Stars, Language, Worldviews


One of my pet peeves is language that says the Sun moves around Earth. Words carry meaning, and if we reinforce long-disproven concepts, we stay stuck in centuries past — scientifically, socially, and religiously.

What follows will offer some alternatives — and, I hope, some food for thought and reflection. Before reading, think for a minute about how you would describe what is pictured here:

A Summer Sunrise over on the Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska,Oklahoma<br />

Here’s how Marilynne Robinson has her protagonist describe it in her Pulitzer-prize-winning novel Gilead:

“This morning a splendid dawn passed over our house on its way to Kansas. This morning Kansas rolled out of its sleep into a sunlight grandly announced, proclaimed throughout heaven — one more of the very finite number of days that this old prairie has been called Kansas, or Iowa. But it has all been one day, that first day. Light is constant, we just turn over in it. So every day is in fact the selfsame evening and morning.”

Wow! Your reaction to that?

Here’s what I wrote years ago, in “Matins,” (Matins):
fql1od“ …
Slowly, slowly (or so it seems) Earth rotates,
revealing a brilliant, blinding star
so distant that its million multiples
of Earth’s size seem
a solitary shining footlight on the horizon.
…. ”

While we’re remembering that our sun-star neither rises nor sets, try these last ten lines of Katy Didden’s poem ”Before Edison Invented Lights” (in The Glacier’s Wake) [Painting by Mary Southward, CSJ]:
“ …
When you sleep with your face to the sky
untitledthe stars are not so much above
as around you. Stare long enough
and you begin to feel
you could lift your body off the earth
and hover in the black night
on the web of your awe
at a billion suns
toward which
everything you’re made of yearns.”

Wow, again! And why does everything we’re made of yearn for the suns? Curt Stager answers in Your Atomic Self, from the chapter “Fires of Life”:

“To look into the night sky is to survey distant gardens in which the elements of life are ripening, and your body is a composite harvest from these cosmic fields. Throughout history, people have spoken of the earth as our mother and the sun as our father … In an atomic sense, however, it would be more accurate to think of the earth and the sun as our siblings, because they both formed from the same star debris as the elements of life within us. Earth is indeed a kind of surrogate mother to us in that our bodies are derived from it, but we exist today only because our true celestial star mothers died long ago.”

Neil de Grasse Tyson echoes that reality: “The spectacular truth encoded in your DNA is that the very atoms of your body were initially forged in long-dead stars. This is why, when we look at the sky with wonder and longing, we feel some ineffable tugging at our innards. We are star stuff.”

Language and Worldviews

As for changing language, Stager writes “Simply replacing the word “sun” with “star” can change your sense of what this sylvan scene actually is. Lie flat on your back on the warm wood of a dock, and it may further dispel the normal illusion that the great fireball is “up there in the sky” instead of “right over there beside us in space.” Something about being horizontal and seeing the sun-star before you rather than above your head makes it easier to sense the absence of supporting pedestals or cables and therefore to realize that the brilliant, life-sustaining heart of our solar system floats in emptiness as it directs the trembling of your atoms from millions of miles away.”

It’s easy — though sloppy — to perpetuate a faulty philosophy by using words that belong to an obsolete flat-earth worldview. It can be disorienting to realize that we are one planet orbiting one of the billions of suns in our galaxy, and that our galaxy is one among billions. It almost hurts to get one’s head around the truth of where we are! But, to quote Stager again:

“The task that we face now is … to more closely attune our worldviews to the fascinating reality that Earth-orbiting telescopes, atom-probing microscopes, and other complex inventions have only recently uncovered for us. … How amazing to exist at all and how important it is, as our numbers and know-how increase, that we and our descendants develop such awareness as best we can.”

Language, Worldviews, and Believers

Is it important for believers? Ask St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote: “A mistake about creation will lead to a mistake about God.” Ask Fr. Sean McDonagh: “We must continually learn from science, evolve our theology, and humbly situate ourselves in the wider Creation story.”

What have you learned from science about our place and our meaning in the cosmos — including our role in caring for our precious common home? Replies welcome!

Note: Christians who wish to ponder Light this Advent, alone or with others, might consider using Advent 2016: In Praise of Light: advent-2016.

Oct. 4, 2016 Prayer

Prayer for October 4th: Feast of St. Francis and closing of Season of Care for Creation

unknownBegin  with a moment of silent recollection.

Reading from St. Francis’ Canticle:

Most high, all powerful, all-good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessing.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong.
All praise be Yours, my Lord, through all that you have made.

A Call to Prayer   

The earth is at the same time mother, She is mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human. She is the mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all. The earth of humankind contains all moistness, all verdancy, all germinating power. It is in so many ways fruitful. All creation comes from it. Yet it forms not only the basic raw material for humankind, but also the substance of the incarnation of God’s son.          (Hildegard of Bingen)

Prayer of Praise

Left: “The Earth. . . is a sparkling blue and white jewel. . . laced with slowly swirling veils of white. . . like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery.” (Edgar Mitchell, US Astronaut)
All: “All creation is a song of praise to God.” (Hildegard of Bingen, Mystic) 

Right: “O moving force of Wisdom, you encircle the wheel of the cosmos, you encompass all that is, all that has life, in one vast circle.” (Hildegard of Bingen)
All: “All creation is a song of praise to God.”

Left: “. . . for in God we live/ and move/ and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) 
All: “All creation is a song of praise to God.”

Right: “. . . stardust is not just fairy-tale magic; it is what we are really made of. . .” (Elisabet Sahtouris) 
All: “All creation is a song of praise to God.” 

Left: “Great Spirit, . . . give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is! . . . all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike. . . This is my prayer; hear me!” (Black Elk) 
All: “All creation is a song of praise to God.” 

Right: “. . . When you stand in the presence of the moon, you become a new creation. . . The elementary particles of your body have absorbed an influence and in that sense they–and you–are brand spanking new, a human being resonating everywhere with moonlight.” (Brian Swimme) 
All: “All creation is a song of praise to God.”


Share a word, words, or phrase that caught your attention in the prayers above. Optional: share why.

Reading from Laudato Si’

“Purchasing is always a moral — and not simply economic — act.” (Benedict XVI) Today, in a word, “the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle.” (Id.) (Par. 206)


Decide to take one action to care for creation – such as  the following:

For multiple reasons, increase                                                         For multiple reasons, decrease







For multiple reasons,






Closing Prayer:

Today we know of the energy that moves all things: the oneness of existence, the diversity and uniqueness of every moment of creation, every shape and form, the attraction, the allurement, the fascination that all things have for one another. Humbled by our knowledge, chastened by surprising revelations, with awe and reverence we live within the mystery of life. May St. Francis bless our efforts to appreciate and protect the gift of creation,  through Christ, Our Love. Amen

(For two-sided pdf copy, contact

Dates, Dolls, and Creation

13942786_1You know those nesting Russian dolls? They could be an image for the coming special days that nest within the Season of Care for Creation (9/1 – 10/4) — that nests within the Year of Mercy — that nests into the larger religious and then climactic seasons — that fit into Earth’s story, going back 4 1/2 billion years. Earth’s story, and that of our entire vast universe, nests within the largest “container” — our Universe Story as we know it, extending over the past 13.8 billion years and, of course, whatever comes next into the future.

Starting with single days or weekends, here are a few times to “keep holy” with others throughout the world so that our interconnected planet can create a thriving Ecozoic Era. Cf.

Sept. 12 is Eid al Adha, the day Muslims celebrate Ibrahim’s being told by God to sacrifice an animal instead of his son.  Muslims start the day with a morning prayer and then exchange gifts and food among family and friends, but they are required to share their food and money with the poor before taking part in the celebrations. Good policy!

war-pietaOn Sept. 15, Christians remember Our Lady of Sorrows. Michelangelo’s iconic statue of Mary holding the body of her son is replayed way too often in today’s world. The image to the right applies to the 15th as well as to other days commemorated during the Season of Care for Creation.

Sept. 16 is the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. One of the best things about this day is that global action is making a difference: the ozone hole is being reduced, thus probably decreasing incidents of sunburn, skin cancer, cataracts, damage to plants, and reduction of plankton populations in the ocean caused by increased UV exposure caused by ozone depletion.

September 19th is the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants, to be held at the United Nations headquarters. President Obama and other world leaders will attend in an attempt to strengthen governance of international migration and a unique opportunity for creating a more responsible and consistent system for responding to large movements of refugees and migrants.

featured-image-indexSept. 21, the International Day for Peace established by the United Nations in 1981, marks a day devoted to ending conflict and promoting peace. This year’s theme is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.” It’s a reminder that “If you want peace, work for justice,” as Pope Paul VI reminded us on the Vatican’s annual Peace Day, January 1, 1972. Cf. International Day of Peace website.

Sept. 22 is the Autumn and Spring Equinox, the astronomical event in which day and night are of approximately equal duration. Those in the North transition from summer to autumn; those in the South transition from winter into spring. This provides an excellent opportunity not just to welcome a “new” season, but to remember, in awe, that we are an integral part of a planet circling our star, the sun.

defendthesacred_goldtoothSept. 23 is Native American Day in the United States, honoring the first people to populate what became our nation. If ever people had reason to fear immigrants and refugees, it was surely this population of the entire American continent. With some exceptions and for various reasons, the first explorers and settlers treated them very badly. While promises are too often still broken, on Sept. 9th the Obama administration delayed the Dakota Access Pipeline and pledged “to revisit the whole way in which the government interacts with Indian Tribes on major projects.” Thanks to all who sent petitions!

The last weekend in September (Sept. 24-25) is the Weekend of Prayer and Fasting for Victims of Human Trafficking. Cf. my 9/9/15 blog: (but update the dates) and 12/31/15:

On Sept. 27, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan brought by industry and state attorneys general. Confidential documents “reveal a sustained pattern of collusion between the fossil fuel industry and the Republican attorneys general on climate change obstructionism,” said Nick Surgey, Center for Media and Democracy. Cf.…/what-exxon-knew-about-climate-change.

Oct. 3 is World Habitat Day. The United Nations’ (UN) World Habitat Day is annually celebrated on the first Monday of October to reflect on the state of human settlements and people’s right to sufficient shelter. It also aims to remind people that they are responsible for the habitat of future next generations.

get-attachment.aspxOctober 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, is its own special day. It also marks the completion of the Season of Care for Creation. The above special days fit within that season (“doll”).

Needless to say, we must all continue to care for creation, for peace, for trafficking victims, for adequate habitats (especially for the increasing number of migrants and refugees throughout the world) that fit within the Season of Care for Creation — which belongs in the Year of Mercy, and eventually all the rest.

Pope Francis recently proposed adding the care of creation to the traditional list of corporal and spiritual works of mercy. As a spiritual work of mercy, the pope said, care for creation requires “a grateful contemplation of God’s world,” while as a corporal work, it calls for “simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.” In Laudato Si’ and many reflections since, Pope Francis urges everyone to understand and to practice “integral ecology.”

By incorporating mercy for creation into our everyday lives, we can contribute positively to ALL the  “dolls”!