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Care for creation, and the common good

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On Sept. 1, we observe the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which begins a “Season of Creation” lasting until the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi Oct. 4. On the last Sunday of September, we observe the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

These days highlight two important principles of social teaching rooted in Christ’s Gospel: the common good and solidarity. The common good and solidarity unite with the principles of subsidiarity and the dignity of the human person to form the basis of Catholic social teaching, with human dignity at the center. Together, these four permanent and universal principles ground all social life, break open its meaning and illuminate paths for renewal.

The common good refers to all that is needed for each person and all groups of people to reach their fulfillment as human beings created in the image of God. Working for the common good means ensuring that all have the resources necessary to reach this fulfillment, and in this work, we are called to give special attention to the poor and marginalized.

The Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and the Season of Creation call us to renew our commitment to the common good, especially in service to the poor. As Pope Francis recalls, “God created the world for everyone,” and thus “the natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone” (“Laudato Si’, on Care for our Common Home,” nos. 93 and 95).

Therefore, the church invites each of us to promote the common good through care for creation in seven concrete ways: respond to the cry of the poor by defending human life from conception to natural death; respond to the cry of the earth by supporting clean energy, clean water and safe environments; promote ecological economics through ethical investment and consumption; adopt simple lifestyles that use resources thoughtfully and reduce pollution; increase ecological awareness through education; foster ecological spirituality by seeking reconciliation for acts that harm creation; and advocate for action to protect the environment in local communities.

Promoting the common good in these ways simultaneously protects human dignity. Sadly, the poor are often the first victims of environmental destruction and suffer disproportionately from its effects. As a result, many lack basic necessities and may even be forced to flee their homes (cf. “Laudato Si’,” nos. 25, 95). As followers of Christ, we are called to see his face in them, to welcome them and to accompany them.

Solidarity is the recognition that, in our common humanity, we do not walk this earth alone and we need one another along the way. Solidarity requires that we follow the example of Christ in giving ourselves for the good of our neighbors, above all when basic human dignity and rights are threatened.

The Day of Migrants and Refugees challenges us to renew our commitment to solidarity, especially with those who are forced to flee their homes. We are challenged to see in them the face of Jesus, who was taken into exile by Mary and Joseph in fear of King Herod’s violence. The Lord, our Refuge, calls us to welcome them as himself, for he said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).

This year, Pope Francis asks that we give special care to “internally displaced persons” — those who, remaining in their own countries, have fled their homes as a result of violence and oppression. For these and all migrants, the Holy Father provides a fourfold framework for action: welcome, protect, promote and integrate. Welcome the stranger who knocks on our door. Advocate for the protection of children and women who have been forced to flee, as well as for the integrity of migrant families. Promote the material, cultural and spiritual development of those forced from their homes. Seek authentic integration so that, respecting diverse heritages, both migrants and those who welcome them will grow as a human family.

We are one human family and, as believers, we are pilgrims on a journey. We journey on an earth that God has entrusted to us as a gift through which he gathers all people to himself. We journey with others who need us and who we need to be the face of God’s mercy and compassion. Therefore, in this special time of prayer, we renew our commitment to deepening our understanding of the church’s teachings on the common good, solidarity and their foundation in the dignity of the human person. May we then put our faith into action and renew our promise to live together as God’s holy family.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020