A Brief Reflection On The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
By Rev. James T. Mulligan CSC
So – this Tuesday, September 1, Pope Francis has called on the Catholic Christian community to observe a world day of prayer for the care of creation. A first point to make is that Pope Francis is leaning on the leadership of the Orthodox Church and, as he says, “sharing the concern of my beloved brother, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew”. Here the Holy Father manifests an uncommon humility for a Roman Pontiff as he acknowledges, as Bishop of Rome, the leadership steps taken by the Orthodox Church and his willingness to follow and be a part of this holy initiative rather than to lead. The date chosen, September 1, is actually the same date the Orthodox Community has observed for several years now to pray for the care of creation.
A second point – “the world day of prayer” is a clear and practical follow-through to Laudato Si’ his June Encyclical Letter on the environment and the gospel imperative to care for creation. It would appear that the Holy Father is clever in a gospel sort of way doing what he can to keep our eyes on the ball – in this instance to keep our attention focused on the great dangers our common home, the planet, is facing by the careless use and abuse of the environment, abuses usually caused by greed and short term economic profit. I am sure the Holy Father has in mind the also the Paris summit on the environment that takes place in December. The more attention he can give to that global meeting, the better.
Thirdly – this is a day of prayer! For believers in the One God, our creation is replete with God’s handiwork. The created world is God’s work of art. The psalms, the prophets, Jesus’ words about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, the Apostles’ Creed — all testify that God is Creator of all things and that creation itself is not simply one act but it is a continuous act happening day in and day out, as the Lord has entrusted to us the role of co-creator in our ministry to care for our common home, the earth. The Canadian Bishops have summarized this quite beautifully in their statement YOU LOVE ALL THAT EXIST … ALL THINGS ARE YOURS, GOD, LOVER OF LIFE: From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine. It is good and it is important for Christians to pause and to give thanks in prayer for God’s gift to us in the beauty of the earth! It is equally good and important for us to reflect in prayer on our sacred responsibility to protect God’s creation. In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis sternly reminds us: To live 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.
A final point – the world day of prayer for the care of creation can be described as an irresponsible, dangerous act on the part of the church that should stick to religion and stay away from politics and economics and environmental structures. Many in politics and many who shape economic policy today would say: Don’t meddle! You don’t know what you are talking about! Leave it to us – we are the experts. But surely, the environment, our common home, is far too precious to leave to some politicians who give the go ahead to developers who lay waste God’s creation for short term gain and corporations in the extractive business who risk ruining the earth making it toxic for communities living close by and producing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Praying together for the conversion of hearts becomes a political exercise. It is through prayer that Christians can be emboldened to struggle for change. After St. Francis of Assisi, his namesake, Pope Francis preaches the Gospel of Creation. A Gospel is “good news” that must be proclaimed by words and by actions. That this “world day of prayer for the care of our common home” may enrich and enlighten us on how to act in a prophetic way to protect creation!
(Father Mulligan is associate pastor of St. Kevin parish, Welland.)