Taking care of the environment


By Fr. Tirso Villaverde
St. Thomas of Canterbury, Chicago

Residents of Chicago are by now aware of the ban in effect on plastic bags in many of the larger grocery and retail stores. The ordinance was passed last year and took effect this past August. I am not intending this article to be on either side of this issue. Yet, it seems to have a natural connection to Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, “Laudato Si,” which focuses on caring for our common home, that is, the earth and the environment.

Even without reading the encyclical, we are struck with the challenge to change our understanding right from the beginning. We are called to care for our “common home.” These words alter the way we ought to look at our environment and our responsibility to it. Whether we are Catholic or not, the call to consider the world and natural environment in which we all live as our “common home” is applicable to every human being.

For one, the world is “common” to all human beings. In other words, it is something that we all share. It is something that ought to unite us considering the fact that every human being is a resident of the world. Regardless of race, language, or even creed, the world and the environment are not things that only the rich or corporations can “own.” All of nature has been entrusted to the hands of all humanity by the Creator who first brought the world into existence. For this very reason, no single person, corporation, or nation ought to consider themselves to have more of a right to the environment than anyone else.

As common to all human beings, the necessity of sharing earthly resources is a responsibility placed on all people. As common to all human beings the need to care for the world and the environment provides the assurance that all people and all generations will be able to enjoy the fruits of creation. His Holiness has urged all the peoples of the world to begin doing his or her share to give emphasis to this truth. The world is our common home. We all live here so every individual is responsible for helping to take care of the environment.

Furthermore, the Pope’s encyclical describes the world and the environment as a “home.” This is an image that ought to speak to the very heart of every man and woman on this planet. For anyone of us who owns a home, we would never think of allowing that physical structure become ruined before considering making necessary repairs to the home.
Homeowners would never think to ignore the signs of needed maintenance to a home.

Parents have the concern of their families’ wellbeing in mind and, to that extent, will always take steps to make certain that they can stay on top of maintenance and repairs as best as possible in order to assure themselves that their home will be there for them for years to come.

To some extent, I know that I am exaggerating a bit but, if we consider the way we may care for our own homes in which our families live, the same care ought to be given to the home that we call our world. In the same way that we would not think of doing anything to our homes that would put its integrity in danger, the same care ought to be given to the environment. Looking at our world and environment more as a home motivates the human heart to care for creation knowing that it is a blessing that could benefit generations to come. To this the Holy Father’s encyclical calls all human beings to consider.

In this endeavor, every little effort counts. The more we consider the world in which we live as our “common home,” the more our actions will flow from what we believe. May we all do our part to care for our common home as God has entrusted it to us.


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