If you received news that Pope Francis was going to visit your home, would your preparations include some vacuuming and light dusting? In my house, it might also include some fresh paint in the living room and an industrial carpet cleaner!
So what should our spiritual preparations look like as we count down to the Holy Father's visit to the U.S.? It's great to envision Pope Francis enjoying a cheese steak in Philly, or looping around DC's beltway in the pope mobile, or smiling as the faithful snap "selfies" in Times Square. But what else might we do to make September's Apostolic Visit as grace-filled as possible?
Here are a couple suggestions, following the lead of Francis himself:
- Embrace the "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation". Now that Papa Francesco has claimed September 1st as an annual day of prayer for all of creation, isn't it time to explore what "going green" and following Christ might have in common? In Laudato Si', Holy Father Francis writes that "the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she 'groans in travail' (Rom 8:22)" (n. 2).
- Sign the petition to support the Pope's call for a human ecology. Contrary to the impression given by those who want to drive a wedge of discontinuity between the Pope and his predecessors, the Holy Father's new encyclical explicitly builds upon the foundation laid by St. John XXIII, Bl. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Using John Paul's luminous phrase, "human ecology", Francis quotes Benedict's insight that "the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence" (LS, n. 6). The myth of limitless human freedom has damaged both the natural and the social environments; concerted action on many different fronts can alone counteract such destruction.