The Catholic Climate Covenant


Every October 4, the Church celebrates the memory of one of the most famous saints in history, St. Francis of Assisi. Since the feast fell on a Sunday this year, the Church celebrates the liturgy for Sunday instead of the saint. Nevertheless, his feast is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the timeliness of his message for our situation today. One of the principal tenets of Catholic social teaching is respect for God’s creation, and this was a concern for Francis of Assisi as well. In a recent statement Pope Benedict highlighted the Christian’s response to this issue:


“Today the great gift of God’s Creation is exposed to serious dangers and lifestyles which can degrade it. Environmental pollution is making particularly unsustainable the lives of the poor of the world … we must pledge ourselves to take care of creation and to share its resources in solidarity.”


In April of this year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and other members of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change launched a new initiative that stressed the need for all Christians to show a greater respect for creation and for the way in which we consume resources. The coalition invited all Catholics to participate in their new effort, the Catholic Climate Covenant. As a part of this initiative, the coalition invited individuals to take the St. Francis Pledge and has renewed this invitation on Francis’ feast day.


While this is not the Francis who is referred to most frequently on this blog, respect for God’s creation is something that was close to the heart of Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal as well. Francis and Jane lived long portions of their lives in the beautiful city of Annecy, France, which helped form Francis’ famous statement, “We pray best before beauty.” When all of creation becomes an invitation to prayer, the way in which we interact with creation is transformed and all humanity can experience the wonder of God’s creation.


The Catholic Climate Covenant covers a number of justice issues. As the title makes clear, the issue of climate change is central. However, the effects of climate change are felt most acutely by the poor, who are least responsible for the causes of climate change. Experts give numbers of poor people affected that are staggering. To give but one example, access to clean water is a hot issue today. According to the World Development Movement, one-sixth of the world’s population will face water shortages in the near future because of retreating glaciers as a result of increased temperatures. Thus, the covenant challenges us with a provocative question, “Who’s under your carbon footprint?”


This question can be helpful for those of us who use the practice of examination of conscience as one of our daily rituals, a practice Francis de Sales suggested to his spiritual directees. Questions such as this one posed by the climate covenant can help us expand our perspectives and see that there are different ways to approach our spiritual disciplines. These questions help us to realize how narrow our approach can be at times as well.


Information on the Catholic Climate Covenant, as well as the St. Francis pledge, can be found at


I close this entry with a poem called “Earth, Sister Earth” from Dom Helder Camara, the late archbishop of Recife, Brazil. Camara has been called by some people a modern day Francis of Assisi because of his dedication to the poor and all of creation. This poem is a strong challenge for all of us to rethink the way in which we relate to all of creation and how our actions or inactions impact all of creation.


Earth, Sister Earth


Teach us
to continue the creation
to help the seeds
to multiply,
giving food
for the people
and for the beasts.


Teach us
to further the joy
you never tire of offering
when weary travelers find you,
a signpost to their home.


Teach us
to make the horizon
become a beautiful image
of creation’s grandeur.


Teach us
to accept
the mediation of those
who wish to unite us
to our fellows,
as you accept the gift
of the water that binds
land to land,
no matter how great
the distances!


What do you suffer
in the dust of deserts?
How do you look upon
those of us who,
though capable of transforming
the waste to lushness,
prefer to be creators
of barrenness?


And how do you rejoice
in the rain
that brings forth your fruits?
And what pain do you feel
at the storms
that drown you with floods,
destroying plantations,
crushing houses and the lives
of animals, of plants, of people?
How great is the lesson
you give us,


O Earth,
more than sister:
our mother Earth!
All our lives
we walk carelessly across you,
and when life leaves us,
with no shadow of resentment,
you open up to us
your maternal bosom
to keep
our flesh,
our ashes,
for the joy
of the resurrection.


Recent Posts

Leave a Comment