Stewards of Creation

Spring baby leavesI grew up on a farm. I had tree houses (yes, plural). I took walks in the woods, imagined forts in the corn field, sat on a low roof to watch sunsets, read and wrote stories and journal entries sitting on the front porch, played badminton on still summer evenings with my sisters. At night, I fell asleep with my head pressed up against the screen, talking to God and looking at the Big Dipper and the North Star.

My mother tells me I didn’t spend nearly as much time outside as I think I did, but nonetheless, nature is the shape of my childhood.

Spring treeAs an adult, I realize how deeply my concept of God is connected with nature. Nature calmed my fussy babies. Nature soothes my troubled spirit. Nature is where I go to rest–to escape overstimulation and “be still.” It is where I do my best writing, and walking in nature is the quickest way to figure out the solution to whatever obstacle is blocking me–whether that’s a lyric, a plot point, a character motivation, or a real-life relational problem.

I’m not the only person who experiences this, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think we are more ourselves in nature, because we’re closer to God there.

So the widespread resistance to the idea of environmental stewardship displayed by some Christians is baffling to me. How can anyone view the upswing in catastrophic wildfires, floods, droughts, and storms in recent years and still argue that climate change is a hoax?

LS solid scientific consensus

I came to understand what it means to be a “steward of creation” when we were suffering from infertility, and a water filter helped us get pregnant…because it filtered Spring waterout the atrazine, diazinon, and alachlor in the water supply that had been preventing us. It made it clear to me that indeed, human behavior can and does impact creation.

Since then I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I, and my family, can live more sustainably. We do pretty well, but I never get complacent. I know there’s always more I could do. Like everyone else, we struggle with convenience (which virtually always involves more consumption. Can you say “water bottles”?). But simply being aware of our habits, we have found, has made a huge difference. It has allowed us to be more intentional about this part of our faith–the part about being stewards, rather than consumers, of creation. We have a responsibility to protect this precious, beautiful gift that God has given us–this gift that displays His power and majesty, this gift that is a little slice of what Heaven must feel like.

I still have some quotes from the US Bishops on racism’s continued power in the modern world, but with spring finally arriving, after an endless winter, it seems like a good time to place the focus for a while “On care for our common home.”

Spring moss

Caress of God

A beautiful thought from Pope Francis for this spring day.

LS caress

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #creation #Laudatosi #environmentalstewardship #steward #green #greenliving #gogreen #climatechange

25 Ways To Be A Better Steward of Creation

golden-hour-peony Lent is a funny time of year. We turn one eye inward, to the spiritual desert, while with the other we watch the physical desert of winter explode into the resurrection that is spring. Of course we celebrate Easter in the spring. At what other time does the physical world so perfectly parallel the spiritual journey we are undertaking?

At this time of year, environmental stewardship is always foremost in my mind, too–as a civic duty, yes, but more importantly, as a Godly one. As the catechism reminds us in #2415, our authority over creation doesn’t give us the right to run roughshod over it. We have a responsibility to honor the integrity of God’s creation and think about the needs of future generations.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a list of everyday ways we, as Catholic Christians, can be more intentional about how we interact with creation. To be more intentional about our consumption and purchasing habits, rather than adopting, without even recognizing it, a culture of “convenience” that almost always involves tremendous waste.

25 ways to be a better steward of creation

In the Kitchen

  1. Take your own bags to the grocery store. Cloth is even better than paper or plastic.
    2. Buy fresh, not prepackaged.
    3. Buy local–less transport = less environmental impact.
    4. Grow your own vegetables.
    5. Compost.
    6. Recycle.Yes, even so far as bringing home the plastic ware from the fast food restaurants which don’t offer recycling. This is a biggie! Wash them.
    7. Wash and reuse Ziploc bags.
    8. Wait to run the dishwasher till it’s full.
    9. Look for ways to use less plastic overall. Stop buying water bottles–pack your own!

Vehicles and driving

10. Turn off the car. (Another biggie.) Do you get in the car, turn it on, and then check your phone? Why run your vehicle while you check your phone, wait for kids at their lessons/practices, or for your spouse at the grocery store? Every bit of that is unnecessary pollution. Turn it off.
11. Slow down! The faster you drive, the more gas you burn, and it really doesn’t make a significant difference in time, anyway.
12. Combine trips & walk from errand to errand when possible. Not when convenient–when possible.
13. Carpool.

Around the house

14. Buy bulk refills on cleaners instead of a new squeeze bottle every time.
15. Buy used, and don’t buy things you don’t need. (Another big one!)
16. Turn the lights off.
17. Turn the computer off, or at least put it to sleep. Why have it running while you’re sleeping? And in the summer it’s adding to the heat that the air conditioner has to fight.
18. Use Recycled Paper.
19. Print on the back sides of used paper for rough drafts.
20. Turn the thermostat up a degree in the summer and down a degree in the winter.
21. Plant a tree.
22. Replace parts of your lawn with native plants–wildflowers, low-maintenance ground cover, and so on–so the mowing takes less time and gasoline.

For the Family

23. Use cloth diapers. There are diaper services that can do the cleaning for you.
24. Toilet train early. In my experience, the success or failure toilet training has much more to do with parental commitment than a child’s “readiness.” (Since I’ve toilet trained four kids, and the only one who was over 2 was the one with a disability, I stand by that statement.)
25. Practice Natural Family Planning. No plastic, no chemicals going into the water supply, no waste. And despite what you may have heard…it works.

(This list is adapted from one originally published on my personal blog.)

My Money, My Way?

person woman sitting old
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

My parish sits near the intersection of a major interchange along a major cross-country interstate. My husband and I lead a music ensemble at church, and every so often at practice on Wednesday nights, we find ourselves facing people coming in off the interstate asking for help: out of gas, out of work, broken down…

It happened last night, and it underscored how unprepared we are, both as individuals and as a parish, for such situations. We tried to find someone from St. Vincent de Paul but weren’t successful, and this gentleman eventually left, apologizing for bothering us because we clearly couldn’t help him. And though he was polite, it felt like he was pointing out the disconnect between our self-satisfied perception of ourselves as people of faith and the reality of how unprepared (unwilling?) we were to help a person in need.

Situations like this always disturb me. I find myself caught between a desire to help and a gut-level suspicion that said seeker is preying on the hearts (and guilt) of those of faith. And of course, the answering twinge of conscience, because how is that attitude compatible with a Christian world view?

For forty-plus years, every time I’ve confronted this situation, good and faithful people have responded with something like, “Hey, it’s the way of the world. This is reality. You have to be suspicious or you’ll get taken advantage of by scammers.”

But is it really okay for suspicion and world-weary jadedness to be our first, let alone our final, reaction? I mean, how are we ever actually to know whether a person is genuinely in need or being lazy/irresponsible/reaping the harvest s/he has sown? We are never actually going to know that. More importantly, is it really our business? Isn’t our call to give, and let God sort out the recipients? And if the answer to those questions has anything to do with the words “it’s my money,” then aren’t we intrinsically putting mammon ahead of God? How does it damage me in the slightest to give the benefit of the doubt to those asking for aid, even if I do end up supporting the occasional scammer?

This morning, Bishop Barron’s Gospel reflection zeroed right in on this same issue: “God is not pleased with this kind of economic inequality, and he burns with a passion to set things right. …Even though it makes us uncomfortable—and God knows it does, especially those of us who live in the most affluent society in the world—we can’t avoid it because it’s everywhere in the Bible.”

It’s hard for me to imagine why anyone would come into a church at night, put themselves in the face of such humiliation, if they didn’t actually need help.

So today, this is the puzzle I’m wrestling: What is the right and proper balance of prudence with Christian charity? How do I keep from twisting the faith, in situations like these, to make it more comfortably align with worldly values—like, for instance, the attachment to the idea of “my money, my way”? Isn’t it just as likely that we react with suspicion because it absolves us of the responsibility to respond to the face of Christ in people who come to us for help?

Xenophobia

Open Wide - Extreme nationalist-xenophobia

Read the entire pastoral letter here.

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #socialjustice #humandignity #goldenrule #racism #OpenWideOurHearts

Soul Corruption

It’s easy to see the effect of racism on the victims, but it damages the oppressor spiritually too.

Open Wide - Racism causes harm, corrupts

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #socialjustice #humandignity #goldenrule #racism #OpenWideOurHearts

Twisted Faith

It’s been coming to me more and more often, how much easier it is to see our faith in worldly terms than it is to see the needs of the world in terms of the faith. How easy it is to put worldly values first, and then twist our faith around to try to make our worldly preferences fit.

So this quote, from yesterday’s second reading (second Sunday of Lent, year C) really struck me. Most of the time, I think of “earthly things” in terms of a chase after wealth or power or money–and who thinks they’re doing that? No one I’ve ever met.

NAB-Philippians 3

But if I’m so protective of what is “rightfully mine” that I put my rights, my choices, my property, my privacy, and above all, my security, above Godly living and the social responsibility to care for the needs of the poor and victims of violence or discrimination or any other suffering…well, that’s putting the world first instead of God.

When conservatives talk guns and immigration; when progressives talk contraception, when dioceses use legal forms disavowing responsibility, even in cases of negligence–in all these circumstances, worldly concerns take precedence over Godly ones.

Yes, the intersection of the real world and the kingdom of God is messy. But that doesn’t mean we get to set the kingdom aside whenever it inconveniences us.