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The world and the planet need sacrificial love, which is why Ash Wednesday beats out Valentine's Day

This year’s convergence of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday offers lessons about that long sought after four-letter word love.

On the one hand, Valentine’s Day—a commercialized feast in memory of a mysterious Christian martyr—is a day devoted to chocolates, flowers, and the romantic love shared by couples.

Ash Wednesday is the Christian entrance into Lent—a season of forty days devoted to prayer, abstinence, and almsgiving, all meant as spiritual preparation for Holy Week, which concludes with Good Friday and Easter. Ash Wednesday begins all this with a day of fasting, self-denial, and repentance.

Given the choice, chocolate and champagne sound more appealing. But for those of us in the Catholic Church, along with many other Christians, Ash Wednesday will take precedence this year. This is not because Christianity seeks to avoid human love. Quite the opposite. We seek to explore its depths and celebrate its ultimate, communal, and glorious end.

To begin understanding what that means, we first have to admit that English is a lousy language when it comes to love. It offers only one word to describe our relationship with and desire for things like pizza, the Patriots, the people in our lives, and God. We may...

Catholic eco-advocates should be raising our voices in condemnation of the US Senate's vote in favor of late-term abortions

The United States Senate failed on Monday to pass an act that would protect unborn children over twenty weeks old. Catholics across the nation were quick to denounce the Senate vote. In his statement, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities called the Senate's failure to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act "appalling." The question now is, will Catholic eco-advocates add their voice to the outrage?

Given the speed with which so many eco-centered Catholic advocacy groups rightfully post on social media and email their base about the administration’s assault on environmental protections and the Paris Climate Accord, it would be appropriate now to make noise about the Senate’s disregard for innocent human life.

Here’s why:

First: Pope Francis has been clear on the “integral” nature of abortion and ecology. So have his predecessors. If we are to be credible champions of Laudato Si’, then we must be equal-opportunity advocates for all issues that protect life.

Second: Standing alongside our brothers and sisters on the front lines of the abortion wars will go a long way to heal ugly and growing divides within...

Applications are being accepted for the Laudato Si’ Animators program, which helps individuals change the world one community at the time

If you watched Pope Francis in South America, you know the importance of bringing the gospel of life to every corner of the world. You saw the consequences—the joy and the inspiration it brought.

Right now, the Global Catholic Climate Movement is offering the opportunity for you to bring Laudato Si’ to your community—and they’ll give you all the tools and resources you need.

Don’t think you have the background to be an eco-missionary? Think again. The Laudato Si’ Animators program teaches participants about the science of climate change and some of its solutions, what the Church affirms and teaches about care for creation and, most importantly, how to put this knowledge into practice to solve the climate crisis.

To date, Laudato Si’ Animators have led anti-fracking protests, started care for creation groups, hosted community carbon-reduction training, and more. With all this activity, the GCCM considers their Animators to be “the heart and hands protecting our common home in communities around the world.”

You can apply now for the program, which will offer participants the following:

  • three training webinars
  • follow-up webinars and hands-on help to plan your community outreach
  • a final project for Earth
  • ...
The Holy Father’s address to Vatican diplomats integrates global challenges, and thus challenges both the world and political ideologues

In the latest annual New Year's address by the reigning pontiff to the Corps of Diplomats Accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis offered a stunning example of the integral nature of Church teachings, founded on the eternal truths of the gospel. With something to please and unsettle everyone, the talk covered a wide array of ills—from nuclear armaments to human trafficking, to climate change and ecological protection—and he connected all their solutions to the fundamental need to love thy neighbor.

In a classic example of “new evangelization,” the pontiff consistently links the 1948 document from the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with Church teachings, most especially with the 1963 encyclical by Saint John XXIII, Pacem in Terris—an earlier papal plea, in part, against nuclear warfare.

Building on the UN language on human rights, Pope Francis both applauds and criticizes how the contemporary understanding of rights—including “new rights”—is often at the root of so many contemporary social and political crises. He also strongly championed the right to religious freedom, as well as criticized international pressures to bring artificial contraception and gender ideology to those cultures that do not wish it.

“Somewhat...

Stressing a culture of encounter and integral ecology, Pope Francis explores the very themes at the center of the Magi’s journey to Christ

Addressing the Italian Catholic Primary School Teachers’ Association today as part of their 21st gathering, Pope Francis stressed three themes that will be front and center in this Sunday’s Feast of the Epiphany. They’re also three important themes for Catholics engaged in environmental protection.

“I would like to offer you three points for reflection and engagement: the culture of encounter, the alliance between school and family, and ecological education.”

Reading the address, one cannot help but find within it the searching magi who scour the cosmic order seeking the promised Messiah of Israel—and all that this implies. When they find this Messiah, they find him in the midst of his human family—a person's first and foremost experience of love and encounter.

First of all, I thank you for the contribution you give to the Church’s commitment to promoting the culture of encounter. … Christian teachers, whether they work in Catholic schools or in state schools, are called to stimulate in the pupils the openness to the other as a face, as a person, as a brother and sister to know and respect, with his or her history, merits and defects, riches and limits. The challenge is to

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I can be a lousy environmentalist. But a new year inspires me to be a better steward of creation.

Back in 2008, I wrote a column about why I was a lousy environmentalist. And so I figured, ten years on, why not do it again.

In that column, I checked through a list of my eco-shortcomings—too lazy for reusable shopping bags, too self-centered to use less electricity—and while I’m happy to say that I’ve made progress (I now do use reusable shopping bags and I’m better at the fuel-consumption thing, for instance) I have a way to go.

And so with a new year before me, I have a few resolutions to become a better steward of God’s creation, and better in general at allowing God’s grace to help.

First, the practical: I want to set up a real compost bin. For years now I've been saying that I don’t want to throw out food wastes and I don’t want my town or landscaper to haul away yard wastes—especially because my small lawn and gardens are fed and treated with organic products.

Similarly, I want to set up rain barrels. (Any suggestions or thoughts on that?) And I want to shop locally more (and less on Amazon)—especially for my produce.

Now that my house has been sealed...

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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.