It has been almost three years since Pope Francis issued his outstanding encyclical, 'Laudato Si,' On Care for our Common Home. In that encyclical, the pope asked us to consider our own role in the damage that has been done to Mother Earth: "This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her."
Since then, many of us have become more aware of environmental issues and the effects of climate change - not just on the earth, but also on the poorest among us, who suffer the most from environmental disruption. Pope Francis challenged us in that encyclical to raise our concern and take action.
The pope urged us: "We require a new and universal solidarity. ... All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents."
The reality is that all of us, working individually and together, are able to make a difference in this issue. We might sometimes feel inadequate or powerless to do something about issues like the nuclear arms race, but caring for God's creation is a matter of concrete actions on our part that will actually create some change.
I can think of no better time than Lent to begin some of these practices. Our fasting is intended not just as a spiritual exercise, but in order to reach out and benefit others - it results in the almsgiving that is also a part of our Lenten practice. So, here are some practical suggestions for how you can make a difference (even more ideas are available at www.CatholicClimateCovenant.org):
Be energy efficient - Close your curtains during the summer, and open them during the winter to let the sun help warm your home. Adjust your thermostat - both heating and cooling - a change of even a few degrees makes a difference.
Use less water - Water processing accounts for over 3 percent of energy use in the US. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, take "Navy showers," use low-flow spigots, set your washing machine and dishwasher to the "eco" setting. And NEVER water your lawn - trust me, it will come back.
Adjust your driving routine - We are accustomed to just hopping in the car and running up to the store; by combining multiple errands into one trip, you reduce the amount of fossil fuel you use.
Go meatless on Fridays - Not just during Lent, but always. Livestock production accounts for 4 percent of Americans' greenhouse gas. You will honor Catholic teaching and better care for creation at the same time.
Create a Care for Creation Committee in your parish - There are many opportunities to raise awareness in your parish as well as begin a concerted effort at recycling and energy efficiency. Contact Sister Sharon Goodremote, FSSJ, co-chair of the Diocesan Care for Creation Committee for help.
Care for Creation is a basic tenet of Catholic Social Teaching. Take action today to protect God's gracious gift.