A Climate of Change

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.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash