Hearing the cry of the earth

Hearing the cry of the earth
Living Laudato Si’

During the month of September, Christians around the world are celebrating the Season of Creation, a season in the liturgical calendar where we are invited to reflect, pray and take action for our common home. It was heartening to see Bishop Larry Duffy (of Clogher Diocese) issue a special pastoral letter for the Season of Creation this year. In this letter he urged people to listen to the call of Pope Francis’ in Laudato Si’, to hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

He reminded Catholics that if our planet is not healthy, then we cannot be healthy. Calling on people to examine lifestyles, Bishop Duffy noted that the environmental crisis is also a social one: “We must integrate questions of social justice into debates on the environment. Questions such as human rights abuses, religious intolerance, discrimination, racism, the attacks on the life of the unborn… these are all part of what Pope Francis calls ‘the throw-away culture’ underpinning our neglect of creation and the creator.”

A startling report from the UN last week declared that we have lost 68% of wildlife in the past 50 years as human activity pushes ecosystems to the brink. The report was compiled by 134 experts from around the world and found that nature is being destroyed by humans on a scale never seen before, from the rainforests of central America to the pollution of our rivers and oceans. These are shocking statistics. The Season of Creation urges us to listen to the cry of the earth, to become painfully aware of what is happening, to pray for our common home and for those who are the decision makers, who can affect change.

In Laudato Si’ we are reminded that ‘all is not lost’, that we are capable of taking a new path. Bishop Duffy, in his pastoral letter, also encourages people stating “hope is found in action”. Giving some practical examples of action, he invites parish communities to plant a native Irish tree on church grounds and to look at way of saving biodiversity locally. Bishop Duffy also asks parishes to set up a Care for Creation group to mark this special anniversary year of Laudato Si’. We are heading into an unusual winter season and it is a very opportune time to consider what will happen in our churches as we move forward. Can we consider how to create areas for biodiversity on church grounds? Now is the time to start planning for this and there is an excellent guide available called the Faith Community Pollinator Plan, which supports farmers, councils, schools, churches, everyone to do their bit.

The Season of Creation ends on October 4, the feast day of the patron saint of ecology, St Francis of Assisi. St Francis loved nature and saw God in all of it. So as families, communities and parishes, how can we mark this feast day this year? Some parishes organise a blessing of animals or include the theme of care for creation in their Sunday liturgies. Lots of liturgical resources can be found on www.catholicbishops.ie for this purpose.

May this Season of Creation not end on October 4 but rather be a springboard into a new way of caring more deeply for our common home.

“Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.” (LS, 207)

Jane Mellett is the Laudato Si’ officer with Trócaire