Ash Wednesday Stardust Ritual

This ritual is meant to enrich current Ash Wednesday services, not to supplant them.
Needed: at least one candle and a dish of dirt or glitter to which everyone will have access. Decide who will read. Begin in as much darkness as is practical.

Leader: To begin, let us pause to recall past times whenashes_6329cp we have received ashes on our foreheads and heard the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Remember how that influenced your best experiences of Lent.  

Pause. 
Carry those thoughts and graces with you now, but place them in a larger context: the context of the entire universe and its amazing 13.8 billion-year history. Perhaps we can remember back to when we did not know the story of how stars formed and died in the process of bringing Earth to existence. After billions of years, thanks to God’s living and acting in our world and in us, we became part of this blessed creation. We who are stardust are connected to all life; we have a role in this sacred story!

Light candle(s). 

blastReader One: The massive star that was mother to our Sun met with fiery death, her form completely annihilated by the explosive force of the blast. And yet she exists in each of us, in the cells of our bodies that are composed of her dust. Consciously or not, we carry her within us as surely as we carry the DNA of our biological parents. (Radical Amazement, Judy Cannato)

Reader Two: Our planet Earth was once a dancing star, evolving over four and a half billion years ago from the many elements of [an exploding] supernova. I have loved knowing that we are “made of stardust” . . .  I like knowing that the composition of my body has the elements of a star that was once brilliantly aglow in the universe and is now dancing in me. There’s a magical sense of connection that comes from this knowledge . . . . (The Cosmic Dance, Joyce Rupp)

Reader Three: Dust particles are suspendedimages in the air at all times, unnoticed until sunlight bathes them in radiant streaming light. In this warmth, the specs sparkle. No one who cares about shiny furniture is unaware of what dust can accomplish, just by being. Nothing is insignificant in our universe!

Response to readings:

  • for the Spirit present within the creative process of creation and within each of us, We are grateful.
  • for the generations of supernovas that exploded, resulting in stars with increasingly more of the heavy elements, eventually leading to the supernova that resulted in our solar system and galaxy, We are grateful.
  • images-5 for Sister Dirt, because of whom we can enjoy food, flowers, plants, clean air, shade, and revelations of the divine, We are grateful.
  •  for farmers who till the soil, especially our local farmers who do it organically using fair trade practices, We are grateful.
  • for the scientists, theologians, thinkers, writers, speakers and artists who have helped us realize our place in creation — [Pause to quietly remember one or two who have helped you. Name them if you wish], We are grateful.
  • for those present and throughout the world committed to creating a flourishing Earth, We are grateful.

Sharing:
Jesus, too, was stardust! Jesus, too, died to give new life. How might we connect the creation  story with our Lent experiences this year? How might our Lent resolutions reflect our call to care for E/earth?

Blessing dirt together:
May this soil, which dates to stardust images-2and which took over 4 billion years to form on Earth, keep us humble — humus is the Latin for soil. May it remind us of who we are and how vitally we interconnect with the rest of creation. May we trust in divine power working is us for the good of all creation.  Amen.

Individual blessings, using soil from the center bowl:
Depending on the number of participants, either divide into pairs, each member blessing the other with soil from the center bowl, or form a circle and pass the bowl of soil, each blessing the person on his or her right.

Thank you, (name), for bringing your starlight into my life. I bless you and the star-stuff you invest in caring for all of creation. (Add anything you may wish to say at the beginning of our Lenten Journey.)

Extinguish candle(s).

Socialize.

Time to Plan for Lent

 lent_thumb3_thumbLent begins next month — Ash Wednesday is Feb. 18th! Christians who care about Earth and/or whose Christ-awareness has been enriched by evolutionary biology, physics, and the new cosmology might long for Lent resources that include the suffering, death, and resurrection of Earth. Knowing that Jesus’ life is interconnected with everything else, they might want resources that foster actions that contribute to Earth’s sustainability and renewal.

Our reflections on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection need not be isolated from the life, death, and resurrection present in our our sacred and threatened Earth. This Lent is a good time to integrate concern for each precious threatened species with Christ’s suffering “in ten thousand places.” (Gerald Manley Hopkins)

Even butterflies, a symbol of new life, monarch-butterfly-threatenedare threatened with extinction — and the ramifications for other life forms are indeed ominous. “The whole creation [including humanity, so totally dependent upon it] has been groaning as in  the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8: 2) 

Though resources that integrate Christ’s passion and Earth’s passion are not plentiful, they do exist. This site — http://ecospiritualityresources.com — is one of them, and it offers two resources for Lent.

Creation Covenant

This free five-part group reflection guide, Creation Covenant, is currently available in English at http://ecospiritualityresources.com/lent. The Spanish version will be posted by January 24th. 

Grounded in the Universe Story, Creation Covenant connects excerpts from the Sunday Scripture readings with Earth’s current “groaning” due to species extinction and habitat destruction. Participants reflect on our common beginnings c.13.8 billion years ago, the marvel of God’s living and acting in the world and in us, and our call to respond to the signs of our times. The first four weeks highlight extinction of species, destruction of ecosystems, and our responsibility to protect both; the fifth week consists of a culminating prayer ritual.   

imagesCreation Covenant is a timely response to what Pope Francis wrote in Joy of the Gospel:
God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel … the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement. Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations.

The Pope’s call to feel Earth’s pain is reminiscent of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s conviction that “it is through sympathy, and this alone,” that humans will be able to extend further the life that has made us.

It’s not too early to publicize, gather friends, and plan to use Creation Covenant this Lent! https://ecospiritualityresources.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/creation-covenant1.pdf

Ash (Stardust) Wednesday Ritual 

In February http://ecospiritualityresources.com/blog will post a lent_other_picritual for Ash Wednesday that expands our dust-remembrance by celebrating our coming from stardust and by reflecting on the marvel of dust.

I hope these two resources will contribute to what Thomas Berry called the Great Work. 

Other resources

The Stations of the Cross for All Creation booklet, available from the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center (IPJC), integrates the sufferings of Jesus, our planet and its people, and envisions resurrection and new life. See http://www.ipjc.org/publications/stations.htm.

 

Please use “Comments” to add your suggestions for making good use of our time this Lent.

5 Ways to Reduce Human Trafficking

• The month of January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

• Pope Francis’ January 1st World Day of Peace, 2015, message* is “Slaves No More, But Brothers and Sisters.” 

• January 11, 2015, is National Awareness Day: Human Trafficking.  

• Feb. 8, 2015, Catholics worldwide will keep a Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.

*Pope Francis’ challenge includes recognizing the “equal dignity” of our brothers and sisters who are enslaved and exploited, and to work to end human trafficking, trade in migrants and prostitutes, slave labor, and the enslavement of women and children.

Information, ways to help, and a prayer ritual follow. Please consider sharing this with others.

1. Know the Extent of the problem 

Types-of-human-trafficking1Trafficking in children is on the increase, according to the latest report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons was released November 24, 2014, in Vienna, Austria and shows that one in three known victims of human trafficking is a child – a 5 per cent increase compared to the 2007-2010 period.

Girls make up 2 out of every 3 child victims, and together with women, account for 70 % of overall trafficking victims worldwide. A recent study from Walk Free, an anti-slavery organization, puts the number of slaves at around 36 million, which is 0.5% of the world’s population. 36 million is a little over half the population of Britain, well over the population of a number of European nations, including Greece, and just about the population of Scandinavia put together. When framed in those terms, that number starts to seem pretty terrifying — though even one person in slavery is a serious matter.

2. Know about trafficking laws. In the U.S.: HumanTraffickingDec292012

President Obama has signed into law H.R. 4980, also known as the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act. This bipartisan legislation aims to reduce child sex trafficking, increase adoptions and improve child support collections. It was introduced in the House by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI), Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA), and Ranking Member Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act will encourage states to combat sex trafficking among youth in foster care, promote normalcy for foster youth, help move more children from foster care into adoptive homes or the homes of relatives, and increase the amount of child support provided to families in which one parent resides outside of the U.S. The legislation is fully funded.

3. Three Action Steps from Project IRENE: projectirene@aol.com:

• Buy Fair Trade Key Chains 

f1771b72-5e79-4b6c-be87-e88fc533253fPoverty is one of the many factors which make individuals vulnerable to trafficking.  Key chains made by women at the Regina Center in Nongkhai, Thailand provide income generating opportunities for women.  The women can stay in their villages and keep their children in school.  These are two effective strategies for reducing sex trafficking.

These key chains are $5.00 each.  The Regina Center is one of the partners of HandCrafting Justice which is a member of the Fair Trade Federation.  These key chains can be ordered at ECPAT USA.  Go to www.ecpatusa.org.  Email address is info@ecpatusa.org.  Even though buying a key chain might seem an insignificant act, ponder the impact of everyone reading this information deciding to gift others with these key chains during the holiday season.

• Encourage More Information in Libraries

Ask libraries to purchase materials related to trafficking.  Possibilities include What I Have Been Through Is Not Who I Am; Not a Choice, Not a Job; Rape is Rape; Girls Like Us; The Natashas; Trafficking in Persons Report, published annually by the U.S. Department of State; Life Interrupted.

• Purchase fair trade, sweat-shop free products (clothing, chocolate, coffee, tea, etc.). 

4. Reduce Runaways

Another way to reduce trafficking is to reduce the number of runaway boys and girls. They are prime targets for traffickers. If all the youth who run away in the United States lived in one city, it would be the 5th largest city in the country. If you notice runaway young people in your neighborhood, or anyone who shows signs of abuse or restricted living, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888.

 5. Pray, including with others

My thanks to Rose Mary Meyer, BVM, at Project IRENE (projectirene@aol.com) for the follow prayer that I have slightly adapted:

Human Trafficking Prayer 

Opening Prayer 

All: Creating and compassionate Source of Life, living and acting within each part of your cosmos, we gather to pray for an end to human trafficking, which degrades all those, created in your image, who suffer from, who profit from, and who perpetuate, this crime against humanity.  We pray for strength to continue our anti-trafficking efforts, so that all may experience the preciousness of human life.  Amen.

Reading

UnknownWe remember Sudanese St. Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947), patron for victims and survivors of  human trafficking.  She was kidnapped when she was seven years young and sold into slavery.  Her abductors gave her the Arabic name Bakhita which means “fortunate one.”  She was sold a number of times.  She met the Canossian Sisters, and was baptized and confirmed, taking the name Josephine Bakhita.  She entered the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossia in 1893.  Canonized in October 2000, she became the first Sudanese saint.  Let us give thanks for this Sudanese woman who personally experienced being trafficked.  May she advocate with us for justice for trafficked persons!    (“The Saint of Human Trafficking,” Theresa Baldini, MM.  Maryknoll Magazine)

Reading 

Pope Francis has spoken about trafficking a number of times.  image-493He reflected:  “I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of human trafficking! …  Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved?  Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labor.  Let us not look the other way.  There is greater complicity than we think.  The issue involves everyone!  This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.”    (The Joy of the Gospel)

Shared Silence

Litany Against Trafficking

Alternate readers. Response:  Source of All Life, may our efforts to end human trafficking be effective.

We mourn the degradation of those who are victims of human trafficking:  Source of All Life, may our efforts to end human trafficking be effective.

We rejoice in the efforts to gain knowledge and understanding of the tragedy of human trafficking: Source of All Life . . . .

We grieve the human trafficking associated with sporting events: Source of All Life . . . .

We rejoice in the anti-trafficking training of hotel, restaurant and other personnel in geographic areas near major sporting events: Source of All Life . . . .

We grieve our failure to drink only Fair Trade coffee and to eat only Fair Trade chocolate: Source of All Life . . . .

We rejoice in consumers who are becoming more aware of and committed to purchasing Fair Trade products whose production aims to be traffick-free: Source of All Life . . . .

We grieve the lack of local anti-trafficking laws: Source of All Life . . . .

We rejoice when people advocate for anti-trafficking laws in cities, counties, states, and nations: Source of All Life . . . .

We grieve our inattention to trafficking in our local area: Source of All Life . . . .

We rejoice in those who take seriously their connection with all other human beings and make calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 888 373 7888:  Source of All Life . . . .

Reflection:  Take a few moments to try to absorb the immensity of the global, national, and local trafficking reality as well as the possibilities for actions to stop this human tragedy.

Instrumental Music and Reflection, ending with

All: In our hearts, may each of us commit to an action that is possible—prayer, education, other actions. 

Reflective Silence to choose your commitment

Commitment and Closing Prayer

All: I commit myself to fulfilling the action I have just chosen in order to show solidarity with members of the human family who are trafficked.

 Creating and compassionate Source of Life, we thank you for your love of each of us.  May we model your love by our concern for our trafficked sisters and brothers.  May they experience in their lives the power of being treasured by us and our efforts to free this world, locally and globally, of human trafficking.  This we ask in great confidence now and in the future.  Amen.

Music such as We Shall Overcome, City of God, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace