Catholics on Climate Change

13 September 08 | Posted in Stewardship, U.S. Catholic

The Catholic Committee on Appalachia is distributing a 10-minute DVD for religious education classes, “Climate Change: Our Faith Response.”

A statement issued by the committee says the DVD presents “the irrefutable science behind global warming, how it will affect the poor and humanity’s moral responsibility to act.”

The committee is composed of the bishops, members of religious communities and lay leadership in the 27 Catholic dioceses in the Appalachian region.

“We hope (the DVD) raises awareness about creation as a precious gift from God and how climate change will particularly affect the poor and vulnerable,” said Fr. John Rausch, the committee’s director. rausch_tour.jpg

“Unless we change our wasteful lifestyles, we’ll reject God’s gift and the poor will be the first to suffer,” he said.

Sister Paula Gonzalez

1 September 08 | Posted in Stewardship, U.S. Catholic

Sister Paula Gonzalez, SC, Ph.D., is nicknamed the “solar nun.” paula.JPG

Sister Paula, 78, earned her doctorate in biology at the Catholic University in Washington, DC and was a biology professor at the College of Mt. St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio for 21 years. She entered the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati in 1954.

After learning about solar energy more than 20 years ago, Gonzalez designed and did much of the work in converting a former chicken coop to an apartment she shares with another nun. “Casa del Sol,” is a 1500 foot super-insulated, passive solar house built with recycled materials. She also renovated a building on campus that is heated in the winter entirely by solar and geothermal energy.

The first Earth Day in 1970 inspired Sister Paula to think seriously about energy and environmental issues and about how to incorporate them into her biology classes at Mt. St. Joseph. Later, when a proposed nuclear plant received strong opposition, she realized that resistance alone can not solve energy problems – or any problem for that matter. It is also vital to develop creative, life-sustaining alternatives. She firmly believes: “We have to reach the moral cores of people, as well as their brains.”

The American Solar Energy Society’s Ohio Chapter, Green Energy Ohio, gave Sister Paula their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

Where is God in the Storm?

18 August 08 | Posted in Bible, Events, Spirituality, U.S. Catholic

The 37th prayer listed “for special occasions” in the Catholic Sacramentary, the official Catholic worship book, is the prayer “to avert storms.” The text reads:

Father, all the elements of nature obey your command. Calm the storm that threatens us and turn our fear of your power into praise of your goodness.

When floodwaters converged on Iowa City in early June, Fr. Jeff Belger, director of the Catholic Student Center, said he started to say the prayer at daily Masses. “It was the first time in five years as a priest that I’ve had to use that prayer.”

I’m sure some people are saying it now, as Tropical Storm Fay approaches the Florida Keys.  I am glad to know it, and will have it at hand, in my home out on the East End of Long Island once hurricane season gets underway.

Weather-related prayers – for rain in time of drought or protection from violent storms – are based on a concept of God as the one who controls nature.  In many cultures, including our own, people expect  priests and religious leaders to petition God for favorable weather, a good harvest, a safe voyage through the storm.

Some might say these prayers in times of terror and stress originate from the child within us. But a very famous scene in the Gospels – Christ rebuking the wind and calming the sea (Mark 4:37-41) – reinforces the belief God will intervene to save us, our loved ones and neighbors, our pets and property as the storm descends in fury.

If not, then to give us the strength to face what we must, and adapt with courage to the circumstances we are given, and trust that, whatever happens, we are always in God’s hands. 0721_jesus_calms_storm_christian_clipart.jpg

Meinrad Craighead: God the Mother

11 August 08 | Posted in Animals, Spirituality, U.S. Catholic

As the sun rises, a slight, gray-haired woman emerges onto the worn plank porch of her house and pours a glass of water out onto the sandy soil, lifts the cup to the sun, then drinks the rest of it.

In this daily ritual, artist Meinrad Craighead rebaptizes herself, making a short prayer to God as Mother: “You have given me life. This is my daily prayer. You’re going to take care of me.”

Her work portrays in vivid color both an active visual dialogue with God and a keen sense of the brooding, watching, beckoning power she finds in the land around her, in the sky above, the earth below, in the animals, in our dreams.

Her first real religious experience, at age 7, was not in church but in nature, with her dog, she said. She had retreated from the heat of a summer day to the shade of some hydrangea bushes.  Under the flowers’ blue dome, she found herself gazing into her dog’s eyes. “They were as deep, as bewildering, as unattainable as a night sky,” she said of the eyes, and as she stared she felt a rush of water coming from deep within her. meinrad_dog.JPG

“I listened to the sound of water inside, saw a woman’s face, and understood: This is God. Soon after this I came upon a photo in a book of a statue of a woman. The recognition was immediate, certain: I knew this was the woman I’d heard inthe water and whose face I had seen in the dog’s eyes. This discovery brought a sense of well-being and gratitude, which has never diminished. Because she was a living force within me, she was more real, more powerful than the remote ‘Father’ I was educated to have faith in.”

“God the Mother came to me and, as children will do, I kept her a secret. We hid together inside the structures of institutional Catholicism. Through half a lifetime of Catholic liturgies, during my school years, in my professional work as an educator, for 14 years in a monastery, she lived at my innermost center, the groundsill of my spirituality.” god.bmp

Read the whole, glorious article, Art and Spirituality: In the name of the mother, by Richard Heffern here.

Catholics Thinking Outside the Bottle

22 July 08 | Posted in Food, Stewardship, U.S. Catholic

Sr. Janet Corcoran, vice president of mission service at Marian Medical Center in Santa Clara, CA, is just one of the Catholic voices spreading the gospel that bottled water, however convenient, is environmentally, economically and politically wrong. “It’s a matter of getting people to think more consciously about what they are doing,” she said. Her column, “Environmental Tips from a Green Franciscan Sister” is published in a hospital publication.

Concerns about bottled water are bubbling up in Catholic organizations, adding clout to a growing number of municipalities and secular organizations concerned about the issue–with women religious strongly in the lead.

Numerous women’s religious communities are banning bottled water at their motherhouses, retreat houses and conference centers, and some are substituting refillable water bottles for the throw-away kind at sponsored events.

Bottled water has become a lighting rod for several environmental-social justice issues surrounding water. bottledwater.jpg

There is a negative environmental impact of discarded plastic bottles. I see plenty of those on the beach–used and left by fishermen (both native born and Spanish-speaking immigrants) to wash out into the ocean. There is the oil used to make plastic bottles.  And lastly, the prize of the ownership and access to good water, especially for developing countries. Like energy resources–oil, gas, coal–water is now being privatized by corporations.

The United Nations  estimates that more than 1 billion people currently lack access to safe drinking water and that by 2025 two-thirds of the world’s population will not have access to drinking water.

Some Catholic groups have borrowed information and ideas from Think Outside the Bottle, a major non-religious player in the anti-bottled water movement.

The organization has launched a web-based campaign that provides information and support. In addition to inviting individuals to sign a pledge to boycott bottled water, the program urges people to send postcards to corporations challenging corporate control of water, to attend stockholders’ meetings and mount other forms of pressure on corporate executives.

I guess what this means for me is to stop buying Poland Spring at Staples or the supermarket, and fill the empties with tap water.

I love Poland Spring. It’s easy to tote to the gym or have in the car. Water in refillable plastic bottles tastes vile.  This is going to be a tough one.