Tag Archive | thomas berry

Ancient Springs

Each year spring breaks through to remind us that Resurrection is the Order of the Universe!  Let us rejoice in that hope!
Mary Southard (author of this post)*



Our world has entered a period of great upheaval.  Economies are in a collision course with ecosystems and life itself. Reports of climate catastrophe, environmental collapse, food and health decline, massive geopolitical and religious instability and violence,. . .confront us daily.

It takes great courage to stay awake and not retreat into denial, fear, despair.  For those who are able to feel the pain and grieve, this crisis, this “dark passage” is an invitation to a deeper and more beautiful reality.  As is true in our individual lives, this is a time for inner growth, a time to tap into The Source—into the deep wells of wisdom and Love we carry within.

Thomas Berry, cultural historian, visionary and prophet puts it beautifully: As we seek to escape from the wasteland about us, we witness these ancient springs once again flowing with cool water capable of sustaining us on the next phase of our journey. Contemplative traditions are renewed, prayer is again a source of wisdom, and the healing power of silence is rediscovered.  As the need for a more mystical relationship with Earth becomes more widespread, education could become an initiation into a wisdom tradition rather than simply an acquisition of factual data.                                     (The Sacred Universe,  p. 64)

An Easter Blessing

May the ancient springs keep flowing with cool water for us in this next stage of our human journey.

May we set aside regular times of stillness and “tune in” to The Holy One present and active in our Sacred Earth and in ourselves.

May we listen deeply and learn again from Earth how to live in balance and harmony as ONE Sacred Community of Life.


 * This guest blog was written by my dear friend, Mary Southard, CSJ, La Grange Park, IL. Mary is an artist, a spiritual director, and one of the founding members of Sisters of Earth. Her art and her life foster care for Earth, celebration of the Universe Story, and ecological Christianity. www.marysouthardart.org/

About Gift-Giving

With due respect to St. Francis, who originated the Christmas crib,100_0359 for this blog I shall alter the final word in his famous quote, making it read: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use gifts.”

We are probably already thinking about holiday gifts to give and perhaps even how to wrap them. As we do this, let’s remember a few things that will help us select gifts that “preach the gospel”:

  • everything in creation has a sacred history dating back billions of years,
  • divine Love is living and acting in every bit of it, and
  • thoughtless consumption of Earth’s gifts endangers all of us who depend upon them for physical, psychological, and spiritual health.

Reflecting on our interconnected place in Earth’s story and the values of simplicity, love of nature, and sustainable living that are exemplified in the Gospel, we can move from a culture of Buy! Buy! Buy! to one of more thoughtful, gospel-based choices.

Some basic considerations:

handmade  soap bars with lavender flowers, shallow DOFAll gift-giving decisions inevitably affect God’s people and the rest of creation — for better or for worse. Here are some questions to consider when deciding what to give:

  • What resources are being consumed?
  • Who has made the product and in what working conditions?
  • Are endangered species or habitats threatened or benefited?
  • Does making or using this product add to climate change?
  • How does the store from which I buy treat its employees, and how does it care for the environment?

Suggestions for giving presents that “preach the gospel”: 

  • Give something previously used by you or another. Homemade-Christmas-Gifts-012“White elephant” gift exchanges can be great fun, and can be woven into group rituals that participants will joyfully anticipate each year. Thrift shops and thrift websites might have just what you’d like to give.
  • Give used books with an inscription of what the book meant to you and why you chose it for this recipient. These can be passed on repeatedly, gaining in meaning with each inscription. Alternately, purchase books from a local independent bookstore (if you are fortunate enough to have one). Magazine subscriptions to worth-while publications might also be appreciated.
  • HomemadeGifts_Labels Give something you’ve made: cookies, cards, clothes, scarves, art, poetry, music . . . . Or, you might buy things from friends or at craft fairs. Some parishes hold holiday sales that include work by local artists.
  • Give a gift of time. Especially older, handicapped, or very busy people imagesmight appreciate a service gift: a concert with an instrument you play well, an offer to help with a future party, a back rub, an offer to help with the computer, or a promise that the garbage will be regularly taken out! Perhaps a pack of “Just Ask” coupons. . . .
  • Give gifts to friends that also gift Earth: plants you have nurtured; organic, fair trade coffee, tea, or chocolate; glass water bottles that will replace plastic ones; CFL or LED light bulbs; art, music, videos that help others better appreciate divine life within creation; donations to Heifer International, Arbor Day Foundation, Rain Forest Rescue, or other organizations that help create sustainability and self-reliance. Items from Ten Thousand Villages won’t be cheap, but will assure you that people and planet have benefited from your purchase.
  • Give experiences: tickets to concerts, plays, classes, or other events the person would enjoy. If needed, include offer of transport.

Suggestions of what to avoid: 

(Note: These are ideals to work towards, not meant to incite guilt!)

  • PlasticBagInTreeByLauren Avoid buying — or putting products in — anything made of plastic! (Plastic particles form with other debris into large swirling glutinous accumulation zones that comprise as much as 40 percent of the planet’s ocean surface — roughly 25 percent of the entire earth!)
  • Avoid buying wrapping paper that came from non-sustainable sources. Stretch your creativity to find wrap/cloth and ribbon/string  that can be used again.
  • Avoid anything that will contribute to climate change by excessive fossil fuel use.

 Avoid anything that Anti-ivory trade demonstartion, London 13 Februarymight have come from endangered species or from trafficked laborers.

One More Thing

However you celebrate the Incarnation in the Christmas story, remember also to celebrate the indwelling of Divine Love from the very beginning of the Cosmos. Many books, both for children and adults, tell the Universe Story in a way that makes clear to believers that, as Thomas Berry has written, these “are two aspects of a single wisdom … integral parts of a single story.”

images-1Berry continues with insights relevant to our need to reduce consumerism and planet destruction: “What is happening in our times is not just another historical transition or simply another cultural change. The devastation of the planet that we are bringing about is negating some hundreds of millions, even billions, of years of past development on Earth …” What is happening now “is the most profound change that has taken place during the past five thousand years.”

How we give gifts this season will not only preach the gospel. It will contribute, positively or negatively, to that profound change.

Please add in Comments your suggestions for gospel-based gift-giving, and thanks!

May your holidays bring blessings to you and the entire world!


My last blog shared insights about saving species: that a key factor is to think ecosystems rather than merely focus Earth-Hands-imageon isolated species — even though they are easier to image and more likely to motivate us to action. We need to develop the consistent ability to “see” interconnections and protect entire habitats.

Thomas Berry always said that nothing is itself without everything else. This might be especially pertinent when thinking about the species closest to our hearts: the one containing human hearts. Thomas also said that reinventing the human was part of the Great Work of our time. Pope Francis’ recent statements seem to agree.

Eco Catholic blog 

100_0022-2Sharon Abercrombie’s 6/24/14 blog on the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) site (http://ncronline.org/node/80236) caught my attention. Small wonder. Here’s how she begins:

True or false? Our current ecological crisis is a completely new development in the history of humankind — a situation only 200 years old, a nasty byproduct of progress fostered by the Industrial Revolution. 

If you voted “true,” that’s just a bit false. It’s not the whole story.

To get the full picture, take a gigantic leap back into time beginning with the Old Stone Age. Those ancestors content to kill just two mammoths instead of one were still behaving sustainably. But the ones who took the shortcut approach by driving entire herds over a cliff, were eventually defeated by their own “progress,” running out of a major food source for their lunches.

Sharon continues with insights from Surviving Progress [1]”: a 2011 film directed by Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks, and with Martin Scorcese among its executive producers. “Surviving Progress” tells us where we’ve been and where we are going ecologically as a species. It warns that the outcome for us and the rest of the planet will be disastrous unless we melt down the edges of our Ice Age mentalities with an expanded, inclusive moral consciousness. I highly recommend this powerful documentary for summer spiritual televiewing (A complete transcript [2] is also available on the film’s website).

I like to imagine the interconnections of the various individuals within these civilizations rather than thinking solely about the humans (in a lump sum) and their accomplishments. The facts and theories are the same, but new light is shed when we remember how interconnected each human was with everything and everyone else within its biosystem: from microorganisms to other humans, from soil to water to air, from climate to lifestyles . . . .

Extinct Civilizations

Recent reports about climate change impel responsible humans to consider prayerfully the implications of global ecosystemolmec-civilization-disappeared collapse and the fact that it could imperil all species as well as the future evolution of planet Earth.

At least ten, probably more, thriving civilizations have disappeared from various locations on Earth, many prior to the Christian Era (BCE). One wonders what individuals in these civilizations thought as their ecosystem became threatened. Denial? Trust in the gods? Futile blame-games? Resignation? 

Top theories for extinctions of civilizations include invasion and ecological causes like volcanic eruptions, climate changes leading to drought, and over farming or over hunting causing starvation. Extinction won. This need not happen again if we learn from the past.

“Surviving Progress”

NCR has graciously allowed me to reprint Sharon’s blog, and the rest is hers:

“Surviving Progress” features authors, environmentalists, historians and economists and includes such notables as David Suzuki, Ronald Wright, Margaret Atwood, Jane Goodall and Stephen Hawking. Activists from the Congo, Canada and the United State complete the cast.

Viewers will come away with their own particular memories, but one of mine was the realization that ancient Rome became an early prototype for our current economic system — the wealthy minority at the top of the pyramid versus the rest.

In those days, it was the custom for Sumer, Babylonia, Egypt and other countries to occasionally cancel their debts when they became too unwieldy. This policy created a clean slate so that societies could start afresh.

imagesRome, however, did not approve of such mercies, instead waging war with kings unable to pay their debts, explained economist Michael Hudson. Like plagues of locusts, Roman legions stole gold from the temples and public buildings, stripped cities of their waterworks, and created a desert from the land.

“A debt is a debt,” became the Roman calling card. Egalitarian lands, where peasants formerly had access to public land, were taken over by the lords and generals. This move helped to create widespread homelessness, the creation of slums and ecological problems.

Canadian author Ronald Wright, whose book A Short History of Progress inspired the film, explained that erosion became a serious problem, “so bad that some of the Roman ports silted up with all the topsoil that got washed down from the fields into the river.”

Archeologists in Italy have been able to measure the degradation caused by Rome’s fall, said Wright, adding that they also discovered “how it took a thousand years of much reduced population during the Middle Ages for fertility in Italy to rebuild.”

Of the saddest portions of the documentary are scenes from the Brazilian rain forest, burned and clear cut by logging companies. At one point, the camera closes in on a half standing tree, with a lone dying insect, struggling to hang on, trembling, shaking and trying to figure out what has just befallen it.

Meanwhile, back at the lumber mill, families speak of the necessity of such work in order to feed themselves and their 1384791420-rise-in-deforestation-in-the-amazon-rainforest-_418266children. Viewers might wonder why these poor people have their backs against this kind of destructive employment wall, and why no other jobs are available to nourish both humans and their rain forest home.

Economist Michael Hudson states that rain forest destruction is directly tied into the Wall Street and London financial sectors. When Latin American countries in the early 1980s could no longer pay their debts, the International Monetary Fund advised them to sell off their water and oil rights, forests and subsoil mineral resources.

The tragedy of these policies are ongoing — and not only in Latin America — and have led to widespread poverty, hungry families, polluted water and joblessness.

David Suzuki, the Canadian geneticist, blasts this kind of economic system, saying it is “not based in anything like the real world.” Rather, he says, “it’s life, the web of life that filters water in the hydrologic cycle, it’s microorganisms in the soil that create the soil that we grow our food in. Economists call these externalities … that’s nuts!”

My television had barely cooled down from playing this film when the press reported Pope Francis addressing some of these terrible disparities during his mid-June interview [3] with the Spanish daily, La Vangardia.

Pope Francis Delivers His Urbi et Orbi Blessing“The economy is moved by the ambition of having more,” he told the newspaper. The pontiff also observed “we are in a world economic system that isn’t good … we have fallen into a sin of idolatry, the idolatry of money.”

Francis also spoke of “discarding an entire generation to maintain an economic system that can’t hold up anymore,” ones which “sacrifice man at the feet of the idol of money.”

As I read the pope’s words, and thought back to scenes from “Surviving Progress” one of Pete Seeger’s songs, “Where have all the flowers gone?” surfaced in my heart.

“Oh, when will they ever learn?” goes the refrain.

Francis and the producers of “Surviving Progress” are singing the same refrain.

The author Wright adds his voice to their chorus, when he faces the camera and reflects:

“I think what we’re up again here is human nature, we have to reform ourselves, remake ourselves in a way that cuts against the grain of our, our inner animal nature and transcend that Ice Age hunter, that all of us are, if you strip off the thin layer of civilization.”

He concluded: “It’s up to us to prove nature wrong, in a sense, to show that we can take control of our own destinies and behave in a wise way that will ensure the continuation of the experiment of civilization.”

Source URL (retrieved on 06/24/2014 – 16:22): http://ncronline.org/blogs/eco-catholic/documentary-explores-historical-costs-surviving-progress

[1] http://www.survivingprogress.com/
[2] http://survivingprogress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/SP_transcription.pdf
[3] http://larouchepac.com/node/31061