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Widening our practice of mercy


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.

Beauty at a price: Another look at personal care products


Movie stars with flawless complexions, populating magazine pages and TV ads, lure the unsuspecting into buying numerous beauty products that promise miracles. The hope is that the creams, lotions, scents, and make-up will compensate for the Creator’s flaw in making them lacking and imperfect.

Most of us, women and men alike, succumb to this advertising pressure without a thought about whether these endless products are necessary or good for us and the Earth.

This issue really hit home to me when a health practitioner once asked me, “Aside from the bad taste, would you be willing to ingest these products that you put on your body?” I was repulsed, instinctively knowing they were not made from natural, harmless food sources

Most of us don’t realize that whatever is put on our skin is fully absorbed into our bodies. It ends up in our blood stream, cells, and organs, and eventually in the larger ecosystems, as a benign or malign presence.

As stewards of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and of the Earth as the numinous home of God, we would do well to re-evaluate our choices in regard to these personal products. So let’s look beneath the surface a little.

Book: Judgment Day: The Struggle for Life on Earth


By Paul Collins
Published by Orbis Books, $22.50

The Gulf oil spill of a year ago is just the latest depredation against the planet. From every direction come signs of global warming and other forms of ecological disaster that threaten the future of all living beings. In this sobering assessment of our condition, Paul Collins examines the nature of this crisis and how we got here including a review of the mental habits of thought, including religious worldviews, that have contributed to our dilemma and continue to inhibit effective action.

“It is no use kidding ourselves,” he writes, “that it is just bad luck for people in the future or that they will somehow find a technological fix for the damage we have wrought. Our exploitation of the natural world is inescapably a moral and ethical issue. By destroying the earth, consuming resources and wiping out thousands of species we involve ourselves in a profoundly sinful situation.”

The paschal mystery: The creativity of emptiness


In 2008 Catholic astronaut Heidemarie Stefnyshyn-Piper, while on an extravehicular walk outside the international space station, lost her $100,000 tool bag into the vacuum of space. It got a lot of press.

Well … it’s actually not a pure vacuum. Even in the deepest outposts of space a few atoms float around together with photons of energy flying through at the speed of light continuously.

Scientists remind us there is also what’s called a “quantum potential,” which exists at every point in the vacuum of our three-dimensional physical space. In it, under the proper conditions, matter and energy can literally materialize out of what we used to think of as absolutely nothing. The vacuum state is not truly empty but instead contains fleeting electromagnetic waves and particles that pop into and out of existence.

Scientists take this bizarre physical phenomenon quite seriously. It has actually been observed routinely in particle accelerators, but the conditions to create anything more than a scattering of subatomic particles would require extremely high energies and a control of the process far beyond any ability we now have.

Haiku for Good Friday and Earth Day


These were written by my friend Vic Hummert who lives with his wife Rose in Lafayette, Louisiana. He is author of Breath of Life for All: Haiku Poetry in Defense of Nature. For more of his fine work, go to

Jesus is reborn
Always in each one open
To God's compassion

To live or to die
Even fierce alligators
Wait on our consent

Share what you have now
Opportunities to give
Might not come again

Every moment God elects
To give us life
Through air, water and Earth

Of Earth we can say
"Late have I learned to love you”
Then hope we may grow

Preachers talk of God
Those in deep prayer go straight to
Our Source of all Love

Alone on a beach
Resting deep in a forest
We feel the Divine

What our future holds
Worry not so long as we
View life as sacred

By Divine consent
And the Breath of God
We continue in this life

We are faced with changes
Which must be made if we wish
To have a future

'The inconsolable secret': Excerpts from 'Souls in Full Sail'


What sort of immortality do we hope for? Perhaps immortality is the wrong word after all, a leftover from Greek and Roman religions that no one has practiced for centuries. The Norse and the Celts have their own immortal visions: the island of the Arthurian legend swims in the sea off the north coast somewhere, A Bali Hai that may call us any night, any day. Each of us is summoned by our own special home, a dream that blooms in the hillside and shines in the stream.

Resurrection as promised to us is inconceivable. What could it possibly be? Then we shall know even as we are known. We can aspire, at least, to a passionate and dynamic kind of knowing, a resurrected knowing, a beatific knowing, completely flooded and drenched by the love of God. This is a moment we can only guess at from moments of transcendence in the here and now, from human love, from reunions of the heart, from moments of insight, from breakthroughs in forgiveness, from embraces and reconciliations, from moments of high ecstasy in prayer.

Book review: Souls in Full Sail


By Emilie Griffin
Published by InterVarsity Press, $15

In this beautifully written book, Emilie Griffin, to paraphrase one of her favorite and most frequently-cited authors, C. S. Lewis, looks “along” rather than “at” what it means to grow old as a Christian.

Self-help books about aging generally discuss coping with it or doing all one can to slow it down, but Griffin sees this period in her life as one in which she can enjoy looking back at her life while at the same time living and growing in the present .

Griffin is a wonderful storyteller, and she illustrates all her points with good tales. Each chapter ends with practical suggestions for applying what she has talked about in that chapter as well as a few questions for reflection.

In the later years, she writes, we are reaching to complete our lives, to be what God destined us to be. We ask ourselves fundamental questions. We think about what vocation has meant in our lives in the sense meant by John Henry Newman who wrote:
God has created me

One year after the Gulf oil spill


Today marks the one-year anniversary of the worst maritime oil spill in U.S. history. Last year on April 20, the Deepwater Horizon rig, leased by oil giant BP, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and releasing nearly 200 million gallons of oil, tens of millions of gallons of natural gas and 1.8 million gallons of other chemicals.

A year later, how much has changed? “[Another spill] could happen tomorrow and the response would be just as bad,” says Carl Safina, author of the new book, “A Sea in Flames.” Safina is interviewed on Democracy Now about his book and about the oil drilling situation a year after the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Catholic Climate Ambassadors available


The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change has introduced 24 trained Catholic Climate Ambassadors. These ambassadors are available to offer presentations on the moral implications of climate change consistent with Catholic teaching as outlined by the pope in his World Day of Peace Message of 2010, If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation, and in the U.S. Catholic bishops’ statement, Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good.

Since 2006, the Catholic Coalition on Climate has played a pivotal role in the U.S. Catholic response to the enormous challenge of climate change. levels. The Catholic Climate Ambassador program is intended to accelerate these efforts by raising the awareness of Catholics around the U.S. who worship in our parishes, learn in our schools and lead our many ministries. The Ambassadors are charged with promoting the Catholic Climate Covenant: The St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor.

For more information, visit the Climate Ambassador page on the Coalition Web site. .

The truth of Easter: Jesus is a living presence


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.


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In This Issue

August 28-September 10, 2015


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