Laudato Si’: Civic and Political Love
I remember in Confession a particular priest said to me that “charity is always the answer”. Charity, or caritas in Latin, is one word which is often translated simply as ‘love’ in English. St Thomas Aquinas says of caritas that it is a love extended not only to God, but also to the love of neighbour:
‘Now the aspect under which our neighbour is to be loved, is God, since what we ought to love in our neighbour is that he may be in God’ (IIaIIae q.25 a.1). Therefore, caritas is most fitting when we speak of civic and political love seeing that we can often encounter our neighbour in the civic and political sphere.
The Holy Father says the fact we have a common Father means we are all brothers and sisters; having a care for nature is a part of having a capacity to live and to have communion with each other. The Church proposes a “civilisation of love”, which entails a “love for society and commitment to the common good”: this love affects all levels of relationships, from between individuals to social, economic, and political ones.
This love needn’t be expressed with big gestures. The Holy Father suggests that the example of St Therese of Lisieux, who practiced the ‘little way of love’ can help us. Small gestures of kindness can help sow peace and friendship. This is something we can all do by God’s grace.
Not everyone is called to serve in the political arena, but this doesn’t mean we cannot contribute toward the bettering of life in our societies. It can start with us, and it can start right now with charity.
Image: Pope Benedict addressing MPs at Westminster Hall during his state visit to the United Kingdom in 2010.