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Responding to Crisis

Until recently, I had always thought of myself as a “joyful Catholic”.  Unfortunately, recent events have left me feeling angry, betrayed, heartbroken, and yes, maybe a touch bitter.  I have read with growing revulsion and depression all the latest news coming out about former Cardinal McCarrick, Pennsylvania and most recently the widespread coverup by church hierarchy which now appears to include Pope Francis.  I am devastated.

Our family has somewhat of a personal connection to McCarrick.  He was our archbishop for several years.  He also presided over or attended many of the profession of vows and ordinations of a religious order we have been closely connected to.  In fact, I have many photos that I took in which he posed with the religious sisters after they had made their First Professions.  My stomach churns at the thought. So yes, my initial response to these latest scandals is righteous anger and I firmly feel that is not a wrong emotion to feel at having been so betrayed by Church leadership. I don’t want to remain an angry, bitter Catholic. I must take steps to move on.

I’ve read all sorts of responses to the present plight.  Many are calling for inquests, resignations, withholding of funds, protests of the USCCB at their yearly meeting, etc. One voice I’ve noticed has been largely silent, and that is the voice of the Domestic Church.  As mothers, fathers, and families what can we do to ensure these atrocities against our children and against our Church do not continue?

First of all, we need to move past the emotions of anger and fear.  I’ll honestly say, I still feel pretty insecure about my little guys ever entering seminary.  I know I need to get past that fearfulness.  God willing and with His grace, I know I will.

Right now the Church needs our prayers more than ever.  This crisis has all the hallmarks of a satanic attack on Mother Church. As a family, pray for her.  Pray for her protection. Pray for her healing, Pray for her purity. Pray for justice. As part of this you might choose a penance or sacrifice to make as reparation on behalf of the Church.  

Pray for the victims. I can not even imagine what they have gone through and what pain they must be in. Pray most especially for their healing.

Pray for those who have betrayed the Church and her teachings.  This is a tough one, but we are called to pray for our enemies.  Pray that those who’ve broken faith by ignoring, shuffling, hiding, and lying will finally do what is right and holy and bring light, truth, and healing to the Church.

Pray for your own bishop and priests, that they may remain courageous and faithful to the Church and their vows of celibacy. I still believe most of our priests and bishops are good holy men.  They need our prayers and encouragement more than ever.

Pray for wisdom and fortitude, because we are going to need it when speaking to our children and answering the questions of our non-Catholic family and friends.

How do we discuss such a delicate issue with our children?  As a parent, I have only addressed the scandals with my older children who have either already heard the news or who were likely to hear it.  We need to be honest and let them know we are angry, hurt, and disgusted.  We also need to reassure them that we do not put our faith in men but in Christ.  Popes, cardinals, bishops are not the Church and she will survive this trial as she has survived countless others.  Finally, we should remind our children why we are Catholic in the first place.  The Church is the one true Church, founded by Christ and the gates of hell will not prevail against her.

Just as we need to address the shocking events with our older children, many of us may also need to answer the questions of those outside our faith.  Once again, acknowledge the sinfulness and your own personal ire and disappointment.  Remain firm in defending the Church as a whole and your commitment to remaining Catholic.  Express hope that the Church will address the root causes of the depravity and will make some serious changes that will protect children, teens, and seminarians from now on.

In the future, how do we parents protect our children? 

First of all, we need to be wise and prudent parents.  We should never leave our children in the company of a lone adult who is not immediate family.  I know this sounds extreme, but the one thing I was most taken aback by was that McCarrick and others were so completely trusted by the families of their victims that they thought nothing of allowing their children to be in the abuser’s company alone. This was a tragic and avoidable mistake.

Secondly, listen to your child.  If they come to you with questions or concerns about an adult or other authority figure, hear them out.  Ask questions and take what they tell you seriously.  Many of the victims reached out and were not listened to, which is absolutely heart-breaking.

It’s so important to teach your children appropriate boundaries with adults and authority figures.  Sadly, we need to have these conversations at younger ages than ever before and I, for one, hate that we have to impinge on their innocence in this way but it has become a necessity.  Elizabeth Foss wrote an excellent article addressing this need in light of the recent disgrace.  I highly recommend reading her article and following her sage advice.

Finally, we can turn to the sacraments and pray for the protection of our children’s innocence. As a family, make a practice of frequent confession and try to attend Mass at least one extra day a week. Pray continually for the protection of your children’s innocence, especially imploring the intercession of their guardian angels.  We have been given a very precious and important gift in being parents and it is our responsibility to protect and defend them to the best of our abilities.

A final action item for the Domestic Church relates to our diocesan bishops.  I believe we have a duty to write our bishops, expressing our dismay and concerns regarding the recent news about the immorality of McCarrick, the abuses in Pennsylvania, and the rumors that many in the USCCB and Church hierarchy knew, remained silent, and did nothing.  Ask your bishop how he intends to respond and if he will make it a priority to address the crisis in November at the annual conference.  In closing let him know you are praying for him and all the Church.

For whatever reason, God is allowing this tribulation to come to a head.  We must remain firm and cling to our Faith in this time of trial.  Holy Mother Church will survive.  We have Christ’s word for it.  Pray. Do Penance. Take Courage. Remain in Hope.

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5 Ways Amoris Laetitia Encouraged, Challenged, and Aggravated Me

5 Ways Amoris Laetitia Encouraged, Challenged, and Aggravated Me

Amoris Laetitia continues to be featured in a variety of writings, posts, books, and conversations in the wider Catholic world. That’s good. That’s how it’s supposed to work with the faithful—marinating in Church documents over time, letting them age and evaluating them against the shifting spirits. There should be no “media cycle” mentality here—no quick read, sound bytes, then moving on to await the next thing.

Amoris Laetitia is what’s called a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, which means it was written in response to a synod (or called meeting of a share) of the world’s bishops to discuss a particular matter. In this case it was on marriage. An apostolic exhortation is considered less authoritative than an encyclical or an apostolic constitution, the latter of which have typically concerned theological dogmas, particular practices, and especially organizational forms.

The two synods that prompted Amoris Laetitia were kind of a big deal to those of us who work in the broader marriage business. We prayed, we anticipated, we stared at the list of invitees, we wondered, we tried to figure out best and worst-case scenarios, and then we waited to see what the Holy Father would say. And in early April, he spoke. I remember my first news of it, waking up in a Mexico City hotel to learn what CNN was saying. I gulped hard. I looked around at what else was being said about it, and then went about my business in the confidence that the Church would survive, no matter what. A busy day in front of me, my own examination of it would have to wait. I didn’t think it would wait a few months. But in Catholic Standard Time, a couple months is nothing. Yes, the document isn’t quite what some of us would write on the matter. And it’s not short, at 264 pages and 325 numbered paragraphs or entries. It didn’t need to be that long. But it is, which prolongs the wider digestion of its content.

So here, late but not really, are five ways in which AL encouraged, challenged, and aggravated me. 

First, one of the more noticeable traits of Pope Francis is a very frank style of writing, as if he were sitting in the therapist’s office across from me (on the couch), gently—and sometimes not so gently—coaxing me to sacrifice more, to love better, to reach out. As a scholar who tries to write in a way that is accessible, this is something I can appreciate. And at the same time, it’s a little unsettling to shift gears from JPII’s rich-but- obscure orthodoxy. I consider St John Paul’s going home to the house of the Father the beginning of my search that concluded in our swimming the Tiber. I think his Theology of the Body is dynamic stuff, necessary for the long run. But there’s no denying that Love & Responsibility is tough slogging. (Whenever someone I know claims to have read it, I wince, then privately doubt them, then question my own commitment.) Francis, ever the pastor, has elected a far more plain language—that of the people. Hence when Francis asserts that “…the fact is that only in their forties do some people achieve a maturity that should have come at the end of adolescence,” I appreciate it. Indeed, I needed to hear that one, in all honesty. Ditto for much of the first several chapters of AL. It challenges me to be a better husband and father.

Second, I resonate with the pope’s worry that the Church is perceived as singing only a few tunes about marriage:

(W)e often present marriage in such a way that its unitive meaning, its call to grow in love and its ideal of mutual assistance are overshadowed by an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation. Nor have we always provided solid guidance to young married couples, understanding their timetables, their way of thinking and their concrete concerns. At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families.

The truth is, of course, that the Church has remarkable richness in its understanding of marriage. It was this that first attracted me back in 2006. But what the Holy Father seems to be saying here is that the Church has been unprepared for the role it needs to take in shepherding marriages in an era wherein no other social institution now esteems or expects people to enter such a comprehensive union. She’s the only one. This is the reality that may haunt the Church for decades yet to come before she comes to the realization that any vibrant marriage subculture in the West is because she has woken up to realize the beggars out there are looking to her for the bread here.

Third, AL hence challenged me to accept greater responsibility for helping build a subculture of marriage in the Church. It would be difficult to find me guilty of doing nothing here, but there is always a temptation to say I’m doing enough, or to presume that any particular effort of mine is meritorious at face value (when it may well not be). As Amoris Laetitia notes, “The situations that concern us are challenges. We should not be trapped into wasting our energy in doleful laments, but rather seek new forms of missionary creativity.” It is time to get creative about changing the narrative around marriage in our midst. It may be too much to hope for, but doing nothing is a far worse idea. Indeed, the Holy Father writes, “…we have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness.” Moreover:

We need to find the right language, arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage (40).

But the clergy need help in findings those new ways. In fact, the “missionary creativity” AL speaks of here will no doubt come from the laity.

Fourth, my primary aggravation with AL is its lack of specificity (at times) and—perhaps most importantly—there are some things that are missing from Amoris Laetitia that ought to be there. Language and word choice is sometimes an attempt to speak in the vernacular. But sometimes it’s a simple absence of content. I’m not one who wishes to punish people with the pen, but the lack of a discourse around adultery—even cohabitation is only named a few times—creates odd moments in Amoris Laetitia. If a cohabiting young adult were to scour this document for justification of their choices—and honestly, that’s not how they roll—he wouldn’t find too much to help his case. But nor would he find a great deal to hurt it, either. AL elects to talk a good deal about “irregular” unions, a legal term that hardly anyone uses. Some of you have personal experience with these. Most faithful Catholics who have now look back on it with a measure of regret, and can recall that at some point they were convicted of their objective guilt, not just subtly signaled that their illicit union was “non-normative.” When the challenges around us are numerous, it behooves the Church to speak frankly consistently.

Fifth and finally, it’s important to remember that despite whatever misgivings you may have about elements of Amoris Laetitia, we have a Holy Father who advocates for marriage and wants the flock to pursue this vocation. I know, I know, there are legitimate beefs here and there that give experts and pastors fits, but if you step back and glimpse the whole, it is a comforting defense of marriage against the assaults of the “culture of the ephemeral,” a consumer approach to relationships, fear of commitment, “an addiction to television,” “the obsession with free time,” and an approach to relationships that is utilitarian. The pope perceives as well the Western surge in gray divorce, “older adults who seek a kind of ‘independence’ and reject the ideal of growing old together, looking after and supporting one another,” (39) and he’ll have none of it:

No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries. There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life (52).

What Catholics need how to figure out how to learn what it is the Holy Father is teaching us. No, we don’t just do whatever it is the Pope tells us. (If anything, he writes because we don’t.) That’s not how papal authority works. On the other hand, it’s in poor form to openly, publicly criticize or undermine the Holy Father. He’s not your President. He’s not your boss. He’s not your priest, for that matter. He’s your father. He’s family. We owe him our respect, loyalty, love, and ear.


Deeann & MarkMark Regnerus is associate professor of sociology at the UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, a research associate of the university’s POPULATION RESEARCH CENTER, and a senior fellow at the AUSTIN INSTITUTE for the Study of Family and Culture. His areas of research are sexual behavior and family formation. He’s the author of two books (2007 and 2011) on the sexual behavior of teenagers and young adults. 

His new research on the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships was published in the July 2012 issue of SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH, and is available HERE. It’s understandably drawn a great deal of SCRUTINY, and so he wrote a follow-up RESPONSE TO CRITICS and made the data publicly AVAILABLE to other scholars. A dialogue about the study’s findings appeared in Slate and is available HERE. Mark has also written several short essays about DATA COLLECTION on same-sex parenting, POLLING about same-sex marriage, new evidence from CANADA, and THOUGHTFUL ASSERTIONS about how same-sex marriage may shape the wider mating market.

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Lord Have Mercy: Living Faith, Hope, and Love in the Year of Mercy

On December 8, 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Church will commence the jubilee year of Mercy. The order of the liturgical seasons of the church guide us to great things and Advent, in particular, fills us with hope as we anticipate the renewal of Christ’s revolutionary way. This year of Mercy approaches at a time when our world is tender with suffering, sin, and sadness. Families are enduring physical and mental illness, separation, and death. Communities are divided along racial, religious, and political lines. Global terrorist attacks are intensifying and suggest, as Pope Francis stated, that we are entering piecemeal into WWIII. The Jubilee of Mercy is the antidote that can restore hope, increase faith, and spread love.

Lord Have MercyWhat is Mercy?

The Catholic Church teaches that God is Mercy. “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21) His Mercy is described as infinite and unfathomable. Mercy is His goodness and justice given to repentant sinners. We receive the gift of His Mercy when we make a thorough and honest examination of our conscience, acknowledge our sins, and confess them with a contrite heart and a desire to refrain from returning to sin. (1 John 8-9) This requires courage and humility because if we dare to name our sin, we must surrender our attachment to it. For some, that means ending a relationship, quitting a job, or facing our addictions and our brokenness. Bishop Barron acknowledges that while the Church holds each of us to a high standard, that standard cannot be outdone by God’s infinite Mercy. At the World Meeting of Families, he said, “The Church’s extravagant demand … is coupled with an extravagant mercy. Don’t drive a wedge between the two … Moral demand all the way … Mercy all the way. That is the prophetic speech of the Church.” Further, the catechism states that when we enter into this process honestly, we receive what Saint John Paul II referred to as a “double gift: the gift of the truth of conscience and the gift of the certainty of redemption.” That’s what God’s Mercy can do. And those most in need of Mercy are those most quenched by it.

Mercy in Our Hands

In this Jubilee year, we not only seek God’s Mercy to free us from the burden of our sins and the sins of others but we also have the opportunity to extend mercy to our neighbors. This is where we can contribute to the goal of restoring hope, increasing faith, and spreading God’s love.

Restore Hope

Sin casts a shadow on hope. When we sin, we choose to walk away from Christ; we are walking away from the light of hope. And, we are walking towards an understanding of life as random, meaningless, and ultimately pointless. This can affect our outlook and we can become jaded, judgmental, and discouraged. Our world needs us to be a beacon of hope. Turn to the Word for inspiration. The Word never fails. In this Jubilee, find a way to not only read, but also live the Word so that others see hope in you. Find a way to participate in the New Evangelization. The smallest ways can be the most powerful. Mother Teresa reminds us that peace begins with a smile.

Increase Faith

Do we lose faith because we sin or do we sin because we have lost our faith? In some ways, both scenarios are true. When we sin, we are not actively practicing our faith. And, therefore, faith diminishes. When we lose faith and turn to sin, it is because we misunderstand faith to be a feeling that makes us want to do good things. Faith is action, not feeling. During the Year of Mercy, participate in a pilgrimage to increase your faith. Pilgrimages provide each of us with what Pope Francis describes as a tangible experience of God’s mercy and the graces of the Jubilee year. Pray the rosary. When you pray the rosary, you pray the Gospel. If you pray all fifteen decades, you have reflected on the entire Gospel.

Spread Love

Divine-Mercy-202x300Love is also misunderstood as a feeling. And, oh what trouble this has caused. For a primer on Love, read 1 Corinthians. Note that it says nothing about feelings. Rather, it does describe how we can actively love others. Let yourself be held to that high standard that Saint Paul preached to the Corinthians. Saint Catherine of Siena reminds us to “Reflect that God requires nothing else of us except that we show our neighbors the love we have for God.” Again, this takes courage and humility. Be willing to sacrifice your time, talents, and treasures as acts of love. Be willing to be laughed at, criticized, and humiliated for holding onto Christ in a world that is eager to be done with Him.

Finally, what discussion about Mercy can be complete without a reminder of the works of mercy? Reacquaint yourself with them and make a plan to practice them during the coming year of Mercy. Ask yourself: How is God calling me to show mercy today? These works are not mere suggestions; rather, they are a Divine command. (Matthew 25:41) “Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, in everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in; naked, and you covered me not; sick and in prison, and you did not visit me”, etc. Let us be buoyed by the hope filled message of Advent and spread the Good News through our works.

The Corporal Works of Mercy:
• To feed the hungry;
• To give drink to the thirsty;
• To clothe the naked;
• To harbour the harbourless;
• To visit the sick;
• To ransom the captive;
• To bury the dead.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy:
• To instruct the ignorant;
• To counsel the doubtful;
• To admonish sinners;
• To bear wrongs patiently;
• To forgive offences willingly;
• To comfort the afflicted;
• To pray for the living and the dead.

“So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13)

::to read more about the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, visit our You Did It To Me series::

Allison Pope Respect Life Respect Life Month

Life is Good

life is goodI like Life is Good T-shirts. A little expensive, but so charmingly simple and cheerfully fashionable; I find their designs irresistible (Sorry for buying so many, Honey.). The company, run by two brothers, has a great story, stemming from a mother who asked her children each evening at the dinner table, “What’s something good that happened today?” and hearing from real-life consumers who bought the brothers’ shirts because of the reminder through heartbreaking situations that life is still good. The slogan on their Purpose page reads: Life is not perfect. Life is not easy. Life is good.

October is a month set aside to “Respect Life.” The 2015 statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is as follows, copied in its entirety because it is so perfect:

“One of the deepest desires of the human heart is to discover our identity. So often, as a society and as individuals, we identify ourselves by what we do. We base our worth on how productive we are at work or at home, and we determine our lives to be more or less good depending on the degree of independence or pleasure. We may even begin to believe that if our lives, or those of others, don’t “measure up” to a certain standard, they are somehow less valuable or less worth living.

Respect Life Month is a fitting time to reflect on the truth of who we are.

Our worth is based not on our skills or levels of productivity. Rather, we discover our worth when we discover our true identity found in the unchangeable, permanent fact that we are created in God’s image and likeness and called to an eternal destiny with him.

Because of this, absolutely nothing can diminish our God-given dignity, and therefore, nothing can diminish the immeasurable worth of our lives. Others may fail to respect that dignity—may even try to undermine it—but in doing so, they only distance themselves from God’s loving embrace. Human dignity is forever.

Whether it lasts for a brief moment or for a hundred years, each of our lives is a good and perfect gift. At every stage and in every circumstance, we are held in existence by God’s love.

An elderly man whose health is quickly deteriorating; an unborn baby girl whose diagnosis indicates she may not live long; a little boy with Down syndrome; a mother facing terminal cancer—each may have great difficulties and need our assistance, but each of their lives is worth living.

life2When we encounter the suffering of another, let us reach out and embrace them in love, allowing God to work through us. This might mean slowing down and taking the time to listen. It might mean providing respite care or preparing meals for a family facing serious illness. It might mean simply being present and available. And of course, it always means prayer–bringing their needs before the Father and asking Him to work in their lives.

Experiencing suffering—or watching another suffer—is one of the hardest human experiences. Fear of the unknown can lead us into the temptation of taking control in ways that offend our dignity and disregard the reverence due to each person.

But we are not alone. Christ experienced suffering more deeply than we can comprehend, and our own suffering can be meaningful when we unite it with His. Especially in the midst of trials, we are invited to hold fast to the hope of the Resurrection. God is with us every step of the way, giving us the grace we need.

In times of suffering, let us have the courage to accept help that others genuinely want to give, and give the help that others need. We were made to love and be loved; we are meant to depend on one another, serving each other in humility and walking together in times of suffering. Our relationships are meant to help us grow in perfect love.

Let us learn to let go of our own standards of perfection and instead learn more deeply how to live according to God’s standards. He does not call us to perfect efficiency or material success; He calls us to self-sacrificial love. He invites us to embrace each life for as long as it is given—our own lives and the lives of those He has placed in our paths.

“Every life is worth living.”

Jane Eyre2When my husband read this, he remarked, “I could read this as my devotional every morning for a year and every morning I would be convicted, encouraged, blessed, or changed. It is powerful and beautiful.” It is also soothing to me, as a mother of children with cystic fibrosis. I am surrounded by women who, due to the same diagnosis, kill their babies in utero, thwart their own bodies of life-giving properties, or purchase designer embryos while discarding their little ones with CF. It is disheartening. I often want to throw up or throw away my computer. It is hard to honestly, lovingly witness to this other way.

Self-sacrificial love and embrace can change the world. Pope Francis calls for a culture of encounter. Our Holy Faith has changed our family as we care for all our children with and without cystic fibrosis and worry about a neurologically ill elderly grandmother on the East Coast. It takes courage, interdependence, and humility. Life is not perfect. Or easy. But life is good.

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10 Small Ways to Live Out Laudato Si

The internet is ripe with criticism of Pope Francis’s public speaking topics.

“I wish he’d talk more about abortion.”

“What about contraception?”

“Why isn’t he talking about gay marriage?”


More specifically, the criticism all circles around the same thing: we want a pope who reinforces our countercultural beliefs; who chastises the world and reiterates the damage of the sins of abortion and contraception. One who reinforces our beliefs that marriage is unchangeably reserved as between one man and one woman in unity with Christ.  Pope Francis has reinforced those concepts, but not as forcefully as we all feel we need and want. Even worse, the media wants so badly to love Pope Francis and see him as a beacon of change that they will misquote and1 misinterpret just about anything he says.

With all that, it’s understandable that some might have been less than pleased with Laudato Si, the first encyclical by Pope Francis that has produced. Full of commentary on topics ranging from climate change, capitalism and economics to poverty, property ownership, and the pitfalls of technology, Laudato Si challenges the faithful to take stronger ownership of our role in the care and keeping of our Earth and fellow man. And indeed, this even was a strong focus at His Holiness’s most recent visit to Congress (see the transcript of the speech here).

How can we care about recycling or emissions when babies are being slaughtered in the womb and the Little Sisters of the Poor are attacked for refusing to provide free birth control in their healthcare plan?

The fact is, we’ve all known abortion as a sin for eons. Love and Responsibility clearly states that contraception and disordered sexual relations (as is the case with intimacies of a homosexual nature) are sinful. An encyclical on the matter provided clarity at the time, but didn’t change the culture. A new encyclical on the same topic is unlikely to have a change. But this is the first modern encyclical on caring for our Earth. Ignoring the misuse and even abuse of our planet carries repercussions that will not go away, even while we battle for the safety and livelihood of the unborn and marriage.

So, I propose a question: Is caring for our Earth a bad thing? Indeed, we can all agree it is not. So what motivates the visceral reaction against Pope Francis’s chosen encyclical topic? I submit that the answer generally is pride.  Many of us are frustrated and hurt by the comments from our communities about our family sizes, our defense of marriage in the face of an increasingly hostile culture, and our value of the unborn. We want backup. We want the message that we see the world needs. In our pride, we think we know better what needs to be said than the Pope.

I’ve heard many times the world described as a battle ground for souls. To extend the analogy, Pope Francis’s position is similar to that of a general, guiding the ground troops of faithful Catholics on how to bring souls for Christ. The troops on the ground in a battle know the battle they see, but they do not have the whole picture. Indeed, even the general does not have the power to predict t2he outcome, but can see with better clarity what needs to be done to win the fight. Pope Francis sees an area where we need to improve and where we can draw souls in to God to share in His mercy and love.

Similarly, when my husband and I recently moved, we bought a home with a generous backyard that was in serious disrepair. Patches of grass were gone, moss was flourishing, pavers lined a previously abandoned garden where a swing set belonged, and there were a multitude of trees preventing sunlight from enriching the plants below. There are trees in our yard that ought to be cut to better keep our home safe and improve the landscape, but doing so is costly and not in the budget right now. But we have been able to improve the grass, put in a raised bed garden, move the pavers, and overall clean up the yard. Our work didn’t stop on peripheral things just because the tree cutting couldn’t be done this year.

As such, our responsibility to care for our Earth and for the poor does not stop simply because we haven’t won the fight against the major life and marriage issues of today. Our work on those can and should still persevere, but making simple changes can help adopt the spirit of Laudato Si in our daily lives.  And in working on the care of our world and of our fellow man, we can bring others to Christ and lead them to His holy Church.

Listed below are ten practical ways we can help our world and fellow man in the spirit of Laudato Si :

Lower your thermostat and water heater temperatures, and raise your air conditioner temperature. We are a society that loves comfort. But that comfort is expensive and energy wasting. So, be just slightly less comfortable, and you can save big on energy bills and environmental resources.

 Recycle. We all know we should, but many don’t. Look into your town’s recycling center and services, and make plans to do it. Many towns will do curbside pickup on trash days of recycling materials, so there is less an excuse not to jump on the recycling bandwagon.

Buy used. When possible, buy used items. It will save you money, and you will reuse something that someone didn’t need anymore, reducing the resources you need and consume.

Fix rather than replace. Rather than chucking a broken toy or appliance, first figure out if there is a way to fix it. Most of us do this simply to save money, but it is a small way to preserve resources and consume less.

Be content without more, even if you have the means for better. And if you have the means for better, use the excess to bless others. This one is very difficult for many of us, myself included. Who doesn’t love to have nice things? But truly, we don’t need the bigger TV. We don’t need rooms full of toys. But our neighbor may need food; a child might need clothes; a local organization might need money or hand-me-downs. Bless your community with charitable giving.

Discern needs from wants. This goes along with being content. We don’t need lots of artwork or knick-knacks, or even lots of vacations (and souvenirs to remember it by). Do we need a larger home, or is it simply something we want? Minimalism is “in” these days, so embrace it; it’s one of the few modern trends we as Catholics can and probably should get behind.

Have children use the backside of printed paper, and use both sides of a page when drawing/coloring. This is a simple but effective way to teach children about limited resources and using them wisely.

Be kind to foreigners and immigrants. When you encounter someone who speaks English poorly, be patient, even offer assistance. Don’t mock accents or hinge your charity on how someone came to this country or whether they are a contributing member of society. We need to show love to one another, regardless of our background.

Get out of debt and avoid debt when possible. This comes as part of responsible ownership of resources. If we constantly need more, and use debt to get it, we lie to ourselves about the limits of our own resources. Having debt is not necessarily shameful, but we should be cautious about it, and aim to avoid it. And in doing so, we will help our neighbors to use their own resources prudently by now contributing to the keeping up with the Joneses.

Unplug. One aspect of Laudato Si is the concern of how technology is unplugging us from real relationships and providing us a shield to hide behind. If you find yourself logging into social media several times a day, playing games, etc, take a break. If it is a big temptation, as habits often are, have your spouse change your password. You will marvel at how life comes together in peace and how much closer you can get to God if you decide to reduce internet use to the tool it is meant to be as, not the time-wasting and life-wasting venture it has become.

We all can do our part to make the world we live in a better place. We can all love one another and the earth God gave us, and show Him how much we value and respect His gifts.