September 27, 2017

Laudato Si’ and the Songs of Our Common Home

Our Common Home cover


An encyclical is a letter concerning Catholic doctrine written by the pope to the bishops or the faithful of the Catholic Church. Occasionally, a pope will address the entire world, as John XXIII did in 1962 with Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), his encyclical on nuclear non-proliferation. Our current Pope Francis, on June 18, 2015, issued his encyclical Laudato Si’, concerning care for the earth. The title literally means “Praise be to you,” which is the first line of a canticle of creation composed by Saint Francis of Assisi.

Pope Francis stated his goal at the opening of this document: “In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (paragraph 3).

The last three words in that paragraph inspired the title of a new OCP collection: Our Common Home, in which nine composers reflected on the themes of Laudato Si’ and composed new music to help spread the encyclical’s message. These are songs of compassion that will hopefully inspire people to pray at home and at liturgy. The composers are Barbara Bridge; Jaime Cortez; Bernadette Farrell; Bob Hurd; Michael Joncas; Ricky Manalo, CSP; Curtis Stephan; Janèt Sullivan Whitaker and Rufino Zaragona, OFM.

Laudato Si’ is a comprehensive document that deserves a serious reading. I encourage you to read the entire encyclical.

In this blog, I want to share some thoughts about an intriguing thread that seems to run through the encyclical and is reflected in the marvelous music of Our Common Home.

Pope Francis begins his encyclical by inviting all people to enter into “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet” (14). He observes that “the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable beauty with something which we have created ourselves” (34).

The Holy Father calls us to conversion: “The ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion… Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (217).

With this conversion comes the appeal to consider the effects of environmental deterioration on humanity, particularly on the poor. “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet: ‘Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest’” (48).

As one concrete example, global warming is often ignored or even denied in the First World by retreating into technology, modern conveniences and consumerist products. In developing countries and even in our own inner cities, lack of electricity or financial resources means no air conditioning or heating, and the poor must endure the effects of global warming without relief. This has health consequences that might affect one’s ability to find meaningful employment and thus break the cycle of poverty.

See how this connection between the environment and the poor is reflected in the lyrics from Our Common Home:


"Act Justly" by Bernadette Farrell

On this planet of plenty,
lives and futures lie empty.
In this world, the only world we have,
show us the way to live. (Verse 4)


"As Christ Is for Us" by Janèt Sullivan Whitaker

And as we care for each other
so must we care for our home:
Air that we breathe, waters that run,
flowing with life for the good of all. (Bridge)


"Every Creature Is Sister and Brother" by Bob Hurd

When we fill the heavens with heat that destroys,
and plunder earth’s bounty and sicken the soil,
those who suffer the most are the poor and the least,
ever first to be harmed by short-sighted greed. (Verse 3)


"God of Might and God of Mercy" by Michael Joncas

God of hope and God of healing,
we still find you in the poor,
in refugees, the orphans, every stranger at our door.
We now glimpse you, torn and broken,
in our torn and broken earth.
Bless our fragile, stumbling efforts;
let your kingdom come to birth. (Verse 4)


"Laudato Si'! Be Praised, O God! by Ricky Manalo, CSP

All praise to you through Sister, Mother Earth,
sustaining and governing all.
For those who are hungry for sustenance and food,
may we provide the means from the few. (Verse 6)


"Let Us Sing as We Go" by Jaime Cortez

God our Father has entrusted nature to humanity;
let us act with peace and justice and responsibility.
May we live in humble union, seeking peace and charity;
Christ, our center and communion, shows us all the way to be. (Verse 3)


"Litany of the Earth" by Barbara Bridge

Fill us with wonder and reverence for all things:
Pour out your mercy, pour out your love.
Teach us to value the worth of each person:
Heal our common home. (Verse 4)


"Praise Be to You/Song of Compassion" by Bob Hurd

But now our home cries out in lamentation.
Our heedless ways have harmed the web of life.
Create in us a spirit that is willing,
give us new eyes to see all things in Christ.
Creation, once enfolded in his passion,
now lives surrounded by his radiant light. (Verse 2)


"Sacred Creation" by Rufino Zaragoza, OFM

Sacred the land, sacred the water,
sacred the sky, holy and true.
Sacred all life, sacred each other;
all reflect God who is good. (Refrain)


"Tend the Ground" by Curtis Stephan

We till the earth, we tend the ground,
sowing hope and peace where none is found.
Love, life abounds.
We till the earth, we tend the ground. (Refrain)


= = =

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis has given us much food for thought and for action. May the songs of Our Common Home help us to absorb this vital message and inspire our prayer.

Ken Canedo

Ken Canedo

Ken Canedo, music development specialist at OCP, serves as a pastoral musician at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Beaverton, Oregon. He is an accomplished liturgical composer and author of works such as Doxology and Keep the Fire Burning. Ken also hosts the popular Liturgy Podcast on

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