When Francis of Assisi spoke of “mother earth”, of “brother sun, sister moon …”, he was not fantasizing. It was a great revelation: that all Creation has a filial character! Whoever created it—the Creator—did it not as an artisan, but as a Father-Mother, who begets his sons and daughters. So, we also proclaim it every Sunday in the Creed of the Mass: “I believe in God-Father … Creator”; in God, the Father-Mother who creates by giving life to his filial-creation. From his creative hands emerged a world of brotherhood, of cosmic sorority. And Francis of Assisi was reborn in an encyclical published 5 years ago: “Laudato Sì”. Pope Francis calls us to a new alliance of fraternity and sound with Mother and sister Earth, our common home (LS, 17-61). We acquire a “new consciousness”. Let’s discover our most radical identity. Let’s commit ourselves to a “new dimension of ethics”. It is the moment of “ecological conversion” (LS, 216-221).
Towards a “new consciousness” of reality: organization and chaos
If the science of the human being is “anthropology”, the science of the cosmos, of creation—in which we are included—is “ecology”. This is the new scenario in which we must enter to better understand who we are and how we must inter-act.
Ecology places us on the environment stage. The environment is not a paralyzed reality, absolutely still. It is a network of very complex relationships: actions and re-actions take place within it. It is an incessant movement that disorganizes and organizes, that disorganizes and reorders again.
- Human beings belong to a blue planet that maintains, in the first place, an invariable order: the earth always revolves around itself around the sun and that is why there is night and day; the living order is governed by unchanging and repetitive genetic programs.
- Human beings also belong to a blue planet that also shows us the face of disorder and chaos. Scientists tell us that the subsoil of our planet—contemplated at a great distance and on a scale of hundreds of thousands of years—is in a frenzy: it breaks, shifts, wrinkles, rises, falls, the continents are going to the drift, the waters submerge the lands and these emerge from the waters, the tropical forests and the glaciers advance and retreat. This is the reason for so many natural catastrophes to which we humans are subjected.
- Our world—contemplated from very close and on a short time scale—shows us an extraordinary diversity of species and living beings that are related to each other in a complementary way (associations, societies, symbiosis, mutualisms) or in an antagonistic way (parasitism, competitiveness, chain of biophagy and predation); this is the reason that there are wild and domestic animals and that our relationships with them are determined by different attitudes. At the same time, there is unbridled fertility and unbridled mortality. They are regulated between the two. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said it: “Live by death, die by life” or the German philosopher Fichte: “all death in nature is birth.”
This is the environment in which we are located! Here is the reason for everything that happens and surprises us. Each of us is a tiny but conscious and living portion within this whole.
Our planetary identity and our responsibility: the human root of the ecological crisis (LS, 101-136)
“Ecology puts the problem of the relationship between man and nature as a whole, in its breadth, in its actuality”Gregory Bateson
Human beings are not the owners of nature. We clearly perceive it when we are surprised by a pandemic, a tsunami, an earthquake. But we are indeed a danger to the balance of mother earth, when we degrade it, we contaminate it and squander its resources. The Synod on the Amazon has recalled this with shocking data. Pope Francis in his final message—evoking the words of Martin Luther King—expressed it this way: “I dream of an Amazon …”.
A new and very important dimension of ethics is emerging: the awareness of our responsibility to Mother Nature, and our commitment to enter into a dynamic Alliance with her: to be co-pilots (guide and let ourselves be guided at the same time), to be caregivers for her and while she takes care of us. There is an ecological crisis and we are responsible. There is the eco-candle, which perhaps was not part of our examination of conscience. The “new consciousness” leads us to a new way of examining ourselves. Let’s get into that new form of conversion!
We are thus discovering our identity, not only in relation to other human beings, but in relation to mother nature and the entire cosmos.
- One is tribal identity (belonging to the tribe itself);
- another is the national identity—marked by my identity card—.
- Another is the trans-national identity—which gives us the continent to which we belong (European, American, Asian, African, Oceanic).
- The “new ecological consciousness” makes us discover the new dimension: our planetary identity! And from here, we discover a new ethical praxis “We are citizens of the world! The planet as the common home, the new citizenship! An identity adapted to the complexity of mother nature!
This new awareness begins by making us aware that “all human beings have a common origin, we belong to each other and share the future” (LS, 202), that no one is disconnected from others; that we are a human species; consequently, as a living species we are connected to millions of species that populate our planet. Hence a new expansion of our consciousness: we then discover ourselves with a planetary identity.
Our house (oikos) and the new ethics (ethos)! Let’s take care of it for the next generations!
In fact, today we are more aware than in the past that nature is destined to be our home, the environment in which we can create our home-world and re-create ourselves; which is also the home of the entire biotic community, of all living beings. Nature is that immense and mysterious organism, that scene where life germinates, reproduces and dies; that surprise of gigantic magnitude and surprising miniature.
For us believers, nature is that immense scenario that God has built so that we can interpret our history in it.
This awareness will lead us to develop new convictions and attitudes and ways of life, and for this reason, long educational and spiritual processes of regeneration must be opened in humanity (LS, 202). Education must begin by making us see what is happening to our home, and not only see it as something that happens to others, but to ourselves. And the ethical question we ask ourselves is: how are we going to leave the house to the next generations that will inhabit it? Ethics is not just a responsibility in the present. It is also, and above all, responsibility for the future and the future.
Holy Ruah, you are the Love of the Abba and of Jesus poured out in all hearts, in humanity, in nature. You are in the most intimate of all reality. How difficult it is, however, to detect your presence, your powerful action, your mysterious and infallible mission! We have contaminated your great symbols: Air, Water, and Fire we have made a weapon of destruction. Deep down we want to destroy you, the Creator Spirit. We have all to lose … But meanwhile, how much suffering and how much death. Come Holy Spirit and you will renew the face of the earth.
FRATELLO SOLE E SORELLA LUNA
English Translation: Fr. Alberto Rossa, cmf