There’s no better time than Lent to begin taking better care of our common home – the Earth.

Certainly there’s no more basic pro-life initiative than doing all that we can to make sure the planet is capable of sustaining human life.

Or as Pope Francis puts it in his encyclical Laudato Si’, it’s all about care of our common home.

While many continue to be skeptics regarding climate change and the notion that the planet’s ability to sustain life is under serious threat, Pope Francis makes it clear that he takes the position supported by the overwhelming majority of scientists – as well as popes dating back at least to Pope John XXIII.

Indeed, he opens his encyclical citing the work of John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. No matter which one is your favorite, you won’t find an environmental skeptic among their ranks.

Sister cries out

Recalling St. Francis teaching that the Earth was like our sister, Pope Francis declares: “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowered her.

“We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will,” he continues. “The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.”

Lenten initiatives

One suggestion for what to do special during Lent would be to read the encyclical and reflect on its insights.

Pope Francis says in several places we need a “new mindset” when it comes to how we understand our relationship with the Earth. There’s no better way to meet that need than to examine the encyclical.

Other possibilities during Lent would be to begin adopting practices – even just one – that reflect a concern for the health of the Earth. Some simple suggestions:

  • Begin recycling if you aren’t already.
  • Take reusable bags to the grocery store rather than bringing home more disposable plastic bags that will end up in landfills.
  • Resolve to start a garden this year – or expand yours and share its harvest with others.
  • Reduce the miles you drive by planning ahead and eliminating unnecessary trips.
  • Conserve the water and electricity you use – don’t let taps run and turn off lights when you leave a room.
  • Encourage your elected officials to pass laws and adopt policies that protect the Earth from more exploitation.

Our small acts of conscientiousness won’t save the planet all by themselves. Changes in government and global policy are also needed. But our efforts can reduce the burden a bit – and every little bit helps a little bit.

What can you do this Lent to care for our common home?