In Pope Francis's 2015 encyclical (a papal letter to bishops), he voiced the conviction that Christians need to be on the forefront of caring for creation. This letter, entitled Laudato Sì or Praise Be to You: On Care for Our Common Home asserts that it is imperative that we care for this common home of all earth-bound creatures, including but not exclusively human creatures. Especially if we believe in a God who created this home, we must live into that belief by caring for this good creation.
Included at the end of the Laudato Sì are two prayers—one specifically for Christians and one with a wider reach. I include below the one intended as a common prayer for all those who, Christian or not, believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator. If those who have the common ground of a belief in a Creator God raise this prayer together, it could move individuals and the world into a change of heart and action that would have powerful ramifications.
Prayers are not meant to be read abstractly, but are to be words of the heart and mind, as a means to communicate honestly with God. If they are to mean and do anything, they can't be heedless repetitions. Effective prayers change the one who prays, moving us to action as God directs it. So, I invite you to not just read this prayer, but to pray this prayer, slowly, not merely as words to be agreed with, but as confessions to be made, praises to be voiced, actions to be taken: consciously, deliberately, and sincerely.
A Prayer for Our Earth
by Pope Francis
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
Here are a few elements of this prayer which I notice as I pray through its words.
PRESENCE. God is present in all of creation. The vastness of space is not empty; God's presence is there. The tiniest of created things—the inchworm and even the dust mite—are large enough and significant enough for God's presence to inhabit. He is present within all he has created. Think of what that means as you look at the world around you and within you.
TENDERNESS. The stance of God toward all he has created is based in tenderness, a tenderness that stoops near and embraces all that exists. When you look around, can you see that tenderness in action? Can you believe that tenderness is the essential posture of God toward what he has created?
LOVE AND PEACE. The good gifts that God gives to us—love and peace—are not given to us as our own possessions to receive and retain for ourselves. We are not merely a pool that receives and enjoys these gifts from God. As God pours these out upon us, there are purposes for these gifts beyond our personal benefit. They are meant to enable us to act in ways that look like God's own attributes of tenderness, love, and peace. This prayer asks for these gifts so that we may do something with them—that we may protect creation, that we may live as brothers and sisters, that we may sow beauty. We must recognize that we are not the stopping place for these gifts; they are intended to flow through us and beyond us.
THE POOR. God does not forget the poor, the abandoned, those forgotten by most of the world. Through this prayer, we give God permission to bring those human and nonhuman creatures into our hearts and minds and we ask him to give us the hearts, desire, and ability to change the circumstances of those who are poor, abandoned, and forgotten. With God's empowerment, we can be part of the rescue of both the human and non-human creatures living as abandoned creatures.
HEALING. The healing we ask for does not end with us, but moves out from us and into the way we see the world and live within it. Our healing goes beyond our own circumstances and health; our ability to do good in this world instead of harm is a primary change that happens as we are healed. We become able to live in a way that creates health in the wider world instead of harm. God's healing changes our impulses and desires from only our good to larger good. God can help us see the intrinsic and immense value each created things holds if we allow him to open our eyes. We can also then see our relation to those other creatures, related as we are through the love that God holds for each of us.
ACTION AND ENCOURAGEMENT. This struggle is a daily thing; it isn't something we complete and move on from. Each day, we need God's encouragement and presence so that we can actively live out the values that are intrinsic to him and are being passed on to us to live out: tenderness, peace, love, care. There are times when we will be discouraged—when it will seem like we have made no progress in working toward justice, love and peace, times when conferences discourage us and agreements are weaker than the world needs them to be. And so we continue to pray this prayer to the all-powerful God, the creator and lover of all that he has created.
If a chorus of voices prays this prayer together and works together to live by its yearnings and values, the awareness that all on this earth are a community will grow stronger, which can transform us into people who care for instead of exploit or ignore the other members of creation around us. All creatures of this earth are bound together on this common home—we just don't always see that or live according to that reality.
Reflection Questions: What is your experience when you pray this prayer? Does it open your eyes to a different way of viewing our common home? What kind of action has prayer moved you toward?
If you would like to experience this prayer in another way, I invite you to watch the video below.
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