Integral Human Development


A recent U.S. Bishops’ statement introduced the month of September as a “Season of Creation” in which to focus our spiritual lives on ecological matters. Culminating on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the bishops expressed the hope that caring well for “our common home” would also usher in a “Season of Mercy” within families, communities and the world.

While the environment and society may seem like two separate dimensions of concern, the Church’s teaching has consistently viewed them as an integral whole. In the 1991 encyclical, Centesimus Annos, St. John Paul II indicated for concern for “natural habitats” and also the need to “safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic ‘human ecology.’” Benedict XVI, in Caritas et Veritatis, also called for an integral “human ecology” and acknowledged that “The Book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development.”

Pope Francis, continuing the teachings of his predecessors, explains that today’s crisis is “both social and environmental,” involving natural ecosystems, the economy, and greater respect for the law and the moral life (Laudato Si, #139). In this “Season of Creation” the breathtaking colors and vivid fall foliage will not fail to catch our attention and inspire our imagination, as they do every year. But will we also recognize and be inspired by the beauty within the members of our families, in our communities and in the world around us?