We are almost at the end of the “Season of Creation” for 2023, but were you aware that such a thing existed?
Between September 1st and October 4th (Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology), Catholic faith communities are encouraged to celebrate the Season of Creation. Pope Francis accepted this season for the Roman Catholic Church in 2015, then many Protestant Churches did the same. Still, many of us do not know about it or how to observe it.
The quest to better care for the world in which we live began in 1989 with Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, who established September 1st as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. After all, our primary goal as people of faith is to be close to God and, what better way is there to get close to God than through prayer? For we are truly free when we are able to discern and follow God’s will for our lives. In 2015, Pope Francis delved deeper when he wrote a letter to the world (Laudato Si’) reminding us of what is at stake if we do not take better care of our common home. According to Pope Francis, getting close to God, following Divine will, and taking care of God’s creation all overlap.
Bartholomew and Pope Francis, though, are not the first to ask us to look to the natural world as a source for guiding us. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Job suggests, “…ask the beasts and they will teach you; the birds of the air and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth and they will instruct you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you…. In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every being.” (Job 12:7-8, 10)
All of creation is connected, related, made to harmonize with every other part. We are part of a cosmic ecosystem that demands the unity and harmony of humans with each other, with the natural world, with God and with ourselves. In destroying the rich biodiversity of the world, we are destroying part of ourselves. The parable in today’s Gospel is about our willingness to work in the vineyard and our willingness to follow through on this engagement with our natural world. Where are you on the scale of willingness?
It’s tempting to tune out the news about excessive heat, fires, floods, and climate change in general. The refugee crisis has certainly been made worse by rising sea levels and drought. Secular ideas have cut off humans from the sense of the sacred and the fullness of their own being. In amassing so much material wealth in our country, we have contributed to the poverty of so many other peoples. We need a conversion. On October 4th, the last day of this years’ Season of Creation, Pope Francis will be releasing a follow-up publication to Laudato Si’. Pope Francis assures us that observing the Season of Creation “will offer individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation [and] to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care.” Though the world has been surprised by Catholic leaders addressing climate issues, those familiar with Scripture have always understood the importance of taking care of God’s creation.
Colm Is a Deacon in the Archdiocese of Boston and a prison Chaplain. He and his wife Julie have 4 adult children and 2 grandchildren. His Catholic faith has always been a central part of his family and work life and is a source of endless joy.