By Rev. Ray Atwood, Prince of Peace Cluster
Pope Francis has recently issued an encyclical letter titled Beati Si (“Blessed Are You”), inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi (d. 1226). Francis was a deacon in Italy during the Middle Ages. He lived a worldly life until he was captured in a civil war and spent time in prison. He later had a miraculous conversion and decided to renounce his family’s cloth merchant business and form a religious community dedicated to the ideal of evangelical poverty. He spent his time praying, preaching, and begging for alms. He formed a society of young men to join him, and eventually his community became known as the Franciscan Religious Order.
There are many stories from the life of Saint Francis. One is that he literally preached to birds and small animals in a forest; another is that he tamed a wolf at a place called Gubbio (the wolf had been attacking citizens). Francis has been associated with nature and the environment ever since that day.
Pope Francis wrote his encyclical out of concern for the environment, but more importantly to remind us of an important truth: we are citizens of the world and we have a serious responsibility to care for God’s creation. The Book of Genesis, chapters one and two, reminds us that man was created after all the other creatures, and God called man to a specific vocation: “to cultivate and care for” the earth (Gen. 2:15). Man and woman were to watch over each other and the creatures entrusted to their care; they were to till the soil; and they were allowed to eat any tree in the garden (except the tree of knowledge). They were also to fill the earth and subdue it (fertility was a blessing, cf. Gen. 1:28).
We are stewards of the environment. We too are called to cultivate and care for the earth. This means keeping our planet clean and healthy. The earth is not a thing simply to be used and disposed of at whim. It belongs to all of us and we have a special responsibility to keep is clean. We do this in many ways: by cleaning up after ourselves at picnics and other outdoor gatherings; by resisting the temptation to throw trash out our car window; by recycling cans and bottles; by keeping our yards clean and neat.
There is a movement which is using junk science to convince us that we humans are destroying the world-wide climate. The “science” behind this movement consists of models that are a result of data put in by the scientists! In addition, we often hear that “the consensus of scientists proves that man-made global warming is a fact.” Scientific consensus proves nothing. There are also scientists who dispute this hypothesis, and that’s all it is. They are ignored by the media.
Man cannot affect the entire world climate (sorry global warming advocates, but it is true!). But he can control the local climate, and help make the world a healthier place, the kind of place in which God wants us to live. Let us follow the words of the pope and the inspiration of Saint Francis to keep our world clean and healthy for us and future generations.