In a recent issue of the New York Times “Climate News” the author listed a number of resources for Thanksgiving Day when the issue of climate change comes up at table. Is that inviting the day to become a battle ground?
Pope Francis, after completing his encyclical Laudato Si. wrote: “All it takes is one good person” like Noah. Instead of arguing, could we pray this Thanksgving for the spirit of Noah. Here’s the pope’s prayer:
you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned
and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty,
not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
The other day I was looking through our Passionist liturgical calendar for the feasts ahead and came to a section at the end that I never paid much attention to before. “Notices.” It’s a list from the Vatican and the United Nations of important issues facing our world today, issues to keep before us in our liturgy. Liturgy is not just feasts and readings of the day; we need to bring current issues into our prayer and reflection lest liturgy becomes an “archeological dig.”
Each month the pope asks that we reflect and pray about some important issue. For example, all of September and until the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, we’re asked to pray and reflect on the care of creation. It’s a “Season of Creation”; the Orthodox Church began it, I believe, and Roman Catholics and other religious groups have joined in.
A timely issue.
All this week there were demonstrations and conferences throughout the world on climate change. About 4 million young people demonstrated in cities globally to pressure world leaders meeting at the UN to decrease the world’s dependence on fossil fuel. The UN meeting was disappointing. My own country, the United States, along with China and Russia, did nothing.
A reporter asked leaders of the youth demonstrations why did young people demonstrate. They said that young people are terrified of the future. Terrified. And if the young Swedish girl who has been speaking at the UN and throughout the US is any indication, the younger generation is angry at an older generation, particularly politicians, that doesn’t want to do anything.
My own church here in the US hasn’t responded well to the issue of climate change, which leads me to wonder if that may be a factor for so many young people finding church irrelevant.
Pope Francis is aware of the crisis the world is facing. Besides urging action by the United Nations, (see previous blog), he’s invited leaders from the religious and educational worlds to meet at the Vatican to see how we can change our educational systems worldwide, so that we can look at the world differently. In Laudato si he speaks of an “ecological conversion”. It’s not a matter of changing technology; it’s changing our mentality.
I’ve been reading recently an article by the Jesuit historian, John W. O Malley, “How We Were: Life in a Jesuit Novitiate, 1946-48” That’s around the time I made my own novitiate with the Passionists. O’Malley describes the day by day novitiate experience thoroughly, but he also indicates new influences affecting Jesuit formation then– a new historical sense about the past and the scriptures. a greater attention to human sciences like psychology. They were making their way slowly into religious formation structures. They were making their way into the formation structure of my community as well.
It seems to me a new cosmology is making its way into our society now. Yes, the historical sciences are important and we have to know as much as we can know about ourselves. But we have to go beyond humanity now.
We have to reflect on creation and keep it in our prayers. It’s there every day as we bring bread and wine and water to the altar in the Eucharist. It’s our home. It’s endangered. We need to care for it.
“And God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:25). God’s gaze, at the beginning of the Bible, rests lovingly on his creation. From habitable land to life-giving waters, from fruit-bearing trees to animals that share our common home, everything is dear in the eyes of God, who offers creation to men and women as a precious gift to be preserved.
Tragically, the human response to this gift has been marked by sin, selfishness and a greedy desire to possess and exploit. Egoism and self-interest have turned creation, a place of encounter and sharing, into an arena of competition and conflict. In this way, the environment itself is endangered: something good in God’s eyes has become something to be exploited in human hands.
Deterioration has increased in recent decades: constant pollution, the continued use of fossil fuels, intensive agricultural exploitation and deforestation are causing global temperatures to rise above safe levels. The increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather phenomena and the desertification of the soil are causing immense hardship for the most vulnerable among us. Melting of glaciers, scarcity of water, neglect of water basins and the considerable presence of plastic and microplastics in the oceans are equally troubling, and testify to the urgent need for interventions that can no longer be postponed.
We have caused a climate emergency that gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own.
In effect, we have forgotten who we are: creatures made in the image of God (cf. Gen 1:27) and called to dwell as brothers and sisters in a common home.
We were created not to be tyrants, but to be at the heart of a network of life made up of millions of species lovingly joined together for us by our Creator.
Now is the time to rediscover our vocation as children of God, brothers and sisters, and stewards of creation. Now is the time to repent, to be converted and to return to our roots. We are beloved creatures of God, who in his goodness calls us to love life and live it in communion with the rest of creation.
“ Our Sister Earth cries out, pleading that we take another course. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.
The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations. The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable; otherwise, the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.
It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected. Any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.”
The Season of Creation spans five weeks between the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, September 1st, and the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4th
This “time for creation” offers, in the words of Pope Francis, “individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”
“As Christians we wish to contribute to resolving the ecological crisis which humanity is presently experiencing. In doing so, we must first rediscover in our own rich spiritual patrimony the deepest motivations for our concern for the care of creation. We need always to keep in mind that, for believers in Jesus Christ, the Word of God who became man for our sake, “the life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature or from worldly realities, but lived in and with them, in communion with all that surrounds us” (Laudato Si’, 216). The ecological crisis thus summons us to a profound spiritual conversion: Christians are called to “an ecological conversion whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them” (ibid., 217). For “living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (ibid.)
Pope Francis, August 6, 2015
“The heavens declare your glory, O Lord, and the stars of the sky bring light to our darkness.
You spoke, and the earth burst forth in life, you saw that it was good.
You called forth creation, and enlivened every creature on land and sea.
You made human beings in your image, and set us over the whole world in all of its wonders.
You gave us share in your dominion, and called us “to till and to keep” this garden, the work of your hands.
This day we praise you for your manifold gifts.
May our daily care for your creation show reverence for your name,
and reveal your saving power in every creature under heaven.
We make this prayer in the name of Christ your son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.
On the Feast of the Assumption in medieval times, especially in northern Europe, medicinal herbs were blessed. The fields were also blessed that day asking they be fertile next year.
At the end of the feast day Mass, herbs were brought into the church or to a holy well. They were sprinkled with water and prayers were said thanking God for caring for and healing us through the gifts of creation. The herbs were then brought home and a sprig was placed on the wall where children slept, asking God to keep them strong and healthy.
Why were herbs and fields blessed on the Feast of the Assumption? Mary is often identified with flowers; she’s the “flower of the field and the lily of the valley”; she brought life and healing through Jesus, her Son.
You’re invited to bring some herbs to our Mary Garden after the 11AM Mass in our monastery chapel on August 15th . You can plant them there or take them home, but don’t forget to put a sprig over a child’s bed (or maybe your own). Don’t forget also to bless your own garden with holy water that day.
I can remember as a kid being told on the Feast of the Assumption to go into the water (in those days the Newark Bay, polluted waters now). There’s a cure in the water! I’m sure it came from this custom.
We’re connected to creation. We need to remember. Let’s bless herbs and fields on the Feast of the Assumption.
Father of all nations and ages, we recall the day when our country claimed its place among the family of nations; for what has been achieved we give you thanks, for the work that still remains we ask your help, and as you have called us from many peoples to be one nation, grant that, under your providence, our country may share your blessings with all the peoples of the earth. Through our lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever.