Laudato Si’

The voice of authority was what I grew up with. The voice emanated from a position of status and power. Pope Francis’ May Encyclical Laudato Si’ is hardly my normal fare for bedtime reading but with the Islamic Association issuing a declaration of their own on climate change, we boned up on our patristic history and biblical analysis, and dipped into the lagoon of our Christian upbringing.

In China, where the mienzi (face) still prevails, and in the Marianas where one stood in society’s pecking order, “because I say so” remains the frequent tenor of authoritative voice. Rome’s papal resonance echoes around the world to a large audience. This self-defrocked Methodist cleric expected the faithful to drum up Papa Francesco’s Laudato Si’ but all has been quiet on the CK front.

Pope Francis is careful enough to drag the whole understanding and scholarship of the Christian Church in its biological, geological, theological, philosophical, social, political, economic, cultural and personal dimensions to his Encyclical to say that the faithful are responsible for the planet Earth and are destructive in its use and abuse of resources. 

With my eldest two in the ’80s, I shifted from “because I say so” to what was real in the turbulent years of their puberty. But once in a while, it was necessary to intone the unmistakable voice of authority.

At 23, my son, grandma’s spoilt little boy growing up fending for himself between bio-Papa’s family and Mama’s household in a separated marriage, learned to assert himself, though he has yet to distinguish between self-confidence and self-promotion. He comes off strong on the second.

Tech savvy in China, he prided himself on attending a technology university, countering grandpa’s overt desire to have him be a finance major at the university where I taught. Now to a ward on Saipan, I uttered, “Because I say so,” not too long ago. Pope Francis took 75 pages and fancy reasoning to “say so” on behalf of the Vatican.

My ward would have made the U.S. East Coast’s ethos in the ’80s looking after No. 1. A bit on the unconsciously arrogant side, perhaps covering up a deep insecurity about his abilities (IMHO), in the context of Chinese society, he is a well-meaning guy accustomed to doing things in anticipation of someone else’s needs, thinking that it is the ethical thing to do without bothering to ask first. Recipients of his goodwill receive his ministrations with gratitude. Often, it comes out as coercive beneficence but the goodwill prevails even when recipients are not inclined to receive the service.

Beijing thinks for the whole country, its diverse and numerous people. Members of the Politburo have not been hesitant to say: “Because we say so,” and President Xi Jinping is cleaning the CPC stables of abusive powers and corrupt practices.

Pope Francis elicited 60 comments on Laudato Si’ from various sources. John Cobb edited a book of the collection. Francis’ “because I say so” no longer came from a formal authoritative voice as it came from an openness to the authentic struggle of human definition in the course of planetary evolution.

I experienced China and USCIS operate on the principle that one is presumed dishonest until proven otherwise. With USCIS Saipan, this is understandable. A huge number of non-bona fide marriages presented in the past created a certain stolid “poker face” among officials. Besides, until Chiang Kai-Shek fled to Taiwan, the “devious” Chinese were legally excluded from mainstream U.S. of A. although they built the western rails.

My ward simply assumed the right to drive the office car whenever he wanted to. He had an assigned car in China and he liked the fact that not only could he drive a new vehicle on Saipan, he can bask in the glitter of those preferred by the rich and famous in Liaoning. On Saipan, tourists favor Mustangs and Camaros (though one mysteriously went up in flames at Banzai Cliff recently).

My ward wanted to drive the office car at night. Statistics on Saipan night driving is not comforting. He was not on a critical errand; he wanted to escort his lassie home. She is a dedicated Christian of the conservative strain who sees him as a prospective convert, IMHO. It is most unlikely that a quick tumble on the hay is on her agenda but I left him to figure that one out.

I told him he could not drive. He asked, “Why?” I said, “Because I say so!” At 70 to a 23-year-old who loves to banter and reason why, I did not have the inclination to explain. I was resolute. The car keys stayed on the hook behind the door. I told him to call a taxi.

He did.

Pope Francis is on the authentic track, carefully explaining why a decision is arrived at and how it is going to be played out. He says so firmly ala St. Francis: Laudato Si’.

At 70, to “say so” is not being rude; it is necessary. Clarity of rationale is not the issue; getting definite about what will be done, is. A deed moves out of discussion into decision. Francis did. My son did, also. So did I.

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Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at pinoypanda2031@aol.com.

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