A year of living the teachings from Laudato Si’ has seen changes in Luke Stocking’s ways, including eating vegetarian meals at restaurants and making meat purchases from sustainable sources. Register file photo

A year of living 'Laudato Si'

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  • June 17, 2016

“Is it unusual for the Pope to make a comment on the environment?”

That question was posed to me live by a CTV reporter the day Laudato Si’ was released on June 18 one year ago. 

“It’s not unusual,” I responded. “What’s unusual is for the whole world to listen.” 

Indeed, the whole world listened with interest as Francis praised creation in his call to care for our common home. 

Over the past year I have been invited to give many talks on the encyclical and I wrote a short discussion guide for groups as part of our Lenten campaign at Development and Peace. Each time, I found myself reflecting on my own personal response. Was I just talking about the Pope’s call to an ecological conversion or was I doing my best to live it? It’s a question I  especially reflect on after a year of living Laudato Si’.

In such a reflection it is tempting to simply list all the “eco-friendly” things I have done. But that would miss the point of the encyclical. Even though people call it “the environmental encyclical,” Laudato Si’ is in fact much more. It opens us to an “integral ecology” in order to “take us to the heart of what it is to be human.” Therefore, my reflection starts with grace before meals.

Since Laudato Si’, my grace before meals has been different. It has become a daily embrace of ecological spirituality. As Francis wrote: “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.” 

I am now more conscious of blessing my food before I eat. That is not always easy in our society. Also, when I say grace, alone or with family and friends, I recognize the three fundamental relationships of our reality — with God, with nature and with each other — and the need to nurture them. According to Francis, the rupture of these relationships is at the heart of our ecological crises. We cannot treat them separately — hence the need for an integral ecology. 

Imagine if all Catholics were more open in blessing their food. In restaurants, with secular friends, anywhere and everywhere we would be witnesses to the world we desire.

Speaking of restaurants, Laudato Si’ made me a restaurant vegetarian. Like many others I believe a diet heavy in meat is not only unhealthy for our bodies, it is unhealthy for our planet. Deforestation, soil and water degradation, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are all harmful effects of an industrialized system of meat production. 

But, like many, I love meat. For years now, my family has limited its meat purchases from the small family farm where I grew up or from other sustainable sources — i.e. meat not produced by the industrial system. But at restaurants, most meat comes from that system. So I became a restaurant vegetarian and I am discovering wonderful new things to eat all the time.

Becoming a restaurant vegetarian was news I even shared with the Prime Minister. It was the commitment I wrote on a postcard sent to the PMO as part of the Create a Climate of Change campaign at Development and Peace. The postcard invited Canadians to make a personal commitment to reduce their impact on the planet while also urging government to show leadership in addressing the ecological crisis. More than 22,000 were sent to Ottawa from the Archdiocese of Toronto alone.

I will mark the one year anniversary by attending an outdoor anniversary Mass sponsored by Pax Christi Toronto to be held at the Basilian Marian Shrine of Gratitude. Pope Francis stresses that an ecological spirituality is one that neither embraces Heaven at the expense of Earth nor embraces Earth at the expense of Heaven. Instead it celebrates these two distinct realities and the relationship between them — the relationship between creator and creation. For Catholics, the Eucharist is the greatest expression of this relationship. 

“It joins Heaven and Earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation,” Francis wrote. 

The Mass will mark the beginning of another year dedicated to living the call of Pope Francis — a chance to join with my brothers and sisters in nature to sing, “Laudato Si! Praised Be!”

(Stocking is Central Ontario animator with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.)

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