What does Laudato si’ say about faith-based service?

By Katie Mulembe, Catholic Volunteer Network Staff
Community, simple living, social justice, spirituality…for so many volunteer programs, these four values serve as the foundation – guiding their mission, enriching their impact, and shaping their programming. Here at Catholic Volunteer Network, we refer to them as our “Four Pillars.” I recently read through Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si’ and was surprised to see these very familiar themes running throughout the entire document. It was almost as if the Pope was speaking directly to us faith-based volunteers!
I began reading the, excited to hear what Pope Francis had to say about care for creation, but I did not expect to be so challenged to deepen my commitment to community, simple living, social justice, and spirituality, which were so integral to my own mission experience over ten years ago. The encyclical affirmed the lessons that service taught me about relationships, the dignity of each person, and our interconnectedness, but it did not stop there. As I prayerfully read through the document, I felt called to repentance for the many times that I have not extended these values to my relationship with the earth. Over and over I have neglected my responsibility to care for all creation. The encyclical encourages all of us to do more, saying “Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.” (19)
If you haven’t gotten the chance to read through Laudato si’, I highly recommend it. Although long, it is easy to read – and serves as great material to guide prayer and meditation. Here are a few passages that make reference to our four pillars:
Social Justice:
“Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus discover what each of us can do about it.” (19)
“We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (49)
“We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference.” (52)
“Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbor, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God, and with the earth.” (70)
“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. None is superfluous. 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.” (84)
Simple Living:
“Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption… A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfillment.” (222)
“Happiness means knowing how to limit some needs which only diminish us, and being open to the many different possibilities which life can offer.” (223)
“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain train, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.” (233)
“Through our worship of God, we are invited to embrace the world on a different place. Water, oil, fire, and colors are taken up in all their symbolic power and incorporated in our act of praise.” (235)
I hope that Laudato si’ encourages you to see God’s presence in all living creatures, and in this beautiful earth that we all call home. Whether you are a current volunteer, former volunteer, or someone who is looking into the possibility of becoming a volunteer – I think this encyclical will be a great resource for your faith journey. And, if you’ve already read Laudato si’ comment below to share how it has impacted your commitment to service
If you are looking for more information about this encyclical, check out these resources:
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