Sacrament of Creation
So the new encyclical Laudato si is finally promulgated and is apparently the longest encyclical in history at 200 pages!
So far, I’ve only had chance to flick through some passages but I saw two comments which summed up the entire document thus: “less is more” and “Get married, have a family, grow a garden.” I guess they are both right but the latter won’t apply to everyone! There is no doubting our indisputable responsibility before the Creator to take care of the gift of creation He has blessed us and future generations with. And it is right that we all need to think about how we, as families, can live simply so that others may simply live. We are all called to greatness through service to others as a distinct participation in the life of the Father in Heaven and as stewards of creation. The duty call to steward our moral environment is no less urgent that that which we are exhorted to take care of the physical environment. Just as we are warned to play our part in preserving what is good and beautiful from dangerous toxins, so too must we prevent the moral pollutants that can invade the marital and family homestead. In 2008, Pope Benedict called marriage ‘the sacrament of creation.’ This is a beautiful notion in the light of the new encyclical. Earlier in 2007 Benedict had elaborated on this notion reminding us of the need to “listen if we want to survive and to decipher this message of the earth. And if we must be obedient to the voice of the earth, this is even truer for the voice of human life.” And what is the voice of human life? It is the echo of the truth of what lies at the heart, the pinnacle, the summit of all of creation – the blessed and fecund union of man and woman united for life and open to life. From this stems all other creativity and creative generosity throughout the course of human history, including our interaction with creation itself.
When asked this week what he thought the biggest threat to marriage and the family is in the Church today, Cardinal Dolan of New York said that he believes it is sin:
“Sin is our desire to redefine marriage to how we’d like it to be instead of redefining ourselves to be in consonant with God’s will,” he said. “So the threat is to prefer our way to God’s way, but God is the creator. God has given us marriage, it’s one of the first things he gave us in the Garden of Eden. So he’s told us what marriage is about, he’s told us it’s forever, it’s life-giving, it’s loving, it’s faithful, and if we attempt to chip away at that, and to change those divinely given qualities, we’re in big trouble.”
We are in ‘big trouble’ says the Cardinal. Is this the same kind of ‘trouble’ we are facing at the callous way we neglect the environment at times and the fruits of the earth? Yes, frankly, big trouble. Are we not as equally obliged to preserve the health and vitality of the moral and spiritual environment of the family and home for future generations as we are the physical and material environment? Many have concerns about fracking for example, and its possible effects on the immediate environment where it takes place and any unintended consequences of its exploitative action on the earth in the long term. I am sure, although I don’t know enough about the subject, that such concerns if not well-founded must surely be respected as genuine and deserve a response. How much more of a response does the “fracking” of the moral foundations of the family deserve as it directly undermines marriage and all the goodness and fruitfulness it imparts for the most treasured and precious gift of its natural habitat – children!
Much of these themes are not new in Church teaching and indeed as recently as 2006 were explored in a sadly lesser-known document from the Pontifical Council for the Family; ‘that every theology of human procreation must, in the last analysis, stem from the theology of creation.’
So now with the new encyclical Laudato Si and the working document ‘instrumentum laboris‘ just released for the upcoming synod on the family, there is a lot to ponder on but, more importantly, pray hard about and then act on, so we all in our own small but significant way contribute to the building of God’s kingdom towards a new heaven and a new earth.
And on a different note, this little-publicized speech given by Pope Francis to families at the opening of the Ecclesial Conference of the Diocese of Rome on the 15th June, is well worth a read!
– Edmund Adamus
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster