Laudato Si 42: The Need for Ecological Research

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website.

42. Greater investment needs to be made in research aimed at understanding more fully the functioning of ecosystems and adequately analyzing the different variables associated with any significant modification of the environment. Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. Each area is responsible for the care of this family. This will require undertaking a careful inventory of the species which it hosts, with a view to developing programs and strategies of protection with particular care for safeguarding species heading towards extinction.

This is likely one aspect with which all players should be able to agree, that more research is needed. While it is nearly impossible to deny a warming trend in the climate, likewise it is easy to see many environments in the world are endangered by human activity. How life works in complex environments: this is something that deserves further study.

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Dives in Misericordiae 12b: The Demands of Justice

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4I think it is right to expect justice in all aspects of our lives, as St John Paul presents here:

The Church shares with the people of our time this profound and ardent desire for a life which is just in every aspect, nor does she fail to examine the various aspects of the sort of justice that the life of people and society demands.

1891: a good starting point for the Catholic movement in social justice. Let’s remember it well:

This is confirmed by the field of Catholic social doctrine, greatly developed in the course of the last century. On the lines of this teaching proceed the education and formation of human consciences in the spirit of justice, and also individual undertakings, especially in the sphere of the apostolate of the laity, which are developing in precisely this spirit.

St John Paul rightly identifies this movement for justice as arising “especially” among the laity. While I do appreciate the support of popes, bishops, and clergy on this, it is undeniable that justice in human culture must be the work of the laity. It is we lay people who have to cultivate relationships, manage the politics, do the study and research, and propose solutions in the various media of the day.

This pope fielded criticism for his harshness to clergy who were active in politics, but I largely agree with him on that stance. I think there might be exceptions to that strain, but mostly, justice movements should be led by the laity. It is part of our baptismal call.

Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pedro Arrupe In Japan

Pedro-Arrupe-at-prayer11I read a brief biography of Pedro Arrupe in Ronald Modras’ book Ignatian Humanism (reviewed here). His experiences in 1940’s Japan have always moved me when I’ve read, re-read, or pondered them.

Father Arrupe was arrested under suspicion of espionage shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Though he was from the Basque region of Spain, he completed doctoral studies in the United States.) Outside his jail cell, he heard people assembling. The man wondered if execution was immanent.

Suddenly, above the murmur that was reaching me, there arose a soft, sweet, consoling Christmas carol, one of the songs which I had myself taught to my Christians. I was unable to contain myself. I burst into tears. They were my Christians who, heedless of the danger of being themselves imprisoned, had come to console me. (Pedro Arrupe: Essential Writings, Kevin Burke, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books 2004, p. 57)

At the last link, Jim Campbell wrote:

After the few minutes of song, Arrupe reflected in the presence of Jesus, who would soon descend onto the altar during the Christmas celebration: “I felt that he also descended into my heart, and that night I made the best spiritual communion of all my life.” (Ibid. p. 58)

This exemplifies the great wisdom of Ignatian spirituality in a few significant ways. First the openness to consolation–that experience of tears. Second, the experience of the Lord in the most humble and surprising of circumstances. For many of us, the tears would be shed upon release from unjust imprisonment. To the best of Fr Arrupe’s knowledge, he would be executed and his friends would be in serious trouble for attempting to communicate with him.

And third, just the gratitude.

Image credit: the Ignatian Spirituality site, linked above.

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Laudato Si 41: Reef Environments

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website.

41. In tropical and subtropical seas, we find coral reefs comparable to the great forests on dry land, for they shelter approximately a million species, including fish, crabs, mollusks, sponges and algae. Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline. “Who turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of color and life?”[CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Pastoral Letter What is Happening to our Beautiful Land? (29 January 1988)]

One of the many citations in this document coming from a national bishops’ conference.

This phenomenon is due largely to pollution which reaches the sea as the result of deforestation, agricultural monocultures, industrial waste and destructive fishing methods, especially those using cyanide and dynamite. It is aggravated by the rise in temperature of the oceans. All of this helps us to see that every intervention in nature can have consequences which are not immediately evident, and that certain ways of exploiting resources prove costly in terms of degradation which ultimately reaches the ocean bed itself.

Even researchers and naturalists were alarmed in the 70’s and 80’s when the extent of pollution in the oceans came to be realized.

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Open Thread: My Way

I have a recollection of a meeting with friends who, while Catholic, were somewhat of the fundamentalist stripe. I was sharing a song from a new liturgical recording. They didn’t buy into my excitement, suggesting instead that my aim was somehow amiss. The better alternative was directly going to Jesus. For them, this meant mostly intellectual discussion. Study the Bible and struggle with it–so far, so good. But that’s about it. Other paths to God, with God, were suspect. Heady talk worked for them, so why bother risking getting lost with something else? As a twenty-something, I did recognize a my-way-or-the-highway approach.

Many Christians of the fundamentalist stripe are quite fine believers and disciples. But for some, their expectations of God are extremely narrow. They feel scolded when it is suggested there might be an alternate way. Like something personally surprising. And this is unusual, because many reformed sinners have a sense of grace. They might recognize they didn’t deserve reconciliation and harmony with Christ. But they got it.

The strange thing is that for many believers, they really seem to act as though their grace was deserved. Again: grace their way. And everybody else likely must hold to that way–the one sure way. The way they shared with God. Once. Or maybe a few times.

The alternative path is that there are many ways to God. The Bible shows it. Only problem: you have to read the whole thing with a dollop of openness. God chose people less and more righteous, within Judaism or outside of it, from the beginning or later in life, it didn’t seem to matter for either Old or New Testament. The only constants seem to be that he calls everybody and can call in nearly any way.

There is a danger with Christians pushing the attack too far with their brothers and sisters. I think some of you readers know what I mean. No one can expect to know the story of all the other hundreds of millions of believers. The pitfall is that the ally of the enemy may well have gotten into a misbegotten association.

Commentariat, have at it. Is there a Screwtape in the midst, and we don’t know about it?

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Dives in Misericordiae 12a: Is Justice Enough?

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4Section 12 opens with the question: Is Justice Enough?

It is not difficult to see that in the modern world the sense of justice has been reawakening on a vast scale; and without doubt this emphasizes that which goes against justice in relationships between individuals, social groups and “classes,” between individual peoples and states, and finally between whole political systems, indeed between what are called “worlds.” This deep and varied trend, at the basis of which the contemporary human conscience has placed justice, gives proof of the ethical character of the tensions and struggles pervading the world.

I would certainly say that part of the counterculture of the 60’s was a rebellion with ethical undercurrents. In the years before and after this encyclical, we’ve certainly seen justice movements of all sorts in various nations. Some have been successful beyond imagining. Others have stalled in the face of brutality.

I think we Christians do well to look beneath the surface of movements about which we might even hold skepticism. There is an undeniable ethical strain in the striving for LGBT rights. Can we see it? And if we are blinded to it, how can we be confident others will see our own aspirations to freedom?

Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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You Have Given, O God …

path 8While sorting through things on the parish computer, I found a responsorial prayer I wrote last summer for one of my classes at Creighton. I like the blending of different Scripture passages and after beginning with an idea suggested by number 23 in the Spiritual Exercises, this is the mix at which I arrived:

You have given, O God, all the gifts of your creation. Deepen your life in us.

You have given, O God, all the gifts of your creation. Deepen your life in us.

This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps 118:24)

You have given, O God, all the gifts of your creation. Deepen your life in us.

The stars shone in their watches, and were glad;
God called them, and they said, ‘Here we are!’
They shone with gladness for the One who made them. (Bar 3:34)

You have given, O God, all the gifts of your creation. Deepen your life in us.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them? (Ps 8:3-4)

You have given, O God, all the gifts of your creation. Deepen your life in us.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Ps 139:13)

You have given, O God, all the gifts of your creation. Deepen your life in us.

Come to me, you who desire me,
and eat your fill of my fruits.
For the memory of me is sweeter than honey,
and the possession of me sweeter than the honeycomb. (Sir 24:19-20)

You have given, O God, all the gifts of your creation. Deepen your life in us.

I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. (Ps 131:2)

You have given, O God, all the gifts of your creation. Deepen your life in us.

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