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'The Journey of the Universe,' by Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker

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This film project and companion book are a collaboration of evolutionary philosopher Brian Swimme and historian of religions Mary Evelyn Tucker. They weave a tapestry that draws together scientific discoveries in astronomy, geology, and biology with insights concerning the nature of the universe.

The book will be available soon. The film will be screened at various locations in the United States and Canada throughout the summer. For more information about the project and film showings, see the Journey of the Universe Web site.

Earth Prophet: Fr. Cletus Wessels, OP

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Over the past century through the use of powerful telescopes and other technology that allowed us to probe the inside of atoms, we humans have overcome the limits of our five senses. We can see hundreds of millions of light years into deep space and delve into the innermost secrets of matter.

This has given us a new sense of the world around us and a new story about how we got here. We know now that the universe in which we live is some 14 billion years old and that within atoms there are forces that, when harnessed and unleashed, can destroy us.

We know that the universe originated in a colossal flaring forth known as the “Big Bang” and that the planet Earth, our home, over a 5 billion year period, evolve plants, animals and us.

Fr. Thomas Berry proclaimed: “Although as yet unrealized, this scientific account of the universe is the greatest religious, moral and spiritual event that has taken place in recent centuries. It is the supreme humanistic and spiritual as well as the supreme scientific event.”

'Why being a foodie isn't \"elitist\"'

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Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, wrote a piece in the Washington Post last week titled "Why being a foodie isn't 'elitist.'"

The 'elitist' epithet, he says, is a familar line of attack. In the decade since his book was published, he has been called that, plus a socialist, a communist, and un-American. Others who promote organic and local food are called "food fascists." The name-calling is a form of misdirection, an attempt to evade a serious debate about U.S. agricultural policies.

Read the article on the Washington Post Web site.

We need the Earth for our spiritual lives

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Most of us don’t realize just how much we need the Earth for our spiritual vitality and wellbeing. Because the natural world is “always there,” we take it for granted and seldom connect it to our spirituality. We think we need the church for our spiritual lives, but not nature. We assume our spirituality is independent of what is happening in nature.

Think for a moment how the major Catholic feasts are timed to coincide with events in nature. Look how much Christmas is built on the natural world. The winter solstice and symbolism of light overcoming the darkness mirrors Christ the light coming to remove the darkness of sin. The shepherd saw angels in the night sky and the magi followed a star (which we can hardly imagine because we can’t see the stars where most of us live!) And wouldn’t the story lose a lot if Jesus had been born in a run-down shelter in the inner city instead of a stable? The animals lend texture, earthiness, and warmth to the event.

Small family farms not benefitting from rising crop prices, according to new study

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Since 2006, farm crop prices have risen dramatically, reversing a decades-long trend that saw persistent declines in agricultural commodities prices. U.S. Department of Agriculture officials talk about boom times for U.S. farmers, citing their most recent figures on the economic performance of the farm sector. Recent reports point to records in net farm income.

But are small-to-mid-scale family farmers really benefiting from the boom? No, according to the latest of three studies by Tufts University professor Timothy A. Wise, who has looked behind the glowing headlines on the farm sector as a whole to examine how family farmers have fared in this high-price environment, using readily available USDA data that breaks down the widely diverse range of working and non-working farms included in aggregate statistics,

EPA creates Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership Initiative

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched a Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (FBNP) initiative. According to their press announcement, "strong relationships with faith and neighborhood organizations will help promote environmental stewardship that will lead to cleaner communities, encourage healthier families and build a stronger America. These relationships will also help EPA assist communities during times of environmental crisis."

EPA also pledges to work to expand the environmental conversation and continue the fight for environmental justice to relieve the burdens of pollution in poor and minority communities. In addition, EPA will work with participating institutions to bring Green jobs to these communities, increase energy efficiency through EPA's Energy Star for Congregations program, and improve environmental education and communications.

One record-breaking month after another

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I spent last week in a small house on my brother’s land in the southern Missouri forest working on a book I am writing for Orbis. My wife and I arrived at the end of a four-day long torrential rainstorm, the worst they had experienced there in anyone’s memory.

Thirteen to 14 inches of rain in a few days sent creeks and rivers 20 feet or more over their normal levels. Lakes overflowed. Dams were threatened. Ponds quadrupled in size.

All of the county roads were closed due to flooding. A friend of my brother’s, the prosecuting attorney for the county, was marooned for the duration in his house with guests who were visiting from the city, unable to navigate past the low-water bridge that was submerged and was their only way out.

Meanwhile to the south of us, across the Arkansas line, potent storms were formed there that then stalked through the South resulting in the worst tornado outbreak in U. S. history.

The new stage of psychic evolution

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Many years ago, The Jesuit scholar Teilhard de Chardin claimed that the biological (physical) evolution of our species had probably reached its climax; in biological terms, we could not evolve much further.

Consequently, he suggested that we are rapidly approaching a new evolutionary threshold, in which mind and spirit, rather than biology, will provide the context for evolutionary emergence. This new stage he named as psychic evolution.

The exponential growth of information, evidenced throughout the closing decades of the 20th century, supports this claim. Processing information provides the primary work-outlet in the world of our time. And the communication of information continues to rise with greater speed, accuracy, and efficiency.

Central to this explosion is the computer with its technology now doubling every five years. Computational skills which might take the human brain several hours, can be achieved by modern computers in a matter of seconds. In fact, computer technology measures its speed not in hours, minutes or even seconds, but in terms of the nanosecond -- which literally means one-billionth of a second.

What does ësustainability' mean?

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The following was written by Holy Cross Br. David Andrews, a senior representative at the Washington-based Food & Water Watch, a consumer lobbying organization.

The word “sustainable” is being used in so many ways today that it is hard to know what it means. It came into increasing use after the 1987 report “Our Common Future” published by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development -- also known as the Brundtland Report, named after the Chair of that Commission.

Its fundamental insight is now well known: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

It has frequently been asserted that sustainable development rests on a three legged stool: social justice, environmental protection and economic well being. In other words it sees three elements: the planet, profit and people as interrelated in any holistic view of sustainable development.

Advocates of sustainable agriculture typically utilize these elements in their vision of sustainability.

Widening our practice of mercy

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When I get stopped for speeding and the cop is sauntering to my car, I always pray like the dickens -- God, please let him have mercy on me and give me a warning instead of a ticket! In my powerlessness, every part of my distressed being pleads for leniency, which I usually don’t get, but I can’t help trying.

We all know what it’s like to be the one asking for mercy, the feelings of fear and desperation and the humbling bargaining and begging. And we know what it’s like being asked for a break. (If we’re parents, we’re probably on that side of the fence fairly often!) We know the feeling of a hard-hearted refusal to an anguished request, and also the grace of softening our stance and granting an undeserved favor.

The idea of mercy is not simple. It’s similar to pity, compassion, and forgiveness, but not quite the same. It has its own depth, nuances and flavor. I think it is clear, though, that it is a virtue to be courted. The scriptures state that God’s mercy reaches to the heavens, recount how Jesus granted mercy to sick and sinner alike, and admonish us to be unstinting in showing mercy.

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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