My Polluting Ways

by Fr. Tom Glennon

In the city I grew up in, we played on concrete or asphalt. We played the usual games: hopscotch, jumping rope,   stoop ball, and a ball game called diamond which used the sewer covers as bases.  In fact, since there were no bats or gloves, we used our hand to slap the rubber ball across the asphalt in this adaptation for playing in the streets.

While we children were not totally bereft of a natural environment, trees, fields, plants, and growing vegetables were limited. It was a typical city, with roaring trucks, buses, and cars passing by, just a few feet from the bounce of the ball off the concrete stoop.

Later in life, we developed a more aware sense of the need for places to play that were safe, where the air and water were clean and healthy. Pope Francis brings this topic to our attention in his encyclical “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home"

"Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. For 'instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature"  (#117).

I am slow to make big sacrifices to avoid creating any kind of pollution. I do not bicycle everywhere; nor do I  walk on many journeys. My polluting ways include using cars, trains, and airplanes.  It is a slow conversion process to shut off all the electronic gadgets and to limit my use of piped in water.  Yet, limiting my consumption of fossil fuels does seem to be the way to go forward.

If we are to leave a clean and safe city, town, and country for the next generation and the descendants after them, we need to give more attention to protecting creation. After all, it is only our temporary inheritance.

Saint Columban is often pictured with a bird resting on his shoulder or in the company of a bear. He is famous for praying in the surrounding woods and caves, for strengthening his relationship with God by having a relationship with God’s own creation. He aptly summed up his approach by teaching that we must “understand the creation, if [we] wish to know the Creator.” Before the arrival of St. Francis of Assisi, Saint Columban was the saintly example of a person who loved and honored God's creation.

May this patron of the Missionary Society of Saint Columban foster greater awareness and action as we follow God’s call to better care for our common home. Let us do this together.


Fr. Tom is a Columban father. He lives at the Columban house in Bellevue, Nebraska. 

Weekly Reflections on Justice & Columban Spirituality are written by the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach staff, volunteers, interns, and visiting Columban Missionaries. We hope these reflections help to guide you on your own spiritual journey working toward justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.