World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. Photo: Nils Söderman/Unsplash
The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation is a day that unites Christians to pray for Earth, the common home of all creation. The day of prayer signals the beginning of the Season of Creation, a month-long celebration of the beauty and wonder of God’s gift of creation, which culminates on October 4th, the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, patron of ecology. Scripture teaches us that creation is the gift of God’s own self and that God saw that creation was very good. Everything in creation is intimately connected, right back to the origins of the universe fourteen billion years ago. In the Canticle of Creatures, St Francis declares the sun, moon, stars and Earth to be kin, and tells how the whole community of creation declares the splendour of God.
The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation draws attention to the cries of Earth. Healthy biodiversity is the essential support of all life on Earth, and every plant and animal species has its own unique value and purpose in the living whole. Disturbingly, more than one million species are threatened with extinction and whole ecosystems are drawing close to tipping points. Together with climate change, biodiversity loss is at the centre of the biggest issues for the world, which have profound implications for humanity and all creation.
Scientists recognize biodiversity loss and climate change are twin crises that must be solved together, along with their root cause, economic growth at any cost. Nonetheless, there is a collective risk that humans keep adjusting benchmarks to new normals of the loss of species, infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics triggered by humanities over-reach on Earth’s resources, extreme weather events due to climate change and many other calamities. The day of prayer helps us to engage with these issues, to lament and respond in faith.
This year, St Columbans Mission Society is marking the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation with the launch of the second season of the Columban Biodiversity podcast, Jubilee for the Earth: Biodiversity and Our Sacred Story. The podcast is designed for groups and individuals to explore the beauty of God’s biodiversity and the threats it faces. It is grounded in Catholic Social Teaching and the Columban experience and explores how caring for our common home is integral to our lives as people of faith and citizens of the world.
The second season of the Columban Biodiversity podcast highlights many aspects of the commitments of Columban missionaries, including the accompaniment of Indigenous peoples and youth, contributions to the field of eco-theology and working collectively for the common good. The six episodes of the new podcast will be released over the Season of Creation:
- August 31 - Everything is Holy: biodiversity loss & spirituality
- September 8 - Our Sacred Community: biodiversity loss and Indigenous peoples
- September 15 - Earth’s Twin Crises: biodiversity loss and climate change
- September 22 - (Spanish speaking episode): Saqueando Nuestra Tierra: La pérdida de biodiversidad + sobreexplotación
- September 29 - Prophets of the Future: biodiversity loss and young people
- October 4 - Creating Healthy Politics: biodiversity loss and advocacy for the common good
In celebration of the World Biodiversity Day on May 22nd 2021, Columban missionaries released the first season of the Columban Biodiversity Podcast and study guide: Jubilee for the Earth: Biodiversity and Our Sacred Story. The first season includes six episodes: The spirituality of biodiversity; A new kind of economy; Embarking on the path to dialogue; Nonviolence for the Earth; No land to live on; A new beginning, plus a bonus episode, The death of life.
Whilst climate change and biodiversity loss adversely affect everyone, peoples who are economically poor and experience systemic marginalization are most impacted. Columban missionaries recognize these injustices in their daily lives and ministries worldwide. Columban missionaries join with the wider Church and multi-faith partners to pray about these realities, share concerns and plan how to respond. Joint efforts, whether big or small, enable new insights to surface, sharing experience and talents and offer a sense of solidarity and hope in working towards the greater good.
One of these collaborations is the Faith and Biodiversity United Nations Coordination Group, a coalition of over twenty-five faith-based groups worldwide, including Columban missionaries. The multi-faith group have combined efforts in the lead up to COP 15, the meeting of member nations of the Convention on Biological Diversity to take place in Montreal, Canada, from 7-19th December 2022. A new vision and set of goals to protect and restore Earth’s biodiversity over the next crucial decade will be launched at COP 15. Columban missionaries with the Faith and Biodiversity UN Coordination Group, call for far-sightedness in raising ambitions to protect biodiversity urgently, reflect worldviews grounded in inter-dependence and relationship, heed the wisdom of Indigenous peoples and local communities and support just economic transitions for those most impacted.
“God, bedrock of all wisdom, grow within us your Spirit of wisdom so that we can find you present in all the workings of Earth, in every living creature and culture. Guide us to love Earth and each other as one mysterious web of living wisdom, revealing mutual connections and the harmony of cooperation that blossoms like a good friendship.” Columban Fr Charles Rue
Sr Caroline Vaitkunas RSM Peace,
Ecology and Justice Office
Columban Mission Centre, Essendon