I always feel grateful to live in a section of the country that enjoys a clear and distinct change of seasons and their accompanying weather patterns. In more recent years, however, those seasonal weather patterns seem to overlap and blend a bit more than in the past. I am not a meteorologist or scientist, but I am sure there are “scientific” reasons for such evidence of “climate change.” And I am also sure that there are many people who will either agree or disagree with those reasons, as well as those who simply do not care.

The expression “climate change” is often used interchangeably with “global warming” but the two terms, though somewhat related, each have a distinct meaning.

“Climate change” is an enduring change in the average weather patterns that affect regional and global climates with observable effects. “Global warming” refers to the actual and demonstrable heating of the earth’s surface related to human activities. 

The scientific community considers “global warming,” now proceeding at an unprecedent rate since the 1950s, as a serious cause for alarm, a “global crisis.”

The “human activities” dimension of this “global crisis” and their related consequences have raised some rather pointed moral questions that need to be addressed.  ;

In 2015, our Holy Father Pope Francis established Sept. 1 as the date each year for Catholics and all people of faith and good will to celebrate World Day for the Care of Creation. 

He published an encyclical letter entitled “Laudato Si’ – On Care For Our Common Home” (May 24, 2015), to place before our minds and hearts the moral urgency of respect, stewardship and care for God’s creation as an essential dimension of our faith. 

While acknowledging the great progress that humanity has and continues to enjoy, the Holy Father cautions that such advances across the board must not threaten the future of the planet and the common good of our sisters and brothers who inhabit it with us. It is worth our reading and reflection.

Pope Francis is not the first successor of St. Peter to address such issues. Pope St. Paul VI wrote in 1971, “due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, [humanity] runs the risk of destroying it and becoming, in turn, a victim of this degradation” (apostolic letter “Octogesima Adveniens,” para. 21, May 14, 1971). Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI voiced similar concerns.

This year, Pope Francis invites us in his annual “World Day” message to “listen to the voice of creation,” praising God the Creator for his many good gifts while also and at the same time “lamenting our mistreatment of this our common home.”

The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation is not about differing political positions, conflicting scientific theories and opinions or protests and debates. These realities have their own place in contemporary society and their own audiences who embrace the various issues and strategies they raise and propose.

Pope Francis is simply putting before our minds and hearts once again the world that God created and our responsibility – our moral responsibility – as part of his creation to care for and protect the earth as our “common home,” to be “stewards of creation.”

He asks us to reflect and think about it; to be grateful and pray for it; to commit ourselves to preserving it for ourselves and those who come after us; to do whatever we can to make a difference not only in and for the future but in and for the present! His concern for our “common home” makes good “common sense” not only for Catholics but for everyone. Together, then, let us “listen to the voice of creation” and join our own voices with it in prayer:

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe

and in the smallest of your creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.

Pour out upon us the power of your love,

that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live 

as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor,

help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,

so precious in your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives, 

that we may protect the world and not prey on it,

that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts

of those who look only for gain

at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,

to be filled with awe and contemplation,

to recognize that we are profoundly united

with every creature

as we journey towards your infinite light.

We thank you for being with us each day.

Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle

for justice, love and peace, through Christ our lord.  Amen

From Pope Francis, “Laudato Si”