“ 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.
We take for granted the ground we stand on. We live at 86-45 Edgerton Boulevard, Queens, Long Island, New York, USA, but the ground we stand on goes deeper than that.
The monastery we live in stands on the highest point of a spine of volcanic rock that goes back at least 400 million years, when the continent was being formed.
About 22,000 years ago the last glacier, the height of a skyscraper, came down from Canada and stopped here. Our monastery stands where the glacier stopped. As it receded and melted the glacier gave us the land we stand on now.
Southeast of us the glacier formed clay flatlands and sandy beaches facing the Atlantic Ocean. The winding depressions in our area, like Midland Parkway next to us, were streams from the glacier bringing sand and clay and rocks to the flatlands east of us.
North of us the last glacier left the waters that became Long Island Sound. The glaciers also left water in the aquifer that still provides drinking water for most of Long Island today.
About 12,000 years ago, the first humans arrived here. Small bands of Indians lived in settlements near streams and waterways where they fished and hunted for game.Then, we came here.
Pope Francis says in his encyclical Laudato Si that we need a long view of life for the days ahead, because we’re facing a world that will be radically transformed by climate change. To prepare, Pope Francis says, we need “an ecological conversion.”
That certainly means knowing more about the physical world we live in, so that we can understand it and care for it. Some say since the time of the Enlightenment in the 17th century we have concentrated too much on the human world and prioritized it too much. We’ve neglected creation and the ground we stand on.
That means also remembering that God created the heavens and the earth and God has a plan for the world. God must remain in the picture of the changing physical world, otherwise life becomes chaotic. We can’t depend on science alone.
Pope Francis, in Laudato Si, while accepting science and its findings, said that besides scientific knowledge, we should mine our own religious traditions for the wisdom and hope they give and he said to look at the Book of Genesis and our spiritual and sacramental traditions to face the future.
Our location here in Queens, particularly our garden, on the edge of a spine of volcanic rock, offers a valuable place for cosmic reflection. Our Mary Garden, based on the garden of Genesis, sees creation with eyes of faith and also with eyes of earthy experience. Water creates the garden, bringing life to everything else. Four rivers flow to the four corners of the earth. The plants in the four quadrants of the garden represent the staples of life– beauty, medicine and food.
Mary stands in our garden as the representative of redeemed humanity, holding in her arms Christ, the Redeemer. She rejoices in creation before her and presents the one, “through whom all things were made,” who blesses the world with hope. Mary also, as a witness to the resurrection of Jesus, knows he has promised a new heaven and a new earth. “Behold, I make all things new,”
Mary’s statue stands on the stump of a large cedar tree, a tree whose roots reach deepest into the earth. At the base of the stump are rocks; most come from parts of our continent swept up by the ancient glacier and deposited here. We put some rocks from the Holy Land there, and a friend recently gave us a rock from Ireland to add to it.
The flowers in the Mary Garden bring the various colors and shapes of the world’s plant life here. Flowers are perhaps the most popular “immigrants” of the plant world, coming from everywhere, welcomed everywhere. Many of them, like the marigold, “Mary’s Gold”, are particularly associated with the Mother of Jesus.
Our Mary garden stands next to a grotto recalling Mary’s appearance at Lourdes in the 19th century when faith in France was eroding in an age of skepticism. Her appearances later at Fatima and the strong devotion to her that persists today remind us she is a permanent witness to Jesus Christ, who promised to remain with us “all days”, even days when the foundations of the earth are shaken. Mary’s a witness who comes when times are bad.
The concept of the Mary Garden developed in 13th century Europe when, during the “Black Death”, people believed a cursed earth caused millions to die. Today as the earth enters its own “passion” the Mary Garden offers a rich resource of Christian wisdom and hope for the days ahead.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. is set to release her ‘Green New Deal” today–government proposals for health care for all, job guarantees, a push to eliminate U.S.carbon emissions.
Good luck to her, but it’s going to be a hard road ahead. Maybe a start, but we are going to need more than political legislation and technological innovations to deal with climate change.
Here’s a favorite picture of mine from the Staten Island Ferry. You say it’s a picture of the New York skyline?
I say it’s a picture of water that gave birth to the city. True, isn’t it? The water was here first. The city came to be because water brought the world here, making the city a capitol of world trade and drawing millions of human beings to this place.
These waters once abounded with fish, the surrounding areas abounded in game. Plenty for all, so the native peoples allowed the original Dutch settlers a little piece of land for themselves.
Now look at it. The man who built the new World Trade Center claims it’s the tallest building in the country, challenging the heavens–like Babel.
.Be careful, though, about challenging the heavens and forgetting about the earth. Be careful about the waters that brought you where you are. No fish or oysters here to eat now. Little space for the waters to go when they rise. And they will.
Don’t forget– the water was here first. It’s a “vision thing.” That’s what Pope Francis says in “Laudato si”.
St. Francis is one of those super saints to keep in mind, even after his feast day. I mentioned in a previous blog the statue of Francis facing St. John Lateran and Pope Innocent’s dream of a young man who, like Francis, held up the church’s walls ready to fall. Francis helped renew the church.
In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis paints a verbal picture of Francis, holding his arms out to the created world, caring for our endangered planet:
“I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.
“Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”.
“His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. His disciple Saint Bonaventure tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”. Such a conviction cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behaviour.
“If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.
What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20). For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty. Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”
I like the pope’s words: “Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”
We not preparing for the disasters brought by climate change, an article in USAToday by Rick Hampson says. “Will repeated exposures to vivid scenes of natural disaster–Western wildfires, a global heat wave, Hawaiian volcano eruptions, the 2017’s hurricane’s anniversary and a suddenly active 2018 season” prepare us to do something? “Experience counsels skepticism. So does human nature.”
“Experts say people aren’t really motivated by disaster until it come to, or through, their door.” Hampson writes.
We forget that “America, the Beautiful” is vulnerable to climate change as other parts of the world are, and our political system doesn’t help us face the change either. The earth doesn’t get to vote.
“Democracies are creatures of the present, because the public focuses on the here and now, not some future hypothetical problem… Our political system makes us vulnerable to distant crises, because we don’t try to anticipate or diffuse them.” (Robert J. Samuelson)
In a previous blog Pope Francis asks us to hear in the changing climate cries of “Our Sister, the earth” groaning from the abandonment and mistreatment received at our hands. Is Hurricane Florence a cry of creation?
“Save us, Lord, from becoming simply ‘creatures of the present.’ looking after ourselves. Let us hear our earth and sky and sea when they cry out from our abuse and lack of care. We ourselves are dust from the earth, we breathe her air and are refreshed by her waters. May we hear the cries of our Sister, the earth, and care for her.”
“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.
This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. Pope Francis, Laudato Si, 1-2