The Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate at Bethany Home in Winnipeg gathered in August for their annual retreat, where they were invited to pray and reflect on Pope Frances’ encyclical, “Laudate Si” (LS), (“Praised Be”). LS is a quotation from St. Frances’ own prayer of giving praise to God for Creation. The Encyclical draws on Scripture, church teachings and contemporary scientific explorations.
LS is a testament to God who willed all of Creation into being out of God’s immense love, as well as a testament to the right and proper relationship we are to have with all of Creation, including crucial environmental and ecological issues of our times.
The Sisters were most grateful to their retreat Director, Sister Lorraine St-Hilaire, SSNJM, who used a variety of methods including her insights into the encyclical, as well as prayer, reflection, meditation, music, poetry, in fleshing out the richness and deep meaning embodied in LS. After each presentation, handouts were given to each retreatant for their own personal reflection and response to all that was presented.
The many themes explored in “Laudate Si” and presented by Sister Lorraine, regarding our relationship with God and all of creation began with the imperative found in Exodus & Leviticus of honouring the Sabbath. For after each of the six days of God’s creating and proclaiming it’s goodness, on the seventh day, God rested.
Similarly, in LS 237, Pope Frances states that Sunday like the Jewish Sabbath is meant to be a day that heals our relationships with God, ourselves, others and all of creation.
Focus was then placed on the earth, addressing her as our Mother, our Sister and our common home. LS 12, quotes” St. Francis, faithful to Scripture invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness.” LS also invites us to feel the pain and distress that our Sister, the earth is in today because of our selfishness, greed, and wastefulness. (19). Each retreatant was then invited to pray for a change of heart to alleviate the pain of our Sister and be protectors of God’s handiwork (lS 217).
As stewards of the whole earth, Sister Lorraine further beaconed the Sisters to reflect on the protecting of the various elements of creation as outlined in LS including the befriending of “our Sister” water, an indispensable source for all life; air, the breath of life; the soil – the clay from which we as human beings were hewn, along with our relatives, the animals. LS 69 states “Each reflects in its own way a ray of God’s wisdom and goodness.”. It is imperative that each person “respect the particular goodness of every creature to avoid any disordered use of things.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church).
Lastly, Sister Lorraine invited the Sisters to ask for the grace to obtain love and to live a life of communion. lS 92 states that everything is related and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth, all destined into the “fullness of God” 83.
A special thank you was given to Sister Lorraine on behalf of her excellent excavation and presentation of the jewels found on Pope Frances’ encyclical Laudate Si.