St Wilfrid’s hosts heartfelt talk on Laudato si'

Fr Eamonn Mulchay, a Spiritan Missionary based at St. Anne’s church in Manchester, has delivered a talk at St Wilfrid’s RC Church in Preston on Monday 14th May, as part of the parish’s commitment to Live Simply.

Fr Eamonn gave a brief overview of the background to the writing of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si', released three years ago on Pentecost Sunday, putting it into the context of the social teaching of the Catholic church dating back to Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum encyclical in the 1800s. He emphasized that this is the first encyclical since Pope John Paul XXIII Pacem in Terris to be addressed to humanity rather than just Catholics or the wider Christian community.

In this context, the speaker suggested that this is actually the first encyclical addressed to every living being because the encyclical concerns the future flourishing of all Life on earth and the present dangers and impediments to this.

He explained that in the document, Pope Francis has clearly delimited the proper relation of humankind to the earth – not as a bus stop on our journey towards a distant heaven as many have grown up with – but as our home and the place we belong to. A place God so loves to give His very self freely incarnated into the very fabric of God’s creation in the person of Christ Jesus.

Fr Eamonn emphasized that the document is a wake-up call to see what is at stake for future generations of humans if we continue with our current consumptive lifestyles in western influenced cultures. He highlighted issues such as species loss: by the end of the current century, scientists predict that 50% of all species will have become extinct. Put into the context of a 4.53 billion year old Earth, we are now in the 6th greatest extinction period but the difference this time is that one species, Homo sapiens, is primarily responsible for this. And yet our species has lived on the earth for around 200 – 180 thousand years and it is only in the last 150 years that our impact on the planet has become so adverse.

Fr Eamonn spoke passionately and enthusiastically about the beauty of creation. He looked at contemporary theological concepts as ways in which we might understand our role here on earth and pointing to practices that would be more supportive and sustaining of life.

The speaker said that Laudato si' moves us away from a ‘tyrannical anthropocentric anthropology’ and ‘anthropocentrism’ towards an understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings and the earth. What Pope Francis terms as an ‘integral ecology’ takes into account this interconnectedness and the effect of our selfish actions upon the earth, its creatures and the poorest peoples and nations – all of whom suffer the most and have no voice. Fr Eamonn called on us as Christians to listen to the ‘cry of the poor and the cry of the earth’. 

Jospeh Cooper, a member of the Faith & Justice Group at St. Wilfrid’s, who arranged the evening, says “This was a passionate and heartfelt talk that sought to get to the roots of our current predicament and present Laudato si' as an important source of wisdom and a point for serious study and reflection to explore the concepts and issues in more depth. What it raised for me was the need to look at ways to apply some of these to my own life, and then how I and our parish can help others in finding ways of doing the same in theirs, through the work of live simply.”