The following reflections for the Season of Creation, a Christian Ecumenical Endeavor co-founded by the Ecumenical Patriarch and the current Catholic Pope, were commissioned for use by institutions of the Servite Order in various parts of the English-speaking world. Many of these reflections can also be adapted for religious traditions other than Christianity.
—John T. Pawlikowski , OSM, Ph.D
Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics
Catholic Theological Union, Chicago
Member of the Parliament of the World’s Religions Board of Directors
There is a fundamental connectedness and mutual dependency between the human community and the rest of creation, what some writers have spoken of as the “web of creation.”
Catholics need to develop a spirituality that rejects notions that we live in a purely “exilic” condition on Earth, awaiting our true home in heaven. Such a spirituality undercuts a sense of responsibility that the Pope insists we bear for ensuring the future sustainability of our planet.
We must recognize the integral relationship between caring for creation and other justice issues, poverty in particular. It is often the case that those who are most impoverished in contemporary society are the most affected by climate change.
Our spirituality in terms of caring for creation must include active efforts to switch to food diets that enhance sustainability in agriculture, to recycle, and most of all, to support initiatives that reduce carbon dioxide emissions, initiatives that are critical for the continued sustainability of the planet.
The Catholic community must now take on a much greater sense of responsibility for Earth. In his encyclical on the dignity of human work, Pope John Paul II called this our human Co-Creatorship with God and authored the first formal Catholic statement on ecological responsibility in his 2005 World Peace Day Message.
The Season of Creation was formally launched by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Greek Orthodox Church in 2016. It begins every year on September 1st and concludes on October 4th with the feast of St. Francis. The Patriarch was responsible for convincing both Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict of the importance of ecological concern. As part of a small delegation of religious leaders in Istanbul, Constantinople, I had the honor of meeting the Patriarch and was able to thank him personally for bringing ecological consciousness to the worldwide Christian community.
Ecumenical Christian collaboration is an integral dimension of the Season of Creation.
During this time, all Christian institutions are encouraged to bring the issue of caring for creation to their parishioners, students, visitors, etc., through various programs.
Deliver homilies on the spirit of Laudato Si’.
Organize lectures and other forms of educational programming, including “hands-on” experiences in caring for creation.
Support public policy proposals to counter ecological destruction, including return of the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Undertake greening of church structures.
Screen films about ecological responsibility. Such films are typically available through the offices of a particular diocese.
Establish contact with the websites and activities of the Catholic Climate Movement
and the Global Catholic Covenant organization. Sign the Global Catholic
Climate Declaration endorsed by Pope Francis.
Develop investment portfolios that promote sustainable growth (now termed “Impact Investing”); remove investments from companies that contribute to increasing carbon dioxide emissions. The Vatican is strongly promoting these actions.
Stress ecological responsibility as a fundamental pro-life issue for Catholics.
Utilize the resources provided by the United States Conference on Catholic Bishops, individual dioceses (some of which, such as the Chicago diocese, have a special office for implementation of Laudato Si’), and the Global Catholic Climate Covenant.
Consult the website of the California Conference of Catholic Bishops (https://www.cacatholic.org), which includes excellent pastoral suggestions for celebrating the Season of Creation and effective actions to take on climate issues.
Use the published version of Laudato Si’, along with the following books:
The Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si’
An excellent, very readable discussion of the implications of the encyclical for contemporary Catholic spirituality and ethics, authored by Fr. Joshtrom Kureethadam of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Fr. Joshtrom has spoken in Chicago, and he is a personal friend. He is a Salesian priest of the Syro-Malabar Rite who serves as the principal staff person in the Dicastery for Laudato Si’ and was deeply involved in its development. He is also a professor at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome. The book is published by The Liturgical Press. (ISBN: 978-0-8146-6387-5).
The Ecological Challenge: Ethical, Liturgical, and Spiritual Responses
Also published by The Liturgical Press, this book contains short chapters by biblical scholars, ethics professors, historical scholars, and liturgists on aspects of ecological responsibility, including my essay on “Theological Dimensions of an Ecological Ethic.” I co-edited this volume with my Catholic Theological Union colleague Rev. Richard Fragomeni. (ISBN: 0814658407, 9780814658406)
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