Tuesday, September 06, 2022

 

A Question of Faith, Fr Liam Power’s Fortnightly Column

 

THE Season of Creation is marked throughout the Christian world from September 1st to October 4th (Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi). It is a time for Christians everywhere to celebrate the joy of creation and to raise awareness of our responsibility to do all we can to protect the natural environment. The theme this year is ‘Listening to the Voice of Creation’. We are called as Christians to listen to the voice of creation, to unite and to act as one global community. We are invited to experience the season of creation as an opportunity “to cultivate an ecological conversion”, to quote Pope Francis.

I found it disconcerting that so few people referred to the ecological crisis during the consultation on synodality held in every diocese recently. The absence of any expression of serious concern for the environment indicates that care of creation is, for many, peripheral to our Christian faith and the mission of the Church.

 

‘We got a whisper of this anguished cry over the summer when swimming events had to be cancelled in Tramore and Dunmore because of pollution in the sea’

 

We might begin the process of an ecological conversion by becoming aware that care of our ‘common home’ “is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (to quote Pope Francis). We could then begin to respond to the invitation to practice an ecological spirituality. Listening to the voice of creation means being attentive to God’s presence in the natural world. It is a summons to base our spirituality on the “loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion” (to quote from Pope Francis encyclical on Care of our Common Home).

Cycling along the Waterford coastline during the glorious summer in July and August, swimming in the Guillamene and off Councillor’s Strand in Dunmore, I experienced a renewed sense of connectedness with creation and a greater attentiveness to the divine presence mediated through the beauty of our coast in Co Waterford. Immersed in the magnificent scenery, I could identify with the sentiment of Pope Francis when he talked about “praying once more in the great cathedral of creation”, and revelling in the “grandiose cosmic choir made up of countless creatures, all singing the praises of God.”

Listening to the voice of creation also means being attentive to the cry of anguish that issues from the broken earth. We got a whisper of this anguished cry over the summer when swimming events had to be cancelled in Tramore and Dunmore because of pollution in the sea. On a global scale, we are conscious of the droughts, extreme weather events, desertification, deforestation, flooding and fires. We are also well aware of the threat to biodiversity and the loss of so many species of creature and plant.

The discordant note in the song of creation is sounded by the poor and marginalised in our world. Exposed to the climate crisis, the poor feel even more gravely the impact of the “drought, flooding, hurricanes and heat waves that are becoming ever more intense and frequent.”

The call to ecological conversion is highlighted by the Burning Bush, the symbol chosen to mark the Season of Creation 2022. It recalls the story of Moses in the Book of Exodus. As he was tending his flocks, Moses noticed a bush blazing but it wasn’t burnt up. The fire did not consume or destroy the bush. The flame was a revelation of God’s presence, a presence that was to bring liberation to the Hebrew slaves who suffered oppression in Egypt.

It is an apt symbol for today as the prevalence of unnatural fires is a sign of the devastating effects that climate change has on the most vulnerable of our planet. Moses felt called to remove his sandals as he was on sacred ground. The symbol of the burning bush is a call to us all, reminding us that we too are on the sacred ground of our earthen home and that we have a responsibility to strive for a more sustainable way of life.

Adopting a more sustainable lifestyle may seem too daunting, but there are a number of actions listed on the Season of Creation website, which could make a difference if households were committed. In our parish of St Joseph and St Benildus, we are hoping to create a themed garden area, which will be specifically for outdoor meditation and prayer. We believe it will be possible to design a similar style garden area in the graveyard in Ballygunner. Parishioners might be encouraged to adopt an ecological spirituality.

We are investigating the feasibility of a ‘Faith Community Pollinator’ plan by creating a small wildflower meadow and installing “bug hotels”. We are also exploring the use of renewable energy in our parish buildings and taking more care with our energy bills to make our parish more energy efficient.

Our parish has established a partnership with the Good Shepherd Parish, which is based in Ishiara, Kenya. Ishiara is a townland located about 300km northeast of Nairobi. It is officially designated as a semi-arid region. Climate change has affected the level of rainfall in the area; the duration of the rainy season is considerably reduced, which means there is not sufficient water to grow crops and other produce.

It was enlightening for us to witness at first hand the devastating impact of climate change on a community. People, who depended on adequate rainfall to grow their own produce on very small holdings, are now threatened with hunger and drought.

Connecting with a living community has certainly raised our awareness of the suffering and deprivation that environmental degradation can bring. Our committee has raised funds over the past few years to support the building of a sand-dam to give some local people access to water on a year-round basis. We have provided materials for farm householders to build their own rainwater collection pans. (We have also provided computers for two school computer rooms, and we assisted with the final kit-out of a secondary school laboratory).

Our partnership has helped create a greater sense of solidarity with the poor of the developing world. It has also helped to raise awareness in our own community of the need to embrace changes that reduce the causes of climate change.

We are hoping to attract new members to our partnership committee to support the projects currently in hand.

Pope Francis meeting with faith leaders and scientists last October concluded that “future generations will never forgive us if we squander this precious opportunity… We have inherited a beautiful garden; we must not leave a desert to our children”.

Comments are closed.

By Fr Liam Power
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

More Views

DARREN SKELTON: When Coolio came to town

DARREN SKELTON: An addiction to outrage

More by this Journalist