Lessons for a new year

You can learn a lot from watching a disease lay waste to your mother. Lessons of despair and sorrow, for sure, but also of joys and hopes—from the help of consummate medical professionals to neighbors and old friends, all working as a team.

It's been months since I've posted. And for weeks, now, I had intended to at least write a wrap-up of the year’s big eco stories, but time and other demands didn’t allow it. Still, some things need to be said.

As I had written about before, the effort to keep my mom at home prevents me from spending much time at the keyboard. Her care has to be my priority. After all, how can one speak with any legitimacy about saving the world without first taking care of a suffering parent?

But there was another reason I’ve written so little of late, especially here.

A goal at Catholic Ecology has been to bridge divides. I’ve begun to wonder, however, what point there is in trying to do this in a world and a Church that often seem so happily divided. Especially when it comes to environmental protection.

The recent Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region tells us much of what we need to know about our state of affairs in 2019. From mismanaged communications within Rome to a growing love-him-or-hate-him perspective of Pope Francis, a golden opportunity to showcase Laudato Si’ instead became a debate about golden calves—whether capitalism, climate change, or a statue of Pachamama. In the end, an event that could have built unity instead did quite the opposite.

There are other examples, for sure, of the Church’s struggle to spotlight eco-protection. Many have something to do with those working hardest for eco-protection too often using language and liturgies that repel the brothers and sisters in Christ that they seek to connect with. And like it or not, each of us may have played a role in what was often a downward spiral.

But there was also much to delight in.

The goals of saving souls and the protection of the planet and all its people are linked—although Satan would have us believe otherwise.

In my home state, for instance, the Diocese of Providence hosted a series of eco-events at the request of Bishop Thomas Tobin—a bishop that some consider too "conservative" to have any interest in Laudato Si'. The highlight of the week-long events was the presence of Allen Ottaro, the founder and Executive Director of the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa. Allen and all of us in the diocese benefited from our time together. From our shared stories and experiences and from our fellowship.

This gets to the point of this small post: in 2020, we Catholic ecologists need not only do better. But we so easily can. Together.

For the sake of the world, its environment, and the poor—to say nothing of the salvation of souls—we must, you and I, prioritize our individual embrace of the hope of the Risen Christ—a hope that comes uniquely through the grace of God’s Sacraments and the fullness of Church teachings. Then, once we’ve embraced this hope and this grace—this truth—we must share it with the world.

The goals of saving souls and the protection of the planet and all its people are linked—although Satan would have us believe otherwise. And so, all our work, no matter what our individual priorities, must begin with individual Christian witness and evangelization. Pure and simple.

Otherwise, all our advocacy and other efforts will be meaningless, especially if we can’t truly love our neighbor, especially when that neighbor is the person who disagrees with us the most.

And so, let us press onward. Together. With hope.

For now, I'm wishing one and all a blessed 2020. (And if you can, please say a prayer for my mom.)

If you like Catholic Ecology,
you’ll love…

A Printer's Choice

The sci-fi novel with a Catholic twist.

A Printer's Choice

Learn more

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.