Two months ago I wrote about the impact that Pope Francis’ letter, On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si), had on my thinking about creation, ecology, faith, and our responsibilities for caring for creation. Over the summer, my reading and reflection broadened to a range of topics at the intersection of faith and science, including evolution, quantum mechanics, and cosmology. (My reading list can be found under the menu called “My Favorites in 2016.”)
Lately, my readings have returned to the topics of creation and our responsibility for caring for creation. I am working on a discussion program, called “Faith, Spirituality, and Care for Creation” that is scheduled for December as part of the Adult Faith Development programs at my church. The main goal is to explore reasons that we find it so hard to put into action all that we believe and value about creation.
In a comprehensive and important study, theology professor Erin Lothes Biviano identifies three areas of gaps – Knowledge, Caring, and Action – and suggests ways that faith-based environmental groups are “engaging head, heart, and hands to get over the gaps.” (Inspired Sustainability: Planting Seeds for Action, 2016) I am working hard this summer to narrow the wide Knowledge Gap in my understanding of current developments in science. Shifting my worldview has been at times reassuring, and at times uncomfortable, as I integrate this new paradigm with my Catholic faith. According to Biviano, the Caring Gap keeps us from action, not because we don’t care; we just don’t care enough. Caring for creation loses out to other competing priorities, e.g., convenience, progress, and a consumerist culture. The Action Gap can be seen in our many excuses, e.g., “I’m too busy with other causes”, “The problem is overwhelming and I don’t see how my actions can help.” I highly recommend this book to anyone thinking about forming groups or task forces to address caring for our Earth.
There is a line from a Mary Oliver poem that I have been citing for years without knowing the full poem. I found the poem recently on one of the blogs that I follow. The line that I wrote many times in my own journals is that last line of the poem. I hope you enjoy “The Summer Day” on any and all of your summer days.
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver (House of Light, Beacon Press, 1990)
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down into the grass,
how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed,
how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (italics mine)
Q. What is keeping you from taking action to care for creation? Is it a gap in knowledge or caring or some other reason?
Q. Are you aware of faith-based environmental groups in your area? Do you have an interest in attending their meetings?
Q. If you are in my geographic area, would you be interested in participating in a program on faith, spirituality, and care for creation?
Q. Asking Mary Oliver’s question, ‘What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life’?