Wednesday, November 30, 2022 is a number of different things in the different calendars we all keep, or juggle to keep together.
In the liturgical calendar, today falls in the first week of advent 2022. It is also the feast of the Apostle Andrew, celebrated not only ecclesially but in some places (e.g., Scotland, and Barbados) also as a civic or national holiday. As the latter example indicates, there are always other calendric markers that intersect with the liturgical calendar, such as civic or national calendars, or an academic calendar that might make this the last full week of classes.
Of increasing importance to me for some years now have been planetary, cosmological, and ecological calendars. In the latter, November 30 is a somber day, and day of mourning. For over a decade now, the day has been marked as the “Remembrance Day for Lost Species” [https://www.lostspeciesday.org/].
Why should Christians, and in particular those of us involved in liturgical practices and liturgical studies, care? Why on earth should we care that today is the “Remembrance Day for Lost Species”? After all, someone also declared November 30 to be “National Mousse Day,” and someone else “National Methamphetamine Awareness Day,” and someone else still, “National Computer Security Day.”
Why care about November 30 as “Remembrance Day for Lost Species”?
Pope Francis offered a succinct and startling answer to this in his encyclical Laudato Si’: “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence” (LS 33), he wrote. Translated into the language of worship, we might say: The human-driven extinction of species is diminishing the planetary community of our fellow creatures who worship God, as do we. No wonder Pope Francis challenged us to experience this loss as akin to an amputation: “I would reiterate that ‘God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement’” (LS 89).
I will take time, then, on this November 30, 2022, to honor this “Remembrance Day for Lost Species,” and to mourn the loss of some of our creaturely fellow worshippers. In particular, I will mourn, the loss of the beautiful ivory-billed woodpecker and the Carolina parakeet, both extinct creatures of the region I now live in.
Images of these and other creatures threatened by extinction can be accessed here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2022/jun/06/extinct-and-endangered-species-in-pictures.