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Thoughts before Valentine’s Day

valentines-day-rosesBefore Big Business exploited the commercial value of February 14th by selling cards, candy, candles, and flowers*, the day honored St. Valentine — a Roman priest who secretly married couples when the emperor had forbidden his soldiers to marry. For this, Valentine was executed. His feast day was meant to remind us that the call to love transcends political regulations.

The concept of love has evolved, always expanding. From love of immediate family and tribe, it broadened to loving those beyond tribal members, provided they were friends. Jesus expanded the concept to include enemies — a challenging concept even today. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” became an accepted goal of most religions. Modern science introduced us to a vast and interconnected creation that has been evolving for aeons. Many discovered that their surroundings were not a collection of objects, but rather a communion of subjects — as Thomas Berry stated it. Nothing can be isolated from the whole. Science has also shown us the power of love. No “other,” of whatever religion, color, or nationality, is separate from us, and those in need deserve preferential care.

Here are some challenging quotes to ponder about the kind of love needed in our time. Important notes on Valentine’s Day gift-giving follow*:

 Jesus of Nazareth 

jesus-na-sinagoga-de-nazare-foto-do-filmeAs found in Matt. 5: Love your enemies! … If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that ….

As found in John 13: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

mte5ntu2mze2mjgwndg5ndgzMartin Luther King, Jr.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

pierre-teilhard-de-chardins-quotes-8… Love is the most universal, the most tremendous and the most mysterious of the cosmic forces.

Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.

Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

Your favorites? Please add other quotes (women’s needed!) in Comments. Thanks!

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If you give cards, candy, candles, or flowers, live your love this way:

  • Cards: Make sure paper is recycled or from sustainable sources. This protects forests, a vital contributor to reducing global warming. Recycled things reduce waste and pollution. Also, recycle the ones you receive.
  • Candy: Give chocolate labeled Fair Trade. Cacao farming done improperly strips the world of hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest. More than 15,000 child slaves work on cacao farms in west Africa. Fair Trade guarantees social justice, environmental protection, and economic development.
  • Candles: Avoid paraffin, which is the byproduct of gas and oil refineries and will emit pollutants and carcinogens.
  • Flowers: Give Fair Trade flowers. Conventional workers are often exploited to keep costs low, leading to severe abuse and mistreatment. (Mega farms in South America mostly employ women, often for long hours and low pay, including unpaid overtime. Some have been accused of using child labor.) The work can result in repetitive stress injuries and exposure to pesticides and herbicides, including known carcinogens. The not-fair-trade farms suck up local water and leave behind toxic chemical residues.

Weekend for Trafficking Victims

The last weekend in September — this year Sept. 26-27 — is International Weekend of Prayer and Fasting for Victims of Human Trafficking, be it trafficking for sex, labor (agriculture, textile, domestic, etc.), organs, or child soldiers. 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of this weekend initiated by the Salvation Army and the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking (IAST). Anyone who believes that all life, all creation, is sacred will want to participate in this global effort of prayer and fasting to relieve this suffering endured by so many.

Although even the concept of human persons being treated as slaves — and worse — is repulsive, it occurs all over the globe, very probably in your area. Children, both boys and girls, are exploited.

Numbers 

2010_0825_child_trafficking_mNumbers of trafficked persons are deceptive for two reasons. For one, accurate numbers are impossible to get — traffickers are not eager to share them and police cannot find them. The other is that numbers tend to be numbing. Learning that the International Labor Organization estimates that almost 21 million people are trafficked each year, or that 4.5 million of those exploited by individuals or enterprises are victims of forced sexual exploitation can be too big to comprehend by mind or heart. (http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/lang–en/index.htm)

Something tangible happens when we read that “two brothers, aged 7 and 10, died in April 2015 in a fire in one of the numerous clandestine garment workshops in Flores, a Buenos Aires neighborhood, where their parents, immigrants from Bolivia, were living and working.” (http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/garment-sweatshops-in-argentina-an-open-secret/) One might not WANT to picture the sweat shops, the fire, and the protection given to exploiters by police in return for bribes, but it is POSSIBLE to do so. Both mind and heart can grasp the death of two innocents, the pain of their parents, and the injustice aggravated by police corruption.

Or that Pariyar, a poor uneducated laborer in Nepal, was tricked into selling his kidney. He needed money, was lied to about what would be removed, was offered large sums (which never came), and so he agreed. He now has a urinary problem, no way to track down the sellers, cannot afford a trip to a doctor, and worries what will happen to his two children if he dies. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/26/world/asia/freedom-project-nepals-organ-trail/)

One Major Cause                                                                                                    Pope Francis leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 23. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Oct. 23, 2013) See POPE-AUDIENCE Oct. 23, 2013.

In July, Pope Francis told a meeting of the world’s Mayors that the  state of the environment is directly and intimately linked to the life and wellbeing of humankind. He said huge migratory waves of peoples across the globe are triggered by environmental issues such as

• desertification,
• deforestation,
• drought, and
• floods, which leave people and entire communities without the possibility of seeking a livelihood. Thus – he said – the exodus that takes them into urban centers gives life to human trafficking which brings with it diverse forms of exploitation of women, children and vulnerable people.  

Pope Francis mentions human trafficking three times in Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, always linking this issue with climate change and other results of the  destruction of our common home.

Prayer and Fasting Weekend

The focus on September 26-27, 2015, is on prayer and fasting, two simple actions that any reader of this blog can take to improve this blight on humankind. Uniting globally on the last weekend of September, our intentional and loving prayer and fasting “can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20) But do imagine one of the many victims, and pray/fast/picture his or her release — especially if environmental destruction contributed to his or her plight. Pray and fast that this cause may be mitigated by response to Laudato Si’.

Solutions to human trafficking are many. For actions to reduce trafficking (that include prayer and a prayer service), go to https://ecospiritualityresources.com/2014/12/31/5-ways-to-reduce-human-trafficking/.

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I add very sincere thanks to Jean Schafer, sds, editor of Stop Trafficking! (www.stopenslavement.org) who generously and graciously assisted with this blog and whose monthly newsletter is always a source of valuable information.

A Pilgrimage to the Tar Sands

Guest blog by Mary Pendergast, RSM

“The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal.  The imposition of a dominant life-style linked to a single form of production can be just as harmful as altering ecosystems.”
#145  Laudato Si’

In July, I had the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage, a meaningful journey to a sacred place, in order to deepen my life’s purpose: to do the Great Work of our times. (Thomas Berry urged all of us over 30 years ago to engage in the Great Work of bringing forth a mutually enhancing Earth/human relationship.) Athabasca falls 1Sister Maureen Wild, SC, and I followed Athabasca River (in western Canada) from its source in the Columbian ice fields. We saw her acquire strength and power and tumble into the Athabasca Falls in Jasper  National Park. We observed some of the places where she had carved rock with torrents and rivulets a long time and where she flowed lazily through quiet towns sculpting a path north.  The Athabasca has one mission, to bless all life in its path with pure glacial water; but to do it she has to pass through hell.  She does not come out unscathed.

Maureen and I tailed the river to Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada where she is used by the tar sands industry for its mining operation in the world’s last remaining “oil” field.  Second only to Saudi Arabia, the region is said to contain up to 2.5 trillion barrels of “oil,” but to get at it entails destroying an ecosystem and an indigenous way of life. The number one market for bitumen is the United States. 

To extract a barrel of bitumen requires the excavation of two tons of Earth and sand and three barrels of fresh water from the Athabasca.  That water use is equivalent to the water use of a city of two million people for a year!  Much of the water gets “recycled” in tailings ponds, used to settle out solids in the oil, water, chemical mix. The ponds are covered with the sheen of oil, so small cannons boom to keep birds from landing, 24 hours a day.  

If the “oil” is too deep to mine, the industry also uses another method of extraction called in situ.  It is a method that steams out the bitumen, but it burns natural gas to boil the water into steam.  Estimated use of natural gas in boiling water — enough to heat six million North American homes every day!   

Tar Sands mineIf this is beginning to sound like an energy intensive, unsustainable method to obtain bitumen which requires even more diluting and refining to become something that will actually flow through a pipeline, I think you are on to something!  Worst of all, each barrel of bitumen produces three times the greenhouse gas as conventional oil, putting us in the ever deepening hole of global emissions fueling climate change.

Maureen has First Nation elder friends in Fort McKay, Celia and Ed Harpe, who live just down river from the industry. They invited us to a dinner of moose meat and new potatoes.  They shared stories of their traditional way of life.  They no longer drink the water from the Athabasca, nor do they eat her fish which have been documented to have tumors, cancers and lesions, nor do they swim in the river or pick the berries and herbs growing wild.  They say that the wildlife has disappeared along with the forest and I wonder what the moose and the beaver are drinking wherever they are?  

Celia  is an outspoken critic of the Tar Sands industry. She says there have been no frogs on the river for 40 years. Canaries in the proverbial coal mine, they cannot survive in a toxic environment.  Tar Sands getty images 2The people, too, have come down with asthma and lupus and cancers I couldn’t even pronounce.  Celia said every family had someone who was sick, or already dead including her own. Her husband Ed has lung cancer. Her sister Dorothy died of lupus. Celia’s grandson, 32, was recently killed in an industry accident. We happened to be there for his memorial service.

 A way of life has been supplanted by an industry.  A people’s culture and health have been compromised. The people, caribou, bear, moose, fish and owl have to deal with a brew of heavy metals including arsenic, thallium and mercury in the Athabasca, while she continues her journey to the Arctic Ocean forever changed. 

The words of Thomas Berry ring as true as ever:

We might summarize our present human situation by the simple statement: that in the 20th century, the glory of the human has become the desolation of the Earth and now the desolation of the Earth is becoming the destiny of the human.

Mary at Climate MarchMary Pendergast, RSM has been Director of Ecology for the Sisters of Mercy Northeast since 2009. She is also involved with Mercy Ecology, Inc. A Montessori teacher for many years and singer with Carolyn McDade, she studied the New Story with Miriam MacGillis, OP at Genesis Farm. For more information and photos of Mary and her pilgrimage: www.riverpilgrims.net. Contact: mpendergast@mercyne.org