by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR
One of the many marvelous things about Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” is that it is written in a very accessible style. It does not read like an academic tome as did many encyclicals of the past. Anyone who can read a newspaper can read this encyclical and get something out of it.
True, it is 190 pages and about 40,000 words, but the six chapters flow nicely. It is not a hard read.
The encyclical is great for individual reading but even better for a book club, class, or discussion group. Reading and discussing the encyclical in a group is exactly what is called for because throughout the letter, there are calls to dialogue.
There is no need for people to wait while the bishops and pastors organize a response to the encyclical. Anyone can download the encyclical, call their friends and say, “Let’s read and discuss the encyclical.” Anyone part of a book club can recommend that the encyclical be their next read.
The impact of the encyclical is going to be significant even outside the Catholic church. Environmentalists and scientists have endorsed the document. Likewise, non-Catholic religious leaders are eager to discuss the encyclical, which will become a topic of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.
So here is a readers’ guide with study questions to help in reading the encyclical. Because of the richness of the content, I would suggest taking one chapter at a time for reading and discussion. There are lots of questions. Use the ones you find helpful for discussion; don’t feel you have to answer them all…