Earth Day, a day to demonstrate support for environmental protection, officially began on April 22, 1970, but people of faith have been singing and celebrating the beauty and wealth of the earth for millennia. Catholics especially should be first in line, not because we give credence to a pantheistic or mother goddess religion, but because our world was created by the same Love that created us and we are bonded.
Take a look at these examples of earth-loving poetry, teaching, miracles, and stories.
From the Hebrew Scriptures:
Genesis 1:31. “God looked at everything He had made and found it very good.”
Psalm 19:1, 5, 6. “The heavens declare the glory of God and sky proclaims its builder’s craft. Their report goes forth through all the earth, their message to the ends of the earth. It comes forth like a bridegroom from his chamber, like an athlete joyfully running its course.”
Numbers 22:22-35 (The story of God opening the eyes and mouth of a donkey; hilarious!)
From the Christian Scriptures:
Matthew 6:28-9. “Learn from the wildflowers that do not work or spin. Not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of these.”
Luke 19:40. “Jesus said in reply, ‘I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out’!“
John 9:6-7. “Jesus spat upon the ground, made mud, and smeared it on his eyes. He said to him, ‘Go wash in the pool of Siloam’. So he went and washed and came back, seeing.”
From our saints:
Irenaeus (c. 129-203). “For even creation reveals Him Who formed it and the very work made suggests Him who made it.”
Athanasius (296-373). “The firmament, through its magnificence, beauty, and order, is a prestigious preacher of its Author, whose eloquence fills the universe. “
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). “O most noble greenness, rooted in the sun, shining forth in streaming splendor upon the wheel of the earth … you are radiant like the red of dawn!”
From our recent popes:
John Paul II (August 2001, address to young people of Assisi). “It is my hope that the inspiration of Saint Francis will help us to keep ever alive a sense of fraternity with all those good and beautiful things which God has created.”
Benedict XVI (Seek that which is Above, Ignatius Press 2007). “When man himself is out of joint and can no longer affirm himself, nature cannot flourish. Respect for man and respect for nature go together. The two only harmonize in relationship with the Creator.”
Pope Francis (March 18, 2013, Vatican City installation). “Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”
The Church views humanity as the caretaking center; modern environmentalism views humanity as the scourge (and broccoli as ethical). But the wealth of the world was placed into the hands of our first parents, who were told to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth. These commands go hand-in-hand. It is people with their ambition and compassion that have done wonderful deeds for the planet, often in response to our own mistakes. Forests are thriving; technology has done great things for garbage, and charities abound for the less fortunate (for whom care of the earth is a more serious urgency than those of blessed to born in America). There is always more to be done, though, for God’s beloved children to thrive on God’s beloved earth.
This Earth Day, the godless shall not have the final word; look again at the beautiful earth: take a walk, notice a flower, read a nature book, study the saints and popes, send some dollars to a charity digging wells or leading animals to villages (and of course, turn off the faucet when brushing teeth). Speak up for the world Our Lord created! Let us lead a focused life of connection (with God’s handiwork), of conservation (planned management of natural resources), and of consecration (used in the service or worship of deity). He gave it to us and we are grateful.
Blessed are you, God of the universe, Who bringeth forth bread from the earth.
*For more reading, see Saint Kateri’s Conservation Center. I was lost there for hours.