Life & Beauty, The Earth & The Poor

Life & Beauty, The Earth & The Poor

Articles, Come, And You Will See

The winter edition of Abbey Banner, published by St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN, contains an edited article from the “Joint Message for the Protection of Creation,” issued by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Pope Francis, and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. In the article, the statement is made: “Biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions since we have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure.”

Why should we care about this in southern Missouri? I have two answers to that – the Ozarks and the Bootheel (and everything in between). Both of these areas highlight the beauty and the blessing of God’s creation in nature. I drive down Highway 55 and along Highway 60 on the east side of the diocese and I see cotton, rice, corn, soybean, apples, and peaches. Along the way between Cape Girardeau and Springfield and over to Joplin, I see beautiful rolling hills spotted with cattle. I take hikes on the beautiful trails of the Ozarks along Highway 65 down to Table Rock Lake. Why should we care about this in southern Missouri? Because for many, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, their livelihood depends upon a healthy environment.

In the middle of the diocese, you will find no greater natural beauty than in the Van Buren area, where people flock during the summer for camping and canoeing. The natural beauty that I am privileged to view as I look south along Cabool reminds me of the rolling hills of Scotland. When I have the time, I stop along the way to pray the rosary in the midst of some of the most beautiful nature God created. I have driven through the “Irish Wilderness” and stopped at the cemetery to pray. During the fishing season, we offer extra Masses at St. Jude Chapel, Montauk; St. Sylvester in Eminence, and the Sportsman’s Chapel, Bennett Springs. When you consider the beauty of southern Missouri, you discover why we should care about the issues regarding the care of “our common home,” as Pope Francis calls it. So many families throughout southern Missouri earn their livelihood from the land through agriculture, livestock, or recreation and tourism.

Why should we care? As stated in the Joint Message from the religious officials, “Today’s children will face catastrophic consequences unless we take responsibility now to sustain our world.” In other words, certainly, those of you who have children or grandchildren should care that the beauty of our area is preserved for future generations. Again, Pope Francis reminds us that this world is the only one we have, it is our common home. In the Book of Genesis, we are reminded that God created everything; all of creation was put into our hands for us to care for.

We have a responsibility to do what we can now so that we can have a positive impact on the future. Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” (“Praise be to you”), on the environment, has highlighted and called attention to the impact that the human family has on creation. The title of his letter is taken from St. Francis of Assisi’s famous prayer, “The Canticle of Creation,” where he prays: “O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God, to You belong praise, glory, honor, and blessing. Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation… Brother Son…Sister Moon… Brother Wind and Air… Sister Water… Brother Fire… Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Earth, our mother who nourishes us and sustains us, bringing forth fruits and vegetables of many kinds and flowers of many colors.” After reading that song of praise from St. Francis, I wonder if he was speaking about the beauty of southern Missouri!

This world is the only one we have and our Holy Father is calling on all of humanity to be good stewards of what God has created. In paragraph 246 of Laudato Si, Pope Francis offers a prayer, an excerpt of which is used to close this column:

“Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes… Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth…”

Good words to ponder, good words by which to live!