In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis writes that we must hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
Hear the cry of those devastated by Hurricanes Harvey and Maria;
hear the cries of the coral reefs and those precious ecosystems that are suffering from coral bleaching and dying;
hear the cries of the Marshall Islanders who are seeing their homes washed away…and so many more cries around the world.
For the parish community I am a part of at St. Ignatius in Portland, Oregon, while the cries often feel far off in both time and distance, as we listen closely, we hear them closer to home too. In the coughs of children suffering from asthma and poor air quality due to more devastating wildfire seasons, in the concerns of elderly parishioners and neighbors during summers that are seeing higher temperatures than those we are used to, and the concerns of many about the lower levels of snowpack and effects on our water supplies.
Ignatian spirituality teaches us that we can find God in all things. By listening to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, we are listening to God’s voice. Yet as our actions continue to exacerbate climate change, it seems that we are not obeying God’s voice, or are choosing not to pay heed.
What would it mean for us not to just hear the cry of the earth and the poor, but to truly listen and have those voices heard? Would we take personal action that reduces our impact on God’s creation? Would we advocate for political action that not only reduces climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions, but transitions our communities to a just economy so that our solutions, as Pope Francis writes “combat poverty, restore dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protect nature?”
Let us not be like those who did not take heed of God’s voice in our world and chose to turn their backs on the Lord. Instead, let us strive to hear God’s call in the cry of the earth and the poor – and to respond with justice and love.
Tyler Wagner is currently serving as the St. Ignatius Fellow, with a focus on ecological justice and youth ministry, at St. Ignatius Church in Portland, Oregon. Tyler graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Environmental Sciences and then spent a year as a Jesuit Volunteer in Portland, OR with Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon as their Food Justice Coordinator.