September & October is the Season of Creation, several weeks designated to reflect, honor, and heal the natural world. This global effort, organized and celebrated by faith communities, continues through the fourth day of October, the Feast of St. Francis (the patron saint of animals and the environment). The 2020 theme is Jubilee for the Earth, and many faith organizations are providing suggestions for spiritual strengthening and actions on behalf of the natural world. These include prayers and reflections and extend to sustainability events and significant lifestyle changes. The theme of Jubilee for the Earth symbolizes the hope and joy associated with the restoration of nature, which requires fundamentally new perspectives and ways of living in harmony with creation.
Chapter two of Pope Francis’s Laudato Si is titled “The Gospel of Creation,” where he writes “science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both.” He further points out that “The earth was here before us, and it has been given to us.” Pope Francis clarifies that this does not mean that humans “have dominion over the earth” Therefore, they should feel free to exploit its resources. He states that “..we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute dominion over other creatures.” Instead, “this responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world.”
Over the next several weeks of this Season of Creation, consider the following questions: what human behaviors have led to the intense stresses on the natural world over the past several decades, the damaging ways of life that never existed before, and what can I do to take part in healing the earth? For those who have been blessed to walk as guests of this earth for fifty years or more, it does not take much thought on the past to recognize the many lifestyle changes over the decades that are not earth-friendly. For younger people who have only known a highly materialistic world, what steps can be taken to simplify your life in a way that is more sustainable and kinder to the earth and involves less stuff?
Significant advances through science and technology have profoundly influenced our lives, possibly to the extent that makes us less inclined to consider the consequences of how we live and to accept it all as sufficient. Consider section 92 of the Laudato Si, where Pope Francis expresses Jubilee for the earth. “Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river, and mother earth.”
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~5 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.