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"A Catholic Stewardship of the Environment - A Renewed Vision" - by Jim Ennis

A Commentary


In August 2011, National Catholic Rural Life Conference launched a pilot lay leadership-training program  at a retreat center in rural South Dakota. The retreat center is situated on a knoll surrounded by acres and acres of corn, soybean, and alfalfa fields as far as the eye can see.  In the evening there was a dramatic sunset amidst billowing clouds. A short while later the stars gradually appeared illuminating the immense dark sky. What beauty, what majesty! As I stood outside on that beautiful starry night, I was reminded of the passage in Psalm 19 where King David says,

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.

Nature often stirs us to ponder anew the age-old question, is there an intelligibility and purpose in this awesome creation? Clearly, when we look at neatly cultivated corn and soybean fields, and the bales of alfalfa lying picturesquely in the fields, we know there is an intelligence and order behind the well-managed lands. We may even ask ourselves the question, I wonder who farms this land, who cares for the livestock grazing on the hills, or who planted all the corn, soybeans, and alfalfa?

But what difference does it make if we don’t concern ourselves with the intelligibility and purpose of creation? What difference does it make if we don’t have a clear vision or understanding of the truth, beauty and goodness in all of creation? It can make all the difference in the world. 

If we don’t see purpose, order or beauty in creation; then we tend to treat creation as if it is merely an unintelligible substance to be used, manipulated, or abused in any way we see fit. We are not here promoting a neo-animism or pantheism, but rather proclaiming that there is a purpose in all of creation, and we can learn much if we pause to reflect upon God’s creation. 

Pope Benedict, while addressing the German Parliament in a recent visit, said, “Young people had come to realize that something is wrong in our relationship with nature, that matter is not just material for us to shape at will, but that the earth has a dignity of its own and that we must follow its directives…The importance of ecology is no longer disputed…We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly.”  

As stewards of the gift of creation, we are called to “till and cultivate,” to be co-operators with God in cultivating the earth. Farmers, especially, have a unique vocation, affirmed by the Church, to care for the earth. In the Fall 2011 of Catholic Rural Life, we examined the teachings of the Catholic Church as theologian Dr. Christopher Thompson, and philosopher Dr. Marie George articulated why Catholics should be the leading advocates for a renewed vision of environmental stewardship. We also followed the journey of several young families who decided to move into small-scale farming, as a means to put their faith in action. Check out the issue to learn more!

May God give each of us wisdom to listen, eyes to see, and faith to respond.

Jim Ennis is the Executive Director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.


Comments


Mr John Modra | Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Particularly Like your Para 4 . Great that you focus on the needs of farmers who are at risk world wide of being considered sinners and not salt in their God given work . The most critical question for the whole Christian church is not about the personal responses ( because they have generally worked fairly well in our spaces) but the ignorant and arrogant political responses to their work . If the earth was filled with faith filled farmers there would be no problem as people faithful to a "caring for all creation imperative "will strive to adjust to genuine degradation threats .Identification of risk is a site thing so ALL farmers need the protection of someone who knows and cares for their territory --as much a they do . A production ecologist . The whole church needs to resist broad risk assessment and solutions developed away from the site ( too political ) .Give farmers a friend who tells it like it is and keeps them safe from the dangers of those who will tell it ( working with nature involves some risk) to anyone and the press in particular . Support http://productionecologists.blogspot.com

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