I am considering contacting Pope Francis to ask him if he would declare Earth Day a Holy Day of Obligation.
Lest you think I am just being silly, hear me out.
Our fragile Earth IS HOLY. The same impulse of God’s love that created the human form created the whole of creation. And I think it is about time we all acted like we REALLY believed this. Pope Francis himself, in his encyclical Laudato Si’, has reminded us:
“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river, and mother earth.” (92)
He asserts that if we were to recognize how intimately we are connected with creation, we might appreciate the necessity to change how we honor and nurture that relationship.
“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect.” (42)
Words like these remind me of the fact that Earth can live without us, but we cannot get along without Earth. However, much of the time this is not how we act. At the beginning of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis says,
“The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air, and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.” (20)
Certainly that recognition was behind the efforts of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin to establish the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970. “We only have one Earth, so we need to take care of her,” was an important phrase coined at the time.
Nelson was disturbed that an issue as important as our environment was not addressed in politics or by the media. The grassroots movement begun that day did eventually lead to national legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
In 1990, Earth Day went global. Today, the Earth Day Network (EDN) collaborates with more than 17,000 partners and organizations in 174 countries. According to EDN, more than 1 billion people are involved in Earth Day activities, making it “the largest secular civic event in the world.”
A Holy Day of Obligation would be an interesting next step — if only to help us recognize that we must change our hearts in order to change our practices.
The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods invite everyone in the Wabash Valley to attend its 19th annual Earth Day Celebration on Sat., April 22 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. All activities are free and open to the public. You’ll enjoy mini-workshops, pony rides, a bicycle blessing, food vendors and nearly 40 booths selling handmade and homemade items. Returning favorites such as Silly Safari, alpaca shearing demos and the bake sale will also be available.