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The fine-tuned universe -- part one


Science, once seen as the enemy of spirituality, is now making common cause with it in one area, in a search for meaning and purpose.

It seems absurd to think of humans influencing distant stars, but science tells us now that the simple fact of our existence does turn out to have profound implications for the ultimate questions. According to a growing number of hard-nosed physicists, the laws of nature are so finely tuned, and so many “coincidences” have occurred to allow for the possibility of life, the universe must have come into existence through intentional planning and intelligence. Many others are not so sure.

'Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream'


Scenes of species extinction-in progress can be too much to witness. Remember that heart-twisting photo of a mother polar bear cuddling her cub? The two are trapped on a last remaining chunk of ice, surrounded by water. Overwhelmed by sadness and rage, but feeling totally helpless to change the reality, we numb out.

Earlier this spring, teachers from three Sisters of Mercy Catholic high schools in the San Francisco Bay Area were not numbing their feelings. Instead, they were quietly weeping and raging over video clips they had seen of environmental devastation. These teachers were participating in a six hour inter-active educational symposium, “Awakening the Dreamer: Changing the Dream,” organized by the Burlingame, Calif. Sisters of Mercy. More than 100 teachers took part in three separate faculty retreat days.

Book review: Rolheiser on 'the radical, shocking, raw physical character of the Eucharist'


By Ronald Rolheiser
Published by Doubleday, $18

In his new book Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist, popular Catholic writer Fr. Ron Rolheiser lays out a spirituality of Eucharist. It’s a series of personal reflections from his life as a priest and a dedicated Christian.

He begins by telling the story of the little girl who woke up at night frightened and disoriented, convinced there were monsters under her bed. She ran to her parents’ bedroom. Her mother took her back to her own room, turned on the light, showed her there was nothing there, then said: “You don’t need to be afraid. God is with you here in your room.” The girl replied: “I know that God is here with me, but I need someone here who has some skin!”

Brood XIX brings a deafening chorus to the South


Brood XIX is alive, and stalking the South!

The 13-year cicadas of what is known as Brood XIX (the 19th brood) have been living underground since 1998. That was the last time they held their infamous two-month, tree-level mating frenzy. After their long nap, these periodical cicadas woke up and emerged from underground in mid-May, and with them comes an ear-splitting mating call that fills the air now across the rural southern United States. Their activities were somewhat curtailed this year due to cooler than normal and stormy weather throughout the South, but as the days warmed early this week, their loud collective calling couldn’t be ignored in Missouri.

Brood XIX, also known as the Great Southern Brood, is the country's largest group of 13-year cicadas, stretching across 12 states, including Missouri, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Illinois. They hatch in mid-May and are gone by early July.

Judy Cannato: A remembrance


Her every waking moment was an exercise in joy. Even up to May 7, the day she died from a rare form of cancer, Judy Cannato, 62, well-know author of Radical Amazement and Field of Compassion, continued to choose life, said long-time friend, Carol Creek.

“Judy believed that this was the most important part of her journey and she wanted to live it well. No dwelling on fear, dread, or doom. It was about making life-giving choices every day and holding the intention for wellness.”

As she lost strength, Judy Cannato continued to meditate for an hour each day. “When her energy became so low that even it became too much for her, she became the meditation.”

Carol Creek a spiritual director at River’s Edge, a center for contemplation and action in Cleveland, Ohio, had worked alongside her colleague for several years. She was there to celebrate with Judy and her husband, Phil Cannato, when Judy’s writings on the relationship between science and spirituality were published by Ave Maria Press, beginning with “Quantum Grace Lenten Reflections “in 2003

New Eco Catholic blog co-editor


Beginning this week, we have a new co-editor and contributor for the Eco Catholic blog. Carol Meyer returns to full-time work as executive director of the Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition. Journalist Sharon Abercrombie replaces her as co-editor and chief contributor, along with Rich Heffern.

Sharon Abercrombie has covered the environment, spirituality, women’s issues, animal rights and social justice for many newspapers, including the Columbus Ohio Citizen-Journal, the Columbus Catholic Times, the Oakland Catholic Voice, and Catholic San Francisco. She was assistant editor for EarthLight Magazine, the interfaith journal of eco-spirituality. She is a graduate of the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif.

She has been a long-time contributor to The National Catholic Reporter. Her most recent article appeared in our special issue on ecology in April 2010 on the Canadian tar sands oil extraction and how churches there are trying to deal with the devastation.

The geologians: Stalking the divine in the real


When Fr. Thomas Berry exhorted us to put the Bible on the shelf for about 20 years, Berry was not showing disrespect to the scripture, but rather trying to get us to see, before it’s too late, that God’s revelation is also in our midst. The world is not an expendable backdrop to some remote salvation drama. God is here and now. Every bush is burning. God has been at work for billions of years everywhere in the processes of creation that are still going on.

The butterfly and me


Providing hospice care for a wounded butterfly had not been on my supermarket shopping list that day. But then, Sophia Wisdom needed to get my attention, somehow. The back story: I was longing to study for my master’s degree in the creation spirituality program Matthew Fox had created at Holy Names College in Oakland, but didn’t see how I could financially manage moving to California.

That afternoon my mood matched the sultry Midwest Ohio weather – I was dripping outside with copious sweat, and inside with teary sadness.

Not for long. It’s amazing how swiftly the vision of a vibrant orange Monarch butterfly lying on the steaming asphalt of a shopping center parking lot can serve as an energizing distraction. The butterfly was languishing near the left rear wheel of my car. Her right wing was split. She couldn’t fly. I picked her up.

Paper or plastic?


The Zen Buddhist tradition often makes use of the koan, a pithy question or dilemma that is posed by a master to the aspiring student.

The most famous example of a koan is “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” but there are many more: “What was your original face before you were born?” “Has a dog the Buddha nature?” The aim of the koan is to produce a short-circuit in the mind and spirit of the aspirant that leads to new insights or even to qualitatively different ways of understanding or experiencing the world. The mind is startled out of its usual sluggishness by the koan into a more alert perception.

'The Tree of Life' asks 'Who are we to You?'


Terrence Malick’s new film, “The Tree of Life,” is at once a wide-ranging meditation, an elegaic cinematic rendering of what it’s like to be a child, and a litany of sounds and images of humankind, nature and, incredibly, the Earth’s beginnings. It opens with the ultimate rank-pulling quote from the end of the Book of Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.”


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In This Issue

February 27- March 12, 2015


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