Today is Arbor Day. Last Sunday was Earth Day. Both celebrations remind us we are to be responsible stewards of God's creation.

Too often we have been careless in our use of nature's gifts, individually and collectively. Too late have we learned, often by our mistakes, the complex web of ecology. Acid rain, oil spills and climate change are dramatic reminders of our misuse of nature.

Ecology is one science that is a happy partner with religion. San Francisco was chosen as the site to proclaim the first Earth Day in 1970 because there was universal agreement St. Francis of Assisi would be the patron saint of ecology. The best-selling garden ornament in our secular culture is a statue of St. Francis. His vision of creation, which is sung in his "Canticle of the Sun," is a legacy to all people that we human beings are related to all of creation as brothers and sisters. What we do to nature we are doing to our family, to ourselves.

Ecological problems have a hidden blessing. They teach us the interdependence of all creation, the oneness of all people, and the need for harmony between all nations. On World Peace Day in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said, "If you want to cultivate peace, take care of creation." International efforts to promote ecology can open new avenues to peace.

The modern world is a global village where safeguarding creation and cultivating peace are mutually enriching. When the human family confronts the challenges of ecology with a sense of justice and international solidarity, it reduces animosity among peoples and strengthens the bond between the present and future generations.

As there is no "I" in team, there is no "me" in ecology. Care of the environment is, at its very nature, a collective effort for the common good. Ecology presents a strong motivation and a unique opportunity to cultivate world peace.

There is also an ecology of human life and human behavior. A lack of respect for the most vulnerable forms of human life ultimately will diminish our own life. Just as careless use of our physical environment results in unforeseen damage, the consequences of our moral acts, though not immediately apparent, eventually will take their toll. We exist within a human nature we must respect if we wish to uphold human dignity and foster harmony among people.

When Pope Benedict said, "If you want to cultivate peace, take care of creation," he was talking about more than flora and fauna. As unrestrained use of creation damages our resources, undisciplined personal conduct harms the human community. If you want peace in your heart, respect the moral ecology intrinsic to human life.

Of this personal moral ecology Scripture says, "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they will be my people" (Jeremiah 31:33).

Statements of Faith is a series sharing lessons from local church leaders and members. To submit a column for publication, contact the Hays Daily News at (785) 628-1081.