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Earth Day – Care for God’s Creation “Earth Day began when a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, called for an environmental teach-in in 1969, which was inspired by the teach-ins dealing with the Vietnam War. The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, and drew an estimated 20 million participants.

Tens of thousands of people filled New York’s Fifth Avenue, Congress adjourned so members could speak across the nation, and at least 2,000 colleges marked the occasion. American Heritage Magazine called the first Earth Day ‘one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy.’

Today, Earth Day is celebrated in 174 countries by over a half billion people, making it the most celebrated secular holiday in the world, a day on which people get outdoors, plant trees, clean up trash and lobby for the environment.” National Park website: http://www.nps.gov

Earth Day is not news to us. By now we are all aware that we celebrate Earth Day every year on April 22. But what we need to remember is that it is not a onetime remembrance and it should not be a once a year thing. We also need to remember that this commitment to the earth is deeply rooted in our faith.

Most Catholics don’t realize that environmental stewardship is an intrinsic part of their faith, and has been a part of Catholic Social Teaching for centuries.
Here are just some of the Catholic Social Teaching Resources on Environment:

  • USCCB – Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good (2001)
  • Economic Justice for All (1986)
  • Vatican II Documents – The Church in the Modern World
  • Encyclicals:
    • On Human Work (JPII, 1981)
    • On Social Concern (JPII, 1987)
    • On the Conditions of the Working Class (Leo VIII, 1891)
    • On the Development of Peoples (Paul VI, 1967)
    • Mother and Teacher (John XIII, 1961).

The core of Catholic Social teaching on environment is not about economic theory or politics, or about interest group pressures. It is about the future of God’s creation and the one human family. It is about protecting both “the human environment” and the natural environment. It is about our human stewardship of God’s creation and our responsibility to those who come after us.

In fact, Care for God’s Creation goes back even further that Catholic Social Teaching. We just heard it in the Scripture reading of Genesis at the Easter Vigil. If you wish to spend some time reflecting on Scripture as part of Earth Day, below is a quote from the USCCB web site:

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth and set humans as stewards to care for creation.
Care for God’s creation was God’s fruitful  commandment to humanity and a fundamental requirement of our faith. Moreover creation witnesses to God’s existence. God is revealed in creation and we see in nature the fingerprints of God. Creation is always an object of praise in Israel’s prayer and the prayers of the early Christians. We are called to honor and protect our planet and its people—to live in relationship with all of God’s creation. At the dawn of creation, God commanded us not only to be fruitful and multiply, but also to use for God’s good creation.

- Genesis 1:1-31 — God made the heavens and the earth and it was good.
- Genesis 2:15 — Humans are commanded to care for God’s creation.
- Leviticus 25:1-7 — The land itself must be given a rest and not abused.
- Deuteronomy 10:14  — All of heaven and earth belong to the Lord.
- Psalm 24:1-2  — All the earth is the Lord’s.
- Daniel 3:56-82 — Creation proclaims the glory of God.
- Matthew 6:25-34 — God loves and cares for all of creation.
- Romans 1:20 — Creation reveals the nature of God.
- 1 Corinthians 10:26 — Creation and all created things are inherently
good because they are of the Lord.

Links and Resources

Excerpt from the USCCB Catholic Social Teaching Scripture Guide

Below are a few environmental justice links and resources:

  • Interfaith Power and Light: Founded in 1998, Interfaith Power and Light focuses on tangible results in congregations – putting faith into action. This work includes educating congregations and helping them buy energy-efficient lights and appliances, providing energy audits and implementing the recommendations, encouraging people to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles and to drive less, supporting renewable energy development through “greentags,” working on large-scale renewable energy installation projects such as rooftop solar and advocating for sensible energy and global warming policy.  http://interfaithpowerandlight.org
  • Who’s Under Your Carbon Footprint? Environmental issues and climate change have the greatest effect on the poor and underprivileged in our society. See who’s under your carbon footprint with this short video by the Catholic Climate Covenant. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McdULlbg1_0  
  • Environmental Justice Coalition for Water: The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water is an important community advocate within California water policy. Learn more about the water issues in California and what’s being done to ensure that everyone has access to clean, safe, and affordable water. http://www.ejcw.org 
  • If you do wish to celebrate Earth Day with a hands on experience of caring for the Earth, many local and national parks have events and project that you can get involved with. Check out http://www.nps.gov for a National Park events; http://www.ebparks.org for the East Bay Regional Parks events; http://www.rei.com for events offered by REI stores (Recreational Equipment Inc.); or contact a community or park near you.

This article was written and prepared by the Peace and Justice Committee:
Sisters of the Holy Family, P.O. Box 3248, Fremont, CA 94539
April 2013