High school ideally is when teens become more aware of the role they play in our larger world.
Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, “Laudato Si: on Care for Our Common Home,” offers the perfect inspiration, and schools in the diocese are working on ways to include it in their academic curriculum.
Released in June, the encyclical is a passionate call for people of faith and good will to commit themselves to care for the environment, work to stem climate change and become better stewards of creation.
School officials hope to incorporate into their classes the pope’s message that caring for the earth must be in-separable from respect for all human life and a commitment to care for the poor. His message is important for youth as they learn to walk independently from a secular culture caught up in consumerism.
For example, the urge to wear the latest fashions, own the most up-to-date smart phone or drive the hottest car doesn’t jibe with Pope Francis’ message, which condemns an existence that focuses on purchasing as much as possible.
The United States Conference for Catholic Bishops developed a discussion resource on the encyclical that includes ways that youth can see their relationship to earth in a new light: (read here).
First and foremost, “Laudato Si” describes Earth as our common home, created by God for the equal benefit of all his people. We are reminded that not caring about the environment is essentially a selfish act, because it places human concerns and desires ahead of God’s gift of creation that He entrusted to us.
The document also focuses on the sanctity of all human life. Pope Francis says a person can’t claim to care about nature if they support abortion, or claim to be truly pro-life if they aren’t committed to reversing the damage to the environment.
Youth are encouraged to receive the sacrament and understand the connection it has to our environment, the USCCB states, explaining that the Eucharist is a powerful reminder because Christ’s real presence in the host reminds us of the union between the divine and the physical, and God’s constant presence in creation.
“Laudato Si” can help teens see how their faith can combat the urge to define happiness by material things, because their devotion “proposes an alternative understanding of quality of life,” the pope writes.
Prayer is also an important part of living out the encyclical, and the bishops encourage everyone to thank God for His creation and ask for guidance in caring for it.
In addition to encouraging school involvement, the USCCB also calls on parents to pray with their children for the environment worldwide, and for carrying out the directives in “Laudato Si.”
Recently, Pope Francis announced that Sept. 1 will be observed as a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. He encourages people to seek the intercession of Mary and St. Francis of Assisi in seeking guidance. The pope also wrote two prayers included at the end of the encyclical, “A Prayer for Our Earth” and “A Christian Prayer in Union with Creation.”