On Saturday the Pontifical Council for the Family sponsored a day of reflection on the family as the custodian of the created world.
“We wanted to promote a day of reflection with the organization Greenaccord, on the theme ‘Family, Safeguard the Creation!’,” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, told CNA March 29.
“In this time in the Church there is much reflection on the theme of the family,” he explained. “We thought it was important also to link the theme of the family to that of safeguarding creation, under two perspectives.”
The first, he said, is the importance of the family’s responsibility for the created world, “to be attentive to respect creation, to not destroy, not squander, not ruin the life that surrounds us, because all of this comes full circle.”
Just as the family takes care of the created world, the created world is the space where the family grows, the archbishop reflected. The family “safeguards creation, because creation safeguards the family.”
The second perspective is that of practicality. “Safeguarding creation is not an abstract or theoretical thing,” Archbishop Paglia stressed. Families must be attentive to the world around them in a practical way, “not only for themselves but for future generations.”
The archbishop went on to lament the “dictatorship of commerce” that hinders a “life of solidarity.” Instead, if there is less “pressure to consume” the result is “wiser relationships amongst persons.”
Archbishop Paglia also noted that he sees a “contradiction among families who must safeguard the creation” -- that of “not generating life.”
“What will there be if we don’t plant more trees?” he asked metaphorically. “If there are fewer children, there is less development. There is more sadness, more violence.”
“This is why families have the first responsibility to give life. They must understand that to give life means also to do so in fact! It’s not abstract - give it with children and not with theory. In this sense, the family safeguards creation also in the measure in which they obey that which the Lord said at the beginning: be fruitful and multiply, and safeguard the creation.”
The all-day program, held at the Vatican’s St. Pius X Conference Hall, included talks on topics such as “Agriculture as a life choice for young families,” “For a responsible and people-oriented economy,” and “The family’s vulnerability to consumerism.”
Gary Gardner, a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute in Washington D.C., was a speaker at today’s event.
Gardner told CNA that “we live in an era where there are many, many threats to, I would say without exaggeration, to civilization as we know it, and the Church has a very important role, and the family has a very important role, to play in addressing those threats.”
He noted that in addition to environmental issues such as climate change, there is a cultural belief “that consuming more is what life is all about.”
Yet there are many practical ways that families can “preserve the creation” and also build healthier relationships, Gardner noted.
He suggested that families might engage in a “carbon fast” during Lent, seeking to consume less, or perhaps do something simple like plant a garden.
“You’re getting the kids involved and they’re learning about the importance of soil health and insects and the worms that live in the soil and how that relates to a plentiful crop that comes out of the garden, and that in turn relates to our own health. It’s a wonderful way to bring the family together and almost without realizing it, care for creation,” said Gardner.
“These are activities that are good not only for the environment but for strengthening the family,” he noted.