Mothers, Earth, and Babies

psalm 98Today, it’s “Earth Day” around the globe.  Frankly, I never think about it until the actual date (April 22nd) when various stories come on the news or my Facebook feed.  So yes, I was reminded of this special day first thing this  morning.   The first Earth Day was 45 years ago, and has been commemorated in schools, businesses, municipalities, and now social media in growing ways every year.

I confess to a personal love/hate relationship with Earth Day.  Perhaps because of how it has often been presented, perhaps because of the one presenting it.  I’ll try to explain.

sept 2 007First, I love the Earth.  It is my home, for now.  God did an amazing job when He created this globe!  I love sunsets, mountains, blue skies, rushing rivers, sandy beaches, and majestic trees.  I think horses are beautiful, otters are adorable, and elephants are amazing.  Even though I cannot walk well and my scooter cannot climb mountains, I do enjoy being outside to breath the fresh air and listen to the sounds of locusts and birds.  There are more reasons to love God’s beautiful creation than I can count!

While growing up, my siblings and I were encouraged to play outside. That was years before iPads and Instagram, but even so, we learned early on that the earth is a fabulous playground.  We didn’t travel a lot, but we did camp out often at an area conservation club.  I remember fishing for blue gill with my dad and a few tumbles down the best toboggan hill around.  I have many wonderful memories!  I am mindful of a beautiful passage in the Book of Daniel, which is recited on Sunday mornings in the Catholic Church’s Liturgy of the Hours.  It is a long but beautiful canticle of praise sung by the three men (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) who were thrown in the furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar, but were saved by God through one of His angels.   I’ll include just a few excerpts here.  Note: These verses are not found in non-Catholic texts.  For the complete text, click here

Sun and moon, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever…

Let the earth bless the Lord,

praise and exalt him above all forever.

Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever…

All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

All you mortals, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

What I find beautiful and important in this canticle, is that it places the focus of praise and worship on the Creator (God) not the creature (earth.)  We must direct our thoughts to Him Who made us and all the beauty that surrounds us.

100_6376Sacred Scripture is filled with references to the wonder of creation, and in the Book of Genesis we read how God commanded man to take care of it.  This is no little thing. He gave them…and thereby us…dominion over the plants and animals…but that doesn’t mean we get to misuse these gifts.  It is all about stewardship.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that stewardship is “the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something.”  That is what God expects of us.  Carelessly polluting water and air is not responsible.  Tossing garbage on the ground is not only lazy, but careless and inconsiderate.   Planting certain crops or chopping down forests without a plan for appropriate future use of that land could be detrimental in the long run.  So when it  comes to the decades-old motto of “Keep America Beautiful,” I am all on board.  (Though currently I stink at recycling.)

But here is where I struggle.  Many in the Earth Day cheerleading squad are quick to cite “overpopulation” as a major contributing factor to environmental  problems.  While Earth Day is just 45 years old, the overpopulation myth has been around for much longer.  How often have we heard that having more than two kids is “selfish” or “irresponsible?”  I know someone who actually had a bumper sticker that  said “Thank you for Not Breeding.”  And we must not forget the forced one-child-policy of China which has continued beyond its original 10-year term.  All of these things are very sad to me.  In fact, many countries have fallen below replacement birth rates: having fewer babies while people live longer means that the elderly are often not cared for, and some cultures could literally die off.

Just as I have no way of knowing whether or not an unborn child will become another Mother Teresa or Bonnie Parker of Bonnie & Clyde fame, I have no idea whether or not that  same child will dump trash in the river or come up with a new technology to clean up rivers.  The point is, the birth of a child is not what destroys our planet.  The birth of a child is ordained by God, so it is intrinsically good.  What destroys our planet is bad (i.e. sinful) human behavior.  Some people, yes some Christians, treat our planet with horrible disrespect.  I realize there is an entirely separate issue here, in terms of the role of governments and businesses.  But regardless of where we stand on those issues, as individuals, most of us can do better.

Our one year old great-niece, Reagan, on Easter morning.
Our one year old great-niece, Reagan, on Easter morning.

I also struggle with the emphasis on protecting various species while we permit the legal killing of our own unborn offspring.  Save the whales, but not the human babies?  Protect rare insects and lizards, but not mothers and babies headed into abortion clinics?  People who destroy bald eagle eggs can be severely punished under the law, yet doctors can dismember unborn humans under the guise of “choice.”  That is the ultimate tragic irony.  I am grateful that some people feel called to educate us about environmental stewardship.  I simply pray that their eyes would be open to the most amazing creatures on Earth.

Ultimately, my thoughts on Earth Day center on the beauty off human life…the best part of God’s creation!  We are the ones made in His image!  We are the ones given the responsibility to be good stewards!  We are the ones designed to be with Him for all eternity!

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My mom, Kathleen, me and my husband, Bruce

I heard about a young priest saying to some kids years ago, as he picked up a handful of dirt behind the local parish school, “This is not your mother.”  That still makes me laugh!  I will try to do more to treasure this planet, in obedience to the One Who formed it.  But even more, I will treasure my mothers…the woman who gave birth to me and the woman who gave birth to Bruce.  I will treasure my son Gabriel…even though he is no longer here physically.  I will treasure the dignity and beauty of each new life conceived, and pray that all unborn boys and girls are given the chance to be born and allowed to enjoy the rest of creation which God has made for their pleasure! 944189_659809770715622_472557534_n (1)

May this day, and every day, be a time to celebrate the Creator of us all!

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