A long-deceased priest friend, Msgr. Francis Costello, liked to tell the story about a small bird that a traveler discovered lying on its back in the road with its little claws pointing skyward. “Little bird,” said the traveler. “What are you doing?” “Sir,” the bird responded, “I have heard that the sky is going to fall and I am trying to prevent this.” The traveler was stunned. “But you are just a little bird. Do you really think that you can stop the sky from falling?” The bird was silent for a moment and then it answered. “No sir, I do not but one does what one can.”
The story came to back to me last week when I read about a
village of 1,000 people in Lancashire, England,
where the people have banded together to reduce greenhouse emissions. They’ve turned off their clothes dryers and hung laundry to dry, they’ve cut back on flying, they’ve installed solar panels, and they’ve re-glazed their windows. This is just a small village, doing very simple things to address a global problem. The villagers are doing their bit to “clean up their patch,” as one said, without a lot of fuss and bother or government help. In fact, when a local politician said he wanted to visit, they told him that was fine but he couldn’t make any speeches. They want their efforts to be free of politics.
Now each of us lives in a village of sorts, our parish. Suppose some of us took on a project to reduce local greenhouse emissions or another environmental project. The parish religious education program’s Family Catechesis component could start it. The Archdiocese mandates that each parish offers at least five hours a year in which a child and his family members come together to learn about some aspect of the faith. One of those aspects is Care for God’s Creation, a pillar of the Catholic Church’s social teaching and a topic that is dear to the heart of Pope Francis, as he has demonstrated in his encyclical,
Depending on where you live and the size of the parish program, families could discover together what the Catholic Church has to say about the environment, especially the Pope’s very readable encyclical, and then put what they have learned into action. Perhaps a couple of families could cooperate on a project and do a little community building, too.
The project doesn’t have to be big or unduly burdensome. It could be as simple as identifying trips that could be made on foot or bike rather than car, organizing a recycling project for everyone or developing a plan to reduce use of plastic bottles. Then the families or groups can report back on their project and how it reflected church teaching via a Facebook page or a Twitter account or at the next Family Catechesis session. Photos are great. And everyone should feel free to take a bow for a job well done.
You might ask how much impact one small family or group of families can have on what is a global crisis. Well, just think about that town in England or that little bird lying on the road. One does what one can.