“I will point to the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle.” – Laudato Si’ 16
As People of Faith, we belong to a unique moral and theological tradition that is rooted in a profound starting point: Relationship. For Christians, this starting point is revealed in the Trinity – a God who is abundant love.
The mystery of the Trinity reveals three realities:
- God is for us – God is our loving Creator
- God is with us – in the person of Jesus Christ, God enfleshed
- God is in us – continually moving and transforming by way of the Holy Spirit
Our creation in the image and likeness of God gives all human persons inviolable dignity. It establishes all of us – no matter our age, wealth, or social status, as moral equals worthy of attentiveness, respect, and care. Our shared dignity also calls us into a shared vocation and destiny: we are made for communion – a relationship of mutual love – with God, with each other, and with the whole of creation.
Few model lives of this communion as deeply as Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’s namesake. In the beginning of his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis describes the “ethos” of the humble saint:
“He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his open heartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” (LS 10)
Pope Francis describes Francis of Assisi as being anchored in a profound understanding of integral ecology.
What does he mean by “integral ecology”?
“Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology…take[s] us to the heart of what it is to be human…His response to the world was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists… [his] poverty and austerity were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled” (LS 11).
“Integral ecology” boils down to this: everything is connected. Our inner lives, our day jobs, our investment decisions, our consumption habits, our farming methods – everything we do and everything we are has an impact on the earth and on the poor. And because everything is connected, everything we do matters also for our relationship with the Trinity.
(For a powerful dive into the topic of “integral ecology” and its implications for the way we relate to finance and the land, watch this interview with Emmanuel Katongole, Notre Dame professor and founder of the Bethany Land Institute in Uganda.)
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