Catholic congregations are taking up the challenge of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’.
Jesuit organizations released a Prayer Tool Focused on the Environment on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis. And churches in France are promoting a “green label” designation.
St. Francis is the saint most identified with care for creation.The Jesuits of Canada and the U.S., together with the Ignatian Solidarity Network, used his feastday to introduce an Ecological Examen based on the traditional Ignatian Examen of Consciousness. Their examen takes cues from Pope Francis’ encyclical to reflect on an individual’s relationship with creation, on questions of ecological justice and on how we can all stand in solidarity with those most impacted by environmental harm. The five sections are: gratitude, awareness, understanding, conversion and reconciliation.
Cecilia Calvo, senior advisor on environmental justice at the Jesuit Conference commented, “We hope this Ecological Examen helps individuals in their homes, parishes, schools, universities and communities to examine their relationship with creation, to hear the cry of the Earth and the poor and reflect on ways to reconcile their relationship with God’s creation.”
Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, said, "Now more than ever, we need to reflect on the ways our care for the Earth impacts our brothers and sisters throughout the world. This examen provides a prayerful way for institutions and individuals to engage in ways that lead us into deeper relationship with God, creation and others."
The Ecological Examen is made up of the following points:
1. I give thanks to God for creation and for being wonderfully made. Where did I feel God’s presence in creation today?
2. I ask for the grace to see creation as God does — in all its splendor and suffering. Do I see the beauty of creation and hear the cries of the earth and the poor?
3. I ask for the grace to look closely to see how my life choices impact creation and the poor and vulnerable. What challenges or joys do I experience as I recall my care for creation? How can I turn away from a throwaway culture and instead stand in solidarity with creation and the poor?
4. I ask for the grace of conversion towards ecological justice and reconciliation. Where have I fallen short in caring for creation and my brothers and sisters? How do I ask for a conversion of heart?
5. I ask for the grace to reconcile my relationship with God, creation and humanity, and to stand in solidarity through my actions. How can I repair my relationship with creation and make choices consistent with my desire for reconciliation with creation?
6. I offer a closing prayer for the Earth and the vulnerable in our society.
In another initiative, the French Catholic Bishops Conference together with the Protestant Federation have launched an ecumenical “Green Church” label to promote ecological conversion among parishes.
St. Gabriel's Church in Paris, for example, established a vegetable garden around the church two years ago to grow tomatoes. Four compost bins for recycling waste are now filled with decomposing fruit and vegetable peels. At a “recycling corner” at the back of the church, parishioners collect plastic bottle tops while parish leaflets provide details of seasonal fruits and ways of preventing waste.
In other initiatives at St. Gabriel’s, the pastor tries as often as possible to introduce references to biblical stories which deal with animals and nature in his homilies, universal prayers and hymns. The parish has also abandoned the use of plastic cups in favor of “eco-cups." Outings to organic farms are often organized for the children in catechism class.
In a church that is built on a sacramental spirituality, Catholics can expand their vision of how God works in and through material things. God uses water, bread and wine and human touch to show his love for his people. God invites us to show the same care and love for his creation.