Yikes! It must begin with me, this thing called change

Yikes!  It must begin with me. The thought of it can become a bit overwhelming! But now I must get down to business and think about this seriously.

After reading Sister Virginia’s article last month in the Items of Interest Green Corner, I was prompted to read a bit about the Pope’s most recent encyclical Laudato SiI thought I had a pretty good grasp of the document’s message. That is, until I began to go beyond the captions found on the Internet and actually read the encyclical itself.

I was enlightened to learn that Laudato Si is more than an urging to appreciate our environment or a call to preserve resources for future generations. Each time I read a portion of the encyclical I took away another message. I soon found myself reflecting on similarities between Pope Francis’ message and what I do in my day-to-day life.

With the beginning of each year comes the New Year’s resolutions. Should we or shouldn’t we? Articles capture our attention that tell us how to lose weight, reduce debt, improve time management. Despite good intentions, the truth is that most resolutions are forgotten within 60 days and our attempts to change are long abandoned.

In Laudato Si Pope Francis tells us that the time has come for each of us to take account of our lifestyle and resolve to change. However, rather than being prompted by a new calendar year, he asks us to be grateful for the gift of the universe and calls us to reflect upon our lifestyles of consumption.

Moderation as a lifestyle

Soon we will enter the season of Lent, a period of sacrifice and denial. Not unlike those New Year’s resolutions, commitment to Lenten sacrifice or “giving things up” sometimes wanes and we choose to adopt a less challenging path for “forty days.”

Rather than short-term sacrifice, Laudato Si instructs us to pursue moderation as a lifestyle and encourages us to develop the capacity to be happy with little.

Yikes! It must begin with meI’ve always thought of “less is more” as a decorating technique rather than a lifestyle. But to focus on lifestyle change is a concept addressed by the Pope. Religious scholars remind us that the Pope’s message is more than a call to conserve natural resources and consume less in order to avoid environmental catastrophe. We are told the principal subject is the human need to care for the most vulnerable, as well as a call to care for God’s creation. And that call to care for God’s creation is based upon the belief that each gift of creation is an expression of God’s love.

So often we are stilled by the beauty of a sunset, the majesty of a bald eagle in flight, the sight of new life peeking through the charred remains of a forest fire, the glory of a towering oak adorned in resplendent autumn color. What a different dimension is added when these experiences are thought of as expressions of God’s love!  Certainly I have always appreciated nature as God’s creation, but rarely thought of it as words of love.

I soon found myself reflecting on similarities between Pope Francis’ message and what I do in my day-to-day life.

Yikes! It must begin with me

Cardinal Peter Turkson, a member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, (the council responsible for drafting the encyclical) says the Pope addresses two major subjects in Laudato Si. First is Earth, the way we have abused it and the need we have to take care of it and preserve it.

The second subject relates to humanity, part of which is still suffering and needy. So we are called to care for the most vulnerable (a call to which all Good Shepherd folk have responded through our work) as well as a call to take care of God’s Creation. Pope Francis addresses how to get there by acknowledging the needed change in politics and economic policy. But it is “we human beings who, above all, need to change.”

Yikes! That means it must begin with me. The thought of it can become a bit overwhelming! But now I must get down to business and think about this seriously.

Over indulgence

I must admit that I feel remorse when I reflect upon my over indulgences during the holidays, as evidenced by my preference for elastic waistbands these days. Or, that recent purchase of new bedding at Pottery Barn fed by the notion of excess (it was a “buy more, save more” sale). Oh, and those black pants I recently bought. I know I have multiple pairs but a girl can never have too many pairs of black pants, right?  Oh my, I have a lot of work to do!

When I need to calm myself and gain perspective, I rely on God’s grace to help me find the way. I know that prayer always keeps me looking into the future with hope rather than backward with despair.

it must beginSo, imagine my joy when I discovered that Pope Francis ends the encyclical by proposing two prayers! I look to the first of these prayers and am immediately drawn to it and feel a need to share. But before I do, I want also to share another thought. Those of us who live in the Mid-Atlantic region are in the midst of preparing for one of the biggest snowstorms ever to hit our area. The blizzard is on its way as I finish writing this article in my Baltimore office. The latest weather update says the snowstorm has already begun in Washington, D.C.

As I bring these musings to an end, I want to share what I am gratefully anticipating this evening… the hushed quiet of falling snow, glistening under the moonlight, dressing the trees in a mantle of white. For me, God’s love will be shining through it all!

Our prayer for the earth

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.


(ending prayer in Laudato Si)

Michele Wyman

Michele Wyman

Michele Wyman is the Executive Director of Good Shepherd Services (GSS) in Baltimore, Maryland. GSS is a non-profit residential treatment center for adolescents, ages 13 to 21, who are suffering from severe emotional and behavioral problems.