The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. When nature, including the human being, is viewed as the result of mere chance or evolutionary determinism, our sense of responsibility wanes. In nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God’s creative activity, which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of creation. If this vision is lost, we end up either considering nature an untouchable taboo or, on the contrary, abusing it. Neither attitude is consonant with the Christian vision of nature as the fruit of God’s creation.
”Nature expresses a design of love and truth. It is prior to us, and it has been given to us by God as the setting for our life. Nature speaks to us of the Creator (cf. Rom 1:20) and his love for humanity. It is destined to be “recapitulated” in Christ at the end of time (cf. Eph 1:9-10; Col 1:19-20). Thus it too is a “vocation”. Nature is at our disposal not as “a heap of scattered refuse”, but as a gift of the Creator who has given it an inbuilt order, enabling man to draw from it the principles needed in order “to till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15)
Wise words, these. They come from Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. They place responsibility for the environment in our hands as our Catholic vocation. Many Catholics, your correspondent included, don’t know enough about this vital – yes, vital – issue. Here’s a chance for us to remedy that.
On Feb. 8, at 7:30 p.m., the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College in New Rochelle will present a learning opportunity to us. Father Joseph Mitchell, a Catholic priest and member of the Passionist Community will speak on “The Great Work: Finding Our Way into a Viable and Hopeful Future.” The offering is $10 per person (Iona students go for free). The talk will take place at the Romita Auditorium. Thomas Berry, by the way, was a world renowned ecologist and Passionist priest.
Father Mitchell is the director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center in Louisville, Kentucky. He has also created Lent 4.5, a seven-week faith formation program that educates Christian communities on using the traditional Lenten disciplines to protect creation, embrace Gospel justice, and nurture their own spirituality. With Lent nearly upon us, we might discover a new way of observing the penitential season and learning more about vocation to be green Catholics.