By Sister Sharon Havelak, OSF
The effects of global climate change have hit home pretty hard this summer. The West Coast is plagued by drought and consumed with wildfires. Other areas of our country have experienced devastating storms, tornadoes and flooding. And it’s not just us; other areas around our world are facing similar disasters.
There’s been one bright spot, though: one very feisty Pope.
There was a lot of anticipation for Pope Francis’ encyclical this summer. A lot. One particularly memorable piece was a YouTube video, Pope Francis: The Encyclical, which portrayed the Pope as a boxer (with Jesus as his trainer, no less!), fighting for the fate of the Earth.
The document has lived up to its expectations. Pope Francis is very strong in insisting that care for our Earth is a moral imperative; our faith call us to look seriously at the inter-relationship of God, the Earth and others, especially the poor. We need to face our responsibility for climate change and convert to renewable energy resources as quickly as possible. All decisions should be made in the framework of how this action will affect the Earth; how it will affect the poor.
The Vatican has led the way – and not just with words. Pope Benedict, often referred to as the “Green Pope,” had the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI hall covered with solar panels which power a portion of the light, heat and cooling systems in the Vatican. Through the purchase of carbon credits, the Vatican is the only country fully carbon-neutral. He also authorized a new hybrid Pope-mobile.
In the encyclical, Pope Francis asks us – not just Catholics, but the world – to follow suit. Laudato Si is a call for everyone to take up the challenge. It’s a global problem and everyone needs to be part of the solution, no matter how great or small the effort. Each action is an important stimulus to Earth’s healing.
In that light, Pope Francis has initiated a “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” to be celebrated on September 1st each year. Two prayers are especially appropriate for the day, A Prayer for our Earth and A Christian Prayer in Union with Creation, both composed by Pope Francis and found at the end of the encyclical. May we follow his lead – and his patron St. Francis of Assisi – in an ecological conversion, praising God who is present in the goodness and beauty of our Mother Earth.