Today we celebrate Earth Day, a holiday that began in 1970 to promote the beauty of nature and the importance of environmental protection. It is a great opportunity for all Catholics to take some time to thank God for the gift of creation, and work toward caring for our common home.
Almost four years ago, Pope Francis released an encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. It is an excellent resource for Catholics to turn to on this Earth Day as we look for ways that we can protect the world around us.
“So many times with these sorts of things, you get into politicized and entrenched ideologies so quickly,” Meyer said. “I think, for us as Catholics, the key is to go back to a life of virtue. This is part of that life of virtue and being Catholic. It’s our call. And our stewardship is flowing from our faith.”
Though some may think that environmental stewardship is simply a trend, Meyer explained that this is actually something the Church has taught consistently on for decades.
“[Environmental stewardship] is often not embraced by Catholics and Christians as much as it should be,” Meyer said. “This is part of our faith, it’s not something that Pope Francis made up. Especially in the last 30 or 40 years, it’s all over the place in Church teaching. And this connects with other parts of our faith and our commitment to the poor who are disproportionately affected by these sorts of things.”
So what can we do in our own lives to practice environmental stewardship?
“It does start in the home and with families,” said Meyers. “And I think when you have this as part of your faith, as part of your daily thought process, you can’t help but change your ways. Just like in other parts of our faith life, we see the world differently in light of our faith. And I think that’s true with stewardship.”
“Especially with younger people, to get them engaged and to get them out in nature, creating that sense of wonder,” he continued. “We’re never going to care for something that we don’t love and don’t have a connection to. Getting them in love with their faith and outside connected to nature.”
And outside of families, there are several ways that parishes and schools can promote the teaching of Laudato Si’ in our communities, and incorporate them into our life of faith.
“There are opportunities for parishes and schools all over the country for themed retreats around this teaching,” Meyer suggested. “It’s taken people a while to really have Laudato Si’ on their radar – that it exists and that Church teaching exists on topics of environmental stewardship and care for our common home. Service projects have been a great thing that we’ve been doing a lot of. But tie it to their faith. Make it not a once-and-done cleanup, but something that they see as part of living out this life of virtue.”
Listen to the full conversation below: