Tuesday, Sept. 1, was a special day.
By declaration of Pope Francis, it was the first World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
For several weeks, the current pope has been making news with his strong affirmation that we have a divine obligation to care for God’s good earth.
In an effort to highlight this obligation, Francis called for everyone to observe the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation every Sept. 1.
It is hoped by doing so that light can be shed on the damage we humans have done to the earth and that it will open conversation among people about what we can do to help heal the world.
I think this is a wonderful idea, but I have to admit I didn’t see a lot of attention given to it during this initial observance. Hopefully, it is an idea that will catch on and grow in coming years.
Two items that I did catch in the media pertaining to the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation were prayers. The first one was penned by Pope Francis himself.
“All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists,” he wrote. “Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.”
The prayer continued, “O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth.”
“Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace,” Francis concluded.
The second prayer was one written by the esteemed biologist, Jane Goodall. On her Facebook page, she shared the following prayer in honor of World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
“We pray that we may at all times keep our minds open to new ideas and shun dogma; that we may grow in our understanding of the nature of all living beings and our connectedness with the natural world; that we may become ever more filled with generosity of spirit and true compassion and love for all life; that we may strive to heal the hurts that we have inflicted on nature and control our greed for material things, knowing that our actions are harming our natural world and the future of our children; that we may value each and every human being for who he is, for who she is, reaching to the spirit that is within, knowing the power of each individual to change the world,” Goodall prayed.
I was touched by both prayers and add to them my own plea that God would help us to learn to appreciate and value the earth, never failing to remember that it holds many avenues through which we can come to know and worship our Maker.
I pray that we humans will take seriously our divine calling to be stewards of creation so that those who come after us will be able to enjoy not only its beauty and wonders but in order that they, too, might come to see and love God through creation.
I learned long ago that there are times when we cannot simply pray and sit back, waiting on God to act.
In many instances, we must put feet to our prayers, and this is undoubtedly the case when we offer our prayers for the earth.
I encourage Christians to pray for creation and to put feet to those prayers. Pope Francis and Jane Goodall believe it will make a difference. So do I.
Chuck Summers is a pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Henderson, Kentucky. He is also a photographer whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines and calendars; he has published three photography books. A version of this article first appeared on Seeing Creation, a blog that Summers co-authors with Rob Sheppard, and is used with permission.