A likeness of St. Augustine is seen in stained glass at Caldwell Chapel on the campus of The Catholic University of America in Washington May 25. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
A likeness of St. Augustine is seen in stained glass at Caldwell Chapel on the campus of The Catholic University of America in Washington May 25. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
As part of the kick-off this month of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, Pope Francis has called upon us to be the “Restoration Generation,” committed to support and scale up efforts “to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.”

“We are all part of this gift of creation,” Pope Francis said. “We are a part of nature, not separated from it.”

Christopher Thompson, academic dean of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, in an essay titled “The Treasure of Laudato Si’,” writes that to think that the rest of creation doesn’t matter is a very old heresy — several of them in fact. St. Augustine addressed the Manichaean heresy, which saw all of nature as being at odds with humanity’s best. St. Augustine countered that the world is a “joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”

“Awe before creation is awe before the Word,” Thompson writes. “The Book of the Holy Scriptures and the Book of Nature are one, because God as Creator and Redeemer is the author of the series.

Thompson calls us to “break the spell of our pathological ingratitude” for creation, “and summon a vision of human liberty that is more than mere license.”

Then we’d need to move from vision to new behavior. It is time to heed Pope Francis’ call to action — to protect the vulnerable, both human and the rest of God’s creatures.

As Pope Francis says, the current situation “calls us to act now with urgency to become ever more responsible stewards of creation and to restore the nature that we have been damaging and exploiting for too long.”

“Continuing down this path of exploitation and destruction — of humans and of nature — is unjust and unwise.”

— Kristen Hannum