We are used to the liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time and now Pope Francis is encouraging us to celebrate Creation Time – a period running from 1 September through to the feast of St Francis of Assisi on 4 October.
Towards the end of his encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis writes that we "have a shared responsibility for others and for the world" (Laudato Si' paragraph 229). One of the themes of his teaching is that the problems of the world are interconnected. He adds: "Given the scale of change, it is no longer possible to find a specific, discrete answer for each part of the problem. It is essential to seek comprehensive solutions which consider the interactions within natural systems themselves and with social systems." (Laudato Si' paragraph 139)
The Pope takes it for granted that our faith demands that we are part of the solution as well as part of the problem. He continues: "We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental." This is a profound analysis, challenging the assumption that each of the different sections of our lives has nothing to do with the others: the way we shop has no link with climate change; the food we eat is unrelated to others going hungry; and, ultimately, that some people are too poor because some people are too rich.
He finishes this paragraph by saying: "Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature." This makes clear that concern for the environment cannot be separated from concern for the poor.
The Pope is calling us to think and pray about the situation in our world today. To help people in our parishes gain a better understanding of this, the J&P Commission and Cafod Liverpool have written an easy-to-use resource for Creation Time. It contains material for five meetings, one for each week of this season. Each meeting follows the same pattern: the Gospel of the Sunday, a story to illustrate the week's theme, short quotations from Laudato Si', questions for discussion in each section, suggestions for action and prayers to end the session.
Here is a very brief outline of the resource:
Week 1. Stumbling Blocks: What does the Gospel mean in the context of creation when it says "for what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life"? Can it be true that less is more?
Week 2. See-Judge-Act: To whom do we need to listen? From where do we get our information? Who to believe?
Week 3. Right Relationships: Who are the people and what are the situations for which we need to ask forgiveness? Debt has many forms.
Week 4. A Fairer World: Is the Pope calling us to a different relationship with the world? What sort of consumers should we be?
Week 5. A Call to Action: Will good intentions be enough to save the world? Is plastic a hidden killer? Are we prepared to get involved?
The resource is free to access and download from the diocesan website: http://www.liverpoolcatholic.org.uk/userfiles/files/Justice_and_Peace/Creation%20Time%202017%20(web%20version).pdf
Printed copies are available from the Justice & Peace desk at cost plus postage. Ring Steve or Maria on 0151 522 1080/1081 or email one of us via email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from groups who are meeting to use the resource so that we can direct people to join existing groups. If you would like to offer the resource in your parish but feel short of confidence, contact either myself or Maria and someone from the J&P Commission will come along and help with leadership.