Yesterday I attended our annual diocesan Ministerium. The speaker was Fr. Donald Senior, CP. His topic was “Laudato Si’: Biblical Reflections for a Spirituality of Creation.” Using Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si” he spoke about our relationship with God, each other, and the world we live. He spoke a couple of different times throughout the day so I am offering just a few thoughts here.
There is much evidence for global climate change but there are also scientists who dispute it. The average temperature has risen (about 1 degree I think) in the last 100 years. Those who dispute global warming say the increase isn’t a pattern, just fluctuations. I do know in my own lifetime I see shifts in patterns about how much snow and cold we get in the winter.
Whether one believes in global climate change I think we need to change the way we look at the natural resources we find in creation for two reasons. First, it is clear that things like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are not good for the environment just like many pesticides are not good. How much effect they have might be in dispute but why take the chance.
The second reason we need to change the way we look at our natural resources comes from our faith. We recognize God as creator of all things, from the earth itself and the whole universe to life like us (for the Church’s position on Big Bang and the theory of evolution see my article “Catholic Teaching and the Question of Evolution“).
In Genesis 1:26-28 God gives us “dominion” over all things. Some people think this means we can do whatever we want with creation. We could but it would not be right. Fr. Senior spoke about God’s dominion over us. God has dominion over us but he does not use us for his own gain because he loves us and gives us free will. We need to translate this into how we view our dominion over the earth.
We need to see creation as a gift and to cherish it. We need to live with an “Attitude of Gratitude” and make wise use of what we have given. It can start with simple things. Those who are concerned about the environment, call for recycling. I believe that if we appreciate what God has given us in creation, we should recycle. To do otherwise is to waste what we have. To waste it is to not appreciate it. Why not recycle?
From Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si”, Fr. Senior presents six “implications for a “Spirituality of Ecology.”” as listed in his handouts
- Moving away from an “obsessive consumerist lifestyle”.
- Moving out of our ourselves toward the other and their needs and dignity.
- Need to “grow in a sense of solidarity, responsibility, and compassionate care” with each other and with the world to which we belong.
- The summons to a profound interior conversion.
- The call for a spirit of gratitude, joy, peace, sobriety and humility.
- A realization of the “sacramental” view of life: elements of nature become revelations and channels of God’s presence, particularly in the Eucharist.
If we want to live as Catholic disciples, we need to look at #2 and #3 in terms of how we use our natural resources and stop over-consuming (#1). This means undergoing ‘interior conversion’ (#4). We need to stop over-consuming. I emphasize the “over” because we can use what we have been giving in creation but to do so thoughtfully.
Here I will use the example of buying a car. When you buy a new(er) car, is your faith part of the decision process of what time of vehicle you get? Ask yourself why are you choosing the particular vehicle? Are you picking a ‘showy’ car that makes you look good. If so, what about the sin of “pride”? Do you think about the effect on the environment (gas mileage as well as other concerns about the natural resources to make the car)?
Here, I want to be honest with you and tell you I drive a GMC Terrain that is larger than a lot of vehicles and doesn’t get the best gas mileage but I did not turn a blind eye to these considerations when I purchased it last summer. I weighed that with other considerations like the benefits of all wheel drive and interior space versus my needs. I found an in-between option where I sought a balance between gas mileage (that are vehicles that get worse gas mileage) and my other needs.
One final thought of our over-consuming. Fr. Senior offered the observation of how many mini-storage rental places we see springing up. How come we need so much storage? Do we really need all the stuff we have in storage? If not, how about showing “solidarity” and “compassionate care” by donating the things we don’t need to charity to help others who don’t have enough?