This year, Earth Day (April 22, 2016), takes on a special meaning in light of the publication of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’s encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home.” The Holy Father’s message is loud and clear: caring for our environment is a fundamental tenet of our Catholic faith. As such, Earth Day presents a golden opportunity for teaching about Laudato Si’ as well as the Catholic principle of Care for God’s Creation, one of the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Here are 10 ways to make your observance of Earth Day a truly Catholic experience.
- Give praise to our Creator. In the Nicene Creed, we say, “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” How appropriate that the first sentence of our Creed mentions the fact that all of creation comes from God! Pray the Creed. Sing songs of praise such as “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow,” “How Great Thou Art,” and “Holy God We Praise Thy Name.”
- Contemplate the wonders of God’s creation. Contemplation, (i.e. resting in God’s presence) is an authentically Catholic practice and a way of coming to a deeper appreciation of finding God in all of creation. Take some time to contemplate outdoors. Pope John Paul II said, “Faced with the glory of the Trinity in creation, we must contemplate, sing, and rediscover awe.”
- Pray, pray, pray. Pray for those who are at risk from exposure to environmental hazards. Pray for social justice for those who are poor and who suffer disproportionately from environmental destruction. Pray for those with an excess of wealth that they (we) may come to share with others more generously. Pray for future generations that they may benefit from a healthy environment.
- Create a garden. Participate in God’s ongoing creation by planting a garden. Consider planting a vegetable garden and sharing your harvest with those less fortunate. Create a “Mary Garden,” a tradition going back to medieval times that dedicates the garden to the Blessed Virgin Mary and is populated with plants that bear her name.
- Read and study Church documents on caring for God’s creation. Considering creation as sacred is not new to Catholics. The Church has a long tradition of respecting God’s creation. Read up on what both Scripture and Tradition have to say about ecology and the environment.
- Learn about and teach others about the lives of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Kateri Tekakwitha. These two saints are the patron and patroness of ecology. Children especially love to learn the stories of these two saints.
- Learn six ways to help your parish “go green.” Here are some wonderful ideas from Darcy Osby about helping children learn about care for God’s creation.
- Take the St. Francis Pledge to care for creation and the poor. The St. Francis Pledge, initiated by the Catholic Climate Covenant, is a solemn commitment made by Catholic individuals, groups, and institutions to honor God’s creation and to serve those who are poor.
- Make a donation to Catholic Relief Services. CRS, the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community, promotes caring for the environment in the U.S. and abroad. Visit their website to learn more about their work and how you can help.
- Read Laudato Si’. Pope Francis’s encyclical on how we need to care for our common home takes the notion of care for the environment out of the political arena and links it to our Catholic faith.
While we’re at it, don’t miss these wonderful children’s storybooks on caring for God’s creation.