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Why should we care for the environment?

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

December 7, 2015
Why should we care for the environment? This is the question that Salt and Light Television Network, in partnership with the Environmental Science and Studies Department of the University Of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, attempts to answer with the brilliant documentary series: Creation. Production for this comprehensive six-part series, made possible by the Hilary Weston Foundation for Youth, began in 2011 during the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.  Little did we imagine back then how and when this splendid series would be completed and crowned with the masterful encyclical, Laudato Sì’ of Pope Francis – a Papal teaching that would bring together the major themes presented by our Creation series!
Many around the world have grappled with the urgent questions of the environment and ecology by focusing on political and ideological solutions that may be noble and good, but are often lacking in deeper meaning and purpose. In Creation, Producer and Host, Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann joins a Franciscan Sister, Environmental Scientist and Professor, Sister Damien Marie Savino, FSE, on a quest to answer the deeper questions about ecology and the environment within God’s revelation as found in his creation and the teachings of the Catholic Church.
At this critical moment in history, what is at stake is not just our respect for biodiversity, but our very survival. Scientists calculate that those most harmed by global warming in the future will be the most vulnerable and marginalized. Creation presents the ecological crisis that is directly related to the ethical challenge of eliminating poverty and advocating human rights. The dignity and rights of human beings are intimately and integrally related to the beauty and the rights of the earth itself. After all, who will dare to speak for the voiceless resources of our planet? Who will step up to protect the silent diversity of its species? Will our generation accept responsibility for pushing our environment over the tipping-point?
It is our hope that this series is will be a significant contribution to environmental education that is important in developing new awareness and solid, Christian spirituality that promotes a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature. Christian spirituality has a precious contribution to make in responding to the environment crisis because it “can motivate us to a more passionate concern for the protection of our world,” (LS §216) according to Pope Francis. For Francis, spirituality does not mean turning away from the world. There is a mystical meaning to be found in everything in the universe. A good spirituality finds God not only in the interior of our hearts but also in creatures outside of ourselves, whether it be “in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.” (LS §233)
Pope Francis tells us that if we do not embrace this new spirituality and way of thinking and being today, “…the paradigm of consumerism will continue to advance, with the help of the media and the highly effective workings of the market.” (LS §215)
At the heart of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ and indeed of our Creation series, we find this question: What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” Pope Francis continues: “This question does not have to do with the environment alone and in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal”. (LS §160) This leads us to ask ourselves about the meaning of existence and its values at the base of social life: “What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?” (LS §160)
Pope Francis teaches us that “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”(LS §217)
“An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness,” (LS §230) but it is also civic and political and “makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world.” (LS §231)
At the conclusion of Laudato Si, the Bishop of Rome offers two profound and striking prayers. In the first prayer, we recognize God’s presence in all of creation and ask him to pour upon us his love so that we can rescue the abandoned and forgotten. We ask for healing so we can protect the world and not prey upon it. “Teach us,” we pray, “to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature.” And the prayer concludes, “Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.”(LS §246)
In the final prayer, we acknowledge not only the Creator but also the Son “who became part of this earth.” We profess that in his risen glory he is alive in every creature. And we recognize the Holy Spirit guiding the world “towards the Father’s love” and accompanying “creation as it groans in travail.”(LS §246)
We ask the Triune Lord to “teach us to contemplate you in the beauty of the universe” and to “show us our place in this world as channels of your love for all the creatures of this earth.”(LS §246)
Those prayers are a fitting conclusion to our six-part series, Creation produced by Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada. We invite you to watch this series, use it as a catalyst for study, reflection and bold, courageous action.
Thanks to all those who have made this wonderful series possible.