Whether we agree with Pope Francis that global warming "represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day," it is difficult to deny his basic message that the ecological crisis is "a summons to profound interior conversion." Addressed to all humanity, his encyclical Laudato Si is a document for all seasons.
I grew up in Cumberland, in the heart of the mountains and valleys of Western Maryland. The wide vistas of the town and seasonal changes always engendered in me a sense of awe. I would go there often as a child to bury small things I valued under the mountain laurel as what I think of now as gifts of gratitude for the hills and their strength and steadfastness.
Now, some 70 years later, I realize that I intuitively loved the earth. Yet even then my instinct for the earth as a living part of my identity was eroding. I was being conditioned by a culture of "progress" to a utilitarian view of the environment.
Now Pope Francis is calling all of us to radical conversion. We need to ask ourselves the hard questions about this place we call home. For as the Pope reminded us, "many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change."
Mary Ellen Dougherty
The writer is a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.