Do we live with reverence for creation?

What strikes me when I listen to Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” (find it recorded here) is an attitude of reverence…both for nature as created by God, and for every human person as part of that same creation. The poor, the humble, the sorrowful sinner, the bird with the broken wing, the glorious sunset…are all beautiful manifestations of God’s infinite creativity. As such, all can be approached with a gentle reverence that inspires respect and care, rather than judgment and selfish dominion.

So what resonates deeply with me, is the Pope’s assertion that the way we treat nature is a sign of, and even affects, how we treat people. If we take all created things for granted, as items to be used for our own pleasure and financial benefit, it leads us to also objectify our fellow  human beings…to use and abuse them as well. We become disconnected from creation, and unable to relate to those who suffer because of our selfish actions; our vision becomes microscopic, and we only see things as they affect us. 

We forget that everything we receive is gift…air to breathe, the sunrise, fresh food to eat, laughter, joy. When we see such things as rights instead of blessings, we fail to appreciate them. We get caught up in trying to cram our souls full of new gadgets, acquisitions to fill the emptiness that should be filled with gratitude for all we already have. 

  
But what if we tried to live with more simplicity? What if we tried to make our money stretch a little further, so we could have more to share with those who really need it, for whom every dollar counts? We had a Lenten meal at our parish in Sunday, and ate a simple meal of soup and homemade pretzels. All the donations for the meal were given to help build a school for poor children in South America. We watched a little video of these beautiful kids with great big brown eyes, smiling and full of hope as they shared their ambitions. “Yo quiero soy un professor,” (I want to be a teacher) said one little girl. (Forgive me if I spell the Spanish wrong!)

That soup tasted like a million bucks. I wish I had a million to send to those kids. They are the little ones whose world we must take care of. The ones for whom we need to lift our eyes behind the screen of our iPhones to look into the future. Let’s tread gently, and live generously, so that as many of them as possible can grow up to fulfill those dreams, and in turn also make the world a better place. 

5 Simple ways to grow in the virtue of poverty this Lent

  
One of the things my family is trying to do this Lent is to grow in the virtue of poverty, in order to better appreciate our many blessings, and to be able to share them more with others. We were inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si to be more aware of what we consume and to not waste food when so many go hungry. 
Here are some simple ideas you could try as well.

1. Unless you plan to freeze it right away, make just enough food for your meal. Often leftovers get left for too long and end up in the compost! Or if you do have leftovers, take them for lunch instead of eating out at work. 

2. Try to use up what’s in your cupboards, instead of always buying more food. Sometimes this is a good creative challenge! This week I made French Onion soup with my many onions, Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf with a can of pumpkin in the cupboard, Lentil Dahl and rice with my cans of tomatoes and coconut milk, gnocchi with frozen peas and rosé sauce, and some good old beans and toast! Instead of a fancy salad, we had slices of apples or fresh veggies on the side. 

3. Eat more vegetarian. Things like beans, rice and veggies are cheap and nutritious, and can be cooked in tons of different delicious ways. Go on Pinterest for inspiring yummy photos.

4. Make use of the last drop…After my morning coffee I’ve been pouring that little extra bit of coffee from my French press into a glass Starbucks bottle, then adding a little milk and sugar and putting it in the fridge. Voilá! Now my afternoon coffee is ready! 

5. Don’t buy anything unnecessary. Shop from your closet. Find those things you forgot about in the back of your wardrobe and combine them in new ways. Enjoy the liberty of choosing to be happy without those new shoes or that new gadget. You are bigger than that. Our hearts weren’t meant do be filled with mere stuff. 

Perhaps it does not appeal to give up things or be frugal, but we have to ask ourselves, if we can’t give up even little things for a short time, are we truly free? Also, the less we “need” the more we can give, and the richer we truly are. 

What do you like to do to live more simply?

Earthbound

Tonight my Dad and I were having
one of those great philosophical conversations
over dinner, salad dressing with fresh garlic
and ideas full of flavour
We talked about Pope Francis’ words
about the earth our sister, our mother, our home

Dad remembered the story of the first astronaut
who spent 4 hours out in space
two circles around the earth
and came home sick and depressed 
away from the earth’s heartbeat
the electromagnetic pulse all we require to stay alive
Now spacesuits have this little beat built in
the heart of our home
pulsing close to her children in space

As for me, I have no desire to see
the outside of my mother’s womb
the shining blue roundness of the earth
gleaming against the blackness of space

I am happy to be a child of the earth
bare feet on the dirt
toes in the grass
A humble creature made of dust
and living among the flowers

I know, without seeing the stars up close
that I’ve got a spark of that eternal fire within me
My soul travels to realms afar
within the confines of this blue egg
this delicate haven of life
in the blackness

I have no desire to leave my mother’s house
until I travel to see my Father
A journey without fear
a coming home from home
a further blossoming
into Life.

  

“Do Not Be Afraid of Tenderness.”

These were words Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio spoke during the homily at the Mass inaugurating his pontificate as Pope Francis. They echoed the first words of Pope John Paul II: “Do not be afraid,” spoken when the threat of Cold War still loomed. But they have a distinctive twist that catches my heart, and seems particularly relevant for today’s world.

How often, in the business of our daily lives, in our many interactions with neighbours, strangers, co-workers, friends and even family members, are we mindful of the need for tenderness? Is it not easier to be brusque, dismissive, too busy to care, too busy to listen when someone is longing to open up their heart?

And yet listening attentively, with tenderness and understanding, is a powerful gift which can change someone’s whole day, and perhaps much more. It makes the other feel valued, respected, and cherished.

It is a deep need of our souls to be received like this, to feel that we are journeying through life accompanied by friends and family who love us, and by fellow human beings who value us. I can’t express how much it means for me that people I love take the time, even over the phone, to listen to my joys and struggles, to encourage me and console me.

This kind of tenderness is a gift we can all give. It affirms the sacredness of the other, that they have value and are worth our time…worth dropping everything for a moment for. In our materialist “time is money” culture this tender listening is so needed. It is what deepens relationships and builds community. It is what binds us together no matter what our culture, finances or background, bringing unity in diversity.

I hope that we can extend this attentiveness to people beyond our immediate circle of friends. To the person waiting with you at the bus stop. To the grocery clerk or banker. To the homeless man you see every day. To the neighbour who needs a smile and a kind word. And to our spouse and children when we are tired and don’t feel like it. This is perhaps the hardest one.

It is difficult to be truly present to the little ones who tramp around all day demanding it. But it’s so important to have special moments together, even if they are brief. There is an add on the bus for helping troubled youth that says something like, “Tell kids they matter. They’ll believe you.” Listening to our children’s little stories, as well as those of other people we meet in our day, is a way of telling them they matter.

So in our busy, individualistic world, more concerned with productivity and money than relationships, don’t be afraid to take time for tenderness.

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