It’s time to set aside arguments about climate change and its causes.
There’s no doubt that people are suffering because of changing weather patterns and resource depletion on this earth.
And we have a moral imperative — enunciated so clearly by Pope Francis in his encyclical — to do something about it.
His document, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” calls to mind a popular passage from the 17th century.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
John Donne wrote these words — and many others — in his oft-quoted Meditation XVII. He alludes to the tolling of a bell to announce a funeral, which, in his estimation, also serves as a spiritual wake-up call to the living.
Today, the bell is calling us to remember our place in creation. It’s a call, on the most basic level, to take responsibility for how we wash our dishes, dispose of our trash, cool our homes, choose and use our transportation.
Pope Francis couldn’t be more clear about the responsibility of all people to take better care of the earth.
“Everything is related,” the pope writes, “and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.”
He urges all people to do their part — from practical home efficiencies to prayer before meals, giving thanks for food which is a gift from God and the earth.
We need to cultivate a new hesitance within ourselves before we open a faucet or adjust the thermostat. Imagine if we paused for these moments the way we do before we spend our paychecks.
It may help to consider the people who’ll be affected if we don’t do this. People in some places, those with less buffer between themselves and the natural world, already are feeling the consequences of a changing climate. Sharan Benton of St. William Church, which has been a champion of conservation, pointed out that conservation also is about caring for those not yet born.
Fortunately, Catholics are uniquely equipped to respond to this call. The very teachings and practice of our faith — centered as they are on self-sacrifice and discipline — have prepared us to be good caretakers of the earth.
Pope Francis notes in his encyclical that Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople “asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing.”
“It is a way,” Pope Francis writes, “of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs.”
Moving forward, let’s reflect our faith not only when we worship or pray, but in the smallest choices we make each day.
Think, or perhaps pray, before you flip a switch, turn a dial or open a tap.
And let’s pray that we can continue to be mindful of these things when we find ourselves alone, toothbrush in hand, choosing how much of a limited resource we should use in that moment.