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Extinction Grieving Prayer 2017

WHY NOVEMBER?

In November, religious traditions and international observances call our attention to deaths, extinctions, and thanksgiving for what remains.

For Catholics, November begins with days devoted to deceased members of our immediate and global family. We remember them all month, including the increasing numbers of men and women who have been murdered for their work preserving our common home.

It is also Native American Heritage Month, a good time to remember Native Americans’ unjust deaths, and the deaths of their cultures, languages, and religions. We strive to stop the current efforts to eliminate their sacred heritage burial grounds, plants and wildlife, and vital watersheds.

Climate negotiators representing every country (except the United States) are meeting in Bonn, Germany from Nov. 6 – 17 to craft a “rule book” for the Paris Climate deal. These efforts will contribute to preventing deaths and extinctions.

November 11th is Veterans Day in many countries. We remember the men and women who gave their lives for their countries.

In the United States, on Thanksgiving we give thanks for all of nature’s gifts. We remember those who have less.

November ends with the International Remembrance Day for Lost Species (Nov. 30). Pope Francis calls us to be people “joined … so closely to the world around us that we can feel the … extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement.” Some dismiss the loss of one species, forgetting that all life is connected because we all began with the first flaring forth and we are now interconnected by invisible atoms. As Thomas Berry said: “Nothing is itself without everything else.”

My Lent 2018 Creation Covenant resource concludes with a grieving prayer for extinct species, but it is important to grieve with others (in person or spirit) on or near November 30. The following prayer ritual can be used on any day, alone or with others. Alter it in any way that will help you (and others) grieve and be motivated to stop extinctions and the many deaths that result from the loss of species.

For a two page (four sides) pdf version of the prayer, contact terrishcj@aol.com.

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EXTINCTION GRIEVING PRAYER

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

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.

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

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 Cáceres, 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

 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.

We 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). Note anything you could add to your endeavors.

  • – 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.
    – Transition to renewable energy sources.
    – Encourage institutions to invest in renewable energy and to divest from fossil fuels.
    – Buy local and organic produce.
    – Carry water in a thermos (not bottled water).
    – 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

 

 

GLOBAL ONENESS DAY and UNITED NATIONS DAY OCTOBER 24th

Halloween is not the only day to celebrate this month! Tuesday, October 24th, is a double-header — Global Oneness Day and United Nations Day. This is a day to nurture and elevate our consciousness of unity and the organizations that can further our living as One.

We celebrate the awesome and indisputable fact of our biological and atomic unity and also celebrate the existence of an institution founded by 51 member states in 1945. Seventy-two years later it contains 193 members (plus two observer states). Despite having quadrupled its original size, it still makes communication possible among its widely disparate members, and it still fosters many services that help the needy throughout the world. So, both in spirit and with leaders of all nations, let us CIRCLE THE WORLD WITH LOVE on October 24th!

To many our unity seems obvious. Yet violence, prejudices, “isms,” phobias, and delusions of independence and superiority persist. Sad!

These days many seek knowledge of their ancestral roots and watch TV shows that explore other peoples’ roots. We usually delight in discovering close or distant relatives, and want to understand our connections. Yet we forget or don’t realize that all life on Earth — and all creation —has been connected from the start. Curt Stager (Your Atomic Self) writes: “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 … 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 star mothers died long ago.”

We also share Earth’s current and potential-future calamities. Mary Southard, CSJ, sees the positive side: “We as a nation and a planet have been hammered by fires, floods, hurricanes, natural disasters of all kinds these past months.  We are living in a moment of unparalleled crisis in Earth’s natural systems, and challenge to our human intelligence to respond in this unprecedented OPPORTUNITY to create the world we all want to live in. . . .  .”

So let us use October 24th as an opportunity to deepen our own awareness of our moment in creation’s spacetime. We know so much more about our interdependence than did past generations, and have vast opportunities to learn more. Let us include learning more about the United Nations and the unique services it offers. (c.f. www.un.org/en/sections/history/history-united-nations/index.html)          

Recently we’ve seen examples of people coming to the aid of others endangered by violence as well as by floods, storms, fires, and other calamities. October 24th would be a perfect day to join those who are awakening to our global responsibilities for one another and all life.

Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton recently coined the phrase “climate swerve” to describe the massive climate awakening that’s finally happening in the US. [Many other countries are way ahead of us!] These kinds of tragedies across the nation and world are creating unprecedented receptivity as people search for solutions. Now is our time to reach more people than ever and actually build the political power to change the current systems.

Many of our problems and systems were created before humans realized their interdependence with one another and all creation. Albert Einstein said that “No problem  can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Oct. 24th is a good day to alter our level of consciousness in order to solve these problems!

Einstein also gives this advice, perfect for contemplation alone or together on Oct. 24th:

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Pope Francis agrees. In Laudato Si’ he writes:

“We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” (par. 2)

“People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption.” (par. 55)

“It cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected. Time and space are not independent of one another, and not even atoms or subatomic particles can be considered in isolation.” (par. 138)

Jesus prayed that all would be one. Today we need to pray that we accept that reality and act accordingly. May I suggest that we save some time on Oct. 24th to expand our consciousness by rereading parts of Laudato Si’ or by learning more about the United Nations or by pausing in awe to consider how interconnected and interdependent we are — with all creation, from the very beginning!

How can “they” believe THAT?

Almost twenty years ago, Jim Carrey starred in the critically acclaimed film, The Truman Show, written by Andrew Niccol. I loved the thought-provoking premise, and I find even more applications now than I did then.

In case you missed it, here’s a summary: A corporation adopts infant Truman Burbank in order to use him as the star of a TV reality show watched 24/7 throughout the world. Truman, unaware of the fact that everyone he knows and every situation of his life is programmed on an isolated island, is just beginning to question his reality. Ed Harris plays the show’s director, Christof, who goes to any length to keep Truman ignorant of reality, which would ruin the show’s success.

Christof’s statement towards the end of the film really struck me: “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.” Well, sure. Why question it? We’re secure in it. And, if we become aware of life outside ours, it’s easy to blame “outsiders” for problems and it’s comfortable to believe “our” way is better than “theirs.” Hasn’t that been a successful political, religious, economic, and social tactic throughout history? Think about it!

What I loved about the show in 1998 was how it exemplified those who accepted without question, for example, advertisers’ sales pitches that our value lies in the “stuff” we have. Or how we are slow to become aware of our ingrained prejudices and stereotypes of whatever kind. Or how we accept our religious stories, all written before discoveries in cosmology, quantum physics, and even evolution. It’s challenging to move beyond the reality in which we grew up and/or to understand those who live outside it!

By now you have probably guessed why I find The Truman Show’s imaginary premise especially applicable today. In the U.S., at least, we seem to be captive within the world presented by various media. Echo chambers thrive in social media. Listening to “the other side” can be judged disloyalty to “our” side. Those who live in “the other reality” actually do threaten ours, and thus it is easy to fear them and even think them evil. This seems true regardless of which “show” one currently stars in. Christof spoke truth when he said that we accept the reality of the world with which we are presented. We barely notice, or we excuse, its exaggerations or errors.

Even with willingness to be empathetic, many are ignorant of other cultures. When I read Hillbilly Elegy (which I highly recommend), I was stunned to realize that here was a world about which I knew just about nothing. How easy, then, to judge those who act — and vote — from it. I had to consider that, given the same circumstances of education, culture, and heritage, would I have been any different?

It’s no secret that some news choices can reinforce our prejudgments and make exaggerated statements about our chosen “team” (think Breitbart, FOX, MSNBC, Daily Kos). Ditto for social media. Both sides can perceive the other as spiritually and morally degenerate, a threat to American values, and conspiring to defeat what they hold dear. Because we came from a dualistic, either-or mindset (us and them, good and bad, true and false, etc.), we have been programmed to accept one and reject the other.

At least we are aware of the biases some stations and papers will present and that other news and opinions will be absent, refuted, and judged “fake.” What about sources we watch such as local news, that present biased news and opinions without indicating their source? Because of mergers and acquisitions, massive corporations dominate the U.S. media landscape and control what we see, hear and read. In many cases, these companies control everything from initial production to final distribution.

When one or two entities own local news channels and demand that they air slanted news and opinion pieces, we might have no warning. How is our reality altered when, for example, a newscast has a daily series on Terrorism Threats? Who gives balanced statistics of where our deaths and dangers really come from? The emphasis on what is not a major threat both increases fears and neglects genuine concerns. No wonder fortunes are spent preventing problems that either don’t exist or are minor, causing money needed for real concerns to be not available. Perhaps we are called to write or call and make our viewpoints known.

I periodically receive emails marked something like “You won’t believe this.” I usually don’t, and I  check with one or more of the sites created to monitor factual accuracy and debunk rumors. These three are reliable: FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com, and snopes.com. (I then return this information to the sender and the other receivers.)

The Truman Show spoiler alert: Truman begins to notice and to question inconsistencies. He begins to doubt the validity of his environment. He becomes aware that his life’s package is somehow incomplete. He risks his life to resolve his growing discomfort — and in the end he literally pokes a hole through his fake sky-dome and exits beyond it. There he is united with his true love, whose campaign to “Free Truman” was not in vain.

As I see it, the moral of The Truman Show for those who care about ecospirituality is this: Like Truman, we are exiting, or have exited, the world and consciousness in which many of us grew up. We feel called to live in a world, a universe, that is intrinsically interconnected, in which everything and everyone deserves respect. We all came from the same stardust; we all share it within us. Because the world, and each of us, is constantly evolving, we are becoming new each moment. We can create a future where people — starting with ourselves — are accurately informed, discerning, and contributing to a win-win future where all life is mutually enhancing and the accepted goal is the greater good of all creation.

Speaking with those who — because they live in another show — reject the threats to all life from climate change, nuclear proliferation, violence, pollution, poverty, inequality, trafficking, species extinction, etc., can be very challenging. We can do it better if we try to understand the “show” in which each of us “stars” and listen to others with respect and patience.

Good law schools “demand that [students] imaginatively and sympathetically reconstruct the best argument on the other side,” I read recently in TIME (July 24, 2017, Heather Gerken, dean of Yale Law School). “Lawyers learn to see the world as their opponents do ….” We should fight for what we believe, but “it’s crucial to recognize the best in the other side and the worst in your own.”

Trying to understand the “reality show” that defines opponents and informs their fears and judgments might not always, or immediately, be effective, but it is the most successful method to date.

I welcome your suggestions/ stories of how to escape, or help others to escape from, faulty or incomplete reality shows.