This past Sunday Pope Francis drew attention to the upcoming "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation" that the Church celebrates annually on September 1. He said, on Thursday "we will celebrate the Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, together with our Orthodox brothers and other churches. It will be an occasion to reinforce our common efforts to protect life, respecting the environment and nature."
Pope Francis established this day in the Roman Catholic Church to coincide with the efforts of other churches, especially the Orthodox. He said last year when he established the annual celebration, "Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience."
The day brings to mind the fact that we have done much to harm the world in which we live and have obscured God's creation. This does not only have the harmful side effect of negatively influencing our ecosystems, but it also damages our prayer life. By destroying the natural world we distance ourselves from God and lose a sense of awe and wonder with the world around us.
A few years ago the Pontifical Council for Culture examined this reality and wrote about the spiritual power of the beauty of creation:
"If poets...are particularly sensitive to the beauties of creation and their mysterious languages, it is because, from the contemplation of the countryside at the setting of the sun, or snow-capped mountain summits under a starry sky, or fields covered with light-drenched flowers, or the varieties of plants and animals, there is born a palette of sentiments that invite us to read within (intus-legere), to pass from the visible to reach the invisible and give an answer to the question, 'who is this Artisan with such powerful imagination at the origin of so much beauty and grandeur, such profusion of beings in the sky and on the earth?'"
The document continues:
"...the contemplation of the beauties of creation causes an interior peace and sharpens the sense of harmony and the desire for a beautiful life. With religious man, astonishment and admiration transform themselves into attitudes that are interior and spiritual: adoration, praise and thanksgiving to the Author of these beauties."
God is the "Author" and "Artisan" of our beautiful world and has entrusted us as "stewards" of this beauty. It is a noble task, but one that we need help with. That is why the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network has joined other churches in a "Season of Creation" to combine efforts in praying and working for the preservation of our common home.
So as we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1, let us take time to appreciate the wonder and beauty of creation, thanking God for his wondrous gift to us.