In Part 1 of my series on Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical “On Care for our Common Home,” the Pope challenges us to change our behavior with hope to counteract our current “throwaway culture.” He asks us to take a good hard look at the current condition of the world, to personally accept our participation in it, and make individual changes as well as influence policy changes to clean up the “immense pile of filth” our earth is quickly beginning to resemble.(1)
“Our goal is not to amass information to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.” –Pope Francis, Laudato Si’
This is a great call-to-action for all of us, especially Christians. If we want the world to change, we must change our lives to become better stewards of the environment and our common home in solidarity with all of our brothers and sisters around the world.
What is the Throwaway Culture?
In his teachings on this subject, Pope Francis directly teaches against consumerism, waste and all forms of environmental pollution, but both inside Laudato Si’ and during his public addresses, he broadens the definition beyond the environment. He challenges to see that the throwaway culture has grown into a bigger and very dangerous mindset of consuming and throwing away all things, including relationships.
“We must never allow the throwaway culture to enter our hearts, because we are brothers and sisters. No one is disposable.
Consider for a moment a few of today’s controversial issues: abortion, divorce, and assisted suicide. These are all direct examples of how the throwaway culture has influenced every aspect of our lives. Babies have become disposable. Marriages can be throw away. Burdensome lives, disappointing lives, presumed “unuseful” lives can all be ended, disposed of and trashed at will.
“Without prayer, we act as environmentalists, with prayer, we act as the body of Christ.”
What can We Do to Fight the Throwaway Culture?
1. Fight the Throwaway Culture with Prayer & Discernment
In all things, consideration, prayer and discernment should be first. Pope Francis urges us to become painfully aware of what is happening in our world and then discern what we can do about it. Without prayer, we act as environmentalists, with prayer, we act as the body of Christ.
Don’t know where to start with prayerful discernment? Here is a great article by Peter Kreeft from Catholicculture.org, to help: “Discernment – How can I learn God’s Will for me?”
2. Fight the Throwaway Culture with Authentic Love
It’s important and part our nature to protect ourselves, but it’s also important to be careful that our self-preservation doesn’t turn into individualism. We can fight the throwaway culture through striving to love others and turn away from the “what’s in it for me” attitude to consider “what’s best for us” or “how can I love and serve him/her more.” These are some of the things taught through the Theology of the Body (TOB). By opening our minds and our hearts to better understand the true meaning of love taught though the Theology of the Body, we open ourselves to God’s plan for love and authentic relationships.
Theology of the Body for Beginners (Book)
Theology of the Body Institute (Website)
The Chastity Project (Website)
“Everybody, according to his or her particular opportunities and responsibilities, should be able to make a personal contribution to putting an end to so many social injustices.” –Pope Francis, XXVIII World Youth Day
3. Fight the Throwaway Culture through Everyday Choices
In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis almost immediately calls us to change our consumption and wasteful habits as well as work to change policy to protect the health of all people and the environment. We can start by making smart, intentional eco-friendly decisions in our everyday lives. We can create an eco-friendly culture in our homes and family, as well as our communities and workplaces. Making good everyday choices to reduce our personal consumption, to buy reusable products when possible, and recycling everything when there isn’t a better alternative, is a great start to fighting the throwaway culture.
4. Fight the Throwaway Culture with Service
The throwaway culture makes everything consumable and disposable, including relationships. Fight against it by finding ways to serve the poor and the marginalized in our communities and around the world. Become a big brother or sister. Spend time with the homebound or those in nursing homes. Raise money to help a mission school. Buy and support fair trade. Fight human trafficking. There is no shortage of opportunities to serve others in our own communities and across the world. Get involved in your parish or church and/or visit Catholic Relief Services here.
“By becoming living examples of Christ’s love starting in our homes, we can literally change the future in one generation!”
5. Fight the Throwaway Culture by Example
Know your faith and raise your family in love and to love. By becoming living examples of Christ’s love starting in our homes, we can literally change the future in one generation! Our example of prayer, discernment, environmentalism, influence on public policy, and service can make a huge impact on the lives of those around us and the culture as a whole. By living counter-cultural and teaching our children to live as authentic Christians, we can change the future and fight the throwaway culture together!
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1. Laudato Si’, Paragraphs 19-21
2. Address of Pope Francis/Visit to Community of Varginha (Manguinhos) Brazil
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