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Franciscan Ecological Wisdom: Weekly Summary

Franciscan Ecological Wisdom

Saturday, May 23, 2020
Summary: Sunday, May 17 — Friday, May 22, 2020

Our common home is also God’s own house, permeated by the Spirit of God from the dawn of creation, where the Son of God pitched his tent in the supreme event of the incarnation. —Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam (Sunday)

Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. —Pope Francis (Monday)

We cannot jump over this world, or its woundedness, and still try to love God. We must love God through, in, with, and even because of this world. (Tuesday)

Without a sense of the inherent sacredness of the world—in every tiny bit of life and death—we struggle to see God in our own reality, let alone to respect reality, protect it, or love it. (Wednesday)

For all its presumed innocence, this way of life lived by well-off North Americans is both unjust to those who cannot attain this lifestyle and destructive of the very planet that supports us all. —Sallie McFague (Thursday)

We’re the only creature who can decide not to do something we’re capable of doing. That’s our superpower, even if we exercise it too rarely. —Bill McKibben (Friday)

 

Practice: What Happens When You Plant a Tree?

While we may continue to practice physical distancing from other humans, most of us can still safely spend time in nature. The Journal of Health Psychology confirms what Franciscans and mystics have long known: interacting with nature is a great stress reliever. Just thirty minutes of gardening lowers the cortisol released during stress-induced fight-or-flight responses. Today’s practice, written by poet, writer, and educator Trevien Stanger for the book Order of the Sacred Earth, invites us to make a very specific contemplative contribution by planting trees.

Ethnobotanist, author, and Potawatami elder Robin Kimmerer asserts, “We need acts of restoration, not only for polluted waters and degraded lands, but also for our relationship to the world. We need to restore honor to the way we live, so that when we walk through the world we don’t have to avert our eyes with shame, so that we can hold our heads high and receive the respectful acknowledgment of the rest of [the] earth’s beings.” [1] . . .

I contend that every individual can participate in [the] Great Turning, and that one of the great challenges of our time is for each of us to figure out how and where we plug into this psycho-spiritual current. . . . I, for one, plant trees. . . . In my more recent work as an environmental studies professor at a community college in Vermont, I’ve had a hand in planting just shy of 100,000 trees over the past 12 years. . . .

What happens when you plant a tree? What happens when you wield a shovel in one hand (a human artifact) and a tree (a provisional mystery) in the other? What happens when you dig a hole (a Kali-like destruction) and plant a tree within it (an act of creativity)? What happens when you learn about your local ecology not just as an observer, but also as a participant? What happens when you embrace the wildness of a tree-being and integrate it into the semi-wild streets and streams of your local community? What happens when you crack open your isolated sense of self and plant within your heart this symbol of our ever-branching inter-being? What happens when you consider your actions in terms of your ecological and cultural legacy? What happens when you move beyond your concerns of today and inquire as to what type of ancestor you will be? Nelson Henderson posits that “. . . one true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” [2] Under whose shade do you sit beneath today? Whose shade shall you help gift for tomorrow?

References:
[1] Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (Milkweed Editions: 2013), 195.

[2] Wes Henderson shared his father’s advice in Under Whose Shade: A Story of a Pioneer in the Swan River Valley of Manitoba (W. Henderson & Associates: 1986, ©1982).

Trevien Stanger, “Tree Planter,” Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action, Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, and Jennifer Listug (Monkfish Book Publishing Company: 2018), 184-186.

For Further Study:
Bonaventure, The Major Legend of Saint Francis, 8.6. See Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2 (New City Press: 2000)

Ilia Delio, Franciscan Prayer (Franciscan Media: 2004)

Pope Francis, Laudato Si′: On Care For Our Common Home (Our Sunday Visitor: 2015)

Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, The Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si′ (Liturgical Press: 2019)

Sallie McFague,The Universal Christ and Climate Change, “The Universal Christ,” Oneing, vol. 7, no. 1 (Spring 2019)

Bill McKibben, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? (Wildfire: 2019)

Richard Rohr, with Brie Stoner and Paul Swanson, “Environmental Awareness Rooted in Franciscan Spirituality,” Another Name for Every Thing, season 3, episode #7 (April 4, 2020), audio podcast.

Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of St. Francis of Assisi, (Franciscan Media: 2014)

Richard Rohr, “Franciscan Mysticism: A Cosmic Vision,” the Mendicant, vol. 5, no. 4 (October 2015)

Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019)

Image credit: Legend of St. Francis: 15. Sermon to the Birds (fresco detail), artist unknown, formerly attributed to Giotto di Bondone, c. 1297–1299, Upper Basilica of San Francesco d′Assisi, Assisi, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Saint Francis was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature, and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace. —Pope Francis

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