Reflections on Laudato Si’ for those who walk with the young

6th January 2016 - by James Trewby

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One of my highlights of the last weeks was sitting with a group of secondary school teachers, reading and discussing extracts from the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si’. It was great to hear their enthusiasm and to share in the challenges and encouragement the document presents to those who work with the young.


Laudato Si’, as well as being an accessible read, is a reflection on Catholic teaching about creation and humankind’s relationship with the world around us. Obviously the issues such a reflection raises are crucially important to children, young people and future generations; as Pope Francis says, “once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently” (#159). He suggests that some young people (and adults!) have “grown up in a milieu of extreme consumerism and affluence which makes it difficult to develop other habits” and that we are therefore “faced with an educational challenge” (#209).

So… what might Laudato Si’ have to say to those of us who walk with the young?

Young people want a better world – and are making it happen
“Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded” (#13)
Do we create opportunities to share stories of young people taking action for the common good? Are we open to supporting young people’s ideas and initiatives?

Young people need chances to stop and reflect
“By learning to see and appreciate beauty, we learn to reject self-interested pragmatism. If someone has not learned to stop and admire something beautiful, we should not be surprised if he or she treats everything as an object to be used and abused without scruple” (#215)
How might you create space for young people to spend time reflecting on creation? Might you be able to encourage time outside to walk, sketch, pray or just be?

We need joined up solutions to joined up problems
“Environmental education should facilitate making the leap towards the transcendent which gives ecological ethics its deepest meaning. It needs educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology, and helping people, through effective pedagogy, to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care.” (#210)
Do we encourage critical and imaginative thinking about justice and peace issues, exploring their interconnectedness, causes and consequences? Are we willing to struggle with big questions and not be seduced by easy answers?

The risks and possibilities of technology and social media
“Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches. True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution.” (#47)
Do we model positive use of media? What opportunities for deep encounter can we facilitate for young people?

Practical environmentalism
“There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us … these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings.” (#211)
What can be done to ensure we’re ‘walking the talk’ in our own settings? How do we ensure the rationale for these actions is understood by all?