The saint travelled with just one spare cheap sari and a bucket in which to wash her clothes
In keeping with its professionalism, the CTS has already published Pope Francis’s papal encyclical, “Laudato Si” (available for £4.95.) A copy was waiting for me when I returned from a holiday last week. I will not pretend I leapt to read it. Of course I love and agree with St Francis of Assisi’s beautiful hymn to the glory of creation, his Canticle of the Sun, which is printed on page 45 – although the final stanza, to Sister Death, with the line “Woe to those who die in mortal sin!” is left out. I also know that having “dominion over” the earth, as it says in the Bible, does not mean we are entitled to destroy it; “stewardship” is the name of the game and we have not been good stewards.
But having said this I tend to sympathise with Fr Ray Blake’s blog on this encyclical. He writes: “I simply don’t have the capacity or will to read and digest such a magnum opus properly.” I am also biased; whatever I have read on the subject of climate change has generally come from its critics, partly because they tend to be conservative and partly because the Green party, the “friends of the earth”, has a tendency to see human beings as the enemy of nature.
Along with Simcha Fisher, whose amusing blog on “Laudato Si” was quoted in the Herald magazine last Friday, I feel that large families (she has 10 children so far, we had eight) hardly need to be preached at about simplicity of life, conserving energy and husbanding the earth’s resources. As she observes, such families know all about keeping the heating down, home cooking, not letting food go to waste and turning off the lights; to this I would add not flying abroad for holidays, using a hand roller to cut the grass, doing without a dishwasher and other economies too numerous to mention. I wish the Holy Father could have added a stanza to St Francis’s original, in praise of large families.
This would go against the grain of the population control lobby – but the Holy Father could hardly agree with them. And that’s another subject of scientific debate, along with climate change and global warming, on which there doesn’t seem to be consensus: are there too many people on our planet or too few? Many countries are barely replacing their populations – so what is the truth?
Then I decided to skim-read the encyclical. On page 20 there is mention of the quality of water available to the world’s poor. It reminded me of an anecdote about Mother Teresa: living in a country where safe drinking water was not available at the turn of a tap, she would never drink a glass of water without making the sign of the Cross, to indicate that she did not take this precious element for granted.
Chapter 2, “The Gospel of Creation”, is the most spiritual part of the encyclical. I read: “How wonderful is the certainty that each human life is not adrift in the midst of hopeless chaos, in a world ruled by pure chance or endlessly recurring cycles!” Yes indeed, reminding us that God loves his creation, the earth, and especially the human beings he has created to populate it. I then read: “A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings” (page 47). Dorothy Day, whom I blogged about on Monday, and who is on the road to sainthood, would have understood this – as indeed would all the saints.
I skipped the passage with the heading “The Globalisation of the Technocratic Paradigm”. Then on page 100 the Holy Father included a list of ways we can all practise simplicity of life; I won’t enumerate them as Simcha Fisher has already done so but I am again reminded of Mother Teresa: when she travelled she took just one spare cheap sari and a small plastic bucket in which to wash her clothes. Finally, I noticed on page 107 that Pope Francis recommends we return to the “beautiful and meaningful custom” of grace before and after meals. This also is a good habit. So my skim-reading the encyclical has nagged me not to be profligate with water, to give thanks for the food on the table and to carry on with frugal practices; all worthwhile reminders.