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Green Mountain: First monastery devoted to care of the Earth

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In 1982, the sociology department of a Catholic university invited Passionist priest Fr. Thomas Berry, to reflect upon the future of the Catholic church in the United States. Fr. Berry, a cultural historian, author and geologian who had served as president of the American Teilhard Association for a decade, did not waste words.

“In my view (the church’s future)will depend above all on its capacity to assume its religious responsibility for the fate of the earth. … so far, church authorities, religious orders, the Catholic universities, and seminaries, priests and people have shown an amazing insensitivity to this most urgent of all issues confronting the human … My question is, after we burn our lifeboat (the Earth) how will we stay afloat?”

July's night skies

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The nights of July are short, but they are packed with sky happenings and objects. All five naked-eye planets are visible at some point during the month, with Venus ending its long run as the morning star. It is barely visible in early twilight at July's start, then disappears by the middle of the month.

The “dog days” of summer are upon us. They get their name from the Dog Star, Sirius. The brightest star in the night sky, it is immersed in the Sun’s glare at this time of year. Because of that, ancient skywatchers named this period in the star’s honor.

The Moon is full at 1:40 a.m. CDT today. The full Moon of July is known by several names, including Hay Moon and Thunder Moon. Since the first people landed on the Moon during the month of July, we might someday add “Apollo Moon” to the list.

The evening skies of summer feature Aquila, the Eagle, whose brightest star, Altair, is easy to see. But the constellation also hosts one of the faintest stars yet discovered. Known as Van 17, 2011

Matter matters: Environmental sacramentality

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The National Catholic Rural Life Conference's Web site carries a reflection, "Environmental Sacramentality," by Fr. Bud Grant, a theologian and pastor of a rural parish in Iowa. Fr. Grant is an assistant professor of theology at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.

"In the physical elements of grain and fruit ground and crushed and remade into bread and wine, then blessed and broken and remade into Christ’s body and blood," he writes, "we Catholics have the most sublime expression of the innate beauty and goodness of creation. For us, to put it simply, matter matters."

Theologian Sallie McFague to advise Dalai Lama

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Eco-theologian Sallie McFague will join a panel of environmentalists to advise the Dalai Lama, reported the Vancouver Sun on July 9.
Her latest book is A New Climate for Theology: God, the World and Global Warming.

"The Dalai Lama is a very powerful pan-religious figure. Talk about having a bully-pulpit. His impact is huge," McFague said, explaining the Buddhist spiritual leader has a rare international moral authority that goes far beyond those with political power or military might.

The first step for McFague, who moved to Vancouver in 2000 after three decades at the prestigious Vanderbilt Divinity School in Tennessee, was to take part in a preconference held in Colorado last weekend with some other Dalai Lama-endorsed specialists in spirituality, environment and science.

Why supermarket tomatoes suck

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The produce section in your local supermarket bulges, even in February, with a year-round supply of perfectly round, bright red-orange tomatoes. They almost seem like our birthright as Americans. But in a new book Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook reveals the huge human and environmental cost of the $5 billion fresh tomato industry.

Fields are sprayed with more than 100 different herbicides and pesticides. Tomatoes are picked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acquire a marketable hue. Modern plant breeding has tripled yields, but has also produced fruits with dramatically reduced amounts of calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and tomatoes that have 14 times more sodium than the tomatoes our parents enjoyed. The relentless drive for low costs has fostered a thriving modern-day slave trade in the United States. How have we come to this point?

Fr. Bob Stagg: 'We want to live out \"green values\" in everything our parish does'

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“We are called to care for Creation.” says Fr. Bob Stagg, pastor of The Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River, NJ. Presentation is the first Catholic parish nationwide to be accepted into the GreenFaith Certification Program, the country’s only interfaith environmental certification program for houses of worship. I talked with Fr. Stagg about his parish's participation in the program.

NCR: Where are you located?

Fr. Bob Stagg: We’re right on the New York border, a 45-minute ride west of New York City. We’re a large parish and about 40 percent of our people work in the city.

How did you get involved in the green activities?

Star of the month: Sadr

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Sadr (pronounced “sadder” or “sudder”) is the central star of
the beautiful Northern Cross asterism of Cygnus the Swan, which rises in the East this month and then gradually ascends to the top of the sky. The name comes from an ancient Arabic phrase — “the hen’s breast.”

With a temperature around 6,500 degrees Kelvin, this yellow supergiant star may not be much hotter than our Sun, but it is tremendously luminous, shining around 65,000 times as bright. Found at the northern end of the Great Rift, a dust lane that appears to divide the Milky Way, Sadr lies in a region of glowing interstellar clouds that may contain numerous star nurseries. It is
believed that this dying star is around 1,500 light years away and
once was twelve times the size of the Sun. Look below the “crossbeam”
star and you’ll find the open star cluster of M29.

South Sudan priest: Finalize borders so people can grow crops

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By Bronwen Dachs, Catholic News Service

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- Sudan and South Sudan need to finalize their borders so that people in the world's newest country can get to work growing crops in the lush fertile region, said Fr. Peter Othow, coordinator of development and aid for South Sudan's Malakal Diocese.

"People who live in the border area are tense," Fr. Othow said in a July 10 telephone interview from Malakal, which is seen as one of the potential flashpoints along the 1,300 mile-border with Sudan.

"They can't settle, because they feel that anything could happen," he said, noting that during a surge of violence in May people fled from surrounding rural areas to Malakal and are afraid to go back.

Some have moved a mile south of "where they think the border will be, so that they are free to cultivate" the land, he said.

With "good security, everything can be achieved," said Fr Othow, who was born and raised in South Sudan.

He said church programs aim to help communities to be "food secure without depending on the North or neighboring countries."

We are made for music

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Born in New Jersey, Louis Sarno now lives in the village of Yandoumbe in the forests of West Central Africa with the Bayaka people, known to the outside world as Pygmies.

Sarno is a musicologist and when he heard snatches of Bayaka music on the radio, he was intrigued by its depth and raw power. He was determined to seek these people out and discover more about the music that so enthralled him.

When he first arrived in their midst,. he was given a small beehive-shaped house. The Bayaka were living in a settlement attached to a sawmill built by Yugoslavs. The ongoing destruction of the rain forest had forced them temporarily out of their millennia-old home.

Sarno lived at first on a diet of tadpoles and manioc flour. Despite offering money and gifts, all he heard from them was drunken yodeling. After months of this, one evening he lost his temper, lectured them, called them lazy drunks.

The next evening it seemed the usual banal entertainment was beginning but as the drums picked up their pace, the women began a subtle yodeling similar to the music he had heard on the radio. He switched on his recorder, listened in awe.

Stalking the wild blackberries

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A blackberry is not just an electronic device; it’s a fruit. I spent a good part of last weekend picking wild blackberries on my brother’s farm in south Missouri. It was the peak of their season. The picking task itself, on a warm, windy July morning, was not completely pleasant, with annoying little flies diving for my ears, predatory ticks lurking, and, of course, the thorn-bristling cane vines that persistently messaged “Wait a minute!” as I got tangled up in them. Puffy clouds scooted overhead. Wildflowers still brought their dots of color to the hillside. I disturbed several towhee birds, while two or three indigo buntings sang brightly in the nearby pine trees.

Last night my wife Linda made a cobbler and eight pints of jelly out of the harvest of this wild fruit that played a role in the history of the country.

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In This Issue

July 18-31, 2014

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