The Church has highlighted the importance of playing a responsible role in the complex web of creation in recent years, writes Jason Osborne
The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made for sober reading, warning that unless there are immediate, grand reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, it won’t be possible to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, as has long be touted as the required figure to meet. Naturally, being the polarised times we live in, reactions to the report were contentious and calamitous, and agreement over the best course of action is far from being reached.
However, for Catholics and Christians, the urgency of proper environmental conduct is a little simpler a matter. God created humanity as stewards of his creation, to aid the natural world and all that inhabits it in the fulfilment of its purpose. Pope Francis has brought this duty to the forefront of the Church’s consciousness with Laudato si’ and his institution of the ‘Season of Creation’, which is now celebrated each year from September 1 through October 4.
Season of Creation
The Season of Creation is a “time to renew our relationship with our Creator and all creation through celebration, conversion and commitment together”.
The purpose of the season is for all Christians to join together in an ecumenical fashion in prayer and action for our “common home”.
Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I instituted September 1 as a day of prayer for creation for the Orthodox in 1989, with the Orthodox Church year starting on that day in commemoration of God’s creation of the world. The World Council of Churches went on to inspire the transformation of this day into a season, extending its celebration from September 1 through to October 4, as we have it now.
The day the season ends on isn’t arbitrary, either, with October 4 being the feast of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, who’s beloved by Christians beyond the Catholic Church.
In the wake of this, many Christian denominations have adopted the season as part of their own calendars, with Pope Francis welcoming the celebration officially to the Catholic Church in 2015.
This year’s season
The theme for this year’s Season of Creation is ‘A home for all? Renewing the Oikos of God’. The season’s website tells us that “Christians join the Psalmist in proclaiming the Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it (Psalms 24:1)”.
Despite this fact, the current climate crisis is accelerating the instability of God’s world, which is resulting in the loss of habitats that are homes to millions of species – including humans, many of whose’ homes are at risk due to the adverse effects of the shifting climate.
“As people of faith, our baptismal call compels us to till and keep God’s garden, and participate in the renewal of the whole inhabited Earth, so that life may flourish and all may have a just and sustainable home,” the season’s website reads.
The subtheme of this year’s season is the concept of oikos, which means house or home in Greek. The hope is that by focusing on this, the intricate, interconnected relationships that hold the web of life together might be lifted up.
“Within the whole inhabited Earth, oikoumene, the Church, oikoumene, calls all households and societies, oikos, to turn our political, social and economic systems, oikonomia, towards just, sustainable economies of life, which respect the limits and life giving ecological boundaries, oikologia, of our common home.”
Their website is home to a host of resources enabling everyone to take part in the Season of Creation, and then beyond afterwards”
The ultimate goal of the season each year, and this one just as any other, is to “renew our baptismal call” to care for and sustain “an ecological turning” so that life, human, animal, plant and otherwise, may flourish.
Resources and activities
The main Catholic environmental group spearheading the climate response is the Laudato Si’ Movement, formerly known as the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Their website is home to a host of resources enabling everyone to take part in the Season of Creation, and then beyond afterwards.
For those with time on their hands and looking to take up something new, a number of roles are open to volunteers, in areas such as administration, grassroots, policy, digital and animator programme volunteering. Roles as diverse as gathering signatures for petitions and theological and spiritual consultancy are advocated for too. If any of these sound of interest, visit www.laudatosimovement.org for all the details.
The movement also suggests beginning or joining a local Laudato si’ circle, which are small groups that meet regularly to deepen their relationship with God as Creator and all members of creation.
They pray with and for creation, reflect on their ongoing ecological conversion, and take action. Resources for these groups are freely available, ranging from simple prayers and reflections on the topic of the environment and our relationship to it, to deeper analyses of pressing issues facing the climate movement around the world.
For those of a more contemplative bent, the ‘Creation Care Prayer Network’ is a network of communities committing themselves to the healing of the planet. The network is connected through prayer and Eucharistic adoration and welcomes religious and lay contemplative communities, too.
There’s never been a better time to get involved in the climate movement, particularly for those of religious faith”
The network prays for creation and “accompanies species and non-human life most affected by climate and ecological injustice”, joining Catholic institutions around the world in helping more people care about creation and undergo an ecological conversion.
Prayer must always precede action, the webpage for the network wisely advises, so sign up for that if yourself and any friends or family members feel like praying for the good of creation.
There’s never been a better time to get involved in the climate movement, particularly for those of religious faith. While technology and heavy industry has done much harm to people and the planet, the potential is there to bring more people together than ever before. Perhaps give it a try this Season of Creation.