Season of Creation - Picnic

Christians from across Cheltenham - and from beyond - shared a late summer picnic to recognise the season of creation. A day in which at least three, if not all four seasons were encountered! Fortunately, the photos do not show the showers, nor the plummeting mercury, but do show the good spirit and conversation enjoyed by all, young and old, on the front lawn of St Edwards Senior school, which had been kindly made available by the Headmaster.

While picnickers chatted and ate, the excellent 'Ukuladies' gave a spirited performance of some well known standards, despite the occasional gust scattering music and on a couple of occasions, the marquee! A brief pause, and then Tom and Amelia led the congregational singing, with prayers led by Father David Mills.


Session 4 - Monday 21st December at 19:30

In the final session of our online course, we turned attention to the important third chapter of Laudato Si’ entitled “The human roots of the ecological crisis”: we were fortunate to have as guide Sister Margaret Atkins OSA, author of the CTS pamphlet, “Catholics and our common home”.

The central ideas of this chapter were not, she reminded us, unwrapped from new by Pope Francis, but developed by his predecessor, Benedict XVI. One of the encyclical’s key words is “control” – it occurs eight times. In using it, as in the expression “crowd control”, we betray an approach that tends to treat people as things. Technology (e.g. in the form of the TV remote, or “controller”) gives us “control”, but also shapes our minds.

In particular, it shapes our attitude both to the natural world and to human activity. “The idea of infinite or unlimited growth,” Pope Francis writes (#106), “… is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry.” And in #128: “The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replace human work… Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment… To stop investing in people, in order to gain greater short-term financial gain, is bad business for society.”

Unless, Sister Margaret said, we have a rich vision of what it is to be human, we have nothing to set against the idea that technology should be used because it’s there, used to make profit.

But beware, she warned, of being just ecological enthusiasts who happen to go to church: we need to see the interconnectedness between our attitude to God, the creator who made – but doesn’t control – us, and the wisdom and respectfulness that flows from this: our respect for creation and for others. Without the humility and hope that comes from faith, we either sink into despair, or revert to technological control as our only way out. If we trust in providence, we are able to carry on responding in ways that are good, trusting in the Lord to bring good out of that. “We can’t have a simply secular hope for the environment.”

Technology is not evil in itself – only when it becomes technocratic, preventing human flourishing and destroying inner peace.

The speaker asked us, in our group discussion, to consider the technology we use day to day, and ask ourselves, where does it come from? How was it made? Where will it end up? Does it assist or hinder our relationship with God?

Two books that Sister Margaret mentioned in her challenging talk were “Good Work”, by E.F. Schumacher, and “The Tyranny of Merit”, by Michael Sandel. She also extended an invitation to anyone who would like to join the next Boarbank Hall online retreat, 22-25 January: “Living Laudato Si’, your parish and your planet”: click here for a link to the details.

Actions we can consider (by way of follow up):

Martin Davis

9th January 2021

All are welcome to take part in this session – do please share this message if you wish.

Session 3 - Monday 14th December at 19:30

On the third evening of the parish’s online Advent course, Liz Baldwin of CAFOD joined us from Bristol: she interacts with volunteers in parishes and schools in the Diocese of Clifton who are supporting CAFOD in its mission to overcome poverty and injustice. Her talk centred on the role of the CAFOD LiveSimply Award, and the message of Laudato Si’, to ‘work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us’.

The work does not rest all on our shoulders: keep calm, put our relationship with God first – the answers rest with Him.

A CAFOD YouTube animation, used in secondary schools, poignantly set out the main points of the encyclical, highlighting the beauty and wonder in the world, and urging us to live wisely, think deeply and love generously.

Liz expanded on the Pope’s insistence on the interconnectedness between the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor, underlining the absence of choice for the poor. She introduced Pope Francis’ term ‘rapidification’, and the need to disconnect in order to connect – to ‘be present’.
The LiveSimply award, a compelling way to get young people involved, was introduced by clips of parishioners speaking about how it worked in their parishes: there are a number already in Clifton Diocese.

Liz summed up how to get started with the Award:

  1. Have a study group, using the online study guide, to become acquainted with the big picture;
  2. Analyse what the parish is already doing;
  3. Find out what people have a passion for;
  4. Use the LiveSimply website assessment tool.

Group discussion centred on the barriers to getting involved: parishioners being ignorant of Catholic Social Teaching; and spreading the commitment across to the whole of a big parish. Was the Award scheme rather ‘nebulous’? What if the parish priest was not interested in getting on board, and/or conscious that he wouldn’t be there long? If key people left, how would one then maintain a sustainable parish programme? How do we understand ‘Live simply that others may simply live’ in terms of climate emergency declarations, emission reduction targets and changes in agricultural subsidies? A representative from one parish already involved in the Award scheme spoke of the value of tree planting and a garden restoration project, for soil improvement and food production. Others urged keeping COVID routines for the longer term – local shopping, walking/cycling, looking after neighbours, using local tradespeople.

Altogether, a stimulating evening, which could have gone on longer. Thank you Liz!

The Speakers:

Sr Margaret Atkins

Sr Margaret Atkins is a Canoness of St Augustine, based at Boarbank Hall in Cumbria. Previously, she taught theology at Trinity and All Saints College, Leeds. She has a long-standing interest in the theology of creation and the Church’s response to the ecological crisis.

Elisabeth Baldwin

CAFOD’s work in the Catholic community of England and Wales is to inspire and resource Catholics to participate in the Church’s mission to overcome poverty and injustiElisabeth Baldwin, Portraitce in partnership with CAFOD.

In her role as the local Community Participation Coordinator for the Diocese of Clifton, Liz Baldwin recruits and supports a team of committed, inspired and well-resourced volunteers working in parish and school communities to enable and equip Catholics to connect and understand, give, act and pray.

Liz will be speaking to us about the CAFOD Live Simply award, which is an opportunity for Catholic communities - parishes, schools, religious orders and chaplaincies - to respond to Pope Francis’ invitation in Laudato Si' to “work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us”.


Paul Bodenham

Paul Bodenham is a trustee and former chair of the national ecumenical charity Green Christian, and a founder of Operation Noah.  He works as Programme Leader for Social Action for the Justice and Peace Commission in the Catholic diocese of Nottingham, and is leading the development of Caritas in the diocese


Fr Michael Healy

I have been serving now as a Priest of the Clifton Diocese for nearly 50 years and currently continue working in two parishes as Dean of South Bristol.

Schooled at St. Brendan’s College with the Christian Brothers, I then went to Rome training ­at the Venerable English college where I studied for degrees in both Philosophy and Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. My greatest joy during those seven years of formation was to have been present at the close of the Second Vatican Council when Pope St Paul VI promulgated that blockbuster document of the Church in the Modern World on the steps of St Peter’s. This famously invited us to look closely into the signs of the times by the light of faith, and not just alone but ecumenically and drawing on the wisdom of other faiths and World Religions.

In this regard I was happy over time to take two sabbaticals to India, the first to Bede Griffith's Ashram in Shantivanam and the secon
d to Sr. Vandana’s in Rishikesh by the River Ganges.

Alongside my continuing close interest in biblical studies, I undertook four periods of training in San Francisco for certification as a Teacher of the Enneagram. This ancient system offers nine different spiritual paths suitable for each person to find the best path for their growth band development.

Session 2 - Monday 7th December at 19:30

On the second evening of the parish’s online Advent course, Father Michael Healy (from Bristol) pondered the question, “Where is God’s first revelation?” The answer of course is “in Creation” – what he described as “original blessing” – so much more important to focus on, than original sin. “But since God's first revelation is Creation, how is it that Christians don't revel and rejoice in it, and make the connection between gift and response?”

Fr Michael took us through highlights of Chapter Two of Laudato Si’, The Gospel of Creation: he dwelt particularly on paragraph 67, “We must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts… tell us to till and keep the garden of the world.”

Pope Francis points to the moral of the passage in Genesis about Cain and Abel: “Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth… These ancient stories, full of symbolism, bear witness to a conviction which we today share, that everything is interconnected.” (#70)

“Connection” was a word that came up in the group discussion: “We need to connect our head with our hearts, to rejoice and revel in creation. Help people to appreciate and connect with the beauty around us, working for instance on the surroundings of our church building. Make connection too with other religions who believe in a creator, as well as those who don't believe.” A linked response: “The Maori people believe the earth is our gift while we are here and it is our duty to care for it and nurture it for those who follow us.”

Fr Michael spoke of avarice (Market forces must prevail), arrogance (We’re smarter than nature) and apathy (Am I bothered?) – three major enemies. "Global indifference is a sin," asserts Pope Francis, so “how do we create Circles of Support to ensure that we make our voices heard in a world that doesn't seem to care?” “We are making a difference in our groups now,” came one response, “but we need to expand our small ponds of enthusiasm into streams of energy for change and creation. We need to invite people to join in and to be part of this change.”

Another group commented, “We should engage in politics more, joining local authorities. If we can win the hearts and minds of politicians, it will make a huge difference: better, the personal approach. Something the Church could do much better is campaigning and raising awareness.” Pope Benedict’s words were an encouragement: “The laity in the Church… should be considered not as collaborators with the clergy, but as persons truly co-responsible for the being and activity of the Church.”

Fr Michael gave us as antidotes to his “three As”: generosity, gratitude, gratuitousness. “Just to be is a blessing.” “We need to celebrate simplicity,” as one responder put it, which leads us into next week’s session: Liz Baldwin will tell us how Laudato Si’ underpins CAFOD’s strategy, and explain the LiveSimply Parish Award scheme.


Laudato Si’ Talk and Discussion from 7th December 2020

Session One - Talk by Paul Bodenham

Introducing Laudato Si’

Introducing Laudato Si’

On the first evening of the parish’s online Advent course, there were 50 or more taking part. Father David welcomed us in a recorded introduction. He encouraged us to think about "the role we play in the world, how we interact with the people around us and with our planet": Paul Bodenham's talk, “Reading Laudato Si’ with heart, head and hands”, gave us much food for such thought.

He set Laudato Si' in the context, not only of traditional Catholic Social Teaching, but also of the ominous developments threatening God’s creation that have taken place since Pope Francis gave us his encyclical 5½ years ago. Slides and diagrams reminded us powerfully why it is that we are in a state of emergency for both the planet and its ecology – and yet it seems to be an emergency “that dare not speak its name”. So, leaving aside the dreadful effects of the pandemic, we go about our lives as if nothing in creation’s terms had changed. People hide their eyes even from David Attenborough’s documentaries. There’s something in us that resists taking it all on board: yet our Faith forms us to do so, and we need to open our eyes and make the connections.

But what, the speaker asked, should action in accordance with the teaching of Laudato Si’ look like – from government, from business and from the Church? Pope Francis' prophetic words certainly herald a call to individual action, but they cannot be limited to such action. As Christians, we need to combine together within the Church community, and with other people of goodwill in the wider field of politics, to express and press for what we judge to be the actions needed, to meet both climate and ecological crises.

Without coordinated common action we are in danger of compartmentalising our Faith. Paragraph 232 of the encyclical urges, not only engagement in political life, but all forms of organising for the common good: These community actions, when they express self-giving love, can also become intense spiritual experiences. Can such actions include, for instance, civil disobedience?

Shortage of time prevented Paul from developing his theme as fully as he would have liked, and also drew attention to the fact that for some of the participants this was their first encounter with Laudato Si’. A recording of the talk is available (right), and a resources sheet will list some easily available material that can help supply background information.

The questions thrown up in the breakout discussion groups included: What exactly is civil disobedience? How do we start to measure growth in non-economic terms? What should we be urging the Government to do ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit coming up shortly, on 12th December? (Not much has been spoken about this important event to date.) What’s happening within our Diocese about divestment from fossil fuels? In connection with the last question, Paul said he had represented his Diocese on a panel with reps from all the Catholic Dioceses, to discuss a common lead on questions relating to sustainability and the environment. (Who represents Clifton Diocese on the panel?!)

After the group discussion, again we ran short of time, but feedback has been positive: “Last night’s presentation was one if the best, in reasoning and making the point that the climate change chaos is an emergency.” “Brilliant and energising to be part of.” “Terrific that we have participants from Leicester, Ipswich, Westminster & West Sussex!” “So much to take in.” “I found I needed to listen more to what was being said.” “The church has no borders… I'm wondering how we can BE the church beyond the building.” “People need to be persuaded that [crisis for Creation] is an aspect of faith (a lost tradition).” “What a debt we owe to technology, and (tonight) to the calm presence of John!”

There should be time to return to some of the outstanding questions later in the course. The talk at our next meeting, on Monday 7th December, will be given by Father Michael Healy (from Bristol). He answers the question, “Where is God’s first revelation?”, and draws encouragement from Pope Francis’ encyclical for Christians to hope that people of goodwill can together save Our Common Home before it is too late. The meeting starts at 7.45, Night Prayer following at 9pm: at our first meeting, the majority of attenders were able to stay tuned in for it.


Session 1 – 30th November 2020

Video Time Index:

  • 00:00 Welcome Discussion from Fr David Mills, PP at St Gregory the Great, Cheltenham.
  • 08:40 Introductory Prayer, led by Sue Holbrook, Parishioner at St Gregorys
  • 09:30 Talk from Paul Bodenham, from 'Green Christian'
  • 46:23 Not recorded - 15 minute break out rooms
  • 46:35 QA session
  • 58:33 Night Prayer

Resources, to go with our program.

The encyclical’s text in English (NB There are also a number of printed editions, for instance published by CTS.)

The text of the encyclical in audio format

An American friar, Dan Horan’s 15-minute YouTube videos (14 in all), “Understanding Laudato Si’” – recommended

Five-minute CAFOD cartoon summarising Laudato Si’

Novena Article about “Journeying towards Care for Our Common Home” – a comprehensive document on Integral Ecology, published by the Vatican to mark the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’

"Laudato Si' at 5: as prophetic and relevant as ever": a recorded conversation with Christiana Figueres and Fr Augusto Zampini

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales’ environment pages

The Ecological Conversion Group, mobilising the Catholic Church in the UK to act on our ecological crisis

The next Global Catholic Climate Movement Laudato Si’ Animators course begins in March 2021.

Finding God in a Leaf, by Brian Grogan

Catholics and Our Common Home, by Sister Margaret Atkins OSA

To join or enquire about the Cheltenham Laudato Si’ Circle, contact

Introducing Laudato Si'

This Advent we are pleased to have arranged a series of talks Introducing Laudato Si’.

Please download yourself a copy of the document from the Vatican Website.

The four meetings will be held via Zoom on consecutive Monday evenings, starting promptly at 7.45. They will end at 9 with Night Prayer.

Father David Mills will introduce the course at the first meeting on 30th November. The theme that evening is “Reading Laudato Si’ with heart, head and hands”: the speaker, Paul Bodenham (from Nottingham Diocese), places Pope Francis’ encyclical in the context of Catholic Social Teaching and considers the question, “Why does Laudato Si’ matter?”

On 7th December, Father Michael Healy (from Bristol) asks, “Where is God’s first revelation?”, and draws encouragement from the encyclical for us to hope that we can together save Our Common Home before it is too late.

Our local CAFOD Community Participation Co-ordinator, Liz Baldwin, joins us from Bristol on 14th December, to explain how Laudato Si’ is at the heart of CAFOD’s new strategy, and talk about the LiveSimply Award for parishes and groups.

Finally, on 21st December, Sister Margaret Atkins OSA (from Lancaster Diocese) will speak in particular about the third chapter of Laudato Si’, and explain how Pope Francis traces the ‘human roots’ of the ecological crisis to what he calls the ‘technocratic paradigm’. Her talk is entitled “In quest of human flourishing”.

After the talk, there will be a period of discussion in small groups, each with a leader.

In order to assist administration, and so that we can email you information in advance, please sign up for the course by completing the simple form below. Please do not fill this in again, if you have already booked - it is a booking for the entire program.

Advent Talk - Laudato-Si - Booking form for the Series. You may attend all or as few of the sessions as you wish.

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