This column first appeared in The Record’s Vida Católica section on February 28, 2019.
Human beings fleeing, caravans of people in danger, people crossing seas in fragile boats, environmental degradation, corruption, drug trafficking, forest fires, dry earth, floods, strong hurricanes, carbon in the atmosphere, international conferences about the environment, great indifference on the part of leaders: unfortunately the list goes on. It is evident that our Mother Earth is stressed.
Pope Francis is a pastor very aware of what is happening to our Mother Earth. Four years ago on Pentecost Sunday, May 24, 2015, Pope Francis issued an Encyclical to the whole world. This official document is titled “On Care for Our Common Home”. Throughout this Encyclical Pope Francis frequently reminds everyone that all inhabitants of this Earth are responsible for the care of our common home.
At the beginning of the Encyclical, Pope Francis offers everyone the words of St. Francis of Assisi in his famous Canticle “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”: “…Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs’” (#1).
In spite of these beautiful words, reading the Encyclical leaves no doubt that our Pope is very concerned. He has seen the sufferings of our Mother Earth and those of so many inhabitants. He writes: “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will” (#2).
According to the Pope’s teaching, our Earth, our common home, is sacred. This sacred Earth is the womb from which the whole Earth was born. To underscore this vision of our Mother Earth, Pope Francis offered us the words of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople: “It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet” (#9). Patriarch Bartholomew reflects the words of St. Francis of Assisi.
In a very familiar song, with beautiful words about our common home Pope Francis wrote: “Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness (#12)”.
“A magnificent book”: how important and beautiful these words. Everyone considers the Bible a “magnificent book”, in fact a sacred book. What Christian would mistreat a Bible? But Pope Francis warns that many who would not mistreat the Bible would mistreat the sacred Earth, “a magnificent book”. He laments: “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” (#21).
Moreover, Pope Francis underscored that everything on our common home depends on all other created things. He wrote: “Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity” (#240).
At the end of the Encyclical Pope Francis, like a Latino, reminded us of the role of Mary, mother of Jesus. He wrote: “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” (#241).
How many times we pray: “Hail, Mary…blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus”.
Mary cared for her beloved Son, the blessed fruit of her womb.
May Mary care for us, the blessed fruits of the womb of our Mother Earth, our common home.
Fr. James Flynn is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville.