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. Papa Francisco's 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.
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.
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. The history of our
friendship with God is always linked to particular
places which take on an intensely personal meaning;
we all remember places, and revisiting those
53 Against this horizon we can set the contribution of
Fr Teilhard de Chardin; cf. Paul VI, Address in a Chemical and
Pharmaceutical Plant (24 February 1966): Insegnamenti 4 (1966),
992-993; John Paul II, Letter to the Reverend George Coyne (1 June
1988): Insegnamenti 11/2 (1988), 1715; Benedict XVI, Homily for
the Celebration of Vespers in Aosta (24 July 2009): Insegnamenti 5/2
memories does us much good. 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 that no creature is excluded from
this manifestation of God: “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 This contemplation
of creation allows us to discover in each thing
a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us,
since “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
54 John Paul II, Catechesis (30 January 2002),6: Insegnamenti
25/1 (2002), 140.
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: Insegnamenti
23/1 (2000), 123.
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:
“I express myself in expressing the world; in my
effort to decipher the sacredness of the world, I
explore my own”.59
86. The universe as a whole, in all its manifold
relationships, shows forth the inexhaustible riches
of God. 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 sun and the
moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle
and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless
diversities and inequalities tells us that no
58 Id., Catechesis (2 August 2000), 3: Insegnamenti 23/2
59 Paul Ricoeur, Philosophie de la Volonté, t. II: Finitude et
Culpabilité, Paris, 2009, 216.
60 Summa Theologiae, I, q. 47, art. 1.
62 Cf. Ibid., art. 2, ad 1; art. 3.
creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence
on each other, to complete each other,
in the service of each other”.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 splendour;
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,
63 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 340.
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 and calls us to
enter into relationship with him.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