Pope Francis’ recent encyclical , Laudato Si’, is of particular interest to me on the way Hispanics view God’s creation, as I write my dissertation: CARE FOR CREATION AS A GIFT AND FIESTA: DEVELOPING HISPANIC LATINO/A RESOURCES FOR THE MINISTRY OF THE CATHOLIC CLIMATE COVENANT.
One of the most significant parts of this encyclical is No. 84:
“[blockquote style=”1″]Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, and mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God. The history of our friendship with God is always linked to particular places, which take on an intensely personal meaning; we all remember places, and revisiting those memories does us much good. Anyone who has grown up in the hills or used to sit by the spring to drink, or played outdoors in the neighborhood square; going back to these places is a chance to recover something of their true selves.[/blockquote]”
With these words, Pope Francis is inviting us to consider the interconnectedness we human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, have with each of the other creatures. This includes everything from the smallest organism to soil, water, mountains, etc. And it is precisely this sense of interconnectedness which I have heard voiced in my research when I met with three very different Hispanic groups recently. Two of these groups belong to two parishes in the Archdiocese of Miami: Mission Sta. Ana in Homestead and Little Flower in Hollywood. The third group was composed of students from the Southeast Pastoral Institute, SEPI, in Miami. Each of the groups met twice to reflect theologically about how Hispanics relate to God’s creation.
In each of these groups that sense of interconnectedness was expressed in many ways. For example, some participants recalled their experiences of childhood, such as sitting under the shade of a native tree in the garden of their house. The tree became so important that it became a meeting place, were they had fun and played games. But as the person matured, the tree itself became a silent but living confidante. Sheltered under its branches in the cool of the day they could share their innermost thoughts. When they learned from afar that the tree had been cut down they wept. Other participants expressed their experiences with creation by describing visits to a nearby stream, to swim and fish or just to sit and eat from various fruit trees, whose abundance was within an easy reach. Other participants spoke reverently about climbing small hills and screaming into the air to hear the echo. “The voice of the mountains” they called this.
These experiences related by the participants really highlight what Pope Francis is saying, “The history of our friendship with God is always linked to particular places.” For those with whom I worked in the research that particular place is a two-sided reality. On the one hand is the country where they came from, the source of many dear memories and possibly a place to which they may return for a visit. On the other hand is this beautiful country that welcomed us and in which we now live. For both lands, the participants expressed their sense of responsibility to treasure and preserve their bounty and beauty. It was evident as they spoke that they felt the need, as Pope Francis says, “to recover something of their true selves.”
God saw that all creation was good. Each part of the whole and every creature shows forth the handiwork of the Creator. We, who most reflect the image of God, must recover our truest selves when we realize and act on the real interconnectedness we share with all of God’s creation.
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