“Bend your knees, mend your hearts, and lend your hands.”
In his beautiful Canticle of Creation Saint Francis refers to the earth as “Sister Earth, our Mother, who sustains and governs us”. It is this important relationship that Pope Francis evokes in the first paragraph of his encyclical Laudato Sì. On Care for Our Common Home from 2015. Already in the second paragraph of the encyclical, though he points out that our all-important relationship with mother earth is suffering dearly.
Pope Francis states: “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. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22).”
God’s granting “dominion” over the earth in Genesis 1:28 is often used to justify the relentless exploitation of our planet according to Pope Francis. As a corrective he offers Genesis 2:15 where God entrusts both the cultivation and the care for our planet to us. Too often, he says we have excelled at cultivating the earth but have failed miserably at caring for our planet.
We are dangerously close to ruining our relationship with Mother Earth forever. Now is the time to change our habits and to start caring for our planet and for one another. And of course, people who live in poor countries bear the brunt of climate change while they are victimized by the unbridled pursuit of money and possessions in richer parts of the world.
During this Second Week of Lent let’s bend our knees by engaging in an Ecological Examen; mend our heart by fasting from single-use plastic; and lend our hands by purchasing sustainably and ethically sourced products.
Bending our Knee through Ecological Examen
- St. Ignatius of Loyola asked that his followers, the Jesuits practice a daily Examen. An Examen is a moment of silence during which a person reflects on what has happened during the day recognizing God’s hand in everything.
- Inspired by Laudato Si’ the Ignatian Solidarity Network suggests an Ecological Examen. This is a time “to reflect on your personal relationship with creation, to acknowledge and amend our ways and to promote ecological justice by standing in solidarity with those most impacted by environmental harm.” More information may be found at: https://www.ecologicalexamen.org/
- During this second week of Lent let us commit ourselves to a daily Ecological Examen and thus join the many people who are seeking a conversion of heart to embrace ecological justice.
Mending our Heart by Fasting from Single-Use Plastic
- Another strong statement in Pope Francis’ Encyclical is that “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
- Though most of us are diligent about composting and recycling far too much plastic still ends up in our oceans. In an TV interview in February, 2022 Pope Francis said that “Throwing plastic into the sea is criminal. It kills biodiversity, it kills the earth, it kills everything.” And he warns that “if things don’t change, our grandchildren…will have to live in an uninhabitable world.” The best way to prevent this from happening is by eliminating the use of plastic as much as possible.
- This week let’s consider fasting from products that come in one-time use plastic containers. For many practical and attainable suggestions please go to: https://ourcommonhome.org/media/docs/Lenten-Plastic-Fast.pdf
- Lending our Hands by Purchasing Sustainably and Ethically Sourced Products
- In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis praises St. Francis for lifting up the “inseparable bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” Pope Francis then invites us to respond to “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
- This seems like an overwhelming task. Yet as Mother Teresa often said, the goal is not for one person to change the whole world but rather for a great number of people to institute small changes thus bringing about a world of change.
- This week let’s carefully consider the products we buy. The important question to ask is how these products impact our planet; impact the lives of others; and especially the lives of those making them. In other words, let’s commit ourselves to buying products that were sustainably sourced, ethically produced and not harmful to our planet.
And please remember to be patient with yourself and others and don’t let yourself be overwhelmed. Lent is neither an endurance test nor a time to prove our Christian heroism. Rather, Lent is a time to slow down and ponder what is essential to our faith and thus to our life as Christians. So please pace yourselves. Give yourself and others the necessary space. And above all be patient with yourself and others.
Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy & Sacred Arts