In Praise of Earth

Blog by Shirley Bodisch, OP

Long before we (humans) came on the scene as a new earthly species, holiness flourished. It is not just about humans but very much about the planetary and cosmic contexts in which humans evolve, grow, and develop.  (Diarmuid O’Murchu – Incarnation, pg. 44.)

I quote O’Murchu because after digesting his latest book entitled Incarnation: A New Evolutionary Threshold I had to run across the room to gather my socks, you see he had knocked them off!

Seriously, I have come to understand that what I have been musing on for some time now concerning Earth, the cosmos, we humans, God and the web of life has not been too far off the mark.  When I first saw that awesome iconic photo of Earth taken from the space station, I felt deeply that she truly is a living thing.  Earth is the womb from which we were born.  And this inner vision has been with me ever since.  I have struggled to put into words my feelings about this wonderful planet from which we draw our lives.

Earth is unique.  She is a self-regulating, breathing, nourishing, flourishing producer of life; and not just plants, bugs and animals and such, but life which is self-aware.  You see, we humans are not really the top of a pyramid of life.  No, we are part of the evolving of Life which is still emerging from this incredible planet.  The first life form, bacteria, we contain it.  Then there came life forms with protective coatings and a nucleus, we contain that.  Later eukaryotes which invented sexuality and communal living, well we contain that too.  Gills extracting oxygen, lungs taking in and giving out, fins, arms, legs, teeth, brains, all belong to our early beginnings.  We could not exist without Earth creating, experimenting with her earliest life forms while she provided just the right elements for life to flourish.  So you see Earth’s wisdom is being realized in us and she is not nearly finished.

The self-awareness with which we are blessed, our reflections over the mystery of the cosmos, our wonderings about God, creation, indwelling, all these are part of the universe reflecting upon itself.  Or, is it really the Holy Spirit, that Wonderful Animator, the One who brings order out of chaos, who sparks our minds and hearts and who lures us forward toward the Heart of the One whose Love is manifest in all that is?  Let us give honor and praise to Earth, the embodiment of the Divine Spark of Love and Life revealed in matter and energy.  Yes, praise her, protect her, save her from the destructive forces of which we humans are capable.  For in honoring her we honor the Beloved whose Spirit animates her and all who draw life from her.

Each blade of grass has its spot on Earth whence it draws its life, its strength; and so is man rooted to the land from which he draws his faith together with his life.     –Joseph Conrad

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Holding Up The Light of Truth

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is scheduled to open this week and I’m wondering if America will ever own her racial terrorism.

I am afraid that if we, as a nation, don’t confront our history, we will never be free to experience peace and justice. After all, our past – no matter how ugly — informs our present and guides our future.

For me, the Starbucks fiasco that resulted in two black men being handcuffed and arrested for what appears to be “making a white woman feel uncomfortable” is yet another symptom of our inability to even acknowledge that we have a problem with race in America.

I applaud Starbucks for trying to get out in front of the issue. But please excuse me for skeptically believing the effort is more about the bottom line and protecting the brand than about impacting our culture of systemic racism. I’m just not sure how much “training” it will take before we resolve that black and brown people should be treated like human beings.

I’m not blaming Starbucks, but I do want people to understand that what happened in Philly is indicative of what black folk experience on a daily basis. Let’s not fool ourselves into believing this was a one-time atrocity perpetrated by one bad manager.

It’s not about one bad store. It’s not about one bad employee at a store. It’s about systems. It’s about our culture in America.

Unfortunately, white folks’ “uncomfortableness” with black and brown folks has resulted in the arrests, incarcerations, beatings, and killings of multitudes of innocent brown and black people.

I am encouraged by the Equal Justice Initiative – a group dedicated “to challenging racial and economic injustice and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society” – for making The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and the National Memorial of Peace and Justice a reality.

When the memorial opens on Thursday in Montgomery, Ala., it will become the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, blacks humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence

The memorial, which commemorates the lives of thousands of black people who were lynched in the United States, sits on the site of a former slave warehouse. The museum is near one of the most prominent slave auction spaces in America.

The hope of EJI is that by honestly confronting the truth about our legacy (of slavery, lynching, segregation, and injustice), we will take steps toward recovery and reconciliation.

EJI Director Bryan Stevenson puts it this way: “Our nation’s history of racial injustice casts a shadow across the American landscape. This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color, and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice.”

My hope is that we are not too uncomfortable or too tired to help hold up the light of truth.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Five Other Common Concerns or Myths about Religious Life

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

My March blog was about five common concerns or myths in pursuing religious life. Today’s blog is going to address five other common concerns.

  1. Personal doubt: I am not sure if I can be a sister for the rest of my life. I don’t feel I am worthy to be a sister.

We are all sinners, and yet, worthy and precious in the eye of God. Nobody knows what the future holds, which is true for all life styles: married, single, and religious. If we trust God’s provident care, we will enter the future with an open mind and heart and trust without fear. God will lead us into the future and provide more than what we need.

  1. Reality of religious community: Religious life is lonely because I cannot have a life partner. Also, most sisters are older than me. I want to hang around and live with people of my own age, not my grandmother’s age.

We do not focus our love and partnership on a certain person like those who are married. Our love and partnership are spread out to various people within and outside religious communities, making religious life a real blessing and a fulfilled life. I, myself, very seldom feel a sense of emptiness or loneliness since I entered the religious life.

Yes, most of the U.S. religious communities have many elderly sisters, and yet, they are vibrant and joyful with young hearts and contemplative spirits. They are pioneers who have built a strong foundation. There are other women discerning with our community who are candidates, novices, and temporary professed members. We invite you to join us to share the gifts of life and to carry on the mission and the torch of faith now and into the future. We also encourage you to have friends of your own age as well as other ages so you can learn life experiences from different cohort groups.

  1. Culture: I am from a different culture. I may feel lonesome and will miss my ethnic food.

We heartedly welcome you. Your cultural sharing with us will enrich our lives, help us to value more the diversity of life and enhance our sensitivity on discrimination and racism issues. You can help us learn what it means to be Christian from your cultural perspective.

We encourage each other to live out and share cultures, including foods and cultural celebrations. We have sisters from Peru, Vietnam, China, Ireland, Germany, and more.  We have Native American, African American, Nigerian American sisters. Some of them are the first person from their ethnic group who have entered our congregation.

  1. Student loan: I didn’t know if I could join a religious community if I have educational debt.

Depending on each situation, this issue can be resolvable. We encourage those who are discerning a call to religious life to try to pay off their student loan as much as they can before they enter their novitiate year. Don’t let your student loan block you from pursuing your call to be a sister.  To know more about this, contact us so we can discuss your situation with you.

  1. Wearing the habit: What is the point of being a sister if I just wear secular clothes like lay people?

There are communities wearing the habit and there are communities who don’t. You have both options to consider. Different communities fit different people.

When discerning my religious call, I looked for communities wearing the habit. Later on, when I encountered sisters without the habit, I questioned myself: “What is my religious life truly based on, the habit or the call from God? Does this community make me feel at home and help me to be the best person I can be in order to live my call radically/authentically?” In my community of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, some sisters are still in the habit and we respect this decision.

Be courageous in responding to God’s call and allow God to fulfill your life. Don’t hesitate to contact us (vocation@oppeace.org) if you have any concerns. Consider joining us for our Come and See weekend coming up September 7-9 in Kentucky for those who want to explore more about this life.

Posted in God Calling?, News

Seeing is Believing

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, the Sunday Gospel reading told the post-resurrection story of Thomas, who has the very unfortunate reputation as somebody who did not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Most of us are familiar with the phrase Doubting Thomas. This is the guy. For some unknown reason, he did not show up for that first gathering when the disciples were visited by Jesus in his resurrected state.

A week later, Thomas is there at the gathering when Jesus appears and he invites Thomas to touch his wounds as proof he is alive. Thomas, of course, proclaims his belief saying, “My Lord and my God.”

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This is what condemns Thomas’ reputation — that he needed to see in order to believe.  Thus, for 2000 years his fate is sealed by a moment when he actually asked a legitimate question. How many times have you said, “I’ll believe it when I see it”?

Most of us are like Thomas I would wager. We need to see lots of things before we can believe. There are some things in life that are so fantastical, so dream-like, and so unreal to us that seeing is believing. Like the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. (Oh right, I forgot they did win after waiting 108 years.)  We are all doubters, too bad Thomas gets the bad reputation we all could claim.

Seeing is believing is not a bad thing when it comes to God. Sometimes we believe God is acting in our lives because we see it – in a life that is changed for the good, a sickness that is unexpectedly healed. We can see God all over the place if we really look. Just go to the nearest window and marvel at what you see.  After all, John describes the believers as we who have seen His glory. (John 1:14)

When we believe because we have seen, we have experienced something marvelous, some unexpectedly wonderful. How can you not believe after seeing a sunset or the moon rise? (If you need a little inspiration watch this 4 minute video of the moon rising in New Zealand).

Belief is a gift, a gift that comes after being blind to God in some way. But we can come to belief either way, by the sheer gift of God in a moment of awakening to faith, or by seeing something, being a witness to something in life that awakens us to faith.  Start with faith. Start with needing to see. Same thing in the end. What God desires for us is that we come to belief.  Does it matter to God one way or the other how we come to faith? I don’t think so, just as long as we can get there in the end.

Thomas, you did us all a favor by being absent that day and coming to faith by naming what most of us hold in secret.  We can turn: “I’ll believe it when I see it,” into “I see because I believe.”

 

Posted in News, Weekly Word

I’m Glad I Don’t Eat Fish

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

Have you checked to see if the fish you eat has been labeled plastic free?  That may be coming soon given the amount of plastics being dumped into the oceans.  In fact, at the rate we’re going, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the water than fish (by weight). Fish don’t know the difference between a tasty worm and a bright plastic lid.  Unfortunately these plastic items can block their digestive systems resulting in starvation.  Plastics can fill up their stomachs leaving little room for real food.  Because plastics don’t break down, they can end up in the fish you want to enjoy for dinner.

One recent study by the University of Ghent in Belgium calculated that humans eat up to 11,000 plastic fragments in their seafood each year. The biggest culprits are microbeads, the tiny plastic particles found in facial scrubs, toothpaste, body wash, and other cosmetics and microplastics, tiny sometimes microscopic pieces of plastic. Eight trillion, yes, with a TR, enter the waterways in the U.S. every day. Scientists have found that these substances are like tiny magnets for toxins. That’s a lot of toxins being eaten by fish in our oceans. The fish then absorb them into their tissues.  When you eat fish polluted by the toxins, they become part of your body.  Fortunately, microbeads are banned here in the U.S. and increasingly around the world.

Pollution in our oceans and waterways was documented as early as the early 70’s and come from uncaptured (countries with no or poor waste management) waste, sewage systems, road run-off and littering.  The pollution can be found from the coastlines to remote ocean hotspots where plastics, caught up in ocean currents, are gathered into huge garbage patches that collect on the ocean surface and below. Picture 26,600 Boeing 747 sized containers of plastics entering our waterways every year.  It’s not a pretty picture.

Rivers are equally subject to this pollution so river fish can be just as dangerous.  In the Hudson River, millions of fibers from the process of aging clothes (like jeans and other denim clothes) pollute the river and the Atlantic Ocean. These fibers harm fish and human.

So what can we do to ensure our fish is safe?  We have to get plastics under control.

  • Reduce or eliminate single use plastics such as plastic bags, water bottles, straws, cups, utensils, dry cleaning bags, take-out containers, frozen meal containers and any other plastic items that are used once and then discarded.
  • Avoid beauty products that contain microbeads. Look for these plastics: polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), or nylon.
  • If you must purchase a single use plastic item, make sure it can be recycled. Check out the recycling requirements in your community. Many communities have cut back on the products they recycle.

 

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog