Tag Archive | evolution

Ash Wednesday 2019 Stardust Ritual

If ever we needed reminders of the fact of the interconnection among all existence, as affirmed by cosmology, quantum physics, and other sciences — as well as mystics and saints — it is now, when dualistic thinking is causing havoc. Whole groups are being vilified and artificially separated from the rest: “winners” from “losers”; “good guys” from whoever the judging group happens to be; humans from Earth, our common home with which we share existence. Lent offers a good opportunity to “re-pent” — re-think — these rifts.

image_540_1Everything has come from elements resulting from generations of exploding stars. Our Solar System and everything in it developed from a shimmering cloud of stardust elements like calcium, carbon, and hydrogen resulting from a supernova explosion. Thus we, too, are made of stardust elements. On Ash Wednesday, Christians traditionally receive a cross of ashes on their foreheads to remind them that they are dust. The following ritual is meant to enrich this realization by reminding us that, even before we are dust, we are stardust!

Needed: one candle and a dish of dirt (or glitter, representing stardust). Decide who will read.

Leader: To begin, let us pause to recall past times whenashes_6329cp we have received ashes on our foreheads and heard words like these: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Remember how that influenced your practices during Lent.  

Pause to Reflect.  
Carry those thoughts and graces with you now, but place them in a larger context: the context of the entire universe and its amazing 13.8 billion-year history. After billions of years, thanks to the divine Mystery living and acting in our world and in us, stars formed and died in the process of bringing Earth to existence. We became part of this blessed creation. We are connected to all life; we have a role in this sacred story!

Light candle. 

blastReader One: The massive star that was mother to our Sun met with fiery death, her form completely annihilated by the explosive force of the blast. And yet she exists in each of us, in the cells of our bodies that are composed of her dust. Consciously or not, we carry her within us as surely as we carry the DNA of our biological parents. (Radical Amazement, Judy Cannato)

Reader Two: Our planet Earth was once a dancing star, evolving over four and a half billion years ago from the many elements of [an exploding] supernova. I have loved knowing that we are “made of stardust” . . .  I like knowing that the composition of my body has the elements of a star that was once brilliantly aglow in the universe and is now dancing in me. There’s a magical sense of connection that comes from this knowledge . . . . (The Cosmic Dance, Joyce Rupp)

Reader Three: Dust particles are suspendedimages in the air at all times, unnoticed until sunlight bathes them in radiant streaming light. In this warmth, the specs sparkle. No one who cares about shiny furniture is unaware of what dust can accomplish, just by being. Nothing is insignificant in our universe!

Litany of gratitude:
•  for the Spirit present within the creative process of creation and within each of us, We are grateful.
•  for the generations of supernovas that exploded, resulting in stars with increasingly more of the heavy elements, eventually leading to the supernova that resulted in our solar system and galaxy, We are grateful.
images-5•  for Sister Dirt, because of whom we can enjoy food, flowers, plants, clean air, shade, and revelations of the divine, We are grateful.
•  for farmers who till the soil, especially our local farmers who do it organically using fair trade practices, We are grateful.
•  for those who lobby to prevent mono-cropping, toxic fertilizers, and the use of GMO’s that endanger the earth, We are grateful.
•  for the scientists, theologians, thinkers, writers, speakers and artists who have helped us realize our place in creation — [Pause to quietly remember one or two who have helped you. Name them if you wish], We are grateful.
•  for those present and throughout the world committed to creating a flourishing Earth, including Pope Francis, and for his encyclical Laudato Si’We are grateful.

Jesus, too, was stardust! Jesus, too, died to give new life, as each seed must do. How might we connect the creation  story with our Lent experiences this year? How might our Lent resolutions reflect our call to care for E/earth?

Blessing of soil (or glitter):
May this soil (or glitter), which dates back billions of years images-2and which took over 4 billion years to form on Earth, keep us humble — humus is the Latin for soil. May it remind us of who we are and how vitally we interconnect with the rest of creation. May we trust in divine power working in us for the good of all creation.  Amen.

Individual blessings, using soil (or glitter):
Depending on the number of participants, either divide into pairs, each member blessing the other with soil from the center bowl, or form a circle and pass the bowl of soil, each blessing the person on his or her right.

100_1230Thank you, (name), for bringing your starlight into my life. I bless you and the star-stuff you invest in caring for all of creation. (Add anything you may wish to say at the beginning of our Lenten Journey.)

Extinguish candle. 


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!

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.


MTE1ODA0OTcyMDMzNTQxNjQ1In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis presents “an educational challenge” (par. 209) that requires “educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology, and helping people, through effective pedagogy, to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care.” (par. 210)

The goal of this education is described throughout the Encyclical. For example:

– “awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone.” This basic awareness, he predicts, “would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life.” (par. 202)

– “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)

What follows is a model of such a program. I am indebted to orla_w_cosmic_story_and_earthDr. Orla OReilly Hazra, PhD, and to her students, for the following information and quotes.

Offering an Integrated Cosmic Vision

Orla and Prashant Olalekar, PhD, S.J. co-taught an honors course titled “Be the Dream: Awaken to Cosmic Compassion” at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. (For information about the course, see
IGNATIAN PEDAGOGY in an Evolutionary Universe: Report on Honours Course, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, India)

Their students included the age group of 18-22, a variety of academic majors, and an even wider range of faith traditions, plus two teachers. These students learned the story of our 13.8 billion-year-old Universe. They absorbed the reality that our bodies and the bodies of all we see around us are part of everything that emerged from this evolution. The Universe Story — unknown for so long — conveys the wonder and awe that overwhelms many scientists as they face the stupendous creative power animating our journey together.

bighistoryunits The big history of our lives was outlined through its 8 threshold moments: big bang, formation of galaxies, elements, solar system, life, humans, agricultural era, industrial era (and end of Cenozoic era from which we emerged) — and now our emerging 9th moment – the ‘ecozoic era’.

With this solid foundation, these students proved that “if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.” (par. 11)


The following quotes show that these students, confirmed in their place in the Universe Story, accept their responsibility for co-creating and fostering the flourishing for all. Their common response after listening to and meditating on their integral origin story was one of deep awe, wonder and reverence. Their journal entries reveal that they are now able to see their bodies and themselves and all around them as part of an integral co-creative process:

“We are such an amazing and significant part of this universe, evolving together with all species and forces of nature. I am mother earth and mother earth is me. Knowing about this cosmos has been the first step towards unraveling the purpose of my life. Having understood this, I wonder, won’t it solve our issues of inequality for we are cutting down separation/discrimination from its basic root” (Shweta)2224010451

The Big Bang theory has never affected me the way it did today. We are all interrelated, we have emerged from the same stars. Thus my view has changed dramatically when it comes to looking at the problems of the world. The meditation did help us to delve deeper. I did notice that I should listen to myself and nature even more.” (Renisha)

“The immediate change on the surface level is to become sustainable: reduce use of plastics, eliminate shopping cravings, make homemade food and beauty products, a deep acknowledgement and compassion for my skin, my organs, my body that has been supporting me … maybe ever since 13.8 billion years … at moments like these I realize that I cannot continue my speech of ‘them’ and ‘us’ because we really are one, and we need to fight not only for the marginalized but also for Mother Earth. If I sit cross legged [in Indian meditation prayer] and decide that there is nothing I can do for Mother Earth, whose metals, atoms, chemicals are that which sustain and have made me, isn’t it rather a bit selfish and foolish to be doing?” (Kala)

Ecological Conversion

Awareness of the integral existence of the Mystery in all things is the metanoia necessary. We currently struggle with a mindset that denies, rejects, or is simply unaware of our unity with all creation. As stated by Bernard Lonergan, SJ: “How indeed, is a mind to become conscious of its own bias when that bias springs from a communal flight from understanding and is supported by the whole texture of a civilization? (Lonergan, 1958, xv)

Healing the dualist mindset bias which is causing the problems in the first place is essential for the education advocated by Pope Francis. As ecotheologian Diarmuid O’Murchu rightly points out: “Reconnecting with the Earth – with the whole Earth — is the single greatest challenge now facing us as a human species.” Our primary context of the Cosmos is the basis of any ‘religious’ story and is the commons from which we all emerged.

The course described here, and experiences like it in schools, families, parishes, religious congregations, and organizations of all types, prove that from understanding our common heritage and common ground, a common reverence and responsible action can emerge globally — and with joy!

Call for More Examples

Please add, in comments, other examples of ways parents, teachers, authors and artists are enabling others to place our lives and our religious stories within the unity of all creation.