The #LaudatoWay: 5 eco-lifestyle changes Pope Francis wants you to make
“I invite everyone to receive this new document with an open heart…” – Pope Francis to his Wednesday General Audience on June 17, 2015. BOHUMIL PETRIK/CNA
by Mary Rezac
Catholic News Agency
June 18, 2015
VATICAN— Pope Francis’ highly-anticipated environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si” (Praised Be to You) is hot off the press!
In case you haven’t had the chance to read all 184 pages of the new encyclical yet, we’ve come up with five steps you can take to follow what’s being called the #LaudatoWay – little steps we can all take to changing our ecological lifestyles. It’s named after St. Therese and her “Little Way”, which Pope Francis mentions in para. 230 of the encyclical, and to whom he has a special devotion!
1. Pray for a conversion of heart.
Not surprisingly, our appreciation of and care for the environment must stem from our relationship with God, which is established through prayer.
As Pope Benedict XVI, quoted by Pope Francis in para. 217 of “Laudato Si”, explained in 2005: “The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast”.
This prayer life doesn’t have to be complicated. In para. 227, Pope Francis explains that this conversion of heart can happen through prayers as simple as the prayer before meals:
Someone once challenged me to say grace before meals ALWAYS – whether I was eating a banana for breakfast in the car on my way to work, or having lunch with friends in a crowded restaurant – and it changed my life. Pope Francis has just reiterated that call – challenge accepted.
2. Learn to appreciate beauty.
This might sound overly simple, but learning to appreciate the beauty in our world around us – whether in another person or in a beautiful mountain sunset – is a profound step in our conversion of heart that helps us to appreciate creation as gift from God.
What’s one practical way you can learn to appreciate beauty? Spend more time in (silent) nature! This is one of my parish priests’ favorite penances to give after confession. Spending time in the beauty of God’s creation calms our hearts, calls us out of ourselves, and reminds us of His glory. (P.S. It doesn’t count if you have your headphones in the whole time.)
3. Practice gratitude and selflessness in the family.
According to Pope Francis, the seeds of abuse of God’s creation and the environment are man’s own selfishness and greed. The best place to correct these sinful desires and to learn virtue is in the family, which he explains in para. 213:
In the family we first learn how to show love and respect for life; we are taught the proper use of things, order and cleanliness, respect for the local ecosystem and care for all creatures. In the family we receive an integral education, which enables us to grow harmoniously in personal maturity. In the family we learn to ask without demanding, to say “thank you” as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings.”
4. Change the way you consume products.
We as consumers have power. If we change the way we consume things, businesses will be forced to pay attention. If we as a Church, for example, stop shopping on Sundays, or stop buying unethically produced clothing, businesses will have to respond to those changes.
Pope Francis explains in para. 206:
Want to know more about what it means to be a better Catholic consumer? A few months ago, I blogged about consumerism and Catholicism after listening to a talk by the priests from “Catholic Stuff You Should Know” podcast. They also recommended the book “Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire.”
5. Simplify your life – use only what you need.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Pope Francis asks that even those who can afford more to be prudent with their lifestyle choices and to learn to find joy in the simple life.
Some practical tips Pope Francis gives for simplifying your life with the environment in mind: using less heat and wearing warmer clothes, avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. (para. 211)
What steps are you going to take in your own life to follow the #LaudatoWay?