Kathleen M. Gallagher
Kathleen M. Gallagher
“Praise be to you, my Lord!” Those are the words most often on my lips as I paint. I love to paint. Painting is my passion. I enjoy experimenting with watercolors, oils and acrylics, splashing them onto canvas, driftwood, bottles, anything at all, to see what they will do.

For me, painting is not only my hobby and passion, it’s also my prayer. My focus is intense. Whether it’s a bold portrait of a friend or the subtle reflection of the moon, I find myself so engrossed in my subject matter that I am often in a state of prayer.

And because the subject of my painting is most often nature – flowers, foliage, waves and winged creatures — my prayer most often takes the form of glory and praise for the awesome beauty of God’s gifts — the lily blossom, opening its petals to devour the morning sunshine; the tranquility of the river at sunset; the delicate patterns in a butterfly’s wings.

I think it’s no coincidence that Pope Francis uses the phrase “Praise be to you, my Lord!” as the foundation for his landmark 2015 encyclical about care for God’s creation, called Laudato Si’. After all, the Earth is His canvas, and He has created for us a stunning masterpiece, a magnificent painting that changes every day with the tides and the winds and the seasons.

To damage it, to pollute it, to fail to protect God’s creation, is to profoundly disrespect the Creator. I think about how I would feel if someone dumped garbage all over one of my paintings. Indeed, disrespecting the environment disrespects all human life, because life is dependent upon the environment for sustenance and survival. As the Holy Father says, “Everything is connected.”

Our common home is falling into disrepair, and much of it can be linked to our “throwaway” culture of convenience and greed. Forests have been stripped to make way for high-rise buildings and over-development. We rely too much on fossil fuels like oil, carbon and gas. Our land, air and water have all been contaminated.

Pope Francis reminds us that when we don’t responsibly care for God’s creation, everyone suffers, but it’s the poor and vulnerable who suffer the most. Pollution, food and water insecurity, and conflicts over declining resources first affect those on the margins, the least of our brothers and sisters, whom Jesus entrusts to our particular care and concern.

In this November’s elections, there’ll be an amendment to the New York Constitution on the ballot to add the right to clean air and water and a healthful environment for all New Yorkers. That’s something to support, for sure, but each of us has to do our part. Don’t throw your plastic water bottle in the parking lot. Better yet, don’t use the plastic water bottle; use a reusable container instead. Share important documents (like Laudato Si’!) electronically instead of printing them out and wasting all that paper. Recycle. Reduce your water waste.

Not all of us are called to understand the science and specifics of climate change. But each of us can take some small steps to change our lifestyle and consumption habits to make a big difference.

Don’t disrespect the Master Painter. Help protect the painting. Praise Him always for the wondrous work of art He has created for us!

Kathleen M. Gallagher is director of Pro-Life Activities for the New York State Catholic Conference.