Archives

SEASON OF CREATION 2017

From September 1— proclaimed a Day of Prayer for Creation by the Orthodox in 1989 and repeated by Pope Francis in 2015 — through the feast of St. Francis on October 4, Christians of all denominations and locations are invited to participate in an ecumenical SEASON OF CREATION. 

People of all faiths or no faiths can certainly join. International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, Sept. 16; International Day of Peace, Sept. 21; and World Habitat Day, Oct. 2, obviously fall within the Season of Creation.

Pope Francis quotes Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, “the Green Patriarch,” several times in Laudato Si’’. In the following quote, Bartholomew lays a foundation for the Season of Creation. He says that we are called “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust on our planet.” (par. 9)

During the Season of Creation we are asked to ponder that sacrament. Pope Francis’ provides many quotes to contemplate. For example: “The universe unfolds in God, who  fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.” (par. 233)

Caring for creation, then, is a religious, moral, and ethical matter, and should never have become a divisive political one. Earth’s vitality is required for all life on our planet and it affects every industry and occupation. It is not an optional choice, nor should it be a grim one. Laudato Si’ bids us to “sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.” (par. 244)

Please mark your calendars for the Season of Creation and note the days left to prepare for it. Time to get planning!

Among actions you might consider taking are the following:

  • PRAYER: Initiate or join an ecumenical prayer service. The Season of Creation serves as an important witness of how Christians, regardless of their denominational line, are united in prayer and action for the planet. For extra significance, assemble in front of sites of ecological destruction (e.g., fossil fuel site, polluting or polluted area).
  • Components of prayer services (for groups or individuals) could include gratitude for Earth’s beauty and life-sustaining abilities; contemplation of our interrelationships with creation; sharing grief and sorrow for the destruction currently underway; pledging action for earth. Be sure to include singing! Suggestions for prayers services can be found here: seasonofcreation.org. Pope Francis’  Prayer for Our Earth concludes this blog.
  • ACTION (group and private): Include a positive action to heal “the last speck of  ust” in your area. Perhaps plant a tree, bless solar panels, collect and recycle plastic pollution, write letters to legislators, etc. Maryknoll  suggests this action: Join the “Big Shift Global” Campaign to ask the World Bank to shift all of its projects away from fossil fuels and to 100 percent renewable energy. Here’s a fact sheet that explains the campaign.
  • LIFESTYLE CHOICES: Patriarch Bartholomew does not soft-pedal his advice in Laudato Si’ (par. 9): “… replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which ‘entails learning to give, and not simply to give up.’ ”   Deepening our consciousness and understanding during the almost-five weeks is another good option. Try reading a book and discussing it with others. (See suggestions at ecospiritualityresources.com.)
  • If you are not already part of a local group, this would be a good time to join one or to start one with people who attended the prayer/ action.

Pope Francis’ Prayer for our Earth, which follows paragraph 246 in Laudato Si’, is as follows:

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe

and in the smallest of your creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.

Pour out upon us the power of your love,

that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live

as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor,

help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,

so precious in your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives,

that we may protect the world and not prey on it,

that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts

of those who look only for gain

at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,

to be filled with awe and contemplation,

to recognize that we are profoundly united

with every creature

as we journey towards your infinite light.

We thank you for being with us each day.

Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle

for justice, love and peace.

 

Nov. 30: REMEMBRANCE DAY FOR LOST SPECIES

November 30th is the International Remembrance Day for Lost Species. Those who are “joined … so closely to the world around us that we can feel the … extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement” (Pope Francis) often feel, and sometimes read about, the need for a prayer or ritual to help us grieve. I wrote what follows for myself and anyone else who wants to use it on whatever day or whatever occasion seems fitting. Alter it in any way that will help you grieve, alone or with a group. Share freely. For a two page (4 sides) slightly different copy of the prayer: Extinction Grieving Prayer.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

EXTINCTION GRIEVING PRAYER

Use two candles; prepare suggested (or other) music and video. Directions are starred. 

CALL TO PRAYERsparrow-dusky_seaside_sparrow-from-wikipedia

. . .today, the dusky seaside sparrow
became extinct. It may never be as famous
as the pterodactyl [ˌterəˈdakt(ə)l] or the dodo,
but the last one died today . . . .
An excerpt from “Science” by Alison Hawthorne Deming

What you call resources, we call our relatives. Source unknown.

Light the first candle. It honors all the species that have gone extinct in our lifetimes.

Great Giver of Life, we pause to remember our place at the beginning of the Sixth Great Extinction on Planet Earth. For 13.8 billion years creation has been groaning: bringing to birth, becoming more complex, more organized, more conscious. The other great extinctions during the past 450 million years happened by forces beyond anyone’s control. For the first time, our species is ruining whole ecosystems, aborting entire interdependent species. We acknowledge that we play a part in this dying by our carelessness, ignorance, and indifference. Forgive us our part in the death of healthy ecosystems and the resulting extinction of creatures in whom we believe divinity lives and acts.

LITANY OF AFFIRMATION

imagesWe affirm the Sacred Mystery that caused and continues Creation.

We affirm the 13.8 billion years of our Universe.

We affirm the billions of galaxies, each with its billions of solar systems and stars.

We affirm the multiple transformations during the 4.5 billion years of Mother Earth’s life so far, and the potential for evolution towards ever-greater consciousness.

We affirm the millions of species that have inhabited our planet in beautifully-webbed communities: microorganisms, plants, fish, birds, mammals . . . .

We affirm that we came from Earth and exist, like all species, in a communion of subjects.

LITANY OF GRIEF

We grieve humans’ lack of awareness of, and concern about, the destruction of interdependent communities that have taken billions of years to develop.

We grieve the climate disasters that extinguish habitats and the multiple species within them.

We grieve the more than one-in-four flowering plants, the one-in-five mammals, the nearly one-in-three amphibians, and the one-in-eight birds that are vulnerable to being wiped out completely. (International Union for the Conservation of Nature)img_18-tm

We grieve the Golden Toad (pictured here), native to Costa Rica. It has not been seen since 1989, when a single male was found, the last of its species.

ibex1-tmWe grieve the Pyrenean Ibex (pictured here). The last of this species naturally born was a female, Celia, who died in 2000.

We grieve the St. Helena Olive, images-1a small spreading tree, the last of which perished in 2003 primarily due to deforestation and invasive plants.

We grieve all our extinct brother and sister species, the amphibians, fish, birds, mammals, plants and trees, and their diminished habitats.

We grieve the humans whose sustenance and livelihoods are threatened by this disruption in the food web.

We grieve the deaths of ecological martyrs: Sister Dorothy Stang, Dian Fossey, Chico Mendes, Berta Careers, and the over 1000 other activists slain since 2004. We grieve those who, like the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, are harassed and injured by police and the companies they oppose. (Global Witness reports that, on average, two people die every week.)

LISTEN TO or SING:

“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Perhaps for v. 2 and 3: species, workers.  (Joan Baez’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LZ2R2zW2Yc. 2:44)

* Extinguish first candle. Light second candle. It honors the threatened species that remain and our desire to protect them. 

QUIET REFLECTION: 
For believers, our faith is tested by our concern and care for creation. U. S. Catholic Bishops: “Renewing the Earth” 1991

Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations.  Pope Francis

gray_wolf

WATCH:
Google either one:
YouTube: How Wolves Changed Rivers (4:33)

YouTube: The Wolves That Changed Rivers (5:47)

LITANY of GRATITUDE and HOPE 

We are grateful that the ever-controversial Endangered Species Act (ESA, U.S.) has indeed saved many species under its  protection. One example among many is the bald eagle, once threatened as a direct result of the use of DDT.

0611.Rugendo_in_bukima.150We are grateful that British oil company Soco International agreed (June 2014) to suspend exploration in a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), home to half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas (pictured here). However, oil drilling continues to threaten the gorillas and other species there.

We are grateful that the Zoological Society of London released its list of birds most at risk of extinction based on evolutionary distinctness and global endangerment (EDGE). This information will help conservationists decide where efforts should focus first.

ys-wolf-releasing-sawtooth-pup_npsjimpeaco_680-612x353We are grateful that the American grey wolves, virtually extinct in the Lower 48 States by the 1930s, are now so abundant that many want their population lessened to protect cattle-raising.

We are grateful for all of the habitats that have been saved so that the interdependent species within them can escape extinction.

We are grateful for the many people throughout the world who dedicate their time and efforts to keeping habitats and species alive so they can give praise to their creator by their distinct lineages, attributes, and contributions to the web of life.

ACTION SUGGESTIONS: 

To save species, we must save ecosystems. To save ecosystems, we must reduce climate change, pollution, poaching, invasive species, and over-consumption. On the following action list, mentally check the things that you already do to protect species (which includes our own, the human species).

READ QUIETLY:

Consciously deepen appreciation of the glory of creation, its long story, the place of Divine Mystery in it, and humans’ dependence upon it.                   Pray for the healing of creation.

Include Earth-care concerns when choosing legislators.

Lobby for laws to protect habitats and species.

Join (or cooperate with) groups working to conserve, restore and protect habitats and species.

Reduce all use of fossil fuels.     Take action to stop fracking.     Transition to renewable energy sources.

Encourage institutions to invest in renewable energy and to divest from fossil fuels.

Drive less and/or reduce gas use by driving responsibly.

Avoid produce, meat, and poultry from factory farms.      Buy local and organic produce.

Reduced use of plastic.          Carry water in a thermos or box (not bottled water).

Avoid genetically modified foods (GMOs).              Plant trees and support groups that do.

DISCUSS:

Einstein said: Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge points to all that is. Imagination points to all that could be.  

What kind of Earth “could be”? How can we contribute to co-creating it?

PRAYER:

Great Giver of Life, we come from, and we dwell in, the magnificent world in which you live and act. Our species is causing extinctions; our species can prevent them. Let us not be thwarted by the immensity of the challenge, for the Power working within us can do more than we could imagine. May the flame of this candle we now extinguish continue to burn in our hearts, reminding us to help our threatened relatives.

* Extinguish second candle.

Enlighten us to find you in all Creation; empower us to treat it accordingly. Through Jesus Christ, whose respect for Earth inspires us to live as he did. Amen.

SHARE

a sign of hope with one another.

SING:

“The Heavens Are Telling the Glory of God” or “Touch the Earth” (Kathy Sherman, CSJ) or another appropriate song

~~~~~~~~~

(For a short video showing facts about species decline: https://admin.zsl.org/science/news/landma rk-report-shows-global-wildlife-populations- on-course-to-decline-by-67-per-cent)

NOVEMBER LEAF REFLECTION

Although tree leaves are dropping only in the cool Northern Hemisphere, November is an appropriate month for the whole world to reflect on life and death. The following can be used in any location. For a two-sided pdf, contact terrishcj@aolcom.

fall-leaves-laptop-city-park-bench-1027064Preparation 

Each participant needs a leaf — one that is losing its green chlorophyll and showing other colors of yellow, orange, or red, or one already crisply brown, is elements breaking down, returning nutrients back into the soil for the next generation of leaves. Others can use a green leaf, remembering that it, too, is terminal.

Reflection

Reader 1: We gather in November to remember our beloved deceased relatives and friends. (Participants name deceased.) Reader 2: We also remember our family ancestors, ancestors in our faith, and those connected by shared values over the years and centuries. (Participants name those they wish to rememberer.) Reader 3: Trees, bushes and plants are experiencing their annual cycle of hibernation because our beloved planet, journeying around our Star, experiences shorter days and colder weather. Reader 4: But everything and everyone ever in existence in the past has transformed, evolved, lived and died. We share this trajectory, for we are part of the awesome process of evolution. Everything has its time.

Reader 5: A reading from Ecclesiastes 3: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted ….

Sing:

Turn, Turn, Turn  (YouTube, Judy Collins BBC 4:35: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHvMBjCH46Q) Sing along as you wish.

To everything, Turn, turn, turn,
There is a season, Turn, turn, turn,
And a time to every purpose under heaven.

Leader: Look closely at your leaf. Note the range of hues, even within one color. Note the lines and contours. Of all  transparent_fall_leaves_clipartthe leaves ever in existence, this one is unique! Consider the chemical activity from its first moment of existence from stardust to the present, its months of  contributing to the life of its tree, to its bioregion, and ultimately to the entire planet. Marvel that, thanks to eons of evolution, its tree  developed a thin bumpy line of cells where the leaf stem met the branch. When the stem was ready, bit by bit it pushed the leaf away from the stem and sealed that spot to protect itself for the winter. If the leaf did not drop, it would be a useless permanent appendage, preventing the tree from creating new leaves the following spring. This leaf has begun its demise, and will soon crumble to dust. But first, here it is, helping us deepen our awe for creation and the wonder of the cycles of life.

Quiet reflection

Share anything you wish from your leaf reflection including any connections you made between your leaf and your deceased loved ones and your self.

Sing:

Just to Be Is a Blessing, chorus only, as many times as group wishes: (If needed, YouTube, Colleen Fulmer, first 55 seconds: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaAWvshg6xw)

Just to be is a blessing, Just to live is holy; Just to be, just to live, Is a blessing, is holy.

All: Let us be grateful for the gift of our own life/ for being part of the life and death of creation/ for being so closely interconnected with all life/ that we actually “interbe.”/ Let us be grateful for all those we know and love/ living and dead/ for those who inspire us/ and help us experience love/ for the awareness that some day/ we too shall die./ Let us rejoice in the divine presence/ living and acting in us and in our world./ How blessed and holy are our lives!

Leaders: Go in peace, to love, treasure, and care for all life.

All: Yes, gratefully!

1007-just-to-be-for-use-requests

Art by Mary Southard, CSJ