Season of Creation: What Are You Doing to Celebrate? [updated]

In solidarity with the Ecumenical Patriarch and a number of other Christian communities, including Anglicans, Lutherans, and Evangelicals, and in response to Pope Francis’s encouragement, Catholics in various parts of the world are observing an ecumenical “Season of Creation” which lasts from September 1, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, to October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

The dicastery for integral human development has announced that the theme for this year is “the web of life” and they urge reflection on the network of biodiversity that is interwoven into the gift of God’s creation.

l’Osservatore Romano reports that there will be tree planting in Manila, in Madrid there will be a public prayer assembly with the Archbishop, and an urban forestry project will launch in Brazil, among other initiatives. A wide variety of prayer and educational resources are available on line — some denominational, others ecumenical. Will your parish or worshiping community incorporate an observance of the “Season of Creation” this year?

When I first heard about declaring a “Season of Creation,” to tell the truth I was skeptical. All times are good times to remember the gift of creation, aren’t they? There is never a time when we should not be mindful of the responsibility to care for creation.

Yet the value of focus is undeniable. If concern for creation has a fixed place in our calendars, perhaps this will help people to remember and claim it as a part of our common life and consciousness. Always provided we do actually observe it! In the U.S. this is Labor Day weekend. It’s the beginning of a new school year. A lot competes for our attention at this time in our annual cycle.

There’s a deeper issue here too: Every initiative must have a context. Parishes that have creation care teams, and whose ministries for social justice include environmental issues will have been toiling at this important work all year long — perhaps they are the ones best prepared to understand what it means to take time out to celebrate. I think of Holy Trinity Parish in Georgetown, for example, whose efforts to integrate the Pope’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, have been fruitful and wide-ranging. Their webpage for Laudato Si’ includes prayer resources, and their actions throughout the year are always accompanied by appropriate ritual prayer. Where such creation-care initiatives are flourishing, it seems only natural to bring these concerns into parish liturgy. They are part of the community’s life.

Yet the act of celebrating a Season of Creation liturgically can also create context. Our communities may awaken to a deeper appreciation of the gift of creation and the call to care for our common home, precisely by “praying our way” into this awareness. Never underestimate the power of liturgy to form us in faith!

UPDATE 9/1/19:

Pope Francis’s statement for the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation calls for prayer, repentance, and conversion of life. It references the upcoming climate action summit at the U.N. and urges us to reflect on our lifestyle and say “no” to “the illusion of omnipotence,” eschewing greed and learning humility. The time for action is now.

Here is a bit of it:

“. . . The increase in intensity and frequency of extreme weather phenomena and the desertification of the soil are putting the most vulnerable among us to the test. Melting glaciers, the scarcity of water, the neglect of water basins and the considerable presence of plastic and microplastic in the oceans are just as worrying facts, which confirm the urgency of interventions that can no longer be postponed. We have created a climate emergency, which seriously threatens nature and life, including ours. 

At the root, we have forgotten who we are: creatures in the image of God (see Gen 1:27), called to live the same common home as brothers and sisters. We were not created to be individuals who lord it over, we were thought and wanted at the center of a web of life made up of millions of species lovingly joined by our Creator. “

The full text can be found here.

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