Last month Julie Cox from St John Fisher Parish, Rochester, travelled to Cameroon to visit Sr Annette, who shares her deep conviction to live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with the poor. Here she shares her experience of “ecological conversion”.
In 2011, when the livesimply Parish Award Scheme was launched by CAFOD, I heard Fr. Sean McDonagh SSC speak passionately about the integrity of Creation and the impacts of climate change. A seed was sown and I continued to attend subsequent livesimply meetings, learning more about the connection between our Christian faith and human-ecology.
During a Creation-focused meeting at the Franciscan Study Centre, Canterbury, I had the good fortune to meet a Franciscan Sister from Cameroon, Sr Annette Tangwa TSSF. We became close friends, sharing a passion to restore Creation.
I had the great privilege of reconnecting with my dear friend Sr Annette last November when I travelled to Cameroon. What struck me when I first arrived in this central African country was the warmth, openness and receptivity of the Cameroonian people. It was a truly wonderful experience to be among a rural community centred on the parish of the Sacred Heart, Shisong.
The Year of Mercy is an opportunity to celebrate God’s love and to bring mercy to others. Celia Deane-Drummond, a member of the CAFOD Theological reference group, reflects on God’s mercy towards creation and what this teaches us today.
Most of us have had times in our lives when we have known what it means to receive mercy from others. Perhaps through the caring we received after an injury or illness, either physical or mental; perhaps through knowing we have done something wrong and feeling dependent on someone else’s forgiveness; perhaps just sheer material need that depends on another’s act of generosity. Mercy is what we need when we are vulnerable and in need of love, healing and forgiveness. It accompanies those good actions like a quiet breath of hope.
The only time that Pope Francis explicitly mentions mercy in Laudato Si’ is in a paragraph on God’s love for creation where he cites Pope Benedict XVI’s Catechesis, written ten years earlier in 2005. For love has a way of binding up all other attitudes towards the created world, and without which mercy becomes impossible. So, in the same paragraph, Pope Francis refers back to the work of the early Church father, Basil the Great, as well as the well-known medieval poet, Dante, in order to support his claim. It is worth meditating on this passage a little more in order to unpack what mercy might mean in relation to the created world:
“Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection. Saint Basil the Great described the Creator as “goodness without measure”, while Dante Alighieri spoke of “the love which moves the sun and the stars”. Consequently, we can ascend from created things “to the greatness of God and to his loving mercy”(§77). Continue reading “Love and mercy: learning God’s tenderness towards creation”
Our fantastic young climate bloggers have had a busy month campaigning and raising awareness – so much to celebrate! Several groups attended the lobby of parliament last month. Toby, from All Saints, describes the visit to parliament as follows:
Seven students from All Saints travelled down to the Houses of Parliament to discuss climate change with their MPs and what they were going to do about it. We began our day with two of our students attending the ecumenical service at the Emmanuel Centre, Westminster. They helped carried two pieces of a broken heart that fitted together. The heart stood for the motto of the lobby, “…for the love of…”.
The crack in the heart was to show what we as humans are doing to the earth. Later we made our way to the Houses of Parliament to rally with our local MPs and discuss the issues and solutions to climate change.
Some students from St James had time to reflect on the lobby and its relevance to the Pope’s encyclical, which was published the day immediately after the lobby.
The opening paragraph of the encyclical sets the tone for the whole document: the Earth “is protesting for the wrong that we are doing to her, because of the irresponsible use and abuse of the goods that God has placed on her. We have grown up thinking that we were her owners and dominators, authorised to loot her. The violence that exists in the human heart, wounded by sin, is also manifest in the symptoms of illness that we see in the Earth, the water, the air and in living things.” Pope Francis, June 2015.
This reflection and prayer, based on the gospel for Sunday 28 June, Matthew 16:13-19, were written by Matthew Sanderson, who is the Executive Assistant to the Director of CAFOD.
“Who do you say I am?”
Matthew Sanderson visiting CAFOD projects in El Salvador
What were your first thoughts of God? What did you imagine God to be? For me, God was a figure sat on a cloud with a beard, or someone who wagged his finger from on high. As I have grown up, so too has my answer to the question ‘Who do I say God is?’
For me, God is love. That is who I say God is.
Last week saw the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’. Pope Francis is clear that God made us all out of love and to love.
We are reminded in the encyclical that “the entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us” (Laudato Si’ section #84). I am reminded of this when I see the rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Dales.
What’s more, the special love of the Creator means each human being is “conceived in the heart of God” (#65). As children of God, we have an inherent dignity, not because of anything we have done, but out of God’s love for us.
We can reflect God’s love for us in our daily lives as “we were made for love” (#58). By remaining in God’s love, may we come to know the Lord more and more each day.
Lord, we give thanks for your love and the world around us. We pray that we continually realise that we were made for love. Amen.
Tania Dalton works in CAFOD’s Latin America Team. Inspired by Laudato Si’ she and a few colleagues are starting a small garden at the CAFOD Romero House office in London.
Mary and I have spent 3 lunchtimes shovelling compost in the CAFOD carpark, Janet has brought in tomato plants, Lucy has promised us a courgette, Tory donated some basil seeds and Al and Jamie have done some heavy lifting.
Why? In CAFOD we have been getting very excited about the One Climate, One World campaign. Our campaigns team have worked tirelessly on the mass lobby of parliament with many CAFOD supporters among the 9,000 crowd on 17 June, and now we have the new encyclical from Pope Francis – Laudato Si’, calling us to care for our common home.
There’s a lot of important big picture thinking, mobilising people and influencing policy makers (have you signed our petition?), but I just fancied getting my hands dirty, the smell in my nostrils of a freshly plucked tomato, and somewhere green and shady to sit and eat my sandwich. So we are making a garden on our office balcony in London. Continue reading “Tomatoes: a practical response to Laudato Si’”