A global movement begins with a fast

This Lent, Catholics everywhere are fasting to call attention to, and repent for, climate change

As Laetare Sunday draws to a close, Catholics and others in my home nation of the United States will begin a fast for climate change. Catholics in two dozen nations have fasted since Ash Wednesday and those in another twenty three will do so before Easter. That’s a blessed amount of sacrifice for a problem that unites the globe.

The "Lenten Fast for Climate Justice" is being organized by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which is partnering with groups such as the trailblazing Fast for Climate Change, an inter-faith group, and others, such as the Green Anglican Carbon Fast.

For its part, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, or “GCCM,” as it’s called, is coordinating a fast to help participants “grow in virtue so that (by the grace of God) we can overcome sin, even modern ones like climate change.”

With a small group of volunteers from around the globe, the GCCM is offering to support Catholics everywhere who are working on the front lines to engage the issue of climate change. It's also seeking to rally the faithful to prayer and action. The Lenten fast is the organization's first global campaign to help Catholics support Pope Francis and his predecessors in response to climate change.

“Lent is the time when we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert, and we are invited to reflect, repent, fast, and listen to God,” notes the Global Catholic Climate Movement website. “Following Pope Francis’ invitation … this Lent let’s commit to overcome our indifference to the climate change crisis and its victims. Let’s pray and fast for the renewal of our relationship with creation and with our brothers and sisters in poverty who are already suffering the impacts of climate change.”

“I'm fasting in solidarity with all the victims of the natural disasters of February 9th and 10th, 2014 in Burundi, which killed over 50 people.” Leila from Burundi

When members of the GCCM—of which I am an organizing member—proposed the idea of a global fast in January, the prospect seemed daunting. A few weeks before Ash Wednesday, there were only a handful of nations confirmed. But by Ash Wednesday there were over forty nations signed up—more than the minimum needed.

Today there are over fifty.

It quickly became evident that many Catholics across the globe were delighted to join with their brothers and sisters in Christ.

The campaign has captured the attention of high-ranking clerics as well as the laity. On Friday, March 13, Archbishop Paul Bui van Doc of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and others in that nation took part in the Lenten climate fast, as did participants that day in Israel. In Manila, Cardinal Luis Tagle has authorized archdiocesan participation on March 27th, the day volunteered for the Philippines fast.

What attracts so many to this campaign is that all Catholics can easily join in and the cause can be so personal.

From Burundi we hear from Leila, one of those who fasted on February 28th. She writes that “I'm fasting in solidarity with all the victims of the natural disasters of February 9th and 10th,2014 in Burundi, which killed over 50 people.”

During the fast, Leila and others “prayed for the souls of all the victims, for their families, for the broken heart and for the destroyed life. Also we asked for love which comes from God. As God's children, we must be sensible, not indifferent to our neighbours. We must be charitable and need to love each other.”

She notes that as Christians we must grow in our love of creation, “because we are a part of the creation of God.” And as for Leila’s goal in fasting for climate justice, “I’m wishing to see a smile on the face of the survivor and more conscious youth.”

Another Burundian, Carmen, writes that the fast is "an opportunity to think about others, giving them space in our hearts. In fasting for climate justice, I call others to take care of creation which is a gift of God."

In the United States, Patrick Carolan, the Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network, puts it this way in a recent blog post:

As people of faith we are called to use our prophetic voices to speak for those least able to defend themselves—people living in poverty, children, future generations and all creation, all who will suffer the most from climate change. Fasting is a form of action to re-awaken our consciousness, our souls, and join all creation in a story of connectedness, not a story of separation.

Well put by all!

And so as I join Patrick and so many other across the United States—and as we join the hundreds and thousands around the globe who are fasting this Lent to spur action regarding climate change—I will be praying for unity, action, and charity as we continue together our Lenten preparations for the life- and grace-giving promises of Easter.

For a schedule of nations participating in the fast, check here. More information on the Global Catholic Climate Movement can be found here, and guidance on its fast can be found here. For a papal look at fasting, see this document by Paul VI.

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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.