Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletDecember 15, 2017

Earth Concerns News

Practical and Spiritual Practices Create Guiding Principles for a Sustainable and Just Human Presence on Earth by Sister Clare Pelkey, CSJ


 The presenters of the Awakening the Dreamer program (about which Sister Lin Neil wrote in her July column) distributed a paper to all who attended. In it was an invitation to design practical and spiritual practices that would enable the participants to participate in creating a guiding principle for humans to espouse in our time: “a sustainable, fulfilling and just human presence on Earth.” The paper listed three guidelines that may be beacon lights for establishing one or more practices that both satisfy and inspire each one of us. The guidelines include the following: Relationship with Self: Spiritual Fulfillment; Relationship with Earth: Environmental Sustainability; Relationship with Others: Community and Social Justice. Some practical and spiritual suggestions are then offered in each category to assist one in choosing that to which he/she is most drawn. I see these guidelines as being very similar to the Communions of our 2007 Acts of Chapter!

 
The first suggestion, listed in Relationship with Self: Spiritual Fulfillment, is to designate a regular daily practice of personal prayer and is the one I have chosen to address in this column.
 
How might a daily personal-prayer practice evoke “a sustainable, fulfilling and just human presence on Earth?” While there are as many ways to pray as there are people, meditation/contemplation is one way of consciously opening one’s self to God. It has been said that even as the vast outer universe continues to expand, the inner universe is also expanding and is infinitely more vast! The Creator exists in both the outer and inner universes. Meditation consists of turning within that inner universe and opening one’s spirit to the Spirit of God who dwells within us. (1 Cor.3:16) It is there that God speaks silently to our heart and inspires our consciousness to action in ways before which we may never have dreamed!
 
In the early days of my novitiate, we were taught the Ignatian method of meditation, using three points from a Scripture passage. I must admit that I was at a loss as to what to do with the points! (Scripture study was not encouraged for anyone but the clergy and a few scholars in pre-Vatican Council II days.) In the early 1970s, feeling drawn to a more contemplative prayer style, I began to make that form my personal prayer. Still in the dark as to any ‘method’ to follow, I chose to sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the local convent and try to be aware of the presence of God. Then In the 1980s, a Centering Prayer Retreat opened my eyes, mind and heart as to how to do contemplative prayer, that to which we have been called as a community for the past few years. For many of us when we first begin contemplation, it seems as if “nothing is happening”! Trying to still the thoughts that keep arising is a constant challenge. A Buddhist nun and teacher, Pema Chodron, tells us we are not to seek anything in contemplation – neither visions, good thoughts nor pleasant feelings, nor are we to fight against thoughts but merely return to an awareness of the presence of God within us. Some spiritual masters encourage focusing on the breath as a help to being aware of the presence of God (Gen. 2:7). This practice has been of great assistance to many. Also, it is helpful to designate a certain time and place for contemplation on a daily basis. This discipline helps the whole person to maintain a steady practice and reap the fruits of prayer. Even to begin with five minutes of contemplative prayer a day may create a hunger to spend more time in the Presence. It often happens that we don’t realize how our prayer is changing us; others notice the change first and will comment that somehow we are different, perhaps calmer, more peaceful, more respectful, more compassionate, slower to react in a negative way, etc. The key is to be faithful to our time of prayer.
 
So what might we expect from our prayer of contemplation? With perseverance, we eventually discover that, rather than trying to come intellectually to answers we are seeking, we are receiving insights and a sense of direction in what we need to know or do. Embracing stillness and silence reaches into our very soul and from the inner silence and stillness, the Spirit is able to evoke both spiritual and practical knowledge we never realized was available to us.
 
With a heightened awareness of the immense beauty, power and importance of Earth, of how much we depend on clean air, pure water, healthy soil and fire to create the energy we need for our homes and transportation, we will be able to discern an area of need to which we are especially drawn. We may choose to join with many others on the grassroots level and take action at online sites such as www.nrdc.org or www.ucsusa.org, thereby becoming part of the movement in creating “a sustainable, fulfilling and just human presence on Earth.”