Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 20, 2019

Earth Concerns News

Earth Charter, Principle 16 by Sister Debbie Timmis, CSJ

The Web of Life and the Sacramentality of the Universe


Last week I attended the NCEA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was pleased to see that the NCEA had  added a AGoing Green@ box to its program, stating: AMaking the NCEA Convention more green is a journey, and NCEA has taken steps to integrate sustainable practices at this year=s event in Indianapolis. Three special sessions which addressed ecological justice and going green are part of this year=s program.@ I was able and happy to attend all three sessions.

I share this thought with you because I think one session, in particular, is close to the heart of the focus of Congregational Chapter 2007, Sacred Mystery Embraces Us. The session used the term  sacramentality. The best definition I can find for the term sacramentality is from the website for Gannon College which defines the term in the following manner: @We believe that we live in a sacred world created by God. For this reason, every tangible element of creation from the natural environment to human persons provides an opportunity to encounter something of God=s presence. Hence, every tangible element of creation can be a sacrament of God. The speaker of this particular session on ecological justice decided on a  hierarchy of sacramentality in contrast to a web of life. This web of life is given voice in our chapter language in the following words: The heart of God, a Trinity of Relationship, holds together all that exists in a communion of relationships that constitutes the web of life. These two ideas held me in a liminal space as hierarchy contrasted with the sacredness of the heart of God beating in the web of life. During  these days of NCEA, I was also holding in my heart and prayer Principle 16 of the Earth Charter which states the following:


!       Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence and peace.

!       Encourage and support mutual understanding, solidarity and cooperation among all peoples and within and among nations.

!       Implement comprehensive strategies to prevent violent conflict and use collaborative problem solving to manage and resolve environmental     conflicts and other disputes.

!       Demilitarize national security systems to the level of a nonprovocative defense posture, and convert military resources to peaceful purposes, including ecological restoration.

!       Eliminate nuclear, biological and toxic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

!       Ensure that the use of orbital and outer space supports environmental protection and peace.

!       Recognize that peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth and the larger whole of which all are a part.


I think the sacramentality of the web of life is echoed in the words of this principle especially in the final point that urges us to ARecognize that peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life and the larger whole of which we are all a part.@ An interesting article I read online, commenting on the book Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing, by Rosemary Radford Ruether, asserted: AThe true common good is not, as the natural law tradition claimed, the good of human interrelationship but of global, even cosmic, cooperation. The nonhuman world is not a tool; it is part of the community that contributes to and benefits from the common good. Its ability to make that contribution must be preserved and respected. The result is an expanded vision of the common good which both respects humans= differences from other creatures and forbids humans to >pull rank= over them. Like John Cobb, Ruether argues that humans= special ability to view the whole web of life grants them profound responsibilities for other creatures but no privileges over them.@ (An Argument for Christian Ecofeminism by Cristina Traina).

Our 2007 Acts of Chapter call us to this Apeace created by right relationships@ in our primary relationships with creation, with the dear neighbor, with each other, with/within the Church and resting in the embrace of Sacred Mystery.


(April 2008)