Laudato Si’ – the implications of Pope Francis’ choice of title.

‘The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.’
Pope Francis

In choosing to use Laudato Si’ as the title for his new encyclical I believe that Pope Francis is encouraging us to go back to the Canticle of Creation, to the writings of St Francis of Assisi in order to correctly orientate ourselves with regard to our relationship with creation.

At the root of modern industrialisation has been a belief that the bottom line is profit. The cost of our development for people and for nature has often been seen as secondary, if not irrelevant. The Canticle of Creation has a completely different world view.

St Francis looks about himself with wonder and awe at God’s creation, seeing the love of the Creator made manifest in the creation. Pope Francis writes of him that, he, ‘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. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5).

In this context the world is God’s gift to us. It is itself a revelation of the love of God to be treated with awe and reverence. This is in deep contrast to the ways in which we treat the world. The emphasis is how to get as much out of the earth as fast as possible. Concerns for future generations, for environmental damage are ignored as impractical. Ideas about sustainability are still regarded as being the ‘soft environmental option’, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, there remains a strong lobby of global warming denialists.

Pope Francis is concerned that ‘if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.’

Laudato Si’ is a passionate and pastoral appeal on the part of the Pope, not only to Catholics, but to all people to reconsider our lives and our attitude towards creation.

The world view implied in the Canticle of Creation requires us as people of faith to reassess our lives. If the meaning and purpose of our life here is to be in right relationship with God and with God’s creation then we should begin to take seriously our real rights and responsibilities to God’s creation. Let us rediscover the prayer of Canticle of Creation ourselves and ask for the grace to see how the vision of St Francis inspires our own lives. And then I commend to you Pope Francis’ appeal, Laudato Si’: be open to the Spirit of God at work in the encyclical.

Mrs Frances Correia

Frances Correia has worked as a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition for the last 20 years. She is a lay Catholic, married with children.

f.correia@jesuitinstitute.org.za @francescorrreia
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