A Vincentian View: Creation
In the past week, several events have been in the news which come together in my thinking around the theme of creation.
The first is the announcement by scientists that they have discovered potentially habitable earth-like planets within a reasonable distance from us—only 12 light years away. When the scientists look for these planets, one of the first thing which they examine is distance from a sun. There is a “goldilocks” region which allows for a planet to be close enough not to be frigid, yet far enough away so as not to be fiery. Then lots of other factors come into play like size, atmosphere, and the possibility of water. Discoveries of this type happen often enough. They capture my attention and interest because they proclaim the wonders of the universe in which we live and its potential for humankind. We live in an extraordinary creation.
A second news item was the celebration on September 1st of the third “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” which was established by Pope Francis in 2015. The connection of themes between this day and the encyclical Laudato Si is clear. The Holy Father has become one of the strongest voices in our world for the religious dimension of ecology and how abuse harms the human community:
“The human environment and the natural environment are deteriorating together, and this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people. The impact of climate change affects, first and foremost, those who live in poverty in every corner of the globe.” (Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 1 September 2017)
Clear statements such as this express the Vincentian heart regarding the care for our creation which proceeds from and leads to the care of our brothers and sisters in most need.
The third matter has dominated the news in the United States for more than a week. That, of course, is Hurricane Harvey. The loss of human life, the disruption to families, and the destruction of homes and communities have been overwhelming. Those of us who watched the storm rage from afar could only begin to grasp the power of the wind and rain, to sense the force and size of the waves and floods. We recognized the powerlessness of humankind before an angry and chaotic nature. Both rich and poor stood helpless to weather such a disturbance without suffering. Before the storm, we felt the fear of our fellow citizens; afterwards, we felt their pain in loss. Perhaps the only good result was the generous martialing of so many resources by so many other Americans, including the organization provided by our St. Vincent de Paul Society. Compassion and solidarity had their day.
Each of these three events can remind us that we live within a context which is greater than any limited perception that we are in control or that we have all the answers. Humankind was placed within creation in the Genesis story. Laudato Si instructs that the universe which surrounds us is “our common home.” The Lord God is “the Creator of heaven and earth” (Ps 19:1; 146:6; the Creed). Opening our eyes to these truths enables us to be aware and attentive to the lessons that creation has to teach.