September 1st was proclaimed as a day of prayer for the environment by the late Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I in 1989. The Orthodox church year starts that day with a commemoration of how God created the world. On 4 October, Roman Catholics and other churches from the Western traditions commemorate Francis of Assisi, known to many as the author of the Canticle of Creatures.
In 2015, Pope Francis designated 1 September as a World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation for the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. Throughout the years, major Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, and Anglican organisations have joined to encourage the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide to pray and act on ecological issues.
In 2016, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I released their special messages for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, kicking off the month-long Season of Creation celebrations. Both leaders used strong language to stress the urgency of the ecological crisis and the need to take action on climate change.
I note that this message comes to you after several student strikes across Australia and the world around their concern for the environment and our failure to act decisively enough for the rate of climate change that is occurring.
Laudato Si written by Pope Francis, is not limited to a Catholic audience. Neither is it an essay on climate change exclusively. The encyclical is addressed to all citizens of the world and comments on the deteriorating relationship between people and nature. It gives a religious and spiritual perspective to what has mostly been considered an environmental, political and scientific issue.
Caritas Australia’s website provides six powerful quotes from Laudato Si (https://www.caritas.org.au/learn/newsroom/news-detail/six-powerful-quotes-from-laudato-si):
- Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations, debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.
- Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.
- A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
- The principle of the maximisation of profits, frequently isolated from other considerations, reflects a misunderstanding of the very nature of the economy. As long as production is increased, little concern is shown about whether it is at the cost of future resources or the health of the environment; as long as the clearing of a forest increases production, no one calculates the losses entailed in the desertification of the land, the harm done to biodiversity or the increased pollution. In a word, businesses profit by calculating and paying only a fraction of the costs involved.
- Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.
- Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.
I invite you to also visit Catholic Earthcare Australia website http://catholicearthcare.org.au/
Along with The Global Catholic Climate Movement https://catholicclimatemovement.global/
Both of these bodies have joined with Caritas inviting people to sign the Joining the Generation Earth petition https://genearth.org.au/ to get the Future Fund out of Fossil Fuels.
Generation Earth says “that fossil fuels are the single largest contributor to human-induced climate change. Ending the fossil fuel era is now an urgent ethical and survival imperative. One of the most impactful ways we can make this happen is to withdraw our funds from fossil fuels and re-direct them into clean energy.”
Generation Earth supports powerful action to combat climate change. It’s about helping Australia transition to 100% clean energy for a safer climate and a secure future. It’s about making it easier for everyone to switch from investing in fossil fuels to investing in renewable energy.
The message from Pope Francis, Caritas, Generation Earth, Catholic Earthcare, The Global Catholic Climate Movement and others is to care for our common home and that all generations and levels of government and businesses need to work together to solve the escalating climate changes that are occurring to our planet. The recent fires in the Amazon have created significant concern for the imbalances that this will create within the natural world. Meanwhile at home, we are experiencing drought, wild storms, fires and water restrictions.
On 1 September Pope Francis called for prophetic action and prayer by Christians and people of good will. He said, “Our prayers and appeals are directed first at raising the awareness of political and civil leaders” and getting them to take urgent action. The pope said he was thinking especially of “those governments that will meet in coming months to renew commitments decisive for directing the planet towards life, not death.”
The pope said, “Now is the time to rediscover our vocation as children of God, brothers and sisters, and stewards of creation. Now is the time to repent, to be converted and to return to our roots.” He called upon us all to “reflect upon our lifestyles” and how they affect the environment.
The pope’s recurrent message is for us to “hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” Our earth is our inheritance and needs to be handed on to future generations, just like the first people of this nation have done for tens of thousands of years.
St Francis of Assisi wrote a song of praise, the Canticle of Creation as he approached death midst illness and disability. Francis was captivated by nature and God’s presence in all of creation. Francis calls out to all of creation as brother and sister, revealing the core of the Franciscan worldview: that God is the source of all being; that the Creator God is the Parent; that all creatures therefore are brother and sister to one another; that everything deserves love and respect.
Francis saw God in everything and so do we. We look upon the earth with humility and with an open and grateful heart, aware of the divine goodness in all things.
CANTICLE OF CREATION
Be praised Good Lord for Brother Sun
who brings us each new day.
Be praised for Sister Moon: white
beauty bright and fair, with wandering
stars she moves through the night.
Be praised my Lord for Brother Wind,
for air and clouds and the skies of every season.
Be praised for Sister Water: humble,
helpful, precious, pure; she cleanses
us in rivers and renews us in rain.
Be praised my Lord for Brother fire:
he purifies and enlightens us.
Be praised my Lord for Mother Earth:
abundant source, all life sustaining;
she feeds us bread and fruit and gives us flowers.
Be praised my Lord for the gift of life;
for changing dusk and dawn; for touch
and scent and song.
Be praised my Lord for those who
pardon one another for love of thee,
and endure sickness and tribulation.
Blessed are they who shall endure it in
peace, for they shall be crowned by Thee.
Be praised Good Lord for sister Death
who welcomes us in loving embrace.
Be praised my Lord for all your
creation serving you joyfully.
Francis of Assisi, 1225 A.D
I will leave you in this period of the Season of Creation to ponder your response to the invitation to care for creation and to hand onto the future generations a sustainable planet. I hope humanity begins to believe and understand the earth in the way of both Pope Francis and Francis of Assisi.