Lucy’s lament, Greta’s anger and hopeful action

It was a bright June day when I heard a sister lament. The sister: she is named for light; we call her Lucy. At a community meeting, she stood at a podium and spoke into a microphone, her voice full of passion and frustration. She gave a State of the Union speech of sorts, yet in this case, the Union was the planet Earth.

As her exasperated voice vibrated through the room, images of pollution and charts of species decline glowed on bright screens. Her tone was intense, strong. Young and old, at least seven dozen Franciscan Sisters tried to hear the truth; we tried to love our sister, even though her message was tough to hear. Many of us squirmed uncomfortably as she, an ecologist and farmer, admitted that the picture of this planet is grim.

“I am finding it really hard to love homo sapiens right now!” she admitted while acknowledging that she is not free from playing a part in the environmental crisis either. “Earth would be better off without us. It could spit us off and have a better chance of surviving.”

I was reminded of Sister Lucy’s lament this week as I watched Greta Thunberg’s speech given to the United Nations. You can’t skip this video. Please watch it right now. Even if you’ve already watched it, watch it again.

Like Sister Lucy, Greta’s tone is appropriately intense and angry, for the State of the Earth is serious. “You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.”

Now, I can’t stop thinking about how to act, how to not fail children like Greta (she’s 16 years old!), how to not fail the Christian call to steward the gifts of creation. To not change our ways and care for the most vulnerable is evil, as she says. I feel challenged and shamed, in the best of ways. I feel compelled to truly repent and to change. To admit my sorrow and to grow.

It is time for repentance and conversion. All of humanity, rich and poor, privileged and marginalized, powerful and weak — we all must act if we want to save ourselves. We must change our hearts, our minds, our ways of living. We must change our behaviors and attitudes.

No matter what type of change we’re talking about, all change starts with a shift in perspective. It’s time for us to see that we’re not here to have dominion over any other life. Rather, our health and survival as a species are completely dependent on the health and survival of other species, on every ecosystem. We are completely interdependent on other life forms.

When Sister Lucy spoke to my community in June, I learned a new way to understand this. We are called to be ecocentric instead of egocentric. Our species is one among many. As other species become endangered and extinct, so could we. As the planet becomes healthy and balanced again, so will we.

Source: https://faisalseportfolio.weebly.com/

We are not above any other species. Rather, we are part of the ecosystems and are totally dependent on other species. And the earth is suffering, and it’s very serious. I’ll save you the litany of horrors. (But you can read this article to learn the latest.)

The actions we take from here on out must be based on these facts. We must act with wild hope and faith that every person matters, that all of our actions have significance. We must trust that small acts contribute to the big picture. What is needed now are individual lifestyle changes and systemic changes. We must truly act locally and unite globally to change the political and economic systems that are oppressing our planet.

How?

There are a lot of options, really. 101 things you can do to fight climate change are listed here. Here are a few that I’ve decided on.

Eat differently. For some, like myself, that’s becoming vegetarian. For others, it’s eating less meat, or wasting less overall. Others opt to grow one’s own food or buy from local farmers. All of us must do something, though. “We need a radical transformation — not incremental shifts — towards a global land-use and food system that serves our climate needs,” Ruth Richardson in Toronto, Canada, the executive director at the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, has declared. Clearly, it is essential we understand how global agriculture truly works and eat in ways that are more sustainable.

Travel less. This is the hard one for me because I tend to live a fairly itinerant Franciscan life. Yet, every time I calculate my carbon footprint, it is apparent to me that if I stop using planes and cars then I’d drastically reduce the harm I inflict on other species.

Photo by Julia Joppien on Unsplash

Stop purchasing bottled water and soft drinks. I like flavored and carbonated waters as much as the next person. But, 1.5 million barrels of oil are used to manufacture water bottles every year. And, as it becomes more apparent that plastic recycling is mostly a myth, I am especially challenged to stop using all plastic. From now on, I will go nowhere without my refillable water bottle. It’s one simple thing I can do.

Join climate advocacy organizations, such as Oxfam, Greenpeace, or Catholic Climate Covenant.  These organizations need your financial support and your participation. Join them in the advocacy events they organize in order to act for systemic change and help protect the planet and the poor. You can easily write your U.S. senator about supporting the International Climate Accountability Act (S.1743) here.

No matter how we respond to the prophetic laments of people like Sister Lucy and Greta Thunberg, let us act with love.

Our life depends upon it.

God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love, and beauty.
Praise be to you!
Amen.    (Pope Francis, Laudato Sí)

A stinky stable and the giving and receiving of Christmas

Salvation came to us from the “yes” uttered by a lowly maiden from a small town on the fringes of a great empire. The Saviour was born in a manger, in the midst of animals.”                                                                   – Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium, 197)

Manure, straw, dust, animal hair, insects: all was known by Baby Jesus. Yes, God is in the mess of a stinky stable.

God is here, in the material world. All matter is amazingly made holy through this great event! Joy to the world for now we know: no mess is too much for God, for God is in the mess that intermingles with beauty and peace present in a barn, present in many corners of the world.

Today, God’s presence is known in the stink of human waste, in the villages living in garbage dumps and in the situations of people living in alleys. God is with refugee families fleeing from danger and now huddled together in make-shift tent homes seeking warmth and comfort. In our poverty, in our needs, God is with us.

Photo credit: http://fairforall.org/2011/01/21/aid-for-garbage-pickers-in-manila/

God’s love is certainly revealed in the mess, the chaos, and in the interdependence of relationships. The birth of the Savior speaks clearly about God’s poverty and humility. God is a poor, vulnerable Child who cries and relies on his parents for every human need to be met. God’s love is known in the arrival and the giving, but also in the receiving, the needing and the empowering.

“Mother and Child: Nativity in Greccio” by Julia Walsh, FSPA

We are each called to be part of this holy and true story. We each have a part to play in helping God’s love to be known in every chaotic, cluttered corner of God’s Kingdom. We are called to help others and allow others to help and care for us. Love is alive in the giving and receiving, in the charity and humility. The animals and the infant in the stable show us how to participate in the holy activity.

By imitating the poor baby Jesus and admitting our need for one another we too can manifest God’s love in this holy and hurting world, where inequality and poverty is too extreme. The God of Love took on a humble, human form and came to free us! Let us respond to that Love and acknowledge our need to cooperate, to relate, to be humble and poor and care for one another.

Through God’s incarnation we are freed to recognize that great Truth that salvation history and the signs of our time proclaim. Indeed, God needs our humility, our poverty and our great “yes” to working with Love. As we cooperate with God’s great plan we ALL shall come to know the great depths of God’s peace, justice, and love. Let us share the good news of Love. Let us give and receive and celebrate the birth of Christ who has come, who is Emmanuel. Amen!

Merry Christmas!! 

 

Made by many

I have exciting news! This week’s issue of America  magazine contains an essay written by me!

The essay is called “Changed, not ended: A view of religious life from a young sister” and it also includes a great illustration, which I love:

walsh_art-1000_0-jpg
Illustration by Dan Salamida. http://americamagazine.org/issue/changed-not-ended

 

Writing this essay and going through the process of getting it published has been an adventure many years in the making.

As one who had childhood dreams of becoming a writer — but had at one point given up on my dreams — I am totally thrilled. I am in awe. And, I am very, very thankful.

This accomplishment is not my own, it is not success because of my own doing.  Rather, this an achievement of an entire community.

In last week’s blog post I said I was going to share a bit about the adventures in writing I’ve had within the past year.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth. – John 1:14

One of the major gifts of 2013 was the fruit that came from living a life in union with the Word of God. Specifically, I found that I still gain a lot of energy and joy as I try to be a writer. First of all, my sporadic habit of blogging on continues here at Messy Jesus Business.

In the past year, Invitations to write for other publications starting coming too, including one by the Franciscan Spirituality Center Blog for which I once wrote about “Christmas Every Day.” I was really excited to learn that I had earned a scholarship to a writers workshop that I was blessed to attend the last week of July and first few days of August.

Plus, my community invited me to try something really creative: be a Poetry Catcher at our assembly in June. I had the task of mirroring back my observations to the 300 or so sisters and affiliates there through poetry. At one point I was asked to write a poem WHILE I listened and then immediately perform the poem for the crowd. I was in awe right with everyone else by what came out of me.

That’s often how I feel about the creative work of writing: amazed by the gift God gives. The gifts related to the work of writing have been abundant this year. At the writers workshop I was incredibly enriched by new relationships and encouragement from other Christian artists, insights about how to grow as a poet and writer, and lessons on poetry and the creative life in general. In addition to the essay in America magazine this week, I also had a poem published in an online literary journal within the past month.

Like I said, my accomplishments and success are not my own. Certainly none of this exciting success would have come without the encouragement, help and support of great editors, my Franciscan sisters, and many other friends— all of who are deserving of a big shout-out and THANKS!

But, most importantly, I am very certain I would have never become a writer and a poet without my relationships with my Franciscan sisters.

Even though I dreamed of being a writer and a teacher when I was a child, I quickly gave up on my dream of becoming a writer because I did not have much confidence.  In school, I was pretty much an average student — especially in English class, where I came to realize I had a lower vocabulary than most and grammar rules confused me.  Although I had excellent English teachers, none of them ever gave me any extra encouragement so I gave up on my dream of being a writer before I even started college.

God is a God of surprises and abundant blessings. And, many of those blessings come through community.

Within a couple of years of entering my community, several of the sisters I was growing close to were getting to know that I enjoyed writing poetry and prose. So then, when an opportunity to write for a blog came my way, sisters encouraged me to take it.

Then, over 3 years ago a Sister encouraged me to start a whole other blog. I prayed a lot about it, and that’s how Messy Jesus Business was born.  This is a risk I would have never taken without the help and support of community.  Likewise, the blog wouldn’t continue to have a vibrant life without the readership and follower-ship from all of you. Thank you!!

Similarly, sisters encouraged me in my poetry too. I was stunned when I started to hear from some of them that I had talent. As invitations to share my poetry started coming from sisters, I grew more overwhelmed by the praise I would receive, especially when I felt so clueless about the craft.

Only within the past year have I gained an acceptance of the gift, due to the blessings coming from my community. Because of my sisters, I am willing to say I am a poet and a writer now. And, I feel like many of my other dreams related to writing are possible. Maybe I’ll actually get to write books one day!

I shed tears when I think of it: I am who I am today because of how I have been made by many.  My community has empowered me and enlivened me and helped me be a steward to the gifts God has given. I am officially a published writer now, by the blessing of my community.  God is so good, and I am thankful!