Pastoral Letter on the Environment

29 Nov 2007

LENT 2003

The Whole of Creation is Groaning….

Pastoral Letter on the Environment

Most Rev Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly

My dear priests and people,

Some years ago a young woman named Sheila Harkin, who was blind from birth, received
her sight through a new medical technique. After surgery, she looked out at the world
for the first time. In an interview shortly afterwards she had this to say:

I never thought the world was so beautiful. I often meet people and say,
“Did you see the beautiful sunset last evening?” They say they never noticed.
They take it for granted I suppose. But I just love the colours of the flowers,
the trees, the grass. Everything is so different from what I had imagined it.
I don’t want to win the Lotto. I just want to see.

The Beauty of the World
Sheila Harkin was right on two counts. We live in a very beautiful world. We take God’s
gifts for granted. Perhaps, with the coming of spring we might slow down, take time to
admire nature as it renews itself. “Lent” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lengten”,
meaning spring. The stretch in the days and the milder weather should entice us out of
hibernation and into the countryside. Of course, Lent gives us an opportunity to be
in step with nature as we renew our spiritual lives. The renewal of nature and the
spiritual renewal can go hand-in-hand.

The people of Cashel & Emly are privileged to live in an area of great natural beauty.
In my travels in the Diocese I am always struck by the scenery on every side. At the
East Limerick side I visit Loch Gur and the Ballyhoura Hills. In the northwest there
is Lough Derg, its waters lapping on to Ballina, with Tonntenna providing a panoramic
view across the neighbouring counties. The Glen of Aherlow is one of the most beautiful
inland views in Ireland. The Galteemore is its tallest admirer.

I pass by the green planes of Cashel watched over by St. Patrick’s Rock. Further on
is Holycross where the Suir is a perennial pilgrim. To the North, I can see the Devil’s
Bit from my window. Not far away are the Slieve Felim hills and westwards are the Clare
Glens with its woodlands, river and waterfalls. I love to walk in Bishop’s Wood and
Kilcooley Abbey. The road between Drangan and Fethard has a marvellous view as far as
Mount Leinster on a fine day. Strolling past the ruins of Athassel Abbey in the quiet
of the evening I walk along the banks of the Suir. The mayfly is up and the fishermen
are in their element. Later in the year, I will be driving through Dundrum when the
leaves turn to gold and I will walk beyond Templetuohy to see the heather in full bloom.
In deference to my Limerick parishioners, I will not mention Slievenamon but I will
confirm that; “It’s lovely round the hills of Killenaule”. In fact, every parish of the
forty-six in the Diocese has its own unique features. Without doubt, the Creator endowed our
Diocese with more than its share of natural beauty.

Stewards of the Earth
Every day we can identify with the Creator’s sentiments. The Book of Genesis tells us
that when God had completed his creation: “God saw all he had made and indeed it was very
God appointed Adam and Eve to be the stewards of his creation. Man and woman
were to care for the earth with wisdom and love. They were not the absolute owners; they
were stewards to carry out the Creator’s will. One wonders how the Creator would assess
our overall performance as stewards. Would he mark us “very good” or “good”, “poor” or
“wretched”? I can quote two verdicts from contemporary human authorities.

The first comes from a participant at the Kyoto Conference on Climate Change in 1997:

Nearly half of the earth’s rain forests are gone