Thursday, December 25, 2014

Carmelite Spirituality

"At the Fountain of Elijah" (1999) by Wilfrid McGreal is part of the Traditions of Christian Spirituality series. In typical fashion, the book provides a fascinating and entertaining introduction and overview of the Carmelite spiritual tradition.

The book begins by providing some historical background to the Carmelite order. The Carmelites began in the 12th century when a group of pilgrims and hermits settled on Mt. Carmel in Israel seeking to live a more authentic spiritual life. Mt. Carmel was a place of historic significance and this spiritual idea took hold of many followers. Mt. Carmel after all, had been the home of Elijah the prophet and the mountain was also seen as a place of abundance and beauty. Returning to Europe, Pope Innocent IV approved their way of life which focused on contemplation but also included a deep commitment to a communal life and service to the community.

What is it about the Carmelite tradition that attracts many today? McGreal quotes an American Carmelite who writes:

"The Carmelite tradition speaks to those who long to be apart, to separate from a smothering existence. the tradition offers the lure of wilderness, mountain retreat, vast expanses of desert. In solitude, in a place apart, we searchers hope to hear our heart's desires more clearly, to reassess life, to dream, to be nourished by hidden springs, to meet the One whom others speak of with great assurance. Those who are drawn by the Carmelite tradition are often pilgrims to places unknown, trusting the testimony of others who have taken the same ancient path" (pg. 13).

That phrase a "smothering existence" strikes home! Who today cannot relate to that in our present day world filled with gadgets, noise, and our culture's maniacal stress on speed?

As in other volumes in this series, the reader is also introduced to the major spiritual figures in the tradition. Speaking for myself, I have to say that I find this one of the real strengths of the Traditions of Christian Spirituality series. For the Carmelites this includes Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, John of St. Samson, Lawrence of the Resurrection, Therese of Lisieux Edith Stein and Titus Brandsma. These are fantastic chapters and provide wonderful overviews of some terrific spiritual luminaries. You get bit sized nuggets on each writer, and learn about such themes as the dark night of the soul and the practice of the presence of God.

Wilfrid McGreal has done us a great service in writing about the Carmelite tradition from the 12th century to the present. The reader gets a taste for the Carmelite Rule, history and some of its major figures. The book is well written and easy to read and I wish it was twice the size! Part of me is a Carmelite as I resonate to the themes of Teresa and St. John of the Cross.

This volume and series belongs in every seminary, church library, and students interested in the history of spirituality. Really good! A bibliography guise the reader to other important Carmelite literature.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Augustinian Spirituality

“Our Restless Heart” by Thomas Martin, is part of the Traditions of Christian Spirituality series and covers the Augustinian Tradition. Augustine had a towering impact over Western Christianity as no other, and his only real rival was St. Thomas Aquinas. Augustine is a fascinating and talented figure-a gifted theologian, writer, poet, bishop, and monk whose intellectual and spiritual legacy is claimed by Catholic and Protestant alike. Who was Augustine and why is the Augustinian legacy important today? These very questions “Our Restless Heart” tries to answer.

The opening chapter-and perhaps the most important chapter in the book-provides an overview of Augustine’s spiritual vision. There are important historical facts such as Augustine’s early life, relationship with his mother Monica and son Deodatus, and finally his famous conversion. Augustine’s celebrated quote that his heart was restless until he found his rest in God is seen by Martin as a metaphor of “the journey” (peregrinato) and key to understanding Augustinian spirituality (pg. 25). This is a same sense of "journey" that we find in Biblical accounts such as in Abram’s call and in classical literature such as Homer’s Odyssey. The call to grow, the leave the familiar, and to reach beyond  to the unknown.  

Chapter two examines the Rule of St. Augustine, The Praeceptum, which covered the key aspects of monastic life; the basis cf common life; prayer; moderation and self denial; safeguarding chastity and fraternal correction; the care of the community; asking pardon and forgiving offenses; governance and obedience; and observance of the rule. The key charism of the Augustinian Tradition is love where love of neighbor and unity reflect God’s love for us. This is a great chapter as it shows the uniqueness of the Augustine Rule.

The third and fourth chapter examine how the Augustine order reinvented itself and became part of the Mendicant reforms. Chapter five-is one of the most fascinating in the book-and demonstrates how the Catholic Humanists and Protestant Reformers found inspiration in different parts of Augustine, claiming the Bishop of Hippo as their own. It is a tribute to depth of Augustine that Desiderius Erasmus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jerome Seripando call all claim to different parts of the Augustan cannon. This is best demonstrated when John Calvin wrote “It is Augustine who is the best and most faithful witness of all antiquity whom we most often cite” (pg. 127). That statement could have easily been written by the other three reformers. 

This is a great introduction to St. Augustine and to many of his theological and spiritual writings. Writing a book on Augustine is no easy task and to write a fresh and interesting book on Augustine and the entire Augustinian tradition is remarkable achievement. I really enjoyed this book and it left me asking for more.

Let me conclude this review with a quote from Augustine, the Doctor of Grace himself, as it reflects on the kind of person he was:

"What do I want: What do I desire: What do I burn for? Why am I sitting here? Why do I live? there’s only one reason: so that we may live together with Christ. This is my intense desire, this is my honor, this my richness, this my joy, this my glory…I DO NOT WANT TO BE SAVED WITHOUT YOU” (pg. 160).

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Benedictine Spirituality

"Prayer and Community" (1998) by Columba Stewart is another title in the Traditions of Christian Spirituality series. The volume covers the Benedictine tradition, the largest monastic tradition in Christian monastic orders and tells the important story of one of the greatest laypersons in the history of the Church.

The significance and impact of Benedict and his rule was massive and presented the Christian experience in a new way. The Benedictines transformed monasticism from a solitary and often wandering tradition into a communal brother and sisterhood highlighted by a permanent location and a daily rule of work and prayer. Benedict put on end to the Celtic "rule" which in his eyes was too loose and unorganized. Benedict replaced the Celtic notion of wandering with stability as he felt the spiritual life could only flourish within a fixed structure and rule of life.

And what a "system" Benedict produced! Benedictine houses required each monk agree to lifelong poverty, chastity, total obedience to the abbot and the Rule, and a commitment to remain within the order for life. And for Benedictines, the recipe of success was also a unique blend of prayer and work centered around the liturgy of the hours, the lectio divina, personal prayer and silence. The Benedictine houses and monasteries were not just places of worship but also places of learning and culture. Benedictine communities were often linked with sprawling monasteries, farms, industries such as wineries, cheese making and a host of other monastic industries. 

As I have indicated in some of my other reviews in the Traditions of Christian Spirituality series, the best way to learn about the Benedictines is to visit a Benedictine monastery first hand. You will be amazed at how wonderful and enriching the experience can be. Here you will experience the Benedictine charism of hospitality, as well as the unique rhythm of monastic life. To me, this is the great feature about Stewart's book-he summarized the major points of a 15 century old tradition which is still a helpful guide for many today. I mention this only because I was raised in a Protestant home and then in my twenties went to a Benedictine monastery in up state New York and experienced monastic life first hand-it was a fantastic experience! This was Holy Cross Monastery which is linked here.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Celtic Spirituality

"And now for something completely different"! 

Yours truly has agreed to review several of the books in the Traditions of Christian Spirituality series. This provides a great opportunity to discuss some of the great spiritual traditions which surrounded the Celtic tradition including the Benedictine, Augustinian and Dominican to name just a few! So stay turned for some Continental overviews as we step out of the Celtic world for a bit. 

But as you would expect, I must begin these reviews with the book on the Celtic tradition. 

Journeys on the Edges (2000) is part of the Traditions of Christian Spirituality series by Orbis books. As indicated in other reviews in this series, the overall aim is to reveal the breadth and depth of Christian spirituality. Journey on the Edges (JOE) highlights the unique contribution of the Celtic tradition and primarily focuses on Ireland although readers will be aware that the Celtic tradition extended throughout Britain and into Europe, making headway even into Italy.

The title is appropriately selected, for as I read and re-read JOE I felt as if I was on a journey and the book moves at a fast pace. First, the author dispels some of the popular misconceptions surrounding Celtic spirituality. JOE debunks the notion that there was ever a unique Celtic spirituality or even a unique “Celtic Church’ which some writers believed grew apart from the Roman Catholic Church. Then O’Loughlin discusses some of the key elements to the Celtic point of view. From St.Augustine the Celts received a sacramental view of the earth and universe. From Eucherius they learned of monastic model of tranquility and from Cassian they learned principles of desert spirituality. Clearly, these monastic, desert values fit in well to the rural calm throughout most of Ireland and the model flourished. 

The book then moves on to discuss how many Celtic writers thought of themselves as living of the edge of the world, and of time itself, far away from Rome, the then center of the known world. Anyone who has travelled in Ireland or the Scottish Highlands or islands even today, can understand this sense, of remoteness and timelessness. Try and what that sense of remoteness was like over 1500 years ago!

Other sections of the book discuss key figures and subjects such as the medieval philosopher Eriugena; St. Patrick; St. Brendan; the contribution of penance to Catholic theology; and a discussion of some sermons to assist us to understand the mind of that time. O’Loughlin remarks; “we see a particular vision of the Christian life coming into focus. It is one which finds echoes of the divine order in the human body and external world, and it sees a pattern for life in the earthly life of Jesus. Here the sacramentalism found in learned monastic texts has been brought into the common currency of preaching to women, men and children on a Sunday” (131). What is particularly surprising here-and in contrast to Latin Christianity-is that the divine order is linked with both the human body and the physical world. And here I think lies some of the major contributions of the Celtic spirituality-a spirituality of the body and the physical world-not just of the mind and intellect!

I like this book, it surprises me as I turn the pages and touches on subjects I do not see cited in other books on Celtic spirituality. JOE is not what I expected but I say that in a good sense for I feel it tried to fill in some of gaps which exist in Celtic studies.That being said, JOE has the feel of an academic book, and is a probably best fitted for college or graduate students. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Awake: The Life of Yogananda" Film Review

AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda

This past weekend, my wife and I went to see a new film about
Paramahansa Yogananda, the founder of the Life Realization Fellowship. The film, AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda, is a well produced and colorful film, lasting about an hour and a half and provides an overview of the life and work of Paramahansa Yogananda.

You might be wondering what this has to do with Celtic Christianity? No, Yogananda was not born in Cork, Ireland, nor did he speak any Gaelic! However, as this is a blog about spirituality, and as someone interested in learning more about the practice of meditation, Yogananda is an important spiritual figure that one should know. Millions of people, including myself have read Yogananda's "Autobiography of a Yogi"(1946) and benefitted from reading it.  "Autobiography of a Yogi" is a funny and entertaining read, which describes Yogananda's encounters with spiritual men and women, and his coming to America. Not many people in the West were familiar with eastern spirituality in the 1930's but even then, there was an appetite for things Eastern. Yogananda gave thousands of lectures in America and started several communities across America, the main house being in Mount Washington near Los Angeles, California.  Yogananda's broad message was that self-realization was possible through yogic control of the mind and body which anyone could learn and practice.

If you've never read "Autobiography of a Yogi" then seeing this movie provides a fine introduction. The book is ranked as one of the top 100 religious books of the last century. Overall, I felt the film made some great points. Notably, that many Americans remain interested in spiritual practices, and in spiritual practices which include a deep sense of mystery (mysticism) and a kind of spirituality which embraces all aspects of one's self-not just the mind. Translation-many people find meditation and yoga so helpful, attractive and restorative because it is a mind PLUS body spiritually, which adds up to wholeness!

Moviegoers, I would also advise you to take the time to read the book which can be found in almost every second hand book shop. One sees it everywhere! The book provides a nice introduction to Hindu spiritual literature-the Vedas, Upanishads and the Mahabarata. And the book also has those fascinating and hilarious accounts of  holy saints; the Perfume Saint, who could conger scents at will; the Tiger Swami, who wrestled and defeated tigers; and the Levitating saint. You will also want to read about Yogananda's meeting with the Catholic Saint, Therese Newmann, who ate nothing but a communion wafer daily for years. And of course, you will learn about Yogananda's great teachers; Lahiri Mahasaya and Swami Sri Yukteswar. Much of this is passed over in AWAKE!

To be honest, having read the book, I was disappointed by the movie-which came off like a long ad for the Self-Realization Fellowship. I did enjoy aspects of the movie such as the old videoclips of Yogananda interspersed with comments by Steve Jobs, George Harrison and Deepak Chopra.  I also appreciated learning more about Yogananda's meeting with Gandhi.

Surprisingly, you can also learn something more about the Bible by encountering Yogananda.
Yogananda was well read in the Bible and expressed a reverence for Jesus, who he referred to as "the Galilean Master". Yogananda also wrote a commentary on the Gospels (something I wish I knew about when I was in seminary) called "The Second Coming of Christ" which many have find to be a fascinating blend of Western and Eastern thought. It's unlike any biblical commentary I have ever read and I found many of the interpretations to be fresh and new. For example, Yogananda interprets the second coming of Christ, as Christians living in the world and being Christ in the world. This seems to me a needed compliment to interpretations focused on a literal return of Christ.

A trailer for the film can be found here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Number 5: The Carmina Gadelica

Coming in at number five on my top five books on Celtic Christianity is the Carmina Gadelica!

If you'd like to know why so many people are attracted to Celtic Christianity and spirituality this book is for you. Carmina Gadelica, "the songs of the Gales", is a massive collection or prayers and songs in the oral tradition by Alexander Carmichael from way back in the 1800s. Fearing that much of the oral tradition of prayers would be lost, Carmichael travelled throughout Scotland and wrote them down. And what Carmichael collected was simply amazing stuff!

Reading these prayers, one sees that the Celtic mind was God-intoxicated, and God was present and felt everywhere and was "behind" every event. With each page and prayer, one realizes God consciousness at every turn and event, from getting up at sunrise, till sunset, and everything in between! Theologically we would call the Celtic mindset panentheistic-God was in everything.

Fast forward to today, and consider that for most contemporary Christians, prayers are limited to church or the home and typically formal. Frankly, such common prayer seems quite canned and overly formalistic.

Carmina Gadelica is how true Christian prayer was meant to be; spontaneous, lively, of the moment, and in every place. We can thank our Celtic brothers and sisters for reminding us that Christianity and the church is not something linked to buildings and similarly that prayers and not just linked to formal readings each Sunday. 

This volume is a must for any serious student of Celtic Christianity. Read, savor, and be proud of the Celtic tradition of prayer

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Number 4: The Wisdom of the Celtic Saints

Ed Sellner's "Wisdom of the Celtic Saints" (2008) pulls in as number four on my list of top five books on Celtic Christianity. I give it this ranking for "chronological reasons"! After having some of the history, and primary sources under your belt (books 1-3), you are now ready to launch into the great hagiography (lives of the saints) which makes up so much of Celtic Christianity.

And here Sellner delivers the proverbial home run-slams it out!

I love this book! Several features about "Wisdom of the Celtic Saints" keep drawing me back to the book.  First, the book is beautifully laid out with cool maps and drawings of the saints. These remind the reader these accounts are about real people who had real struggles and that we can learn important lessons from them even though they lived centuries ago.

Second, the introduction provides of one the best and most concise introductions to Celtic Christianity I have ever read. Right out nails it!

And third-and this is the meat of the book-Sellner provides you with lively sketches of the lives and wisdom of 27 Celtic saints. Some of these saints you will have heard of: Aidan of Lindisfarne, Brendan of Clonfert, Bridit of Kildare, Columban of Luxeuil, Columcille of Iona, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, David of Wales, Gall of St. Gallen, Hild of Whitby, Kevin of Glendalough, Ninian of Whithorn, Patrick of Armagh. Others, Canair of Bantry Bay just to name one, probably not. Nonetheless, these will be people you'll be glad you know something about.

By the time you finish "Wisdom of the Celtic Saints" you will be amazed of the deep, deep spirituality of Celtic Christianity and realize that this is a "brand" of spirituality that has sharp contrasts to our own lazy and fat "brand" of Christianity lite! How many of us would leave where we live, jump in a small boat, let it take us where ever the wind blows and start life anew? And even better, you will be able to look to the Celtic saints as "soul friends" who can teach you important lessons and even inspire you.

In the introduction, Mr. Seller notes "Thomas Merton, wrote in a journal a few years before his death in 1968: "I am reading about Celtic monasticism, the hermits, the lyric poets, the pilgrims, the sea travelers, etc. A whole new world that has wait until now is opening up for me". (pg. 15).

In "Wisdom of the Celtic Saints" a whole new Celtic world will open up for you. Grab a pint of Guinness, sit down and read this book!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Number 3: An Introduction to Celtic Christianity

Book number three on the top five books on Celtic Christianity is "An Introduction to Celtic Christianity".

I have to admit it, that I only bought this book because I studied with several of the authors when I was a divinity student at New College, University of Edinburgh-some nostalgia yes!  I recall Dr. James Mackey and Fr. Noel O'Donoghue lecturing on Celtic Christianity back in the late 1980's but honestly did not appreciate their efforts at the time. And FYI, the book is a festschrift in honor of Fr. Noel, who lectured for many years at New College, and was the embodiment of the Celtic monk/scholar. 

That being said, I am very glad to have purchased this book and to have read this fine but choppy work on Celtic Christianity. Several essays in the work stand out for me, including; Professor Mackey, "Is There A Celtic Christianity?"; R.P. Hanson, "The Mission of St. Patrick"; Noel O'Donoghue, "St. Patrick's Breastplate"; M. Nicolson, "Celtic Theology: Pelagius". These essays are worth the price of the book alone and provide wonderful overviews and footholds for the aspiring Celtic student.

A major strength of the book is in the effortless way it transports the reader to the past, and provides one with the tastes, smells, and noises of the Celtic world. As I finished the book, I felt like I do with most good books that I have read. Something in me had been touched and changed, and I felt like I knew and appreciated the Celtic point of view in a new and different way.

One piece of information I found in the book which was particularly fascinating to me and had never encountered before. In the essay on Pelagius, the writer commented that Pelagius's emphasis on the importance of good works, and striving to live a good life, resulted in the founding of new schools, monasteries, and churches throughout Europe. In a sense, it was "Catholic guilt" which caused people to leave the comforts of their own homes, and to build something greater and more significant. And for that the world is a better place. So perhaps some guilt every now and then is not so bad after all! And what a contrast to the lazy, spineless, mindless  "brands" of Christianity one sees advertised on the radio and television. 

A difficult, challenging and satisfying book. Fr. Noel would be proud of the essays included in this work!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Number 2: Celtic Spirituality, Classics of Western Spirituality

My number two book on Celtic Christianity is "Celtic Spirituality" (1999) from the Classics of Western Spirituality series.

The book provides a fantastic overview of the key Celtic texts and sources-no small task! This book literally has it all! It's a one stop shop of original texts which also includes an excellent essay introducing Celtic Spirituality. The latter alone is worth the price of the book. The work is a collaboration of Celtic scholars James Mackey, Oliver Davies and Thomas O'Loughlin. And with these heavy hitters, the book delivers.

"Celtic Spirituality" is neatly divided into several sections, highlighting different aspects of the rich and varied Celtic tradition. It's a Celtic smorgasbord (forgive the close reference to those damned Vikings) so the reader never gets bored. The hagiography section introduces the reader to the traditions of Patrick, Brigit, Brendan, David, Beuno, and Melangell. Great stories and wonderful people! Then the book turns to key monastic texts such as the Preface of Gildas on Penance, the Penitential of Cummean, and the Rule for Monks by Columbanus. Here, you will learn just how rigorous and strict the Celtic rule was and how much a Christian spiritual tradition of the past actually cost people (in a worldly sense). Another section includes a wide range of Irish and Welsh poetry. There are also devotional texts, liturgies, apocrypha, exegesis and homilies. The theology section includes writings by Pelagius, Columba and John Scottus Eriugena.

The collection of texts is breathtaking and magnificent! For Celtic lovers this volume is a keeper and not to be missed. There is so much "good stuff" inside, you will find yourself returning to "Celtic Spirituality" again and again with joy and delight. If you could only have one volume on Celtic Christianity and spirituality on your bookshelf, this may well be the one. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Celtic things.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Five Celtic Christianity books: Number 1: How the Irish Saved Civilization

I was recently asked "what are the top five books on Celtic Spirituality?" Great question and let me try to answer that question. I've had a day to think this over, so let roll out my top five (drum roll please.....)!

My number one book on Celtic Spirituality is Thomas Cahill's "How the Irish Saved Civilization" (1995).  That may come as a surprise to some so let me explain why I've ranked it as my number one. It's at the top of my list because the book does an amazing job pulling together all the main themes of Celtic Spirituality; the history, the key players, the spirituality, and then does a bang up job telling the story is a fascinating and interesting way. And all in 200 or so pages which read like a historical novel.

And there's more! The surprise of "How the Irish Saved Civilization" is that in a remote part of the world (Ireland), a group of monks kept alive the great traditions of the Greeks, Romans, Church fathers and pagan humanists. So while the rest of Europe was wallowing in what we call now the Dark Ages, the Celtic monks kept aflame a great tradition of learning by translating and copying important pieces of literature, philosophy, and theology.

"It is hard to believe" wrote Sir Kenneth Clark, "that for quite a long time-almost a hundred years-western Christianity survived by clinging to place like Skellig Michael, a pinnacle of rock eighteen miles from the Irish coast, rising seven hundred feet out of the sea" (pg.2).

There is of course, more to the story. The life of St. Patrick and his writings against slavery; the Celtic monasteries where monks could marry and women could be Bishops. And there are many parallels with the state and health of the church today.

This is an amazing story and you can find the book almost anywhere at book sales, libraries and on Amazon for pennies.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Praying mantrams

Wanted to share some excellent prayer and meditation resources. Eknath Easawaran wrote a number of books on using "mantrams" (prayers or passages)  from spiritual writers in many religious traditions, and using these in your devotions.

Been reading "Strength in the Storm", Easawaran's book on transforming stress and learning to live in balance. He includes a wonderful Gaelic prayer  called, "I Weave a Silence" (pg. 58) which I presume is from the Carmina Gadelica, that wonderful collection of prayers and songs from the Outer Hebrides.

"I waeve a silence onto my lips
I wave a silence unto my mind.
I weave a silence within my hear.
I close my ears to distractions.
I close my eyes to attractions.
I close my heart to temptations.
Calm me, I Lord, as you stilled the storm.
Stil me, O Lord; keep my from hard.
Let all tumult within me cease.
Enfole me, Lord, in your peace"

You'd be hard pressed to find a better mantram to pray and meditate on than that!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Esther de Waal: An Introduction to Celtic Christianity

I've been thumbing through some of my favorite books on Celtic Christianity and found "God Under My Roof" by the English scholar Esther de Waal. I started reading it again, and was again impressed with the Celtic vision that is presented in this small, but impressionable book. I thought to myself, "this is great stuff!".

Esther de Waal is a prolific writer on both Celtic and Benedictine spirituality. She has written two pivotal books on Celtic Christianity, "The Celtic Way of Prayer" and "The Celtic Vision". Many of de Waal's themes arise from the "Carmina Gadelica", that great collection of prayers and religious poetry from an area in western Scotland called the Hebrides.

Reading the prayers from the "Carmina Gadelica" will both challenge and change your understanding of prayer. Barriers such as the eternal and now will melt away. Prayer is meant to be of the moment, in at all times and places-not just in church building or on Sundays. Put another way, the hell with formality, prayer has to do with the moment and what is going on in the here and now!

Esther de Waal is a distinguished writer whose books have had a significance influence on the public at large and they are definitely worth reading. Recently, Ms. de Waal gave a lecture at St. Paul's Cathedral on Celtic Christianity which I found on I found a Youtube and I am linking here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The latest in excuses

OK let's hear the roll call on excuses for blog lapses. Schedule, work, lack of time, rinse, repeat. So finally getting to one of my New Year's resolutions!

The passing of time has allowed me to spend some time re-reading some of the Celtic classics as I have been penning some book reviews on Amazon and updating some profile data. Constantly amazes me how much the internet landscape is changing. I was somewhat critical and skeptical of this "internet" world in the past, but with each passing week and day, I am convinced the online world will only get bigger, better and more part of everyone's experience.

Re-reading some of the books by J.P. Newell, David Adam and others has made me appreciate the unique Celtic contribution to Christianity and why it represents an "alternative" or foil to what we see practices in Christendom today. The focus on body (as opposed to mind) and the earth and our relationships to the earth are a reminder that our faith is something which is rooted in relationships and interactions with the community around us. This translates to caring for others, caring for the world around us, and being sensitive to the relationships which meet us at every turn.

One would think that after two thousand years, we might know this already. But for some it is a great secret!