An eco-spirituality through the seasons
By Al Fritsch, SJ
A. EXPERIENCES OF THE SACRED
1. Sacred Sights
2. Sacred Sounds
3. Sacred Tastes
4. Sacred Aroma
5. Sacred Touch
B. REFLECTIONS ON THE GLORY OF CREATION
1. To See the Mystery
2. To Hear the Call
3. To Taste God's Creation
4. To Detect Harmony within Creation
5. To Touch Earth
1. Environmental Action: Develop a Conservation Ethic
2. Establish a Specific Prayer Time
3. Speak with Others about Creation
SUMMARY: AN EMPIRICAL START
A. EXPERIENCES OF DESOLATION
1. Desolate Sights
2. Sounds of Mourning
3. Tastes of Desolation
4. Clouds and Clouds
5. Touching a Bit of Hell
B. REFLECTIONS ON NEED FOR REDEMPTION
1. The Fall: Stumbling when not Looking
2. Discordance and Discord and Earth
3. The Taste of Temptation
4. The Odor of Sanctity
5. Touching All through Compassion
1.Environmental Actions: Record/Monitor Ecological Damage
2. Periodic Retreats to help Confront Desolation
3. Negative and Positive Environmental Actions
SUMMARY: SEEKING A COMPASSIONATE MODEL
A. EXPERIENCES OF DELIVERANCE
1. Observe the Soaring
2. Listen to the Floods of Spring
3. Smell and Taste the Dandelions
4. Whoa, Fresh Horseradish!
5. Freshly‑Turned Soil Beckoning Us to Touch
B. REFLECTIONS ON THE COMING OF THE LORD
1. Observing the First Signs of Deliverance
2. Incarnation Event: A Word is Spoken
3. Jesus as Healer
4. Jesus as Teacher
5. Jesus as Liberator
1. Environmental actions: Take up an Environmental Issue
2. An Activist Prayer of Consolation
3. Charity Versus Social Justice
SUMMARY: TOWARDS A RADICAL COMPASSION
A. EXPERIENCES OF TRANSFORMATION
1. The Sight of Fear Turning to Joy
2. Sounds of Crowing and Sizzling
3. The Mystifying Aromas of Spring
4. Relishing the Bitter Sweet Life
5. Basking in the Spring Sun
B. REFLECTIONS ON SUFFERING AND DEATH AS REDEMPTIVE
1. Jesus as Suffering Servant
Jesus as Priest
Jesus in Agony
Jesus as Solitary Witness
Jesus Carrying His Cross
Jesus at Calvary
Jesus as Buried
2. Choosing Our Standard
3. Jesus as Humble and Compassionate
4. Considering Three Kinds of Humility
5. The Law of Conservation of Spiritual Energy
1. Clean Up Campaigns
2. The Stations of the Suffering Earth
3. Community with the Suffering
SUMMARY: AN EARTH HEALER'S ELECTION: THE FUNDAMENTAL OPTION FOR THE POOR
A. EXPERIENCES OF NATURE'S POWER
1. Flowers: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
2. Detecting the Sounds of May
3. Chancing upon a Lively Vine
4. Hives of Honey: Liquid Gold
5. Radiant Light and Rainbows
B. REFLECTIONS ON THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF POWER
1. The Risen Christ: Power of the Risen Lord
2. Power Over Others and Types of Impoverishment
3. Confronting Power through Power
4. Power Within Powerlessnes
5. Spiritual Power Through Us as Other Christs
1. Environmental Action: Growing a Garden
2. A Prayer for Restoring Damaged Lands
3. Resurrection Versus Creation-Centered Spirituality
SUMMARY: BROADENING THE CONCEPT OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
A. EXPERIENCES OF CONFRONTING THIS WORLD
1. Cliffs Presenting Challenges
2. Rumbling Distant Thunder
3. A Priceless Drink of Cool Water
4. The Scent of New‑Mown Hay
5. Being in Contact with the Rocks
B. REFLECTIONS ON EXALTING THE LOWLY
1. The Ascension Mystery
2. The Lowly as Bearers of Good News
3. Appropriate Technology
4. Spiritual Environmental Resource Assessments
5. Temptations and the Exalted
1. Plans and Daily Examinations
2. Act and Think Locally so You Can Act and Think Globally
3. Are Communications Appropriate Technology?
SUMMARY: TOWARDS BECOMING EARTHHEALERS
A. EXPERIENCES IN HUMAN GIFTS
1. Concentrate on Fishing
2. Secrets of the Gurgling Creek
3. Enjoying the Roadside Wildflowers
4. Taste of Home-Grown Fruit
5. Creature Teacher
B. REFLECTIONS ON IMITATING CHRIST
1. Jesus as Perfect Ecologist
Jesus as Teacher
Jesus as Healer
Jesus as Activist
2. Potential Earth Healers as Imperfect People
Burnout & Dropout
3. Earth as Teacher
1. The Challenge of Cooperation with Others
2. Spiritual Direction
3. Relativity of Eco-spirituality
SUMMARY: UTILIZING RENEWABLE PERSONAL RESOURCES
A. EXPERIENCES OF VITALITY
1. Fascinating Insects
2. Engaging in Nature's Conversations
3. Visiting the Summer Kitchen
4. Delighted by Wild Plums
5. Appreciating the Foliage of Summer
B. REFLECTIONS ON THE SOURCE OF INSPIRATION
1. The Spirit as Source of Inspiration
2. The Trinity as God's Self-Communication
3. Enthusiasm: The God Within
4. The Triune God at Work in Us
5. Special Triune Character to All Activities
1. Environmental Actions: Doing Wilderness Retreats
2. God's Grandeur
3. Discerning the Spirit
SUMMARY: PRESERVING AND ENHANCING OUR ENTHUSIASM
A. EXPERIENCES THAT ARE COMMUNAL
1. The Joyful Valleys
2. Autumn's First signs: Flocking birds
3. The Smell of Silage
4. The Taste of "Joy‑foam" at Sorghum Time
5. The Virginia Reel
B. REFLECTIONS ON FORMING A COMMUNITY OF HARVESTERS
1. Cosmic Community
2. Pentecost, Church and Community
3. Liturgy, Community and Communion
4. God, Community and Person
1. Environmentalism and Churches
2. Prayer and Community Action
3. Communal Discerning the Spirit
SUMMARY: PREPARING FOR COMMUNITY ACTION
A. EXPERIENCE OF SHARING
1. Gazing at the Harvest Moon
2. Sounds of Coming and Going
3. The Scent of Wet Autumn Leaves
4. Flowing Water Refreshes the Soul
5. Piled Leaves for Romping
B. REFLECTIONS ON MOVIG TO FORGIVENESS
1. Forgiveness: Total or Partial
2. Sacraments of Life
3. Radical Sharing With Others
4. Subjectivity and Deeper Mystery
1. Forgive Polluters?
2. A Green "Our Father"
3. Discerning Correct Communal Decisions (Part II)
SUMMARY: PROPER COMMUNAL ACTIONS
A. EXPERIENCE OF THE NEW CREATION
1. Autumn Landscape and Memories
2. The Haunting Bay of the Coon Hounds
3. Apples Stored in the Root Cellar
4. Assembling at Thanksgiving
5. Cosmic Hymn of Praise
B. REFLECTIONS ON PREPARING OUR EARTH
1. Establishing our Home
2. All have a Right to Work
3. Visions and Realistic Dreams
4. A New Creation: A New Heaven and New Earth
5. Other Creatures
1. Environmental Actions: Recycling
2. Establishing a Consecrated Home
3. Added Content to Our Thanksgiving
SUMMARY: NEW HEAVEN AND NEW EARTH
A. EXPERIENCE OF LIFE EVERLASTING
1. Glistening Razor Fence at Manchester Prison
3. The Humble Christmas Cedar Tree
4. Providing Christmas Treats
5. A Time for Everything
B. REFLECTIONS ON ANTICIPATING THE EVERLASTING LIFE
1. A Third Level of Growth: Seeing God in All Things
2. Catalysts of Change
3. Consecrated HERE: Promise or Peril
4. Consecrated for Healing: HERE, NOW and WE
5. Our Journey in Faith
1. Examples of Stewardship
2. Final Prayer
3. Attaining Love of God
SUMMARY: EARTHHEALING IS TRINITARIAN
It is now becoming self-evident to anyone who looks out and observes the environmental conditions at our doorstep that this Earth is in trouble. But mere observation is not enough; we can and must do something about it. This recognition that we can address the situation both as individuals and as a community of concerned citizens is the basic thesis of this book.
My intent is not to repeat countless reports and books on these environmental problems, e.g., global warming and its after effects, harmful air and water pollutants, threat and extinction of plant and animal species, desertification, spread of invasive plant species, and on and on. Rather, the purpose here is to work within the confines of limited resources and the urgency of the situation, and discover the motivational energy required both individually and collectively to address these environmental problems effectively. Granted the task is formidable and our efforts seemingly feeble. However, we must discover the spiritual wherewithal to overcome the temptations to deny the situation, withdraw from the battle, and excuse ourselves from the fight through some form of false humility.
In order to address the response to the planetary problems confronting us, we need to bring all resources to bear on current environmental issues. From a technical standpoint this is being done by coauthoring a companion work: Healing Appalachia: Sustainable Living through Appropriate Technology, by this author and Paul Gallimore (University Press of Kentucky, 2007). That book emphasizes what can be done technically through practical and proven appropriate technologies, most of which we have had personal experience in demonstrating and implementing.
Here I deal with motivation and will power. You may wonder why this eco-spirituality takes the personal experiential route and refrains from discussing what experts think about the subject. I am not one to critique others, only to affirm what I find meaningful over four-decades of direct environmental practice. Thus this presentation is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but a total encounter (heart, head and hands) with our wounded Earth. If you do not borrow your eco-spirituality from another, you may find this helpful. Your experience of our Earth as well as your place of residence and culture becomes the grounding of your own spirituality -- and I am confident we have much more in common than you have with any borrowed eco-spirituality you may find. Discover, refine and proclaim your own eco-spirituality.
Along with acquiring an individually appropriated eco-spirituality is a focus on will power, not just concern about environmental problems, but discovering the power to help restore harmony and balance in our world. Authenticity is the key, and an authentic eco-spirituality requires our free choice. We do not have much time but can make the best of what we have. Through mutual encouragement we can overcome the obstacles that stand in the path of becoming effective healers of Earth. And overcoming obstacles becomes a major focus of this book in order to preserve and enhance the enthusiasm required to carry on the work ahead. Our spiritual growth involves finding and overcoming these barriers and helping others to do the same.
Ahead of us are three categories of healers. The first is a broader audience of people who are concerned about saving the planet through their cooperative efforts (the ecologically-minded world citizens); the second grouping is those who incorporate this task within their own religious and spiritual traditions and commit themselves as the "People of God" to the mission ahead; the third is generally Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, Oriental, and mainline Protestant) who are consecrated through the oneness of baptism and see Earthhealing as a sacred mission.
We want to speak to all three levels and neglect no one who is concerned about healing this wounded planet. Forming a broad-based collaboration that includes all people of good will is a major challenge. But an overly generalized approach does not get to the heart of the issue. We seek to discover here a personal presence of the Divine who is always calling us to deeper and deeper levels of involvement or "mission." We need to be open -- to mystery, suffering, compassion, the poor, our powerlessness, the tools at hand, prayer, inspiration, collaborative support, forgiveness, mortality, and an eternal future.
Our religious values enter into our spirituality and that is why each of us must spell out exactly where we stand at any given time. In fact, our stand or position at a given moment is somewhat "artificial" for we are people always on the move. Thus our eco-spirituality is in process of deepening -- and this can be disconcerting, if we seek to give it precise ironclad dimensions. So in the temporary analysis, this audience is a restless one that accepts its own restlessness as deeply ecological, and learns to be energized through this restless Spirit.
No one starts with a tabula rasa; at any given time we all have a spirituality. For the sake of transparency in my eco-spiritual development, the following are some assumptions that I make as author. These assumptions are colored by the months of a year in which spiritual growth occurs. Furthermore, these basic assumptions have been refined through these reflections.
January -- All creation involves a mystery. This is a mystery of a child in the world of wonder now moving out into an ever expanding universe filled with ever deeper mysteries -- within us, surrounding us, and far beyond us. An ever deepening mystery is whether we have the internal and social resources to save our wounded planet and in the short time allotted.
February -- Earth is in trouble, and the scientific evidence for this fact is irrefutable. We cannot deny the matter, escape from the scene, or excuse ourselves from the battle. As inhabitants of this Earth we must do something about it; we must "make hay while the sun shines." A pertinent eco-spirituality makes us beacons of hope, not harbingers of doom.
March -- We need to be compassionate. To suffer with another means that we do not distance ourselves from our troubled Earth but are people with a heart. It is important that we seek out model agents of change who are not cold but rather compassionate about the way they proceed. Compassion is not easily found but an eco-spirituality can discover and foster it through merciful deeds.
April -- We are sensitive to our poor Earth and to poor people. This sensitivity means we are aware of the time, place and total community of beings with whom we are in contact. Exclusivity is not in keeping with who we are as Earthhealers, and so our compassion goes out to all including poor folks in distant lands as well as at home. Eco-justice and social justice are one.
May -- Our closeness to Earth helps empower us. In spring, we are more inclined to touch the soil (Earth), thus receiving a sense of power and new life. The lowly must arise and take charge, but this involves coming to an understanding wherein power resides. Eco-spirituality includes an element of hope and radical empowerment, even when we are aware of our apparent powerlessness.
June -- Tools of change must be technologically appropriate. Characteristics include those technologies that are low-cost, people-friendly, ecologically benign, and community enhancing. We are empowered to bring about a planetary transformation that is achieved through modern communications and transportation systems. An authentic eco-spirituality bears Good News.
July -- In prayer we look to Christ. A Christian realizes that the work ahead requires prayer at all times for improving our mission of Earthhealing. We affirm that Jesus is the perfect ecologist whose personal qualities can overcome all the barriers that hinder our journey of faith. A Christian eco-spirituality leads to a more balanced manner of personal performance.
August -- Enthusiasm is a key to healing. Through the inspiration of the Spirit we are able to continue in our mission. Through the eyes of faith we see our time, place and social community -- a deepening insight that involves risks and sacrifice. Our confidence in the Spirit allows us to face reality, challenge creature comforts, and renew our enthusiasm, which is at the heart of a maturing eco-spirituality.
September -- Healers must collaborate. We cannot act alone and apart from others. An essential direction is to seek and find an affirming community that will support and give the healer the nourishment needed to continue the valuable work ahead. The collaboration must be reciprocal and ongoing and is founded in a deep trust in the power of the Almighty.
October -- Forgiveness invites new life and a fresh start. The wrongdoing that has afflicted our Earth must be exposed, confessed, and then overcome by a forgiving heart. Our awakened social consciousness involves a radical sharing of resources at all levels from the local, through regional and national communities, and finally with the global family.
November -- Death, the gateway to new life, does not hinder our present efforts. For the Christian there is life after death, a personal resurrection, and a New Heaven and a New Earth in which we are invited to be partakers, not mere observers of the wonderful works of God. A future-conscious eco-spirituality involves realistic dreams and visions of a world where basic needs are met.
December -- The journey is one of faith. Earthhealing is a mission that allows us to reflect back upon where we came from and ahead on where we intend to go. This becomes an advent in our lives for the coming of the Lord's Kingdom is connected with the rebuilding of our Earth. Mystery takes on an ever-deepening perspective for the efforts we undertake have lasting value.
Goals & Methodology
Assumptions are meant to be a sketch of where the author is coming from. The risk is that this approach will turn the reader off; but, on the other hand, for those who choose to continue, it helps clarify goals and methodology used in the text. These assumptions are basic; I do not shift goals from season to season or place to place, but the emerging goals can deepen and become more articulate over time. Ultimately, as a believer, I seek to find God in all things (all creation) and have confidence that this will be achieved (Matthew 7:7-8), for in seeking on our faith journey we find results -- but that takes a lifetime.
An intermediate goal pertains to my understanding of my particular healing mission in relation to our wounded Earth. Being called to serve God opens me to seek improvement even while I do the best I can at a given time. How can I be more effective and help others on their respective journeys? Knowing my mission better, encourages those companions on the journey of faith to know their mission with ever deepening insight. On a more immediate level an eco-spirituality fosters everyday actions done with attention and care. This work becomes a blueprint for daily thought and action. If the work is urgent, an economy of time means that every moment counts. We seek to find God in our journey of faith through our particular calling reflected in our daily activities. Recording the high points of these activities becomes a meaningful exercise in the growth of our eco-spirituality.
When near to Earth we feel its vibrations in our own particular way -- requiring at times scientific description and at times poetic expression that is uniquely our own. Through concern and inspiration, my spirituality involves all that went before -- rural upbringing, love of nature, scientific training, the Spiritual Exercises, appropriate technology demonstration, and environmental resource assessments. The combination of these experiences helps create my own eco-spirituality, different from that of others, but capable of being radically shared with others, for these experiences are God's gifts that cannot be held within.
Experiential phase: Some may say their individual spirituality is the only way, and may even create an elitist atmosphere framed for others to imitate. That is not the intention here. Profess your unique contribution. Realize that a seasonal and regional consciousness is also critical to closeness to our Earth (See my book, Down-to-Earth Spirituality, Sheed & Ward, 1992). Know the times, the seasons, and the immediate social relations with others for these profoundly color your respective eco-spirituality. This experiential phase is similar to the Ignatian "prelude" (Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius) of involving oneself in the particular setting for prayerful meditation with emphasis on sight, sound, taste, aroma and touch.
Action phase: The third component of an eco-spirituality are the concrete results of our reflections -- practical applications that are called forth. It is a challenge to translate understanding into loving service for others. Through actions we concretely verify the reasoning process. There are three types: environmental actions that are field tested and deal with preserving, protecting and healing exercises on an individual or corporate level (e.g., initiate recycling processes); individual tried and true prayer or spiritual exercises to help uplift us and cause us to grow spiritually; and problematic areas worthy of continued or future reflection.
Thus each month could be regarded as having experiential, reflective and applied components, and these are based on our environmental experience. By considering the months in sequence we should arrive at an authentic eco-spirituality..