did create all that exists out of nothing, it is to be observed that what He once created, he holds in existence continually, even the fallen angels, even the souls of the damned. Therefore, as the Book of Wisdom also teaches, God would not allow or cause anything that exists to return to nothing, nor to be annihilated. All that He created is good, and all that He created continues to endure and be preserved by Him.

[Wisdom]
{11:25} For you love all things that are, and you hate nothing of the things you have made; for you would not have created or established anything that you hated.
{11:26} For how could anything endure, except by your will? Or what, having been called by you not to exist, would be preserved?
{11:27} Yet you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord, who loves souls.

Therefore, the theological opinion is much more probable that the old earth is thoroughly transformed into the new earth, rather than literally passing away into nothingness, so as to be replaced.

Pope Francis seems to have the same opinion, for he refers to “the final transfiguration of all created reality” (Laudato Si 237).

He also writes: “Rest opens our eyes to the larger picture and gives us renewed sensitivity to the rights of others. And so the day of rest, centred on the Eucharist, sheds its light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and the poor.”

VII. THE TRINITY AND THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CREATURES

238. “The world was created by the three Persons acting as a single divine principle…. Consequently, ‘when we contemplate with wonder the universe in all its grandeur and beauty, we must praise the whole Trinity’.”

239. “For Christians, believing in one God who is trinitarian communion suggests that the Trinity has left its mark on all creation. Saint Bonaventure went so far as to say that human beings, before sin, were able to see how each creature “testifies that God is three”…. The Franciscan saint teaches us that each creature bears in itself a specifically Trinitarian structure, so real that it could be readily contemplated if only the human gaze were not so partial, dark and fragile.”

The Church clearly teaches that, by reason alone, man can know that God exists. However, the Church also teaches that the dogma of the Trinity could not be known by reason alone; it had to be divinely revealed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say:

237 The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the “mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God”. To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of God’s Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit. [Inner quote from Vatican I]

The Trinitarian Nature of God left its mark on creation and on mankind. But we still cannot know from reason alone, contemplating that creation, that God is Three Persons yet one Nature.

240. “The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own that trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created. Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity.”

VIII. QUEEN OF ALL CREATION

241. “Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power. Completely transfigured, she now lives with Jesus, and all creatures sing of her fairness.”

242. “At her side in the Holy Family of Nazareth, stands the figure of Saint Joseph. Through his work and generous presence, he cared for and defended Mary and Jesus, delivering them from the violence of the unjust by bringing them to Egypt. The Gospel presents Joseph as a just man, hard-working and strong. But he also shows great tenderness, which is not a mark of the weak but of those who are genuinely strong, fully aware of reality and ready to love and serve in humility. That is why he was proclaimed custodian of the universal Church. He too can teach us how to show care; he can inspire us to work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us.”

IX. BEYOND THE SUN

243. “At the end, we will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God (cf. 1 Cor 13:12)…. Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all.”

244. “In the meantime, we come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us, knowing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast…. Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”

245. “God, who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and the strength needed to continue on our way.”

246. “At the conclusion of this lengthy reflection which has been both joyful and troubling, I propose that we offer two prayers. The first we can share with all who believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator, while in the other we Christians ask for inspiration to take up the commitment to creation set before us by the Gospel of Jesus.”

See the prayers at the end of the encyclical: Laudato si’.

I will add a separate post summarizing my thoughts on this encyclical. For now, let me just say two things. First, the way this document has been misrepresented in the popular press and even in Catholic media sources is appalling. I have the distinct impression that most of them did not bother to read the whole encyclical, before proclaiming their opinions to millions of persons.

Second, after reading this encyclical, I am now more thoroughly convinced that Pope Francis will eventually be canonized as a Saint in the Catholic Church.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please support my work by purchasing one of my books or booklets. Thanks.

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2 Responses to Pope Francis on the Environment: Part Ten

  1. Francisco says:

    Thank you Ron for your extended insight on this Encyclical.

    Now, I have a question:

    “Therefore, the theological opinion is much more probable that the old earth is thoroughly transformed into the new earth, rather than literally passing away into nothingness, so as to be replaced.

    Pope Francis seems to have the same opinion, for he refers to “the final transfiguration of all created reality” (Laudato Si 237).”

    Does this also gives the possibility that God will transform or transfigure at least a selected group of beloved animals or creatures of men which have ceased to live (in body and soul) into the new earth? (dogs, cats, parrots, etc.?)

    • Ron Conte says:

      In the new earth, all plants and animals are transformed so as to no longer harm, nor be harmed, and they are free from death and decay. Will God bring back beloved pets, as a benefit to the faithful? Perhaps.

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