By Kathy Coffey
“Thou shalt reverence the earth.”
If we were to add a commandment
reflecting the call to
God’s people in our century,
this might top the list of possibilities.
People have long delighted
in the beautiful surroundings for
the human journey. But for the
first time in history, our planet is
While this commandment isn’t
one of the official
ten, we have
a long tradition
of respect for
Genesis 1 shows
shaping the solar
system, oceans, land, vegetation
and animals in a crescendo that
leads to humanity. When God
gives humans “dominion” over
is wise stewardship
Many of the
psalms are suffused
98 speaks poetically
of the tie
between creator and creation:
Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them
Before the Lord…(8-9).
Psalm 96 personifies the natural
world praising God:
Let the heavens be glad and the
let the plains be joyful and all
that is in them.
Then let all the trees of the
forest rejoice before the
St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun
is an outburst of joy in sun and
moon, which he called brother and siter. St. Clare, writing the rule for her congregation
during a time of warfare, cautioned her sisters about
danger when they ventured forth from the convent.
But she reminded them to “praise God” when they
saw “beautiful trees, flowers and bushes…” Both
saints traveled lightly; their commitment to poverty
translates into the slogan of environmentally conscious
people today: “Buy less stuff.”
Each week, Catholics celebrate the Eucharist, whose
root word means “to receive well.” Our weekend celebrations
should spill into a whole week of receiving
well, especially the earth’s gifts: food that energizes
our bodies, the sights of mountains, streams, stars or
sunsets that feed our spirits. As Rachel Carson pointed
out years ago in Silent Spring, the absence
of birdsong with all it represents would
make our environment eerily quiet and
rob the soul of sustenance.
With such a rich tradition of
respecting the earth, we Christians
should naturally take practical steps to
reduce our carbon emissions and,
hence, global warming. The scientific
explanation of the dangerous effects of fossil
fuels on our environment is beyond the
scope of Every Day Catholic. The scientific community
agrees that we can take practical steps to save the
planet now, to prevent
“Why didn’t they act
when they could?”
Warning signs are
clear: The polar ice
caps are melting fast
gases trap the sun’s
heat. The average car
driven 10,000 miles a
year releases 5.5 tons of this carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere. Over 100 million trees which produce
life-saving oxygen are destroyed annually for junk
mail. Barbara Kingsolver points out in Animal,
Vegetable, Miracle that our children will have
shorter life spans than ours because of
their junk food, obesity and poor quality
of air and water.
We know how to solve this problem.
Apologies to those who know
these steps, but for those who don’t:
Use energy-efficient lightbulbs and
appliances; drive a hybrid car if possible;
walk or bike when possible; recycle;
turn down the thermostat; plant trees.
Actively Saying Thanks
Hopeful signs of community awareness and cooperation
abound.More than 500 U.S. mayors have signed
the Climate Protection Agreement to reduce carbon
emissions in their cities. Many companies, churches,
schools, religious communities and homes are committed
to “going green.” Oikos, the Greek word for
“household” (the root for ecology, ecumenical and
economy), underscores the link between our individual
households and God’s house, creation.
In her novel Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver
records a conversation with a native American who
explains that God lets us live in this house, and we
should send a note of thanks just as we would after
being anyone’s guest: “We appreciate the rain, we
appreciate the sun….Sorry if we messed up anything.
Thanks for letting me sleep on your couch.”
Reverencing the earth is an active way to express
Next: Thou Shalt Be Joyful
• How can we receive the earth’s gifts with greater awareness and purpose? What are some practical changes you can make?
• Spend a few minutes reading Psalm 98. Now, write your own psalm in praise of creation and share it with the group.
A New Kind of Sin
By Jeanne Hunt
A few years ago, I was presenting a retreat for young people
in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I asked
the children, “How many kinds of sin are there?” The
unanimous answer was three: venial, mortal and social. Intrigued
by this response, I pressed them to tell me more about social sin.
The children offered a glimpse of their world and the evil that
is being inflicted on creation each day as we fail to reverence this
planet. While their theology was a little shaky, their fervor was
inspiring. I left the school thinking about this new kind of sin,
one that earlier generations could not have even conceived.
Let’s look at this new sin and
our lifestyle. What needs to change?
Perhaps we need to conserve gasoline,
recycle paper, turn off the air-conditioning,
find new uses for old
items…the possibilities are endless.
For example, I no longer use
Styrofoam cups and paper napkins at
meetings. I carry a mug and matching
cloth napkin. Just for fun I change
this duo with the seasons. When
people remark about them, it provides an excellent moment
to encourage others to conserve in the same way.
Families reverence the earth by observing simple practices of
ecological stewardship. As we conserve and preserve we teach our
children much about being good stewards of God’s gifts. Wasting
and destroying the earth’s resources are sinful, and a decision to
take care of this planet as a family teaches an important lesson.
Even the smallest act of conservation impacts our future. By
teaching our children to recycle, reuse and restore our resources
we are ensuring a future for our children’s children on this
planet. This effort is the opposite of sin; it is an act of love.
Look at your family lifestyle habits and make some simple changes that can lend an effort to recycling, reusing and restoring your little acre of God’s Kingdom.
By Frank Frost
They pulled it off! And with
rats as sympathetic characters!
Ratatouille is a moral
tale of tolerance, being true to
oneself, the importance of
family—and good taste!
Writer-director Brad Bird
(The Incredibles) tells a rollicking
story the whole family can enjoy.
The Pixar animation is as good as
anything we’ve seen to date. The
rich lighting and texture of the sets
and characters almost make viewers
forget they are not watching live
action. The pace is fast-moving with
plenty of visual jokes and thrilling
chase scenes. Besides all that,
Ratatouille serves up an excellent
story with a human touch.
Remy is a rat with special talent
for savoring the good tastes in life.
But his enhanced ability to discern
fine scents goes to waste, and he is
appreciated only as a poison detector
by his father and the rest of his
large rat family. But when he is accidentally
separated from the others
in a flight down a rushing sewer,
Remy is cast out alone on the streets
There he encounters the ghost of
legendary chef Auguste Gusteau,
who has earlier inspired Remy with
his motto, “Anyone can cook!”
Gusteau leads Remy to the doorstep
of his former restaurant. The consequent
events involve a hapless
garbage boy named Linguini (the
unrecognized son and heir of Gusteau); a Peter Lorre-style villain of a
chef who is reducing Gusteau’s famous
gourmet restaurant to a purveyor of
frozen foods; an unbending and malicious
food critic, Anton Ego (voiced by Peter
O’Toole); and Colette (Janeane Garofalo),
whom Linguini loves, and who is the sole
woman cook to succeed in this male-dominated
Venturing into the kitchen, the little rat
cannot resist rescuing an unsavory soup
by adding just the right ingredients. When
it becomes a hit with the patrons,
Linguini is given the credit, but must then
duplicate his success. This leads to a secret
madcap partnership between “the little
chef” and Linguini, whereby Remy guides
Linguini’s every move from under the latter’s
chef ’s hat. Greed and power drive the
actions of the villains, while Linguini and
Remy seek only to do what they love.
Along the way, Remy bumps into his
brother, Emile, who is sampling the
restaurant’s garbage. This leads to a rat
But secret manipulation cannot constitute
a recipe for success for either Remy
or Linguini, and eventually Linguini must
reveal the real source of his cooking talent.
This causes the kitchen staff, and even
Colette, to abandon him at the moment
of his greatest need.
Remy’s rat family rushes to the rescue.
This all happens with such verve and
humor that the audience easily buys the
eventual reconciliation of Remy with his
family, rats with humans, and Linguini
with Colette (topped by the delicious
moment when the food critic eats his own
Food again provides a fitting movie
metaphor for relationships and sharing.
But perhaps never with such panache.
What values do you find in this film?
By Judy Ball
Blessed John Duns Scotus (1266-1308)
He didn’t live a long life, but Blessed John Duns Scotus
is one of the most important and influential
Franciscan philosophers and theologians. Born in
Scotland, he entered the order at the age of 15 and pursued
years of study and teaching in some of the finest schools in
Europe. Following his ordination in 1291 came more years
of study, then lecturing. For all his studies, Scotus was no
ivory-tower scholar. He entered into the issues of the day
with energy, creativity and a Franciscan perspective.
One of those issues was how to understand the Blessed
Mother: Did she need to be redeemed like all descendants
of Adam, a view held by the noted Dominican theologian
Thomas Aquinas, or had she been preserved from Original
Sin? Scotus sided with those who believed that Mary was
free of sin from the start—a controversial view at the time
but later affirmed in the dogma of the Immaculate
Scotus also differed with Aquinas about the Incarnation.
The Church had long taught that Jesus was sent by his
Father to die on the cross
to redeem humankind,
that if Adam and Eve had
not sinned there would
have been no need for
Jesus to come to earth.
As a Franciscan, Scotus
offered another view:
Jesus would have come to
earth even if Adam and
Eve hadn’t sinned. God
wanted to share Jesus as
the perfect model of the
human being fully alive.
Jesus didn’t simply die on the cross to appease an angry
God; he wanted to draw humans to his love.
John Duns Scotus died at the age of 42 and is buried in
the Franciscan Church in Cologne, Germany. He was beatified
by John Paul II in 1993. His feast is November 8.
Sister Mary Beth Ingham, C.S.J.
It was while taking a walk one day
and enjoying nature that Sister
Mary Beth Ingham really began
to appreciate how John Duns Scotus
saw the world.
Suddenly it dawned on her:
Everywhere in his writings
Scotus speaks of beauty.
Where some theologians
the Sister of
St. Joseph told Every
Day Catholic, Scotus
sees evidence of God’s
love and generosity everywhere.
Though John Duns Scotus has
long had a place of honor in the
Franciscan tradition, Sister Mary
Beth didn’t become well acquainted
with him until she did her doctoral
dissertation on him at the University
of Fribourg in Switzerland. Now she
teaches Scotus at Loyola Marymount
University in Los Angeles and spends
many weekends talking about him to
Her knowledge of John Duns
Scotus’s thinking and writing has
affected her own spirituality. “He has
an extremely optimistic and hopeful
vision of the world. I’ve learned from
him to be a person of hope at a time
when so many of us have reason
to despair. His is a
vision of abundance,
not of scarcity. There
is always more of
God’s mercy and graciousness.
ever ‘out’—there is
always a second, third,
Scotus’s message is not
lost on her students at Loyola
Marymount. When they hear his
view of the Incarnation—that it was
always God’s intention to send Jesus
to earth—they perk up. “They tell
me, ‘This is the kind of God I want
to believe in, a God who became
Incarnate because he loves us, not
because of mistakes we made.’”
It’s a message that keeps Sister
Mary Beth Ingham—and others—