Fr. Raymond Warren, OMI, Provincial of the Anglo-Irish Province
The encyclical of Pope Francis on the Care of our Common Home speaks a truth that expresses the Spirit’s gifts while it also indicates danger, warning, caution and challenge. This year 2016,is a convergence of three very significant happenings: how we take up the challenge of Laudato Si’; the Jubilee Year of Mercy for the Church and the world; and our Oblate bi-centenary of foundation. Initially we might feel overloaded by these three events and fail to focus on any of them. But they are, in fact, a harmonious convergence of a theology of Mission and a grace of the Spirit.
The issues presented in Laudato Si’ are not just topical or popular issues; they are the issues of the Gospel and of life itself. They demand a response and our time to act is now. Reading Laudato Si’ as a kind of prism through which to view my own religious life, I would like to share some of my reflections with you.
What is happening to our Common Home?
I don’t profess any expertise in the field of science or ecology, or anything else for that matter! I believe that climate change has occurred as part of a natural evolutionary process, but there is also a climate change which is caused by overproduction, over-industrialisation, greed and abuse. In seeing religious life as the expression of my ‘common home’, I am aware of the natural effects of the changes which have emerged as religious life has evolved. Sadly too, I can also see some damaging effects: dysfunctionality, a sense of ossifying or mummifying because of resistance to growth in one’s life, the occasions of breakdown of relationships or simply not building up and maintaining of relationships. Viewing ‘our common home’ as my religious community, I must ask myself: is it sustaining me; is it nourishing me; and a very important question, how am I contributing to its wellbeing?
My ‘common home’ can give me a sense of belonging and healthy security. But perhaps because of some bad experiences one may have had, one may feel insecure and so be unable to engage wholesomely within the community. I may give weak responses to important issues because I am in crisis myself. There are human roots which are common to all these problems.
When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves.
Religious Life: We are committed to the renewal of Community life as the source of Oblate mission.
But what does that really mean for me? What am I prepared to let go of, or take up in order to renew my religious life? The ‘Gospel of Creation’ as presented in Laudato Si’ offers great wisdom as I reflect on my present attitude to the way I am living my religious life.
Given the complexity of the ecological crisis and its multiple causes, we need to realize that the solutions will not emerge from just one way of interpreting and transforming reality. Respect must also be shown for the various cultural riches of different peoples, their art and poetry, their interior life and spirituality….It is good for humanity and the world at large when we believers better recognize the ecological commitments which stem from our convictions.
Religious life is a gift to creation and our Oblate religious life has contributed to praising the Lord through mission and ministry, but always as community! In perhaps a simplistic way, as I look at my religious life through the prism of Laudato Si’, I substitute the word ‘community’ for ‘earth’ which I find very helpful:
Each community can take from the bounty of the community whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the community and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The community is the Lord’s” (Ps 24:1); to him belongs “the community with all that is within it.” (Dt 10:14. Thus God rejects every claim to absolute ownership.
As we begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I believe this year holds out to us a very strong invitation to address the ways we give to, and take from, our Oblate community. There is also an invitation here “to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations”. Surely this is an invitation to concentrate our prayer and work for the gift of Vocations.
During this great Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are invited to account for our own attitude to the ways we live mercy among ourselves in community. Laudato Si’ is not a document which invites pious platitudes and vague generalisations. It calls us to show mercy to our suffering creation – a fully active and wholly engaged mercy. It applies to the attitude we have towards our planet and it also applies to the way we live our lives as Oblates and religious.
Mission to the Periphery
The ‘Mission to the Periphery’ is, of course, our Congregation’s foundational call to go out to the poor with the Gospel. It is ever present in every generation and is non-negotiable.
I am deeply challenged by this call. I may feel inadequate or even fearful about the human challenges and struggles which affect my world and my social environment but I must not allow myself to become paralysed. Unless I overcome my fears and join together with others for support and strength, I can never build on the good that is happening, or challenge the needless destruction I witness all around me. Once I begin to truly engage, the mandate to go out to the periphery becomes real for me and no longer just empty meaningless words and promises.
Authentic development includes efforts to bring about an integral improvement in the quality of human life, and this entails considering the setting in which people live their lives. These settings influence the way we think, feel and act. In our rooms, our homes, our workplaces and neighbourhoods, we use our environment as a way of expressing our identity. We make every effort to adapt to our environment, but when it is disorderly, chaotic or saturated with noise and ugliness, such overstimulation makes it difficult to find ourselves integrated and happy.
Each of us can only do what we can, given our energies and capabilities. Some of us, because of age and infirmity, might feel unable to participate but I believe there is a part for all of us to play, however small our contribution may be or how minimal the effort we can make. Religious life does not set us apart from society but firmly within it, at its very centre.
We say that “Lay leadership and active participation is essential to Christ’s Mission in the world”. We say that “we are committed to adult faith formation and leadership training over these coming years”.
Laudato Si’, in addressing the lines of approach and action to the care of our common home, speaks of dialogue and transparency in decision making. I am presented in strong terms with the absolute need to be in dialogue. Our models of Church leadership and authority are in flux and crisis to varying degrees and at all levels.
Here I substitute the word “Church” for “Environment” so as to emphasise the importance of dialogue:
Church impact assessment should not come after the drawing up of a business proposition or the proposal of a particular policy, plan or programme. It should be part of the process from the beginning, and be carried out in a way which is interdisciplinary, transparent and free of all economic or political pressure. …A consensus should always be reached between the different stakeholders, who can offer a variety of approaches, solutions and alternatives. The local population should have a special place at the table; they are concerned about their own future and that of their children, and can consider goals transcending immediate economic interest. We need to stop thinking in terms of “interventions” to save the Church in favour of policies developed and debated by all interested parties. The participation of the latter also entails being fully informed about such projects and their different risks and possibilities.
Religious life communities, as my common home, are like so many groups or institutions across the world, places of immense change. To live well this change, I am called to change myself first, a conversion. Laudatio Si’ concludes with the call to a new lifestyle, an ecological conversion and a call to educate ourselves for the covenant between the environment and humanity.
Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.
Finally, I am brought back to the source of Creation, the community of the Trinity. Through God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – I am drawn into the web and source of all life, the interconnectedness of all things:
The divine Persons are subsistent relations, and the world, created according to the divine model, is a web of relationships. Creatures tend towards God, and in turn it is proper to every living being to tend towards other things, so that throughout the universe we can find any number of constant and secretly interwoven relationships. This leads us not only to marvel at the manifold connections existing among creatures, but also to discover a key to our own fulfilment. The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own that Trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created. Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity.
Now, where is your common home?
 Laudato Si’ 115
 Vision, Mandate and Direction of the Provincial Council, Anglo-Irish Province 2015 – 2018
 Laudato Si’ 63/64
 Laudato Si’ 67
 Laudato Si’ 147
 Vision, Mandate and Direction of the Provincial Council, Anglo-Irish Province 2015 – 2018
 Laudato Si’ 183
 Laudato Si’ 202
 Laudato Si’ 240