by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
On September 1st we begin the annual Season of Creation. It is a widely ecumenical liturgical period extending for six weeks and ending with the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th. Several Catholic organizations have joined with a large number of other Christian denominations to guide this liturgical effort. They include, significantly, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The genesis of this initiative is sketchy but dates from 1989 when the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios recognized the Day of Prayer for Creation. Over time the single day of prayer has expanded to a full season, celebrated first at a Lutheran church in Australia in 2000. The Catholic Church in the Philippines then began asking its faithful to observe “Creation Time”. Inspired by the Orthodox Church, Pope Francis declared September 1st as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in 2015 and he made this “warm welcoming of the season” official in 2019. The Season of Creation 2021 will mark its sixth year.
As yet, the Season of Creation has not taken its place in the traditional Catholic liturgical calendar. However, it seems to be just a matter of time until this will happen. The timing of this Season lends itself to becoming an official period in our liturgical life. The six weeks begin as summer gives way to fall and harvest time – a sign of the ever-changing seasons of the Earth and her capacity for renewal. It ends with the feast of the patron saint of ecology, Francis of Assisi.
Despite not being official, the Season of Creation is gaining increasing acceptance each year. The reality of a “sensus fidelium” such as this has often spurred the institutional Church to acknowledge many devotions and practices as universally acceptable.
Resources have been developed for liturgical celebrations. For Catholics and many other Christian traditions they cover each of the Season’s five Sunday Eucharist celebrations. In addition, we have at our disposal extensive suggestions for all other prayerful gatherings. Many of these have been created by a group called “Listen”, a new network of University Centers with connections to the Vatican Dicastery. Detailed explanations related to every dimension of the Season of Creation may be downloaded here.
The overall theme for the Season of Creation 2021 is significant: “A Home For All? Renewing the OIKOS of God”. (OIKOS is the Greek word for home, and the root for words like ecology, economy and ecumenical.) Notice the question mark in the title. It implies misgivings about humanity’s treatment of God’s home and ours.
These six weeks are essentially a spiritual retreat based on love for God’s gift of our common home, Mother Earth. A parish with which I am very familiar has laid out weekly themes comparable to traditional spiritual retreats:
- Week One: (beginning August 29th) Overall Introduction to the Season.
- Week Two: Nurturing love of the Earth through awareness.
- Week Three: A reflection on the key elements of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ (“On Care for Our Common Home”).
- Week Four: Nurturing through prayer.
- Week Five: Nurturing through appreciation of creation.
- Week Six: Nurturing through action.
The various worship suggestions concentrate on our Judeo-Christian traditions. Biblical readings and Psalm prayers underscore what perhaps many of us may still not appreciate: that salvation history is one of enormous earthiness, of intimate connection with God’s creation.
The logo for this year’s Season of Creation points immediately to this understanding. It is a drawing of “Abraham’s Tent” with the inscription “A Home for All” (no question mark!). The reference is to Sarah and Abraham’s hospitality toward three strangers in Genesis 18.
Pax Christi should contribute to the Season of Creation by adding this dimension: the spirituality of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, as a vital antidote to the violence which causes the current ecological crisis.
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.