What does the environment have to do with being a Catholic catechist? Plenty!
The Catholic Conservation Center reminds us that “long before the current ecological movement developed, saints taught respect for all of God’s Creation.” The Center goes on to say:
Since its inception, the Church has instructed us on the proper dominion and stewardship of Creation. This wisdom is made known to us through sacred Scripture, the living Tradition of the Church, the message of Creation, and the voice of conscience enlightened by God’s law.
The Catholic approach to environmental justice is based on the two commandments of Jesus Christ: to love God above all things and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love of God requires respect for God’s gifts and for God’s will for Creation. Love of neighbor requires justice, which prohibits the selfish destruction of the environment without regard for those in need today or for the needs of future generations.
The Catholic attitude toward nature, in a word, is stewardship. Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. From the first pages of the Bible, we are instructed to “cultivate and care for” God’s Creation (Genesis 2:15). Created in the image and likeness of God, we are granted dominion over the rest of Creation (Genesis 1:26-28). Dominion means that we have sovereignty over and responsibility for the well-being of God’s Creation. We resemble God primarily because of this dominion; hence, our dominion must also resemble God’s dominion. We must cultivate and care for the Earth as God does, with love and wisdom. We are called to exercise dominion in ways that allow God’s original Creative Act to be further unfolded. And because we resemble the Creator, we are also in a sense co-creators with Him.
Simply put, whenever we teach love of God and neighbor, that implies love and respect for all of God’s gifts, not the least of which is creation, and the unselfish sharing of those gifts with others.
Finally, Catholic spirituality has a long tradition of recognizing God’s presence mirrored in all of creation. As a sacramental faith, we see the grace of God manifested in the physical world. Hence the Ignatian concept of “Finding God in all things.”