Day 24: Here I Am
BY MICHAEL DOWNS | March 25, 2022
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.
Just as Michael says “Yes” to action both for himself and his school we can say yes and surrender to the will of God. Our surrender leads us to the action that the author talks about. We need to truly give the necessary attention to the lessening of fossil fuels, lessening of the use of consumer products, the lessening of our use of our time for things that are purely time consuming. Our offering to God is that of the community of God as we know that with each other we can make a difference. I will ask my sons and their wives and my grandchildren to take part in the Laudato Si Action Plan. They already are less consumer oriented and giving to others in need. I encourage them to continue and make their lives a true annunciation of the gifts we have to offer to each other.
I really appreciate this entire Lenten reflection series. This particular essay (with excellent links) provides balm for my spirit. I am so grateful for the Mary’s who do not turn away from using prophetic voice, taking prophetic action, building community.
Denise Levertov’s poem is amazing, beautiful. In all my years, I never really thought of the Annunciation so much in this way. I knew, I had been told, that Mary had free will, she could have chosen to accept or not, God’s wish for her. The poet made it real, made it concrete.
Today’s reflection contained so much power! The second stanza of Levertov’s “Annunciation” is so direct and enticing. This is the perfect call to action and has deemed fixed me completely. Thank you.
The poem is a wonderful reflection of Mary, our strength, courage and hope. There is a beautiful song in Maori, Ka Waiata ki a Maria composed by Richard Puanaki sung by girls at St Joseph’s Maori Girls College, Napier, New Zealand. It has united the people of New Zealand together. In the eyes of some led to miracles. That is the power of music to change lives.
Challenging reflection. Thanks for the poem.
Thank you for this insightful piece, this call to have the courage
it takes today to face and engage with the reality of climate change.
To honor our kinship with all of Nature