V. Civic and political love [228 – 232]

I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora & Newsvine and will add my comments over time. Pappa francescos 180 page letter is much less about religion than it is about nature and the planet earth. He proposes some fairly radical yet simple and understandable solutions for humankind. It is way past time to start paying attention to what we are all doing or allowing others to do.

228. Care for nature is part of a lifestyle which
includes the capacity for living together and
communion. Jesus reminded us that we have
God as our common Father and that this makes
us brothers and sisters. Fraternal love can only be
gratuitous; it can never be a means of repaying
others for what they have done or will do for us.
That is why it is possible to love our enemies.
This same gratuitousness inspires us to love and
accept the wind, the sun and the clouds, even
though we cannot control them. In this sense,
we can speak of a “universal fraternity”.

229. We must regain the conviction that we
need one another, that we have a shared responsibility
for others and the world, and that
being good and decent are worth it. We have
had enough of immorality and the mockery of
ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time
to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality
has done us no good. When the foundations of
social life are corroded, what ensues are battles
over conflicting interests, new forms of violence
and brutality, and obstacles to the growth of a
genuine culture of care for the environment.

230. Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to
practise the little way of love, not to miss out on
a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which
sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology
is also made up of simple daily gestures which
break with the logic of violence, exploitation and
selfishness. In the end, a world of exacerbated
consumption is at the same time a world which
mistreats life in all its forms.

231. Love, overflowing with small gestures
of mutual care, is also civic and political, and
it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to
build a better world. Love for society and commitment
to the common good are outstanding
expressions of a charity which affects not only
relationships between individuals but also “macro-
relationships, social, economic and political
ones”.156 That is why the Church set before the
world the ideal of a “civilization of love”.157 Social
love is the key to authentic development: “In
order to make society more human, more worthy
of the human person, love in social life – political,
economic and cultural – must be given renewed
value, becoming the constant and highest
norm for all activity”.158 In this framework, along
with the importance of little everyday gestures,
social love moves us to devise larger strategies
to halt environmental degradation and to encourage
a “culture of care” which permeates all
of society. When we feel that God is calling us
to intervene with others in these social dynamics,
we should realize that this too is part of our
spirituality, which is an exercise of charity and, as
such, matures and sanctifies us.
232. Not everyone is called to engage directly
in political life. Society is also enriched by a
countless array of organizations which work to

156 Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29
June 2009) 2: AAS 101 (2009), 642.

157 Paul VI, Message for the 1977 World Day of Peace: AAS
68 (1976), 709.

158 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium
of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 582.

promote the common good and to defend the
environment, whether natural or urban. Some,
for example, show concern for a public place (a
building, a fountain, an abandoned monument, a
landscape, a square), and strive to protect, restore,
improve or beautify it as something belonging to
everyone. Around these community actions, relationships
develop or are recovered and a new social
fabric emerges. Thus, a community can break
out of the indifference induced by consumerism.
These actions cultivate a shared identity, with a
story which can be remembered and handed on.
In this way, the world, and the quality of life of
the poorest, are cared for, with a sense of solidarity
which is at the same time aware that we
live in a common home which God has entrusted
to us. These community actions, when they
express self-giving love, can also become intense
spiritual experiences.


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