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The Catholic love of nature

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By Katherine Reynolds Abbott

About two miles from my parish in New Jersey, there is a place where on these blazing hot summer days, you can enter a green lawn under an enclosure of towering oak trees and feel ten degrees cooler. The oaks surround an ancient spring-fed pond, which has been enlarged and adapted over the years into a pond/swimming pool hybrid. In the 1930s children dove off a floating dock in the middle of the pond, but now they use diving boards and tubular plastic slides along a straight cement wall at the deep end.

Color to match the July sky

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This was written by Hal Borland, nature columnist for many years for The New York Times.

Chicory is in blossom at the roadsides and in neglected fields, in vacant city lots everywhere. It's one of the few wildlings of the season that have a color to match the July sky. Chicory bloom is one of the warmest blues on the rural landscape, and the individual flowers are as big as silver dollars, big as the field daisies that always seem to be near neighbors. In fact, some call it the blue daisy. Others know it as blue sailors, or succory, or coffee weed.

Green Catholic parish: Nativity of Our Lord, Detroit, Mich.

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Another Catholic parish that lives and teaches excellent spiritual, social and green values is Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church in Detroit, Mich. Nativity has taken the message of “being good stewards of the earth” seriously as shown by their positive environmental activities.

Continue reading about this parish in "Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church: An environmental treasure in Detroit."

Database of Catholic religious communities and the land

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A Benedictine monastery in North Dakota has introduced the use of wind power in a coal-producing state. A Dominican women's community in Western Kansas sponsors a large organic vegetable growing and animal raising enterprise, Heartland Farm. A Catholic project in New Mexico is cited for its use of straw-bale construction and solar energy. The 80-acre campus of St. John’s University in rural Minnesota has introduced a 250-year sustainable rotation of thinning and harvesting of their extensive forests. The monks there have managed the land since 1979 with a goal to restore biodiversity in both flora and fauna. They are planning a 150-acre wetland, savanna, and prairie restoration project. A task force is establishing a native habitat arboretum that will embrace the entire property. The monks offer land ethic outreach to the local community.

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?

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September 12-25, 2014

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