Today has been proclaimed by Pope Francis to be a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. United with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, who have already been celebrating this day, on this day we ask God both for assistance in caring for creation and for forgiveness “for sins committed against the world in which we live.” In his letter announcing the day, the Pope wrote
The annual World Day of prayer for the Care of Creation offers to individual believers and to the community a precious opportunity to renew our personal participation in this vocation as custodians of creation, raising to God our thanks for the marvellous works that He has entrusted to our care, invoking his help for the protection of creation and his mercy for the sins committed against the world in which we live.
Concern with our relationship to creation is not new. One of the foundational principles of Catholic Social Thought is that of stewardship. A “steward” is someone who is entrusted with some good or talent on behalf of other persons; a steward is a manager and not an owner.
Stewardship, in the Catholic Social Thought tradition, derives from an understanding that God is the source of everything; everything we have – our time, our talents, all that is in the world – is a gift from God and we have an obligation to manage those gifts for the benefit of all; we are accountable to God for how we use those gifts. Created in God’s image, humans have a mandate to subject to themselves the earth and all it contains, but to govern the world with justice and holiness, with respect for all living creatures and the environment. In one sense, we show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation.
Stewardship is not a notion unique to Catholic Social Thought. Not only is this same notion of stewardship or trusteeship is found in Protestant forms of Christianity, but the Koran speaks of our being appointed by God as stewards over the earth, and, in Buddhist terms, the Dalai Lama speaks of the “universal altruism” and feeling of responsibility that is nonselective and applies equally to all that flows from a recognition of interconnectedness. Stewardship is perhaps better understood as a function of spirituality in broad terms, rather than the province of any one religion. In the words of one commentator, stewardship “is a deeply spiritual yet essentially practical question of how we react to the gifts and resources over which we have some measure of control and influence.”
This Day or Prayer for the Care of Creation is a good one for reflecting on our acts (and non-acts) with respect to the world we have been given. How will you manifest your care of the environment? What “sins committed against the world in which we live” do you need to repent for and avoid in the future?
For myself, I know I’m good about some things and less good about others. I no longer buy bottled water when there is an alternative. We don’t take extra plastic bags when buying produce at the store and we work hard at avoiding food waste. I take short showers. But we could probably drive less than we do. I could be more careful about products that are better for the environment than others. Etc.
Feel free to share your ideas for how you are caring for creation…or where you could be doing better.