National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Eco Catholic

The gift of Christmas presence: Mindfulness exercises for the 12 Days of Christmas


Christmas is a time when we ritually remember that we are the recipients of God’s abundant love, and in our rituals, we attempt to reflect God’s abundance: More gifts! More lights! A bigger tree! Richer food! Ironically, it is that very seeking after abundance that leaves us feeling empty, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Consider the following words by Archbishop Oscar Romero:

Spirituality: The great balancing act


When we open the ancient overflowing tool box of our Catholic spiritual tradition, we find nestled within many reliable implements that have stood the test of centuries of use in the work of creative inner integration and soul crafting.

What are some of those ancient tools? Patience, silence, incubating darkness, the wonderful yeasting action of prayer, wise and careful discernment, the adventure of striving for simplicity, meditation techniques, centering prayer, the not-so-easy art of letting go, the simple craft of mindfulness, the call to the death-rebirth dynamic of the cocoon, the cultivation of a deep contemplative attitude, fasting, and the endless and arduous mystery of forgiveness.

Once we have these tools at hand, where can they be put to work? Where else but in our everyday life?

The Earth Hope Prayer


Faithful Mother Earth,
You are God's glory.
In the womb of your glory
We are created
And filled with every gift.
We stand in communion
With all living beings,
Especially our sisters and brothers in
Earth Hope.
Make us instruments of
Your faithfulness to life,
Your justice,
Your hope,
As we open to the divine compassion
To which we are drawn.

NCR's Eco Catholic Blog

Eco Catholic is an exploration of the green Catholic imagination and ecological spirituality. Contributors include Rich Heffern, NCR staff writer, columnist and author, and Carol Meyer, executive director of the Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition.

To receive a weekly e-mail alert with highlights from the blog, follow this link to the sign-up page. If you already receive e-mail alerts from NCR, add Eco Catholic to you profile.

Saying Yes! to both religion and science


The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity, a Web site hosted by Rev. Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Our World and Your Life, features "Conversations at the Leading Edge of Faith," podcast interviews with Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr, Protestant theologian Sallie McFague, educator Michael Morwood, science writer Ian Barbour, scientist Ursula King, and many others. Sign up by visiting the Web site.

Michael Dowd's description of The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity's mission:

"Are you frustrated with how the mainstream media portray the science and religion issue? It's as if the only two games in town were science-rejecting creationism and faith-rejecting atheism. But for the millions of us in the middle who see no conflict between faith and reason, heart and head, Jesus and Darwin, we know that's a false choice. Religious faith and practice can be positively strengthened by what God is revealing through science!

Earth Hope: A Franciscan education ministry


Earth Hope is another project sponsored, developed and sustained by U.S. women religious. Earth Hope director Franciscan Sr. Marya Grathwohl introduces us to Earth Hope.

“Does hope ever feel small to you?” I scan almost 20 pairs of eyes looking out at me through food tray slots, narrow openings in metal cell doors. I am facing two tiers of those doors. Behind them, men are kneeling on the floors of their solitary confinement cells. The open slots enable them to see and hear me. A few eyes blink. I think I catch some nods. I swallow, take a deep breath.

Small farmers using organic practices can feed the world and cool the planet


The Organic Consumers Association promotes the production and consumption of organic food, sustainable agriculture and food security for the whole world. Its logo states that it's "campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace and justice."

On its Web site currently is an article from the Financial Times by Anne English describing how sustainable agriculture using organic principles and practices is a new paradigm to feed the world while empowering the poor and mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss.

English points out that small farmers already produce 70 percent of the world's food and form the backbone of food security throughout the developing world. We need to recognise the world's small farms as the most appropriate means in which to secure food supply for all, including the poor and to cool the planet, English says.

The Jesse tree: an alternative timeline


In my parish at every Christmas Eve Mass, the geneaology of Jesus is read. It traces his lineage through David to Abraham. It begins by proclaiming that these early ancestors were around just a few thousand years after the Creation. Its the beginning of a very beautiful and inspirational liturgy celebrating the birth of Christ. A beautiful Catholic Advent devotion is the Jesse Tree which also describes Jesus' lineage. I would prefer this alternative timeline though.

13.7 billion years ago The universe begins as stupendous energy. Time and space are created.

10 billion years ago The first elements are forged in stars

5 billion years ago A disc-like clouds floats in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy

4.5 billion years ago The Sun is born

4.45 billion years ago Earth brings forth an atmosphere, oceans and continents

2.5 billion years ago Continents stabilize

2.0 billion years ago The first prokaryotic cell emerges

1 billion years ago Sexual reproduction is invented

570 million years ago Cambrian extinctions: 80-90 percent of species eliminated

December's night sky: a total lunar eclipse approaches


December stars seem twice as brilliant as those of summer. The sky is doubly clear; the dust of summer is washed out of the atmosphere. The Big Dipper, which is actually not a constellation but what is called an "asterism," a configuration of stars that look like something, is down on the northern horizon. The Big Dipper is part of the greater constellation called Ursa Major, the Great Bear. Native peoples say its on the horizon now because it has come down to wash its paws in the deep lakes before they completely freeze over.

Bruce Friedrich: Advent and factory farms


"Advent is upon us. It's a particularly holy time of the year for Christians, a time for us to ponder the meaning of Christ's birth, his proclamation of "Good News" for the poor and downtrodden, and the degree to which our lives align with Christ's vision. And so I view Advent as a key time to reflect and consider whether I'm living up to my Christian call to service on behalf of a more compassionate world.

From 1990 to 1996, I lived and worked in a "hospitality house" in Washington, D.C., sharing my life with the city's most down and out people, as a part of the Catholic Worker movement. We provided shelter to homeless families, as well as food, clothing and blankets to the city's poor. While I was there, a friend gave me Christianity and the Rights of Animals by the Rev. Dr. Andrew Linzey, an Anglican Priest and professor of theology at Oxford University. It changed my life.

Advent: Approaching the birth of the self-emptying Christ


Early Christianity was honed and shaped in the deserts of the Middle East. The desert fathers and mothers from the second and third centuries went to the wilderness so that they could strip from themselves all but the basics of life, to remove all the layers with which we encumber the self, in order to know who they really were, what their place in the universe was. Thoreau-like, they sought to pare life down to its essence, and in the silence and emptiness be able to know something of the divine presence, the tangible murmurings of eternity that penetrate when all distractions are swept away.

Desire and fulfilling those desires keep us so often from seeing the depth of what is. As all we thought we wanted or needed is taken away from us, we come closer and closer to the Mystery at the heart of being.

Jesuit Fr. Karl Rahner coined the wonderful definition of God as “the past-all-graspness.” He describes the emptying that is the paschal mystery thusly:


Subscribe to Eco Catholic


NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

November 21-December 5, 2014


Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.