A tree planting campaign was organized by Br. Jean Eric Mutabazi, OFM the JPIC Provincial Director for the Province of St. Francis in Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius in collaboration with Laudato’si animators of the institute of Franciscan Brothers Disciples of the Glorious Cross as well as Gikondo parish in which the Franciscan Brothers Disciples of the Glorious Cross exercise their ministry.
This is one of many activities being initiated as a way of implementing the propositions of a workshop on JPIC which took place in July this year in Rwanda and was attended by 27 Franciscan youth and JPIC animators from Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda. The tree planting campaign was attended by 58 children who recently received the sacraments of baptism, first holy communion and confirmation, seven catechists and four brothers of the Franciscan Disciples of the Glorious Cross two of whom are also Laudato’si animators.
It has come to our awareness that we need to be creative and innovative in finding opportunities and reasons for planting trees until this becomes a habit or a custom. Hence, we have created a program called “Sacraments and Mother Earth”with the intention of showing how the celebration of sacraments requires elements from the natural world and therefore convince children and catechists that taking care of our common home is not only necessary for our human wellbeing, but also for our spiritual welfare. Another program initiated is birthday tree-planting. This aims at getting people accustomed to planting a tree whenever they celebrate birthdays or other anniversaries.
Sacraments and Mother Earth
This program aims at teaching beneficiaries of sacraments that the celebration of sacraments requires many element that come from the environment. Once they are aware of this fact, they also understand that taking care of the environment is a spiritual obligation. Therefore, tangible activities such as planting of trees, watering of trees, cleaning and so on are carried out on the days of receiving sacraments or shortly after to actualize the obligation of caring for our common home.
The use of water in the Christian faith is so rich that it is difficult to discuss it in a few lines.
1. Baptism, the gateway to the other sacraments cannot be celebrated without water, which is a vital element from the natural world.
2. Water is also used in the celebration of the Eucharist at different instances namely: a. when it is mingled with wine to symbolize the union of divine and human nature in the incarnation of Jesus;
a. when the celebrant washes his hands before vesting while praying that the Lord may give strength to his hands and wipe away all stain so that he may keep him in purity of mind and body;
b. when the celebrant washes his hands during the offertory, praying that his iniquity may be washed away and his sin cleansed;
c. when a priest purifies the sacred vessels after communion.
3. Water may also be used in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick when the celebrant sprinkles the sick person and those present with holy water.
The three kinds of holy oils namely the Oil of Catechumens (Oleum Catechumenorum or Oleum Sanctorum), the Oil of the Infirm (Oleum Infirmorum), and Holy Chrism (Sacrum Chrisma) all come from nature. These oils are used in baptism, confirmation, anointing of the sick and holy orders.
Bread and Wine
These two elements used in the sacrament of Eucharist are directly the fruits of the earth. The priest mentions this at mass when holding the paten with bread, sightly raised, says in a low voice: « 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. » And the priest raising the chalice with wine offers this prayer: « Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you; fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink. »
Many other items that are used in the celebration of the sacraments come directly or indirectly from nature namely candles, books, pieces of cloths, flowers, church furniture and so on.
In a nutshell, it is hard to imagine the celebration of sacraments without elements from Mother Earth. Children need to be catechized about this reality as they prepare for sacraments with hope that they will grow up understanding that relationship between sacraments and the environment, and the sacred character of the latter. Practically, we are encouraging parents to give gifts of trees to their children at baptism, first holy communion, and confirmation. We are also encouraging people to plant trees at their weddings and anniversaries hoping that the planting of trees will become a custom.