Another Year of ...

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Begin with the Sign of the Cross and a prayer
Someone read: : Part of the Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon by St. Francis of Assisi

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour, of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Read the Reflection

You might have heard that 2016 is the United Nations 'Year of Pulses' – a time to celebrate the value of these legumes and to encourage a simpler, cheaper lifestyle. But wait … aren't we also in the Church 'Year of Mercy'? These two can be ways of putting into practice the teaching of the 2015 Encyclical from Pope Francis; On the Care of Our Common Home: Laudato Si (Praise Be To You). It urges us all to care for creation and be aware of the damage we have done and are doing. Perhaps that document influenced some world leaders to come to their historic agreement in Paris in November 2015, committing to implement policies to reduce carbon emissions. Let us hope this will help save the planet from all we have been doing to destroy it.

There are probably lots more special 'year of …' something being marked by different organisations, but I'd like to think about those I just mentioned. We can't fail to have heard regularly in the news of the worst bush fires, highest temperatures for that month, tornadoes, blizzards, flooding, and highest rainfall: repeatedly broken records for every weather condition on the planet. Perhaps 'they' – the governments of the world, are now going to do something about it with this new agreement. And the 'Year of Mercy', are 'they' – the bishops and priests, going to do something special for us; perhaps some workshops or more information to read? And let's not forget the 'Year of Pulses'! Will 'they' – the food processors or farmers, be expected to do something? Perhaps change the ingredients list on the processed foods we buy?

But wait a minute … I'm asking what 'they' might do. Is all of this anything to do with me and what 'I' might do? I think that all of these 'years' do, or should, affect my daily living, how I interact with family, friends, workplace and the environment.

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis begins by dedicating it to his patron, St Francis of Assisi and quotes from his canticle the lines about 'sister earth'. The Pope says: "This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her."
How is this relevant to my daily life? I hope that for this session you are going to provide most of the answers and content – I will pose some questions with a few ideas and quotations included.

Yes, there are some things that must be done on a large scale by leaders or governments – that is where our involvement by voting, writing letters or signing petitions plays a part. But there are significant personal actions we can take to live simply and sustainably. 'Reduce' is the first on the sustainability list – that means getting better use of what we have, not wasting anything.

Let's begin with shopping, something we all do. Can we protect the tropical rainforest? Yes, if you find out about what trees are ok to use for indoor and outdoor furniture; if you follow reports of what things are being planted when forests are razed, like palm kernel oil. Do you check 'use by' dates before you buy so that food isn't going to be thrown out before it is used? Do you buy new clothes every season or only when they are showing too much wear and tear? It's the same with gadgets and appliances. We can also include issues of justice and equity into our shopping by not buying from companies that are known to exploit their workers, or buying Fair Trade when possible. Do we mend our clothes – sewing on a button, fixing a seam, catching a broken thread on knitted fabric before it runs? Perhaps you always do this, so have you thought about teaching someone else how to do it? I recently showed a young woman how to mend her very smart top that had one row of thread broken and pulled. It had been destined for the bin, she said. I take mending seriously – even to turning collars on my husband's work shirts before he retired. These might seem like 'old fashioned' skills but maybe we need to rediscover them to cut down waste and help young families make their incomes go further.

That leads into 'Reuse' – the next item on the list. I reuse old shirts as children's painting cover-ups: (remove the collar, shorten the sleeves, add elastic cuffs and wear back to front). Many company or charitable letters we get in the post are blank one side and can be reused for draft printing or cut up to use for shopping lists or phone notes – what our local school calls 'GOOS' paper, Good On One Side. Clothes and household items can be handed on for others to reuse, we can source some of our own clothes or other goods from a charity shop. Perhaps you have a favourite 'reuse' story. Perhaps keeping special containers that gifts came in to re-trim and use to hold a new gift to give.

There eventually comes a time when things are finished with. Do you take care to recycle everything that your local council will collect? What happens to food waste or garden waste? Everything that goes into an insinkerator uses extra water and electricity to remove it again before the water can be reused.

If you don't know the old traditional ways, try asking your mother or grandmother or another older person. My daughter's husband Mike has lots of handyman skills and has always been involved with young people, so he began a 'fix-it club' by inviting young adults from amongst the parish community. Once a month a group of young men meet at his home bringing whatever needs mending so he can offer his advice or tools or workspace. Sometimes he shows them how he mends toys or other things around home. All followed with social time of course. This is something we could try, perhaps teaching new migrants how to use local produce and they could share with us how to use some of the new vegetables now available here from their homeland. Or helping young couples with all sorts of household knowledge that we have.

The important thing is not that I give you a list of 'what to do', but that you reflect for yourself, your family, your parish and discern what something God is calling you to and begin. All of us can take some small steps right now towards saving our planet and then gradually increase those steps either with what we do or if we are already doing what we can, by encouraging others to join us.

read through the list then each person choose a question they would like to share on.


What images come to mind when I hear 'throwaway culture'? How can I contribute to a sustainable future for the earth in my family life, in my community, and as a global citizen?

Do you ever think about making journeys without a car?

What do you do to make water or power savings in your home?

What ways can food waste be reduced in the family?

Do you read ingredients lists when shopping? What do you look out for?

Have you a recipe that uses pulses you can share with your group? (Or share with us to include in a newsletter?)

Is there a repair job you are especially proud of?

Is there a favourite 'reuse' that you do? (Share with us?)

Does your church/parish centre/school/workplace practice good recycling? What could be improved?

Do they use Fair Trade tea and coffee? If not, how could this be encouraged?

For more information:

Links to animations for Children & Young People on Laudato Si, also to prayers and study guides and the whole text of the encyclical:

South African Constitution

United Nations Year of Pulses

Year of Mercy Introduction from Pope Francis

Year of Mercy full information

No. 7 From our Charter
for your reflection this month

A Christian mother nurtures a love for Christ in her children & encourages them to live a Christ-like life.

"Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature & in favour with God and people." Luke 2:52

Prayer Time:
For your own intentions and other needs
Conclude the meeting with the following:

Part of the Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon by St. Francis of Assisi

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind & Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water, so useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister, Mother Earth who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers & herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.


Decide to implement at least one new action towards simpler living. Discuss with your family what this could be.