Many of us had a personal connection to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma through family, friends or colleagues who lived in the path of nature’s destruction. They will continue to need our prayers, support and attention in the months to come.
Celebration may be far from the minds of the victims of these disasters, but Christians worldwide are in the midst of celebrating the “Season of Creation” by praying for creation and taking tangible acts to protect it. The one-month season began Sept. 1 with the World Day of Prayer for Creation and will conclude Oct. 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
In a statement published for World Day of Prayer for Creation, U.S. Bishops Frank Dewane of Florida and Oscar Cantú of New Mexico shared their thoughts on how we ought to observe this season:
“St. Francis of Assisi’s compassion for the poor and for creation is a model for all people of good will. His example reminds us that ‘actions speak louder than words’ and that preaching through the language of concrete acts of tenderness and mercy is a powerful leaven to a weary world….
“This is a privileged time for all persons of faith to consider spiritual and corporal acts of mercy towards our common home and all those living in it, so that this may also become a ‘season of mercy’ within our families, our communities and our world.”
So, where do we begin? The Catholic Climate Covenant website offers a simple framework, which this editorial has adapted:
Pray — for persons affected by disasters such as hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean; floods in South Asia and Nigeria; drought in Central Africa; and forest fires in the western United States. Pray that political leaders make decisions to proactively address the growing intensity of weather systems and in turn reduce human misery. Pray for all of us to work together to be more generous in sharing the earth’s resources and to be more gentle and sparing in our own use of earth’s resources. Read Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home,” which offers a wealth of insight on our relationship with God, one another and the earth.
Act — take the St. Francis/Laudato Si Pledge, which commits us to live out the vision of “Laudato Si” and our Catholic faith through prayer, concrete action and advocacy. Write to the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus to urge Congress against making budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or for research. Advocate for fully staffing agencies such as NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Agriculture with qualified scientists. Support measures that reduce our nation’s dependence on highly polluting fossil fuels.
John Mundell, writing for The Criterion, the archdiocesan newspaper of Indianapolis, Ind., offers some additional action items. Form a creation care team in your parish or study group; convert from paper and plastic to wash and dry reusable dinnerware at parish meetings. On an individual level, go meatless every Friday; adjust the home thermostat to reduce energy use; reuse and recycle more; share items with neighbors instead of buying new. Some other ideas: when replacing light bulbs and windows in your home, choose energy-efficient ones.
Unplug electronics and mobile devices that are fully charged and not in use.
Donate — Give generously to relief agencies such as Catholic Relief Services (crs.org) and Catholic Charities (catholiccharitiesusa.org) that are responding to the most recent, enormous natural disasters. Also consider a donation to Catholic Climate Covenant (catholicclimatecovenant.org) and Franciscan Action Network (franciscanaction.org) to help the organizations advocating for public policies that protect creation and the poor.
Pope Francis observed in “Laudato Si:” “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.” What the world needs now is tender loving care.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor