Laudate Si: discussion notes 3

“…humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction… Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything.” Section 113

  1. Let’s wonder. What is the purpose and meaning of creation? 

2. Is creation God’s gift to us to do with it what ever we want? 

Has it been given to us so that we can benefit from it, in return for tending it?

Has it been given to us so that we can continue to work with God as co-creators of a still evolving creation?

3. Is creation a stockpile of resources from which we can pick and choose individual bits with no regard for the rest?

If we harvest all the sand eels to make fish oils, do we have a responsibility for puffins and other creatures that rely on sand eels for food?

If we chop down the forest to create grazing land, do we have a responsibility for plants and animals that will die because the land will dry out?

If we replace jungle with palm oil plantations, do we have a responsibility to re-home the orang-utans who lived there?

4. In an ideal world, governments would collaborate and legislate to protect the environment, and to prevent such abuse and misuse of resources. As we do not live in such a world, what can we as individuals and as groups do to protect the environment?

5. Pope Francis reminds us, section 115, that not only has God given us the earth, God has also given us the gift of our fellow human beings. Do we treat them any better than the way we treat rest of creation? 

Can you think of examples of humans been treated as commodities, or as a means to an end?

6. If we fail to treat all human beings with respect and care, are we surprised that humans struggle to care for the environment?

7. Conversely can we properly care for the environment, if we do not also care for the humans who inhabit the same space? 

Can we protect African elephants unless we also pay attention to the needs of the local farmers and businesses who occupy the same land? Can we protect mangroves from clearance for shrimp fisheries unless we provide alternative employment opportunities? Can we rewild grouse moors unless we provide alternative employment for local people?

8. Pope Francis, in section 124, reminds us that God created the first humans not to do nothing, but to tend and till the earth, ie to work. Their work was to assist what grew in the garden and to benefit each other’s well being – and presumably that of the animals too. To work gainfully is a Godly calling – a vocation – for humanity. 

In what ways do you feel that your life fulfils that vocation?

9. “Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God.” Section 127

Do all people have access to such opportunities? Do all people find in their work the means of glorifying God? What prevents people experiencing work in these ways?

Could it equally be that case that some people become so overwhelmed by work, that these benefits are lost?

10. We are learning to understand the concept of sustainable development, and of the sustainable use of resources. Should we also be thinking in terms of sustainable employment?

What might that look like? How might it give a sense of meaning and purpose to life?

11. How might we measure this? In terms of a living wage, of job satisfaction, of the degree of autonomy in making decisions, quality of the working environment, levels of team work and co working?

12. How might we as residents of a comfortable suburb, enable or promote sustainable employment for a greater number of people? 

What questions or reassurances might we seek from employers and producers? How might we use our purchasing power to good effect?

Thank you God

for giving us a vocation 

to be tillers and carers of the earth.

Remind us that it is a vocation we share with 

all that lives on this planet

so that we may be attentive to the needs and gifts of all.

Amen

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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