Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
May 17th, 2020
Laudato Si' Week - May 16-24

Excerpt from
Preaching & Teaching Laudato Si"
Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, 2015

Contrary to the claims of global-warming naysayers, Laudato Si’ is not a political document, nor does it settle scientific questions such as the safety of GMO technology. Rather, drawing on scriptural texts, Catholic teachings on social justice, Franciscan spirituality, objective data and the findings of science, Laudato Si’ spells out the nature of this crisis and its roots in human choices. Simply put, we are facing an ecological catastrophe of unimaginable proportions— and it does not just involve climate change! The document, in fact, points out the major ills that we humans have created through our greed, wastefulness, lack of vision and sense of entitlement— ills such as deforestation, the pollution of air and water, the extinction of species, the displacement of indigenous peoples, the contamination of the food chain, the loss of bio-diversity, the destruction of animal habitats, the acidification of the oceans, the proliferation of toxic waste dumps and so forth…

What is significant is not so much the originality of Laudato Si’ as Pope Francis’ insistence that the reasons our planet has become an “immense pile of filth” (#21) are insatiable consumerism, rampant individualism, a throw away culture, exploitation of the poor, a utilitarian view of Nature and the failure to see the inter-connectedness of all life forms. Those who consume, slash and burn have no sense of the sacred. They may be religiously observant, but there is a complete disconnect on their part when it comes to their unsustainable behaviors and morality. And, at some level, this is true for most of us: we enjoy convenience and creature comforts and seldom connect the price others (human or otherwise) are paying to keep us happy!  ...

Pope Francis has an agenda for “every person living on this planet” (#3). What he calls for is nothing less than “ecological conversion.” He makes a passionate plea for sustainable living, for an end to sins against creation, for new policies that will serve humanity rather than destroy it. Just as The Global Ethic of The Parliament of the World’s Religions (1993) called for a complete transformation of consciousness in response to the world’s agony, so Pope Francis is appealing for a “new and universal solidarity” (#14). He writes as a spiritual leader whose task is to awaken consciences and save humanity from self-destruction. In other words, he is doing exactly what his detractors want him to do— saving souls!

Greetings, Readers!

It is an interesting time to be celebrating the fifth anniversary of the promulgation of Laudato Si' . While many of us are sheltering in place, the Earth is enjoying a brief reprieve from some of the abuses we have inflicted upon her. We travel less, so there is less burning of fossil fuels; we work from home, so there are fewer clouds of toxic smoke spewing out over our cities; we are spending more time in the kitchen, so there is less fast food consumption and use of "throw away" packaging. Here in Chicago, the closing of the lakefront and River Walk means that there is less littering and less polluting. Our loss, you might say, is the Earth's gain. Or, to quote Charles Dickens' opening paragraph to A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

If we change the past tense verbs to present, these lines perfectly sum up the current global experience. On the one hand, it is a time for families and room mates to grow closer; on the other, domestic violence, hate crimes, and general intolerance towards others are on the rise. There are those who are using this time to grow and stretch personally and professionally; then there are those who spend their days shopping online, playing video games or watching TV. While some people are now focusing on their spirituality, others blame God for their change in fortunes and the loss of their health or that of their loved ones. There are those who are finding joy in doing less or in being more creative while others are overwhelmed by despair because of lost income, unpaid bills, failed businesses, etc. The best and worst of times...

But back t o Laudato Si'. As we re-visit this prophetic text, we need to ask ourselves how we can commit to sustainable living, not only now that we're mostly "inside," but also after COVID-19 has run its course. and we're back "outside" again. Are we ready for ecological conversion and, if so, what changes must we make? Are we willing to embrace the 3 R's of "REDUCE, RECYCLE, RE-USE," or do we feel entitled to all the creature comforts we have previously enjoyed? Will we become good stewards of creation, or are we content to be ecological sinners? The choice is ours...

Be well/ Stay well!

PS Try my spiritual self-assessment tool! After you take the Quiz, you will automatically receive a computer-generated diagram and explanatory comments regarding your strengths and "growing edges." I hope you find the Quiz useful!



R. (1)  Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of God's name;
Give glorious praise!
Say to God, “How awesome are your works!”
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

All earth bows before you
sings to you, sings to your name.
Come, see God's wonders,
tremendous deeds for the people.
R.  Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

Decades ago, I interviewed a resident of the now demolished Henry Horner Homes, a project in a crime-ridden, economically-depressed part of the city. Dragging two small children in tow ( what was I thinking?), I made my way up a narrow stairwell that reeked of urine, and then down a dark corridor in which security bars framed every doorway. I was working on an article for The Reader entitled "A Parish in the Projects" and wanted to learn first hand how spirituality sustained those living in extreme situations. My subject had spent most of her adult life in her building, looking out onto a desolate landscape of broken concrete where the Gangster Disciples and the Vice Lords traded bullets. Recently, however, she had gone on a retreat to Wisconsin with members of her parish. "What was it like for you?" I asked. "It was a wide-eyed dream," she said.

A wide-eyed dream... I will never forget these words. Going to Wisconsin was the first time that "Rosie" had ever left the neighborhood, the first time she had ever experienced rural America. For her, it was a deeply moving experience that brought her closer to God and to Nature. Like St. Francis, she discovered that beholding the beauty of Creation allows us to behold the beauty of God...

Since the industrial revolution, our attitude to Nature has become increasingly utilitarian; in contrast to those cultures that view themselves as part of nature, belonging to a vast web of inter-connectedness with all life forms, those of us who live in the First World or in developing nations see Nature as something to be controlled and exploited. Worse still, provided that we are profiting in some way, we simply don't care about the environmental consequences. From mega-corporations to coupon-clipping consumers, we are all hungry for that deal, that bargain, that amazing find -- and if this means sweat shop labor, strip-mining, fracking, toxic waste, extinct species, and, ultimately, an uninhabitable planet, so be it.

Sadly, when we commit crimes against Creation, we are not only harming the planet but also selling our souls. For the sake of the Almighty Dollar, we ignore the "wide-eyed dreams" that God sends us every second of our existence.

  1. Do you have a sacred landscape where you encounter God?
  2. To what extent do you live sustainably?
  3. What changes might you make to reduce your carbon footprint?
  4. Why is the state of the planet a spiritual issue?

Coaching through Story
Team-taught virtual course, ILCT. Take one class or all four! Join from anywhere, via Zoom! Wednesdays, 4:00-6:00 p.m. ET
May 27th-June 17th, 2020

Out of Your Comfort Zone
Infinity Foundation, Highland Park, IL
Sunday, August 2nd,
1:00-4:00 p.m.

Decoding the Archetypes that Drive Us
Theosophical Society, Wheaton, IL
Thursday, Sept. 24th, 2020
7:00-8:30 p.m.
Decoding the Archetypes that Drive Us
Theosophical Society, Wheaton, IL
Thursday, Sept. 24th, 2020
7:00-8:30 p.m.

Balancing Archetypes
Theosophical Society, Wheaton, IL
Saturday, Sept. 26th, 2020
2:00-5:00 p.m.

Mind-Shifting Imagery
ICF (International Coaching Federation) Midwest Regional Conference, Madison WI
October 1-3, 2020

Beyond God
The Well Spirituality Center , LaGrange Park, IL
October 24, 2020
*re-scheduled as a virtual presentation
If you have canceled your retreat because of COVID-19, you may want to think about a virtual alternative. I will be available for customized group or individual "virtual retreats" (by phone or Zoom) from May 15-August 15. Please contact me by email for more information. Thank you!
This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. I work "in person" as well as remotely by phone, Zoom or Skype; I am also available to facilitate retreats for groups and individuals.
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart |

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,