Sometime ago I went on a retreat, the topic of which was the situation of the environment. The retreat speaker stated that present environmental issues are a spiritual problem and we meet a spiritual problem with a spiritual solution. Pope Francis is stating the same fact in his recent encyclical “Laudato Si'” or “Praise be”.
He writes that our relationship with the world is distorted when we see God’s creation solely to be used by humanity. He reminds us that we are part of the creation of God just as much as the forests, the waterways, the animals and the plants. God asks us to be the stewards or the caretakers, not just the users.
If we were to look at creation as a member of our family, our perspective changes and we relate to creation differently. When we hurt or abuse creation for our own means, we hurt ourselves and the generations to come. These are harsh words and we are not used to hearing about this topic from the Holy Father. And yet, the concept is not something new. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict spoke about our care of the planet and how as humans we were not caring for creation as mindful stewards.
Pope Francis offers various ways in which we can help the environment. Among them, he encourages us to live more simply, to be more mindful of how we process our waste and to pray. It is in changing our relationship with creation and our role in it that we can envision a better world for the generations to come.
If you want to read some commentaries or followups to the encyclical, they are below:
I will be taking break for the summer, but I do look forward to writing to you again in September. Have a blessed summer!
The United Nations defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group”. My own personal encounters with refugees include people who have suffered the loss of their homes, their dignity and in many cases, a way of life. The trauma they experience will often affect them for the rest of their lives, often spilling into the next generations.
Refugees are members of our human family. As in any family, when one member is in pain, the whole family hurts and is called to assist that family member. The same stands true for refugees. Our country of Canada is blessed with many resources and we are asked to share those resources with refugees from all over the world.
Who are the refugees of today? Some are victims of wars, such as those in the Middle East or in parts of Africa. Some are refugees fleeing situations of famine in their country, others are political refugees who flee due threats to themselves or their families. In essence, refugees do not leave their country by choice, but for the protection of themselves and their families.
Pope Francis has been particularly sensitive to the plight of refugees. His first visit outside the Vatican after being named Pope was to visit the refugee camps of Lampedusa. He continuously reminds us as Catholics of our responibility to be our brother’s keeper and to not only help refugees but also try to eradicate the causes that create refugees.
June 20 is the United Nations International refugee day. We can assist refugees, either by learning more about them, giving assistance or trying to influence our government to more action to prevent the systems that create refugees. As Christians we pray for those who are less fortunate. The Jesuit Refugee Service has some suggestions for prayer and action.
Heartfelt thoughts…kindhearted….billboards written with “I ♥ New York”….. bumper stickers with “I ♥ Dachshunds”…..Valentines Day cards with hearts….. Lovers exchanging notes with poetic words, messages of love and hearts to express their mutual love…. heart of the matter. What does “heart” mean to you?
“Heart” carries with it a very special meaning. It expresses love, but not just any love, a love that is deep, central, coming from the very core of whoever is expressing that love. Without love, it is difficult to survive.
In the month of June, the Catholic church celebrates the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus invites us to open our own hearts to the love that Jesus offers us from the depth of his heart, the core of his being. One of the closest images that I can imagine is the love that a mother has for her newborn child, so intense, so new, so fresh. I witnessed that love again more recently when my youngest daughter gave birth to her first child a little more than a month ago. As I watched her nurse her baby and I could not help but notice the love in her eyes for her newborn son.
Jesus’ love is so much greater. Recently, I heard a speaker say that “we were tattooed in love to the heart of God”. This love is offered to us freely, we do not even need to ask for it. Pope Francis in his own homily on the feast of the Sacred Heart states “It is more difficult to let God love us, than to love Him!” He encourages us to open our hearts to God and allow ourselves to be loved. Allowing God’s love and tenderness to enter our hearts is the best way to respond to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
From one of the articles that is linked below, a Jesuit priest recounts how he had recently shown some images of the Sacred Heart to a catechism class. He asked “Why do you think Jesus’s heart is shown on the outside of his body?” One girl answered: “Because he loves us so much that he can’t keep it in!”
The truth often comes from the mouths of babes.
One of my favorite events of the liturgical year is the feast of Corpus Christi. The belief in the real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine is central to the Catholic faith and distinguishes us from most of the other Chritian denominations. On the feast of Corpus Christi, Catholics celebrate that faith. Jesus really gives of Himself to the faithful.
The evening of Corpus Christi in Montreal begins with a celebration of the Eucharist at Notre Dame Basilica. Notre Dame is a beautiful church in the heart of what was once the centre of the city of Montreal. The carvings, paintings and statues bring us back to an era when artisans would honor God by using their artistic talents to build a church.
As the Eucharistic celebration finishes, the host is placed in a golden receptacle called a monstrance and is then carried out into the streets with the faithful following. The procession that follows is one of joy and peace. People of all walks of life gather here, young, old, strong and less strong supported by others. Everyone walks with a candle, lighting up the dark streets like a stars in the sky. They pray, sing and walk in solidarity of their faith. Each time I participate I am uplifted as I walk with the crowd. It is difficult to describe the sense of communion that I feel, but something in my heart is touched in a very deep way.
I am reminded of how community supports my faith. Our culture today often supports the axiom of being “spiritual but not religious”. Yet, I know in my heart that through community or religion, my spiritual life is strengthened. Yes, sometimes I am even challenged by my community, but that only makes me stronger.
This coming Thursday, June 7th, I will walk again with my fellow pilgrims of faith. Why not come along? The details are here. Let me know what it was like for you?
Finding time to be quiet with ourselves and God seems to become more and more difficult for us these days. Everywhere we go, there is pressure to be listening to something either outside or on our own electronic devices. Silence is very much at a premium and yet we find more and more ways to chase that silence away.
When I go on silent retreats and speak to people about their experience, many of them say that what they most appreciated was the silence. The silence gave them time to think and to pray. Some people come to those retreats to sort out problems, reflect on their lives or to heal from various emotional wounds. Taking the time to live in a weekend of silence gives their spirit a time away to grow.
We cannot always take a weekend to find some silent time. When I was a young mother, that was an impossibility. So how can we carve out moments of quiet time in our day to find time to be quiet or to pray? For many this longing for stillness and quiet is difficult to satiate. And yet, quiet time with God is not just for monks and nuns in a cloister, it is for everyone.
One suggestion given to me a few years ago was to find “mini dips” of silence. This might be the time we are driving in the car alone and we turn off the radio, or if we travel on public transport, to close our eyes, turn off the our iphones and just be still. For others, it may mean waking up a few minutes earlier than everyone else and being still with God. Others take a walk outside for a few moments to be alone and reflect.
In Psalm 46:11, we read “Be still and know that I am God”. God reveals himself in a very profound way through silence.
How do you find time for silence? What works best for you?
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, a day when scripture tells us that crowds of people welcomed Jesus like a hero as he rode into the city of Jerusalem mounted on a donkey. Pope Francis’s message for Palm Sunday helps us to understand the meaning of this event and prepares us for the rest of Holy Week.
Holy Thursday follows with Jesus celebrating his last Passover meal with his close friends. We remember this Passover meal as the institution of the Eucharist when Jesus asks his friends to remember him in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine. But there is one more significant gesture that he performs that night, the washing of his disciples feet. The washing of another’s feet was a task done only by slaves. Jesus hopes to show his disciples that it is only in washing the feet of others that we show love, the true gift of service to each other. That message is so hard to understand, that Peter initially refuses to allow Jesus to wash his feet, only to relent after Jesus insists.
Good Friday recounts the events around the death of Jesus on the cross. The church celebration on this day is sombre and subdued. We enter into the suffering of Jesus as he walks with his cross to the hill of Calvary. Our minds and hearts are focused on his death and the people who accompany him through this difficult journey. Jesus shows us that even in times of suffering, we can be instruments of love. He consoles the women of Jerusalem, he forgives those who have participated in his fate and he experiences thoughts of abandonment from his father.
Holy Saturday, the day after the crucifixion is a day of mourning and reflection. We, like Jesus, enter a sort of tomb to really experience what has happened in the past few days. We are encouraged to stay in this liminal space, stay in the suffering and death of Jesus. But the story is not ended.
The Easter experience completes Holy Week. The sufferings of Jesus can only make sense when we allow our own difficulties and sufferings lead us to the Resurrection. We need to live out all of the events of Holy Week, so that the Easter of our lives can be fully appreciated.
This coming Sunday, March 22, is Solidarity Sunday, a day in which we join with the rest of the Catholic community around the world to promote the “One Human Family, Food for All” campaign. This year’s theme is “Sow Much Love to Give”. We are all invited to not only share our material goods with our sisters and brothers in the Global South, but also to think about how we can better sow seeds of faith and love within ourselves. Where is our relationship with God and others?
As Canadians, we have so much love to give. Our country is rich in resources, land and water. This is not the case of other members of the human family. Natural disasters, economic inequity, wars and gender inequality have stripped many of access to food. Hunger is not caused by a lack of food in the world, but by unjust systems that distort the distribution of food. We are all in this together. That which impacts our southern neighbors, impacts us. Their needs become our needs. As Catholics, we are called to support and share with those who are the poorest of the poor. We become more human when we work in solidarity with the poor.
Our efforts do carry fruit. Development and Peace, the Canadian arm of Caritas Internationalis, a global campaign introduced by the Holy Father, is working hard to support the fair distribution of food. Their website gives some concrete examples. This Sunday, please give generously. If that is not possible, you may check the website of The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and make an online donation.
Giving of ourselves to others is a call to our greater sense of humanity. Not only do we help others in the process but we grow in love and joy as we share our gifts with other members of our human family. Our example as Christians is a true witness to the Gospel message of love for the poor.
This week I came across an interesting prayer that I would like to share with you. The author invites us to feast and not to fast during Lent in order to come closer to God. I invite you to feast, not fast this Lenten season.
A Lenten Prayer
The other day I read in the newspaper that February is designated as heart month by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. During this month there is a concerted effort to raise awareness on how to look after our hearts by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. One of the most important factors in having a healthy heart is to eat well. The foundation proposes several strategies to increase our consumption of fruits and vegetables. Changing our eating habits can lead to a significant improvement in heart health and quality of life.
I was reminded of how we also need to remember to keep our souls healthy. The liturgical season of Lent, which begins this February 18 could be considered a special time when we become aware of the need to look after our relationship with God by looking after our souls. If our heart health depends on what we eat, by the same token we need to pay attention to what we feed our souls. Are we mindful of what we read, sites that we frequent online, television shows we watch or the types of relationships that we keep? These are the nutrients we feed our souls with. If we were to say, we are what we eat, then what we feed our souls with is what we become.
There are many resources on the net that are “health food” for the soul. I am suggesting a few that I have found helpful. Also, you may find some spiritual reading that will help you to nurture your relationship with God and help to feed your soul in a positive way. Pope Francis in his Message on Holiness for Lent 2015 invites us to look after our neighbor this Lent. For those of us who prefer to respond to God through actions, Busted Halo has a suggestion for a Lenten Calendar , called Fast, Pray, Give .
God is reaching out to us in so many ways, let us open the door to him and become soul healthy people.