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A newly released video of Pope Francis asks us all to unite with him in prayer for creation's sake

The Successor of St. Peter continues to engage the world of social media with the second video developed and shared by Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network's video project at Apostleship of Prayer. Underscored with stunning visuals and a stirring soundtrack, Pope Francis reiterates his prayer intention for February asking men and women everywhere to pray in solidarity and in response to diverse eco-challenges facing humanity.

"The prayer intention for February comes at a crucial time for humanity, addressing an area where we urgently need to make changes," said Rev. Frédéric Fornos, S.J., international director of the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network.

"The Pope asks us to unite in respect for creation and to act to preserve the natural world for future generations. We need a conversation that brings us together, because we are all affected by environmental challenges, especially the poor and displaced."

Helping develop the February video was the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

Tomás Insua, the global coordinator for the GCCM, said that the Pope's video "is a compelling follow up of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si', reinforcing his powerful call to action to care our common home."

Insua said that the video...

My February column in the Rhode Island Catholic looks at our water, communal choices, and faith

February 2016

“How could this happen in the United States?”

That’s a question many ask when the topic of the water in Flint, Michigan comes up. It’s a good question. Here’s another: “Could this happen somewhere else?”

Nationwide, there’s about a $384 billion price tag for the work that will be needed by 2030 to maintain our drinking water systems. Wastewater infrastructure will need another $271 billion. These numbers come from surveys by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, which performs such national needs assessments every few years.

Those of us involved in the world of clean water (either the kind we drink or what we discharge back to nature) sometimes find ourselves having to help communities sell the benefits of clean water to rate payers.

We sometimes first have to explain the benefits to elected officials. This always puzzled me because clean water is a fundamental need of civilization.

And yet, where does paying for clean water come in our communal priorities?

Here’s an exercise that may help answer that question. Write down the amount of your monthly bill for cable television, your cell phone, and your utilities. I had a group of...

Thanks to 21st century crowd sourcing, a relic of a 17th century saint can now come home

It took only ten days for a unique GoFundMe campaign to make history with the rescue of a precious reliquary that—it appears—holds a priceless first-class relic of St. Kateri Tekakwitha—patroness of ecology and the environment, people in exile, and Native Americans.

The wildly successful #BringKateriHome campaign was the brainchild of my friend Bill Jacobs, President of the Board of the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Conservation Center, on which I also serve.

“I am extremely grateful and humbled—overwhelmed really—by the tremendous response we have had in such a short period of time,” said Jacobs earlier this evening. “I am also deeply moved by the demonstration of love and honor that so many have shown for our beloved Saint Kateri.”

St. Kateri was canonized in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. She is the first Native North American saint.

The reliquary comes with supporting documentation signed and stamped by Édouard-Charles Fabre, Archbishop of Montreal in 1893. With its rescue assured as of today, Jacobs said, the next task will be to reclaim it from the seller so that it can be authenticated.

Jacobs was also clear that the total donation amount at the GoFundMe campaign was intended only to...

The cardinal's address to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress taking place in Cebu, Philippines, is an address for the whole world

Msgr. Kevin Irwin of Catholic University—a friend and contributor to these pages—was in town this afternoon to present Providence College’s Aquinas Lecture. Msgr. Irwin specializes in sacramental theology, including how it relates to ecology. His talk was, not surprising, about the background and contributions of Laudato Si’.

Afterwards we chatted about the timing of his talk in Providence and another given in the Philippines today by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ, who stood in for Cardinal Peter Turkson at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines. The cardinal's talk highlighted a topic that needs more attention: the Eucharistic dimensions not just of Laudato Si’, but of Catholic Social Teachings in general—on caring for each other and for creation.

Vatican Radio has the talk here for a full read, but a few points should be made:

The sacraments face in two directions, and so should we

The outward-facing papacy of Pope Francis continues to remind the faithful of the relation between core Catholic realities—like the Eucharist—and our social teachings, which can only be lived—truly lived, that is—when animated by the grace of God. The inner and exterior lives of the Church are not separate entities....

There's been lots of detailed research into what to say—and how to say it—when speaking to people about changing climate

My colleague Jen West, the Coastal Training Program Coordinator for Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay Research Reserve, is one of a small but growing number of environmental professionals trained in cutting-edge research on climate change communication. The goal is to have people like Jen educate others, like you and me, so that we can then help even more people appreciate what we're doing to our climate and the impacts this is having.

Jen and a colleague ran a half-day training today at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. I was one of about two dozen participants from a variety of organizations (state government, zoos, municipalities, non-profits, etc). The information they offered was eye-opening and valuable, and Jen has been kind enough to answer a few questions for me to pass along to you, including resources at the end for much, much more.

Catholic Ecology: I’ve heard you use the term “Strategic Framing.” What is that?

Jen West: Simply put, strategic framing is a recommended set of elements that when used together allow us to strategically navigate our way toward the most impactful and effective communications. It works within existing worldviews instead of trying to change them, resulting in more...

The pliable quality of the human person can either help or hinder efforts at change for the better

We’ve had a warm winter thus far in New England—yes with a blizzard on the way at the moment, but you get the idea. A few weeks back I was walking around without a jacket, which seemed normal at the time. I was also chatting with a friend who was wearing a tee shirt and shorts as he made his way to the barber. It was January but winter was far from our minds. In some small way, he and I had adapted.

The technical term adaptation is used in my line of work to connote changes in systems of infrastructure. If the sea is going to rise a foot, then local transportation officials had better plan to relocate the road (if they can) that’s going to flood at high tide plus one foot.

As you may imagine, there is a tension in climate change circles between investments in adaptation and investments in mitigation—the latter being the cessation or reduction of activities that spur climate change.

"Don’t rely too much on adaptation," goes the concern, "without making every effort to mitigate. Because if you keep adapting, you’ll lose the very things you once wanted to save."

It's a valid point....

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.