On 4 October 2021, the feast of St Francis of Assisi, Catholics from across the Diocese of Aberdeen gathered at the parish of St Francis of Assisi, Mannofield, Aberdeen, to pray for the earth, our common home, for the success of COP26 in Glasgow, and for the good of the whole creation.
Almost a year later, on Wednesday 21 September 2022, and with the intensifying symptoms of climate breakdown making the case for ecological conversion ever more powerfully, Catholics gathered in Mannofield again for the second diocesan Prayer for Creation.
In his welcome Kenneth Sadler, of the St Mary's Cathedral Justice and Peace group, noted that the ecumenical Season of Creation was a time for Christians to renew their commitment to prayer and action for the protection of the planet. Kenneth repeated Pope Francis' description in Laudato Si' of 'the little poor one' of Assisi as a 'a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself' (LS 10). He also echoed the same encyclical's call for humans to heed God's plan that the earth be a place of 'peace, beauty and fullness' (LS 53).
As in 2021, Bishop Hugh Gilbert OSB led the service, which included hymns, prayers, a penitential rite, and scripture readings. In the homily Bishop Hugh drew on his knowledge of religious life: he spoke of a 20th century Greek monk on the island of Patmos, who was visited by a Scottish hermit, and he also referred to the work of St Bernard of Clairvaux. The bishop stressed that humans are relational animals and that our relationships, with God, our fellow human beings, and the world are meant to be harmonious. Tragically, the original harmony was shattered in the Fall; however, Christ himself sows the seed of a new world and in him we, though broken, can be reformed then transformed.
For Bishop Hugh, the Church can be a place where human brokenness is repaired and where we can get glimpses of our ultimate transformation. Ecological commitment, which reflects an aspect of our originally harmonious relationships, is essential to our humanity and our practice of Christianity. Towards the end of the Prayer for Creation, this commitment was affirmed when participants pledged to cherish, respect and protect the earth, our common home. Those who attended the second Diocese of Aberdeen Prayer for Creation left the Mannofield parish strengthened by the service they had been part of.
Kenneth Sadler is Coordinator, St Mary's Cathedral Justice and Peace Group