Written on: October 13, 2016
At this time of the year, I remember with great fondness my days as religious education coordinator at Grey Nun Academy and the Blessing of the Animals which we held annually. I remember, too, the chaos the Blessing created for every teacher and many parents of the school. Some children, thankfully, brought only stuffed animals, but others had snakes or lizards, caged birds or cats, and all manner of creatures allowed in the classroom through the day. Outside, barking dogs competed with students reading haltingly over the ineffective microphone their prayers of the mouse or the butterfly or giraffe. One parent arrived after the blessing was ended and wanted me to bless her beautiful bird. I did so with trepidation, fearful that life might be snuffed out for the critter rather than extended. The bird lived, thanks be to God.
So many years later, I am still committed (along with so many others of every faith tradition) to care for the earth and all her residents. In 1989, the Orthodox Christian church called for a World Day of Prayer for Creation on September 1st. Many Christian churches joined them. Pope Francis, current leader of the Catholic Christian church, who has been urging all of us to take the care of creation seriously, recently called us to that September 1st commitment. It is extended now to a month-long “season of creation,” inviting us to prayer, contemplation and action on behalf of Planet Earth. The end of the season of creation is October 4th , a date recognizing the life, stories and writings of another environmentalist Francis – St. Francis of Assisi. Here are some verses of his Canticle of Creation which is often recited or sung in church.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Earth, our Mother, who nourishes us and sustains us,bringing forth fruits and vegetables of many kinds and flowers of many colors.
The past few years have seen many very important meetings and agreements related to earth-keeping – a task more complicated than simple blessing of animals. In May of last year, Pope Francis wrote what the church calls an “encyclical”, Laudato Si, a letter to the world urging appreciation of nature, study and action on climate change, our responsibility for it, and its impact, especially on the poor
At the end of last year, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, nearly 200 countries came together in Paris and declared that we must all make major changes if we are to save the planet from the warming trend that has already begun to have devastating consequences.
On the 18th of April, hundreds of religious leaders came together in support of the Paris Agreement. They stated,
“Climate change presents our global family with the opportunity to embark on a path of spiritual renewal defined by deeper awareness andgreater ecological action. Every act to protect and care for all beings connects us to one another, deepening the spiritual dimension of our lives. We must reflect on the true nature of our interrelationship to the Earth. It is not a resource for us to exploit at our will. It is a sacred inheritance and a precious home which we must protect.”
On Earth Day (April 22nd) this year, the United States joined 174 other nations including China in signing the Paris Agreement.
Christian scripture passages reveal belief in a God who gave us the natural world we call “home”. Environmental stewardship for Christians means we are to take care of, not exploit or destroy, the gift of this home. The perspective of the psalmist is similar to that of the scientist.
The psalmist writes, When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers — ,the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Scientists tell us that we humans are a mere speck latest to arrive in the timeline of the universe. Politicians may oppose the necessary changes we are called to make, but science and faith, I believe, are working together to advocate for radical attitude transformation. Leaders of almost every religious tradition agree that if do not respond to the signs of the times now, we jeopardize the future of the generations who come after us.
How, then, are we as people of faith to collaborate with each other for the sake of our planet and all her inhabitants? Here are some of the suggested ways (which we have been hearing for more than 40 years) to help slow down the impact of global warming, a spiritual work we are most certainly called to embrace.
We and the plants and animals with which we are interrelated have already been blessed with life. Let us praise the Creator and reverence creation by doing everything we can to help heal the wounded earth.
Sister Eileen White is a frequent contributor to the Bucks County Courier Times, From a Faith Perspective column. We are grateful for their permission to share this column with you. It originally appeared in the BCC Times September 30, 2016.