Carmel Bracken RSM*, is the author of this guest blog, with Laudato Si’ addition from me. 

Hidden Wholeness 

DSC_5144In the heart of the Civic Centre of San Francisco there is a beautiful fountain which has two quotations etched on it. One quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt is written in a very prominent position and states that ‘The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation …. it must be a peace which rests on the cooperative efforts of the whole world.”

The second quote by John Muir  reads ‘If you try to pick out anything at all in the universe you will find it hitched to everything else.’ This is  written on a slab of stone that is  underneath the water and easy to miss. For me this is very  symbolic, that of the two quotations this was the one placed in a deeper, underwater place. It reminds us that we need to do deep soul work to uncover the hidden wholeness of all of life and that only by living from an awareness of unity consciousness, will we truly know how to co-operate with each other and all of life.

 Essential Unity

Science is now offering us proof of what John Muir intuitively understood and what  the mystics knew for generations, that “at our essence we exist as a unity, a relationship utterly interdependent, the parts affecting the whole at every moment…”

galactic_stairway-wbPope Francis makes this point again and again in Laudato Si’. For one example:
It cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected. Time and space are not independent of one another, and not even atoms or subatomic particles can be considered in isolation. (par. 138)

How do we embody this wisdom? What are its implications? Mercy Sisters have asked themselves this in their Chapter question “In what ways will we allow our place in the interdependent and interconnected community of all of life to influence us?”

Subtle Activism

11214128_826056660848348_9202236779506786994_nIn trying to live into this question, I found myself exploring the path and potential of subtle activism, which is based on an awareness that “every improvement we make in our  private world improves the world at large for everyone.”   Subtle activism is any “activity of consciousness or spirit, such as prayer, meditation …. intended to support collective healing and social change.” Subtle activism influences social change through the inner or subtle plane, rather than through conventional exterior means like marches, demonstrations, lobbying, etc.

The potential for subtle activism is only beginning to be tapped. As breakthroughs in quantum physics began to reveal “the unified field of universal intelligence at the basis of mind and matter” a number of scientific projects began to explore the effects of intention and meditation.  A study in Washington DC showed there was a decrease in crime for a two month period in which 4,000 people gathered to meditate. Intention experiments —  “a series of scientifically controlled, web-based experiments testing the power of intention to change the physical world” —  have produced extraordinary results. Findhorn experiments showed how “positive thoughts improved  the growth of plants, and Masaru Emoto’s experiments showed how human emotions effect the nature and composition of water.”


Subtle activism does not replace action in the world, it just extends the range of options open to an activist who is awake to a holistic and integral vision of reality where “the subtler, inner dimension of human experience is being reclaimed.” It can be a means of making a contribution to social change for those who no longer have the physical stamina for action in the outer world and for “people of a certain temperament, or who possess certain spiritual gifts.”

Subtle activism is deeply challenging for  it calls us to live from a place of awareness, knowing that “Every thought, action, decision or feeling creates an eddy in the interlocking, inter-balancing, ever-moving energy fields of life, leaving a permanent record for all of time….” Subtle activism is not about telling others what to do, but a call to embody whatever quality we wish to see in the world, to “be whatever it is we ‘send’ out.” This is implicit in Ghandi’s call to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

1 Lynn McTaggart, The Bond
2 David Hawkins, Power Versus Force
3 Gaiafield project
4 John Hagelin
5 Robert Moss
6 David Nicol
7 David Spangler
8 David Hawkins, Power Versus Force
9 David Spangler

MIA20_4_Workshop1_ss *Carmel Bracken is a member of the Irish Congregation of Sisters of Mercy, Northern Province. A member of their Mercy Global Action Network (MGAN), Carmel received an MA in Culture and Spirituality in Sophia Center in Oakland, California. She has inspired me with her writings and presentations, and I am grateful for this blog.

Ash Wednesday Stardust Ritual

Everything we know has come from stardust that was generated over billions of years by generations of stars. Our planet came from stardust, and thus we, too, are made of it. On Ash Wednesday, Christians traditionally receive a cross of ashes on their foreheads to remind them that they are dust. The following ritual is meant to enrich (not supplant) current Ash Wednesday services by reminding us that we are stardust as well!
(For a two-sided pdf copy, please contact

Needed: one candle and a dish of dirt (or glitter, representing stardust). Decide who will read.

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

Pause to Reflect.  
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. After billions of years, thanks to God’s living and acting in our world and in us, stars formed and died in the process of bringing Earth to existence. We became part of this blessed creation. We are connected to all life; we have a role in this sacred story!

Light candle. 

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!

Litany of gratitude:
•  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, including Pope Francis, and for his encyclical Laudato Si’We are grateful.

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 of soil (or glitter):
May this soil (or glitter), which dates back billions of years 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 in us for the good of all creation.  Amen.

Individual blessings, using soil (or glitter):
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.

100_1230Thank 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.



Commitment to care for our sacred common home is one result of integrating recent scientific discoveries into our beliefs and lifestyles. One strives to become a benign presence on Earth, appreciating and protecting her gifts rather than exploiting them. Educators increasingly find ways to infuse these values. The International Jesuit Ecology Project (IJEP) is an excellent example of educators  responding to global needs with a global resource. 

553511f3-605e-4b0c-9ef9-139ccedc1d79My thanks to Nancy C. Tuchman, PhD, the Founding Director of the Institute of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago and the Co-Director of  IJEP, for the following guest blog:


Healing Earth, a free environmental science e-textbook

Today, worldwide, there are millions of climate refugees who have been displaced from their land and livelihoods because of rising sea levels (due to arctic ice melt), catastrophic storm events, extended droughts, and/or torrential flooding. All of Earth’s systems are in decline.

How did we get here?  Our consumption of fossil fuels and natural resources, and our production of waste is at an all-time unsustainable high.  If all seven billion people lived like those of us in the United States, we’d require six Earths-worth of land and water to keep up with our lifestyle demands. The good news?  We humans control the planet’s destiny; we are the authors of the next chapter. We can change the world for the better for our children and grandchildren.  We need to follow the Pope’s example and muster the will to do what is right and responsible.  Scientists, economists, world leaders and educated citizens world-wide understand and embrace the urgency at hand.  If we want to change the direction of our impending fate—we must act now.

2014_02_15_Editorial_Photo2-300x181This is why my work on the free environmental science e-textbook, Healing Earth has felt to me like an important contribution to Jesuit education and environmental science. Healing Earth is for all types of students interested in environmental science and specifically designed for first year university students, fourth-year secondary school students, adult learners and those most marginalized worldwide. The textbook is aimed at heightening awareness of our planet’s environmental issues through Ignatian Pedagogy—a method that challenges students to see scientifically, evaluate ethically, reflect spiritually and act effectively. Healing Earth was written collaboratively by 90 scholars from Jesuit institutions worldwide and takes a global approach to environmental issues.

For over 500 years, the Jesuits have affected social change through education. The International Jesuit Ecology Project (IJEP) is made up of international scholars with expertise in environmental science, environmental ethics, and environmental spirituality who have thought deeply about how to get environmental science education to our most marginalized populations. With Healing Earth, we’ve created a textbook that encourages students to be agents-of-change on our ever-changing planet whose 5-billion-year evolution (within the Universe’s 13.8 billion years) is now dependent on decisions made by humans.

Healing Earth begins each chapter with a regional case study that poses interrelated scientific, ethical, spiritual and action-oriented questions. For example, the case study in the Global Climate Change chapter focuses on Mongolian Herdsman who are losing their herds and their ancient nomadic way of life because of climate change.

The science of global climate change can help us all better understand what is happening to Mongolia’s pastureland.

The perspective of environmental ethics points out the complex matter of moral responsibility [of the human species that is dependent on our interconnected common home for basic components of life.] The herdsman aren’t the ones emitting the destructive gases into the atmosphere. So, who shares moral responsibility for global climate change and what responses are morally called for?

The perspective of spirituality asks us to consider what the Earth means to us. How deeply do we respect the natural world? [Do we realize that we are part of it, living within it (not on it), taking our place in its billions-of-years story? Do we realize it is a community of subjects with spiritual worth?] For the Mongolian herdsmen, the herds and pastures have a sacred value.

How, then, are we called to act? How can we support the herdsmen in their efforts to survive against the increasingly terrible odds of global climate change?

Through case studies like that of the Mongolian herdsmen, Healing Earth (link: helps students see the relationship between science, ethics, spirituality and action.

Interested in becoming an early adopter of Healing Earth and sharing it with your students? Email