Fasting to confront "global indifference"

New initiative of the Global Catholic Climate Movement

Pope Francis released his Lenten message for 2015. What he asks of us will help us be better disciples of Jesus Christ and become better stewards of creation.

The pontiff wishes to focus our Lenten journeys on examining “the globalization of indifference.” This term implies in part what can happen when our choices as consumers and nations affect people so far away that we never see the suffering in their eyes. This globalization of indifference is, the pope says, something that we Christians must confront.

“For whoever is of Christ,” the pontiff tells us, “belongs to one body, and in him we cannot be indifferent to one another. ‘If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy’ (1 Cor 12:26).”

And so Pope Francis’s Lenten message illuminates the way the universal Church, its dioceses and parishes, and we as individuals can confront, mitigate, and even prevent such suffering. The document is a must-read. It will be a helpful examination of conscience for us all throughout Lent.

Catholics engaged in the ecological arena might wish that Pope Francis had been explicit in his message about environmental issues, such as biodiversity and climate change. But the pontiff takes a larger view of global indifference—and it is helpful that he does so.

Here you and I should be honest. We Catholic ecologists can be tempted to retreat into ghettos of like-minded environmental networks that are concerned with only specific scientific, political, and social realities.

But this is precisely what Pope Francis does not wish for us.

We must “be able to resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves.” + Pope Francis

He tells us that God’s people need an interior renewal “lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves.” For Catholic ecologists, this means (in part) that we must never forget the core of our Christian identity: “to bear patient witness to the One who desires to draw all creation and every man and woman to the Father.” After all, it makes little difference if we “save the planet” but don’t first seek to save souls.

This does not imply that our work to protect ecosystems and climatological balance is not significant. Hardly! Such issues are, as the Church continually teaches, vital of their own merits and are linked to human dignity. In fact, keeping in mind the high stakes of the Church’s activity in the world—whether ecological or otherwise—the pontiff makes another point that we can never forget: We must “be able to resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves.”

Assisting us in this resistance is Lenten prayer, penance, and charity. And because these practices are intended to make us better disciples of Jesus Christ, they help us in our ecological and social efforts. Indeed they help us confront indifference on all scales—even global.

I’ve blogged before about practices of prayer in our work to better steward creation. I’d like to focus here on penance—especially the spiritual habit of fasting, which, thanks to efforts underway by a great many, you and I can engage in for the good of the world.

There are today a number of fasting campaigns coordinated for ecological aims. The Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), of which this page is a sponsor, seeks to confront global indifference by organizing a global fast for climate justice, and doing so by joining the year-long #FastForTheClimate interfaith effort. The GCCM hopes that in each of the forty days of Lent a different country will have Catholics and other Christian participating in a fast. And as we know, fasting is a potent spiritual and personal means of sanctification. (You may also want to review the Catholic understanding of fasting, as noted in this apostolic constitution.)

More information can be found here and I encourage you to both sign up and share this opportunity with others.

And so for now, there are three simple steps that people of faith can take to confront global indifference: first, prayerfully read and reflect on Pope Francis’s Lenten message. Second, sign up for a Lenten fast. And third, stay tuned for much more to come …

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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.