By Christina Bagaglio Slentz
“Bring flow’rs of the rarest, bring flow’rs of the fairest, from garden, and woodland, and hillside, and vale; our full hearts are swelling, our glad voices telling, the praise of the loveliest rose of the dale!”
The Queen of May
Worldwide, the month of May features mild conditions, with temperatures in the mid-’60s to mid-’70s from San Diego to Australia to South Africa. This gentility perfectly frames the month of Mary, “the loveliest rose of the dale,” as the May crowning song proclaims.
Moving with the heavenly bodies of our solar system, the Easter season of our liturgical calendar joyfully flows into May, lending celebratory accompaniment to the First Communions, confirmations and graduations of our earthly lives.
This year, we will observe both the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost during the month of May, before concluding with the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church on May 29 and the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the last day of May. “Our full hearts are swelling,” no doubt!
Pope Francis’ Letter
During this month, Pope Francis released his second encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” in 2015. The word “encyclical” comes from the Greek, meaning “circular,” as originally these special letters were forwarded to bishops and local Churches, which would copy and forward them on and on until the entire Church had received the message. Today, encyclicals are posted to the Vatican website, in multiple languages for all to read instantaneously. Papal encyclicals are not necessarily “infallible,” but contain important guiding principles, which should be taken seriously and should challenge us all to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.
“Laudato Si’” means “Praised be to you,” echoing the lines of St. Francis’ song of praise, “Canticle of the Sun,” a meditation on the goodness of the created world as a reflection of God. Pope Francis chose this title to announce the heart of his message: We are called to respect the earth and honor God through our engagement with creation. The pope addresses this letter to “every living person on this planet,” expressing great urgency in the face of our current climate crisis, which especially threatens our most vulnerable sisters and brothers and therefore demands our action as Christians.
Every year, during May, we celebrate “Laudato Si’ Week” to remind us of this call to care for our common home. You might take this month to read “Laudato Si’,” the letter from the pope to you! You can read or download the encyclical on the Vatican website or email email@example.com for a free hard copy. The Creation Care Ministry has also created a study guide to facilitate your reading.
Here is a summary of the encyclical, drawn from the Laudato Si’ Movement,:
- “Chapter One: What Is Happening to Our Common Home?” summarizes the scope of problems related to the environment, including pollution, climate change, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, and global inequality.
- “Chapter Two: The Gospel of Creation” draws on Scripture to highlight our responsibility to cultivate and protect nature. Past attempts to justify absolute human domination of other species are clarified as incorrect interpretations of the Bible (LS 67), and the natural world is portrayed as a common inheritance of all people.
- “Chapter Three: The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis” explores social trends and ideologies that have caused environmental problems, including careless use of technology, impulsive manipulation and control of nature, a view of humans as separate from the environment, narrowly-focused economic theories, and moral relativism.
- “Chapter Four: Integral Ecology” presents the encyclical’s main solution: the promotion of integral ecology, which affirms that humans are part of a broader world and calls for comprehensive solutions considering both natural as well as social systems (LS 139). Integral ecology expands the science of ecology to consider the ethical and spiritual dimensions of how humans are meant to relate to each other and the natural world — drawing on culture, family, community, virtue, religion, and respect for the common good.
- “Chapter Five: Lines of Approach and Action” applies the concept of integral ecology to political life. It calls for international agreements to protect the environment and assist low-income countries, new national and local policies, inclusive and transparent decision-making, and an economy ordered to the good of all.
- “Chapter Six: Ecological Education and Spirituality” concludes the encyclical with applications to personal life, recommending less on consumerism and more values-based living. It calls for environmental education, joy in one’s surroundings, civic love, reception of the sacraments, and an “ecological conversion”in which an encounter with Jesus leads to deeper communion with God, other people, and the world of nature.
Another way to engage with the message of “Laudato Si’” is to watch the film “The Letter,” co-produced by the Vatican and The Laudato Si’ Movement and created by award-winning filmmakers. Appropriate for all ages, the film offers a strong moment for at-home catechesis and is free to watch at https://www.theletterfilm.org/watch/. If your parish is interested in a screening, contact Creation Care Ministry, and we will help you organize a showing.
Laudato Si’ Action!
In the final chapter of “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis lifts up the Blessed Mother Mary, Queen of All Creation, observing, “Completely transfigured, she now lives with Jesus, and all creatures sing of her fairness.” (LS 241). The pope enjoins us to pray that she “enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom.” Similarly, Catholic teaching instructs us to see, then discern and finally, act.
The Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development invites us all to take creation care action via the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, or LSAP, which you can find online at https://laudatosiactionplatform.org. Creation Care Ministry is here to help you take part in this annual cycle of reflecting and planning new steps to lessen our harmful impact upon the earth.
Our goal is to encourage 25 parishes, schools and/or families to register for the LSAP by Laudato Si’ Week, May 21 to 28. Come for a pizza lunch and our Hands-On LSAP Workshop on Wednesday, May 24, 11-12:30 p.m.; register at https://forms.gle/M2xTzvqzwpPmpTiH9. You are also encouraged to sign up to stay in touch at https://forms.gle/AnU5MdDFQSqMCU8u7. We will keep you abreast of local environmental happenings and global Church initiatives.
Together, we will journey in the light of hope, and in this month of May in particular, we pray for Mary’s accompaniment. How dark without Mary life’s journey would be!