Recycling: An Act of Prayer for the Environment

If a Catholic priest is ordained between the ages of 25-30, he will be separated from priests aged 75-80 by approximately three generations of priestly formation; generations which are approximately 15-18 years in length. As time goes by, keen observers can determine the formative strengths and weaknesses of different generations of priests.

Shortly after Vatican II, Catholic seminarians were instructed that priestly work itself could be considered prayer. In other words, if a priest kept very busy throughout each day with ministerial tasks, he could consider all of his priestly work that day to be prayer.

Within 30 years, adept seminary faculties were advising seminarians that the “work is prayer” notion is not sufficient for the spiritual needs of a priest. Priests needed to devote themselves to the liturgy of the hours, devotions, and quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament in addition to performing ministerial work.

The balance between work and prayer has always been a tricky one for a parish priest. In the fifth century, St. Benedict founded a monastic order with its rule centered on “Ora et Labora” (prayer and work). But parish priests are not monks. In fact, until recently, parish priests were often referred to as “secular” priests, meaning that they necessarily dealt with the world on a daily basis.

For clergy, religious and laypeople, it is important to note that prayer can be work, and work can be prayer. Ideally, however, a healthy spiritual life – for individuals and communities—requires a balance between performing religious “acts” and spending time in prayerful contemplation, striving to develop a personal relationship with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In my own prayer life, I try to achieve a balance between “works” and contemplation, and I would like to use my recycling efforts as a way to illustrate that sometimes, we can convert mundane tasks into acts of prayer, with intentions attached.

When I prepare to bring my recycling to the recycling center, I offer my “work” to God with an intention for the salvation of the world and for the protection/health of the world’s environment.

Although I am not really a believer in man-made global warming (sorry, er, I mean “climate change”), my “carbon footprint” is probably a lot smaller than many who participate in climate change activism. Hollywood stars, for example, who decry the evils of fossil fuels, think nothing of flying in their private jets from Los Angeles to New York for a weekend out. President Obama, who just vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline because it would transport “evil” fossil fuels, has probably traveled more miles in Air Force One than any preceding president. By the way, 747’s burn a lot of fuel.

Ironically, over time, I have noticed that many who claim to be concerned about climate change can be disinterested in basic recycling efforts.

As I have written before in this blog, I am a proud conservative, and I am a consummate recycler! As the mainstream liberal media would have us believe, conservatives want “dirty air and dirty water,” but I buck that trend.

I finally loaded up my vehicle and head to the Wilton Transfer Station (when I was a kid, we used to call it the “dump!”). The condominiums where I live do not offer curbside recycling pick-up or single-stream recycling. We do have a few community recycling bins near our dumpster, but I suspect that sometimes our recycling material gets tossed into the garbage truck. Others have told me that they sometimes see waste-management contractors combine recycling materials and garbage together. It all depends on how conscientious the waste-management contractor/employee is on a given day.

If I am going to go to the trouble of recycling – to the point of obsessiveness—I want to be certain that my recycling material finds its way to legitimate recycling points. To the best of my ability, my recyclables are cleaned (without using excessive water), and everything is neatly sorted: cardboard (corrugated and flat); mixed paper; plastic and metal containers; and occasional pieces of scrap metal.

It pains me when I go to the dumpster and discover large, corrugated cardboard boxes within. Not all of my neighbors care about recycling as much as I do! Don’t worry, I am not so obsessive that I go dumpster-diving to retrieve recyclables!

The work that I do to bring my recyclables to the recycling center can truly be considered prayerful. It involves a level of sacrifice, which I offer to God for my intentions. Like most people, I would prefer to be lazy and not do uncompensated work, but I do it because I believe in faith that my recycling efforts are accepted as prayer, and that is compensation enough!

As you will see from the photos, many Wilton residents are concerned about recycling, and the truck-sized bins fill up quickly. One of the staff members at the Transfer Station told me that the mixed-paper bins fill up very fast. In fact, most of that paper finds its way to China, which places a high value on reusable paper pulp.

When it comes to business/mixed paper items, I do my best to remove my address from my recyclables. In this age of identity theft, cutting out or shredding my contact info is an added burden in the process, but I feel better about throwing personal correspondence in the recycling bin when I know I have done my best to remove contact information from the documents.

One of the reasons I posted this blog was to encourage others to take recycling seriously, as an important environmental effort, and as a form of prayer.

As I was leaving the Transfer Station the other day, I stopped to take a photo of the resident Turkey Vultures who were looking for a snack. There is no question that they, too, are serious recyclers.