St. Pope John Paul II observed 25 years ago that the balance of the ecosystem and defense of the environment’s healthiness “really need human responsibility and a responsibility that must be open to new forms of solidarity.” He said, “An open and comprehensive solidarity with all men and all peoples is essential, founded on respect for life and the promotion of sufficient resources for the poorest and for future generations” (https://tinyurl.com/4xhyfzu8).
His message to the Conference on Environment and Health on March 24, 1997, speaks to us today and it is about time we begin to listen, reflect and act. “Listen to the voice of creation” is the theme of this year’s Season of Creation (Sept. 1-Oct. 4). The season begins on the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation and concludes Oct. 4 on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. It calls “all Christians to pray and work together to care for our common home,” Pope Francis says in his 2022 message for the day of prayer (https://tinyurl.com/ycknppfa).
Our listening skills, distracted by competing, diametrically opposed “voices,” require practice and patience. “If we learn how to listen, we can hear in the voice of creation a kind of dissonance,” Pope Francis says. “On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of our common home.”
A planning guide for Season of Creation states that public discourse around the issue of climate change has muted the voices of those who suffer most from the impacts of climate change. These voices “hold generational wisdom about how to live gratefully within the limits of the land” (SeasonOfCreation.org).
To be an active listener is challenging, as participants and organizers of a conversation on caring for God’s creation discovered Aug. 14 at St. James Parish in Washington. “It was a tough, raw, discussion in which not everyone aligned but everyone learned something,” said panelist Mitchell Hora, a Washington County farmer (see story Page 1). More conversations are necessary, particularly between rural and urban dwellers. The Diocese of Davenport is committed to making these conversations happen, says Deacon Kent Ferris, diocesan director of Social Action and Catholic Charities and a member of The Catholic Messenger’s Editorial Board.
We need to cultivate “a spirituality of active listening,” which “helps us to discern the voices of God and our neighbours amongst the noise of destructive narratives. Contemplation moves us from despair to hope, from anxiety to action!” (Season of Creation guide). Pray, learn and act — three essential building blocks in listening and responding to the voices of God’s creation.
Here are some ideas to help us move forward:
• Read: Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (https://tinyurl.com/ycknppfa).
• Read Laudato Si’ (subtitled “On Care for Our Common Home”), the 2015 encyclical of Pope Francis (https://tinyurl.com/46h8zznf).
• Read Bishop Thomas Zinkula’s Season of Creation letter (Page 3 in this week’s issue).
• Visit the SeasonOfCreation.org website and read the celebration guide.
• Visit the Laudato Si’ Action Platform website (laudatorsiactionplatform.org).
• Pray the 2022 Season of Creation Prayer, which asks God to “Open our ears and move our hearts. Turn us from our inward gaze” (SeasonofCreation.org).
• Pray from the Laudato Si’ Movement prayer book (https://tinyurl.com/2anptyud).
• Host an ecumenical prayer service (see the Seasons of Creation guide for details).
• Organize a creation walk or pilgrimage to a place of ecological significance or ecological and social injustice. Invite a group to study ecologically themed Scriptures.
• Participate in the book club of St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, which is reading Laudato Si’ on Monday nights from 6-7:30 p.m. in the parish center, beginning Sept. 12.
• Attend a Sept. 22 presentation by St. Ambrose University President Amy Novak and her husband Ken Novak on integrating Catholic Social Teaching, which includes Care for Creation, into a life of faith. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf. Contact Allison Ambrose for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
• Commit to sustainable living (Laudato Si’ Action Platform, Season of Creation guide).
• Advocate for alternative energy sources. Iowa is a producer of wind and solar energy, but there has been pushback in the state regarding utility-scale solar panel farms and wind farms. Keep track of these issues in your counties, in the Iowa Legislature (legis.iowa.gov), the Iowa Catholic Conference (iowacatholicconference.org) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org/issues-and-action).
• Attend a virtual Laudato Si’ Movement Season of Creation Opening Event on Sept. 1, beginning at 8 a.m. on YouTube (https://tinyurl.com/mrye8rnm).
Finally, listen to and reflect on St. John Paul II’s message of a quarter-century ago. “Technology that pollutes can also cleanse, production which amasses can also distribute justly, on condition that the ethic of respect for life and human dignity, for the rights of today’s generations and those to come prevails.”
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor