I have only scanned part of the encyclical and read excerpts of other parts thus far. It will be challenging, for sure. But it is part of the Papal Magisterium, so we must read it with an open and humble heart and follow its teaching.
That said, it also has to be interpreted correctly. There are already those who are interpreting it in the most hysterical of ways. Therefore, a warning:
1. Don’t listen to secular media reports about the encyclical. Whether it’s Fox, CNN, MSNBC, or your local news, DON’T LISTEN. The majority of journalists reporting on this are taking a political and worldly approach to interpreting this document. Some are trying to sow division in the Church and others simply don’t “get it”. If you want to hear news analysis about it, I highly recommend EWTN News Nightly instead.
2. READ THE ENCYCLICAL YOURSELF. It is part of the Papal Magisterium and therefore is important for us, as Catholics. If there are parts that you find particularly difficult or challenging, speak to a priest and ask him to help clarify things.
Finally, I think it’s important to remember that the encyclical takes its name from a canticle written by St. Francis of Assisi. And that canticle ends with a very strong spiritual emphasis, which must inform our own approach to living – whether we are thinking about the environment or about liturgy or whatever. As Fr. Z wrote on his blog recently:
[L]et’s not that Francis’ hymn ends with the real point of everything we do: salvation!
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.
Read the encyclical yourself and don’t trust secular reports!