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26 Sep 2016 News No comments

Mark Wahlberg planning biopic of ex-boxer who became a beloved priest

The actor is teaming up with director David O Russell on a screenplay about Fr Stuart Long's life Mark Wahlberg is an unusual figure in Hollywood: an acting su…

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04 Nov 2016 News No comments

Prisoners to be Pope’s VIP guests for jubilee celebration

Sunday's special Jubilee for Prisoners will be celebrated at the Vatican, drawing detainees and their families from around Italy and beyond, including Cincinnat…

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08 Jul 2015 Articles No comments

Papal fallibility and infallibility

A museum curator showed me a contemporary copy of the papal bull "Inter Caetera" by which Pope Alexander VI divided the world between Spain and Portugal with a …

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08 Nov 2014 Q&A Comments (5)

Does the Sunday observance begin on Saturday evening, in imitation of the Jewish sabbath?

Full Question In ancient Judaism the sabbath was from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. If Sunday is the Christian sabbath, should we celebrate it …

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01 Oct 2014 Vatican No comments

Family synod an opportunity to support marriage, scholars urge

Vatican City, Oct 1, 2014 / 04:07 am .- Law professors, family advocates and clergy have asked those participating in the upcoming synod of bishops to consider …

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08 Mar 2016 News Vatican No comments

Pope Francis to preside over public consistory to approve canonization of 'Saint of the Gutters'

The Vatican has announced that the Holy Father will convene over an ordinary public consistory of cardinals on March 15 where he is expected to sign the decrees…

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09 Mar 2016 Europe News United Kingdom USA Vatican Comments (1)

Britain's Catholic Church leader says Government's tactics to combating terrorism risk doing extreme damage

The leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols shared his reflections during a lecture last night and said that the Government…

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05 Oct 2015 News Vatican No comments

Pope opens Synod of Bishops with call to blend tradition with mercy

Pope Francis opened this year’s Synod of Bishops on the family Sunday with a stirring defense of traditional marriage coupled with an insistence that the Church…

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16 May 2016 USA No comments

Alabama governor praised for signing bill to ban dismemberment abortions

Gov Robert Bentley signed a second bill that prohibits abortion clinics from operating within 2,000 feet of schools Alabama Gov Robert Bentley last week signed…

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We can all take inspiration from the saints who paved the way for Laudato Si’

hen I was 20, during the summer at the end of my second year at university, I tested a vocation to the religious life by living in a convent in Spain for a while. The thing that amazed me was how free from earthly cares the sisters were. They never had to think about what they would wear, how they would pay their rent or what they would eat (their meals were prepared for them everyday). It meant that their minds and their time were free to devote themselves to worship and charity.

I couldn’t hack it. It felt very alienating to be so separate from the world of glamourous clothes, fancy meals and entertaining the possibility of getting married. I didn’t have the grace of their vocations. Now in the wake of Laudato Si’, it occurs to me that each sister was a model for the green movement. There was one car between them that was used sporadically, they never wasted food and they wore a very full habit that meant they didn’t have to burn so much fuel in winter.

Throughout the centuries, saintly priests and nuns have been exemplary environmentalists, long before the term was ever invented. St Thérèse of Lisieux is singled out for special praise in Laudato Si’. For one thing, she suffered terribly from the cold in winter, but offered it up. The Little Flower may be the right example for those who follow Pope Francis’s encyclical and want to stop using fossil fuels, and brave the wintry chill without a roaring fire.

In Laudato Si’, St Francis of Assisi and Blessed Charles de Foucald are also recognised for having been kind to Mother Nature. A saint who was also exceptional is St Isidore, the farmer, who would pray when he was meant to be working in the fields. When his master looked for Isidore, he found an angel pulling Isidore’s plough. St Isidore was following Pope Francis’ philosophy in the 12th century. He sought out poor people, sat with them and shared his food, which was a combination of reaching out to the penurious and certainly not wasting food. Being kind to the humblest of God’s creatures, one day it was snowing and Isidore found a flock of pigeons searching for food in the frozen terrain. He spilled half of a sack of grain on the ground for the birds, and when he returned to the mill, the bag was miraculously re-filled with wheat grain, which signifies that God rewarded St Isidore’s act of kindness.

The golden thread that unites such a variety of saints was that first and foremost, it was their love of holiness and above all else love of God which led them to lead environmentally friendly lives. But they didn’t have love of the earth first, and love of God second. There is an incredibly important distinction to be made. In regard to St Thérèse, she made a sacrifice of the long nights spent in the cold convent, offered it as penance and did it out of profound love of God.

My fear with Pope Francis’s encyclical is that people will process its message in a back-to-front way, and love God’s creation first, and God second. I do not subscribe to the dominant climate change theories. But there is a meeting point in the middle for Catholics who do believe in them and those of us who don’t, both camps can take inspiration from the lives of many saints who lived lives dedicated to God but in harmony with nature at the same time.


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