ENVIRONMENTAL SOLIDARITY, THE RADIANCE OF HOPE

In the following lines,  Stratford Caldecott presents us his vision of hope in order to get a better environmental careful, considering no only the own benefits, but also the welfare of all God´s creatures.

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John Paul II in his Message for the World Day of Peace in 1990 said: “Peace with God the Creator; Peace with All Creation”.  These wise words lead to consider that the “integrity of creation” must be based on simplicity, moderation, and discipline, as well as a spirit of sacrifice like part of everyday life”

Pope John Paul II insisted that “one cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate animals, plants, the natural elements simply as one wishes, according to one’s own economic needs”. People need taking into account a real “human ecology” as intimate relationship between the welfare of humanity (which he linked to the wellbeing of the family and respect for the moral law) and that of the environment, based on the interdependence of all life on earth.

 At the same time, Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching about environmental was remarkable. For example, he set a good example by installing solar panels in the Vatican and planting trees in Hungary, attempting to make the Vatican the first carbon-neutral state in the world. Pope Francis emphasized the importance of ecological responsibility and caring for creation from the very beginning of his pontificate.

 I want to argue that the environmental movement finds its true home, and its fullest expression, within the Catholic Church because to solve environmental problems is necessary consider a new kind of politics and a new kind of technology in accordance with the Catholic principle of subsidiarity. In other words we need also a spirituality that is capable of healing and motivating us—and raising us above our human limitations. We need divine grace and hope.

 I find it helpful that the author of The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien, in constructing a language for the pre-Christian Elves of Middle-earth, gives them two main words for hope. The word Amdir, which means “looking up,” refers to optimism, or the expectation that things will turn out well or at least get better. The assumption that the ecological crisis can be solved, that big corporations can be persuaded to change their ways, that the earth can survive whatever we throw at it, all these fall under the heading of Amdir.

 The second word, Estel, means “trust”—trust in our deepest nature and the being of things, or in their source of being, despite the apparent victory of evils known and experienced. That, I would say, is perfectly valid, and in its own way quite consoling, but in the face of so much evil it is easily overwhelmed.

 To these two kinds of hope we must add a third, for which there is no Elvish word. Christian hope is neither psychological nor metaphysical, but theological. It rests on the gift of faith.

 This is the hope with which Pope Benedict was mainly concerned in section 31 of Spe Salvi, his encyclical on Hope. There Benedict writes that while “we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day… these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain.”

The sign of love is not the creeds we adhere to, or the ideas we carry in our heads, but the spirit in which we behave towards each other and the world, which is a spirit of hope. The liturgy and Eucharist begin where philosophy also begins, in amazement and gratitude, in praise for the sheer existence of so much beauty, so much actuality. Forests and mountains, deserts and stars, animals, plants and insects are here and gone in a day, and their existence is fraught with sorrow, but God made them and pronounced them good.

 In order to cherish and preserve the world and its creatures, and the superb order and harmony in which they co-exist, we need to take possession of the vision that faith gives us, we need to open our eyes and see not only the beauties and complexities of the physical world, but the source of its true value.

 We need to open the eyes of faith, the eyes that have been given to us by the Holy Spirit. With faith comes hope—the “third hope” that sustains through every darkness. But faith and hope depend on love, and in the end it is not even a supernatural hope but love that inspires and sustains the ecologist. Love is the source of value, since everything has existence and beauty as an image or reflection of the love that is the eternal life of the Trinity. God’s life is the eternal self-giving, receiving, and rejoicing of That whose nature is to exist. The world can have no other source, and no other model than this. And by being assumed through the man Jesus Christ into the life of God, the creation is filled with glory, so that the merely human inclination or desire we might have had to preserve its diversity or harmony is raised to an infinitely higher level, for in it we are loving the wisdom and beauty of God himself.

 (This article is a brief resume of the conference presented by Dr. Caldecott in the WDY 2013 in Rio de Janeiro)

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