“Let the earth bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.
Mountains and hills, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.
Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.”
– Daniel 3:74-76
We are still in the Special Anniversary Year of Laudato Sí (May 24, 2020 – May 24, 2021). This month, let’s reflect on “ecology.”
“Ecology is the branch of science that examines the relationships organisms have to each other and to their environment. Scientists who study those relationships are called ecologists. There are many different ways to study ecology. Some types are landscape ecology, population ecology, and behavioral ecology” (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/types-ecology).
Relating this definition of ecology to our personal experience of living in a time of pandemic, we understand how deeply we are all interconnected and interdependent. We have dramatically changed our personal and community behaviors because of the current environment. However, we enter this reflection on ecology, not as behavioral ecologists or community ecologists, but as Salesian religious. So, is there a religious view of ecology or an ecological spirituality? Going back to the definition above, we have to say it is obvious; we can consider all created beings related to each other because we all have one source—the Creator.
In the media, academics, and society, ecology can become politicized and be a way to advance an ideology or make an economic gain. As believers, we must avoid falling into these divisions and instead recover the religious vision of God’s creation, contributing this essential perspective to the discussion. From the very first lines of the Bible to the recent papal encyclicals, we communicate a beautiful spirituality of ecology that highlights harmonious relationships, solidarity, and care for our common home.
The religious vision of ecology presents a unique challenge for us as Salesian educators and evangelizers. We have plenty of opportunities to influence the attitudes and behaviors of young people, so they are guided by what is revealed through Sacred Scripture and Church Magisterium. This might include cultivating a spirit of wonder and praise for God’s creation, drawing out the spirituality of ecology in religion class and in science class, and including greater contact with nature on retreats or other youth gatherings. The Rector Major is quite clear in the six-year action program for the Salesian Congregation that our ecological spirituality must be manifest in action. Therefore:
- All our Salesian presences must be educational models of care for the environment and for nature.
- The young people are to be active participants in the sustainability of environmental and ecological causes for the care of creation and human life.
- Every province is to work toward achieving 100% renewable energy in 10 years.
We are motivated to implement these actions, not by a passing fashion, but by a profound “conviction which we today share, that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice, and faithfulness to others” (Laudato Sí, 70).
Fr. Tim Zak
To learn more about Laudato Sí during Lent, visit https://laudatosilent.org/.