This June, Pope Francis released his highly anticipated encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si.  We anticipate that Francis will discuss the importance of caring for creation during his upcoming visit to the United States.  Over the next six weeks before Francis’ trip, both our bulletin and our parishes’ website will feature brief outlines of each chapter of this important encyclical.


We hope that our summaries will encourage you to read Laudato Si.  It is easier to read than most previous encyclicals.  You may either download it for free or purchase it in book form.


Additionally, we plan to host a three-part education program this fall which will explore this encyclical and its meaning in greater depth.  More information will follow soon.


Chapter 1: What is happening to our Common Home?

Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: social, economic, and political.  In Chapter 1, Pope Francis presents an analysis of the present condition, in which we are overexploiting and destroying God’s creation.  Tragically, overdevelopment, pollution, trash, and toxic waste are all combining to devastate our planet.

 In Africa, much of the population lacks access to safe drinking water, and agriculture is suffering due to increasingly frequent droughts.  Unsafe drinking water is a major source of diseases and death.  Wastes, detergents, and chemicals are all damaging water quality. Likewise, people who live in impoverished coastal countries such as the Philippines are suffering greatly from the depletion of fishing reserves; water pollution; and rising sea levels.

So far, the international political response to climate change has been weak.  Economic and political special interests manipulate information for their own benefit, thereby rejecting the common good.  Global economic inequality silences the cry of the poor, even though they are usually the ones most affected by the worldwide environmental crisis.

 Chapter 2 - The Gospel of Creation

In the second chapter of his encyclical, Pope Francis draws on Scripture and church teaching to explain God’s role as Creator, and our responsibility to preserve and share His creation.  God created the Earth, which He gave to all humanity to share and protect.  By carelessly exploiting and destroying what He created, we are failing in our responsibility to love both God and our neighbor.

At the same time, Pope Francis reminds us that we are equal in the eyes of God, and he highlights the Catholic social teaching of the preferential option for the poor.  The Earth is our shared inheritance, regardless of our wealth or social status.  We have a duty to share our planet’s resources with the poor and to sustain God’s gifts for future generations.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that the Father never forgets even the tiniest sparrow.  His eye is on the sparrow, and He expects us to show the same concern for creation by protecting and sharing it with each other.

 Chapter 3 – The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis

Pope Francis explores the impact of modern technology on both humanity and the Earth.  He emphasizes the importance of utilizing science and technology for the common good, instead of as a means to wealth or power.

Technology has led to significant advances in medicine, communication, and our quality of life. Today, however, our society is increasingly prioritizing science and innovation over responsible living.  Many businesses are less concerned with their environmental impact than they are with maximizing their profits.  Francis also criticizes businesses that aim to increase their short-term revenue by replacing human workers with machines.  Both pollution and the devaluation of human labor jeopardize our ability to live together as the Body of Christ.

Pope Francis states that technology can be an important tool to help us fulfill God’s plan for creation.  He asks that we thoughtfully consider the implications of each innovation and discovery.  Therefore, we must balance our use of science and technology with the needs of all humanity, and with respect for our common home.

 Chapter 4 – Integral Ecology

In Chapter 4, Pope Francis explains how humanity and nature are closely connected and underlines the importance of preserving creation for future generations.  The future of human existence greatly depends on the fate of the natural world.  Therefore, we must develop strategies and solutions that not only sustain the natural environment, but also protect the human environment.  This includes ensuring that all people have access to the basic human rights of safety, adequate food, affordable housing, and clean water.

Francis highlights how the careless overexploitation of natural resources is reducing the standard of living among many of the world’s poor.  He gives special attention to indigenous peoples whose cultures and ways of living are under attack by our prevalent “culture of waste”.  We must strive to preserve creation so that native peoples and the poor will be able to pass their traditions and cultures down to future generations.  Consequently, as members of a global society, we must rethink our blind acceptance of increasing globalization, unbridled consumerism, and economic policies that favor productivity over people. 

 Chapter 5:  Lines of Approach and Action  (quotes are from the encyclical)

Pope Francis calls for simpler lifestyles, clean energy, and a preferential option for the poor. After making a case that interrelated environmental and social dysfunction threatens our common home, he urges dialogue that provides us with the knowledge and will to make desperately needed changes “so that future generations will not have to suffer the effects of our ill-advised delays” 

What can be done?  “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels .. needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries that are more powerful and pollute the most. It is not enough to balance...the protection of nature with financial gain.” We need to redefine our “notion of progress.” While Pope Francis’ statements may seem radical in today’s cultural and political environment, he reflects the Christian ideal of self sacrifice and concern for the common good.

He inspires us to ask: What is our responsibility to each other and the world God created?   Do we encourage our politicians to look beyond short-term national interests and reward them when they have the courage to act on climate change and recognize our debt to developing countries? 

 Chapter 6:  Ecological Education and Spirituality (italicized quotes are from the encyclical)

Pope Francis “invites everyone to the heart of ecological conversion. The roots of the cultural crisis are deep, and it is not easy to reshape habits and behavior. The starting point is “to aim for a new lifestyle” which also opens the possibility of “bringing healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power.” This is what happens when consumer choices are able to “change the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production.  The importance of environmental education cannot be overstated. It is able to affect actions and daily habits, the reduction of water consumption, the sorting of waste and even “turning off unnecessary lights”: “An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.   (from the Vatican Press Office via America Magazine)   What steps can you take to better care for Our Common Home through changes in your lifestyle or applying “healthy pressure to those who wield political, economic and social power?”















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