World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation; or, pope links and quotes

posted by Mike on September 1st, 2015

As a lifelong Catholic and environmentalist, I am happy that today Pope Francis has decided the Roman Catholic Church will join the Orthodox Church in marking the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

The big Catholic environmental news of the summer was, of course, the release of the pope’s environmental encyclical, Laudato si’ (Praise Be). It covers a wide range of environmental and theological issue, often in a depth that surprised me. I think it’s the sort of document that, if you think you’d appreciate it, you would, and if you think you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t. You don’t have to be Catholic: as Pope Francis writes, “In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.”

The letter is 45,000 words long, and there have probably been 450,000 articles published about it. Fr. James Martin’s overview is pretty good. Most of the articles I’ve seen have tried to understand it in the context of American politics. My favorite on the left is Elizabeth Bruenig’s “Pope Francis’s Vision of a Moral Ecology Will Challenge Both Republicans and Democrats: His encyclical almost dares politicians to politicize it.” My favorite on the right is Rod Dreher’s more personal “Harmony, Communion, Incarnation.” The one article that touches on theological aspects that are a bit beyond me is Mark K. Spencer’s “Pope Francis, Platonist Traditionalist.”

But before you read more than one thinkpiece, you should be sure to read the encyclical itself. It’s full of great stuff like this line from Pope John Paul II, a quote which surprised me:

[Saint John Paul II] clearly explained that “the Church does indeed defend the legitimate right to private property, but she also teaches no less clearly that there is always a social mortgage on all private property, in order that goods may serve the general purpose that God gave them”.

“Social mortgage.” That’s a great way of framing it.

Even if you don’t read the whole thing, anyone reading this blog will want to check out the prayers at the end, “A prayer for our earth” and “A Christian prayer in union with creation.”

I’ll end by quoting my favorite long passage, “A Universal Communion”:

V. A UNIVERSAL COMMUNION

The created things of this world are not free of ownership: “For they are yours, O Lord, who love the living” (Wis 11:26). This is the basis of our conviction that, as part of the universe, called into being by one Father, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect. Here I would reiterate that “God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement”.

This is not to put all living beings on the same level nor to deprive human beings of their unique worth and the tremendous responsibility it entails. Nor does it imply a divinization of the earth which would prevent us from working on it and protecting it in its fragility. Such notions would end up creating new imbalances which would deflect us from the reality which challenges us. At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure. Certainly, we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights.

A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted. This compromises the very meaning of our struggle for the sake of the environment. It is no coincidence that, in the canticle in which Saint Francis praises God for his creatures, he goes on to say: “Praised be you my Lord, through those who give pardon for your love”. Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.

Moreover, when our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one. It follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is “contrary to human dignity”.[69] We can hardly consider ourselves to be fully loving if we disregard any aspect of reality: “Peace, justice and the preservation of creation are three absolutely interconnected themes, which cannot be separated and treated individually without once again falling into reductionism”. Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.

Ash Wednesday

posted by Mike on February 18th, 2015

“The love of God breaks through that fatal withdrawal into ourselves which is indifference.” —Pope Francis

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Lent: A time of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and projects.

Project #1: What are you giving up for Lent this year?

This year I’m keeping it simple: no coffee.

Project #2: What extra meditations are you adding to your life this season?

I’m keeping it simpler than other years, but still a bit complicated. Inspired by Rod Dreher, and with the support of my Dante book club, I’ll be reading the Purgatorio (Divine Comedy, Part II).

Assuming all of the above goes according to plan, it should be a successful Lent. For those looking for more resources, Susan Stabile always posts great stuff. I am going to fight the temptation to browse these resources when I should be reading Dante. I will especially avoid spending too much time thinking about Forty for 40: A Literary Reader for Lent.

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Beginning the journey through Purgatory: Gustav Doré’s “Dante Kneeling Before Cato”

posted by Mike in Lent, Orthodoxy | on February 18th, 2015 | Permanent Link to “Ash Wednesday” | No Comments »

Love in the Time of Ebola

posted by Scott Schaeffer-Duffy on January 30th, 2015

bethuneSome Americans responded to the ebola epidemic in West Africa by offering to care for the victims. Unfortunately, most of us were swept up in fear of the disease’s dreadful symptoms and mortality rate. Proposals circulated to block all flights to and from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Emblematic of the hysteria, a Catholic school teacher and registered nurse from Louisville, Kentucky was forced to resign after returning from a medical mission to Kenya, even though she was never closer than 3,000 miles from the ebola outbreaks.

Fundamental changes in how we treat African visitors and returning medical volunteers were proposed for a disease that ultimately killed only two people on US soil. One can only imagine the draconian measures that would be adopted in a real pandemic.
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posted by Scott Schaeffer-Duffy in Religion, Worcester | on January 30th, 2015 | Permanent Link to “Love in the Time of Ebola” | 2 Comments »

The First Day of Christmas

posted by Mike on December 26th, 2014

Many writers have noted that, in terms of national and international news, 2014 was a bad one. (It was a tough year for me, too.) Advent didn’t give us a break. I’d like to think we’re due for a couple good months.

The best way to shorten winter is to prolong Christmas; and the only way to enjoy the sun of April is to be an April Fool.
GK Chesterton

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House of Card(inal)s

posted by Scott Schaeffer-Duffy on May 20th, 2014

From the latest issue of the Catholic Radical. PDF here.
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posted by Scott Schaeffer-Duffy in The Papacy | on May 20th, 2014 | Permanent Link to “House of Card(inal)s” | No Comments »

Lent approaches

posted by Mike on March 4th, 2014

This year, it is back to basics. I am keeping things simple for Lent.

  • Fasting: Facebook still seems like the perfect thing to “give up.” As a vegan, I’ll be skipping an extra meal on Fridays rather than fasting from meat.
  • Prayer: Give Us This Day is still my go-to prayer book. Susan Stabile has a good roundup of other resources.
  • Almsgiving: MINE OWN BEESWAX again this year.

I hope everyone reading this has a powerful Lenten season. If you’re curious about Lent but not religious, I’ll point you to Jacob’s essay on the topic.

posted by Mike in Lent | on March 4th, 2014 | Permanent Link to “Lent approaches” | No Comments »

Ron Wehrle, 1936-2014, RIP

posted by Mike on February 28th, 2014

Ron Wehrle, beloved member of Worcester’s Catholic Worker community, passed away on Monday. His funeral was this morning.

For some classic shots of Ron brandishing his cigar, re-watch this lovely video about Worcester’s Catholic Workers:

A Life Worth Living from Doug Rogers on Vimeo.

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Transform Now Plowshares activists sentenced; and, the Worcester connection

posted by Mike on February 19th, 2014

Reuters, yesterday:

A U.S. judge sentenced an 84-year-old nun, Sister Megan Rice, on Tuesday to 35 months in prison for breaking into a Tennessee military facility used to store enriched uranium for nuclear bombs.

Two others accused in the case, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed, were sentenced to 62 months in prison. The three were convicted of cutting fences and entering the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in July 2012, embarrassing U.S. officials and prompting security changes.

Tom LewisA fourth “participant” in the breakin was Worcester’s own Tom Lewis, the late artist-activist. As the Washington Post reported in an amazing article about this act of protest last spring:

They spray painted the building’s north wall, which was designed to withstand the impact of aircraft but not the words of the Book of Proverbs. They poured and splashed blood that had once been in the veins of a painter-activist named Tom Lewis, one of the Catonsville Nine who, on Hiroshima Day 1987, hammered on the bomb racks of an anti-submarine plane at the South Weymouth Naval Air Station near Boston. In 2008, Lewis died in his sleep, and his blood was frozen so that he might one day participate in one last Plowshares action.

In bright red rivulets, the last of Tom Lewis streaked down the concrete.

There Is a Mid-Winter Festival Hidden in Plain Sight

posted by Mike on February 2nd, 2014

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Groundhog Day, Candlemas, St. Brigid’s Day, and the old pagan festival of Imbolc are all mid-winter holidays that basically happen on the same day every year. By that day, midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, you know for sure that the days are getting longer. It’s still winter, but you know you’re going to make it. So you do things like bless all the candles you’ll need for the coming year (if you’re a Christian), or study the behavior of giant hibernating ground squirrels to predict the onset of spring (if you’re a Pennsylvanian). You might welcome Brigid (the saint or goddess) into your home (if you’re Irish). It’s a time of purification and light.

The mid-winter festival is a great day to consider how your New Year’s Resolutions are going, and if necessary toss them out to prepare your life for spring. Candlemas is when I officially start planning for Lent. That means starting to think about what I might want to give up, and asking my non-Christian friends if they’re observing Lent this year (many of them do!). It’s also a good day to start fantasizing about your garden (if you haven’t) and to do a little something to get started on your taxes.

This year, Chinese New Year and the Superbowl are both taking place on mid-winter weekend, resulting in an embarrassment of feastday riches.

Candlemas–now my favorite neglected holiday.

Hilda of Whitby

posted by Kaihsu Tai on November 10th, 2013

From a WATCH: Women and the Church prayer card.

Caring and reconciling, ruling over and advising,
educating and encouraging.
God our vision we pray with Hilda
for the unity of your Church.
As we prepare for the episcope of women
surprise us with your power, stir us with your energy
and fill us with your healing love.
– Nikki Arthy

Hilda was a great niece of King Edwin who ruled over Northumbria from 616. When Edwin decided to become a Christian, he was baptised in York. Hilda, then aged 13, was baptised at the same time. Later in the reign of Oswald, Aidan professed Hilda as a nun. She took charge of the monastery at Hartlepool and finally she ruled over monks and nuns in the double monastery of Whitby. Here she hosted the Synod of Whitby, which decided to follow the Roman way rather than the Celtic. She regretted this decision but obeyed it and ruled her monastery well, teaching and encouraging the monks, nuns and lay brothers to make the best use of their gifts. Five of her monks became bishops. She died on 17 November 680.

posted by Kaihsu Tai in ??????????, Prayer | on November 10th, 2013 | Permanent Link to “Hilda of Whitby” | Comments Off on Hilda of Whitby