Care for Creation

By

20 Aug 2019

September has been designated the Season of Creation. It is an annual worldwide celebration of prayer and action to protect our Common Home.

I have recently moved to a town around a river and a lake. This is a new experience for me; most of my life I’ve been in the driest state, South Australia, where most watercourses only flow occasionally. But here there are splashes, reflections, pelicans, algae, waterskiers and memories of floods.

I jog around Lake Forbes a few times a week and marvel at this blessing in a barren land. Yet these precious waterways are not as constant as they seem in the quiet morning air. The Lachlan River is just a few metres away, currently only 58cm deep and falling. A million fish died in the Lower Darling River in January. Further upstream from there, the river flow is at 0 and highly saline bore water is their only resort.

Farmers all around here are desperate for consistent rain, and for many, crops are stunted or left unplanted.

During Lent earlier this year, our Project Compassion fundraising also focused on water and Caritas warned that more than 40% of humanity is now facing water scarcity. Without water, there is no life as we know it. Furthermore, the UN has said, ‘Water is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change’.

Our own experiences of water shortages are yet one more reminder that our Common Home is changing, patterns of nature are changing and our actions to date have mostly exacerbated the problems.

Mourning and prayer

This is a time for mourning and prayer. Recently while studying the Psalms I learned that Psalm 4 seeks God’s light in a time of drought. In Jeremiah 14, also, the land, the animals and the people lament in time of drought. We turn to God in sorrow and petition, while still praising our Creator’s beautiful natural gifts. But this is just as much a time of courage and determination – we need spiritual strength and solidarity to face this together.

So, we come to the liturgical Season of Creation: an annual, worldwide celebration of prayer and action to protect our Common Home, running from 1 September – the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation – to 4 October – the feast of St Francis of Assisi.

The season was started by the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople in 1989 and the Roman Catholic Church officially participated for the first time in 2016. That year, Pope Francis launched the season at the Vatican, saying, ‘we should be united in showing mercy to the earth as our common home and cherishing the world in which we live as a place for sharing and communion’.

Now, in 2019, every member of the Christian world is called to engage in this season prayerfully and courageously.

Involvement

There are many ways to be involved at both a personal and collective level. Individually, we can start by experiencing and celebrating our own natural environments. I know that I need to grow in this, not being an overly observant or grounded resident on our Common Home.

I do find that saying grace before meals is one of the most powerful actions of awareness and gratitude I know, yet this could easily be extended to other spheres of life. Connected with this, Pope Francis calls us to examine our consciences, to bring to mind our sins against creation and our contribution towards ecological harm.

This leads to repentance: turning towards our God who is rich in mercy.

Then this becomes the tangible change of ecological conversion. We might grow our own food, compost our waste, or reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in transportation, energy use, and diet.

Collective action

All of these are wonderful actions emerging from this conscious spirituality, yet our positive impact is enhanced by acting collectively.

The Season of Creation includes many prayer and liturgy resources for bringing people together or incorporating into established activities.

Local areas have Landcare, Coastwatch or gardening groups that make it easy to contribute to your patch of our Common Home. Clean Up Australia, which began in 1990 as an annual day, has now become a campaign for every day of the year. Parishes, dioceses and other Catholic organisations now have groups that study and implement Pope Francis’s ecological encyclical Laudato Si’. If you know of no such group in your area, create one.

There are other organisations, such as Catholic Earthcare and the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, that specifically unite this spirituality with practical action. This is necessarily political also, as fast and lasting change needs specific policies to avert or contain even greater ecological disaster.

Caritas Australia has run a campaign that links Australian drought-strapped farmers with water-starved Zimbabweans and Pacific Islanders losing their homes to rising seas.

In response to those affected by climate change, they have petitioned the government to prioritise renewable energy across Australia.

So, let us join our individual and collective efforts to protect this Common Home we love.

Elizabeth Young RSM was professed in 2010 in South Australia, and is currently doing pastoral work in the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese of NSW.

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