August 1, 2008

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

What a truly wonderful world we live in

David SilerI recently returned from a wonderful family vacation. Can you imagine using the adjective “wonderful” about a trip with seven people in a seven-passenger vehicle, pulling a pop-up camper, covering 4,300 miles and 92 hours of driving time? Call it a tremendous blessing and a tribute to the portable DVD player.

Over the course of two weeks, we had the privilege of visiting the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument, The Grand Tetons National Park, Yellowstone National Park and the Badlands of South Dakota.

These areas have got to be some of God’s greatest work. The scenery was just magnificent! I marveled at the vastness and the variety of creation from the mountains and hills to the wild animals to the trees and plants.

Among the many insights that emerged for me while marveling at God’s goodness was the importance of the principle of Catholic social teaching that instructs us to care for the Earth.

During the programs that we attended led by park rangers in the various national parks, we noticed a theme about the amazing interdependency of the elements of creation.

One ranger talked about a foreign grass that was introduced in an area of the park that fairly quickly spread and choked out other grasses that were food for various animals. As a result, these animals left the area, which then started a whole chain reaction of change for other insects, plants and animals.

We learned how the Badland’s prairies began to deteriorate when the buffalo that once numbered in the hundreds of thousands virtually disappeared in that area because of over-hunting. The cascade of effects was mind-boggling.

With the reintroduction of the buffalo many years ago, these prairies are beginning to be restored.

It occurred to me that God, in the magnificent wisdom that is only God’s, created our world in perfect order, leaving nothing to chance. (However, after our trip, I continue to question the wisdom of the mosquito.)

When we ignore the fact that this perfect order can be drastically disturbed by us humans, we dishonor our Creator. God has certainly given us dominion over the Earth, but this dominion requires incredible responsibility.

Catholic teaching instructs us to pay careful attention to the lifestyles that we lead and how they affect the order of creation.

This political season has brought even more attention to a growing awareness of the impact that we are having on our environment. I believe that this added attention is a good thing and gives us the chance to make necessary changes so that this wonderful gift from God can continue to sustain us and the generations that follow us.

During and after our trip, I experienced a profound sense of gratitude for those pioneering men and women who had the foresight long ago to preserve areas of our country in their most natural state where we can experience God’s creation at its finest and learn the many lessons that only nature can teach.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at

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