Student Perspectives: Notre Dame Cares for Our Common Home

Author: Dana Bakirtjy


Notre Dame Cares for Our Common Home

By Ethan Muehlstein

Remember the most beautiful place you have ever been? I do: the sun rising over the mountains, the trees gently swaying in the wind, the smell of the summer grass, and the sound of the birds chirping in their nests. Now, imagine the same place without the trees, a grey sky, a barren terrain, and no sound of joy in air. This is our destiny if we don’t act. This is our future if we don’t start caring for our common home.

The radical Pope Francis (what? he is...just the good kind of radical) recently published his encyclical, Laudato Si’, calling for a culture change in order to address the “care for our common home.” Today, we are consumed by the consumer culture (for obvious reasons).  We believe that we can take and take and use and use without responding to the “serious consequences for all of us.” (Par. 24) Rather than living as human beings, we are living as human “users.”

Pope Francis addresses this “throwaway culture,” which has a tendency to turn everything into a mere object or tool of the market. In other words, when the object or tool is no longer useful to us, we simply discard it.  As members of the Notre Dame family, we have an obligation to care for the other members of our society, our extended family. People in the developed world are morally obligated to those in developing countries, he says, because when they buy things, it’s at the direct expense of the labor, health, and, sometimes, lives of the poor.

Pope Francis thus calls us to “replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, [and] wastefulness with a spirit of sharing.” (Par. 9) Because the concern for the environment needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving societal problems, I have identified a list (although not exhaustive) of five actions you can take now to begin living out Pope Francis’s call to action.

  1. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

  2. Eat whatever you put on your plate, and avoid using a tray

  3. Get involved in civic engagement within the South Bend community

  4. Share what you don’t need with those who do (clothing/food drives)

  5. Pray for the care of our common home

  6. Learn more about the issue (attending lectures, conferences, and debates)

I believe that one day I will be able to share my favorite place with my children, who will be able to share it with theirs, because I trust “all of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation.” (Par. 14) I believe in the Notre Dame family, and I know we can be the change agents Pope Francis calls us to be.

Laudato Si’. Praise be to you, my Lord.