Sept. 1 as the World Day of Prayer

Pope Francis a year ago declared that Catholics would join their Orthodox brothers andearth2 sisters and other Christians to formally mark Sept. 1 as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

This year awareness of the day is gaining momentum as church groups and faith-based environment advocates have instituted a series of prayer services and programs for Catholics in particular to observe the day.

Nuns join climate justice activists at a plaza in Manila, Philippines, Nov. 29, a day ahead of the start of the U.N. climate change conference, known as the COP21 summit, in Paris. (CNS/Simone Orendain).

“Sept. 1 is huge because it is the first time in our Catholic liturgical calendar we have an official day for creation care,” said Tomas Insua, coordinator of the Global Catholic Climate Movement. “It’s a massive opportunity to start getting ‘Laudato Si” deeply imbedded in our Catholic mindset and the life of the Catholic family.”

The day opens what numerous Christian communities are calling the Season of Creation that runs through the feast of St. Francis of Assisi Oct. 4. Christians are invited to pray and care for God’s creation over the five-week period.

The Sept. 1 day of prayer originated when Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople instituted a similar day of prayer for the Orthodox Church in 1989. It has gradually expanded to include much of the Christian world.

Meanwhile, the Washington-based Catholic Climate Covenant has developed its own program for the St. Francis feast day. The educational program is called “Dial Down the Heat: Cultivate the Common Good for our Common Home.” You can see a video about the program here.

Dan Misleh, Catholic Climate Covenant executive director, said it is designed to bring diverse people together to in a civil dialogue on climate change in a time of political polarization and to find common ground to protect Earth by thinking about ways to use less energy so “we put less CO2 into the atmosphere.”

“We need to be thinking about how do we create the space for people to have civil dialogue as opposed to people shouting at each other,” he told Catholic News Service.

A kit on the program is available from the Catholic Climate Covenant website.

Insua knows that much work remains to create awareness about the day “because the vast majority of Catholics still have no clue that Pope Francis instituted it.”

Having a longer period, a season, helps, he said.

“By definition, it’s ecumenical,” Insua added. “In the Catholic agenda of ecumenism this is a very concrete way of coming together with other Christian churches.”