I’ll never forget when the first Krispy Kreme opened in Denver. The line started forming the eve of opening day—donut lovers from near and far camped out to be among the first to dig their teeth into its one-of-a-kind, hot, glazed, decadence.
You might say that Laudato Si’ (LS) is my version of Krispy Kreme. Having served an organization that writes small-group study guides for papal encyclicals, I was thrilled about the publication of Pope Francis’ work on the environment from the moment it was first announced.
These jewels enlighten me to a broader dimension of my faith. I consider them the “special sauce” of my journey with the Lord: not always necessary to my relationship with him, but they add a unique flavor that enhances the teachings I already accept to be true.
As expected, Laudato Si’ garnered heavy attention in the media the day it was published; I relished seeing it play out on my own social media streams. Friends who wouldn’t normally take to Church news were captivated by it and participated in the banter. That an encyclical could capture so much attention simply delighted me. As it should; this is a document that impacts all people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Pope Francis highlights a myriad of issues that are relevant to our complex ecological crisis—he touches on everything from climate change to pollution to poverty to abortion, among others—all symptoms of what he refers to as a “throwaway culture.” To reduce Laudato Si’ to any one issue as some have attempted to do is to trivialize the breadth of its meaning and beauty, and to miss what the Holy Father challenges us to see in ourselves as participants in this crisis.
He unpacks the underlying ethical, cultural, and spiritual dilemmas that contribute to today’s ecological crisis, elevating the barometer beyond the cafeteria-style approach to such issues by calling for a determined, wholly-integrated perspective.
But what strikes me most about the pope’s work is his personal call for me to consider the disorder in my own relationships as relevant to the healing of this complex issue. This includes my relationship with myself, with those around me, with my environment, and with God. “Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God.” (LS, 119)
In God’s economy, everything is connected. So when I misuse any of his creation, when I sin against my neighbor, when I assume the role of god in my life, there are negative consequences to “our common home.” The Holy Father is bold in his call for me to look inward, to grow in holiness, and to restore myself to a properly-ordered relationship with God. He is the Creator, and I am a recipient of the gifts of his creation. These gifts are to be used for his glory, not my own.
Timing is never accidental for those of us who see life through a spiritual lens. That I would receive this call from the Holy Father just days before a legal decision that would redefine marriage, one of God’s beautiful sacraments, is a gift. What better time for me to pray for a properly ordered relationship with my Creator than now—a time of heightened emotion and opposition among friends, when disagreements can so quickly turn disrespectful.
Pope Francis affirms that “. . . everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.” (LS, 70)
Laudato Si’ certainly is an encyclical for this climate of change.