As climate disruption plays out before our very eyes, I am grateful to collaborate with those who have said “yes” to action: my school which is committed to Kinship with Creation, the California bishops who wrote a pastoral letter on care for our common home, and the Vatican’s Laudato Si’ Action Platform. During this month of celebrating women’s history, I am particularly grateful for religious sisters who have done this work for decades, new leaders like Christina Leaño of the Laudato Si’ Movement and Brenna Davis of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, and the young women at my school and around the globe who are leading the charge. Like today’s psalmist, they are not restraining their lips, but announcing justice. They are responding to a daunting invitation, as Mary did in today’s gospel reading, with curiosity and bravery.
My “holy frustration” this Lent, therefore, is toward my fellow Catholic educators and leaders who are aware of climate change, yet turn away from what is asked of them by the Holy Spirit, scientists, and their own students and children. For example, the vast majority of teachers believe climate change should be taught in schools, but most are not teaching about it. And though Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ called all Catholics to radical ecological conversion in 2015, most U.S. bishops have largely snuffed out the spark.
Denise Levertov’s exquisite poem Annunciation reminds us that there are “annunciations of one sort or another in most lives” and that most often those moments “are turned away from in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair and with relief. Ordinary lives continue.” I wonder how many of us are prompted inwardly to respond to the cry of the earth, but turn away out of dread or despair.
Here and now, God is with us, waiting for our illumined consent and courage. When we are fully present to the gravitas and grief of what is happening—“here I am, I come to do your will”—we discover what is ours to do on behalf of earth’s living systems, of which we are a part.
- Read and reflect on Denise Levertov’s poem, Annunciation. Which line(s) speak to you? What are the annunciations in your life? How have you responded?
- Reflect on Laudato Si’ and the recent IPCC report. What emotions come up for you? What “yes” do these spiritual and scientific teachings call forth from you?
- Consider enrolling your institution or family in a period of ecological conversion through the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.
Michael Downs serves as director of justice and kinship at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland. He is also a member of the California Catholic Conference’s Environmental Stewardship Committee and the Vatican’s Laudato Si’ Action Platform Working Group.