By Patrick Sand and Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
We are here not to walk on the water, but to walk on the Earth.
That was the heart of a quotation offered by Our Lady of Guadalupe pastor Father Jack Walmesley as he welcomed more than 150 people to an interfaith gathering last night, “Praised Be,” celebrating the encyclical letter on the environment, “Laudato Si,” issued earlier in the day by Pope Francis, which begins:
1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.
2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. …
Underscoring that the Earth should be cared for on behalf of future generations as well as ours – it is described in the encyclical’s subtitle as “our common home” – a copy of the Pope’s message was carried into the church by OLG sixth-grader Emily Amesquita (top photo).
OLG parishioners Dan and Robyn Campbell, introduced as committed environmentalists, talked about losing a tree in their yard and having to answer their three-year-old’s question about where the squirrels would live.
They built a little house for the squirrels, they explained, saying it was a “teaching moment,” helping them to instill in their children a reverence for the Earth and how we must all take care of it.
Father Walmesley also spoke of understanding “the breath of God,” not just how it is experienced on Earth but how scientists have seen through the Hubble Telescope and in other ways that it is alive in the galaxies and stars whose light reaches us now from across seemingly endless space. We’re here, he said, to understand the complexity of the world that St. Francis of Assisi understood and that Pope Francis has called all people to understand now.
Those in attendance also heard from Dr. Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos, director of the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture at Seattle University.
She spoke about the theology of the encyclical and how it applies to daily life.
Then Emily carried the encyclical out of the church, as people followed, invited to stay and learn more about living sustainably
Before the service, visitors were invited to see and consider the sustainability-focused features of OLG’s 3-year-old Parish Life Center.
In our photo under some of the center’s solar panels are, from left, visiting Father Thomas J. Marti; LeeAnne Beres of Earth Ministry; the center’s architect Richard Glasman; OLG pastoral assistant Frank Handler; and Jessie Dye of Earth Ministry, who also had spoken during the service. (Earth Ministry’s mission is “inspiring and mobilizing the religious community to play a leadership role in building a just and sustainable future.”)
WHAT NOW? The back of the event program offered advice for “taking action on Laudato Si,” listing simple lifestyle changes such as:
Eating lower on the food chain
Walking or taking the bus more often
Changing to compact fluorescent light bulbs
Insulating or installing solar on our homes and parishes
Purchasing used items
Not buying toxic cleaning or lawn products
Generally using fewer resources
P.S. The encyclical, the second by Pope Francis, was written in Italian but can be read in English here.