Suggested Books

The early suggestions below were written by Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, their Associates, and friends about a book or other material that helped the writer to understand better recent scientific discoveries about creation, how these relate to finding God’s presence in our  time and place, and how we are called to respond. Writers included a bit about their own journey with ecospirituality and why they chose that resource. I have written most of the later reviews.

Please consider sharing a review of material you found helpful. Contact Terri MacKenzie, SHCJ (


It’s Not Necessarily So: A Senior Priest Separates Faith from Fiction and Makes Some Sense of Belief, Father Richard G. Rento, STL, Caritas Communications, 2016 – My site is based on the conviction that humanity has left a former, not-accurate cosmology, and that it is necessary to move our faith from the old worldview into the new. While doing this might not entirely stem the swelling numbers of “Nones,” I believe it would at least calm those who find those departures distressing — and perhaps ease their own faith journeys. I often hesitate to make the case for transition lest I upset anyone not ready to leave the security of long-held beliefs. Besides, I realize that my lack of degrees limits my credibility.

That explains why I was so happy to discover It’s Not Necessarily So. Written by a priest I greatly admire, its message comes with his authority, clarity, and trademark gentleness. His book affirms and assists those who question, and are moving beyond, former beliefs. Using conversational prose, Dick is “not in any way trivializing or discrediting the bible … [but is] urging my fellow Catholics [applicable to all Christians] to summon the courage to use their intelligence, their God-given powers of reasoning, their common sense, in their approach to what is called the written word of God.” Those suspicious of the cosmology that underlies ecospirituality, as well as those grounded in it, will appreciate these wise chapters — and the “Starter” Reading List Dick includes.

LIVING COSMOLOGY: CHRISTIAN RESPONSES TO JOURNEY OF THE UNIVERSE, edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim. Having gifted us with their amazing video Journey of the Universe, Mary Ellen and John sponsored a conference at Yale Divinity School where experts in various aspects of Christian studies gathered to reflect on this message. This book includes the 31 papers given at that conference. It is dedicated to Miriam Therese MacGillis and “all those Sisters and Brothers of Earth who have been inspired by Thomas Berry …. ” His call to participate in the Great Work lives on in these essays.

Your Atomic Self: The Invisible Elements That Connect You to Everything Else in the Universe, Curt Stager, Thomas Dunne Books, 2014 – I’ve had a hard time finishing this book. Not that it’s difficult reading; quite the contrary. One of the blurbs on the cover praises Stager as “a gifted scientist with the eyes of an artist and the heart of a poet.” Therein lies my reluctance to get past the first chapter, “Fires of Life.” When I open the book, I want to remain, yet again, in those pages. I believe this book can help readers “nurture that sublime fraternity with all creation which St. Francis so radiantly embodied.” (Laudato Si’, par. 221) Given the focus of my ministry, I cannot ponder often enough passages like this:

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. 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 ….

What a feast! The book’s text concludes on page 246 with this sentence: Now take another breath, if you please, not only because you must but, wonder of wonders, because you can. To quote from Laudato Si’ again: “… the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” (par. 12) Stager helps me do that!

Universe Story Trilogy, Jennifer Morgan. Those seeking the Universe Story in a version for children must get a look at Jennifer Morgan’s Universe Story Trilogy! Jennifer, Deep Time Journey Network president, wrote these three books in the form of a letter from the Universe to her son. All readers, children and certainly this adult, can enjoy Earth’s story in a form that captures the imagination and is accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Dana Lynn Anderson. These books inspire awe, wonder, and hope. Each book contains pages at the back for adults needing more detailed scientific information and photos, glossary, and resources:

Born With a Bang:

From Lava to Life:

Mammals Who Morph:


Maureen Welsh, SHCJ, sends this suggestion excerpted from Amazon: 
 Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, George Marshall, Bloombury USA, 2014 – What is the psychological mechanism that allows us to know something is true but act as if it is not?  George Marshall’s search for the answers brings him face to face with Nobel Prize-winning psychologists and activists of the Texas Tea Party; world’s leading climate scientists and people who denounce them; liberal environmentalists and conservative evangelicals.  What he discovered is that our values, assumptions, and prejudices can take on lives of their own, gaining authority as they are shared, dividing people in their wake.

With engaging stories and drawing on years of his own research, Marshall argues that the answers do not lie in the things that make us different and drive us apart, but rather in what we all share:  how our human brains are wired — our evolutionary origins, our perceptions of threats, our cognitive blind spots, our love of storytelling, our fear of death, and our deepest instincts to defend our family and tribe.  Once we understand what excites, threatens, and motivates us, we can rethink and re-imagine climate change, for it is not an impossible problem.  Rather, it is one we can halt, if we can make it our common purpose and common ground.

Thomas Berry: Selected Writings on the Earth Community, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Orbis Books, 2014 I think I have read (though I don’t pretend to have mastered) just about everything Thomas Berry ever wrote, starting with manuscripts he generously shared whenever I visited the Riverdale Center in the 1970’s. In spite of that, when reading the excerpts selected by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim in this book, I felt the same joy of discovery that I did at the very beginning. In addition, I was awed as I read each of the introductions to the 12 chapters they have compiled. Here is a book that feels inspired — not just by Thomas’ always-inspiring messages, but by the beauty and lucidity of the arrangement of excerpts as well as the deft and warm words that introduce each chapter. Few people have better background than Mary Evelyn and John to attempt this book, and they do not disappoint. The New Story, the Great Work, the role of religions, humans’ role in the story — it’s all here. No one can miss the sacred in these pages. Read and rejoice!

Teilhard’s Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution, Kathleen Duffy, SSJ, Orbis, 2014 – In 126 pages (plus Bibliography and Index), this book compels re-reading and contemplation. Kathleen explores five “circles” that drew Teilard de Chardin into ever deeper exploration of the Divine Mystery dwelling there: Presence, Consistence, Energy, Spirit, and Person. The final chapter synthesizes Teilhard’s spiral journey. In each chapter, Kathleen braids Teilhard’s search, current scientific updates, and his mystical conclusion. You might experience joyful tension: wanting to read the next pages, yet wanting to savor what you just read. Whether or not you are familiar with Teilhard de Chardin, if you care about evolution, science, theology, or spirituality you will appreciate this book.

Ecology and Religion – Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim have published another winner! Those who made Mary Evelyn’s EcoSpirituality Group retreat June 2013, and anyone who wants basic guidelines for approaching Religious Ecology, will be happy with the second chapter: “The Nature of Religious Ecology: Orienting, Grounding, Nurturing, Transforming”! Chapters are lucid and practical, scholarly yet easily comprehensible. Questions for discussion begin on p. 171; Appendix A through G are icing on the cake. Copious Notes and ample Bibliography add to this book’s usefulness. Island press, 2014.

Nature is a Heraclitean Fire – In only 44 pages, David S. Toolan’s informative and poetic essay covers the essentials of faith in an ecological age. Free pdf. copy available here:

Franciscan Prayer – Many people have questions about responding in prayer to the new spirituality. Although Ilia Delio calls this “Franciscan,” it has insights for anyone.

Befriending The Earth: A Theology of Reconciliation between Humans and the Earth – This book contains highlights from a dialog Thomas Berry and Thomas Clarke had in 1991. Their insights are still relevant and provocative.

Roots and Wings is a kind of ‘toe-print’ into the waters where science meets spirituality and mind makes room for heart. Margaret Silf reflects on what the life of Jesus Christ means in the light of the universe story.

Books by Denis Edwards help one to understand the role of the Incarnation in the new cosmology. This review includes several of his books.

Journey of the Universe – Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Swimme’s acclaimed film and book tells our story from the beginning. Awesome and inspiring. The following review includes the three parts of the Journey of the Universe trilogy:

Christ in Evolution – Ilia Delio addresses the question: How does Jesus Christ fit into the New Universe Story? Highlights of her answer are included in this review.

Field of Compassion – Judy Cannato’s book delivers on its subtitle: How the New Cosmology Is Transforming Spiritual Life.

Natural Saints – How People of Faith Are Working to Save God’s Earth – Mallory McDuff uses her background in science and faith to share examples of people making a difference and fostering hope.

Awakening Universe, Emerging Personhood: The Power of Contemplation in an Evolving Universe -Mary Conrow Coelho’s book is often cited in footnotes. Our reviewer went to the source to let us know why it is worthy of being so often quoted.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals – This book by Michael Pollan tells about the food we eat, where it comes from, and how we can deepen our religious appreciation of the sacred connections involved.

Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics – Diarmuid O’Murchu seemed to intuit our desire for education in the new science as it relates to finding God living and acting in us and in our world.

Children Praying A New Story: A Resource for Parents, Grandparents and Teachers – Kathy Gibbons shares what she found helpful in this insightful and practical book.

Books by Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.
(1959), The Phenomenon of Man, New York: Harper.
(1960), The Divine Milieu: An Essay on the Interior Life, New York: Harper.
1964), The Future of Man, New York: Harper and Row.
(1965a), Building the Earth, Wilkes-Barre: Dimension.
(1965b), Hymn of the Universe, New York: Harper and Row.
(1968), Science and Christ, London: Collins.
(1969a), How I Believe, New York: Harper and Row.
(1969b), Human Energy, London: Collins.
(1970a), Activation of Energy, London: Collins.
(1970b), Let Me Explain, London: Collins.
(1971), Christianity and Evolution, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
(1974), On Suffering, New York: Harper and Row.
(1975), Toward the Future, London: Collins.
(1979), The Heart of Matter, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
(1980), Early Man in China, New York: AMS Press.

SUGGESTED VIDEOS contains a series of very short videos from Conservation International that includes titles such as I am the Ocean, I am the Redwood, I am Mother Nature. This personification, spoken by contributors like Julia Roberts, Robert Redford, and Harrison Ford, reaches hearts and emotions without being “corny.” Each is worth seeing, hearing, and pondering.

Journey of the Universe – Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Swimme’s acclaimed film and book tells our story from the beginning. Awesome and inspiring. The following review includes the three parts of the Journey of the Universe trilogy:

UPDATE 12/13: The EMMY® award-winning Journey of the Universe film is available on Netflix! If you have enjoyed Journey of the Universe, Mary Evelyn and Brian would appreciate your rating or reviewing it at:

The film is also available for streaming and downloading from both iTunes and Reelhouse. It is also available in DVD format at Whole Foods, as well as,,, and a number of other online stores listed at: The film has been translated into Spanish and the book into French, Italian, and Korean.

Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe: DVD, 12 lectures by Professor 

David M. Meyer.
Our Night Sky . . .remarkable discoveries about the nature of the universe . . .: DVD, 24 lectures by 
Professor Edward M. Murphy.

SUGGESTED SITES Let All Creation Praise is an ecumenical site providing resources for  congregations to celebrate God’s love for creation, to worship God with creation so as to reconcile and restore our human relationship with the rest of nature, and to foster love and care for God’s whole creation. It also provides resources to celebrate a “season of creation” or “creation time” in the church year. Those creating liturgies and prayer services will find excellent ideas here. This site includes information about the climate covenant this group initiated and how it is being implemented in parishes, schools, and institutions. Besides listing my Laudato Si’ Reflection Resource, this site includes (as of Advent 2015) material from Caring for Our Common Home Resources (COCH) that offers resources to help parishes integrate Laudato Si’ in their bulletin notices, Prayers of the Faithful, and homilies. The material on the MFIC site is really excellent. I am humbled to have my reflections included! excellent articles from around the world This site contains two videos dealing with facts and effects of global warming. Len Sroka has produced thoughtful and useful videos using quotes from authorities in ecospirituality topics. This periodic newsletter from Yale’s Center on Ecology and Religion is especially helpful for scholars and those seeking college/university programs. This is the “home” of Mary Evelyn Tucker who, with Brian Swimme, gave us Journey of the Universe film, book, and study materials. See also Home of information about the book recommended above plus the companion film and video conversations, these materials are “must see”! BBC One presents 2 minutes of  images of our awesome Earth — of which we are integral parts and interconnected to all. Pat Bombard, BVM’s site contains her blogs and her reflections on “the steps” of her own interior evolution, offered in the spirit of “Birth 2012,” a movement promoted by Barbara Marx Hubbard. This blog explores the Green Catholic imagination and contains informative updates on news concerning ecological spirituality. My “I Thirst” Lent reflections for 2014 was featured on the March 4, 2014 post, but the recommendation was here long before that! Carol Hohle blogs about spirituality, environment, and community and how they intersect. Interfaith Moral Action on Climate leaders in New York State explain why fracking is a faith concern and requires our action to protect sacred creation. This membership organization is dedicated to the future of the earth and of the human community. It includes a biography of Teilhard deChardin (in PDF), timeline, bibliography, and more. This site is another excellent site for Teilhard enthusiasts  — or newcomers. (Someone replied to my blog on Teilhard that she wanted to learn more about “Mr. Teilhard.” Newcomers always welcome!) Anyone interested in Teilhard de Chardin, Journey of the Universe, or any related people or programs will want to be familiar with Thomas Berry. Leslie Sponsel (U. of Hawai'i), author of Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution, gives information about her book and lists many helpful resources. Suggested by Sarah Sherman, RSM,this continuing 
three year program provides video live-streaming around the topic of the Cosmic Christ.  It runs 4x/year, is facilitated by Matthew Fox and Andrew Harvey and always has an expert guest lecturer. Suggested by Jeanne Marie Guerin, SHCJ, this has been a valuable resource to her. fine collection of resources and information The Lorian Association deals with Incarnational Spirituality in the broadest understanding of these words. The emphasis is on the new understanding of wholeness. Mary Southard, CSJ, and John Surette, SJ, reflect on SpiritEarth topics of concern to anyone interested in ecosirituality. Although this site ceased in 2014, what’s there is still nurturing. Not Ordinary Times is a challenging call to "be the church" in this time of environmental crisis -- backed up with a comprehensive set of resources and background materials that will guide churches through a six-month season of worship and preaching that takes seriously the devastation of the global environment.

9 thoughts on “Suggested Books

  1. Hi my friend! I wish to say that thhis post is awesome, great
    written and ijclude almmost all vital infos. I would like to
    see more ppsts llike this .


  2. I’ve been surfing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never
    found any interesting article likee yours. It’s pretty worth enoughh for me.
    In my opinion, iif all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did,
    the web will be a lot more useful than ever before.


  3. I was trying to follow the link to Franciscan prayer …it brought me to the SHC web site, but I couldn’t find what I was seeking. Can you help? Thank you for all of this great work in one place! Mary Pendergast,RSM


  4. Oops, right you are, Mary! The SHCJ site was recently changed, and the eco-material there has gone on to eternal space. Happily, I did save the original of the review you’d like, and am emailing it to you in pdf. I have altered the “Suggested Books”
    page to alert readers that the reviews are no longer on the shcj site, but they can ask me for them — as you did. Not ideal, but the best for now. Thanks for your interest!


  5. Pingback: Creation Care Tips from the Synod Lutherans Restoring Creation Team | Connections

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