Father Rick Malloy, SJ

Picked up an ice chest and tore a muscle in my back. Called John and Betsy Crawford and they drove an hour and helped me. This all happened in Yellowstone National Park where I celebrate three Masses on weekends in the summer (tough mission, but someone has to do it! LOL).

St. Anthony’s Parish in Cody, Wyoming, has provided for Mass in the park for almost 100 years.

There is much to learn out West for a native Philadelphian like me. One lesson is that you have to depend on people for assistance. You cannot survive in these wide-open spaces without folks on whom you can call for help.

Cody and Yellowstone have also taught me the need to care for our earth. The way we care for our planet is often indicative of how we care for one another. The more we mistreat the ecosystem, the more our social and economic systems dangerously deteriorate.

A New York Times op-ed “Time to Panic” notes that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s October 2018 “Doomsday” report is “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen,” as one U.N. official put it.

By 2050, the temperatures in some cities in the Middle East and Asia could be lethal. The ice sheets in the Arctic will melt, and coral reefs could disappear.

You think there’s a refugee problem now? Just wait until millions are forced to migrate because of floods, droughts and deadly heat.

In “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis exhorts us all to change radically our thinking and ways of being:

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. … Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded” (No. 13).

The pope teaches that “the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (No. 14).

Visit Yellowstone or Yosemite and experience the wonders of nature. Then worry about these treasures disappearing. Sit on a beach and contemplate how much plastic pollutes our oceans.

The World Economic Forum reports that by 2050, by weight, there will more plastic than fish in the oceans.

Or just get out and spend some time in a local state park and realize all this is in danger. Know that our small, pale, blue dot of a planet is fragile and in desperate need of our care and concern.

Pope Francis offers challenge and consolation, healing and hope: “All is not lost. Human beings … are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start … and embark(ing) on new paths to authentic freedom” (No. 205).

Environmental expert Bill McKibben proclaims, “Climate change is actually the biggest thing that’s going on every single day.”

He has preached for years that we have to get carbon dioxide levels down to 350 parts per million (PPM). In 2007, it was 383 PPM. By May 2019, for the first time in human history, carbon dioxide levels reached 415 PPM.

We’re going in the wrong direction, fast. For the future of our children, confronting climate change and saving our planet is the moral and religious issue of the 21st century.

Back in 1962, Rachel Carson in “Silent Spring” asked, “Have we … lost the will or the vision to demand that which is good?”

It is time to recover our courage and demand what is good.

It is time for us to help heal our home. It’s a lot more than the earth’s back that is injured.

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Jesuit Father Rick Malloy has written three books and is university chaplain at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. He works for St. Anthony’s Parish in Cody, Wyoming, and celebrates weekend Masses in Yellowstone National Park for six weeks in the summer.