The Environment

Protecting our common home for generations to come

"We brought nothing into this world. You have come into the world, you found a full table spread for you. But the Lord's is the earth and its fullness. God bestows the world on the poor, he bestows it on the rich."

- Saint Augustine (Sermon 29, 2)

The Issue at Hand

While there is considerable debate about the causes and extent of the ecological crisis, there is little debate over the fact that the environment has and continues to suffer damage. At the core of the discussion is therefore the question about how we as a human family will share the goods of the earth in the present while considering what we will pass on to future generations.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches us the Earth and all creation are a gift from God, given to be shared by all of us, including future generations. This is one of the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

What St. Augustine Says

1,600 years ago, Saint Augustine taught that following Christ involves a concern for the common good. As Augustine states in the Rule which governs the Augustinian way of life, the more concerned we are about the common good, the more progress we have made in our spiritual journey (Rule, V).

Saint Augustine and the Environment

by Fr. Art Purcaro, OSA

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How to Respond

Both Augustine and Catholic Social Teaching invite us to a discussion on care of the environment. In the Augustinian general chapter of 2019, the Order of St. Augustine committed itself to promote education, reflection, and action related to the Seven Laudato Si goals over the course of the next six years.

The Seven Laudato Si Goals

The Response to the Cry of the Earth is a call to protect our common home for the wellbeing of all. Actions could include the adoption of renewable energies and energy sufficiency measures and guaranteeing access to clean water for all.

The Response to the Cry of the Poor is a call to promote eco-justice, aware that we are called to defend human life from conception to death, and all forms of life on Earth. Actions could include projects to promote solidarity, with special attention given to vulnerable groups such as indigenous communities, refugees, migrants, and children at risk.

Ecological Economics acknowledges that the economy is called to prioritize people and the planet over profit.  Our very religious life is called to be a social statement on an economy of exclusion, which places people and planet at the service of the economy (favoring an extremely limited privileged few) rather than promoting an economy of inclusion, at the service of growth toward abundant life for all.  Actions could include sustainable production and consumption, ethical investments, divestment from fossil fuels.

The Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyles is grounded in the idea of sufficiency, and promoting sobriety in the use of resources and energy. Actions could include reducing waste and recycling, adopting sustainable dietary habits (opting for a more plant-based diet and reducing meat consumption), greater use of public transport, active mobility (walking, cycling), and avoiding single use items (e.g. plastic, clothes and the like), a simpler life style, more in tune with our religious profession of voluntary poverty.

Ecological Education is about re-thinking and re-designing in the spirit of integral ecology in order to foster ecological awareness and transformative action. Actions could include ensuring equitable access to education for all and promoting human rights, fostering Laudato Si’ themes within the community. That means preaching on the Gospel imperative embodied in the principles of Catholic social thought, assuring their inclusion in all the courses taught in our own institutions and promoted wherever we minister. This is where we could promote articles and blogs in mass media on the Augustinian perspective on the environment, utilize our branded communications to give witness to our commitment, encourage symposia and provide formation content on Integral Ecology.

Ecological Spirituality recovers a religious vision of God’s creation in a spirit of wonder, praise, joy and gratitude. Actions could include promoting creation-centered liturgical celebrations, developing ecological catechesis, retreats and formation programs, and praying in nature. This is where our Augustinian perspective can be brought to bear, in and through our devotions, prayer life, vigils and such.

Actions could include promoting advocacy and developing people’s campaigns, engagement with decision-makers, and encouraging rootedness and a sense of belonging in local communities and neighborhood ecosystems.

Reflect & Respond Today

1 Pray

United with us in prayer for the environment

2 Reflect

Discover an Augustinian perspective on environmental justice

Reflect more deeply on the impact you and your family/community are having on the environment

3 Take Action

Try a small change to become more environmentally friendly today.

Calculate your footprint

It begins with understanding your impact.  Visit pathwaystosustainableliving.org to calculate your ecological, water, and carbon footprint to begin planning additional changes today.

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4 Stay Tuned

Stay tuned to discover future opportunities to learn more and respond.