Praying for simplicity and simple lifestyles to help preserve creation.
“Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it” (LS 23).
Prayer before shopping
Thank You, Lord, for all Your gifts. For bestowing upon us the necessary food and things of daily use.
Do not let material possessions separate us from You, the Supreme Good. Open our hearts to Your love, which You show to us through the closeness of our brothers and sisters and the beauty of Your creation. Free us from attachment to the things we possess and enable us to share sacrificially with those who have less than us.
Teach us to be content with what is necessary. Protect us from greed, avarice and waste. May our daily choices serve to achieve justice in the world, not exploitation of the planet and its poor. We ask for the needed wisdom, sensitive hearts, and the virtue of moderation, so that when we purchase goods we are guided not only by our own benefit, but by concern for the common good, the rights of workers, the proper treatment of animals, and the consequences for the environment.
Help us always to remember that You are our highest Good, and all that we have we owe to You. Amen.
By Małgorzata Rzym, Laudato Si’ Animator. Warsaw, Poland. Featured in Laudato Si’ Movement Prayer Book.
Sharing our rich harvest
“You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom do they belong?” (Luke 12:13-21).
“These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish” (LS 22).
Sr. Melissa Benitez, Salesian Sister, Texas, USA.
“You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom do they belong?” What a powerful Gospel! Imagine if God were addressing these very words to you… if you were to hand over your soul to the Lord tonight, what would become of all your possessions? Reflect for a moment on all the things you have.
We are living today in a society governed by the “throwaway culture,” as Pope Francis calls it. Seventy percent of all greenhouse gas emissions comes from the production and implementation of products. 1 The average American throws away 4.6 pounds of trash every day, equalling more than 1,600 pounds of waste per person every year. 2 Scientists predict that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. In this sense, we are truly a throwaway society. What would Jesus say if He were to come and witness the way we live?
Perhaps the most disheartening part of this is witnessing the immense waste that could have been used for a greater good; it’s this disparity that constitutes an environmental and social injustice. For example, all the food currently wasted in Africa, a consequence of social injustice, could feed 300 million people.3 All of the fossil fuels and energy used to produce that food is wasted. I believe Mother Teresa put it best when she once said, “I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use.”
It’s time for a paradigm shift. With global temperatures rising at an alarming rate, if we are not proactive in shifting away from a fossil fuel economy, we will have to pay the price. A wise Native American leader named Chief Seattle is attributed with saying, “The earth does not belong to humankind, humankind belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Humankind did not weave the web of life, humankind is merely a strand in it. Whatever humankind does to the web, humankind does to itself.”
We must be mindful that what we do to the Earth, we inevitably do to ourselves, especially the poor. Dozens of countries around the world are already audaciously showing us that humankind can reduce, reuse, and recycle, moving away from a fossil fuel-based economy to a more integral ecology.
In 2018, for example, France built the world’s first fully recycled road by using ground up and repurposed material from old roads.4 In 2016, France became the first country to ban supermarkets from throwing away good quality but unsold food, requiring that they instead donate it to charity or food banks.4 How amazing and inspirational!
To give a simpler example, Lauren Singer showed the world that we can minimize our ecological footprint when she changed to a zero-waste lifestyle by making simple choices and fit one year’s worth of trash in a single mason jar!5
An integral ecology. It seems impossible at first, but in solidarity and with faith in the Lord, it can be done! My brothers and sisters in Christ, as the Gospel reminds us, let us share our “rich harvest” with our neighbor for God gave us the Earth to be “stewards of the Earth.”
Today, I invite you to reflect on your possessions and lifestyle, and ask yourself, “What can I share with my neighbor? What lifestyle changes is the Lord inviting me to make so that I can live more sustainably and help combat warming?”
Let us act now without delay! Most importantly, however, I’d like to close with the words of our Holy Father Pope Francis, “Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope” (LS 244).
‘Old Grandfather’ was left behind. Thank God.’
Michael Downs, Laudato Si’ Animator and Animator of Animators in USA
I hear creation’s cry in the deforestation of old growth coast redwoods. Known as semper virens, “always alive,” these trees are among the largest and oldest in the world. They also capture more carbon than any other tree.
Unfortunately, in the name of urban development and greed, over 95 percent of old growth forests along the West Coast of the United States have been clear cut. Where I live in Oakland, California, all of the old growth redwoods are gone.
This is where I spend my mornings, whether on foot or bike, to connect with creation. It is for me what Pope Francis calls a “particular place that takes on personal meaning,” where I “feel the caress of God” and “recover something of my true self.”
In the foreground is my friend, the last remaining old growth redwood tree in our region, lovingly nicknamed “Old Grandfather.” At between 500-700 years old, it is a remnant of the past glory of this forest, and a model of resilience. Why, when clear cutters decimated the hills of Oakland during the California Gold Rush starting in 1849, did they leave just one tree? Experts speculate that it was considered a “runt” by logging standards, and situated on a rocky ravine that was hard to reach.
If you look beyond the tree, you can see the distant skyline of San Francisco, named after St. Francis of Assisi and now a hub of global technology and finance.
Be praised, Lord, for Grandfather redwood, who gives us the gift of inspiration: oxygen it releases to us as it absorbs our carbon dioxide, and endurance it displays while surrounded by the stumps of its forest family. Stumps that have given birth to “second growth” redwoods, signs of hope and healing.
A reflective spring eco-getaway
Hearing Creation’s Song
Agnes Richard, Coordinator, MOUVEMENT LAUDATO SI’ MOVEMENT Canada
Thirteen people participated in the Laudato Si’ Retreat at Jericho House Youth Leadership, Justice and Spirituality Center, near Wainfleet, Ontario. The retreat, organized in collaboration with MLSM Canada, followed the theme the “Cry of the Earth” and offered a time for kindred spirits to explore how to engage with the ecological crisis and its challenges.
The participants, from different parts of Ontario and sectors of ministry, enjoyed the first MLSM Canada event to bring people together in person.
Lively discussions focused on Indigenous allyship, loss of diversity, renewable energy, fossil fuel reduction, naturalization, regenerative agriculture, waterways and ocean protection, best practices in ecological movement building, the use of social media for growing our networks, and various local resource materials.
Beautiful spring weather enticed us outdoors to witness the songbird migration, visit the shore of Lake Erie, and stroll through a labyrinth in the heart of a Carolinian Forest. Sr. Jacquie and Br. Bill led us through the beautiful Jericho House property in contemplation of the myriad gifts of the Creator and how we connect physically and spiritually with those gifts.
“These community actions, when they express self-giving love, can also become intense spiritual experiences” (LS 232).
Ecological conversion story
Christina Bagaglio Slentz. Laudato Si’ Animator, California, USA
My story of ecological conversion begins in the cradle—my Catholic cradle, to be specific. I highlight this beginning because I imagine many “cradle Catholics,” like me, may carry a subconscious sense of having been born into a state of spiritual accomplishment.
My father was a “cradle Catholic,” but my mother was a convert; thus, I grew up aware of this distinction. Lucky me! I could skip the whole lightning-bolt-blast- off-my-horse moment, spared the fate of St. Paul and other (in)famous converts, who had to struggle toward individual epiphany. (Wink, wink).
Fortunately, with more than a little help from the Holy Spirit, my ecological conversion has truly turned me toward a new view of my relationship with the Creator, laying bare my naiveté and stagnation, igniting my sense of wonder, and revealing my incompleteness.
Although my prior faith life was quite active, it was rather comfortable—nestled in familiar faith structures and revolving around the same old ministries. Rather than a blast of lightning, my epiphany came in slow electrification, illuminating a new path to relationship with the Risen Christ, visible in all things.
Returning to graduate school later in life, my studies culminated in focus on the social aspect of climate change. To help frame my analysis, my advisor introduced me to theories of complex adaptive systems and cycles, which recognize throughout the natural world a repeated pattern of growth, change and renewal, to include human systems of behavior.
I began to see this pattern everywhere, in all things, characterized by powerful pathways of interconnectedness, and I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could observe such universal consistency and remain blind to an architecture of Intelligent Design. Surely, God’s hand was at work, and I marveled at the brilliance.
And then, I read Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.
Pope Francis’ encyclical was the most comprehensive work I had encountered, drawing together both social and ecological dimensions of environmental degradation and climate injustice, but there was more. You see, that convert-of-a-mom was also a Girl Scout, through and through, committed to planting seeds in her children to nurture a love of nature. What’s more, she was also a devoted Catholic school teacher, planting seeds of faith. Pope Francis’ words reverberated in my heart, mind and soul, connecting deeply held beliefs and long nourished values. I was struck to the core, in awe of God’s design.
And then, COVID-19 enveloped the world. As all else was stripped away, the changing seasons of our liturgical year remained, grounding my family in time and space. Our most promising liberation from the virus was the outdoors. Struggling to find ways for parishioners to stay connected, I joined other catechists in brainstorming COVID- friendly activities. What could be more appropriate than a mini-course on Laudato Si’ in our rectory garden?
As I began to dig into the richness of eco-spirituality, Saints Francis, Clare, Bonaventure, and Duns Scotus drew me into the Gospel of Creation. I was reminded of St. Augustine’s invitation to attain to what we are not yet, a proposition that dangles wildly with anticipation and promise if we only continue to nudge ourselves in God’s direction. By seeing the Risen Christ in all created things, I began to see that I was literally surrounded, and I began to turn.
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
Feast Day: July 14 (USA), April 17 (Canada)
By Bill Jacobs and Kat Hoenke
Ecologist and founder of the Saint Kateri Conservation Center; spatial ecologist
North America and the Catholic Church are blessed with an Indigenous woman saint of Native Americans, First Peoples, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Kateri Tekakwitha.
Saint Kateri was born in 1656 in what is now upstate New York, USA. Kateri’s mother was Algonquin, and her father was Kanienkehaka (Mohawk). Her mother, father, and brother died of smallpox when Kateri was about 4 years old. The smallpox epidemic took the lives of 50 percent or more of the Indigenous population. Kateri survived. However, she was left scarred and partially blind. Kateri was adopted by her uncle and two aunts, all members of the Turtle Clan of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy.
Kateri grew up much like other Indigenous girls of her time on Earth. Her days were filled with chores, helping family and neighbors, learning, and planning for her future. Kateri grew into a modest young woman with a loving and gentle personality.
She helped her aunts work in the fields where they tended corn, beans, and squash (the “Three Sisters”) and took care of the traditional longhouse in which they lived. Kateri collected wood in the forest and picked plants for medicines and dye. She collected water from streams and springs that bubbled up from the ground. Despite her poor vision, Kateri became skilled at beadwork.
Kateri and her Indigenous Peoples had a deep knowledge of the fields, forests, rivers, plants, and animals of their homeland. For many thousands of years, Indigenous Peoples in her homeland managed the local land for food, medicine, shelter, and clothing. Using techniques such as the cultural burning of forests, they managed the land for the benefit of people and nature, for which there was no separation.
They hunted, fished, farmed, gathered, harvested, and traded for their material and spiritual needs, keenly aware of the rhythms of nature inscribed by our Creator. Her Indigenous People viewed themselves as one with the natural community, with other beings as relatives, sisters, and brothers.
Kateri and her Indigenous Peoples routinely gave thanks for creation in and around them, from people and Mother Earth, water, fish, plants, animals, four winds, sun, moon, and stars to the Creator or Great Spirit.
Kateri became interested in Catholicism while listening to Jesuit priests who visited her village. At 19 years old, Kateri was baptized. She chose to fully embrace Jesus and refused to marry. Kateri’s new faith and life choice didn’t quite fit with the expectations in her village, eventually leading her to travel more than 200 miles north through woods and rivers to the Catholic mission of St. Francis Xavier at Sault Saint-Louis, near Montreal. Kateri’s journey through the wilderness lasted for more than two months.
In several different homelands, Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge of the relationships of living beings – including humans – with our Creator and creation is passed orally from generation to generation. In North America, this is known as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), Indigenous Knowledge, or Indigenous Science. Kateri’s intimate knowledge of God and creation before ecosystems were degraded, damaged, or destroyed would be the envy of any ecologist today.
Kateri, whose health was always weak, died on April 17, 1680, following a long illness. She was 24 years old. Kateri’s pious existence did not end with her physical death. Three people had visions of her in the week following her death. A chapel was built near her grave, and soon pilgrims began to visit – Indigenous Peoples and Europeans alike – coming to thank God for this holy woman.
Kateri appeared to a Jesuit missionary who knew her, Father Claude Chauchetière, whom she asked to paint a portrait of her (see the painting above). Fr. Chauchetière spent the next fifteen years of his life working toward Kateri’s canonization. In 2012, Kateri was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI. There are many accounts of miracles attributed to Kateri’s intercession, which continues to the present day.
This month, we recognize the Traditional Ecological Knowledge and faith of Saint Kateri, together with Western science, through the creation of Saint Kateri Habitats for people and wildlife at home and in our local communities. TEK and modern science, combined with faith, hope, and love form the basis of a truly integral ecology.
The National Shrine of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in the USA is in Fonda, New York, and in Canada, it is in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake.
A line, a circle and a squiggle walk into a parish …
Laudato Si’ Circles
By Julia Steed Mawson Laudato Si’ Circle, New Hampshire, USA
We are fortunate that our parish priest has a sense of humor. Despite a year of work to recruit members, there are still only two of us in our Laudato Si’ Circle. Our quick-witted padre reminded us one day that two points make a “line”, not a “circle.” However, while we may look like a “Laudato Si’ Line” we ARE a Circle, because unlike others we have a parish priest who has met with us every month since 2021 and has supported most of our ideas.
Since 2021 we developed a brief plan with a focus on introducing our parish to Laudato Si’ and the Season of Creation. So, in addition to an e-mail info list, we had prayers of the faithful, two inserts initiated by our parish priest, Season of Creation bulletin blurbs, Laudato Si’ Circle recruitment posters/flyers, a “Creation … God’s Great Gift of Love’’ banner, and a very small St. Francis of Assisi prayer service.
This year we also developed and implemented “Creation and the Gaze of Jesus: A Lenten Way of the Cross” led by our parish priest and prepared a “Praise Be! Laudato Si’: an introduction to Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home” powerpoint and conversation session. Plans are in the works to offer it during the Season of Creation, as well as a longer discussion group focusing on the book Creation at the Crossroads.
This is grassroots work, a ministry with our parish. However, in this conservative state, work must include the grass-tops level as well. From the beginning, we included two representatives from the Diocesan office in our e-mail list. This resulted in Season of Creation and Lenten creation-based resources being included in the Diocesan website.
But more involvement from the diocese and the bishop is key. Two Circle voices are not enough. We have begun working with three other parishioners from around the state to join us. Our goal is to have a team of seven to 10 people, representing the state of New Hampshire Deaneries and New Hampshire’s major cities. Ideally, they’d be able to have an initial meeting, and then we could foster a longer- term relationship and dialogue with the diocese regarding Laudato Si’ and care for creation efforts in New Hampshire.
So, while things are glacially slow, now we are an inter-parish group of five. Not a Laudato Si’ line, not a circle exactly, more like a “squiggle” … and we all have a sense of humor.