When Earth Day falls on a Monday

Last year I reflected on the intersection of Earth Day and Sunday. I noted how fitting it was to focus on our life-giving ecosystems on the day when Christians celebrate the victory of love and life over sin and death.

But what significance is there for celebrating Earth Day on a Monday? Quite a bit.

While many Earth Day events were held this weekend and while many of us will be keeping Earth Day somewhat in mind today, it is nevertheless the reality that today is, well, Monday. And Monday’s are often the day we return to work and to the busy routines of the week.

But if we are to truly make every day Earth Day—if we are, as Benedict XVI had once said, to change our “inner attitudes” to be better users and tenders of God’s creation—then what we do on Mondays, Tuesdays, and so on is just as important as those moments on transcendence during Earth Day cleanups, rallies, and tree plantings.

My friend Robert Baxter wrote a great little book, “The Sunday/Monday Paradox.” He has spent many years in the corporate business world. His book applies his experiences and observations about the way we work with the message of the Gospel. It turns out that those who live by the Gospel and maintain a graced, sacramental relationship with God are often better, team-oriented workers that make organizations excel. It also turns out that many of us keep the lessons and grace of our Sunday sacramental worship confined to that day.

In seeing Monday and the rest of the work week as offering their own encounters with God—and in acknowledging what that requires of us—we become disciples of Christ even when we’re not in Church. And that simple rethinking of our lives can change businesses and the world.

“The deterioration of nature is in fact closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence,” wrote Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate. He went on that “when ‘human ecology is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits. Just as human virtues are interrelated, such that the weakening of one places others at risk, so the ecological system is based on respect for a plan that affects both the health of society and its good relationship with nature.”

The pontiff continued with these essential thoughts (with all emphasis original): 

In order to protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society. If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society.

And so the challenge before us in the matter of ecological protection is the same we hold in all matters of morality and faith: giving our entire lives to Christ and living His truths every day. This is not some simple platitude that sounds fitting for an Earth Day blog posting—it is a necessary reality if we are to slow the present and rapid global ecological decline.

The work of ecologists, then, is first the changing of hearts. Our task is the offering of Christ into the everyday. It is the reorientation of the human heart toward a culture of temperance, peace, and life rather than of consumption and conflict—which both slowly kill the world, one soul and one ecosystem at a time.

May our Earth Day Monday make us mindful of this truth: that only in rooting our everyday decisions in Christ will we see the elevation of who we are and what we do. After all, it is He who takes away the sins of the world. All we need do is keep Him close by every day and hour of the week.

This post originally appeared at Catholic Ecology.

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About William L. Patenaude 35 Articles
William L. Patenaude MA, KHS has a master's degree in theology and is an engineer and 33-year employee of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. His debut novel A Printer’s Choice, has been described as "a smart, suspenseful Catholic sci-fi novel, with a richly imagined fictional world."