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The truth of Easter: Jesus is a living presence

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The question we might profitably ponder this Easter is: What profound reality is God trying to communicate through the resurrection and how can that have significance and power for us today? God knows our world is a mess, so surely a reality this central to Christianity has something vital to say, some great grace to impart. It's not just something that happened once and for all in the past.

Ways to celebrate Easter

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Most of us come back from Mass on Easter feeling uplifted from the experience. The full church adorned with colorful decorations, bright flowers, soaring Alleluias, the presence of family members usually absent, and perhaps an egg hunt for the kids, leaves us feeling as warm as the sunny spring morning.

After Mass is over, we generally move on to a special meal, watching TV, munching lots of candy, and interacting with the family (if we’re fortunate in that line).

This year, before Easter comes and goes as usual, I invite you to think about ways to fashion your home festivities more in harmony with the life-giving values of the Risen Lord.

Let’s start with Easter dinner, usually the highlight of the day. Often it’s a very unhealthy meal, built around meat, rich and fatty foods, and lots of sweets, all the things the doctor tells us to avoid. Many times it’s served on plastic plates because no one wants to wash dishes. Then there’s the rest of the paper, plastic, and bottles thrown into the trash or perhaps recycled.

Has BP really cleaned up the Gulf oil spill?

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Almost a year later, one scientist thinks that much of the oil could remain. Suzanne Goldenberg, writing on the On Earth blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, reports the explorations of ocean scientist Samantha Joye. The intersection of oil, gas and marine life in the Mississippi Canyon in the Gulf of Mexico has preoccupied the University of Georgia scientist for years.

Joseph Campbell: 'Earth is in the heavens'

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Joseph Campbell was a scholar, teacher and thinker who achieved enormous popularity addressing the disenchantment of modern life with a message of renewal and hope. His message had great influence. Today when you hear someone say, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” Campbell is partly to blame.

Campbell once spoke about the famous image astronauts took of the Earth rising over the moon’s horizon that first appeared during the 1970s. The space age, he felt, had brought us an awareness that is still slowly sinking in: The world as we know it is coming to an end.

“Our world as the center of the universe, the world divided from the heavens, the world bound by horizons in which God’s love is reserved for members of the in group: That is the world that is passing away,” said Campbell. “Apocalypse is not about a fiery Armageddon and salvation of a chosen few, but about the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end.”

Today when books about the end times and antichrists soar to the top of the bestseller lists, Campbell’s view is as timely and helpful as ever.

April star of the month: Vindemiatrix

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Vindemiatrix is the third brightest in the constellation Virgo following brighter Spica and Porrima. It's in the Western skies in the evenings now. The planet Saturn is not far away.

The name is a somewhat corrupted feminized Latin form for the original Greek name that meant "the Grape Gatherer," as the first visibility of the star in morning light after the Sun cleared out of the way (the "heliacal rising") told rural people in the Roman Empire that it was time to pick the grapes.

Vindemiatrix is a somewhat unusual star, a middling temperature yellow class G giant only a bit cooler than the Sun. As a giant, however, it is considerably brighter than the Sun. From its temperature and distance of 102 light years, its luminosity is 83 times solar, these combining to give a radius 12 times that of the Sun, all similar to the brighter, cooler component of Capella.

The star seems to be a about 15 percent richer than the Sun in metals, and is somewhat distinguished by having most of its motion in the direction perpendicular to the line of sight, making it appear to move rather rapidly against the background stars, a second of arc in five years.

'Bon appetit, y'all': Oklahoma Food Cooperative links local farms and ranches with eaters in cities and towns

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The Oklahoma Food Cooperative is one of the many efforts around the country that links local farmers and other entrepreneurs with eaters who want tasty, nutritious food in cities and towns. The OK Food Co-op only sells Oklahoma-grown or value-added food and non-food products. It operates with an innovative online order system coupled with a mostly volunteer delivery system.

Organized in 2003 with 60 members and four pick-up sites at its first order in November of that year, the coop today has nearly 4,000 members and 45 pickup sites. Last year's sales totaled $850,000, a 20 percent increase in 2010 over 2009.

Nature's \"boundary breakers\"

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WEEDS: IN DEFENSE OF NATURE'S MOST UNLOVED PLANTS
By Richard Mabey
Published by Ecco, $25.99

The most straightforward definition of a weed is "a plant in the wrong place." British nature writer Richard Mabey says this definition works "tolerably well," taking in how the label is ever-shifting. But he's interested in exploring what makes a place "wrong" for a plant. When it comes to a weed, it invades somewhere because, as far as the plant's concerned, that place is exactly right. "Weeds always find their way back to places they like," Mabey writes.

'April has a genius for rain': A spring storm 155 years ago

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The following is an entry from the journals of Henry David Thoreau, America’s great nature poet who kept a careful, eloquent record of his daily forays into the natural world. A keen lover of the passing seasons and the wild places, he described his life occupation as "observer of snowstorms." In this entry, he chronicles a little excursion in a boat on one of the small rivers around his home, Concord, Mass. It’s an exquisitely observed portrait of one of April’s most common dramas.

A way to keep rural communities alive

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It wasn’t a barn raising but it shared the spirit of that timeless American enterprise where a community gathers on a Saturday morning to build together something new and mutually beneficial.

Titled “Making Connections, Sharing Hope,” the event displayed small businesses and family-operated services from six rural counties in northwest Missouri. It was held in the auditorium of St. Gregory Parish in Maryville, Mo., a few years ago and was sponsored by Sparks of Hope, a rural advocacy group.

The purpose of the exhibit/gathering, according to Sparks of Hope cofounder Franciscan Sr. Christine Martin, was “to showcase entrepreneurs who are making a difference in our rural area.”

“As people from surrounding counties gathered,” she said, “we hoped to make connections and share hope for our rural communities to hear and see how others have successfully turned their dreams of business ownership into a reality.”

A 34-page directory handed out at the door listed over 90 local businesses and family-operated services. Some of those businesses were on display in the gym.

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