Yesterday morning I awoke to the news of the shooting of nine people in a church in Charleston. This is a church that is located a mere two blocks from my daughter’s apartment and college campus and Charleston is geographically a very small town. It was just too close to home.
Midday the President addressed the nation, his remarks touched on both racial issues and violence:
“The fact that this took place in a black church also raises questions about a dark part of our history…”
And midday yesterday as well, the Pope’s encyclical letter, Laudato Si’: On the Care for Our Common Home, was released. His writings begin with:
“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.
This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.
Nothing in this world is indifferent to us
It was certainly a day for contemplation. A day to ponder the violence we inflict upon each other as well as to the earth and her inhabitants. In my mind, and in my spiritual beliefs, our physical world is reflective of our collective inner world. I believe that we have come to a crossroads in our evolution—a time when we have to let go of past dogmas and change our way of thinking—and so a dialogue such as the one started yesterday with the release of the Pope’s encyclical is needed as we all contemplate and re-evaluate our lives.
I know that I can’t change the political or economic arenas. The bigger truth is that I just don’t want to even try. It’s ugly and divisive, and yes, maybe that is burying my head in the sand. I can live with that. But what I can do…what I love to do…is work with the beauty and bounty of our Mother Earth. I choose to be an agent of change through working with the soil and all that it yields. (And maybe tugging some of you along with me.)
Nearly every morning you can find me outside, cup of coffee and camera in hand at that moment just before the sun rises, inspecting the flowers and insects that are already getting on with the work of their day. I highly recommend this to everyone…even if you think you are just too busy…as it is a wonderful way to start a day—feeling gratitude that the earth is so giving.
This is what I know for sure… I can plant gardens that are good for our common home. I can plant gardens that feed our souls and our bodies. I can show others how to plant and care for gardens that are good for our common home that feed our souls, our bodies, and the bodies of all the creatures with whom we share this common home.
I have just started to dig through Pope Francis’s writing (you can see it here). My hope is that a world-wide dialogue begins in earnest with such a powerful voice behind it.
What are your thoughts on the Pope’s encyclical letter?