Celebrating the first anniversary of Laudato Si continues to be a blessing and a challenge. The encyclical calls us daily to the urgency of the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
I recall the well-known words of Arleen Lorrance: We must become the change we want to see in the world. Pope Francis’s emphasis throughout the encyclical is on care and love for the universe as a framework for the care and love we demonstrate for humanity. It is a call for a change of mind and heart on the part of all peoples, a change that leads to action. We respond to this call to be agents of change, initiators or creators of change in the ordinary circumstances of daily living, i.e., to involve ourselves—and to care. We need one another because we share a common home and have a shared responsibility for the world and for one another. “An integral ecology is made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness” (230).
This reality makes certain anthropological assumptions and implies a parallel set of duties proportionate to both:
Many things need to change but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. . . . (202) A new and universal solidarity is required (14).
This change is transformational and internal, a change in how we see the world, how we see each other, and how we see God. It is a call to reflect on our relationship with God, neighbor, and earth. Are these relationships healthy or broken? Do these broken relationships invite us to take action locally, nationally, and globally though advocacy and universal solidarity? It is a call to address policy, structures, and institutions on broken issues: climate change, gun violence, human trafficking, immigration reform, hunger, racism, global inequality, economic disparity and exclusion.
Laudato Si continues to invite students, parishes, interfaith groups, business and professional leaders, and others to study, reflection, dialogue, and ongoing ecological conversion. What is needed is a radical and fundamental change in our attitudes to creation, to the poor, and to the priorities of a global economy. Awareness changes the mind and heart and moves one to take action, to build bridges of unity and love. This is love overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, but it is also civic and political, and is felt in every action that seeks to build a better world, the ideal of “a civilization of love” (231).
Personal experiences call us to deeper conversion and action. This year, I participated in a human rights delegation to Honduras. My meetings with various groups—listening to stories of struggles, fears, violence, injustice, and corruption—gave new concrete testimony and meaning to being in solidarity.
I read in the newspaper about Berta Caceres, one of the leading indigenous activists in Honduras. She spent her life fighting in defense of indigenous rights, particularly to land and natural resources. She was assassinated on March 2, 2016. This for me was a call to solidarity and action. To honor Berta Caceres and all people of Honduras who suffer human rights abuses, I ask that members of Congress support H.R. 5474, the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act. The bill seeks to “suspend U.S. security assistance with Honduras until such time as human rights violations by Honduran security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.” To demonstrate solidarity in action, it’s time to write to our representatives and senators!
Laudato Si speaks of hope, a hope that will bring new life and care for our common home and one another. It is a call for action, creativity, and collaboration. Let us be the change we want to see in the world as we respond daily to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.