The “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” was established by Pope Francis last year to be celebrated annually on September 1. It followed the publication of his encyclical letter “Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home (May 24, 2015).” This annual day of prayer was created to offer “to individual believers and the community a precious opportunity to renew our personal participation in this vocation as custodians of creation, raising to God our thanks for the marvelous works that he has entrusted to our care, invoking his help for the protection of creation and his mercy for the sins committed against the world in which we live (Pope Francis, August 6, 2015).”
His encyclical was received negatively by some as an unwarranted religious intrusion into the worlds of science and politics regarding the hot-button issue of climate change. It was received by others positively as a long overdue and welcomed articulation of a universal moral imperative regarding the environment by the world’s foremost religious leader. Despite the controversy it generated, rightly or wrongly, and whatever position we may take on the subject of climate change, most will agree that caring for our world as created by God and gifted to humankind is not a bad thing. Science and politics aside, the encouragement to pray that we might always care for and use Earth’s resources wisely and with loving gratitude to our Creator is a worthwhile effort. That is the purpose of Pope Francis’ “World Day of Prayer.”
In the Catholic tradition, prayer is intended to lead us to action. Prayer does not “change God” ... it changes us. If our prayer for the care of creation draws our deepest, spiritual attention to the way we live on this planet, to the way we use its precious resources as generous gifts from a loving Creator, to the way we share those gifts with one another now and for the future, then this Day of Prayer will lead to its intended results.
Let’s put the science in perspective intelligently, even critically, as we continue to evaluate the dialogue and debates. They have their place. Let’s put the politics in a context where they are appropriate and meaningful, always seeking the common good. We can do that. But, as people of faith encouraged by our Holy Father, let’s simply pray this September 1 and every day, that our gratitude to God may always be evident in the way we treat his gifts to us.