On St. Paul’s Feast day, why Laudato Si’ must be ‘our road to Damascus’
By Annunziata Esposito
Laudato Si’ Animator and member of Laudato Si’ Circle
Pomigliano d’Arco, Italy
At Pentecost 2021, we all received a great gift, a great honor and yet a great responsibility, an official mandate: we will all be missionaries of the Proclamation, committed to spreading the Gospel of Creation. We will all be Paul!
Paul, who did not know Jesus and yet is placed next to Peter at the foundation of the Church. Peter, the foundation, the columns, the walls; Paul the lightning bolt, the light that floods the aisles and makes the stones alive.
This is the image we have in mind when entering a church, the same when entering a forest. Roots, trunks, branches shape it in its grandeur, while light vivifies it. Both are part of the whole, teaching plurality in unity.
To Peter, the apostles refer to giving value to the Resurrection. We, who feel called to an ecological conversion, look to Pope Francis, institutions, principles, and our foundation of unity, a stone on which to build our apostolate.
Are we apostles like Paul? On the road to Damascus is the conversion: Saul becomes Paul, a new man.
Laudato Si’, for many in the world, has been an “enlightenment,” our road to Damascus. It has opened our eyes to the iniquities of the economy, to poverty, to the environmental disaster we could leave to our children.
Above all, it has been a “revelation,” today’s “calling” to transform our hearts and communities.
The knowledge of the true identity of Jesus in this conversion experience has changed us irreversibly. Jesus is alive in creation, everywhere present and working.
He has asked us for new knowledge of ourselves. He has conquered us anew, illuminating the dark nights of our existence. He has reminded us that everything is now grace.
“There are different charisms, but only one is the Spirit; there are different ministries, but only one is the Lord…. To each is given a particular manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:4-7).
So we, gathered in Laudato Si’ Circles, in parishes, in our communities, those who, with the strength of Peter, his impetuousness and impulsiveness but also his guiding authority, become a reference point; those who, like Paul, tirelessly seek out “others,” constantly put themselves on the line and patiently proclaim to the “distant,” the different.
The message of ecological conversion has a universal dimension; it must involve everyone.
We are seeing this every day, even among ourselves, when we talk to each other, listen to each other, make decisions, and take action.
We are aware, as happened to Paul, of clashing against our own Moloch, this modern, obscure concentration of economic powers that conditions the life of the planet.
People are not worth what they are but only for what they produce. They are not interested in the preservation of the oceans, the defense of nature, the melting of glaciers, or human life in its divine creation. The product, not the person!
In Laudato Si’ Circles, we are getting to know God in creation better. God is truly at work in everything and in every person. Conversion is there at hand, love for creation is a requirement, a vital necessity, we need to only open our eyes and look at ourselves.
But then it becomes fundamental to observe the weak, the cracks in the lives of the fragile, the wounds in the Earth. That is where we must go to repair, to heal.
Stop in the morning to pray in a meadow and the song of the birds will accompany us. They will tell us that the Holy Spirit rejoices, that communion with creation has been rediscovered!
During Laudato Si’ Week, we walked a lot. We walked and prayed. Like Paul, we talked to everyone we met, we heard their reasons, we accepted their mistrust, and even many surprised us by in turn listening to us.
What a joy it was when from 10 we found ourselves as a group of 30, praying for Mother Earth! Unity was found again, that unity that comes along the way. The Holy Spirit did it, because we walked together.