Yesterday was one of those gorgeous days, where the cool of autumn is just beginning to kiss the air and the sun glistens on the leaves that have just begun to showcase tints of reds, oranges, and yellows. To celebrate what could be the last beautiful day until next spring (when you live in Minnesota, you can never begin celebrating this too early!), my husband announced that we were going to ride our bikes to our favorite restaurant to eat dinner outside on their patio. Almost instantly, my four-year-old son whined, “Why-y-y-y do we have to ride our bikes to dinner?” My first reaction was to give a “green” answer. I told him that cars put yucky exhaust into the air that makes the air dirty, so it is better for the air and for us if we ride our bikes when we can. (Then I also reminded him that the kids’ meals come with ice cream Sundays at the restaurant and he hopped right onto his pull-behind bike.)
In truth, this is often where I start when I try to explain the Catholic social teaching of care for God’s creation to others: with “green” answers. If someone were to ask me, “Why should we take care of creation?” I would begin by citing facts I know about how human beings are hurting the planet and living in unsustainable ways and that for our own good and the good of the planet we should live with as light of an eco-footprint as we can.
If someone were to ask you why we are called to care for creation, what would you tell them?
On the way home from the restaurant, we rode across a bridge that spans the Mississippi River. We stopped our bikes right in the middle to take in the calm waters, the setting sun, and the rows of trees on the river bluffs that stretch as far as the eye can see. In that moment, I felt very small, a rather insignificant part of this amazingly beautiful and vast living world. But that feeling did not bother me because I also sensed God’s presence in the natural world and was just happy to be a part of it. I wanted to tell my son that this is why we ride our bikes–because God created the world we live in and we are called to be stewards of this creation, living in a faithful relationship with it. We take care of the world because the earth is sacred ground, a place in which and through which we can encounter our Creator.
Certainly, there are good reasons to take care of the earth that are rooted in facts and figures, biology and ecology. But as Catholics, we are called to care for the earth for theological and ethical reasons as well. We are called to care for the earth because it is part of God’s good creation. God has entrusted this creation to us, asking us to be its stewards. A steward is one who has the job of managing another person’s property. The earth is God’s, and as its stewards, it is our job and our calling to protect it. In particular, we are called to attend to how environmental problems affect the most poor and vulnerable people around the world.
What do you do to be a steward of God’s creation?
What do you think are the most pressing environmental issues facing our world today? How can Catholics respond to these issues?