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.)

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.

Restitution

This quote struck me with particular force because so often the idea of formal apologies to the black community for enslavement, discrimination, and segregation evokes such strong negative reactions among whites. Like, Why should we have to apologize for something we had no part in? Reading this document is an examination of conscience, inviting me to recognize that this is a cultural and generational problem–that it is not, in fact, a problem relegated to the past, but something very real today. And for that reason, it is my problem.

Open Wide - racism festers

Read the whole document here.

Unexamined Bias

IMG_3272
Sculpture on display at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

One of my kids is studying Westward Expansion right now. This weekend, after finishing his homework on Lewis and Clark, he ran to his brother: “Did you know Lewis and Clark were the FIRST PEOPLE EVER TO SET FOOT IN THIS AREA?”

Thankfully, I was right there, so I could correct this gross misunderstanding of American history. “Uh, no,” I said, “they were not the first people to set foot in this area.”

“Well,” he said, “the first Americans, then.”

“No,” I said again. “Not that either. The Native Americans were Americans long before anyone else. Lewis and Clark were just the first white people.”

It’s not the first time I’ve had to correct such errors in my kids. They’ve brought home statements about how “all the shootings” take place in THAT park, which is why we can’t go there (something their classmates were told by their parents). And so on.

And I think, How in the world are they picking these things up? They’re not getting it from me or my husband! (Are they?)

But then, so much of it is just in the water, in the air. We are whites, surrounded by whites, and this is how we look at the world.

I’ve had white friends say, “Are there really more police shootings of unarmed black men, or does the media just highlight every one, so it sounds that way?” (If you’ve ever wondered the same thing, read this and this.)

I’ve had white friends say, “Those people shouldn’t block the interstate with their protest. They don’t have any right to disrupt the community.”

I’ve had white friends say, “Those football players should be playing football, not making political statements.”

I’ve had white friends say, “A bunch of those people in ___ were a bunch of professional activists that travel around. They weren’t even locals!”

And the more of these comments I hear, the harder I wince. Because what, in any of those comments, acknowledges the injustices suffered by minorities? Don’t they all boil down to: “I don’t believe you”? Or: “I can’t be bothered”? Or: “Accepting what you say would force me to change how I talk/think/act, so I’m going to go looking for reasons to justify ignoring you”?

Hardly a Christlike attitude.

I think in general, we really all do believe that “God’s skin” is “black, brown, yellow, it is red, it is white, every man’s the same in the good Lord’s sight,” as Hi God taught us as kids.

Where we run into trouble is—as usual—in the nitty gritty, practical details. It’s a lot more comfortable to act like racism was all taken care of by the Civil Rights Act and desegregation. Who wants to hear that if there are disparities in education, in earning, in opportunity, in policing, it’s because there is still institutional, communal, societal racism?

Open Wide-accomplices
Those of us who have benefited from the system sometimes get defensive about having it pointed out to us. We sense a threat to our way of life. Or at least, to our mental and emotional comfort. Because if we admit that such disparities actually exist, we’d have to change our opinions and attitudes. I think that’s why there’s such resistance to the term “white privilege.”

I’ve come a long way in the past few years, but I still routinely discover unexamined biases and presuppositions popping up in myself. My ongoing challenge as a Catholic Christian is, first, to be honest about those biases, and second, to be open in mind and heart to people of color when they say, “This is what I have experienced.” To take them at their word. Not to suggest that they’re overreacting or being stirred up by some outside nefarious influence (how insulting is that, anyway?)—in short, not to look for excuses to dismiss the cry for justice.

Only then can I start to discern how to stand in solidarity in the quest for a world that better reflects God’s kingdom, where all are equal and beloved.

cropped-IC-thumbnail.png