Blessed are You, Lord God of All Creation


“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.”

In the offertory of every Mass, the priest prays this prayer and a similar one for the wine. Echoing the tradition of Sabbath blessings in the Jewish tradition, these two prayers of blessing for the wine and bread to be used in the Holy Eucharist speak of the “fruit of the earth” and the “work of human hands” recalling the accounts from Genesis. The Holy Scriptures teach that creation is a gift of God and that we have a special place within creation. The human story begins in a garden – a perfect image of the partnership that the Lord would establish with us.
In that garden, the Lord charges human beings to exercise “dominion” over creation (Genesis 1:26). This term has been understood differently at times. In secular terms, dominion is about governance, authority, and control. Some have seen this concept as license for the domination and exploitation of creation. The biblical understanding is more complex. God is the one who exercises the ultimate dominion, and the Bible makes it clear that God’s authority is unselfish and entirely for the benefit of creation. God, Who is Love, never exploits or dominates.
Genesis is not a license for human beings to take ownership so much as responsibility. The Lord invites humanity into partnership in cultivating and caring for creation. Certainly, the Lord does intend that human beings will harvest the bounty of creation, but the fundamental stance is one of stewardship, care, and conservation.
Our history has seen too many examples of human greed and selfishness destroying ecosystems and polluting the environment in pursuit of wealth and worldly power. Such exploitation inevitably harms people as well, and too often those who suffer are already those who are most vulnerable. While our own culture is more aware of the effects of environmental degradation, the destruction of habitats continues and grows ever more extensive as technology advances.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, offered a prophetic call to us and to the world in the Encyclical “Laudato si’.” In that document, he summoned us back to the biblical vision of partnership with a loving Creator. He also spoke movingly of the need for an integrated human ecology. Written in 2015, the Encyclical has continued to guide the decisions and writings of his papacy.
Recently, I convened the first meeting of a “Laudato si’” commission for the Diocese of Providence. Consisting of experts in theology, the natural sciences and government leadership, I have asked this body to advise me in my role as Bishop. We will look at ways that the diocese might contribute to the health and well-being of our natural world and our human communities here in Rhode Island. Already, the commission has encouraged several potential initiatives. The first is a proposal to work with state officials to plant native tree species in some of our urban communities that lack the environmental and health benefits of trees such as their cooling effects and their capacity to absorb excess storm water.
I look forward to learning from these experts and sharing these ideas with you and with our parishes and schools. While our efforts might be small and local, they are a start. And they are ways that we respond to the Lord’s own invitation to partner in the work of creation. Permit me to leave you with this beautiful quote from “Laudato si’” (Paragraph 245):
“In the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present. He does not abandon us, he does not leave us alone, for he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward. Praise be to him!”