Addressing the many issues Pope Francis identifies in Laudato Si’ can seem like a daunting task. How can your parish begin?
This past June, I had the privilege of being invited to attend Laudato Si’ and the U.S. Catholic Church: A Conference Series On Our Common Home. The gathering was the first of three biennial events, co-sponsored by Catholic Climate Covenant and Creighton University, designed to more fully integrate Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ across eight key ministries with the Church in the United States: advocacy, adult faith formation, creation care teams, energy management, higher education, liturgy, school education, and young adult ministry. As a longtime director of music and liturgy I was largely involved in the liturgy track. Inspired by my time at the conference, I have put together a comprehensive resource guide and outline for a year of parish programming in the areas of prayer, worship, catechesis, and social action related to Laudato Si’. It begins on May 24th 2020 (the 5th Anniversary of the Promulgation of Laudato Si’) and runs through May 30th 2021 (the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity). One of the things I have uncovered in my research and planning is that there is an endless pool of resources, ideas, and possibilities proclaiming love for God, neighbor and our common home as foundational to our mission as Catholic Christians. At times it can seem daunting, but don’t let that deter you. Embracing even one of these ideas holds the possibility of creating a spark that ignites a larger flame within your community. In fact, if all you can do is take the time to read through and implement some of the ideas in this comprehensive resource created by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) entitled Caring for God’s Creation: Resources for Liturgy, Preaching, and Taking Action: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/upload/ecology-resource-all.pdf that would be a wonderful first step towards accomplishing the mission of Laudato Si’. Whatever you are able to do, it is important to point out that while most people hear Laudato Si’ and think only of creation care and climate change, the encyclical calls us to a much broader vision. It asks us to reconcile our relationship with God, the earth and with one another. Is that not the very message of Christ himself?
Laudato Si’ 5th Anniversary Jubilee Year
Sunday, May 24th 2020 – 7th Sunday of Easter or Ascension of the Lord – 5th Anniversary of the Promulgation of Laudato Si’
• Mass – Incorporate prayers and preaching focused on the themes of Laudato Si’ (ex. our relationship with God, our neighbor, and the earth). End the Universal Prayer with A Prayer for Our Earth from Laudato Si’, 426. Access a printable version here: https://ignatiansolidarity.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/A_Prayer_for_Our_Earth.pdf
• Laudato Si’ Book Study – Host a 4-week book study on Laudato Si’. Be creative by offering various days and times to accommodate more people and consider multiple venues then either purchase a book copy for each participant or have them access it in PDF form on a number of different websites. The USCCB has a great discussion guide that you can use to facilitate conversation: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/upload/laudato-si-discussion-guide.pdf
Thursday, June 18th 2020 – 5th Anniversary of the Publication of Laudato Si’
• Taize – Prepare a Taize holy hour incorporating prayers, scriptures, hymns and passages from Laudato Si’ that highlight our interconnectedness with God, one another, and all creation. You are welcome to access, reproduce, and share the service I created for my parish community here: https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/review?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3A1b55731d-b0e9-42fd-a9bd-c9f7845987df
Saturdays and Sundays in June – The Laudato Si’ Pledge
• Encourage parishioners to commit to a year of living Laudato Si’ by utilizing the Laudato Si’ Pledge Tool Kit: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8pAZm1cjAhGZWY1cmpCcTJBWnM/view and have the parish, along with each individual and family sign the Laudato Si’ pledge: http://livelaudatosi.org/ or print pledge forms and cards here: http://livelaudatosi.org/pledge-forms/ and make them available before and after all the weekend liturgies.
Saturday, June 20th 2020 – World Refugee Day
• One way to draw out Laudato Si’s theme of care for our neighbor is to focus on the many days throughout the Church year that focus on the poor and vulnerable of our world. Check out the following websites from the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to find information about and to access, liturgical, catechetical, and action resources for commemorating World Refugee Day:
• Walk/Run – Host a 1-mile or 5k walk/run event within your parish or larger community as part of the United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) global initiative 1 Billion Miles to Safety: Every Step Counts. Find out more at https://stepwithrefugees.org/en-us/?utm_source=CAMP&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=HQ_PI_EN_CAMP_stepwithrefugeesWRD
• Outdoor Summer Concert Series – Host an outdoor summer concert series (June – August) ending in an outdoor mass on your parish grounds. Invite the larger community. Features local musicians and begin with an inter-faith prayer in thanksgiving for the beauty of creation. (Consider using A Prayer for Our Earth from Laudato Si’ – see first entry for a printable version)
• Launch “Sharing Stories” Series – This series is primarily focused on utilizing social media (think websites, e-mail blasts, parish app, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, etc.) to share the stories of saints within the Church calendar whose lives are a witness to the themes within Laudato Si’. Begin with Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Patroness of Ecology, on Tuesday, July 14th https://www.crs.org/get-involved/learn/resource-center/saint-spotlight-kateri-tekakwitha
• Adult Faith Formation Series on Laudato Si’ – This short 6-week video series (ranging from about 16 to 32 minutes each) on Laudato Si’ is a great way to do adult faith formation on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning after or in-between Masses. It could also work after or in between daily Masses. Begin with a short prayer, play the video, and end with discussion questions. Consider adding some food sharing to create time for community building. This course was produced by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Religions for Peace, in partnership with the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and features Cardinal Turkson, Jeffery Sachs, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Dr. Anthony Annett and Dr. William Vendley. The videos for each class can be accessed here:https://catholicclimatemovement.global/online-course-laudato-si/
Friday, August 14th – Vigil of the Assumption
• Outdoor Mass – End your summer series with an evening outdoor Mass on parish grounds in celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After Mass, consider having the parish music ministry provide additional music with summer refreshments for the whole community featuring local sustainable foods.
Saturday, August 15th – Feast of the Assumption
• Launch “Let All Creation Praise” Series – Along the same lines as the Sharing Stories Series, the Let All Creation Praise Series is a way to utilize social media throughout the year in order to cultivate and encourage the community to pray around the themes of Laudato Si’ in new and varied ways. For example, on August 15th: Queen of All Creation Prayer Video (1m 52s) https://youtu.be/G-qgaD31llc
Celebrating the Season of Creation
• The season of creation runs from September 1st through October 4th. It begins with the World Day of Prayer for Creation and ends with The Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. Visit https://seasonofcreation.org/ for more information and to access Season of Creation Celebration Guide and other valuable resources.
• A really wonderful way to emphasize creation theology within the liturgy is to commit to audibly praying the prayer over the bread and wine (“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation…”) at all Masses from September 1st through Thanksgiving Day.
Tuesday, September 1st – World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
• Mass – With permission from the local Ordinary, adapt the liturgy of the day to highlight this celebration that was instituted by Pope Francis on August 6th 2015. Consider using appropriate Masses for Various Needs and Occasions in the Roman Missal and consult the Lectionary for Mass for the various Scripture readings assigned to these Masses. Use Preface V of the Sundays in Ordinary Time “Creation.”
• Prayer Vigil for the Care of Creation – Hold a prayer vigil for the care of creation. Access a prepared service here: https://cafod.org.uk/content/download/29948/340910/version/15/file/Prayer_liturgy_prayer-vigil-for-care-of-creation.docx
Monday, September 14th – The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
• Outdoor Stations of the Cross – Visit a parish with an outdoor prayer path and outdoor Stations of the Cross, create your own outdoor stations, or bring some outdoor elements into your worship space to pray the stations indoors. Use this booklet produced by the Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center: Stations of the Cross with All of Creation, available here: https://www.ipjc.org/stations-of-the-cross-for-all-creations/
September 17th – Saint Hildegard of Bingen
• Sharing Stories Series – In addition to sharing this “Saint of the Day” bio from Franciscan Media: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-hildegard-of-bingen/, also consider sending out this reflection on Saint Hildegard’s All Creation Is A Song Of Praises To God http://safcei.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ReflectionHildegard-von-Bingen-All-CreationPraises.pdf
Saturday, September 26th through Sunday, October 4th – Novena to Saint Francis For The Love Of Creation
• Let All Creation Praise Series – This novena to Saint Francis centers around Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures. It was created as a way to spend time in prayer leading up to the 2019 Amazonian Synod but can be prayed in any nine-day-period. https://cafod.org.uk/Pray/Prayer-resources/Novena-to-St-Francis
Sunday, October 4th – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Respect Life Sunday and Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi
• Mass – Incorporate hymns, prayers and preaching that focus on the sanctity of all life, our care for humanity, and care for all God’s creation.
• Pet Blessing – Utilize this comprehensive resource to create or enhance a blessing of animals in your community. https://catholicclimatecovenant.org/files/resource/attachment/FOSFblessing.pdf
• Religious Education / Youth Ministry – Celebrate the Feast of Saint Francis with your young people. Catholic Climate Covenant offers an annual resource (typically available a month prior to the Feast). You can access the 2019 Feast of Saint Francis Facilitators Guide here: https://catholicclimatecovenant.org/files/attachment/program/Facilitator-7.pdf?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=636b489d-6359-4cc5-bb22-2b5f0bd14d43
Wednesday, October 7th – Our Lady of the Rosary
• Let All Creation Praise Series – Guided Rosary on Caring for Creation https://franciscanaction.org/sites/default/files/C4C%20Guided%20Rosary.pdf
• Laudato Si’ Mini-Retreat for Youth – Create a 2-3 hour mini-retreat for youth beginning or ending with a community meal. Depending on numbers and ages you can combine them into one large group or two smaller groups. For the younger children, begin with this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Avvx95p3rZo&feature=youtu.be. For the older youth, this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fj4WSTken3w&feature=youtu.be. Then create creation prayer stations using this resource: https://catholicclimatemovement.global/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Creation-prayer-stations-for-YP-final-9115.pdf
Thursday, November 26th – Thanksgiving Day
• Mass – Incorporate prayers and preaching focused on the themes of Laudato Si’. Invite your community to bring forward nonperishable food and hygiene items during the presentation of the gifts and place them in the sanctuary for later distribution to those in need.
Tuesday, December 1st – Giving Tuesday
• Laudato Si’ Project – For Giving Tuesday, consider raising funds towards an ecologically minded project. Create a diverse local ecosystem by planting a wild garden on your campus or perhaps a community garden. Invest in new trash, recycle, and compost bins on your campus with clear instructions and signage to get the whole community on board. Discuss purchasing compostable paper products for events. Be creative, the possibilities are endless.
• Advent Communal Reconciliation – Incorporate an examination of conscience that focuses at least one section on “hearing the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (LS 48)into your Advent communal reconciliation service.
Friday, January 1st – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and World Day Of Peace
• Mass – Incorporate this Prayer for the World Day of Peace https://www.crs.org/resource-center/cry-peace-prayer-world-day-peace into the Universal Prayer. It can also be sent as part of the Let All Creation Praise Series.
• Watch Party – Pope Francis: A Man of His Word – Throughout the month of January, hold watch parties with the Focus Features film Pope Francis: A Man of His Word. You can ask parishioners to host small gatherings in their homes and/or you can host a viewing on campus with popcorn and refreshments for all ages. Create discussion questions appropriate for each audience and engage in group discussion after the film. You can access the film’s homepage here: https://www.focusfeatures.com/pope-francis-a-man-of-his-word. It is available on DVD, Blu-ray and from various streaming sites.
• Lenten Fast for Creation Care – Ash Wednesday through Holy Thursday – How often do we think of fasting from our mindsets and behaviors that hurt our common home? Challenge your community to fast from one aspect of consumption or waste (single use plastics, water or electricity usage, food waste, etc.) during each week of Lent. For ideas and resources, Catholic Climate Covenant offers a Creation Care Corner that you can utilize for your bulletin or on your social media sites here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kdyvitqni425fr4/AABOLQgkF8M7rbsLoxYjfv_5a?dl=0
Wednesday, February 26th – Ash Wednesday
• Family Fast Day – the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) has a family fast day that falls on Ash Wednesday in 2021. While the resources for 2021 are not yet available, you can visit their website to learn about the fast day for 2020: https://cafod.org.uk/Fundraise/Family-Fast-Day
Friday, February 28th – First Friday of Lent
• Meatless Meal with Stations of the Cross – Host a meatless meal for the community followed by Stations of the Cross with Reflections on Ecology and Justice using the following resource:http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ECOLOGY-JUSTICE-STATIONS-OF-CROSS.pdf
• Ecological Examen: Reconciling God, Creation, and Humanity – With Laudato Si’ as their inspiration, The Ignatian Solidarity Network has created an ecological examen that can be accessed here: http://www.ecologicalexamen.org/
Monday, March 22nd – World Water Day
• Lenten Intergenerational Evening Retreat – Water Is Life: Dignity of the Human Person – Create an intergenerational evening retreat for World Water Day. Begin with a simple meal at 6pm. Show this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_VcGFkiSbs then use or adapt the following resource from Catholic Relief Services: https://www.crs.org/sites/default/files/usops-resources/water-is-life-facilitator-guide_final3.pdf End the evening by 8pm to be family friendly.
Thursday, April 22 – Earth Day
• Community Cleanup – Join the great global cleanup movement and select a location or multiple locations within your community where you can engage in cleaning up trash, helping older neighbors with yard work, planting flowers, trees and, more. Visit the official Earth Day website for more possibilities: https://www.earthday.org/
Friday, April 30th – National Arbor Day
• End the morning Mass or Masses with a procession outdoors to plant seedlings on your campus. Make a commitment to discontinue the use of paper products at parish functions and instead use reusable cups, dishes, and utensils. Perhaps seek a grant that allows you to purchase compostable cups, dishes, and utensils.
Sunday, May 9th 2021– 6th Sunday of Easter and Mother’s Day
• Let All Creation Praise Series – Guided Rosary on Caring for Creation:
Monday, May 10th, Tuesday, May 11th and Wednesday, May 12th – Rogation Days
• Rogation and Ember Days are mentioned in the Roman Missal under Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year, (45-47). Consider incorporating a litany or prayers for creation into the daily Masses. Use this resource from the USCCB for the blessing of seeds, soil and water. https://ccdocle.org/?wpfb_dl=2167
• Sharing Stories Series – Rogation Days
Sunday, May 30th – Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
• After All Masses – Consider praying this Litany to the Trinity, the Creator after one or all of the weekend Masses: https://catholicclimatemovement.global/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Litany-Care4Creation-Month.pdf