[Daniel Hitchens] Back in July, we asked for suggestions about putting the teachings of Laudato Si’ into practice. We’re still looking for responses, so please keep sending them in; here are a few things which have already emerged.
- Catholics are doing this stuff already
As the encyclical itself points out, Pope Francis did not invent Christian concern for the environment; for more than a few Catholics, the themes of Laudato Si’ have always played a major part in how they live out their faith. At one level, this can be something spontaneous: one respondent suggested, ‘Go hiking, swimming, walking, use your Sunday to connect with God through His creation.’ It is also involves larger choices about how we live. For instance, many individuals and parishes take part in the livesimply campaign
2. ‘Everything is connected’
A phrase which appears – in various forms – six times in the encyclical. Meaning, among other things, that care for the planet isn’t a fringe political obsession: since the planet is our home, caring for it also includes appreciating the family as ‘the basic cell of society’ (157), critiquing human arrogance (19), opposing coercive ‘reproductive health’ projects (50), responding to the suffering of migrants (25), protecting the unborn (120), improving healthcare (29) and so on; it also calls for ‘integration and social cohesion’ (46) and keeping one’s head above the ‘mental pollution’ of the internet (47).
Several responses showed that changing our lives might be part of an integrated way to live out the faith. They remarked on the close connection between the defence of the environment and the claims of the poor – something ‘on every page of the encyclical’, as one said.
The American writer Mary Eberstadt has long been arguing for a ‘pro-animal, pro-life’ coalition. On which point:
3. We can learn from the ethical consumer movement
‘Why no mention of going veggie?’ one respondent asked. ‘Huge eco benefits.’ He wasn’t the only one to suggest this very practical step for environmental reasons – something we’re hoping to explore further on this blog. (Somebody else observed that St John Chrysostom and St Basil the Great had been trendsetting veggies.)
Others said they referred to the kind of buyer’s guides published by ethical-consumption sites.
4. You can start small
Someone suggested planting a herb garden. Someone else said, maybe cut down on plastic packaging. Another recommended ad-blocking software, to keep away the temptation to buy excessively. One contribution pointed out that trying to buy more ethically is itself a way of building better habits:
I have found that when I spend time researching the most ethical and environmentally friendly products or services and endeavour to purchase according to my pre-adopted criteria, then the habit of researching itself curbs my impulse buying or buying on demand.
Which brings us to an important final point:
- It’s not all grim-faced Puritanism
The responses emphasised that small ethical steps can bring us closer to God, to others, and to the created world around us. For instance, making instead of buying Christmas presents is something you can do with family and friends.
As the encyclical remarks, consumerism is hardly a source of joy anyway:
Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending…postmodern humanity has not yet achieved a new self-awareness capable of offering guidance and direction, and this lack of identity is a source of anxiety. (203)
Laudato Si’, then, is – along with everything else – a way to confront the anxiety and emptiness of consumerism. There is a better way, put into words by the Japanese bishops in a beautiful aphorism quoted in the encyclical (85): ‘To sense each creature singing the hymn of its existence is to live joyfully in God’s love and hope.’
Please keep them coming! Email links, tips, suggestions, audio/video files to firstname.lastname@example.org. We might quote you, but we won’t use your name without your permission.