Should Catholics Even Care About The Environment?

The issues of environmentalism and “climate change” are major talking points in society and politics today. With extremes on all sides of the debate, it’s a Catholic’s responsibility to discover the truth and align our lives with it.

Instead of treating nature as an ideological weapon to use in society and politics, let’s look to the teachings of the Church to root ourselves firmly in a truly Catholic perspective.

Among the questions we must answer are: How should we consider nature? What is nature’s purpose? What is our role in nature? What order did God establish between us and nature?

Before we answer those questions, we must accept an inescapable and utterly extraordinary truth: Creation did not have to exist. God did not need to create anything. But he did so anyway.

Why? The Church explains that God, according to His own free will and from the abundance of His love, created all things to reflect and share in His glory.

Nature reflects the goodness and glory of our Creator

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches “Because creation comes forth from God’s goodness, it shares in that goodness” (CCC 299). These words from the catechism merely echo Holy Scripture: “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5).

Creation is a reflection of God’s goodness and glory, which he shares purely out of his infinite love. From the tiniest rock at the bottom of the deepest ocean to the highest angel worshiping at the throne of God, all of creation exists to proclaim the Creator’s glory.

Further, we read in the book of Daniel that the three youths, Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah, were thrown into the raging furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar. Instead of wailing in agony, they remained unburned and united in a hymn of praise calling on all of creation to “bless the Lord!” From the angels and the heavens, to the heat and the cold, to the birds of the air and beasts of the earth “bless the Lord!” Their canticle is a lesson to us that all of creation, in some way, praises the glory of our God. Because it reflects God’s goodness (and even proclaims His praise), all of creation is endowed with a certain dignity that must be respected.

From the very beginning, God has made us stewards of his creation

As humans, we hold a very special place in creation.

We’re greater than the irrational beasts of the earth but lesser than the angels. We’re made in the image and likeness of God, which makes us the highest created being among physical creatures. And because of that exalted status, starting with Adam, God placed humanity in the position of steward over the rest of the physical universe.

From the very beginning, God gave us dominion over nature for our benefit and has entrusted us with the care and disposal of all creation to help us save our souls.

Now, we can easily see how this duty is neglected. We can oppressively subjugate nature to profit man, but we can also oppressively subjugate man to “profit” nature – as it were, elevating nature above man and thus inverting God’s established order.

Attempting to avoid any extreme or frustration of God’s order, how can we best fulfill our duty to God in our role as stewards of creation?

Let us imitate the saints, and find love and fulfillment in the family of God’s Creation

This is not a trick question…

What do you and a rock have in common? 

.

.

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You’re both created by God and held in existence by His love.

What about you and a bird? A dog? A cow? Another person? An angel?

All of those things share a core commonality… they’re all of one and the same family…The family of creation.

This is why St. Francis of Assissi proclaimed every creature as his “brother” or “sister.” His disciple St. Bonaventure explains, “From a reflection on the primary source of all things [God], filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’”

St. Francis of Assisi clearly understood that creation reflects the glory and goodness of the Creator. His entire life was one of awe and wonder of God through creation. St. Francis was not a “radical environmentalist ahead of his time” or a “climate change activist.” He was a Catholic and he understood his place in creation and sought harmony in the created nature that God established. 

We can’t all be like St. Francis, but we all have a call to holiness. We can seek to deepen our Catholic understanding of creation so that by avoiding the role of masters, consumers and ruthless exploiters of man and nature we can, like St. Francis, discover a greater harmony within the family of creation.

Many of these ideas are explored in the introduction of “On Care For Our Common Home,” which you’ll find in your box this month. Give it a read while you enjoy the beauty of God’s creation this summer.

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July 22, 2022

Should Catholics Even Care About The Environment?

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