Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Going Green with Benedict 16

Father John J. Lombardi

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI took a recent vacation in the mountains of northern Italy; maybe it was the beauty of the Alps that gave him inspiration. He's a wise man and his insights about "The Secret to Effective Planet Saving" should be essential reading.

Pope Benedict says it is important to include God in environmentalism, since He made the world and redeemed it: "If we do not proclaim God in His full grandeur, as Creator and Redeemer, we also diminish the value of the redemption."

The important points of Pope Benedict regarding the environment include:

1. Christ came to redeem all of creation-nature's creatures and environment as well as human beings. Since God is a part of it we have a responsibility to preserve creation.

2. It is the task of humans to properly subdue the earth (see Genesis ch. 1 and 2), not to enslave it, as some falsely claim Christians have done.

Translation of the above: The Lord should not be ignored: God must be included in any conversation about the creation. The world is not perfect it needs redemption. This life is not an absolute end in itself; our final home is in Heaven. The Pope's point: Christ's redemption affects and uplifts this fallen world too.

Use, don't abuse: Christians cannot be irresponsible with God's gift of creation. Rather, we should be friends of the environment fulfilling the vocation as stewards of God's gifts. Christians who believe in God as the creator are to be guardians of this world. On the opposite side, some may abuse the world because their philosophies imply that "this is all there is." Without any creator or Heaven (atheism) or no ultimate morality, abuse ensues.

There are three ways of approaching environmentalism:

(two extremes with moderate in between)

Radicalism: environmentalism stripped of God or reasonableness can become a semi-religion. Folks in this "camp" may equate a bird with a human being because they have no hierarchy or knowledge of God's creation to distinguish various life forms. They may not be reasonable in their morality, i.e. abortion may be promoted while saving whales is good.

The other extreme is the Ignorance is bliss camp where any concern about environmental issues is totally rejected and sheer misuse of creation continues.

The "moderate approach," that of the Pope and others who recognize the need to balance conservation, planetary health and a natural way of living with the centrality of God and humans as pivotal, not incidental.

Pope Benedict counsels: "The true and effective initiatives to prevent the waste and destruction of creation can be implemented, developed, understood and lived only where creation is considered as beginning with God."

As in most things, we need balance in this "environmental spirituality." We can all conserve more and waste less. However, authentic spirituality and God's redemptive love are crucial keys and should not be ignored.

Did you know that Benedictines were the first so-called "green people?" "Just think," a friend once said, "the Benedictines discerned and harnessed the rhythm of Mother Nature like the light and darkness, seasons for fertility and rest."

They also began to measure time using the first clocks and they understood the "timelessness" of God's eternity. The Benedictines knew what "grown locally" meant by building plantations and wineries and distributing the products back to the communities. Most importantly, they were able to tune into God's creation all around them through work and prayer or "ora et labora."

If we Catholics and Christians are called to amend our lives--what are some simple ways to Go Green with Benedict 16?

Conserve energy: Turn off lights and water when not in use.

Eat naturally: you can have some junk food occasionally but balance it with good, wholesome food with fewer chemicals.

Grow a Garden: "locavore," meaning one who eats what is grown locally-love those home-grown Maryland tomatoes!

Enjoy Mother Nature: Go out and picnic, fish, swim and partake of what God gave to you! Exercise: regularly move your body around and thereby re-shape your mind-YOU are an environment too! (As is the baby in the womb.)

Drive less, fewer trips and go slower: you're not in a drag race, just the human race.

Trade-In? Is your car too big, a gas guzzler, expensive? Sell high and buy low.

But above all, remember the Creator and His creation and that "Moralism" goes along with environmentalism.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi