Advent Group Resource

ADVENT

Although we’ve not yet celebrated Hallowe’en or Thanksgiving, some are already planning for Advent, Nativitythe first season of the Christian church year devoted to preparing to celebrate Christmas. Christmas, in turn, celebrates the Incarnation, the embodiment of divinity in Jesus’ humanity. (Cf. my Advent blog Nov. 17, 2013.)

The Incarnation is a Mystery that a lifetime of contemplation would not exhaust. Advent is the time when we are specifically called to deepen this contemplation. Many individuals and groups use various materials to help them use well this prayer time. My contribution is Advent in the New Universe Story. It offers one page per week to explore the place and significance of the Christian story within the 13.8 billion years of creation. Theologians and others are writing about the transitions needed for this integration, and these Advent pages contain some of their insights.

Advent in the New Universe Story will be available in French and Spanish as well as in English. The English version is now available.

The four weeks include the following:
New Consciousness, New Christian Understanding
The Cosmos Prepares for New Life
Evolving Understanding of Humanity’s Place in Creation
Incarnation Revisited

Universe-Sandbox-20130429-185438The resource contains suggestions for the convener, and the weeks include excerpts from that Sunday’s Scripture readings, information, time for prayer and for sharing, and suggestions for further reading.

I am indebted to the Society of the Holy Child for supporting my ministry and, for Advent in the New Universe Story, to T.J. Murphy for checking the science, to John Surette, S.J. for checking the theology, and to Nancy Frommelt, O.S.F. for fine tuning the text. I am also indebted to those who gather to use my resources; their feedback contributes significantly to future resources.

To find this resource, go to Advent on my website.

Prayer for Feast of St. Francis

If ever the example of St. Francis were needed, it is surely now
when violence is rampant, including among religious groups;
when the planet is in peril from climate change, extinctions, and resource depletion; and
when consumerism threatens to take over our lives and cause poverty for many.

St. Francis’ feast day is celebrated October 4th, though prayerful celebrations often take place before and after this date. For those who wish to use it, the following prayer is available on two sides by clicking here: St.Francis.2014.

Feast of Francis 2014: All Praise be Yours

“The Heavens Are Telling the Glory of God”

Call to prayer 100_0359

Leader: There came a man from Assisi, Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, one most unlikely to shed his wealth and prestige and future comforts,
1: one thought a fool when he overturned society’s expectations and followed the path of Christ,
2: one whose life of simplicity, awareness, gratitude, and peace has made him a model for countless men and women over the centuries,
3: one named patron saint of animals and ecology,
4: one whose name was chosen by a Pope to show the relevance of his life and mission for today’s world.

All: May our time of prayer deepen in us Francis’ radical spirit.

Let us give thanks

Leader: Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures gives praise to the One to whom “all glory, honor and blessing” belong. All: We, too, praise and thank you, Divine Mystery.

1. Francis prayed to God “Most High.” Let us be grateful to know that the Aramaic “heaven” means the light and sound shining through all creation and that God lives and acts within it all: We praise and thank you, Divine Mystery.

images2. Francis praised God through “Brother Sun, who brings the day, and light You give us through him.” Let us be grateful for all we know about our star, its place in our solar system, its story dating back billions of years, its potential for replacing fossil fuel use: We praise and thank you, Divine Mystery.

3. Francis praised God through “Sister Moon and stars in the heavens.” Let17-kepler3 us be grateful for knowing that our galaxy contains billions of stars, and is but one of billions of galaxies, and for the awe we feel when we look at the stars: We praise and thank you, Divine Mystery.

4. Francis praised God through “Brothers Wind and Air, and fair and stormy, all weather’s moods by which You cherish all that You have made.” Let us never take for granted the gift of clean, fresh air, the use of wind for energy, and the people who strive to protect our atmosphere and increase use of renewable energy: We praise and thank you, Divine Mystery.

water5. Francis praised God through “Sister Water, so useful, humble, precious and pure.” Let us treasure our oceans, glaciers, rivers, lakes, and aquifers, without which our lives would not be possible: We praise and thank you, Divine Mystery.

6. Francis praised God through “Brother Fire, … beautiful and gay, full of power and strength.” Let us be grateful for knowing that humans in ancient times gathered around the fire to share stories that gave meaning to life and bonded community, andfire-at-solstice for memories of times around campfires and fireplaces with family and friends: We praise and thank you, Divine Mystery.

 8057332-earth-with-translucent-water-in-the-oceans-and-the-detailed-topography-of-the-continents7. Francis praised God for “Sister Earth, our mother, who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces various fruits and colored flowers and herbs.” Let us be conscious of our kinship with every creature with whom we share our beloved planet and for knowing that we are both interconnected with it and totally dependent upon it: We praise and thank you, Divine Mystery.

8. Francis praised God for “those who grant pardon for love of You; through those who endure sickness and trial; … those who endure in peace” as did Jesus. Let us remember those, living and dead, who have modeled for us forgiving, non-violent lives and those who labor to reduce weapons of mass destruction and the funds wasted on them. [Pause to remember; mention people if you wish.]: We praise and thank you, Divine Mystery.

Let us be mindful

St. Francis also praised God through Sister Death — the kind “no mortal can escape.” He could not have guessed that humans would cause the sickness and death of the very gifts we have just mentioned. Of the needs of Earth, Let us be mindful.

Mention any relevant concern that weighs on your heart, e.g., Of the animals and plants going extinct, Let us be mindful.

Quiet Prayer

Closing 

All: “Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks. Serve God with great humility.”

Exchange a blessing of peace and all good.

Commitments to Reduce Climate Change

draft_lens2283503_1307876462global_warming_makes_me_sAs a woman religious, I am proud that members of my American Province of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) have made a strong commitment to help reduce climate change. So, too, have the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM). They represent a majority of women and men religious in the United States. This is not new for these groups, as members and institutions have taken many positive steps over past years. The recent statements from these groups highlight the urgency of reducing this increasingly dangerous reality.

We are far from singular in our commitment: many groups have pledged to respond to this peril. (Let us know in Comments if your church/synagogue or other group has done so.) The People’s Climate March September 21st is another way many will express their commitment to reducing climate change.

SHCJ 

The SHCJ, called by our foundress Cornelia Connelly to “meet the needs of our age,” corneliacollagehas already
taken steps to reduce our personal and corporate carbon footprints. (For example, we have transitioned to renewable energy.) We recently strongly agreed to the following statement:

We, the Sisters of the American Province of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, compelled by the gospel and by our mission to help others believe that God lives and acts in them and in our world, are concerned for all of God’s creation including our sisters and brothers everywhere. We accept scientific evidence that climate change is happening and is caused in great part by human activity. Earth, which reflects God’s glory, is in great peril. Therefore, we publicly state our commitment by taking action to help reduce this danger.

SHCJ Action Steps

We pledge to be aware and pray over recent scientific reports and Church statements and to invite family, friends and colleagues to join with us.

We urge our government officials to join the world community to enact legislation which will reduce the emissions of global greenhouse gas and support clean energy. We give authorization to our province Leadership Team to act in our regard in this regard.

We commit ourselves to reduce carbon emissions by our activities and life styles so that all God’s people, particularly the poor and vulnerable, will not suffer the devastating consequences of climate change. We recognize that what we do to earth, we do to ourselves. Therefore, as Holy Child Sisters we commit ourselves to support ALL life on Earth.

LCWR and CMSM

images-1LCWR represent more than 86,000 (about 80%) of the country’s Catholic sisters, while CMSM represents US leaders of orders of Catholic priests and  brothers. Media often highlights the complex relationship between the Vatican and the sisters — and that is news. But not to be missed is the sisters’ commitment to the issues they feel called to address.

Meeting together August 1-4, 2014, LCWR and CMSM leaders issued a joint resolution calling their members to work for action on climate change. The two conferences resolved to seek concrete ways to curb environmental degradation, mitigate its impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people, and restore right relationships among all God’s creation; and to foster a consciousness of care for God’s creation among all our members, colleagues, institutions and those whom we serve. 

The leaders noted that the increase in temperature on the earth will likely have wide-spread consequences, from mass extinctions to devastating impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable human beings.

Meeting later in August, the LCWR membership passed a more focused resolution to promote the national transition from fossil fuel energy sources to renewable energy sources as soon as possible.

Other Congregations Take Action

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary have made the decision to divest from fossil fuel production and invest in entrepreneurs and companies that promote clean, sustainable energy solutions. For more information, see the press release:  http://www.fsmonline.org/news/article/582

People’s Climate March

The People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday, September 21st, will see hundreds of thousands of people show their commitment to reducing global warming and the harm it is already causing, especially to poor people and other species throughout the world. Marchers, and those throughout the country who will be praying and taking local action, hope they will influence participants at the UN Climate Summit on September 23.

Everyone?

The sisters appreciate the support given by people concerned about the situation with the imagesVatican, and we appreciate prayers for its positive resolution. We also appreciate, and hope to  engender, support for issues we consider most vital: care of creation and the interconnected concern for people suffering from  poverty, trafficking, violence, and injustice.

What could happen if a groundswell of US citizens, including politicians, recognized the religious, economic, and political advantages of taking action to reduce global warming? What is your vision?