August 29, 2021 – “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” – Sept. 1
Wednesday, September 1 has been called by Pope Francis to be a “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.”
This seems very timely, as just on August 9th a panel from the United Nations made an announcement that the climate crisis had reached a “code red.”
Now I am no scientist or anything, but according to what I’ve heard/read in the news, that claim is that the evidence is ever-mounting, and there have been connections made between recent wildfires and other natural disaster issues with the larger global climate change effected by humanity’s emissions, etc.
I know the topic of climate change has been of some debate in past years: if climate change was real or not, is a hoax or not.
But whatever your take on all this is, as Catholic Christians, we do have a call to being good stewards of creation.
Why? Because of Genesis Chapter 1 and 2. Because God gave Adam and Eve (and thus all of humanity), dominion over Creation, but dominion in the sense of having responsibility, of ordering Creation for the good and thriving of human life!
It has only been in the last century or so, following the industrial revolution, and other scientific leaps, that we as humanity realized we could even do enough to impact the climate of the earth. If you talked to someone a century before this idea would have been laughable!
Thus, “Care for God’s Creation” has become a topic in the writings of the Popes and theologians in the last century or so, and has become one of the seven major themes of the collection of Papal teachings discussing the social implications of the Gospel, now known as “Catholic Social Teaching.” It is because we realize as collective humanity, the environmental impact we have, now more than ever before has a greater effect on our global neighbors of humanity, especially the poor, and we have a responsibility to work to create an environment for our fellow neighbor and future generations where humans can thrive and flourish.
To quote Pope Benedict in a 2009 Encyclical:
“The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. . . Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other.”
-Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth [Caritas in Veritate], nos. 48, 51
In 2015, Pope Francis wrote an Encyclical dedicated to this very topic. He draws out the implications that the more we cultivate an overly “utilitarian” and “throw-away” culture, that mentality often extends not only to created things, but to other human persons, (i.e. the objectification of humans in sex trafficking and pornography, or the “throw-away” culture of human life in abortion):
“A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. . . . Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.”
-(Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si’],nos. 49, 91)
Thus Christian approach to “ecological and environmental” questions is not about jumping on a hippie movement or agenda, nor about loving plants and animals more than humans. It flows from an integrated vision that flows from the Christian vision of the dignity of every human person and our responsibility to the common good.