This month, the Vatican highlighted the potential good that the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics can bring about during the ‘Season of Creation’, which starts on the September 1, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and ends on October 4, the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology. The theme for this year’s season is ‘Restoring Our Common Home’. This ecumenical season in the Church’s calendar is an opportunity for Christians worldwide to come together in prayer, reflection and action for our common home.
As we have seen in the past few weeks, devastating floods have caused much destruction in Germany, Belgium and Holland, killing more than 200 people, 1,000 are still missing, and thousands more are displaced. Thousands of homes have been destroyed in one of the worst natural disasters to hit the region in decades. In the USA record temperatures have literally burned entire towns to the ground, forcing people into emergency shelters. There is growing consensus that the changing climate is causing parts of world to become uninhabitable for human beings.
The Season of Creation is an opportunity for the world’s 2.2 billion Christians to highlight what is happening to our world, to encourage communities to listen to the cry of the earth and the poor, to come together in prayer and action for God’s creation. We can do this in many ways in our parishes, families, communities, schools and workplaces. The Laudato Si’ working group of the Irish Bishops’ Conference have prepared numerous resources for this season which will soon be available on www.catholicbishops.ie (search Season of Creation). With beautiful prayer services and liturgy notes, multimedia reflections and practical tips, there is something there for everyone. One action we are encouraging this year is tree planting. Every parish community, family or school could explore their church grounds or surrounding areas and see what might be possible in terms of restoring Irish native trees to a local area. We have teamed up with ‘Easy Treesie’ and produced a colourful resource which includes information on the practicalities of tree planting as well as prayers of blessing for a tree planting ceremony. This is one symbolic action we can all engage in this Autumn to help restore our common home.
While the realities of the environmental crises can overwhelm us, we read in Laudato Si’ that “All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start” (LS, 205).
Small actions have a ripple effect across a community and the Season of Creation offers us many opportunities to engage locally in whatever way we can. “For we know that things can change…” (LS, 13).
Jane Mellett is the Laudato Si’ Officer with Trócaire