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Cries of the Earth and the Poor: Theology Professor Discusses Newly Published Book

By Sean Callahan, News Editor

Lucas Briola, Assistant Professor of Theology at Saint Vincent College, has been hard at work outside the classroom and office. Almost a decade ago, Briola began work on The Eucharistic Vision of Laudato Si’, his now published book. The Theology Department and Center for Catholic Thought and Culture partnered to host a book launch for Briola on Tuesday, Feb. 28, in the Fred Rogers Center, beginning at 7 p.m.

Jerome Foss, Professor of Political Science and the Center for Catholic Thought, opened the event and introduced Briola to the audience. He was inspired to organize Briola’s book launch due to a desire to promote more interdisciplinary dialogue, the sharing of ideas among professors, and “the search for truth.”

Much of Briola’s inspiration and basis for the book centers on Laudato si’, Pope Francis’s 2015 social encyclical, and the study of the church (especially as shaped by the Second Vatican Council).

(Callahan) Briola lectures about the themes and theological implications of his book.

Briola structured his talk using three main topics of his book, which also correspond to three parts of Laudato si’. They are communion and natural/human ecology, the encyclical’s assessment of the modern world, and a eucharistic ethos.

“One of the achievements of Vatican II was its recovery of the church as a theological reality. The primary name for this reality is communion,” Briola said.

He emphasized integral ecology, a concept Pope Francis discusses in Laudato si’, which is an “integrated and holistic approach to addressing the global crisis that affects both humanity and the environment”. Briola explained that this ecology can be divided into human and natural areas. Human refers to issues pertaining to human life, such as “the protection of the unborn, the preservation of the family”, according to Briola. Natural refers to issues pertaining to “flourishing of the natural world, such as the cleanliness of water supply, conservation of forest, and the promotion of biodiversity.”

“We need to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor together,” Briola said.

Briola then discussed the necessity of Laudato si’ in the modern world. He noted that the church has been critical of the modern world for much of its own history, and that Vatican II has been viewed as more affirming of the modern world. In support of this narrative, Briola cited affirmations of science and modern aspirations in Gaudium et spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.

Laudato si’, according to Briola, has its own reading of modernity. He argued that while it is popular to view Pope Francis as a modern pope, Laudato si’ is far from modern. Pope Francis argued in the encyclical that the ecological crisis is a “small sign of the ethical, cultural, and spiritual crisis of modernity.”

“Pope Francis calls the world to ‘leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress, and to redefine our notion of progress’,” Briola said, quoting the pope’s encyclical.

The Pope, Briola said, does not refer to technological advancements as divinely ordained despite his appreciation for them. Pope Francis is concerned about humanity using technology to “reduce the broader world to an object that one can control and manipulate.” According to Briola, the pope offers a scathing critique of the modern world in Laudato si’ and calls for humility in assessing technological achievement.

Finally, Briola discussed the “eucharistic ethos” of Laudato si’ and another achievement of Vatican II: the reprioritization of liturgy in the church’s life. He feels that much of today’s Catholic theology comes more often from non-theological or ideological foundations, rather than a liturgical one. He explained how the primary purpose of the church is supposed to be to praise and glorify God, and that this is forgotten today despite being a central theme in Vatican II.

Briola argued that the eucharist shapes Laudato si’ entirely, in part because it is the only social encyclical to discuss the eucharist at length. Pope Francis included a large section meditating on the eucharist and sacraments.

To conclude, Briola argued that Vatican II has had its legacy overshadowed by continuous debates since its conclusion. He said that no council until Vatican II had explicitly asserted that holiness was the goal of the church and hoped that Laudato si’ and his book would serve this end.

“Our work for justice, our caring for creation, is linked to our eucharistic vocation,” Briola said. “A key part of being a Catholic is to celebrate the eucharist. That demands that we care for creation.”

Briola’s book, The Eucharistic Vision of Laudato Si’ is available for purchase at the campus bookstore and other retailers online.

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