A Personal Reflection: Laudato Si’

Taking the name ‘Francis’, after the 12th Century saint, was significant for Pope Francis. Inheriting names is a common practice for many nations in the world – including us in Africa. The process, though, has its own demands. I have noticed that people who have inherited names feel their talents, and the talents of the one whose name they get, have got to continue to grow and shine. I personally know the beauty of inheriting a name as I have been named after my great-grandmother and I value every little story about her. The Pope clearly has adopted St Francis’s qualities.  His love for ecology, his generous self-giving and openheartedness – are just a few worth mentioning.

The value of Laudato Si’ (Praise be to you!) is that it asks us to reflect generously and seriously on the environment. This is not a new plea, it is a continuation of what many environmental groups have initiated. Groups like SAFCEI (Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute) and Justice & Peace have been trying to raise awareness around environmental issues for a while. When I was reading part of the encyclical letter I was reminded of when I was growing up. Our house faced soccer and netball playgrounds. That changed in the late 70’s and 80’s when the grounds were turned into a dumping area. The waste was not only a health hazard for residents, it was very dangerous for local children. The most dangerous items were waste products from hospitals – which included used injection needles, bandages, drips etc.

I remember the waste trucks dropping waste off at all hours, even late at night, which meant the noise was never ending. Our former playground became a place which was a nightmare for our parents, it was the only place we could go to play after school. The piles of waste were so high that it was difficult for them to see us when we had gone to play.

As I write this reflection, this vivid memory frightens me. It continues to confirm for me the words of St Paul in 1 Corinthians 13: 13, the total love of God for us – including creation. I give thanks for the civic organisations who fought for the area to be cleaned up. We were eventually able to get our playground back again.  It was then a much healthier place to have fun.The dumping of waste, unfortunately, has not stopped. In some places businesses still dump waste wherever they see a space. This is often to the benefit of a few; many are harmed and the poorest of the poor are deeply affected and suffer because of these corrupt practices. Pope Francis reminds us of the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.” We don’t only need each other to survive but, also, the beautiful earth God left for us. Do I do my bit to care for creation?

Ms Puleng Matsaneng

Puleng works in Spirituality and researches Ignatian Spirituality in an African context. Her area of speciality is in exploring how African themes and practices of spirituality dialogue with the Western traditions, and how that is understood in relation to Ignatian Spirituality. She has looked at how Ignatian Spirituality can be integrated into the African worldview. Most especially, how the use of song and storytelling can be part of the prayer process. She is currently managing retreats in daily life and training prayer guides. Puleng is also involved in ongoing Spiritual Direction, giving 8-day and 30-day retreats. Her latest venture is a pilot programme of healing workshops that use the principles of Ignatian Spirituality.

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