In a week when the ferocity of nature has been on display and our prayers pour toward Houston and its environs, it feels especially important to pause today for reflection on World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
Instituted in 2015 by Pope Francis in fellowship with the already established practice of the Orthodox Church, this day invokes the intercession of both Mary and St. Francis of Assisi:
"The annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation will offer individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live."
My recent jaunt through the state of Indiana has put me in the mindset of appreciating creation and our Creator for many reasons. Not the least among these were the phenomenal sunrises which greeted us each morning and the unavoidable impact of rising temperatures on the Trail each day. When a blanket of clouds or the shade of a stand of trees would overshadow us, it was impossible not to audibly declare, "Thanks, God!" with exuberant relief.
But I also learned quite a lot on the topic of creation from one of my fellow Core pilgrims who has ardently devoted himself to the issue of climate change. He convinced me that although the solutions to this problem are complex, I can indeed make small changes in my life to have an impact. It was with our conversations on climate still ringing in my ears that I read today's joint message from Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. One line in particular truly challenged me to move beyond prayer to a greater level of consciousness:
"Indeed, an objective of our prayer is to change the way we perceive the world in order to change the way we relate to the world. The goal of our promise is to be courageous in embracing greater simplicity and solidarity in our lives."
As we watch flood waters engulf Texas, the goodness of human nature is also on display. Today, let's pause to pray not only for those whose lives have been impacted by Harvey but also in gratitude for creation and with courage for the strength to commit ourselves to simplicity and solidarity. I invite you to join me: step outside, look up, breathe deeply and to ponder for yourself how and why your stewardship of what you see around you matters.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them.
Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice...