This looks into Section 3 of Chapter Two, entitled “The Mystery of the Universe.”
I can’t help but think of an element common in high fantasy novels known as “world building” when it comes to this particular section. Think of what made JRR Tolkien’s verse unique and the dramatic, vast world in Game of Thrones. Think of video games like Skyrim and Dragon Age, worlds filled with loads and loads of characters. All of these worlds were built by people.
In a similar way, Pope Francis points out in this particular section that the universe was created out of love. Nature is not a goddess, but it shouldn’t be abused, either. “If we acknowledge the value and the fragility of nature and, at the same time, our God-given abilities, we can finally leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress.” (Paragraph 78)
One major appeal behind existentialism is that a person can create his or her own meaning and see the world however way he/she wants it to be. This encyclical shows a more Catholic perspective on the search for meaning: our relationship with the world is a balancing act of faith and free will. “Faith allows us to interpret the meaning and the mystery of what is unfolding. We are free to apply our intelligence towards new things evolving positively, or towards adding new ills, new causes of suffering and real setbacks.” (Paragraph 79)
As you’ve probably heard from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” We have the power to change the world, but it comes with the responsibility of cooperating with God. We are like characters in a story that can interact with the author and have a relationship with Him. At the same time, we also have a relationship with everything around us as well. Similar to the Ents in Lord of the Rings and the way nature acts in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the world we live in is also a character in and of itself.
Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities, are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a “Thou” who addresses himself to another “thou”. The biblical accounts of creation invite us to see each human being as a subject who can never be reduced to the status of an object.