By Laura Morosini
European Programs Director, Laudato Si’ Movement
“‘The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.’ For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion” (LS 217).
Dear God, this Lent and as we live with apprehension over what’s transpiring in Ukraine, we are invited to live an ecological conversion so profound that it is “evident” in our “relationships with the world around us.” Is our commitment so evident? Do we find ways to make it shared by our fellow travelers? Do we take time to deepen our commitment in our deserts? May the Lord, with the witness of our brothers and sisters in Europe who wrote and compiled this month’s Laudato Si’ Encounter, guide us to find the answers in this time.
Prayer of St. Patrick
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.
Christ shield me today
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.
Lent shows us how to fill those ‘internal deserts’
“‘The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.’ For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion… So what they all need is an ‘ecological conversion’, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them” (LS 217).
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the desert. For the space of forty days; and was tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry” (Luke 4:1-2).
By Marta Abramczyk
Friend of Laudato Si’ Movement Poland
The quoted fragment of the Gospel of St. Luke takes us to the desert where Jesus confronts the devil. Jesus is tempted by the devil, but comes out victorious.
In the Church tradition, the three temptations of Jesus are the temptation to satisfy the senses (gluttony, lust), power and wealth (greed) and to flaunt oneself (pride, vanity) – against which St. John warns us in his first letter: “For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16).
The remedy for these three temptations are the three practices that are followed especially during Lent – that is, prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. The Scriptures recommend them as a form of exercise (Matthew 6: 1-18; 1 Corinthians 9: 25-27; 1 Timothy 4: 7-8).
Through fasting and other forms of renunciation, we learn to control ourselves. By giving alms, we learn to detach ourselves from material things and avoid creating false needs for ourselves. Through prayer, especially with the use of Sacred Scripture, as Jesus did, we stand humbly before God, relying on the Lord’s grace.
The desert in which this confrontation takes place can also be compared with the human interior. There is a certain void in all of us that we find hard to bear and that needs to be filled. If we do nothing about it or only fill it with substitutes – things that can be bought, pleasures and fun, sin or even certain kinds of relationships – this will ultimately hurt not only ourselves, but also our neighbors, our societies and the world around us.
“The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.” These words of Benedict XVI sound particularly strong today, in the time of the ecological and social crises, at the same time pointing to their deeper causes.
But how to deal with this inner void, how can one fill it? “Our heart is restless until it rests in God,” says St. Augustine. And yes, only God is the source that can truly fill this void, bring peace, harmony and fulfillment. It is God who gives us the power to resist temptation, to turn away from evil, and to turn to good, beauty, love and truth.
Let’s look again at the first sentence of our passage. The Gospel says that Jesus in the desert was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and that is the most important clue for us. We too are to be filled with the Holy Spirit! We received the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of baptism and confirmation, but we should constantly invite the Holy Spirit into our lives to guide our ways and to our inner deserts in order to fill them. And then, says the prophet Isaiah (35, 16:17):
“(…) the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest
The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field.
The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.”
Come Holy Spirit!
The author would like to acknowledge “The Gospel of Luke (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture)” by Pablo T. Gadenz, which aided this reflection.
Saving what is left of a silent humanity, used and abused
Hearing Creation’s Cry
By Matilde Calandrelli and Edoardo Barbarossa
Laudato Si’ Circle, Diocese of Melfi-Rapolla-Venosa in Italy; and Laudato Si’ Circle of Modica (Italy)
At CAMS (Centro Accoglienza Migranti Stagionali – Seasonal Migrant Reception Center) in Palazzo S. Gervasio (Basilicata, Italy), brothers, desperate men gravitate there, with their hopes and illusion of redemption.
The crumbling shed exudes the presence of more than 300 souls of invisible people who work in the fields humbly, patiently, and who are exploited every day just to ensure survival to those who await them in distant lands. That cold dormitory tells of a tiredness never soothed by the little time, between sunrise and sunset, that separates them from a new day of work.
It is the cry of the whole of creation, because in this drama of inhumanity these people carry with them the wounds of their land, the origins denied or rejected by war or poverty, the separation from their families, the umbilical cord that binds us all to our land. The drama of distant affections, of unrealized dreams.
There are camps that lead people to isolate themselves more and more and to express conflicting behaviors towards other people, especially if they are seen as different, due to ideas, sex, race or religion. We need to remember the beauty of family, emotional, social and cultural relationships, and reconstruct them despite the bombardment of conflicting visions and the feeling that there is no longer a space for the common good, in which there is also my and our good.
What remains is the dignity of these brothers whose humanity must not and cannot be foreign to us.
Lake Marózek as a shelter for all
Hearing Creation’s Song
Lake Marózek is in Mazury, or the “The Land of the Thousand Lakes” and one of the most beautiful regions of Poland. Forests and lakes provide both shelter for animals and refuge for the people who want to abandon the chaos, loudness and the fast pace of city life.
‘Laudato Si’ Center’ nurtures attitudes needed to care for creation
Ecological conversion story
By Fr. Paweł Drobot, CSsR
(The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer)
When I first heard about the integral ecology proposed by Pope Francis, I was very excited. Taking care of our common home and the whole of creation is, after all, a responsibility and mission God has entrusted to humanity – as seen in the first chapters of Genesis.
I often feel helpless in the face of great social and economic processes that contribute to the degradation of the natural environment. For me, caring for our common home also means respecting and protecting human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Here, too, I feel very helpless in the face of the degradation of the hearts and consciences of many people.
As a person involved in direct evangelisation – preaching, retreats and missions – I have not previously had the opportunity to become personally involved in activities strictly related to ecological advocacy. However, this does not mean that the subject was of no interest to me.
I was in charge of a retreat house for five years. There, I was able to take responsibility for recycling waste. I gave each visiting group a mini training and explained the principles of segregating waste. The effects were positive. This is of course only one aspect of integral ecology. After all, its aim is to protect creation and life, gifted to us by God. I think the most important thing is to take small but specific steps.
One day I was approached by a woman from the Sursum Corda community. She asked about my opinion on ecology. I told her that this important domain could be developed within our community, since our primary activity was evangelisation.
This was the beginning of our “Laudato Si’ Center.” We pursue small but tangible goals aimed at nurturing an attitude of care for creation. We organize regular events in Kraków called “Exchange of Goodness,” where people from the community can share their belongings with others. We have set up a group on social media to facilitate the exchange of goods. This way, many things get a second or even third life instead of going to waste.
Last year during Advent, we held a meeting to show how we can draw inspiration from Laudato Si’ when preparing for Christmas. We focused on how to resist the mentality of mass consumerism, which has replaced the spiritual preparation to celebrate the birth of Christ, our Savior.
Thanks to this encounter, I realized that each one of us is responsible for taking care of our common home, even through deciding on the quantity of products we buy, or consciously resisting being manipulated by advertisements fuelling the insatiable consumerism so evident in the run-up to Christmas.
Even the very simple decision to refrain from shopping on Sundays is an act of care for our common home. Sunday is, after all, a day of rest for people and for creation. We read in the Bible that even God rested on that day.
Finally, I would like to share one more thing. On 15 August 2021, in celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the General Secretariat for Evangelization of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer issued a document entitled “A Redemptorist Approach to Social Pastoral Care – Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation.” The document aims to help Redemptorists and our lay associates with social and community engagement.
There is also an extensive chapter on how Redemptorists and lay people should be involved in efforts promoting integral ecology. Thus, care for creation is very much a part of the Church’s mission of evangelization.
St. Oscar Romero
Feast Day: 24 March
Oscar Romero was the Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977 until he was assassinated in 1980. He was initially regarded as a conservative choice as archbishop, but he became increasingly outspoken about human rights violations in El Salvador – particularly after the murder of his close friend Father Rutilio Grande in March 1977.
During his three years as archbishop, Romero repeatedly denounced violence and spoke out on behalf of the victims of the civil war. In a time of heavy press censorship, his weekly radio broadcasts were often the only way people could find out the truth about the atrocities that were happening in their country. He defended the right of the poor to demand political change, a stance which made him a troublesome adversary for the country’s rulers.
A month before he was assassinated, Romero wrote to U.S. President Jimmy Carter, urging the U.S. to stop backing the Salvadoran government and supplying it with arms and military advisers. And on the day before his assassination, he urged soldiers and police not to follow orders to kill civilians, and stop the repression:
“The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters,” he preached. “When you hear a man telling you to kill, remember God’s words, ‘Thou shalt not kill’. In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuous, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression!”
Archbishop Romero was shot dead on 24 March 1980, aged 62, while celebrating Mass. In the ensuing decade, some 70,000 Salvadorans were killed in the civil war.
Archbishop Romero was one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th century, who deserves to be commemorated alongside the likes of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi as a peacemaker who sacrificed his life standing up to injustice. The world today desperately needs more figures like Romero – leaders with the courage, faith and love to stand up for the poor against injustice.
Romero is, in particular, an inspirational figure to hundreds of millions of Catholics around the world. He didn’t simply talk about the need to love your neighbor, but courageously named the injustices that plagued his country. He reminded us that Christ is found in people living in poverty, and that we cannot ignore the suffering of our brothers and sisters in need.