Blog Update

Beginnings:

Although this blog, like everything in creation, dates back 13.7 billion years, for this one I’ll jump to early 2012 when I realized I needed a site to provide easier access to my Advent and Lent resources. Begun in 2004, they were becoming popular in many countries and I finally had a complete set: three for Advent and three for Lent that followed the Sunday’s liturgical readings. As long as I was creating a site for them, I  would also include Suggested Resources and Media.

A friend suggested I add a blog. Well, that seemed truly impossible. Would I be able to care for a blog? Would it absorb too much time, or end up abandoned? Taking on a blog seemed an unwieldy responsibility!

Unknown 9.33.07 AMAfter pondering the possibility and discerning, I decided to give it a try. I had  already written two pieces that could be used immediately. So, on April 30, 2013, I posted a reflection on post-Easter and Incarnation that had been written for the SHCJ (Society of the Holy Child Jesus, my religious congregation). Next came a prayer service about mining that I had written for World Environment Day at the request of the International Union of Superiors General in Rome.

Growth

Seventy-two blogs have followed, including a few guest blogs. To my surprise, it was not a chore. In fact, sometimes when I had no ideas, suddenly the universe sent an idea that almost wrote itself. That was very rewarding! Also rewarding has been the positive feedback, the number of hits from many countries, and the knowledge that prayers and rituals that make real the SHCJ’s mission have been used by many groups. In the end, I really enjoyed this! (Thanks, Terry!)

Winding down 

100_1230Now the time has come to slow down. I’ll continue the site, but it won’t contain regularly-changed, or many new, blogs. The most popular or pertinent ones will be updated and posted as the occasions warrant. Count on things like the
Earth Day Prayer,
Equinox and Solstice Rituals,
Ash Wednesday Stardust Ritual,
Mother’s Day, and
occasional updates of other blogs.

There might be occasional new ones.

What else you’ll find on this site in the Future:

Advent and Lent Resources: These resources for group or individual use have been used in over 30 countries. I’ll update them and perhaps add to them. Advent 2016 will focus on light and energy; Lent 2017 will be an updated resource on Water.  Because many groups have already used the Water resource, depending on available time there might also be a Lent resource focusing on aspects of communion, Eucharist, and sustainable food production.

100_1392Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home: This 5-session resource on Pope Francis’ encyclical letter deserves special mention because it can be used at any time of the year. To date it has received about 9,600 clicks. We have no way of knowing how many groups resulted, but the possibilities are heartening. Having used it with pilot groups — whose input was a major contribution to its success — I knew it “worked.” However, I was more than delighted that an article in National Catholic Reporter listed it with the five resources it chose as “standouts” among the very many available in the US and other countries! (Mine was #2 in that group of 5.) It continues to be used by groups and individuals interested in Pope Francis’ essential message about the beauty and unity of creation and the call to care for our common home.

Suggested Books and Suggested Media: I’ll adds to these periodically.

Media (original): What’s there will remain. Nothing new is expected.

Gratitude

I am truly grateful to

  • those who participated in the guest blog program,
  • the over-300 who signed in to receive blogs whenever each was published,
  • all who “shared” blogs with friends and posted them on congregation websites,
  • groups like Catholic Climate Covenant, Deep Time Journey Network, Sisters of Earth, and Yale’s Forum on Religion and Ecology for listing my resources,
  • National Catholic Reporter for highlighting them,
  • those who translated Lenten resources for use in non-English-speaking countries, and
  • all who have sent notes and comments with affirmation that fed my determination to keep the blogs and site active. (Your responses have been wonderful!) I have kept you in my prayers and will continue to do so.

I am also grateful to the many others whose sites enrich me and whose efforts continue to develop the consciousness of the universe. Rather than singling out some, I encourage readers to seek out blogs/ sites they will find nourishing.

Finally, I send special and on-going gratitude to my congregation, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, for their support of my call to make the SHCJ mission visible in this way. Of special motivation was the 2010 Chapter call to attend to the mystery of the incarnation in the light of theological insights emerging from new scientific discoveries and changing wants of the age. We know that a great need of our time is integrating beliefs from a former cosmology with creation as it’s known in our time. Since we are committed to finding divine life in our interconnected world, we must keep abreast of what scientists are learning about it and care for our interdependent common home with zeal and ardor.

The SHCJ’s foundress, Cornelia Connelly, wisely counseled: “Be yourself, but make that self what God wants it to be.” I hope that has been, and will continue to be, true for the ecospirituality resources site.

 

World Refugees

UnknownI just returned from the Chicago Art Institute’s exhibition of Van Gogh’s three paintings of his bedroom in Arles. The display notes that he lived in 37 places during his 37 years of life, and how hungry he was for a secure place where he could “nest.” His relatively tiny bedroom was a treasure for him, and he painted it three times even though painting an empty bedroom seemed a very odd thing to do at the time.

I took the bus to and from the exhibit, driving along Lake Michigan a distance of about 7 miles. I didn’t attempt to count the huge apartment images-1complexes that lined my route nor estimate the population of each, but I pondered the fact that each occupant was unique, with his or her own name, history, loves and concerns. The number of these individuals is beyond my power of comprehension. Yet this 7 mile stretch is just one small section of Chicago, with its population of about 2.7 million people.

My point? I was connecting these experiences with the current reality of world refugees. I kept tying to imagine those buildings bombed out and all those people forced to seek shelter,  to discover a secure “nest” for themselves and their family. Each one craving a place to be dry and warm and fed, to start again, to live without fear, and to deal with the trauma they had each experienced — whether by war, oppression, or climate disruption. Each one aching for the treasured family, friends, and home, education, jobs, and yes, things, that they were forced to leave behind.

Multiply the population of Chicago about 19 times to reach the number of men, women and children  — more than half the total are children! — seeking shelter  in their own country or in refugee camps or trudging to wherever they might find welcome, risking (and often losing) their lives, hoping to finally reach safety and a room to call their own.

World Refugee Day, June 20

The United Nations’ World Refugee Day honors the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homeland because of persecution, violence and climate change. (Climate change is not yet formally on the UN list, but it is responsible for increasing numbers of refugees.) Technically, “refugees” seek a secure home outside their own country; “internally displaced people” — IDP — seek security within it. Right now these two groups total nearly 60 million people. And remember: over half of them are children.

Laudato Si’ and Jubilee Year of Mercy

Two days before the annual remembrance of world refugees is the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical, in which he calls attention of all people (not just Catholics) to the plight of refugees. In addition, Pope Francis has named this the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Pope urges Christians to reflect on the call — and abundant opportunity — to practice the Corporal Work of Mercy to “welcome the stranger.”

imagesThe Pope himself has taken this action. After appealing to “the parishes, religious communities, monasteries and sanctuaries in all of Europe to express the Gospel concretely by taking in a family of refugees,” Pope Francis visited the frontline of Europe’s migrant crisis at a camp in Lesbos, Greece, and returned to the Vatican with three astonished families of Syrian refugees.

While setting an example of immediate action, the Pope is equally concerned about the causes of the crisis. “These poor people are fleeing war, hunger, but that is the tip of the iceberg. Because underneath that is the cause, and the cause is a bad and unjust socio-economic system, in everything, in the world.” While welcoming the stranger has moral and religious foundations, integrating these refugees is also a smart move politically. The best way to avoid making an enemy is to make a friend.

Responses

9d18180b-8502-4d19-85fa-e8fbe98473a4My own parish, St. Gertrude in Chicago, collected resources for a Syrian family we planned to adopt. With the strong support of our pastor, Fr. Dominic Grassi, over 100 parishioners volunteered to help, and the entire parish contributed financially to provide rent and material needs. Before “our” family arrived, two local refugee families experienced emergencies that resulted in our using rent money for one of these families and using our housing and supplies for the other. We are again prepared to welcome the Syrian family as soon as one completes the long process of application and is granted asylum in the United States.

Adopting a family is both a challenging and a rewarding adventure. Some countries (like Jordan, with 21% of its population now refugees) have major problems with that influx. Other countries (like the United States, with a population of nearly 322 million) could almost certainly absorb more refugees.

But everyone can contribute to groups that help. And, like the Pope, we can all be concerned about the  violence, inequality, oppression and climate change causing the current exodus from so many countries. We can all vote for leaders committed to improving the world we share. We can all be attentive to make our culture welcoming and compassionate. Christians have the additional incentive that whatsoever we do to anyone, we do to Christ, but every religion has a version of the Golden Rule. How shall we practice it?

Mother’s Day 2016

 

UnknownMother Earth

I shall have to disappoint those who expect me to focus on Mother Earth when writing about Mother’s Day. Readers of this blog are aware of my commitment to Earth and my appreciation of our interconnectedness — even inter being — within creation. We know the harm that has resulted on our holy planet when she is unable to nurture life as a mother should. However, Mother Earth is not my focus here.

“Real” Mothers

Nor shall I highlight all physical and spiritual mothers — the ones who gave each of us flesh and blood, who experienced childbirth, who, in the best of circumstances, lived  and breathed for our benefit. These women gave us life and nurtured it, and I remember them with deep gratitude. (Mine was fittingly named “Grace”!) We couldn’t be here without them and their nourishment. But they, too, are not my primary topic here.

Beginnings

HelixNebula_WEBAs we approach Mother’s Day 2016, I choose to write about our celestial star mothers who, by their deaths, gave life to all creation: to galaxies of other stars, to the planets — including our own — and ultimately to every mother, of any species, who has ever existed on what we fondly term Mother Earth.

Writing about what happened in the depths of space and time when the first hydrogen clumps formed the first stars, Curt Stager writes: “When the megastars matured, senesced, and died, …  oxygen atoms blew off into space like pollen from bright, flaming flowers. 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 those cosmic fields. … We exist today only because our true celestial star mothers died long ago. ”  (Your Atomic Self: The Invisible Elements That Connect You to Everything Else in the Universe)

How awesome, if counterintuitive, to know that we – and everything on Earth — are actually composed of atoms that originated in generations of exploded stars. Everyone and everything “inherited” life from stardust (plus hydrogen and helium, the elements that predated stars). It’s challenging to believe that what looks like my solid body is really composed of atoms that are going “to, through, and from your body,” but it’s true. This can certainly be “downright mind-bending”! (ibid.)

Unknown-1

Middles

Can it be more than mind-bending? Does accepting our place in our evolutionary story make a difference? Many answers exist to this question, but I shall use one that I remember from a  lecture I heard decades ago. That it stuck in my memory is tribute to how deeply it impressed me. I recently saw it referred to in a book by Daniel C. Maguire. Commenting on 1 John: 3:2 (“What we shall be has not yet been disclosed.”) Maguire writes: “Biblical scholar Gerd Theissen … suggests we call off the search for the ‘missing link’ between apes and true humanity. Says Theissen, we are that missing link.”  (Italics mine)

Hope for the Future

I find that perspective both insightful and pregnant with hope. Our so-often misguided, selfish, and destructive selves are not the pinnacle of creation. We have much to learn, much to transform, much to become. We each inevitably contribute to the future of creation, and it can be for the better.

Throughout Laudato Si’, Pope Francis intersperses words of hope. A few examples:  “… we know that things can change” (par. 13); “Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems.” (61); “An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door.” (112); “Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning.” (205)

Perhaps remembering our roots in the stars this Mother’s Day and our place in our cosmos’ ongoing story will strengthen us to continue striving to give birth to an authentic humanity. Happy, hope-filled Mother’s Day!