Friday, October 9, 2015

"In my effort to decipher the sacredness of the world, I explore my own”: Laudato Si', 84-88

In the excerpts below, Pope Francis quotes from St. Francis's "Canticle of the Creatures" and explores the ways in which creation not only praises God but reveals things about both Him and us. Also, note how many times Francis quotes the various national bishops' conferences, just in these excerpts alone (and many more times elsewhere). This expresses his sense of collegiality; he may be first among the bishops of Christendom, but he too is a bishop and see himself in cooperation with his brother bishops around the world.


84. Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose…. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God. The history of our friendship with God is always linked to particular places which take on an intensely personal meaning…. Anyone who has grown up in the hills or used to sit by the spring to drink, or played outdoors in the neighbourhood square; going back to these places is a chance to recover something of their true selves.

85. God has written a precious book, “whose letters are the multitude of created things present in the universe”.[54] The Canadian bishops rightly pointed out…: “From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine”.[55] The bishops of Japan, for their part, made a thought-provoking observation: “To sense each creature singing the hymn of its existence is to live joyfully in God’s love and hope”.[56]… “For the believer, to contemplate creation is to hear a message, to listen to a paradoxical and silent voice”.[57] We can say that “alongside revelation properly so-called, contained in sacred Scripture, there is a divine manifestation in the blaze of the sun and the fall of night”.[58] Paying attention to this manifestation, we learn to see ourselves in relation to all other creatures: “…In my effort to decipher the sacredness of the world, I explore my own”.[59]

86. …Saint Thomas Aquinas wisely noted that multiplicity and variety “come from the intention of the first agent” who willed that “what was wanting to one in the representation of the divine goodness might be supplied by another”,[60] inasmuch as God’s goodness “could not be represented fittingly by any one creature”.[61] Hence we need to grasp the variety of things in their multiple relationships.[62] We understand better the importance and meaning of each creature if we contemplate it within the entirety of God’s plan. As the Catechism teaches: “God wills the interdependence of creatures… The spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient…”.[63]

87. When we can see God reflected in all that exists, our hearts are moved to praise the Lord for all his creatures and to worship him in union with them. This sentiment finds magnificent expression in the hymn of Saint Francis of Assisi:
Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
who is the day and through whom you give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
and bears a likeness of you, Most High.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather
through whom you give sustenance to your creatures.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.[64]
88. The bishops of Brazil have pointed out that nature as a whole not only manifests God but is also a locus of his presence. The Spirit of life dwells in every living creature….[65] Discovering this presence leads us to cultivate the “ecological virtues”.[66] This is not to forget that there is an infinite distance between God and the things of this world, which do not possess his fullness. Otherwise, we would not be doing the creatures themselves any good either, for we would be failing to acknowledge their right and proper place. We would end up unduly demanding of them something which they, in their smallness, cannot give us.


[54] JOHN PAUL II, Catechesis (30 January 2002),6.

[55] CANADIAN CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS, SOCIAL AFFAIRS COMMISSION, Pastoral Letter You Love All that Exists… All Things are Yours, God, Lover of Life” (4 October 2003), 1.

[56] CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF JAPAN, Reverence for Life. A Message for the Twenty-First Century (1 January 2000), 89.

[57] JOHN PAUL II, Catechesis (26 January 2000), 5.

[58] Idem., Catechesis (2 August 2000), 3.

[59] PAUL RICOEUR, Philosophie de la Volonté, t. II: Finitude et Culpabilité, Paris, 2009, 216.

[60] Summa Theologiae, I, q. 47, art. 1.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Cf. ibid., art. 2, ad 1; art. 3.

[63] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 340.

[64] Canticle of the Creatures, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, New York-London-Manila, 1999, 113-114.

[65] Cf. NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE BISHOPS OF BRAZIL, A Igreja e a Questão Ecológica, 1992, 53-54.

[66] Ibid., 61.

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