WARNINGS about the environmental implications of people neglecting their spiritual and emotional sides have been issued by a Franciscan Friar during Mass for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in Brisbane.
Speaking at Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, Fr Paul Rout, an Australian priest who lectures in Franciscan Spirituality at the University of London, warned that an increase in scientific knowledge and material attachment was leading to a decrease in wisdom.
“We are in danger of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing,” Fr Rout said.
“Wisdom comes about through our values, and not everything can be explained by the scientific method of enquiry.”
Fr Rout pointed to political institutions as an example of this imbalance.
“We see a lack of wisdom in politics and this results in short-sighted objectives,” he said.
“We are looking no further than twenty years into the future.”
During his lecture, Fr Rout drew from the teachings of St Francis of Assisi – the patron saint of ecology – and St Bonaventure, to discuss the negative and destructive effects of disengaging from God’s creation.
“The problem with disengagement is that it objectifies the other,” he said. “We have a spiritual relationship and dependency on the world. We are not existing apart from it.”
Fr Rout emphasised the importance of valuing the world as something that was beautiful, and criticised outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins’ statement that “life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information”.
“The problem with that is, it reduces the human being to something that is (solely) material,” Fr Rout said. “Humans also communicate through feelings and the language of beauty.
“If we want to make the world better, the main thing we have to do is make it more beautiful.”
Referencing Scottish Christian philosopher John Macmurray, Fr Rout said:
“We have to rediscover the sense of beauty if we are not to lose our freedom.”
For Fr Rout, this freedom lay in the acknowledgement of dependence to God’s creation, noting that every created entity was “a word of God”.
He spoke of God as the divine artist who created the world as a home for humanity.
“The world is God’s work of art, and humanity must respect and care for the world as if it were our own home,” he said.
His argument implied that in order to create a sustainable future for the planet, humanity must look to spiritual wisdom as well as science.
“Will we use knowledge to help humanity flourish, or to destroy it?” Fr Rout said.
After his lecture, Fr Rout celebrated Mass in which he invited the congregation to pray for leaders in the fields of science, government and religion.
He concluded by praying: “May the hearts of the people be changed, so that we may care and cherish for the world around us, which God saw as very beautiful.”