Praying with the Pope in February
The Holy Father has once again, this month, invited his Global Prayer Network, the Apostleship of Prayer, to pray with him about the great concerns that face humanity. This month of February finds him directing our attention to the area about which he wrote with such power and passion in 2015’s groundbreaking encyclical letter, Laudato Si. His universal prayer intention, which he invites all people of good will everywhere to ponder and pray about, is: “That we may take good care of creation – a gift freely given – cultivating it and protecting it for future generations”.
Ecological justice has been foregrounded more and more in recent years as we become ever more aware of climate-change, about how much of it continues to be caused by our own patterns of consumption, including our use of energy, and about how the world’s poorest people are the ones that climate-change’s negative effects will hit the hardest. Pope Francis’s letter drew out an intimate link between ”human ecology”(sic) and natural, or environmental, ecology. Seeing this, and taking it into our prayer, leads us to a deeper appreciation of that link. It shows us that, for example, our own lifestyles and patterns of behaviour cannot be separated from their effect on other people. That includes those generations who follow us. If we're concerned about the natural environment and what we're doing to it, we must have assimilated a concern for other people. We share a common home but also a common humanity.
There's more! This concern reminds us that creation is a “gift freely given”. We did not create it, in other words, for we could not; that is beyond our capacity. It was given to us as a massive act of love on the part of the Creator, who is love. None of us can claim credit for creation; it’s given, we are brought into it, born by means of no agency of our own. Our pride can get in the way of seeing this, accepting it and rejoicing in it. People who are overly proud generally have quite a hard time accepting a generous gift. God invited humanity to accept this gift and to live within it, to care for it and to enjoy it. The late Jesuit spiritual writer and retreat-leader, Gerard W. Hughes SJ, often loved to say that the Lord’s first and perhaps only question of us, when we meet face-to-face after our bodily deaths, would probably not be about how many rules we had broken. Rather, Fr.Gerry felt, God would be much more likely to ask us, “and how did you enjoy my Creation?”
Finally, we can keep in mind that this month sees the Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, during which we always try to remind ourselves that we are not our own masters, that we need to pray for whatever conversion we perceive that we need. This month we could pray for knowledge of, and sorrow for, times when we have been exploiters – of creation, by not using responsibly what has been freely given to us, of people, by knowingly participating in unjust and exploitative structures such as condoning poorly-paid workers at home and abroad, or of each other, by failing to acknowledge our common humanity and our common home. As Apostles of Prayer, we try to commit ourselves to a daily offering of ourselves to the missions that come to us from the heart of Christ, from the very heart of the Trinity, and we pray for whatever conversion we need to allow that to come about.
A moment of prayer: ask the Spirit of God to take you to a place of interior stillness; let yourself be led to that place. Become aware of God’s regard of you at this moment. Make a prayer-request to the Spirit who leads you to show you what the Trinity sees, as they gaze upon the earth; the world they have made, in a wonderful way remains part of their infinite holy mystery, for us to enjoy; but also gazing at what we have done to that creation, our excessive consumption, the inequalities in access to resources, the growing number of people affected by climate-change. Become aware of what is in God’s heart, seeing all that. Notice whatever arises in your own heart and present that to God. Ask to know God’s response to what God contemplates; ask that God’s desire grow in your own heart too.
In place of a Scripture moment this month, perhaps you’d like simply to pray with St. Francis in his own words, repeating gently and contemplatively, a number of times, “Praise to you, My Lord, for you creation” , or perhaps look up the “Canticle of Creation” (St. Francis of Assisi) and let that become your own meditation, too.