My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Last year, during the height of the pandemic, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, made a special plea during a Wednesday audience to his fellow Catholics to mark the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. He said, “This is an occasion for renewing our commitment to love and care for our common home and for the weaker members of our human family. As the tragic coronavirus pandemic has taught us, we can overcome global challenges only by showing solidarity with one another and embracing the most vulnerable in our midst.” This message resonates strongly after the year we have endured.
Six years ago, Pope Francis issued his extraordinary encyclical entitled Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home), words taken from the Canticle of the Sun of St. Francis. The Holy Father began his remarks by warning that harm to the earth could put the life of humans at risk when he said, “There is a Spanish saying that is very clear about this. It goes: ‘God always forgives; we humans sometimes forgive, and sometimes not; the earth never forgives.’ The earth does not forgive; if we have despoiled the earth, its response will be very ugly.”
Certainly, Pope Francis is only pointing out to us what we already know. We recognize the issue of pollution of the earth, of our rivers, of our drinking water, of whole areas now contaminated by nuclear disasters. Yes, the earth finds it impossible at times to forgive, or it will take a very long time to return nature to its original status. This is why our Holy Father is clearly asking us to make this important issue a moral issue, which we take seriously.
There has been and continues to be much discussion about climate change and the science that defines such change. Not to argue the point of climate change, I always say that this is not something we are asked to believe in. If it is science, science must prove it. Yes, climate change has been proven in certain areas, but perhaps not as much as people could really recognize. And sometimes conclusions go way beyond what proof exists. Obviously, our environment is very fragile. When we abuse our environment, it becomes even more fragile.
Our experience of the coronavirus pandemic has taught us something about our environment in the way that a virus can spread throughout the entire world very easily and very quickly. We are inter-related to one another throughout the world. The virus really showed us this fact. And so it is in ecological terms. What we do in the United States has an effect in other places around the world and what happens around the world affects us here in the United States. President Biden has pledged to return to the Paris Agreement, where all nations have pledged to reduce the pollutants in the air, among other issues. As we know, fortunately, the United States is not the worst polluter in the world. Other countries do not have the ability to change quickly from fossil fuels as we seem to be learning. Those countries, unfortunately, will continue to be polluting the world for some time into the future. A concerted international effort obviously is necessary if we are to save the earth and make it God’s Garden as was given to us from God’s hand.
One of the ways suggested to deal with the pandemic, and also by helping ecological changes, is to plant a home garden.
For many years, gardening has been a good pastime for me and something that is of interest to me. I also very much enjoy seeing the mini gardens that pop up all around our City in empty lots that are not being used. Our young people are very much interested in understanding the ecological connection between gardening and bringing at least attention to the ecological problems that we face today.
I, myself, start growing my garden from scratch. I collect the seeds from the best tomatoes that I find during the summer season and dry them out. I then plant the seeds on tiny pots in a sunny spot and watch as they grow into seedlings. I do the same with pumpkin seeds since I like to pick the pumpkin flowers, stuff them with ricotta or prosciutto, and then lightly batter them to fry up as an appetizer. When I pick something fresh from the garden, all things that are easy to grow, such as eggplant and zucchini, I take satisfaction in seeing something grow from a seedling into something that can be enjoyed and give us sustenance. I also enjoy being able to share with others what I have grown in my small garden.
One of the obvious lessons of the coronavirus is that we need to be more in solidarity with one another; we need to help one another, especially during this time where we need to close ranks and really work for the betterment of our society and our environment.
There is a certain moral responsibility that we bear in trying to improve the ecology of the world.
Pope Francis makes his point so clear in Laudato Si’ that we have been given the earth to cultivate, to bring forth its fruit. It is our responsibility now as those who are responsible for human creation, that we cannot take this responsibility lightly.
Unfortunately, we have seen what happens when there is wholesale disregard for common-sense rules regarding recycling, the disposition of unwanted plastics in the oceans and waterways, and so many other issues that truly have a moral content.
There is very little in this life that we do that has no moral content whatsoever, and does not bear some responsibility on our Christian and Catholic lives.
Perhaps this 51st celebration of Earth Day and the remembrance of our Holy Father’s wonderful encyclical can remind us to redouble our efforts as we put out into the deep, trying to in certain instances make the waters of the deep cleaner and in many other areas, some difficult and new ways must be found to preserve the earth for future generations, as well as our own generation.