Working for the Care of Creation

When the Holy Father has something important to communicate to the Church on a particular topic, he will sometimes do so in the form of an encyclical letter. Since his election, Pope Francis has issued two encyclicals: Lumen Fidei (2013), on faith, and Laudato Si’ (2015), on the care for our common home.

Encyclicals, as an expression of papal teaching, continue to be reflected and acted on within the Church. For example, Laudato Si’ has become a catalyst for parishes and Catholic organizations to review their own practices related to the use of natural resources and to see where they can minimize the negative impact on our air, water and natural energy supplies.  In addition, Pope Francis has established September 1 as an annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

In emphasizing concern for the right use of the gifts of creation, Pope Francis joins his predecessors in calling attention to the increasingly negative impact of human consumption of natural resources. Quoting Saint John Paul II, he writes that people frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption” (Laudato Si’, 5).  The Holy Father thus calls for “authentic development” to “bring about an integral improvement in the quality of human life, and this entails considering the setting in which people live their lives. These settings influence the way we think, feel and act. In our rooms, our homes, our workplaces and neighborhoods, we use our environment as a way of expressing our identity” (Id., 147).

As part of these efforts locally, the continuing work of the archdiocesan Care for Creation Committee is helping parishes take steps to make use of “greening resources” and energy use that both saves money and contributes to a cleaner environment.  Also, over the past couple of months, Mount Olivet Cemetery has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to turn some of the unused parts of the cemetery to a more efficient and environmentally friendly oasis, including replacing unused roads with new plants.  For example, on October 18, volunteers will be planting trees, and this whole initiative will both increase the beauty of this sacred ground and manage stormwater better.

These are just two examples of the way Laudato Si’ offers individuals and groups a chance to think more consciously about the relationship between people and the environment in which we live and move. A beautiful environment makes it easier to appreciate our God, who is both Creator and Father.