I went on an eight-day vision quest to Canyonlands National Park in Utah when I was in my early 40s, and returned with a major new awareness -- nature and the universe are not composed of inanimate “things,” but rather pulsing, alive, intelligent, loving realities of which I am a part. I especially remember the message that we humans don’t ever have to feel lonely, because we have a constant community of care surrounding us in the form of trees, clouds, earth, animals, stars, and more. And then when I learned from cosmologist Brian Swimme that all of creation has some level of awareness and is sensing me, I was overjoyed by my newly-found “I-Thou” relationship with my creation kin.
“Master,” said the student, “you have renounced riches and comforts to seek God and teach us wisdom. “You are reversing the case!” said the saint with a mild rebuke. “I have left a few paltry dollars and a few petty pleasures for a cosmic empire of endless bliss. How then have I denied myself anything? The shortsighted worldly people are the real renunciants. They give up an unparalleled divine possession for a poor handful of earthly toys.”
This account from Autobiography of a Yogi jolts us with its truth. We Catholics espouse but seldom live our belief that God alone truly satisfies our souls and gives us joy. We tend to pursue the life of possessions as avidly as the next guy, in spite of the fact that Jesus modeled and constantly preached an alternate course. He admonished us to gather the riches of heaven, stop building bigger barns, give what we have to the poor, stop serving money, and to seek first the kingdom of heaven.
The Office of Mission Effectiveness at Villanova University has a Web page devoted to resources on Catholic teaching and ecology. It contains a list of links to USCCB statements on the environment, bishops' pastoral letters and statements, Vatican statements, and an extensive bibliography of books on religion and ecology.
A social psychologist and member of the Sacred Heart Missionary Congregation, Fr. Diarmuid O’Murchu (pronounced DYAR-mid O-MOOR-who) has worked in both Ireland and England as a school and marriage counselor. He grew up in rural Ireland. He writes books and gives talks worldwide about faith formation and religious life in the light of new insights from science and from attempts at confronting and solving the deepening ecological crisis. His books include Quantum Theology, Evolutionary Faith and Reclaiming Spirituality
According to Christian theology Incarnation refers to God’s entry into human life in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, about 2000 years ago. Accordingly, this has not happened in any other religion – for Christians, Jesus alone is the incarnation of God on this earth.
I find this view disturbingly reductionistic and anthropocentric, and from a multi-faith perspective, it strikes me as being unpleasantly imperialistic. It seems to me that there are underlying assumptions urgently in need to re-evaluation.
Kate Sheppard, in her Econumdrum column for Mother Jones magazine, sheds light on the question, Is fake leather really more eco-friendly than real leather?
Mallory McDuff, author of Natural Saints: How People of Faith are Working to Save the Earth, on a Huffington Post blog, lists her Top Ten Religious Environmental Saints. Included is Fr. John Rausch for his leadership of countless tours of mountaintop removal sites in Appalachia for seminarians, community members, and interfaith groups. Others are Rev. Sally Bingham, founder of the Interfaith Power and Light Campaign, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathi and Wendell Berry.
The real secret about voluntary poverty and simplicity is that it can be fun. A commitment to live in simple, unwasteful ways challenges us to limit our wants and to satisfy our needs through our own resourcefulness, ingenuity, and hard but satisfying work. We must dig deep, all the way down to that restless longing and yearning for the exercise of our creativity that prowls, mostly unsatisfied, within us.
Searching through thrift shops, learning to cook or bake bread from scratch, taking the bus to work, riding bicycles, planting and caring for a garden, volunteering at the local soup kitchen or recycling center, mending clothes and repairing things ourselves – all of these activities are endless sources of entertainment and deep emotional satisfaction. They require of us humility, faith, forbearance, generosity, and imagination. In return, there is a kind of boldness, good humor, heartiness and gratitude for life that accompany embarking upon this particular adventure.
The planet Jupiter is visible in the southwest this month. It is well worth observing with a telescope, as Jupiter has lost its South Equatorial Belt but it now appears to be returning. At the same time, the Great Red Spot has intensified its color so is now standing out. A small telescope or good binoculars will easily pick up Jupiter's four Galilean moons as they weave their way around it.
The brilliant constellation of Orion is seen in the Southeast. I can even see it through bright city light glare rising in the East over my neighborhood at about 8pm. Moving up and to the right - following the line of the three stars of Orion's belt - brings one to Taurus; the head of the bull being outlined by the V-shaped cluster called the Hyades with its eye delineated by the orange red star Aldebaran. Further up to the right lies the Pleaides Cluster. Towards the zenith from Taurus lies the constellation Auriga, whose brightest star Capella will be nearly overhead.
My oldest friend Paige was always fascinated by the sea, its lure and lore. When he was a kid, model ships cluttered his room, posters of sail and nautical charts papered the walls. He read every book he could find about sailing and would rhapsodize about this passionate love and his dreams until we his friends got the picture.
The picture looked like this: Paige on the slippery deck of a battered but sturdy sailboat making its way slowly through an agitated sea under a dark, threatening sky. He is busy reefing the sails and securing thick, sodden lines on the deck, making the vessel ready to endure a storm. One arm flung across the sun-cracked paint on the mast, his hands wrapped in the rigging, he surveys the heaving, leaping surface of the sea ahead with steady, glittering eyes.
We’ve all seen the bumper sticker that reads “Live Simply So that Others May Simply Live” – a ringing call to a sustainable life. Such a life involves in the words of Mennonite author Doris Janzen Longacre, “cultivating a gentle way of handling the Earth, versatility in the face of shortage. Inner provision for contentment and more than all that commitment to live justly in our world.” A sufficient and sustainable life means being a bright and creative part of the solution rather than one more cog in the wheel of the dreadful turning wheels of the problem.