Loving the Earth & Living as a Catholic Woman: A reprise

Elizabeth's son volunteering on Earth Day, France 2009.

Elizabeth's son volunteering on Earth Day, France 2009.

By Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello

“God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.” ~Genesis 1:31a

The story of Noah’s Ark is one of my son’s favorites from the Bible: animals, a big boat, some adventure and a big rainbow at the end…what’s not to love? I get drawn in too each time we re-read it. I wonder what it felt and looked like inside the ark and I wonder what fears and concerns the family had as they waited for the waters to subside. I also wonder what they felt and thought when they had their first, sparse glimpse at the tops of trees and sides of mountains emerging from the devastating water. After only a few days of rain and clouds here in the Northeast I know how my heart and my body rejoice at sun and grass and sky; I imagine that their joy was tremendous. They had managed to escape death and were now free to enjoy God’s bounty. And what a bounty it was: food and land and vegetation and resources to help them build and sustain lives, families, nations.

Today I wonder what we are doing to this bounty. As a woman of faith and someone who finds God most powerfully outside under a blue sky among trees on breezy New England fall days I am horrified at what is happening to the earth we have been given. Clean coal ads on TV suggest that coal is good for electricity without reference to the devastating effects on the earth and to people living in communities destroyed by strip mines. The recent “cash for clunkers” program did not really change fuel efficiency standards and we are still funding the development of fuel-driven automobiles while public transportation systems languish and efforts to put bike lanes in major cities meet with lukewarm support from those who hold the purse strings. On a more personal level I have to wonder what I am doing each time I forget to bring my plastic coffee cup to the local coffee shop and, instead, grab yet another disposable cup and cover for my daily caffeine fix. Each of these acts large or small are acts that seem to scoff at the wonder of the world we have and do nothing to honor the other side of the promise God made to Noah: the rainbow was God’s promise not to flood the world….what do we owe in return??

My prayers lately have been colored by these concerns and my search for guidance about how to live a life that nourishes rather than strips the earth, a life that celebrates rather than uses the resources at hand. As I look for ways to expand what my family does already (energy efficient lightbulbs; being part of a CSA; driving fuel efficient cars; taking public transit when possible) I have come to see my “environmentalism” as part of my “Catholic” identity-after all my Catholicism is part of my DNA not separate from it.

What are we called to do as Catholics? As women Catholics? As people struggling to live faith-filled lives in this complex world?  I think that I need to speak up and out. I think that my voice needs to be part of the public dialogue. God grant me the strength to begin.

P.S. For an organization doing amazing work in this area see Faith in Place:  www.faithinplace.org

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