Laudato Si’s Light Yoke

Laudato Si’s Light Yoke July 9, 2015

One of the remarkable things about the encyclical is the tininess of the concrete steps it asks ordinary people to take.  There was much cow-having in the rightwingosphere over the trivial example Francis made of using air conditioning a little less and fans a little more.  Likewise, among the secularists many pants were wetted over this:

“Why must we pray?  Can’t we just feed the poor and not pray?  It’s all so burdensome!” etc.

Relax, dudes.  He’s not coming with the Swiss Guard to enforce theocracy.  Still and all, placing the feeding of the hungry back in the world of Gift and not of Grim Darwinian struggle reminds us that we are not on our own and that our small acts of love originate not from our own Wonderful Selves but from the God who is Love.  We give thanks and find ourselves thankful.

227. One expression of this attitude is when we stop and give thanks to God before and after meals. I ask all believers to return to this beautiful and meaningful custom. That moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labours provide us with these goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with those in greatest need.

Not again the *smallness* of what is asked.  That’s typical Catholic pastoral counsel.  Not “perform seven Herculean feats!” but “Start with this small change in your life, make it stick, and then see what’s next.  Goes all the way back to this:

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little maid from the land of Israel, and she waited on Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the maiden from the land of Israel.” And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten festal garments. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”
But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry, and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, if the prophet had commanded you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much rather, then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him; and he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel;* so accept now a present from your servant.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. Then Naaman said, “If not, I beg you, let there be given to your servant two mules’ burden of earth; for henceforth your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the LORD. In this matter may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter.” He said to him, “Go in peace.” (2 Ki 5:1–19).

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  • Dave G.

    I sometimes think not using air conditioning at all might not be a bad thing. But then, who knows? I do like the blessings after the meals. I remember all those years ago when I actually began my journey into the Church. I looked around for whatever Catholic resources I could find in order to figure out what Catholics did and why they did it. I stumbled on the blessing before meals, and the blessing After meals. I liked that idea. I’ve not seen it done, and sadly, haven’t been as diligent with it myself. But this gives a nice boost to get going and try again.

    • freddy

      We haven’t used air conditioning at all this summer since it’s broken, but we’ve been trying to make an offering of it. One thing I’ve realized is that there are times when we really do need it to help combat certain health problems, and other times when we don’t need it but just like it. Perhaps that’s when we should just turn it off.
      .
      I loved the bit about praying before and after meals. Our priest pointed out once that Catholics begin by asking God to bless our meals, and end with a thanksgiving. We learned the first and have always done it, but only started doing the second a few years ago.
      .
      At the risk of making this a long boring comment, here are the traditional Catholic meal prayers:
      .
      (before)
      Bless us, O Lord, and these They gifts, which we are about to receive from They bounty, through Christ our Lord, amen.
      .
      (after)
      We give Thee thanks, almighty God, for all Thy benefits, Who lives and reigns forever, amen. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, amen.

      • Tweck

        Wow! My family always prayed the before one, but we never prayed the after one. *takes notes*

  • vox borealis

    Come now, the air conditioner example in Laudato Si 55 is risible. It is not offered, as Mark puts it, in the context of “hey let’s use air conditioning a little less and fans a little more.” Rather, it is employed as the single “simple example” of how wicked markets drive consumptive demand, in this case for every more and more powerful air conditioners. It is the one example given of “self-destructive” and ecologically damaging behaviour. This despite the reality (at least in the west) that air conditioners are increasingly efficient and eco-friendly (as far as it goes).And I don’t know about where other people live, but in my neck of the western world, air conditioners are still durable goods: people buy them and use them for years, rather than throw them away to get bigger and more powerful ones.

    I mean seriously, if were to pick *one* example of an eco-unfriendly product, whose demand is market driven, whose use is every more widespread, etc., why not pick something truly throwaway, like mobile phones…or for that matter, laptops.

    So yes, Laudato Si is a wonderful document. It teaches much. It challenges much, yet as Mark writes, it is light in terms of specific proscriptions. But the air conditioner bit was pretty comical. At least it gave me a chuckle.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      If you’re in the West, why are you using AC at all? Those refrigerants are nasty stuff, and you could be effectively using a swamp cooler instead. Here in the muggy old South, swamp coolers wouldn’t do much. Further, read up on the effects of UN carbon caps on refrigerant manufacture, especially in China and India.

      You may not like what the Pope says, but try to understand it. Struggle with it. Don’t just critique it and move on, like the last generation did with HV.

      • vox borealis

        I meant West as in the Western World. For the record, I own no air conditioner. I just think that the example of the evil market pushing ver more powerful air conditioners on a public that uses and then discards them is..ludicrous. However, the larger message I certainly take seriously.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          Oh, I didn’t mean to imply you were like the old antiHV gaurd, just that we all should strive not to be.

          Good on you for not having AC. I don’t own one either, as I rent, but I always look for higher ceilings when moving to a new pad, because who can afford to run one anyway? Open the Windows and pull the cool nights air in, then batten the hatches and draw the shades as Sun makes her morning hellos.

          But I certainly take your point on the mobile devices and such. The earth and water pollution those plants produce really are poisonous.

          In fact, this is my problem with Climate Change evangelists, they concentrate on this one (possible )bogey man, and overlook all the other ways we are manifestly destroying our home.

    • Jamesthelast

      I pretty sure the Pope is only criticizing using 24/7 AC when it’s not necessary, not “AC is evil, dismantle all AC units!”
      Also, I wouldn’t totally dismiss the impact of AC, they do still require a lot of energy to run.

  • Michaelus

    Funny thing – at the local movie multiplex yesterday evening I saw a theater filled with women wearing sweaters because the AC was too damn high – just like it is in the mall and in the giant office buildings etc. Yet the Holy Father is called a clown for noticing this. At the same theater I saw obese persons buying gigantic quantities of sugary drinks. Don’t get me started on the vast expanses of asphalt and the moving metal boxes that regularly kill walkers, bicyclists, children, dogs and turtles or you will be forced to pretend that you think such things are examples of beauty.

  • RobertW

    The Pope just accepted a communist Hammer and Sickle “crucifix” from the Bolivia president. You know, communism…responsible for millions of deaths…now rack your brains in coming up why this is a good thing.

    • Heather

      Umm…. because politely accepting gifts, even ones that have a clear ulterior agenda, is something that heads of state are expected to do?

      There are video clips showing the exchange and he was clearly not happy about it. He even said something to the effect of “that’s not right…”

      But oh, I suppose it is entirely his fault when an anti-clerical communist head of state decides to pull an insulting publicity stunt. Yep, it’s all about the Frankie The Lefty Nightmare narrative.

      • Re_Actor

        Umm…. because politely accepting gifts, even ones that have a clear ulterior agenda, is something that heads of state are expected to do?

        How would you feel if Pius XII had accepted a swastika crucifix?

        “At a July 9 press briefing the Holy See press officer, Fr. Federico Lombardi, noted the lack of clarity in the audio of the exchange, and remarked that Pope Francis had been unaware the crucifix was a replica of Fr. Espinal’s.
        He also claimed that Fr. Espinal’s use of it was not ideological but expressed a hope for dialogue between communism and the Church, adding that Pope Francis’ remark likely expresed a sentiment of “I didnt’ know”, rather than “This is not right.”

        http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-apparently-not-amused-by-communist-crucifix-33337/

        • Alma Peregrina

          “How would you feel if Pius XII had accepted a swastika crucifix?”

          The same. Jesus was crucified on nazism as much as in communism. Finding new interpretations for extrachristian symbols, christianizing them to find a deeper christian message within them is something that christians are experts in doing.

          And that’s fine. Read my comment to AquinasMan up there about paintings and statues of pagan gods comissioned by popes.

      • RobertW

        Not his fault but why take it into your hands and smile while the cameras take it all in?? I wonder what JPII would have done? Lets recap…Our Holy Father was handed a communist symbol with Our Lord attached…no, nothing to see here folks. The vast right wing conspiracy strikes again.

        • Jamesthelast

          You’re just needless worrying about nothing. The Church isn’t all of a sudden turning Communist ok?

          Also technically, Jesus isn’t attached to it, but an image is. We’re not talking about a consecrated host here. (Not that I’m saying the crucifix in question is a good thing.)

        • Alma Peregrina

          “I wonder what JPII would have done?”

          JPII would have kissed a Koran.

          At least that’s what the RobertWs of the JPII’s pontificate would be disgusted about.

    • KA

      He was clearly not amused…

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRtimSFHdU0

      • RobertW

        He also clearly held it in his hands with a big smile on his face…not helpful.

        • Heather

          You call that a big smile? I call that a “ferociously polite grimace.”

          • RobertW

            Watch the whole video…at the end he holds the blasphemous crucifix and has a big smile on his face. That is reality. I’m not saying at all the Holy Father endorses it or likes it…Im saying the optics are really bad.

            • Heather

              Again, I see no “big smile.” And he hands it off as quickly as possible. There is no way to mistake it for a pleased reaction unless you are trying VERY hard. I see a disgusted stinkeye with a polite smile slapped on top of it. If that’s your idea of a big smile, your family photo albums must be terrifying.

              • RobertW

                Your rose colored glasses are foggy. No problem here…Our Lord on a Communist symbol is just peachy. Then again you don’t think its that awful. Reminds me of a Sheen quote…“Too many people get credit for being good, when they are only being passive. They are too often praised for being broadminded when they are so broadminded they can never make up their minds about anything.”

                • Marthe Lépine

                  On the other hand, I think your dark sun glasses are preventing you to see what you do not want to see…

                  • RobertW

                    Now if the guy handed the Holy Father the keys to a v-8 powered car with ice cold a/c…THAT would be awful!

                    • orual’s kindred

                      I find it fascinating how such a minor point in the encyclical has touched so raw a nerve among so many.

                    • chezami

                      You must be so happy to have something spit on the Pope about.

                • Tweck

                  Just peachy? Man, you’re overreacting, and nobody said it was “just peachy.”

                • antigon

                  Not peachy, but an excellent representation of the Communist effort, & of the 20th century.

            • Tweck

              There is no “big smile.” It’s not reality. Heather is exactly right.

          • Marthe Lépine

            You got that right – that is a better wording that I could find, not being a born English-speaking person.

          • StumbleBumble

            I have been watching lots of videos of our Holy Father since he took office and I recall he would always extend his hands out as soon as a gift was offered to him. I see nothing of the sort here. If anything, his body posture speaks volumes. He takes it as if it is something not to be touched and he does so reluctantly. He does not hold it close to his body either and then he hands it off to the man to be put away.

            I was wearing both my rose colored glasses and my sun glasses to see the difference and I see none but what I posted.

            Spin it how you want as many other “offended Catholics” are doing the same.

            I am giving our Holy Father the benefit of doubt as befits his office. He was gracious and did the best he could given the circumstances unlike the Bolivian president who looks like he’s smirking the whole time.

        • orual’s kindred

          I worry about the quality of smiles you’ve given and received, if, as you seem to insist, that to you is “a big smile.”

        • Tweck

          I see no big smile on his face – he CLEARLY looks unsettled by it.

    • Tweck

      Uh oh, here comes the conservative onslaught now. You just can’t win.

      Last week it was the left descending on us en masse’ decrying our terrible sensibleness about natural law, and now it’s gonna be the right protesting our horrific sense of humility and graciousness.

      My advice – stop allowing the media to drive the narrative for you. The Pope has denounced Liberation Theology many times, and Catholicism is not a political party.

      • RobertW

        Face of disgust? I seen the video. He held it in his hands with a big smile on his face….while the cameras are taking pics. Now, use your vivid imaginations and come up with how this will be helpful at all. “Conservative onslaught” because I show concern that the Holy Father is being used by communist govt as a prop?? I know, pretend it didn’t happen…that should fix everything.

        • Marthe Lépine

          A big smile on his face? Take a look at the video below, submitted by KA. I have seen what a “big smile” does look on Pope Francis’ face on other previous occasions, and this certainly does not reach the mark. Would you have preferred that he started a tirade against whoever presented it to him and left, slamming the door behind him? That would certainly have been more faithful to the Gospel…

        • Tweck

          Sorry, my comment was sarcastic and uncharitable. My apologies.

          The Pope is just doing what’s necessary in being gracious and charitable and accepting the gift. He wasn’t happy about it, and there’s no need for anyone to get upset over it. That’s my point. What should we do, storm the Vatican gates? It’s only a statue, no matter how grotesque it is.

          Of course it’s not helpful for the Communist leader to give that thing to the Pope. But it wouldn’t be helpful for the Pope to snub him either. There are a lot of Catholics in that country, and unfortunately the Pope does need to be politically savvy in these situations.

          Although, I think you’re doing the “paint the Pope as a Communist,” thing, unless I’m misreading you.

    • Jamesthelast

      Way to totally ignore that the Pope showed a face of disgust.

      • Heather

        Thinking farther on it, though, it’s not actually as awful, symbolically speaking, as it first looks. After all, Christ is not holding the hammer and sickle, He is being crucified on it. Representative of Communist oppression of Christianity? And remember, the cross was an instrument of government brutality in its day, too… Of course it is ugly as heck. But I can choose to view it in a way completely contrary to the intention of the one who presented it, just to spite him.

        • RobertW

          Its blaphemous and disgraceful.

          • Alma Peregrina

            Crucifying Our Lord in a cross is blasphemous and disgraceful. And yet here we are, with crosses all over the place.

            Heather’s point stands.

            • antigon

              Boy does it. That crucifix more precisely represents the 20th century than perhaps any other forged.
              *
              T’would have been worthy, however, considering all the martyrs that joined Christ on that Cross, had the pontiff been quicker on his feet & pointed that out.

        • AquinasMan

          That representation of Christ on a hammer and sickle was forged in Hell: it’s a slap in the face to his beloved predecessor, Saint John Paul II, who took a bullet for the sake of freeing Europe from that evil ideology; a slap in the face to Our Lady of Fatima; and a slap in the face to every soul that continues to perish under it. Utterly unconscionable that the blaspheming of the precious corpus of Christ must defer to political “graciousness”. Wha?? My heart is sorrowful …

          We need to pray and pray and pray for the Holy Father. He’s our spiritual father and we’re compelled to pray for him, and pray in reparation for all the ways we have fallen short. It’s all I can do. God will have to sort this all out.

          • Jamesthelast

            Relax man, it’s a diplomatic situation, the Pope can’t just throw it back at the guy and get angry.

            You guys sound like that receiving a Communist diplomatic gift means the Church’s and even Pope Francis’ teachings against Communism are all invalid now.

            • orual’s kindred

              There may be some gifts that cannot be accepted. What I don’t understand is how people can’t see that the image totally flies against the apparent intent of the gift, which I’m not even sure. Is it meant to claim Our Lord as a leader of Communism? If Communists and/or promotion flunkies were going for PR points, then they should have depicted Him holding the hammer and sickle (or something similar), as Heather says above. And since I would not underestimate their capacity for propaganda, I’m not sure what exactly they had intended. Christians, however, should know that to depict Our Lord as nailed upon it would imply that He was crucified by Communism. And I’m not sure how that is blasphemous.

          • Alma Peregrina

            Like all those statues and paintings of pagan gods comissioned by renaissance popes are a slap in the face to all the early popes that were martyred for not worshiping pagan deities?

          • antigon

            ‘That representation of Christ on a hammer and sickle was forged in Hell.’
            *
            So was the original wood on which He was crucified. Alas, hell still didn’t learn from it.

        • antigon

          Heather –
          *
          It’s not a matter of choosing here: your grasp is precisely what that crucifix does. Others can choose to ignore that if they like, or more precisely, to take pleasure in it.

    • Marthe Lépine

      However, that is not quite true:

      From: http://www.catholicregister.org/home/international/item/20556-pope-francis-not-amused-by-communist-crucifix

      Pope Francis not amused by ‘communist crucifix’

      By Alvaro de Juana, Elise Harris, Catholic News Agency July 9, 2015

      “La Paz, Bolivia – Pope Francis shook his head no and told Bolivia’s
      president, “this is not okay,” after being presented with a
      “communist crucifix” — a carving of Christ crucified on the hammer of a hammer
      and sickle.”

    • chezami

      What is it like to spend all your time stewing in malignant hatred of a good man and looking for the flimsiest excuse to disgorge your bile on him?

      • orual’s kindred

        That is a great avatar 😀 Is it from this?

  • “You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them.”
    I think it was Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth Volume I who talked about the modern tendency to put material needs ahead of spiritual needs. It’s wonderful to see Francis setting these priorities straight.