Celebrating Saint Francis

I am writing this on October 4, the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, who incidentally,  our amazing Pope and our care for creation ministry are named after. What an amazing example for us to all follow. Pope Francis, in fact, named his wonderful Laudato Si encyclical after the beginning of Saint Francis’s Canticle of the Creatures. 

Saint Francis of Assisi

On the occasion of his feast day, I wish to share another of Saint Francis’ works, the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; 

where there is hatred, let me sow love; 

where there is injury, pardon; 

where there is doubt, faith; 

where there is despair, hope; 

where there is darkness, light; 

and where there is sadness, joy. 

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood, as to understand; 

to be loved, as to love; 

for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

A special thanks to Father Crispin and all who came to Sunday’s Blessing of the Animals, which was, of course, a wonderful way to celebrate Saint Francis. Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Paul Litwin

Season of Creation Week 5

We are now in the final week of the Season of Creation, that time in the church calendar, where we focus on God’s creation and how we can work to care for it. During week 1, I asked you to consider your banking and investments and how your money is being used to work for or against creation. For week 2, I suggested using an online calculator to better understand your family’s carbon footprint. For week 3, I suggested considering going meatless and dairyless for a day each week of the season since eating is such a big part of our carbon footprints. And last week, I asked you to kick up your actions at the community and political levels. Incidentally, if you missed any of these columns, you can find them at here.

Photo by Snapwire

This week I would like you to stop and think about ALL of God’s creation. Assuming the air is not smoky where you live, step outside of your home or place of work and take a deep breath. Celebrate the life-giving qualities of the oxygen and other gasses in the air that benefit so many of God’s creatures. Turn your gaze to a tree, shrub, or plant of interest and consider for the moment the miracle of photosynthesis. Do you hear a bird or perhaps see a squirrel, dog, or cat? Close your eyes and think about the wonderful diversity of species. Think about under-appreciated species like slugs, snakes, stinging nettle, spiders, rats, dandelions,  bacteria, fungi, and viruses. They are all part of God’s kingdom and an integral part of his plan, even if we don’t fully appreciate why. 

Recall the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, whose feast day we celebrate on October 4 to mark the end of the Season of Creation:

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

Come celebrate Saint Francis of Assisi’s love of the animals at the Annual Blessing of the Animals, Sunday, Oct 2 at Noon in the parish parking lot. Bring your pet for Father Crispin’s special blessing.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

Season of Creation Week 4

We are now in week four of the Season of Creation, that time in the church calendar, where we focus on God’s creation and how we can work to better take care of it. During week 1, I asked you to consider your banking and investments and how your money is being used to work for or against creation. For week 2, I suggested using an online calculator to better understand your family’s carbon footprint. And last week, I suggested considering going meatless and dairyless for a day each week of the season since eating is such a big part of our carbon footprints. (If you missed them, past columns can be found at saintfrancisseattle.org/laudato-si-in-action.) 

Actions at the personal and family level are essential to caring for creation, but you will have more impact in the climate crisis if you kick your actions up to the community and political levels.  In fact, Pope Francis calls us to act as he implored us back in 2013:

Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.

If you are not registered to vote and live in Washington state, it’s easy. Visit olvr.votewa.gov. Once registered vote in every election. It’s both your civic and moral responsibility. And between elections, make your voice be heard to leaders using this resource page at saintfrancisseattle.org/how-to-contact-your-leaders. Let our leaders know we want decisive and sustained action on the climate crisis. See the Season of Creation events below for a seminar on this very issue.

Help celebrate the Season of Creation with these events:

  1. Thursday, Sept 22 at 6:30pm. Saint Francis of Assisi ministry meeting. Join us as we work to care for creation, right here at St John’s. tinyurl.com/saint-francis-mtg 
  2. Wednesday, Sept 28 at 10am. Catholic Climate Covenant is hosting a online seminar: Putting our Faith in Action: Voting to Protect our Common Home. Hear about theological foundations for why Catholics are called to vote to protect the environment.  tinyurl.com/ccc-voting 
  3. Wednesday, Sept 28 at 7pm. Stations of Creation at St John’s. Join us for a special stations of the cross centered around creation.
  4. Sunday, October 2 at Noon. Annual Blessing of the Animals at St John’s. This is a wonderful event to bring your pet for Father Crispin’s special blessing. More details forthcoming.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

Season of Creation Week 3

September marks the end of summer and summer vacation for school children. September also is the month of the Season of Creation, that time of the church year to focus on creation and ask ourselves what more we can do to take care of it.

The flipside of creation is climate change which is impacting all of God’s creation. Here in Seattle, we can smell climate change in the air in the form of smoke from nearby forest fires. In fact, on Sunday, we received an urgent email from Pasado’s Safe Haven, an animal sanctuary we support located in Sultan, Washington that is home to over 200 dogs, cats, and farm animals, many victims of abuse. The email shared that Pasados might need to evacuate their animals because of the fire just east of Index and they needed help cleaning out the temporary shelter in Monroe to where the animals would be evacuated. So Suzanna and I drove to Monroe and pitched in for the animals.

One way to address climate change is to lessen your carbon footprint by going meatless for one day a week. And this simple act will benefit the animals, the environment, and your health! It’s easy: start with a breakfast of oatmeal and fruit. For lunch, there’s good old peanut butter and jelly (even better: sub out jelly for a banana) or perhaps veggies and hummus. Dinner can be as simple as pasta with a marinara sauce. Throw some cannellini or great northern beans into the sauce for extra oomph and a nice hit of plant protein. For greater impact, sub out cow’s milk for soy, almond, or hemp throughout the day. 

Check out additional recipe ideas at  tinyurl.com/no-meat-mon, tinyurl.com/epicurious-vegan, and tinyurl.com/pcrm-starter-kit or our presentation on switching to a more earth-friendly diet

At St John the Evangelist, we will be celebrating the Season of Creation with these events:

  1. Wednesday, Sept 28 at 7pm. Stations of Creation at St John’s. Join us for a special stations of the cross centered around creation.
  2. Sunday, October 2 at Noon. Annual Blessing of the Animals at St John’s. This is a wonderful event to bring your pet for Father Crispin’s special blessing. More details forthcoming.

Please mark your calendars for these events and consider going meatless for one day through October 4 when the Season of Creation ends. Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

Season of Creation Week 2

The 2022 Season of Creation started on September 1st and continues until the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on October 4th. The Season of Creation is a time to focus on creation and ask ourselves what more we can do to take care of it. This year, we are asked to “listen to the voice of creation”:

These are voices of those who suffer the impacts of climate change. These are voices of people who hold generational wisdom about how to live gratefully within the limits of the land. These are voices of a diminishing diversity of more-than-human species. It is the voice of the Earth.

How can you celebrate this year’s Season of Creation? Why not assess your carbon footprint and work to reduce it? The Climate Cool Network has an excellent carbon footprint calculator

And consider participating in one of these upcoming Season of Creation events:

  1. On demand recording: Season of Creation 2022 Launch Event. A global ecumenical prayer service and call to action. Watch at youtu.be/IQtHNMxLwhE 
  2. September 9th, 9-10 AM: Divestment 101: Investing in Our Common Home via Zoom. This informative seminar will be led by Joseph D’halluin, who serves as the divestment campaigner for the Laudato Si’ Movement as well as Alexis Fleming, the Western Region Finance Manager for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Register at tinyurl.com/divest-101
  3. September 11, 2:30-4:30 PM: Green Team Summit Keynote Watch Party at St John United Lutheran Church featuring Katherine Kayhoe. This free summit will feature a keynote by renowned climate author and speaker, Katherine Hayhoe. Attend the watch party at United Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall (5515 Phinney Ave N) or watch virtually. Register at greenteamsummit.org 
  4. September 13, 6:00-7:30 AM: Listen to the Voice of Creation via Zoom. This reflective event offers motivations and spiritual insights, especially to Religious local communities and Congregations, to join the Laudato Si’ Action Platform in order to respond to the signs of the times and the invitations of the Holy Spirit in line with their own specific mission. Register at tinyurl.com/lsap-listen 
  5. September 13, 10-11 AM: A Powerful Opportunity for the Faith Community: Putting Our Faith into Action Through Renewable Energy Investments and Funding via Zoom. Another chance to learn about responsible investing. Catholic Climate Covenant is leading a conversation exploring the incredible new opportunities to put our faith into action that will be available thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Register at tinyurl.com/ccc-invest 
  6. Date/time to come. Stations of Creation at St John’s. More information to come.
  7. Date/time to come. Blessing of the Animals at St John’s. More information to come.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

Season of Creation

The 2022 Season of Creation starts this week on September 1st and continues until the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on October 4th. The first day of the season has also been designated as the World Day of Prayer for Creation as Pope Francis proclaimed:

Each year, particularly since the publication of the Encyclical Laudato Si’, the first day of September is celebrated by the Christian family as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and the beginning of the Season of Creation, which concludes on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on the fourth of October. During this period, Christians worldwide renew their faith in the God of creation and join in prayer and work for the care of our common home.

The Season of Creation is a time to pause and take stock of creation, everything that has been bestowed upon us by our creator: the plants and animals, the mountains and valleys, the ocean and rivers, and our neighbors, throughout the world. It’s also a time to act to preserve creation for all, as well as future generations. As the old adage goes, we don’t pass the earth down to our children and grandchildren; we borrow it from them. In what shape will we return it when our time is over?

How can you act? How about deciding to reevaluate your banking and investments during this season to make sure they align with your values? I wrote two recent articles on this subject which you can find at banking post and investing post. More action ideas can be found at 55 Ways to Care for Creation

There are lots of Season of Creation events in which you can participate. Let me suggest several:

  1. September 1, 7-8 PM: World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation over Zoom. This local event, organized by the Care for Creation Network (of which St John’s Saint Francis of Assisi ministry is a member). Join the prayer service at tinyurl.com/prayerdayforcreation
  2. September 9th, 9-10 AM: Divestment 101: Investing in Our Common Home via Zoom. This informative seminar will be led by Joseph D’halluin, who serves as the divestment campaigner for the Laudato Si’ Movement as well as Alexis Fleming, the Western Region Finance Manager for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Register here: tinyurl.com/divest-101.

Also, check out the Season of Creation events listing at seasonofcreation.org/events.  

Here at St. John’s, the Saint Francis of Assisi ministry is planning several more events, including a Stations of Creation and the Blessing of the Animals. I will share details as we finalize the schedule in the coming weeks.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  
Paul Litwin

Sustainable Investing

Last week I wrote about my excitement at the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act and how important it is that we continue to pressure our leaders to act on climate change and social justice. I also mentioned that the world of finance is another key sector where it’s absolutely necessary to pressure those in leadership positions to stop funding dirty investments and to instead lend money to green companies and projects promoting a better future for all.

Photo by Pixabay

This week, I’d like to talk about investments and retirement accounts. Pope Francis, in Journeying for the care of our common home, urges us to use our investments for good:

Promote responsible investments in social and environmental sectors, for example by evaluating progressive disinvestment from the fossil-fuel sector.

This means making your retirement and other investments align with your values. The good news is that green investments do well and are better positioned for future growth.

Some things I have learned in my work on divestment:

  • Be prepared for the possibility that your broker/advisor will try to talk you out of your decision; it is important that you be clear and resolute and be willing to switch if they won’t or can’t help you.
  • There is a whole sector of the investment world concerning sustainable or values-based investing, but it still represents a small portion of the investment universe with limited choices. 
  • ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) screened funds can be useful, but the screening process may still not align with your values so read the fine print and make sure you scroll to the bottom and examine the list of their holdings.
  • There are a number of “green” or “clean energy” funds which may make a good choice. 
  • Another strategy would be to shun funds altogether and invest directly in stocks and bonds of organizations supporting clean energy and other socially positive companies (e.g., electric cars, solar power, etc). This strategy, however, may come with an extra time commitment, and extra risk, including lack of appropriate diversification.
  • Avoid indexed funds or target-date funds since they do not apply any screens.
  • If you sell any assets that are in non-tax-deferred accounts, come April, you will owe taxes on any gains in value since they were purchased. Plan accordingly. 

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Paul Litwin

The Burning Bush

You probably heard Greta Thunberg plead “Our House is On Fire” at the World Economic Forum in 2019. This simple, yet impactful metaphor, cuts the complexities of climate change to the core. 

“I have heard their cry…I know their sufferings…Come, now! I will send you…I will be with you” (Ex 3: 1-12)

The theme for this year’s Season of Creation 2022, which runs September 1 through October 3, is “Listen to the voice of creation.” We are encouraged to talk about the climate crisis, but many voices go unheard.

The Psalmist declares,

“The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge…their voice is not heard, yet their voice goes out through all the Earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (19: 1-4)

Creation never ceases to proclaim, but do we listen?

The symbol chosen for this year is the burning bush, which contrasts with the fire of so many unnatural fires that aggravate the climate crisis. The sign of fire is the light of the Holy Spirit that unites Christians.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Suzanna Litwin

From Legislation to Banking

The Inflation Reduction Act should become law by about the time you read this. And if you care about creation and climate change and haven’t had a chance to read about it: you should. It’s the biggest legislation in US history to answer what Pope Francis refers to as the “cry of the earth” and the “cry of the poor”. It’s not perfect, and many would have liked to see something closer to the original Build Back Better bill, but this bill will do a lot to reign in climate change. Many say it will reduce America’s carbon emissions by as much as 40% by 2030.

Photo by Pixabay

Does this mean we can stop working on combating climate change and promoting social justice? Absolutely not. We need to keep electing and lobbying leaders who will continue to work towards both goals at the local, state, and federal level.

Another place where it’s absolutely necessary to pressure those in the position to do great things, either negatively or positively, is the world of finance. While politicians help to steer public funding, banks and investment companies are responsible for the private lending that fuels so many companies and projects. So we need to not just vote with our ballots, but also with our wallets. Yes, that means not buying products from dirty companies, but it also means redirecting your deposits and investments into institutions that are lending money to good green companies and projects promoting a better future for all. Pope Francis, in Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home, wrote:

Promote  ethical,  responsible,  and  integral  criteria  for  investment  decision  making,  taking  care  not  to  support  companies  that  harm  human  or  social ecology or environmental ecology.

How can you act on this? First, if you have bank accounts, consider moving them to banks that promote green community investments and that steer away from fossil-fuel investments. There are a number of green websites that rate banks and help you to locate the best ones. Stop the Money Pipeline is a great resource. Recently, I did some research into green banking for the board of King County St Vincent de Paul, on which I serve. And the good news is that there are good options for local green banks as well as some online options. 

Next week, I will continue the finance discussion with more on responsible investments. Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

We did it!

Just after putting last week’s blog post to bed, I pulled up the New York Times on my phone to read that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin “in a Reversal, Agrees to Climate and Tax Package“. Like many, I had given up all hope that this year’s US Congress would pass any meaningful climate change legislation. And then, suddenly, there was an agreement, in principle at least, on a bill to address climate change. Yes, we still need to see this bill through votes in the senate and house and finally signed by the president, but it sounds like it is going to happen.

Photo by Markus Spiske

What changed? I don’t think it was one thing. Rather as Bill McKibben (see https://billmckibben.substack.com/zeitgeist-matters) put it:

most of all it was, I think, the widespread public scorn. Somehow it began to break through to Manchin that the only thing history would ever remember about him is that he blocked action on the worst crisis humans have ever faced. 

It was all of us, coming together, in so many ways, over so many years, and via so many forums and venues, to say “we need action, real action, on climate change, and we need it now”. It was the columns, like this one, the protests,the books, the prayers, the podcasts, the blog posts, the news articles, the votes, the voting with our wallets, the small and big changes that we have all been part of that finally made the difference. And you only have yourselves to thank!.

So let me be the first to say it: THANK YOU! We did it!

Mind you, the journey is not over. We haven’t really won. The planet isn’t quite saved. Future generations are not quite in the safe zone. But we have moved the needle in the United States a significant amount. So please, don’t stop. Don’t stop doing what you have been doing: leading by example, voting your conscience, lowering your carbon footprint, keeping your grandchildren, the poor, and future generations in mind as you pressure those in power to continue to address climate change and climate justice. Keep up the good fight.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin