November 30th is the International Remembrance Day for Lost Species. Those who are “joined … so closely to the world around us that we can feel the … extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement” (Pope Francis) often feel, and sometimes read about, the need for a prayer or ritual to help us grieve. I wrote what follows for myself and anyone else who wants to use it on whatever day or whatever occasion seems fitting. Alter it in any way that will help you grieve, alone or with a group. Share freely. For a two page (4 sides) slightly different copy of the prayer: Extinction Grieving Prayer.

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Use two candles; prepare suggested (or other) music and video. Directions are starred. 

CALL TO PRAYERsparrow-dusky_seaside_sparrow-from-wikipedia

. . .today, the dusky seaside sparrow
became extinct. It may never be as famous
as the pterodactyl [ˌterəˈdakt(ə)l] or the dodo,
but the last one died today . . . .
An excerpt from “Science” by Alison Hawthorne Deming

What you call resources, we call our relatives. Source unknown.

Light the first candle. It honors all the species that have gone extinct in our lifetimes.

Great Giver of Life, we pause to remember our place at the beginning of the Sixth Great Extinction on Planet Earth. For 13.8 billion years creation has been groaning: bringing to birth, becoming more complex, more organized, more conscious. The other great extinctions during the past 450 million years happened by forces beyond anyone’s control. For the first time, our species is ruining whole ecosystems, aborting entire interdependent species. We acknowledge that we play a part in this dying by our carelessness, ignorance, and indifference. Forgive us our part in the death of healthy ecosystems and the resulting extinction of creatures in whom we believe divinity lives and acts.


imagesWe affirm the Sacred Mystery that caused and continues Creation.

We affirm the 13.8 billion years of our Universe.

We affirm the billions of galaxies, each with its billions of solar systems and stars.

We affirm the multiple transformations during the 4.5 billion years of Mother Earth’s life so far, and the potential for evolution towards ever-greater consciousness.

We affirm the millions of species that have inhabited our planet in beautifully-webbed communities: microorganisms, plants, fish, birds, mammals . . . .

We affirm that we came from Earth and exist, like all species, in a communion of subjects.


We grieve humans’ lack of awareness of, and concern about, the destruction of interdependent communities that have taken billions of years to develop.

We grieve the climate disasters that extinguish habitats and the multiple species within them.

We grieve the more than one-in-four flowering plants, the one-in-five mammals, the nearly one-in-three amphibians, and the one-in-eight birds that are vulnerable to being wiped out completely. (International Union for the Conservation of Nature)img_18-tm

We grieve the Golden Toad (pictured here), native to Costa Rica. It has not been seen since 1989, when a single male was found, the last of its species.

ibex1-tmWe grieve the Pyrenean Ibex (pictured here). The last of this species naturally born was a female, Celia, who died in 2000.

We grieve the St. Helena Olive, images-1a small spreading tree, the last of which perished in 2003 primarily due to deforestation and invasive plants.

We grieve all our extinct brother and sister species, the amphibians, fish, birds, mammals, plants and trees, and their diminished habitats.

We grieve the humans whose sustenance and livelihoods are threatened by this disruption in the food web.

We grieve the deaths of ecological martyrs: Sister Dorothy Stang, Dian Fossey, Chico Mendes, Berta Careers, and the over 1000 other activists slain since 2004. We grieve those who, like the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, are harassed and injured by police and the companies they oppose. (Global Witness reports that, on average, two people die every week.)


“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Perhaps for v. 2 and 3: species, workers.  (Joan Baez’: 2:44)

* Extinguish first candle. Light second candle. It honors the threatened species that remain and our desire to protect them. 

For believers, our faith is tested by our concern and care for creation. U. S. Catholic Bishops: “Renewing the Earth” 1991

Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations.  Pope Francis


Google either one:
YouTube: How Wolves Changed Rivers (4:33)

YouTube: The Wolves That Changed Rivers (5:47)


We are grateful that the ever-controversial Endangered Species Act (ESA, U.S.) has indeed saved many species under its  protection. One example among many is the bald eagle, once threatened as a direct result of the use of DDT.

0611.Rugendo_in_bukima.150We are grateful that British oil company Soco International agreed (June 2014) to suspend exploration in a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), home to half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas (pictured here). However, oil drilling continues to threaten the gorillas and other species there.

We are grateful that the Zoological Society of London released its list of birds most at risk of extinction based on evolutionary distinctness and global endangerment (EDGE). This information will help conservationists decide where efforts should focus first.

ys-wolf-releasing-sawtooth-pup_npsjimpeaco_680-612x353We are grateful that the American grey wolves, virtually extinct in the Lower 48 States by the 1930s, are now so abundant that many want their population lessened to protect cattle-raising.

We are grateful for all of the habitats that have been saved so that the interdependent species within them can escape extinction.

We are grateful for the many people throughout the world who dedicate their time and efforts to keeping habitats and species alive so they can give praise to their creator by their distinct lineages, attributes, and contributions to the web of life.


To save species, we must save ecosystems. To save ecosystems, we must reduce climate change, pollution, poaching, invasive species, and over-consumption. On the following action list, mentally check the things that you already do to protect species (which includes our own, the human species).


Consciously deepen appreciation of the glory of creation, its long story, the place of Divine Mystery in it, and humans’ dependence upon it.                   Pray for the healing of creation.

Include Earth-care concerns when choosing legislators.

Lobby for laws to protect habitats and species.

Join (or cooperate with) groups working to conserve, restore and protect habitats and species.

Reduce all use of fossil fuels.     Take action to stop fracking.     Transition to renewable energy sources.

Encourage institutions to invest in renewable energy and to divest from fossil fuels.

Drive less and/or reduce gas use by driving responsibly.

Avoid produce, meat, and poultry from factory farms.      Buy local and organic produce.

Reduced use of plastic.          Carry water in a thermos or box (not bottled water).

Avoid genetically modified foods (GMOs).              Plant trees and support groups that do.


Einstein said: Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge points to all that is. Imagination points to all that could be.  

What kind of Earth “could be”? How can we contribute to co-creating it?


Great Giver of Life, we come from, and we dwell in, the magnificent world in which you live and act. Our species is causing extinctions; our species can prevent them. Let us not be thwarted by the immensity of the challenge, for the Power working within us can do more than we could imagine. May the flame of this candle we now extinguish continue to burn in our hearts, reminding us to help our threatened relatives.

* Extinguish second candle.

Enlighten us to find you in all Creation; empower us to treat it accordingly. Through Jesus Christ, whose respect for Earth inspires us to live as he did. Amen.


a sign of hope with one another.


“The Heavens Are Telling the Glory of God” or “Touch the Earth” (Kathy Sherman, CSJ) or another appropriate song


(For a short video showing facts about species decline: rk-report-shows-global-wildlife-populations- on-course-to-decline-by-67-per-cent)


Although tree leaves are dropping only in the cool Northern Hemisphere, November is an appropriate month for the whole world to reflect on life and death. The following can be used in any location. For a two-sided pdf, contact terrishcj@aolcom.


Each participant needs a leaf — one that is losing its green chlorophyll and showing other colors of yellow, orange, or red, or one already crisply brown, is elements breaking down, returning nutrients back into the soil for the next generation of leaves. Others can use a green leaf, remembering that it, too, is terminal.


Reader 1: We gather in November to remember our beloved deceased relatives and friends. (Participants name deceased.) Reader 2: We also remember our family ancestors, ancestors in our faith, and those connected by shared values over the years and centuries. (Participants name those they wish to rememberer.) Reader 3: Trees, bushes and plants are experiencing their annual cycle of hibernation because our beloved planet, journeying around our Star, experiences shorter days and colder weather. Reader 4: But everything and everyone ever in existence in the past has transformed, evolved, lived and died. We share this trajectory, for we are part of the awesome process of evolution. Everything has its time.

Reader 5: A reading from Ecclesiastes 3: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted ….


Turn, Turn, Turn  (YouTube, Judy Collins BBC 4:35: Sing along as you wish.

To everything, Turn, turn, turn,
There is a season, Turn, turn, turn,
And a time to every purpose under heaven.

Leader: Look closely at your leaf. Note the range of hues, even within one color. Note the lines and contours. Of all  transparent_fall_leaves_clipartthe leaves ever in existence, this one is unique! Consider the chemical activity from its first moment of existence from stardust to the present, its months of  contributing to the life of its tree, to its bioregion, and ultimately to the entire planet. Marvel that, thanks to eons of evolution, its tree  developed a thin bumpy line of cells where the leaf stem met the branch. When the stem was ready, bit by bit it pushed the leaf away from the stem and sealed that spot to protect itself for the winter. If the leaf did not drop, it would be a useless permanent appendage, preventing the tree from creating new leaves the following spring. This leaf has begun its demise, and will soon crumble to dust. But first, here it is, helping us deepen our awe for creation and the wonder of the cycles of life.

Quiet reflection

Share anything you wish from your leaf reflection including any connections you made between your leaf and your deceased loved ones and your self.


Just to Be Is a Blessing, chorus only, as many times as group wishes: (If needed, YouTube, Colleen Fulmer, first 55 seconds:

Just to be is a blessing, Just to live is holy; Just to be, just to live, Is a blessing, is holy.

All: Let us be grateful for the gift of our own life/ for being part of the life and death of creation/ for being so closely interconnected with all life/ that we actually “interbe.”/ Let us be grateful for all those we know and love/ living and dead/ for those who inspire us/ and help us experience love/ for the awareness that some day/ we too shall die./ Let us rejoice in the divine presence/ living and acting in us and in our world./ How blessed and holy are our lives!

Leaders: Go in peace, to love, treasure, and care for all life.

All: Yes, gratefully!


Art by Mary Southard, CSJ


Unknown(Adapt to your needs. Music suggestions are listed at the end; they or others can be used anywhere during the prayer. If possible, provide a centerpiece featuring some of Earth’s gifts — including something organic, local, and fair trade that can be shared after the prayer.)

Earth Day — April 22, 2016 — marks the 46th anniversary of the first Earth Day, arguably the beginning of the environmental movement in the United States. We celebrate Earth Day during the season of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the time of liturgical celebrations in several religions that mark new life and exodus from bondage to freedom.

Those interested in Earth Day are aware of the many threats to our interconnected Earth. It is an appropriate time to pause for reflection and prayer.

Pause for a few moments’ quiet reflection on the wonder, earth_from_space_5_1920x1080variety, individuality and “interbeing” of Earth’s existence in our solar system and universe.

Let us join in thanking the Source of Life for the gift of Earth. Take turns reading the following litany.
Source of Love and Abiding Faithfulness, we give thanks.

–  for revealing creative love from the first flaring forth, when Earth’s story begins, Source of Love and Abiding Faithfulness, we give thanks.

–  for Earth’s continuing evolution from stardust through its 5 billion year story so far, Source of Love and Abiding Faithfulness, we give thanks.

–  for Earth’s ability to create, to heal, to diversify, to adapt, to be intrinsically interconnected, Source of Love and Abiding Faithfulness, we give thanks. 

Unknown-1–  for the colorful and nurturing gifts that developed in our era: flowers and trees, fish and mammals, human beings who collaborated and bonded to further their species, Source of Love and Abiding Faithfulness, we give thanks.

–  for the gifts of water, soil, air, climate, flora and fauna, and the bioregions that developed over millennia, Source of Love and Abiding Faithfulness, we give thanks.

–  for the challenges that Earth has encountered during her long story, and for the creative ways she developed to heal them, Source of Love and Abiding Faithfulness, we give thanks.

–  for the Spirit that inspired Senator Gaylord Nelson to establish Earth Day: one person’s commitment now motivates people to action in nearly 200 countries, Source of Love and Abiding Faithfulness, we give thanks.

– for Pope Francis, whose commitment to care for our common home inspires people and organizations throughout the world, Source of Love and Abiding Faithfulness, we give thanks.

–  Add as you wish.

Let us deepen our commitment to care for Earth. Take turns reading the following litany.
Response:   Help us give life to the world.

Water-Drought – Because stockpiles of nuclear weapons threaten all life whether or not they are ever used, help us give life to the world.

– Because climate change already causes massive damage to all life on Earth, help us give life to the world.

– Because multiple causes are resulting in a Sixth Major Extinction of life on Earth, help us give life to the world.

–  Because mono-crops and farming with harmful chemicals result in inferior food and spoiled soil and water, help us give life to the world. 

greenpeace31–  Because pollution, especially from plastics, is trashing so much of our planet including our oceans, help us give life to the world.

– Because deforestation ruins soil, water, air, and the life lose when trees are destroyed,  help us give life to the world.

–  Because human greed exploits humans and other species and resources, help us give life to the world.

–  Because so many suffer from problems caused by, or causing, environmental damage, help us give life to the world.

Pause for a few moments’ quiet reflection. Share if you wish: What can we do, alone and/or with others, to enhance Earth’s future?

Closing prayer: Loving Source of Life, we, being of Earth and blessed with the Spirit living and acting within us, join together this Earth Day to renew our awe and appreciation of our precious planet. May our awe and appreciation result in actions that witness to our concerns for Earth. We ask that your presence within us will empower us to co-create a thriving planet now and into the future.


Some music suggestions:
Let All Things Now Living
What a Wonderful World
Touch the Earth with Gentleness (Kathy Sherman)
How Great Thou Art