HOW TO CELEBRATE THE SACRAMENTS
IN THE LIGHT OF LAUDATO SI'?
The encyclical Laudato si' clearly exhorts us to protect our common home with gestures that help for a sustainable and integral development. In this call we find a prophetic echo, which the Christian religious experience offers to our cultural context that other actors are not able to propose. These are ascetical practices that articulate the historical praxis of the Church. Practices - such as fasting, abstinence or almsgiving - aimed at purifying the relationship with God and with one's neighbour in which sobriety, detachment and simplicity of life articulate an integrated spiritual living. These traditional and somewhat undervalued practices acquire, however, great relevance in the light of an overexploited planet, with finite resources and great socioeconomic inequality.
The intimate relationship between the poorest people and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything is interconnected, the criticism of utilitarian practices that exclude... These challenge us to seek other ways of understanding economy and progress, the inherent value of each creature, the human sense of the sacraments and the proposal of a new lifestyle.
1. BEING A BELIEVER IN TODAY'S SOCIETY
Being a believer nowadays means that we cannot ignore our environment, our world, as Pope Francis points out to us in his encyclical Laudato si'. In the circumstances in which we live, this document challenges us, it is not just another one, but a text that asks us to pay special attention to our Common House, the Earth.
"We have come to see ourselves" says Pope Francis, "as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she "groans in travail" (Rom 8:22)" (LS 2)
All people are called to an ecological conversion, because the destruction of the human environment is very serious. This situation worries many people in the world of philosophy of science, of theology. In the face of this reality we cannot remain indifferent, we are asked to change our consumption habits. The Pope urges us to collaborate in order to build and take care of our common home. We need a new universal solidarity that is an expression of our living as believers.
2. WHAT IS HAPPENING IN OUR LAND
As believers, it is important to ask ourselves to what extent are we contributing to the current deterioration of our common home.
With our carelessness and indifference, with our disinterest and ignorance, which can be born of a comfortable and selfish adaptation to the ways of life proposed to us by today's society, we contribute to environmental deterioration. Many efforts to find concrete solutions to the environmental crisis tend to end up frustrated not only by the rejection of those in power, but also by the lack of interest of the rest. Attitudes that obstruct solution paths, even among believers, range from denial of the problem to indifference, comfortable resignation or blind trust in technical solutions.
Some of the problems we are contributing to with our daily attitudes and behaviors are:
a. Pollution and climate change
Pollution is a reality in our world: smoke from industries and means of transport, the degradation of soil and water by fertilizers, insecticides, discharges and waste of all kinds that we generate, many of which are not biodegradable, etc. The signs of climate change that we are witnessing must make us reflect. These realities affect all of humanity, especially those most vulnerable.
b. Water-related issues
Another area of current concern is the overexploitation and depletion of natural resources, such as water. We are aware of its importance and its need. It is becoming a scarce commodity in many parts of the planet, where many of its inhabitants have no access to drinking water and/or suffer the consequences of droughts that have a direct impact on their livelihoods and health.
c. Loss of biodiversity
On the one hand, the economic interests of the richest people, blind to anything but money because of their narrow vision of reality and, on the other, the life choices of the whole of society that follows in the wake of their consumption proposals, break the equilibrium of the planet's ecosystems. Thus, forests are destroyed, lands are deserted, resources are depleted, natural cycles are broken or abandoned and the balance and course of natural processes are destroyed, affecting the land, the sea and living beings, including human beings themselves. All these actions produce continuous losses in the diversity of life on the planet.
d. Consequences of this situation
The degradation of the natural environment has a direct impact on people, especially the poorest. They make up the majority of the planet's population, billions of people, crying out for universal solidarity to correct the indebtedness to which they have been subjected by current economic interests.
3. THE CELEBRATIONS IN OUR SACRAMENTAL LIFE
Therefore, Pope Francis invites us to live the sacraments as an expression of our faith in Jesus Christ and of our living in the ecclesial community with simplicity and austerity, in coherence with what Laudato si' does suggest, without renouncing joy and festive enjoyment, maintaining their central importance in our life, their meaning and symbolism. Christian spirituality proposes to us an alternative way of understanding the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative style of life, capable of profound enjoyment without obsessing over consumption. We must allow all the consequences of our encounter with Jesus to spring up in our relationships with the world around us.
3.1 SOME IDEAS FOR CELEBRATIONS
The possibilities of celebrating the sacraments in an authentic way in these keys of simplicity and austerity are many. We would like to share some suggestions to contribute to the meaning of the sacramental experience. Have you ever thought that the celebration of a sacrament can contribute to the improvement of the life of other people and of the planet (or at least not contribute to make it worse)?
Some of the suggestions can be applied more specifically to a particular sacrament, while others can be used interchangeably.
Baptisms are a celebration in which the Christian community joyfully welcomes a new member. The Gospels show us Jesus receiving Baptism in the Jordan at the hands of John. No mention is made of a great feast, beyond the joy of recognizing oneself as the beloved Son of the Father. It should be enough. It is not necessary to turn this, or any other celebration, into a waste of resources and an initiation to consumerism, on the contrary, we can make them contribute to building the Kingdom.
At weddings, for example, we give away many objects or simply money but, what if, with our gifts, we contributed to improving the planet on which the new couple and future generations will live? Invited people can be asked, instead of giving a gift, to dedicate the amount to support a project or social initiative that improves the lives of the most vulnerable people on the planet.
On the other hand, as we have already said, Pope Francis encourages us to live a more austere life, affirming that this is something key and necessary for all believers. Have you considered whether it is necessary to wear a new suit at an excessive cost to celebrate the sacrament? Maybe we can borrow it from someone else who has it forgotten somewhere in their closet, rent a second hand for that day or go dressed in other clothes that can be reused other days.
In the celebration of the sacraments, we have become accustomed to making many expenses that may be expendable or could be reduced. Can I find a cheaper place for the celebration? Can it be done outdoors? Is it necessary to pay such a high price for a menu? Are ribbons on the chairs necessary with the expense that this entails? Again, this money could be invested in social and environmental projects.
A further example is to ask about the origin of the flowers that adorn the ceremony and contribute to improving the lives of those who work in the sector, acquiring flowers of certified origin such as Fairtrade, or uncut flowers that can be cared for later by the people invited to their homes. But we can also consider not using flowers and develop our imagination in search of a more original and sustainable decoration.
We can also give the couple the compensation of CO2 emissions from the honeymoon trip through the ECODES Foundation and its zero-CO2 project that offsets these emissions in money by investing in renewable energy projects in impoverished areas.
If you finally open a bank account for your wedding, why not do it with an ethical banking entity? There are already several options available, which we encourage you to collaborate with.
What if you book a menu based on organic products, looking for quantities per dish that invite us to enjoy the food and not to have a feeling of heaviness? It is important to reduce the waste of food in this type of celebrations. Let's not forget that with the food thrown away in Europe and North America we could feed all the hungry people on the planet. Another option is to make the menu with nearby or seasonal products, also taking care of the quantities that are offered in each dish.
How about offering wine produced by social projects and liqueurs, coffees and later infusions of Fair Trade? How about offering the people invited a detail of local craftsmanship or the contribution to solidarity projects? Or better, we can consider whether it is necessary to give a detail to each attendee to the celebration.
What if we go one step further and celebrate the event in a place that has contracted the light with some cooperative producer of renewable energy and social responsibility insurance with some entity of the social and solidarity economy?
Would it be possible to have a wedding celebration in the same hall of the parish with a sober and varied snack dedicating part of the donation to some fraternal social or environmental cause? In some schools they have begun to celebrate the first communions on a Friday afternoon at the end of school with the assistance of the classmates, the family and the godmothers and godparents of baptism. The collection can be for the benefit of the most needy people on the planet. Without a doubt, there are more possibilities. Either we break molds or the world eats the most sacred. Let us not forget that sobriety highlights what is really important. The outward signs of the feast (banquet, photographs, clothing, etc.) should reveal the presence of Jesus and recall the origin and reason for the joy of that day.
There are many ideas, dare to live the celebrations in a different way, contributing to preserve our Common House and to harm less the most impoverished and vulnerable people who live in it.
3.2 SOME QUESTIONS THAT ENCOURAGE REFLECTION
1) What relevance do you think the encyclical Laudato si' has in our sacramental life?
2) The Pope urges us to be austere, not wasteful. How does this call affect our sacramental life: baptisms, first communions, confirmations, weddings...?
3) Is it possible to reflect on the sacraments, as an expression and visible signs of the faith we profess, without being challenged to the personal, community and ecclesial conversion we need?
4) Have you ever thought that the celebration of a sacrament can contribute to the improvement of the lives of people on the planet?
5) What other concrete ideas do you have for the celebration of the sacrament in the near future?