By Renee Smith, email@example.com
A call for change to preserve the environment came from Fr Stephen Geofroy who delivered a talk on the link between liturgy, ‘Spirituality and Ecology’ to participants of Liturgy School 2018, last Tuesday.
“There are so many ways we unthinkingly contribute to the denigration of the environment,” said Fr Geofroy. Attitudes towards ecological conversion however, “cannot be divorced from our sense of connection to the earth and the responsibility to future generations.”
He noted the ecological state of Trinidad and Tobago where a majority of the population blame “others” for the social and environmental issues in the country. “We have a certain peculiarity in Trinidad and Tobago where we tend to not have concern about the things that are everybody’s business. If you look at how we treat the flora and fauna here, it leaves much to be desired.”
He pondered if we are really citizens of a nation, “how long will it last?” as persons would tolerate flooding in towns or lackadaisical systems in the public service. He asked whether anyone felt really connected to the earth.
Drawing attention to King Austin’s calypso ‘Progress’ which highlights the effect of man’s “progress” on the environment he said, “The idea of progress and being all that we can be is great but we also use so much of the earth’s resources so it is important to pay attention to the cause and effect of this.” He cited King Austin’s words, ‘how long will it last?’
Fr Geofroy added that abuse of the natural environment is a huge issue and how people respond will determine the survival of the human race.
An interactive segment was included in Fr Geofroy’s presentation. He invited the audience to create a mental picture of their favourite colour, a bird and a natural backdrop. The purpose of the session served to remind attendees of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si which includes the words of St Francis of Assisi, ‘Praise to you my Lord, through our sister, Mother Earth who sustains and governs us, who produces various fruit colours, flowers and herbs’.
Another important declaration for promoting ecological integrity is the Earth Charter, an international declaration of fundamental values and principles. Fr Geofroy explained it was an ethical framework for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the whole human family, the greater community of life, and future generations. It is a vision of hope and a call to action.
The Earth Charter has been a product of a decade-long, worldwide, cross-cultural dialogue on common goals and shared values to “preserve the wonders of nature”. “I appreciate this declaration as it is open to all religions. I am an advocate for its vision and while it is not a Catholic thing so to speak, we can lead it,” said Fr Geofroy.
In the Catholic tradition, the links to nature were also pointed out. In the liturgy, some important elements are included: ashes, wheat, water, fire, oil and incense. Fr Geofroy celebrated this but said Catholics often forget it must not be one-sided. “Catholics are deeply invested but sometimes we tend to look in compartments. We often are caught abusing the environment and because of this we fail to be a part of an integrated whole in terms of our spirituality.”
In closing, Fr Geofroy made reference to “a very important document” linking Laudato Si and the Earth Charter. It came out of a conference held in Costa Rica where the Holy See’s Advisor on Integral Human Development focused on ecocentrism and ethics of care of care “using iconic symbols that bring us closer to nature.” “What is the link to the liturgy?” Fr Geofroy asked. He then quoted statements made by the advisor as follows.
“Church rituals can serve to reaffirm the common good and our interconnection because they imply a shared experience of time where humans discover themselves in a profound way and in relation to others.” He continued, “These rituals link the human with the earth and the sky. It would be important for all parishes to refresh the notion that the bread of life is converted from the fruits of the earth and the work of human beings.” Ultimately, Fr Geofroy urged, it is is important to take care of the fruits of the earth and the work of the human.