Monday, April 22, 2019

Make Every Day Earth Day

Noah went to great lengths to preserve earthly creatures so that future generations might enjoy the nuzzle of a canine companion, delight with their children in the uniqueness of an elephant, and be refreshed by a glass of milk.

I fondly think back to the Cook Islands when, from our porch, I watched in amazement as a humpbacked whale breached just outside the lagoon.

Fast forward to today, when the Center for Biological Diversity says that we're experiencing the worst state of species die-off since the loss of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. That fact brings to mind another whale incident in which I helplessly observed a Cuvier's beaked whale named Temata die in Avatiu Harbor, Rarotonga from plastic ingestion.

Perhaps Noah is asking from heaven, "is humanity really taking Laudato Si seriously?"

Today's Earth Day theme is, "Protect Our Species." It may be overwhelming to consider how I can put the breaks on the disappearance of lions, tigers, bears, and whales in the midst of rampant destruction of habitats. But, imagine what could be accomplished if the world's 7.5 billion people make every day Earth Day!

Laudato Si calls us to do just that. In the Encyclical, Pope Francis speaks of an integral ecology, one which preserves our common home. I grapple with exactly what "integral ecology" means and demands of me. What does it look like to be interconnected with creatures? Not stepping on bugs? Petting dogs? Talking to plants?

No. It's much deeper than that. Laudato Si, along with the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 12 requires me to look at my consumption patterns and consider my daily choices; the ones which impact habits. It challenges me to reimagine my vow of poverty. We used to say "Live simply so that others (people) might simply live." But today, we say "Live simply so that other people, primates, plants, and planet may live."

On my best days, I refuse plastic bags at the grocery store and avoid purchasing a soft drink in single use plastic. It's harder when scheduled are rushed and I'm distracted by deadlines. But I must pause and reflect on being consistent if I'm to truly "get" Laudato Si.

It's recognizing that my shampoo probably contains a palm oil product and that vast habitats were destroyed to produce it. Orangutans and other species are affected. It's being mindful of massive deforestation in South America so that I can eat beef.

ScienceNordic (February, 2016) reflects that 60-80 percent of environmental impacts come from household consumption. When I read that, images of laundry detergent containers, plastic packaging, and cleaning sprays came to mind. They are contents of a big bag I haul out to recycling regularly, hoping they really WILL be recycled.

I have some changes to make. I hope this Earth Day is not just a time to bear banners and plant a tree. I hope it's a time of taking steps to make every day Earth Day.

Written by Sister Margaret O'Dwyer, D.C.
Picture of Temata is from Whale Research.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

What a Beautiful Name

"Death could not hold You, the veil tore before You
You silenced the boast, of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring, the praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again."
(What a Beautiful Name - Hillsong Worship)
Listen to the song here.

These lyrics capture so much of what the story of Easter is all about.

"Death could not hold you!"

We listen, watch, and journey with so many who encounter death in real and often horrific ways - not unlike Christ. Some of these people are fleeing unsafe homes, trying to find safety in our land. Some are folks who live in dangerous neighborhoods where the cycle of poverty and violence has been perpetuated by forces well beyond their control. Some are children whose lives will be unable to breathe on earth with us because of the darkness and despair of abortion.

Yet, we hear - Death could NOT hold YOU! Jesus has power over all of that. Easter reminds us of the powerlessness of death, destruction, and violence - no matter how many want us to believe that is it she sign of strength.

"The heavens are roaring!"

Yes! The heavens are roaring the praise of Christ's glory. He was the king that nobody expected. He said that the last were going to be first. He commanded us to love one another, especially the poor and needy. He shared boundless mercy in situations where it seemed the only appropriate response was historic justice. He changed the course of what it meant to be a follower forever. Some people laughed and scoffed. We hear today that the heavens roared in praise of His glory!

"For You are raised to life again!"

When Jesus resurrected, He opened heaven for all of us. That's what the Scripture tells us. That first moment must have been so powerful in so many ways. Jesus transcends everything about life and death and adds this new element - RESURRECTION! I love icons of the Resurrection where you see Jesus reaching down for Adam and Eve, healing that first separation. In turn, we share in the healing down through all those ages and it is signed at our baptism. What an eternal moment!

"What a beautiful name! What a powerful name! The name of Jesus!

Written by Sister Lisa Laguna, D.C.

Watch our "What a Beautiful Name" video here.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Follow Christ to the Foot of the Cross

"The seal of the Company of the Daughters of Charity represents a heart encompassed by flames, with the figure of Jesus crucified. It is surrounded by the motto: 'The charity of Jesus crucified urges us.'

"The charity of Jesus Christ crucified, which animates the heart of the Daughter of Charity and sets it on fire, urges her to hasten to the relief of every type of human misery." (From the beginning of the Constitutions and Statutes of the Daughters of Charity)

The seal of the Company designed and used by St. Louise de Marillac, dates back to 1643 and provides us with a unique insight into a foundational aspect of her spirit and life of service. Suffering was no stranger to St. Louise. While she seldom wanted for anything materially, she suffered great emotional pain throughout her life. In time, she began to embrace her suffering as the seed of her vocation and a call from God. St. Louise wrote, "God, who has granted me so many graces, led me to understand that it was His holy will that I go to Him by way of the Cross. His goodness chose to mark me with it from my birth and He has hardly ever left me, at any age, without some occasion for suffering."

It was the cross of Christ which gave her comfort and a way forward. She encouraged all her Daughters to "follow Christ to the foot of the cross." What she formed within the minds and hearts of her companions was not to glory in the suffering itself. Instead, St. Louise encourages us to use the sufferings of our lives to embody the great compassion and generosity of Christ's greatest gift; suffering on the cross for the salvation of human kind.

St. Louise came to love the suffering she endured knowing that God allowed it for the sole purpose of her spiritual growth. She knew that if she offered her suffering back to God, it would be accepted with love and strengthen her for a life of service to the Community and to those who live in poverty.

Throughout her writings, St. Louise offered insight as to how our material and emotional sufferings in the world might be the very fodder which leads us closer to God. Her focus of the suffering, crucified Christ provides grist for the spiritual journey of the Daughters of Charity. She presents Christ as our rule and model and encourages her Daughters to find comfort and strength at the foot of the cross. She was confident that whomever spends time contemplating the crucified Christ will come to know He is the one being serviced in those who suffer in our world today.

Written by Sister Margaret Louise Brown, D.C.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Distractions on Palm Sunday: the Passion of Christ Today

"Behold, your king is coming to you humble and seated on a donkey!" Zechariah 9:9 pops into my head every Palm Sunday. Then comes his Canticle quoted in Luke 1: 68-79, a part of every Daughter of Charity's daily morning prayer: "You, my child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way...." It's Zechariah talking to baby John, his newborn, right? Surely not about me or every child. Think of the yet unborn Jesus, riding in Mary's womb, fleeing, terrified, from Herod's wrath on the donkey ride to Egypt.

Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and the Passion readings trigger so many thoughts. So monotonous, so holy and profound! Two pews ahead of me, a brother and sister tickle each other with their palm branches. Doubtless Jesus' Palm Sunday parade included many children waving their branches while kicking up dust between the cloaks their parents threw down in Jesus' path. How many generations have gone ahead of Jesus, have prepared a path for me and for you? "Suffer the little children..." (Matt 19:14) and how they suffer!

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. Where was I in 1983? I was teaching my first grade class about "stranger danger" when Anni, eyes wide, blurts out, "They'll hurt your kitty if you tell!" Around the same time, the third grade class is doing timelines. Anni's brother's nine birthday pictures hang in the hall, each featuring a black eye. Their grandma said he played too hard and fell a lot. I'm a mandated reporter.

In 1989, Bonnie Finney, a Virginia grandmother, tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her van in memory of her grandson who died at the hands of her daughter's boyfriend. Twenty years later, the 2019 Blue Ribbon Project to Prevent Child Abuse is a collaboration of survivors and professionals from various fields who are all tied together due to child abuse and it's long term effects.

Then, about 20 years ago, the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACEs) was conducted. This study documented the overwhelmingly significant connection between child abuse and major health issues in adult life as well as the connection between abuse and its early, unremitting stress and brain development.

In 2016, United States Senator Heidi Heitkamp addressed a Science of Trauma briefing on Capitol Hill, urging attendees to keep preaching ACEs Too High to "change national policy to incorporate what the ACEs scientists tell us about trauma and to see and respond to the needs of those you encounter in everyday life."

At Mass, we're already on the Passion story of Jesus. I've let my mind wander, but maybe not far. We all have ACEs. We are "the child" going before the Lord to prepare His way. This year, consider tying your palm branches with a blue ribbon.

Written by Sister Sheila Marie Hart, D.C.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Good Friday: Cries of the Poor

In response to Pope Francis's mandate in Laudato Si, "Hear the cries of the poor and the earth," the Roarke Center Artists created INVISIBLE PEOPLE.


Our sculpture represents individuals we really choose not to see, those whose life experiences are different from our own.

Mutual vulnerabilities thwart encounter. Unable to meet expectations, the unseen are further emptied of potential, they remain ignored, poor.

We do not listen. The ignored have no voice. We pay no attention so that we do not feel uncomfortable.

- The Roarke Center Artists

The Roarke Center artists are independent adults living with chronic mental health issues, disabilities, and persons in re-entry after incarceration. The art program facilitates building community and belonging.

Written and designed by Sister Loretta Hoag, D.C.