A world in peril

Context is important…Gaudium et Spes was published in 1965, during the cold war, and no doubt the bishops who wrote it, as well as Pope Paul VI, were thinking about the threat of nuclear war. But it’s interesting how much these words resonate today, isn’t it?

What Do Faith, Infertility, and Environmental Stewardship Have To Do With Each Other?

My passion for environmental stewardship was born because of infertility.

For three years, we tried to start our family and couldn’t. It was excruciating. I started metformin to treat PCO; I had surgery for endometriosis. But in the end, what allowed us to conceive was a water filter.

Yes—a water filter.

The water where we live contains alachlor, diazinon, and atrazine—herbicides and insecticides used in lawn care and agriculture. These three chemicals also suppress male fertility. We don’t drink much soda; water is our staple. We installed a PUR water filter, and four or five months later—time enough for the change to impact the male reproductive system—we were expecting.

Were there other ways we could have overcome our infertility? IVF? Most likely. But even if it weren’t against what we believed as Catholics, IVF isn’t the answer to infertility caused by lawn and agricultural chemicals in the water supply. The fix is not to have those chemicals in the water supply in the first place.

My husband and I are big believers in NFP, because we have experienced firsthand what the use of chemicals by human beings can do to the natural environment. To us, Church teaching on birth control simply makes sense. Working in conjunction with the way God made us is a best practice for living. It puts us more in harmony with God’s creation. With how God made us. Self-knowledge, better marital communication—all these are real benefits, but the basic truth is that planning our family through NFP allows us to live as God made us, without harming ourselves or the world around us.

For me, it’s no leap to generalize the lesson to a million other questions of environmental stewardship. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Ecosystems work because all the pieces are in place. God designed them to work in a particular way. If one species goes extinct, it upsets the balance; the ripples go out from there. I was mocked a few months ago by a supporter of the border wall for sharing a link outlining the negative impact on migrating species. It was a reminder that we have an unfortunate tendency as human beings to compartmentalize rather than recognize how all things exert a push and pull on each other.

Here’s my favorite example of this ripple effect:

Just one species, long absent because humans had tried to eliminate them, made all that difference.

How can anyone cling to the belief that human beings couldn’t possibly be causing climate change?

We often try to separate issues into “these issues are faith issues, and the rest are not.” It simplifies life, for sure—makes it easier to process a complex world. But it’s not accurate.

What I find so beautiful about Laudato Si’ is that it makes the connections. In fact, if we live in a world created by God in a certain way–with intention, in other words–then all issues are faith issues.

Care of creation is up to us

When we (and by “we” I mean American culture–media, social media, etc.) talk about climate change, environmental stewardship, etc., we focus pretty much exclusively on policy: the Paris climate accord, rollbacks of protection initiatives, opening up preserves for drilling, etc. I remember when Trump first decided to pull us out of the Paris Climate Accord, I posted my “ways to be a good steward of the environment,” suggesting that if all of us examined our lives, we could still make a big difference ourselves. Someone I know poo-poohed the idea that we as individual people could have an impact.

But this clip from Laudato Si’ points out an uncomfortable truth: that it’s human nature (especially when profit is involved) to look for loopholes, to figure out how to be the exception so as not to have to do what is difficult, costly, or uncomfortable. Law, in other words, isn’t going to fix the problem of poor stewardship of the earth by itself. We as individuals have to step up and do our part.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean big, earth-shattering things. My family is saving for solar, but in the meantime, a big part of how we form our kids is a focus on reducing waste and initial consumption. Things as simple as those stupid party bags full of useless, disposable junk that you tend to get at birthday parties. Why? Every bit of that is going to end up in the landfill sooner rather than later.

Things like (and those who know me will say “oh here she goes again”) turning off the car when you’re waiting on kids, sitting in the grocery store parking lot, or checking your phone. There’s almost always an option–sitting under a shady tree when it’s hot; going inside when it’s cold. The vast majority of the time, the only reason to leave the car running is one’s own comfort/convenience. Comfort/convenience is one of the most insidious, invisible idols of modern life.

The increasing number and severity of natural disasters hasn’t yet touched *most* of the First World (though even here, we’ve had fires and superstorms and hurricanes). Acting like our daily choices are divorced from the greater good of the earth and those who shelter on this tiny oasis of blue in a vast universe is not a mark of true discipleship. Being a Christian means examining our daily choices–in other words, our habits–and being more intentional about them.

Good from evil

The news about the Amazon has had me very troubled lately; perhaps that’s why Laudato Si’ has been on my mind again lately. I went back to see what quotes I hadn’t used, and this seemed so universal, not just in relation to stewardship of the earth, it practically leaped off the screen.

When I See The Stars…

I took this picture using a shoe as a tripod for my DSLR last Sunday night

Looking at the stars is one of my favorite things to do, but it’s often nearly impossible to find a spot to go where I can actually see stars and feel comfortable because I actually have permission to be there. The bed and breakfast where my husband and I stayed for our “anniversary-moon” is one of those rare spots. I stayed up late most nights sitting on the grass or standing beside the horse paddock at the ranch simply drinking in the glory of the night sky.

I identified constellations I’ve never known before, because they lie too close to the horizon, and at home they’re lost in the city wash. I got to watch the Milky Way emerge incrementally from the darkness. The last night I saw 5 meteors and 10 satellites.

Most of us rarely (if ever) get to marvel at the vastness of the universe in this visceral way. We spend our nights inside, and even when we do go outside, the sky is washed out.

We could all say, “Sure, I know the stars are there.” But we don’t know it, not the way we know the movement of the sun from east to west: where the shadows fall, what time of day we have to close the blinds because the summer heat will overcome the a/c, or what time to open them in winter to take advantage of natural warmth and light.

Sometimes we pause to drink in sunset, but most of us give up soon after. What took the place of this glow, when it faded, was the Big Dipper. But you to devote another hour to waiting for it to happen.

In the same way, the reality of God and responding to/living out his call are things we know to be there, but they often get lost in the washout of the brighter, more attention-getting concerns of daily life. We don’t have time to think about things like what does human dignity mean, beyond the obvious question of abortion: in terms of racial tension, questions of immigration and gun violence and honesty in the things we choose to read and share online.

Things like God’s presence in all the places in the world, and the way our tendency toward hyperbole leads us to outright heresy without even realizing it.

Or how often we go to war over minutiae of worship while relegating to the sidelines the fundamental call of Jesus to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick of body and mind, and basically work to see the Kingdom made manifest on Earth. Good liturgy is important, but not as an end in itself. The liturgy is strength for the work of doing God’s will in the real world. When we get stuck in a war with each other over questions of style, we’ve missed the point.

The devil has many ways to get to us, and unfortunately it’s often by working on our religious sensibilities. Or simply our busy-ness.

I’m devoting the time and energy to this ministry because I’ve spent the last several years trying to quit bouncing along the surface of my faith on autopilot and dig down to something deeper. It’s been spiritually challenging, but also extremely rewarding and energizing for me to recognize the profusion of ways in which my belief in God touches the most trivial minutiae of daily life. I’m not perfect by a long shot, but what I’ve discovered is that I’m better able to teach my children a faith that–I hope, at least–will have the real-world grounding to stick for a lifetime.

Living in the moment

LS - serenely present

Another thought from Pope Francis about the underlying mindset that allows us to be better stewards of God’s creation (not to mention everything else).

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #theologyofthebody #creation #environmentalstewardship #steward #green #greenliving #gogreen #climatechange #laudatosi #laudatosii #catholic #socialjustice #humandignity #goldenrule #theologyofthebody

Less Is More

LS - cherish each thing

The context of this quote is about the global approach to life. What drives damage to the earth, as much as anything, is an underlying craving for more, new, better, in an unending stream. But does any of that make us happy? No. This is Pope Francis pointing out that we need much less than we think we do. And that the constant craving for more leads to many imbalances, the environment being only one of them.

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #theologyofthebody #creation #environmentalstewardship #steward #green #greenliving #gogreen #climatechange #laudatosi #laudatosii #catholic #socialjustice #humandignity #goldenrule #theologyofthebody

Environmental Stewardship is “Not Optional”

LS - not optional

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #theologyofthebody #creation #environmentalstewardship #steward #green #greenliving #gogreen #climatechange #laudatosi #laudatosii #catholic #socialjustice #humandignity #goldenrule #theologyofthebody

“Ecological Conversion”

LS - ecological conversion

This is a key quote in this document, because it underscores the fact that belief is evidenced by action. Pope Francis is stressing that when we have a living and vibrant faith, it is going to manifest itself in the way we interact with everything. In this case, valuing creation as a gift of God — seeing in it the “caress of God“– should change the way we interact with that gift. We should not be cavalier in the way we use the earth. And here’s where we delve into turning off the vehicles instead of idling for ten or twenty or thirty minutes; to not using plastic straws and plastic bottles; to all the everyday ways we can be better stewards of creation.

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #theologyofthebody #creation #environmentalstewardship #steward #green #greenliving #gogreen #climatechange #laudatosi #laudatosii #catholic #socialjustice

“Ridicule expressions of concern”

LS - ridicule

This is the first of two hard-hitting quotes that should cause us to examine our consciences and our biases. It’s easy to make fun of “tree huggers,” isn’t it? To view concerns about environment as secondary (at best) or pagan (at worst). Tune in tomorrow for the second half.

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #theologyofthebody #creation #environmentalstewardship #steward #green #greenliving #gogreen #climatechange #laudatosi #laudatosii #catholic #socialjustice