Beginning last September, Pope Francis designated September as the Season of Creation. This expands the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation that started in 2015. Joining a movement created by our Lutheran brothers and sisters in 2000, the Church now celebrates this month as a time to contemplate our care of creation and to celebrate its wonders.
With these thoughts, we consider Thanksgiving during this month of October. As we hear the increasingly alarming news of natural disasters around the world, and we try to respond however we can, the bigger questions are inevitably asked. How do we respond to the needs around us? Are the acts of nature this year worse than previous years? If so, why? And what can I, as one single person, do to make a difference amongst all the big, global, issues that follow?
Cardinal Peter Turkson, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, gave us six points to ponder as we decide how to engage with our environment on a personal level:
- All human beings are affected, and everything in nature too, by the crises of climate change, misuse of natural resources, waste and pollution, and attendant poverty and dislocation.
- Everything is interconnected; we cannot understand the social or natural world or their parts in isolation.
- Everyone must act responsibly to save our world – from individuals who recycle and use energy sparingly, to enterprises reducing their ecological footprints, to world leaders setting and enforcing ambitious targets to reduce the use of carbon.
- We must be truthful; let no one hide or distort facts in order to gain selfish advantage.
- We must engage in constructive dialogue; genuine, trusting and trustworthy engagement of all parties is required to succeed where all is at risk.
- Beyond the industrial age’s short-sighted confidence in technology and finance, we must transcend ourselves in prayer, simplicity and solidarity.
And so, the adage of “reduce, reuse, recycle” comes to mind as a follow up to these points of conversation. But, as Cardinal Turkson mentions, nothing happens in isolation. The care of creation is not just about the earth, but also about its inhabitants. We especially, as human beings, have the biggest impact on our home. By caring for each other as individuals, we can create an upswell of attitude change that will impact the broader world and thus, decisions that impact the environment and our earth. Out of thankfulness for our blessings, we must look for ways to bless each other Here are some examples to consider:
- Do you like to comment on social media? Do you enjoy the anonymity of sharing your thoughts on the Internet without care for how they may impact who or what you are commenting on? In a world where social media rants and comments are the latest form of bullying, it is a virtue to show care and intention for what you say, how you say and where you say your opinions.
- Is there a family in your parish who comes to Mass looking a little worse for wear? Do you ponder why they can’t dress up and why their child is particularly disruptive? Maybe the clothes are their best, and maybe that child did not have enough to eat for breakfast and is acting out of hunger. Perhaps ask your pastor if they need help. Can you donate a grocery store gift card to them?
- Do you know a woman who recently suffered a miscarriage and you don’t know what to say? Just tell her you love her; and that you’re sorry it happened. Those words will be a healing balm to her soul.
In the hustle and bustle of juggling work, life, money, kids, marriage and our faith, we often lose sight of those that are most precious: the people around us. So let us make the time to think of ways to reduce our anger, judgement and condescension; reuse words of kindness, over and over, in as many situations as possible; and recycle our negativity into positivity and spread it around by offering a smile to the stranger on the street or by letting the car beside us ease in front of us, so the driver does not have to wait longer to merge into our lane.
Spreading joy and happiness gives the recipients room to contemplate other things. Those “other things” might simply include: considering how to make their home more environmentally friendly; seeing trash on the ground and having the patience to pick it up; or finding a reservoir of energy to ride their bike to the corner store instead of driving. If we can’t do the basics of caring for each other, how can we do the bigger job of caring for creation?
Let’s all try to see how big of a ripple we can create, and we might be surprised at the change it brings forth in each one of us too!