As Franciscans, we are called, gifted and sent to share the Gospel and to be a prophetic voice in a chaotic world. One of the ways that we must do this is through care for creation and care for the poor. As Earth Day nears, a friar reminds us of this call and suggests concrete ways to lead by example.
Ravishing climate change is obviously altering the future sustainability of our mother earth. Floods, famines, earthquakes and desertification are rampant signs of the need to change our destructive practices. When we look closer at these disasters, we can clearly see that our impoverished sisters and brothers directly experience and feel the most profound and devastating effects. Their simple shacks disappear in floods and earthquakes, they watch their crops dry up on the vine with no irrigation, and their family farm and food supply is usually the first to be destroyed by dry heat and wind.
The World Looks to Francis
At the UN World Conference ECO 1992 in Rio, the countries of the world began the conference by reading St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Sun” and in the recent UN Paris Climate Conference, member states lauded the encyclical “Laudato Si’” as a major contribution to the unanimous and historical signing of the Paris Accords.
The world looks up to Franciscans to share their spiritual vision and motivation for the difficult task of protecting and healing the Earth and its creatures. Scientists may call it ecology, sociologists the integrity of creation. We Franciscans speak of restoring reverence for God’s creation and living in communion with all. This is a gift we can offer to our world in crisis.
Pope Francis has announced in his newest encyclical “Rejoice and Be Glad”, that we are all called to live our lives with love. In his earlier encyclical “Laudato Si’,” our pope reminds us that, in a special way, we are called to express that love by integrating caring for creation with our caring for the poor. Persistent disregard for the earth, he warns, will have dramatic consequences for humankind. It is the responsibility of every person to practice a sustainable lifestyle, reject the throwaway culture, promote authentic development, and re-engage in a civic and political life. To the extent that we do that, humanity may be able to avert, or at least forestall, further environmental damages and their effects on the poorest.
We are also being sent out to preach the Gospel to all the nations. Let´s move forward with faith and courage, from orthodoxy to orthopraxis, as OFMs and as the entire Franciscan family. Ours is the service of protecting the life of our mother earth and preserving God’s good gifts for further generations. Every Franciscan can consider doing any of the following steps:
- Do a personal and fraternal evaluation of our use of natural resources and what we can do to avoid participating in the “throwaway culture.”
- Preach or teach on the principal tenets of Laudato Si at least monthly. (The Catholic Climate Covenant offers homily helps and other resources.)
- If you minister at a parish, meet with the staff that is in charge of the faith formation and youth ministry. Assess how well the Gospel values of care for God’s creation and justice for the poor are integrated into the existing curricula and the content of what is being taught. (If you need assistance, reach out to the Office of Justice, Peace and Care for Creation for assistance.)
- Reach out to other faith-based and civic organizations that champion environmental justice. Mobilize fellow Catholics within your sphere of influence. Advocate in support of policy changes that seek to safeguard God’s creation and lift up the poor. (Examples include Interfaith Power and Light and Citizens Climate Lobby.)
- Include, once a week, an intention in the weekend Prayers of the Faithful that expresses the Church’s concerns about climate justice, care for creation and care for the poor.
- Offer workshops on “Laudato Si’.” (The USCCB has created a discussion guide.)
- Plant and care for trees. (Trees for the Future includes information about how planting trees helps to offset your carbon footprint.)
- Speak up, encourage, and challenge your local diocese as far as their engagement on issues of environmental justice. Remember that as Franciscans we have a prophetic responsibility vis-à-vis the institutional Church.
- Reuse, reduce, and recycle. Adopt sustainable eating habits. (For an example, visit www.seafoodwatch.org.)
— Fr. Ignatius is parochial vicar and works in Hispanic ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle, Va. From 2010 to 2014, while living in Bolivia, he was a member of the International OFM Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Animation Committee in Rome, Italy
Editor’s note: Friars interested in writing a reflection for HNP Today on a timely topic – a holiday, current event, holy day or other seasonal themes – are invited to contact the HNP Communications Office at email@example.com. Additional reflections by friars can be found on the Spiritual Resources page of HNP.org.
- “Province Celebrates Earth Day and Beauty of God’s Creation” – May 10, 2017, HNP Today
- “A Franciscan Statement on Global Climate Change” – Holy Name Province
- “Profile: Ignatius Harding Marks 50 Years as a Friar” – March 9, 2016, HNP Today