Restoring order on a disorderly planet

Christians have long held on to the belief that the material world was created by God and is fundamentally connected to God’s goodness. Even the early Christians exhort that the beauty of creation reflected God’s glory.

May 27, 2022

By Mary Terra
As you may know, this week the Church commemorated Laudato Si’ Week (May 22-29). What did you do to mark the occasion?

I, for one, did not even know about this until I received a social media message over the weekend about a rather interesting Laudato Si’ Rosary Walk in a nearby forest reserve park followed by a picnic, organised by a neighbouring parish to commemorate this week. An interesting mesh: Rosary in the Marian month, and a walk in the forest reserve park to remind us to appreciate and soak in the beauty of God’s creatures right at their doorstep. Sadly, it was on a workday morning. A rather creative and commendable initiative nonetheless for those who could participate in this event.

Well, if you didn’t do much/anything to commemorate Laudato Si’ Week, don’t feel bad! Neither did I. Thankfully, it’s not a sin. As this week unfolded though, I had plenty opportunity for self-reflection on how I can consciously live out the call of Laudato Si’ in my daily life. But let me save those nuggets for the end.
This week, we return to the basics to see how the Scriptures and the Catechism of the Catholic Church have helped us understand our call to be stewards of God’s creation. Our three most recent vicars of Christ, Pope St John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (aka dubbed the Green Pope) and Pope Francis, seemed revolutionary for speaking out on the importance of caring for the environment. But they were not the first.

In fact, for the past half century, all our popes, with the exception of John Paul I who died just one month in office, have addressed environmental concerns in their papal documents.

Christians have long held on to the belief that the material world was created by God and is fundamentally connected to God’s goodness. Even the early Christians exhort that the beauty of creation reflected God’s glory. “The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man’s intellect and will.” (CCC 341). This holds true for me today. Every time one stands in awe of the beauty of God’s creation: it’s yet another opportunity to contemplate how much more beautiful is our Creator God who made all things beautiful.

It could be while admiring your plants at home, or a chance encounter with a double rainbow in the sky on a stressful workday, or the breath-taking view and experience of the Grand Canyon, or when you first discover a rafflesia on the Ulu Geroh trail or the rare discovery of a herd of elephants in the night safari of the Sandakan forest reserve, or even the gentle flowing streams of the river in Janda Baik.

It is also then that we become acutely aware that all of us “creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other” (CCC 340). There exists “a solidarity among all the creatures arising from the fact that all have the same Creator and all are ordered to His glory” (CCC 344). And from the very beginning, our Lord gave humankind dominion and stewardship over created things on earth. “Man is the summit of the Creator’s work” (CCC 343), and man is created distinct from that of other creatures: Made in the image and likeness of God — with soul, intellect and will.

Interestingly, the respect for the integrity of creation is also addressed in the CCC under the theme of the seventh commandment: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. In it the Church explains that the “animals, plants and inanimate beings, are by nature, destined for common good of past, present and future humanity” (CCC 2415) and “animals are God’s creatures (CCC 2416).

The CCC goes on to make it clear that it is “contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer and die needlessly”, “it is likewise unworthy to spend money on them as priority should go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should direct to them the affection due only to persons” (CCC 2418).
So, it is not surprising then that in January this year, our Holy Father called out on a culture that is choosing animals over children. “I spoke about demographic winter (birth rate decline) that exists nowadays: people do not want to have children, or just one and no more. And many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one because they do not want any more, but they have two dogs, two cats…Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children”. A pet, in and of itself, is not the problem. The disordered affection for them is! That is what our faith reminds us.

Now, St Philip Neri, whose feast day is usually celebrated on May 26 (had it not been for the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord), was cited in the CCC as an example of a saint who was gentle with animals. Yet in life he was remembered for his deep affection and genuine care for people – the poor in particular. He is said to have had a special talent with human relationships and bringing out the best in people.

I was dining out with a friend at what turned out to be pet-friendly restaurant, naturally a hotspot for pet owners to dine with family, friends and of course, their pets. Near us was a family of four, including two children: a teen with special needs, and a younger child. The special needs teen was attended to by their domestic helper throughout the entire meal and beyond, with little-to-no interaction with both his parents, while the younger child was (like most children her age) immersed in her mobile device. The two pets on the other hand received undivided attention and TLC from the two adults. While we were deeply saddened by what we witnessed, it gave much to reflect on my own actions, choices and decisions in life.

So back to Laudato Si’ week nugget, there is no real need for any fancy-schmancy do to commemorate the week. We can still use the tail-end of the Laudato Si’ Week to initiate new and simple personal habits.

-- Keep our drains clean: all drains lead to rivers/lakes and our rivers are only meant for rainwater;

-- Weekly, take a minute to pick up after yourself and, as you leave your pews and your surroundings in church, make sure they are are clean (and wherever you are) — cleanliness is next to godliness and you can start in our Lord’s house;

-- Reach out to someone in our BEC/neighbourhood who might be alone/unemployed and in need of a meal. They may be feeding their pet cat daily, but not themselves. What more with the current price hike!

-- Pray for God to guide our every decision — that it glorifies God (in all things) and serve the common good.

In the final analysis, Pope Francis challenges us in Laudato Si’: “What kind of world do we want to leave for those who come after us, to children who are now growing up? This question not only concerns the environment in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal. When we ask ourselves what kind of world we want to leave behind, we need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving a habitable or inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.”

In the Beginning is a series of ruminations from a not-so-young Catholic striving for holiness with a desire to grow in grace and leave behind a legacy of love for God, for others, for all of God’s creation and a significantly reduced ecological footprint.

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