Friday, November 22, 2019

Integral Ecology from Below

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis describes an “integral ecology, one which clearly respects its human and social dimensions” LS 137). The human and social dimensions of ecology point to natural sustainability in which human persons are a part of—not apart from, much less above—nature. The encyclical notes that it is not enough to merely live healthy human lives; we are also called to seek lives that are sustainable in relationship with the natural world, lives that are spiritually meaningful and culturally rich. and finally, we are called to seek sustainability and meaning in a way that is equitable for all peoples across the globe, which in turn preserves valuable resources for our children’s children.
Image result for dewdropOne reading of the creation story sees God high above in the heavens, in transcendent glory. Humanity is set as the pinnacle of creation, with a mandate to fill the earth and subdue it. This is a mandate that seems to place human beings apart from and above the rest of creation. In this reading, humans see creation as a thing to be used, and even abused; the innate value and the beauty of each living creature and of all that God has created are subordinate to their utility at the service of human beings and human civilizations.
In contrast, a different reading sees creation as God’s garden, as the outpouring of the heart of our loving God, inviting all creatures into existence and into a loving relationship with the Creator. Pope Francis turns to Ali Al-khawas, a Sufi mystic poet, to help describe the relationship:
The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. (LS 233)

Friday, November 8, 2019

Why Do I Stay?

Sometimes people pose the question: Why did you become a nun? Why did you enter the convent? 
This prompts me to return to that moment years ago when I first thought about becoming a sister. I was in college and I had all the high ideals and lofty hopes typical of a young college student. I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to change the world, I wanted to live a meaningful life. The notion of a religious vocation came into my life in this liminal space that was charged with high-minded dreams.
When the notion of vocation first struck me, it came loud and clear, fast and furious. I was gobsmacked. Who? Me? God? Calling? It took time to sort out the meaning of this experience. I explored, visited, prayed, and discerned. Yet I still remember the afternoon in my college dorm when I first intuited a call to religious life. For some it is a gentle tug, for others a deep longing, for others an undeniable certainty.
People also ask: Why do you stay? Why are you still here after all these years?
This is harder to answer. I could return to that first moment, that first sense of call. My life, with all its highs and lows, its consolations and desolations, has been a 'living out' of that first sense of call. Some say that when I come to religious life, the first decades make me who I am. There are the years of formation in which I deepen my sense of call, learn about religious life, about prayer, community, and mission. And then after the decade of initial formation, I begin living religious life. It becomes natural. My personal identity and my community identity become integrated. I am a Sister. I am a Sister of St. Joseph. After decades of religious life, you can take the sister out of the community, but you can't take the community out of the sister. So I stay because this is who I am, who I have become.
Am I happy? Yes. Do I struggle? Yes. Is it all worth it? Yes, and Yes, and Yes.