Caring for ‘our common home’

“God saw that it was good.” (Gen 1:25)

From the beginning of Genesis, we were told that creation is holy in God’s eyes. Yet every day we see signs of misuse and abuse of our planet. This is why Pope Francis has made care for creation one of the hallmarks of his pontificate.

The pope uses every opportunity he can to encourage care for the earth — or as he calls it, “our common home.”

“At the root, we have forgotten who we are: creatures in the image of God, called to live in the same common home as brothers and sisters,” said Pope Francis in a statement released Sept. 1, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. “We were not created to be individuals who dominate. … It is time to rediscover our vocation as children of God, brothers among ourselves, guardians of creation.”

Just as we are called to protect human life, we should accept our responsibility as guardians of creation with the same determination. Why? Because the web of life connects all living beings, and if we fail to care for creation, our future is in peril.

On his visit to Madagascar Sept. 7, Pope Francis learned about the deforestation of that African country’s land. It is home to the highly valued rosewood tree, which is illegally cut down and exported for expensive furnishings. The overharvesting of these trees, along with other forest lands cleared by farmers, has seen Madagascar’s forest decimated by as many as 500,000 acres a year, according to the British ambassador to Madagascar, Phil Boyle.

Closer to home, we see a similar ecological catastrophe taking place in the Amazon rainforest, where deforestation from illegal gold mining, cattle ranching and other profit-based activities threaten the region’s biodiversity and worsens climate change.

The World Day of Prayer began a five-week Season of Creation, a worldwide celebration that concludes on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. During this time, Pope Francis encourages all of the faithful to dedicate themselves to prayer.

“This is the time to re-acquaint ourselves with praying in nature,” he said, “where our gratitude to the creator God arises spontaneously.”

As the fall season begins here in northeast Wisconsin, turning our green dairy lands into bright fall colors, it’s an opportunity for all of us to prayerfully reflect on preserving “our common home.”

Pope Francis also encourages us to evaluate our lifestyles and take prophetic actions that will help make a difference for future generations.

“This is the time to reflect on … how our daily choices of food, consumption, transportation, water use, energy and so many material goods are often reckless and harmful,” said the pope. “In many of them, we suppress creation. Let’s change and adopt simpler and more respectful lifestyles.”

The pope said young people today are raising their voices and calling for action to protect the planet. “Young people remind us that the earth is not a good to be wasted, but a legacy to be transmitted,” he said.

Prophetic actions are also demonstrated in the voting booth. Electing leaders who, like Pope Francis, see the dangers of denying climate change and seek to take immediate action, will lead to a world that respects “our common home.”

In our midst, we find an example of caring for creation in the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, who have committed themselves to this cause. Their investment in solar panels (see page 5), which curbs their use of fossil fuels and saves them money on energy costs, should serve as a model to other groups, as well as to individuals.

“Every faithful Christian, every member of the human family, can contribute to weaving, like a thin but unique and indispensable thread, the web of life that embraces everyone,” said Pope Francis.

Through prayer and commitment, we can be witnesses to the sacredness of “our common home.” An action, no doubt, that God will see as good.