by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
We begin this article with a short review. Since July 2nd these reflections on Hope and Challenge have centered on what can rightly be called the era of Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si’. As we know, 2020 marks the fifth anniversary of that history-making document. It is a year dedicated to its celebration and the beginning of a Seven Year Plan for its implementation. More than almost any other example of Catholic Social Teaching, Laudato Si’ has become an outstanding inspiration for Christ-like living as the Third Millennium unfolds.
The Seven Year Plan for our ongoing reflection and action cited several categories which flow from the encyclical, categories which we have addressed in these weekly essays beginning on July 2nd:
- the Cry of the Earth
- the Cry of the Poor
- Ecological Economics
- Simple lifestyles
- Ecological Education
- Ecological Spirituality
Now comes a prayerful companion to this ambitious plan of Pope Francis—namely a time in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church called “A Season of Creation”. Beginning last year, the Vatican has asked Catholic communities and pastors across the world to observe the six weeks between September 1st and October 4th as the time of this season.
This is a remarkable undertaking in the Catholic community. The Global Catholic Climate Movement [the name is self-explanatory] initiated the idea of a prayerful component to all that the encyclical Laudato Si’ warned about and called for. Happily, and remarkably, the Vatican—encouraged by the Holy Father himself—has taken up the idea. Hence the wonderful reality of five weeks, especially Sundays, when the People of God are together in prayer and reflection over the dire condition of Mother Earth. These weekly essays will highlight the season as it unfolds.
The overarching theme for this year’s observance is “Jubilee for the Earth.” Quite a significant title. We remember the run up to the Jubilee Year 2000 and worldwide prayer and reflection on the jubilee tradition in Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. The mantra then and surely now is: “Jubilee: Restoration of Right Relationships.”
In the context of today’s global realities, Jubilee for the Earth means restoring right relationships with “our common home” in three ways: by renouncing overconsumption; by making restitution to those who have suffered the most due to overconsumption; and providing for the sabbatical rest needed to restore ecosystems and people.
With regard to the Sunday liturgical celebrations during this season, materials are in preparation for each week. Until relevant prayers, music and Scripture readings are developed, the current Sunday rites will be used. From experience we know how in uncanny ways official daily and Sunday biblical readings lend themselves to particular events being celebrated at any given Eucharistic celebration.
On a personal note, I do not think it an exaggeration to predict that the Season of Creation will soon be a part of the official liturgical calendar year of the Catholic Church. Its current chronology – the beginning of fall until the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi [pardon my Franciscan bias] – makes it entirely appropriate for the Season of Creation to take its place with Advent, the Christmas Season, Lent, Easter to Pentecost and Ordinary Time.
Finally, a heartfelt word of thanks to the Catholic Global Climate Movement for continuing this prayerful event and a shout out to Pope Francis for accepting it and making it a truly catholic (universal) experience. Actually, the idea of such a season dates back some 30 years and an ecumenical proposal.
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.