Spirituality and Creation Care Moment #1
A Series of Moment of Physical, Spiritual and Social Refreshment leading up to our Retreat day January 9th, 2021
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A Beginning - Day One
In a moment of nostalgia, I remember a moment of intimacy when I was able to connect with my late father. One New Year's Eve when I was at the end of my time as an undergraduate and I was out late at a restaurant in Toronto, Canada with someone whom I was not really connecting with. Waves of loneliness washed over me -- they always hit hardest in early January for it was a cold morning on the sixth day of 1991 when a call came in that my mom had died -- and it was a devastating moment for 19 year old me. My family's dysfunction was so well hidden from the world but it was my mom that was the thread holding everything together.
Fast forward three years and in that restaurant I found a payphone (a blast from the past I know) and called Dad to wish him a Happy New Year and tell him what he meant to me. This was something we did not do. But I remember a feeling inside me that moved me to a new behavior. I instinctively trusted this nudge from the universe but not without recognizing a deep fear of being mocked for my vulnerability. My scientific brain had no evidence that this act would be received and reciprocated any differently that those that went prior. But the nudge to reconnect was stronger.
That call started a yearly moment of intimacy that I treasure even in the darkest moments of our relationship still to come.
It was in that space of wonder on the cusp of a new year that we co-created the relationship we did not have during the less-wondrous but very practical daily grind of life.
Perhaps this is why I love the feast of the Epiphany. These three men were scientists who were open to the universe and allowed themselves to be moved to new behaviors. Talk about vulnerability!! Imagine traveling to unknown and hostile land in search of something incredible and beyond the ordinary. Following a star, they gave into their curiosity and leaned into an intimate relationship with the Creator of the Universe leading them to newness and the incredibly vulnerable incarnate Son of God laying in a manger. As scientists who were open to the Spirit animating the universe, they engaged with uncertainty, complexity and vulnerability ... and plunged ahead.
The feast of the Epiphany will be my muse as we prepare our minds, bodies and spirits for a special retreat January 9th -- we will share moments together from Jan 1 - Jan 8th. Each blog will offer a way to reconnect Christian and Catholic spiritual life and creation care.
But we must begin at the beginning -- how did we become so disconnected that caring for our common home has become an add on for many Catholics and not part of a robust faith life?
In the grind of daily life in the 21st century we have become numb to how intimately we are part of an interconnected universe and disconnected from our common home and members of our human family. The story of humanity's alienation from Earth has many plot points over several centuries (which I will share a bit with you on our retreat) but in my mind there are two central reasons for our disconnection from the rest of creation: Fear and Control
We were afraid so we wanted nothing to do with nature -- do you know the saying "Red in tooth and claw"? This is a justified fear of the vicious and savage dimension of nature. Think about the fear of during this time of COVID and extrapolate to what people living through the Black Plague must have felt. So if science can come to our rescue and subdue and master this Leviathan that is creation, we were all on board (rightly so). But our identification with mastery over creation left little room for the beauty and healing nature of creation. Our belief in our mastery also pushed God out of the picture too. Masters of creation left no room in our imaginations for the fact that our well being is interdependent with nature's. Perhaps we saw too much of ourselves in nature's red tooth and claw and we averted our eyes in shame and dread. But we also feared that if God loved all of creation there would be less love for us. Our fear of being not special enough moved us to disconnect from our planetary home so that God could only have a special relationship with us.
And as we created more and more wonderful technological and societal advances, we needed more natural resources and energy. Thus, we needed to exploit Mother Earth which was unappealing (who wants to exploit their mother?!). However, if Earth was merely an object or machine devoid of value and sacredness, then as divinely appointed masters we could use all or any of Earths many things. We also convinced ourselves that these resources were unlimited and came without cost. Alas, we know that our children and most vulnerable bear the brunt of this lie.
But the science that led us to disconnect from our planetary home is leading us back. And faith traditions are re-awakening to the sacredness of creation and how creation care is an intrinsic part of lives of faith.
We are awakening from this slumber! Click here for a short clip about Thomas Berry and the great Universe Story
We now know that the universe is a grand narrative of God's overflowing love. We also know that physically we share the iron and sodium in our blood with the minerals in the rocks that give form to our landscapes. From the galactic to quantum levels, life is interconnected and interdependent. Our creativity and unique minds have emerged from the creative impetus of Earth. As Thomas Berry taught me, humanity is the universe waking up to itself and to the Creator of this cosmos. And our spirits are the spark of the Divine imminently present and moving in our midst.
As part of a larger human and Christian family, Catholics too have lost sight of how the call of the Gospel to love and care for creation feeds our spirituality. Creation care is not a nice add on to Catholic faith if you have time and it extends well beyond recycling. This retreat will explore our relationship with God, Creator, Jesus Incarnation and the Holy Spirit in order to show how creation care is at the core of the greatest commandments: Love God and Love your Neighbor as Yourself.
Are you feeling the nudge of the Spirit?
Don't know where to begin? Here are two ways...
First, spend the next few days prior to our retreat opening yourself to the universe using my blogs as a guide. There will be a blog for each day leading up to the retreat - so check this website daily. There will be ideas to percolate on, activities to re-ground yourself to the sliver of planet that you call home, ways to start conversations with others and things to help you hear the gentle (and not so gentle) nudges of the universe to move to new behaviors. A caveat I must add that saying yes to this nudge is not without growing pains -- recognizing the magnitude of our physical and spiritual deserts (a beautiful and frightening metaphor offered by Pope Francis in Laudato Si') brings with it uncertainty, dismay, guilt and often disappointment. But as Brene Brown would say and from the story of the Epiphany -- lean into this vulnerability -- and a new world of interconnection will open up. Perhaps this is the true wisdom we attribute to the three 'Wise' men -- not their accumulated data from their studies as scientists.
Then please join us to reconnect with Earth and the riches of Catholic tradition January 9th. We plan for this retreat to be a place of learning and connecting with fellow sojourners on this path of faith and love.
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