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Becoming People of Action: An Earth Day Reflection

posted in: Environment, Justice

“To care for the world in which we live means to care for ourselves.” Fratelli Tutti, 17

“We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach.“ Laudato Si', 139

Fifty-one years ago, a grassroots coalition of students, educators, faith leaders, politicians and other concerned citizens came together to celebrate Earth and to raise awareness of the collective suffering created by environmental exploitation and degradation. The first Earth Day brought about major cultural and policy changes and gave birth to a global movement. This Earth Day, we pray that our love and concern for all creation and for present and future generations will ignite our spirits, transforming us into people of action.

It is this “ecological conversion” to which Laudato Si'—Pope Francis’s encyclical on inequality and sustainability (“integral ecology”)—calls us. As we celebrate Earth Day 2021 in this special Laudato Si' anniversary year (24 May 2020 to 24 May 2021), the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development reminds us that:

Download the Earth Day 2021 Prayer Service

We have, in fact, a unique opportunity to transform the present groaning and travail into the birth pangs of a new way of living together, bonded together in love, compassion and solidarity, and a more harmonious relationship with the natural world, our common home. Truly, COVID-19 has made clear how deeply we are all interconnected and interdependent. As we begin to envision a post-COVID world, we need above all an integral approach. …

The urgency of the situation calls for immediate, holistic and unified responses at all levels—local, regional, national and international. We need, above all, “a peoples’ movement” from below, an alliance of all people of good will. As Pope Francis reminds us, “All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.” Laudato Si', 14 

This day, as people of faith, we celebrate our care for creation and each other, recognizing that we must work together at every level of society—in our homes, families, schools, workplaces and dioceses—to create resilient and sustainable communities where all beings can flourish.

Often, it is not a lack of conviction that causes us to fail to act, but rather a sense of powerlessness. How can we make a difference? How can we hope to impact the problems we see in our everyday lives? As the experience of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Ghana demonstrates, we begin with the spark of an idea—recognizing the needs around us. By engaging in encounter, we create vital partnerships that turn dreams into tangible outcomes.

Reflection Questions

As you look at the places in which you live and minister, what needs to be done to respond to “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”? What is one thing you could do to respond to these needs? With whom could you partner to achieve your goal?

Closing Prayer

Transforming God, gift us with the courage and conviction to respond to the “cry of the earth and cry of the poor” Laudato Si', 49. Make us bold in walking unfamiliar paths, trusting that you will be walking along with us, giving us the strength to build more just and sustainable societies wherever we are. Amen.

H0ly Cross International Justice Office
Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana


Brother Alberto Parise, mccj (presenter). (5 February 2021). “Promoting Laudato Si' in your Congregation: The need for awareness raising.” UISG, Sowing Hope for the Planet.

Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. (2020). “Laudato Si’ Special Anniversary Year, 24 May 2020 – 24 May 2021.”

The History of Earth Day. Earth Day.

Pope Francis. (2015). Laudato Si': On care for our common home.

Pope Francis. (2020). Fratelli Tutti: On fraternity and social friendship.