Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A love letter to the North Saskatchewan River

One of the main reasons I love living in Edmonton is our river valley. We are so blessed to have the
North Saskatchewan River flowing through our metropolis from west to east, and even more blessed that , over many years, our city councillors have protected its banks and made it into the largest urban park in Canada. A string of about 30 municipal parks covers about 18,000 acres, with more than 160 km of maintained pathways for walking, jogging, cycling and other outdoor pursuits.

Over our Christmas and New Year's break, Lee, Shadow-dog and I walked over 60 km along our river, doing what we call a chain walk. Basically, we crossed 11 bridges (some more than once) and walked in 28 parks on both sides of the river, starting at one bridge and walking to the next, returning on the opposite side of the river, except in the parks out west where the trails meander up into neighbourhoods like Rio Terrace, Quesnell Heights, Rhatigan Ridge, and Ramsay. That was our longest walk, almost 10 km from Quesnell Bridge to Terwillegar Footbridge and back.

Here's a list of the parks we hiked through, borrowed from Wikipedia's North Saskatchewan River valley parks system page. Up until now, I didn't even know that some of the parks had special names!

Walterdale Bridge
  • Terwillegar Park - south bank
  • Oleskiw River Valley Park - north bank
  • Whitemud Park (also known as Whitemud Creek)- south bank
  • Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park - north bank
  • Buena Vista Park - north bank
  • William Hawrelak Park - south bank
  • McKinnon Ravine Park - north bank
  • Government House Park - north bank
  • Emily Murphy Park (named for one of Alberta's/Canada's "Famous Five") - south bank
  • Victoria Park - north bank
  • Kinsmen Park - south bank
  • Queen Elizabeth Park - south bank
  • Nellie McClung Park ("Famous Five") - south bank
  • Irene Parlby Park ("Famous Five") - north bank
  • Rossdale Park - north bank
  • Louise McKinney Park ("Famous Five") - north bank
  • Henrietta Muir Edwards Park / Rafters Landing ("Famous Five") - south bank
  • Mill Creek Ravine Park - south bank
  • Gallagher Park - south bank
  • Riverdale Park - north bank
  • Allan Stein Park - north bank
  • Forest Heights Park - south bank
  • Dawson Park - north bank
  • Kinnaird Park and Ravine - north bank
  • Capilano Park - south bank
  • Gold Bar Park - south bank
  • Floden Park - north bank
  • Rundle Park - north bank

We were fortunate that the weather was reasonable (it's reaching into the -30 degrees Celcius range these evenings, with a -35 windchill at the moment) and the skies were blue for the most part. The thing about living here is that if you can adapt to the cold (read, dress properly), there's every reason to get out and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, and there's plenty of beauty to enjoy.

As we walked, I decided that it was time to write a love letter to my river valley.

Dear North Saskatchewan,

I love your
frosty, misty mornings, 

sounds of squirrels and songs of birds,
your still, shining waters,
frozen surfaces and chunks of ice,

your woodpeckers' holes in snags,
tall trees and frost-encrusted shrubs,

your snowy paths and quietly curving trails,
bridges and city views.

Low Level Bridge view

I love walking, hand in my partner's hand,
and the dog's prancing gait
as we meander with you,
North Saskatchewan River,
and return home
with pink cheeks and tired feet.

I love the part you have played
in the lives of those 
who have inhabited your banks and bluffs
for thousands of years.

I am grateful 
for the way you sustain life
from the glaciers 
to Saskatchewan River Forks.

Pileated woodpecker

Thank you
for your water and ice,
for your beauty and serenity
in my hometown
amid the noise of traffic
and the construction of your bridges.

Thank you
for being a refuge,
a nature-haven
for city-weary souls.

May your waters flow

With love and gratitude,

Fort Edmonton Footbridge

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: Enmeshed in God's creation

This week's reflection is brought to you by
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7.

O God,
Your words to the suffering servant
in the book of Isaiah
can also apply to each one of us:

You are my servant,
whom I uphold,
my chosen,
in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit in you
to bring forth justice to my earth.

You will not break those who are bruised
and you will not extinguish any small hope;
you will faithfully bring forth justice.

I am God,
I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you your gifts and talents
to be a light in my world,
to open the eyes of those who cannot see my way,
to free those imprisoned by fear and darkness."

You call us to be mindful
O God,
of your ways in our world,
of how we are enmeshed in your creation.

Help us to hear
and do
what you ask of us!

We need you,
and you tell us that the world needs us
to become your action
for the good of all.

Help us to work together
to bring all of creation
to your light,
your hope,
your freedom.


* * * * * * * 

God is always calling us from our problems toward solutions, and that's what the rest of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home is all about. Not that they will be easy solutions. The reason Pope Francis's letter to the world is something of a hard sell is that, if we are to make it work, it is the wealthy 8% of the world's population who will have to overhaul our lives with an eye to what the planet requires for the survival. We are the ones who will have to rethink our jet-setting vacations, recreational vehicles and over-sized homes. And it comes down to the wire -- will we change willingly, or will the increasingly dangerous climate conditions force change upon us? Australia's wildfires are yet another wake up call that we can't afford to ignore!

How many of us are willing to sacrifice for the common good, and to reduce our ecological footprints so we can live more sustainably? This week we are reflecting on paragraphs 137 to 142 of Laudato Siwhich can be accessed by clicking here and scrolling down.

Before I get into the Pope's discussion of an integral ecology, I'd like to share once again a little piece I came across from Australia's Rolling Stone Magazine (Issue 771, February 2016). David Suzuki, our Canadian environmental scientist and global climate change crusader, an avowed atheist, noted that many of our planet's issues have been separated into different categories, to be handled by different agencies. Suzuki was thrilled by Pope Francis' encyclical, commenting that,

We are enmeshed...
 ...we [environmental activists] act as though [hunger, poverty, social justice, environment] are separate issues. And the Pope doesn't separate them: he says, 'We've spent all our time focused on two relationships: our human relationship with God, and our relationship with each other. But there is a third relationship, and that's our relationship with the rest of Creation.' Thank you, Francis. It's an astounding thing to come out of the Catholic freakin' Church!
Suzuki is right -- the beauty of the Pope's letter to the world is that it underlines, over and over again, the importance of realizing that everything we do impacts life on this planet in some way, and that there are no "separate issues." We are enmeshed in creation, in our world's many issues, in each other's lives.

Paragraph 137 begins with the refrain that everything is closely interrelated (we hear it twice more in these 6 paragraphs!), followed with the reminder that we need to take into account "every aspect of the global crisis" using an integral ecology. In other words, we must look at what is happening to the environment through the lenses of science, culture, politics, technology, faith, health, resource use, equality and solidarity, climate change, economics, everything.

Facing up to the challenge of employing an integral ecology requires "reflection and debate about the conditions required for the life and survival of society" (paragraph 138), not to mention the rest of creation. "Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it" (paragraph 139). And the crises we face are both social and environmental, demanding "an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature." If we can do those three things, our ecology becomes wholistic or integral.

Paragraph 140 notes that researchers have an important role in determining the environmental impacts of human activity, and that they must have the academic freedom to help us to understand the balance of the ecosystems that make up our planet because otherwise, we can't begin to live sustainably. We humans are pretty good at seeing the things that directly impact us, but wear blinders when it comes to impacts on other creatures essential to the world's survival. And often we don't see impacts until much further down the road. Case in point? The past and present use of DDT and other pesticides -- that we now know are found in our own bodies, though they were only supposed to suppress certain "pests."

Pope Francis is trying to make us realize that the economy's "predictable reactions and... standardization with the aim of simplifying procedures and reducing costs" can no longer be the driving force in our earth's development (paragraph 141). The quality life for all creatures and the human institutions that protect justice, peace and freedom for all of creation need to be given higher priority than the many financial and political forces that have overseen our planet and allowed it to fall into ruin.

One major problem, according to paragraph 142, is that lack of respect for the law has become more and more common at all levels. The pope and friends cite the continuing destruction of forests in countries that have clear forest protection legislation, and the importing of drugs to affluent societies from poor regions that suffer because of the drug trade. If we follow world news at all, we can probably name dozens of other examples of international, national, and local laws that are being ignored all the time, or situations where industry or politics find and exploit loopholes in various social and environmental regulations.

It makes me happy that more and more, activists are discovering and speaking up about the places where laws are ignored to the detriment of our planet -- and that average citizens are getting involved through social media campaigns. But what really needs to happen is that we all need to develop an integral way of thinking at all levels, all the time.

We've just begun a new decade, and as I see it, our challenge as a human race is to see our lives with integral ecology in mind. Almost every choice we make as human beings, whether we realize it or not, has an impact on our planet. For example, my choices this morning have included what to eat for breakfast (what do my food choices cost my planet?) how to prepare it (how is my energy use impacting the environment?), what I will wear (how has it been produced, and who or what is affected by that?) and how I will get to church (can I reduce my fossil fuel emissions?) Seeing how we are enmeshed in the bigger picture takes effort and practice, but it can certainly help us to live more sustainably.

In the 2020s, we must all ask ourselves: How am I enmeshed in God's creation? How can I live more sustainably? How do I fit into an integral ecology? And how can I bring others to this kind of mindfulness?

A prayer for Australia

Please, God, please, send Australia more good, soaking rain. And make the rest of us in far away places aware of the world's carbon debt and how we are contributing to it, so we can reduce climate change now.


Friday, January 10, 2020

2020 Word of the Year

Happy New Year, friends!

It's been a few weeks since I moodled online (though I'm always internally moodling about various things as I go through my days). I enjoyed a long Christmas/New Year moodling break, and will have a story or two that arises from it. But for this first post of 2020, I think it's fitting to announce my Word of the Year for 2020.

And 2020's word of the year is...


I have many reasons for picking this word. The main one is that, though my 2019 year of Blessing was full of so many beautiful and blessed moments, there were also many challenges in which I felt very much alone. Toward the end of the year, though, I realized the importance of reaching out for support and companionship as I dealt with my challenges. I'm still struggling in many ways, but I've decided that rather than clamming up and toughing it out, I need to be more open and invite my family, friends, and perhaps some other different forms of community to struggle along with me when I'm feeling overwhelmed.

Another thing that's on my mind as we begin this New Year is the state of our world. We are so divided, whether it be politically or ideologically -- East vs. West, USA vs. Iran, environmentalists vs. big oil, conservatives vs. liberals, settlers vs. Indigenous, cis-gendered vs. LGBTQ2S+, Boomers vs. Milennials, Christians vs. Muslims vs. Jews --  name any issue and there's probably a divide in it. 

But if we want to continue as a human race, we need to put our divisions behind us and become COMMUNITY when it comes to world peace, caring for our environment, eliminating poverty, working for the rights of the marginalized, and the list goes on... There are so many issues that have to be tackled by good people who care, and though we all have different pet concerns, perhaps we can agree that the common good of ALL, no matter the stripe, is what we need to work toward. Because really, our divisions are just our fears being given too much credit.

I think I'll end this little announcement of my Word of the Year with one of my favourite little pieces by Australian Michael Leunig. (I hope he and his loved ones are safe from those wildfires... another climate crisis we need to address as a world community... ) I know I've moodled this before, but it bears repeating as we start into a decade where we must work together for the sake of our species and ALL the others. I love Michael's image of everyone in their own sad little boxes. That's kind of where I've been, but I'm done with being stuck in my own little box, and I hope you are with me on that. We CAN make this year, this decade, a Happy one if we break down the mostly cardboard walls that divide us, if we choose community.

If you have your own Word of the Year and are willing to share it, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. Happy New Year, and New Decade!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

May you find a little bit of Heaven this Christmas

It's that time of year again, the season when we remember that God IS with us. Somehow Christmas, in these darkest days of the year, offers us an opportunity to discover the little bits of Heaven all around us that we often seem to miss in daily life.

My sister had her grade 5 students sing this song at their school Christmas concert last week, and it brought tears to my eyes... I offer it to you, my readers, with a prayer for blessings in your lives now and always. May you be the grace that shows our world the hope it needs, and may others be that grace for you, too.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: Wearing God's glasses on the Third Sunday of Advent

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Isaiah 35: 1-6a, 10.

O God,
the prophet Isaiah explains
that your Master Plan
for our earth
is better
than anything
we humans can ever envision or create.

He says you will make the wild lands glad
and the deserts rejoice,
and your glory and majesty
will cover everything.

He insists you will strengthen the weak
and encourage the frightened,
and tell us all
Be strong, do not fear!

He promises you will come and save us.

He tells us you will open the eyes of the blind,
unstop the ears of the deaf,
make the lame and the mute
dance and sing for joy --
and unending joy
will belong to us all.

When will you come,
O God,
and make it so?

but you have already come!

And all these things Isaiah tells us you will do
are also what we must do in your name!

You come again
each time we speak and act
for justice,
and beauty.

As we wait for you,
empower us to act as you would
in every situation.

Let us see the world as you see it,
and love all of creation
the way you love it.


* * * * * * *

This week's paragraphs of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home (130-136, which can be accessed by clicking here) almost make me wish we hadn't progressed in technology for changing biology in particular as far as we have. Paragraph 30 quotes section 2417 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church when it notes, "While human intervention on plants and animals is permissible when it pertains to the necessities of human life... experimentation on animals is morally acceptable only "if it remains within reasonable limits [and] contributes to care for or saving human lives"" (paragraph 130).

Pope Francis and his writing team also underline the words of St. Pope John Paul on the 1990 World Day of Peace when he said that it is part of our vocation as human beings to "participate responsibly in God's creative action" while paying close attention to how human interference affects the all-important links between ecosystems and their species. Human experimentation involves considerable risks, as many sci-fi movies and novels (like the ones my husband reads) have had fun pointing out in rather horrific ways. This is exactly why we must constantly "rethink the goals, effects, overall context and ethical limits" of the biological experimentation that technology affords us (paragraph 131).

Paragraph 132 is where I really wish we could wear God's glasses. It is all very well and good to say that we need to be careful and to experiment on nature only in such a way as "to favour its development in its own line, that of creation, as intended by God," as St. Pope John Paul told the World Medical Association in 1983. The problem is that no one can really envision what God intends, as we can't begin to know the mind of God. 

Does God really want us to play with human DNA to the point that we thereby rid the world of Trisomy 21 and the gorgeous and loving people who have Down Syndrome? Is our experimentation using animals really something that God appreciates even if it saves people from medical problems? If God had really wanted us to have corn that has built in pesticide to kill corn weevils (not to mention other insect life as "collateral damage"), wouldn't God have come up with it?

Paragraphs 133 and 134 try to address the issues of genetic modification, but it seems a pretty wishy-washy effort that only manages to warn us against corporations who are running small producers into the ground through control of genetically modified seed and fertilizers that have been patented by said corporations. But the infertile seeds mentioned at the end of paragraph 134 already exist; surely the Pope and friends are aware of that and could have used stronger words!

The ethical implications of biological technology and genetic modification are topics about which a lot of the world's population is oblivious, and I suppose a papal encyclical isn't going to be the thing to wake us all up and impress upon us the need to call our scientists and the corporations involved to accounts. There are many activists who try to make us aware; unfortunately they don't have Pope Francis's star power, and even his fame isn't enough. 

The best the Pope can do, it seems, is to say that "Discussions are needed in which all those directly or indirectly affected... can make known their problems and concerns, and have access to adequate and reliable information in order to make decisions for the common good, present and future" (paragraph 135). It seems that no one is able to definitively state what is right and what is wrong when it comes to genetic modification because we are unable to see what the future holds. And we still don't know how to communicate with animals well enough to find out what they really think.

There's mention of the common good, at least. As we complete the reading of this chapter about the human roots of the ecological crises we are facing on so many different fronts, Pope Francis and friends remind us that "the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development," pointing out the importance of protecting human life in all its ages and stages (paragraph 136). Would that we could feel that way about all life on earth – that environmentalists and medical ethicists and scientists could all see through the same lens, through God's glasses, to what is the common good for all life.

But no one has actually found God's glasses yet, so the best we can do is be vigilant – to see where human activity is overstepping its bounds and refuse to support those projects, even to protest if necessary, while encouraging more positive choices. My husband and I know that supporting the development of alternate forms of energy rather than fossil fuel pipelines is better for our earth, so we've put up solar panels, and encourage friends and family to buy green power whenever possible. We're always looking for the healthiest options for our planet. It takes work, and I'll admit that we're not always successful.

While I don’t much like the biological manipulation of anything, preferring to trust that things will unfold as they should in God's loving hands, I'm also pretty aware that "when technology disregards the great ethical principals, it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit... [and] will not easily be able to limit its own power" (paragraph 136).

But facing facts, if it wasn't for biological manipulation, I wouldn't be here. For ten years, I lived thanks to pork and beef insulin. Now I take five injections of synthetic, human-made insulin each day. And I have to thank God that Banting and Best and other scientists have figured out medications that keep me and others alive, that medicine has evolved to the point that it has perhaps saved my dad from his particular cancers, that we human beings have developed ways to live in cold climates like mine, and that we can transport the things we need from one place to another, to name just a few of the ways technology has made life better. I bet we could come up with thousands more.

Life must be lived with a sense of balance if we are to truly create a common good that works for all of creation. Sometimes that work involves incredible contradictions. So for this week, perhaps we can reflect on how human creativity and manipulation of our planet and its resources has made the good things in our lives possible. What do we most appreciate that we have received through the work of human hands? What are the positive technological options that we can support to enable life on earth for future generations? And have we thanked God enough for those things lately? 

Wearing God's glasses, seeing the way God does, requires a combination of vigilance, action in support of positive options, a lot of prayer, and abundant gratitude for all that is. It's a tall order, but there's nothing lost in trying!

I'll close with my little Advent reflection in our parish bulletin for this week:

Instead of store-bought presents, consider:
-charitable gifts – a donation to a local charity that may be of interest to the recipient (eg. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Ronald McDonald House, Hope Mission, etc.) or that benefits brothers and sisters in the developing world through fair trade (Ten Thousand Villages) or social/ecological justice (Caritas Canada).
-food gifts – a basket of all the ingredients for a simple but delicious meal to make the cook’s life easier.
-the gift of a family story – a treasured tale, written and illustrated, perhaps with a few photos.

Help us to care for our planet, the poor, and those near to us this Christmas.


Friday, December 13, 2019

Not a Christmas gift for bees (or anyone else)...

If you're looking for a Christmas gift for a bee lover, please don't buy one of these!

I was given one for my birthday two springs ago, or is it three? But I recently learned that these mass-produced bamboo bee homes (I think this is the Costco variety) are just death-dealing decorations for our North American mason or carpenter bees. The bamboo stalks have splinters inside that damage bees' wings if they try to nest in the tubes. You can learn more about the horrors of these kinds of bee homes by clicking here. Mine, the one you see in the picture, will burn well in a bonfire next spring, I'm afraid.

Better than having a poorly made and mostly ignored bee home is to cut and leave your hollow-stalked plants laying in your yard so bees can populate them. (Messy yards are great bee habitat!) The other problem with bamboo bee homes is that it's important to dismantle and clean them so parasites don't take over and make meals of the bee larvae before they even hatch. It turns out that bamboo homes like mine are better for parasitic wasps (which are tiny) than for nesting bees. And when I think how many of these have been put out over the past few years, I shudder. I thought I was helping bees by providing them a home, but it's clear that an idea without further basic understanding can be disastrous.

If you want a good bee house, they aren't that hard to make (get some ideas about how by clicking here), but it's probably best not to bother unless you're willing to care for your bees by cleaning out their homes each autumn. You can find cleanable homes and the proper kind of wood or cardboard nesting tubes by clicking here, but it's really important that they be maintained over time.

For more information about creating sanctuary for our wild bees, check out this blog by the Queen of Green, a Canadian woman who knows what she's talking about.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

What to do on December 9th?

I'm in a bit of a dilemma. There are two really special things happening on the evening of December 9th.

One is a premiere showing of The Condor and the Eagle, a documentary about Indigenous people from North and South America coming together in their environmental efforts, trying to lead the rest of us to join their campaigns. It will be showing at 7 pm at the Garneau Metro Cinema (8712 109 Street). Trailer below, tickets available at the door or on the Facebook Event.

The other is the Annual L'Arche Christmas Pageant, 7 pm at St. Thomas D'Aquin Parish (8410 89 Street). A wonderful way to get into the spirit of the season!

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Two very different events, both deserving of attendance. If you're in the Edmonton area and not already busy on December 9th, I hope you'll consider attending one or the other, and bringing some friends with you. Whether and where I go depends on this cold that is not giving up just yet...

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: The value of labour on the First Sunday of Advent

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Romans 13: 11-14.

You call us now,
O God,
to wake up.

Too much time has already passed
since we saw
that glaciers are melting,
since we heard
of species reaching extinction,
since we smelled the smoke
of out of control wildfires,
since we felt our hearts break
for climate refugees
with nowhere to go.

The night is far gone, the day is near.

We are called by Saint Paul
to put on the armour of light
and avoid the distractions
our world offers,
to face the challenges ahead of us
by putting on your spirit,
O Christ.

Help us to find the necessary balance
between what is and what can be
so that you will find us ready
to do your will every day.


* * * * * * *

This week we're looking at "The need to protect employment," paragraphs 124-129 of Pope Francis's most recent encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, which can be accessed by clicking here. Basically, this section is looking at how an ecology that cares for creation must also be aware of the necessity of labour in our lives, and how our work can aid -- or hinder -- our planet in its fruitfulness. Paragraph 124 notes that "Developing the created world in a prudent way is the best way of caring for it, as this means that we ourselves become the instrument used by God to bring out the potential which he himself inscribed in things."

Paragraph 125 underlines the importance of a "correct understanding of work." If we understand human labour correctly, we see that it is underpinned by our relationship with God, with others and with all created things. Early spiritual communities were more organic and carbon neutral than we are today, and every year there are more Black Friday events that encourage us to find our meaning in possessions rather than in spiritual fulfillment with God and community. For early Christians, "Personal growth and sanctification came to be sought in the interplay of recollection and work." For us, "This way of experiencing work makes us more protective and respectful of the environment; it imbues our relationship to the world with a healthy sobriety," says the end of paragraph 126.

Unfortunately, this kind of simplicity has been overtaken by the idea that our personal growth and fulfillment can only be found in what we possess rather than in how we make the world a better place by how and who we are: "once our human capacity for contemplation and reverence is impaired, it becomes easy for the meaning of work to be misunderstood," as St. Pope John Paul noted in his writings (footnote 101). Since work became a means to more money and possessions rather than a way to foster community and participate in God's creation of a just world, the overuse of our planet's resources has rapidly increased. "Work should be the setting for... rich personal growth, where many aspects of life come into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God" (paragraph 127).

When human labour doesn't meet the above-mentioned criteria, it can feel like drudgery, and when it is taken out of our hands by misdirected governments or technology, that's not good either. Paragraph 128 says, "The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replace human work.... Yet the orientation of the economy has favoured a kind of technological progress in which the costs of production are reduced by laying off workers and replacing them with machines. This is yet another way in which we can end up working against ourselves... "through the progressive erosion of social capital: the network of relationships of trust, dependability, and respect for rules"" that Pope Benedict noted in his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.

With all the recent news about the coming layoffs of civil servants in my province, this sentence stopped me in my tracks:
...we forget about the value of labour as a means for providing "meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.... To stop investing in people, in order to gain greater short term financial gain, is bad business for society""(paragraph 128).
And the answer to this concern? Pope Francis says,
Civil authorities have the right and duty to adopt clear and firm measures in support of small producers and differentiated production. To ensure economic freedom from which all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally have to be imposed on those possessing greater resources and financial power.... Business is a noble vocation... especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good (paragraph 129).
I'm tempted to send my premier a copy of Laudato Si! The fact that the phrase "the common good" comes up almost 30 times in the encyclical is significant -- because many human beings (including our provincial government) have become so focused on the economy as the bottom line, rather than what is necessary for the good of ALL. Too many of us have forgotten that we need to serve the common good if we want to have meaningful lives.

As this Advent begins, I intend to pay attention to where I can best serve the common good and how I can find where my life's work can bring benefit to the life of the world God gave us as pure gift. Realizing that we are gifted by God, and speaking up for those who are less fortunate is the best way to celebrate the birth of Christ in our world. I plan to write my premier a letter about his layoffs.

On a different note, I offer this little piece I wrote for our parish bulletin for your consideration on this First Sunday of Advent:

When preparing for Christmas, consider our planet:
-buy less and use fewer resources – one gift per person is more than enough if we make Christmas about togetherness (presence) rather than presents.
-give the gift of experiences – a local concert or play, an art class, or an activity designed to develop an appreciation for nature.
-contact your politicians and ask them to save and protect Our Common Home, especially its natural areas (and its doctors, nurses, social workers and teachers, on whom we rely for so much that is important).
-spend love miles rather than Airmiles. Plan less travel in the new year, and try taking a stay-cation to appreciate local attractions.

O God, 
help us to care for our planet this Christmas.

CANCELLED -- "A Sacred & Simple Christmas" Workshop

I can't stop sneezing, my nose keeps dripping unexpectedly, and my voice is only about half-strength (and about an octave lower than usual). I have my first cold in two years. So I've had to cancel today's Christmas workshop, sorry to say. My apologies to those who might show up for it because they haven't seen Facebook or this moodling.

The point of the workshop, of course, on this Black Friday Weekend, is to point out that consumer culture has really sold us a bill of goods when it comes to celebrating Christmas. We've been conditioned to believe that it's all about buying each other presents, eating, drinking and being merry  to the point of excess. But we already have enough stuff, and the only gifts in the original Christmas story were those brought by the Magi to a dirt-poor family who were about to flee persecution.

There's nothing wrong with celebration in these darkest days of the year -- but as with anything good, moderation is key. And even though marketers are doing their darndest to convince us that the economy is the bottom line and we all need to support it by our Christmas shopping, I'd like to put a bug in your ear: take the money you were thinking about spending this Black Friday Weekend, and give it to a homeless shelter, or an organization that helps newcomers, or, if you prefer, a facility that supports war veterans and their families. The economy is only important in the way it serves the least among us, and it doesn't do that very well.

True Christmas gifting isn't about us, it's about those in need.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: What the Ruler of the Universe wants for Christmas

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Colossians 1:15-17.

O Christ,
are God,
and you reveal God to us
in all that you have created.

In you,
all was, 
and will be created,
beyond our telescopes and microscopes.

Nothing exists apart from you;
we all come from you
and depend upon you
for our very substance
and our every breath.

The powerful have no power before you
and the weak have all their strength because of you.

You hold everything together,
yet we behave as though everything depends on us.

Help us to remember
You are in charge,
and to withhold our judgments
in favour of yours.

May your reign, 
your justice 
come to us all
and save us.

Help us to see and do
your will,
and to give you
what you really want
for Christmas this year.


* * * * * * *

Consider yourself warned -- in this week's paragraphs of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis and his encyclical writing team bring out a dog's breakfast (British slang meaning a confused mess or mixture) of issues that our world isn't handling particularly well due to the fact that many of us give priority to personal interest rather than the common good.

I'm focusing on paragraphs 120-123 of Laudato Si, which can be found by clicking here and scrolling down. Only four paragraphs today because a fifth would take us into a different topic which we'll cover next week.

As the seventh chorus of Laudato Si reminds us in paragraph 120, everything is interrelated and all of God's creation -- from the human embryo to his mother to the oilsands worker to the wildlife that lives near the tailings pond -- all are important and really, how can we assign them particular value, especially when we are not God and we can't see the Big Picture?

When human beings try to play God and make decisions about who should thrive and who should die; when practical relativism says, "it is inconvenient, therefore it must go"; when we devalue life in any form, we end up with a dog's breakfast "whereby different attitudes can feed on one another, leading to environmental degradation and social decay" (paragraph 122).

Let's backtrack a moment to practical relativism. Basically, it has to do with seeing everything in life in terms of how it serves my personal interest. It's interesting to me that practical relativism really took hold during the age of the 'me generation' which is comprised of people my age and older.

The world's present leadership came of age in a time when there was mostly peace and prosperity in the Western World, and many of us developed a sense that we had worked hard for our wealth and security, forgetting that there were others like us in poorer and more dangerous parts of the world who were working just as hard or even harder, but were unable to reach our standards of living because of many factors beyond their control (some of those factors created by our high standard of living). Some of us have lost sight of the fact that everything we have is blessing and gift from God, and now think that because we can afford it, we are entitled to a life of luxury and convenience, and that the world revolves around us and our desires.

But it doesn't, and it shouldn't. All God's creatures should be as fortunate as we are, and we shouldn't rest on our prosperity until they are.

In paragraph 123 we read that "The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts." And it leads to the dog's breakfast which we see in our newspapers almost daily (some of which is named by Pope Francis and friends in the continuation of paragraph 123):

sexual exploitation of children
abandonment of the elderly
human trafficking
organized crime
the drug trade
commerce in blood diamonds and endangered species
buying of organs of the poor for resale or experimentation
elimination of unwanted children
(and this list hardly begins to account for the hardships faced by other species... like loss of habitat, pollution of soil, water, and air, climate change, etc.)

And all of it, all of it, springs from our inability to really appreciate the value of life in its many forms. If I have a bone to pick with Pope Francis and those who helped to write Laudato Si, it is that is that they fail to acknowledge that we humans might need to employ some form of reliable birth control to limit our numbers for the sake of all earth's species, all God's creatures.

Be that as it may, I completely agree when they note that
[relativism's] "use and throw away" logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts of the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided (paragraph 123).
A quick word about our "use and throw away" logic as we come toward Christmas -- could this year be the year to do what Christ suggests we do for the poor and marginalized among us? To offer a different sort of gift?

How shall we celebrate your upcoming birthday,
Ruler of the Universe?

You give no directives
about spending so much on gifts
or cooking massive meals.

Instead you remind us:

“I was hungry and you gave me food,
thirsty and you gave me a drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
sick and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.” (Matt 25: 35-36)

You can’t get more direct than that.

Help us to be your compassion this Christmas.


Friday, November 22, 2019

A "Sacred & Simple Christmas" workshop

If you're in the Edmonton area, you're invited to spend Buy Nothing Saturday afternoon (November 30th) to give some thought to more meaningful ways to observe Christmas this year.

So many of our Christmas "traditions" were invented by people who wanted to make money from our desire to make the season really special. You don't have to be part of Assumption parish to join us in discovering ways to make Christmas less commercial and more meaningful. All are welcome!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Icing-sugared trees

On Tuesday evening, we had a lovely gentle snowfall of rather wet snow that stuck to the trees, not quite like hoarfrost, but pretty all the same. Shadow and I went for a walk to take pictures before the sun melted it all. As it's been a while since I've posted any wintry beauty, I thought I'd indulge today, and put some pretty snow at the top of my moodlings against our gorgeous winter blue sky. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday reflection: Calling for what the world needs

Today's reflection is brought to you by 
Malachi 4:1-2 and Luke 21: 9-19.

Oh God,
climate change is coming,
already burning like an oven
in some places.

Human apathy,
and greed
have brought us to a point where
much of creation is suffering
in many different ways.

With what will we be left?

The only answer to our plight
is to turn to you,
to work for the good you want for all,
so that your righteousness arises
in us
and all creation knows the healing
in your wings.

Help us to turn to you now.
* * * * * * * 

We're entering section three of Chapter three, "The Crisis and Effects of Modern Anthropocentrism" -- that A word referring to the belief that human beings are the most important creatures on earth as far as our value and intelligence go.

But rather than re-flog the anthropocentrism horse too much (flogging any horse is a rather anthropocentric thing to do, if you think about it), I just want to quickly summarize what Pope Francis and friends are saying in paragraphs 115-119 of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home (you can read them for yourself by clicking here and scrolling down).

Paragraph 115 -- Our human-centred, technological-minded world view has turned creation into an object to be used in too many peoples' minds -- this is ground that's already been covered, except perhaps for its connection with technological thinking.

Paragraph 116 -- We need to pay attention to reality and its limits and recognize that we are not masters of the earth, but stewards of creation. I dislike the word "stewards" as it still places human beings as managers above creation -- wouldn't it be better to say, co-operators WITH creation?

Paragraph 117 -- "When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities -- to offer just a few examples -- it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected." There's the chorus of Laudato Si, sung for the sixth time! But again, only mentioning human beings -- there's a problem when we're so stuck on human worth that we fail to acknowledge the importance of everything from aardvarks to zooplankton because we are only worried about human issues. There has to be a balance.

Paragraph 118 -- "There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology.... Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued." Again, balanced with the concerns of all God's creatures.

Cowichan Bay, BC
Paragraph 119 -- "Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence."  But I can't see immanence, the idea that God is present in all material things/beings as stifling -- rather, we are freed from self-absorption when we can see Divine Presence in everything around us. That's where humanity's mind needs to be re-set so that we can do what's needed for the good of everything.

Our relationship with God should never be isolated from our relationship with creation. Otherwise, it's nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in over-pious garb, locking us into a religiosity that ignores God's presence in the rest of creation -- and unfortunately, that's where some folks seem to be stuck at the moment -- "our eyes are fixed on heaven; who cares about the earth?"

Connecting these paragraphs of Laudato Si with this Sunday's Gospel reading somehow isn't much of a stretch for me. Imagine Jesus saying something like this to us:
When you hear of and see pollution and climate change disruptions, do not be terrified. These things must take place first, before human beings wake up and take their responsibility for the earth and each other seriously. Fires, floods and all sorts of disasters will happen, famines and plagues, and there will be dreadful portents and signs of climate strife. 
But before things get really terrible, some good people will come up with some important plans, and it is up to everyone to put them into practice, especially your political leaders. This will give you an opportunity to push the world into action, to demand necessary changes. I will be with you in words, wisdom and actions that none will be able to contradict. By your endurance, you, with me, will save the world.
Are we ready to call for what the world needs, now?

Friday, November 15, 2019

Something gorgeous for a Friday

This woman, Antoinette, speaks like an artist and a poet from where she lives in the Karoo in South Africa. I love her language (Afrikaans) and the way she lives in harmony with nature and understands the secret to life. For me, watching this beautiful little film is like going up the mountain to visit the wise hermit. Kudos to the videographers for the stunning images. Enjoy.


Saturday, November 9, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday reflection: A wake-up call

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Psalm 17:1,5,6,8,15.

Hear me
when I cry to you,
O God,
out of my deep love
for all that you have made.

Hold my steps to your path
and keep my feet from slipping
out of your abundant life
and into the death dealt by greed.

I call upon you,
for you,
my Hope,
will bend down to answer me.

All of your creation
is the apple of your eye;
protect it
in the shadow of your wings.

May we all behold your face
in the beauty of all that you have made --
every snowflake,
every sunrise,
every sequoia,
every songbird,
every sperm whale,
every small child.

When we see you in all things,
we shall truly be awake --
and satisfied.

Wake us up from our delusions of grandeur
and show us that we already have enough.


* * * * * * * 

Last week, instead of reflecting on Paragraphs 111-114 of Laudato Si, (which can be accessed by clicking here and scrolling down) I was discovering God in spawning salmon and a sea lion choir (well, maybe that's a generous description of the sounds they made!) This week I've been looking at the last four paragraphs from the section, The Globalization of the Technocratic Paradigm.

Pope Francis and friends are calling us to recognize that technology has its good points, but that giving it complete power over the way we live, think, and act is a huge issue that our world needs to face. The two-pronged belief that technology is the answer to our planet's every issue and that technological convenience is essential to every part of our lives has brought us to Monday, where 11,258 scientists declared a climate emergency because, as the encyclical says, "a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources" (paragraph 111) is clearly not going to save us.

What's required is "a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm" (paragraph 111). It's going to take more than scientists to get us out of the mess we're in. We all need to do as Henri Nouwen suggests in the quote to the right.

Pope Francis rightly notes that "We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral" (paragraph 112).

And I am hopeful that this will happen -- in fact, I am seeing it happening more and more. At the beginning of our family's journey into a life of less consumption and more meaning thirteen years ago, it felt as though we were constantly swimming against a tide of non-essentials that marketers told us we needed for happiness' sake. But in the last few years, there's been a huge uptick in common sense as people realize that happiness actually means owning less, living smaller, protecting the planet and enjoying a healthier, more balanced life. Recent increases in vegetarianism and veganism are a literal rethinking of consumerism. And there are dozens of other examples -- slow food, tiny homes, permaculture, you-name-it!

I love these lines at the end of paragraph 112, which notes the awareness that is creeping into our world:
An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance? 
Yes! I want to shout... But... Technology has offered humanity so many amazing gadgets and gizmos -- the "novelties" mentioned in paragraph 113 -- that we've become distracted from living lives of depth and meaning. The "constant flood of new products" are simply "new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness" because, in our distraction, we have forgotten how to deeply appreciate what we already have. Pope Francis and his encyclical team clearly ask that we get back to authenticity -- that we "refuse to resign ourselves to this [escapism], and continue to wonder about the purpose of life and meaning of everything."

Here is the beginning of the BOLD CULTURAL REVOLUTION (the Pope's words, my uppercase) that the world needs. Perhaps we've let science and technology take on God's saving role in the world, but we can return to the God of peace and justice who acts through us -- through our appreciation for creation's wonders and our efforts to improve the lives of every being on earth by reducing our consumption, sharing our riches, and cleaning up after ourselves.

The final line of paragraph 114 says it perfectly:
Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.
Can we see and appreciate our many blessings? Can we reject those delusions of grandeur that fill us with a sense of entitlement until all of creation is cared for? Can we live in harmony and solidarity with creation and our sisters and brothers in the developing world?

Gratitude and the desire for justice for all are where BOLD CULTURAL REVOLUTION begins... and it only begins with us.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Ridge Key Phoenix

One year ago today, my friend, Allie, lost her home and business to the Camp Fire at Paradise, California. Allie is a force for positivity and good in the world, a warm, loving person who draws people into her gentle and fun-loving presence like a magnet draws iron. Today, November 8th, is an emotional day for her and everyone involved with the healing and rebuilding of Paradise, as there will be different events marking a very difficult anniversary.

I spoke with Allie this morning, and she reminded me of the video she shared to her Facebook page earlier this week. I decided to share it here because Jesse Mercer's idea is inspired, brilliant, and life-giving. It's a sign of the resilience of the people of Paradise, and a reminder that art inspires healing, community, and hope. I wish I could be there this morning to see it unveiled because though the pictures are amazing, they can't really give a sense of the sculpture's size, scope and meaning. If you have the time, please watch to the end -- you'll get a better sense of what an artwork like this means.

My prayers today are for the many people of California who are climate change refugees because of so many terrible fires, and especially for those from Paradise, that they may find strength and goodness as they rebuild their lives in many different ways.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Awesome eagles, spawning salmon, and lazy sea lions

This past weekend was a somewhat significant birthday for my husband, who decided that since he'd never done anything really interesting for his November birthday, he wanted to go somewhere warmer. Because we practice Voluntary Simplicity, tropical vacations are not something we consider much. It's bad enough adding to greenhouse gas emissions just to drive from one place to another.

So our trip was a one-and-a-half hour flight (bad enough when 11,000 scientists are telling us we're in a climate emergency!) to Vancouver Island to visit my husband's brother and his wife (who moved out there over the summer). The bonus was that I also got to see my best friend (for the third time this year). It was a really wonderful birthday weekend, complete with decadent birthday carrot cake, great conversation, and good hikes. We climbed Mount Tzouhalem, and a bald eagle even flew up to our height to wish Lee a happy birthday.

Our other encounters with nature were also serendipitous. Our trip happened to fall within the ten days that salmon spawn in Goldstream River, so we went to witness the perpetuation and ending of the life cycle of the creatures as they made their way upriver to deposit their eggs and ultimately, die, leaving their bodies to feed eagles, seagulls, and other sea life...

And we were just as lucky to witness some of that other sea life when we headed to Cowichan Bay for supper. There, on the outer marina docks were hundreds of California sea lions, well-fed thanks to the salmon, snoozing in the late afternoon sun, breaking out in frequent cacophonous choruses of sea lion song. But what happens below made us dock-watchers chuckle almost as much as their singing did...

Clearly, as hikers and nature-lovers, we couldn't have asked for a better birthday weekend.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Come to a smashing event

Last year, the folks at Compost 'S cool were brainstorming about events to involve Edmontonians in more composting. One brilliant member of the team thought it would be fun to invite people to come out after Hallowe'en and to bring their jack o'lanterns to Compost 'S cool for a Pumpkin Smash and composting event. They thought if a dozen people showed up with their pumpkins, they could call it a success.

They were pretty modest in their expectations... and 300 people brought 500 pumpkins to that first event, and had a wonderful time demolishing their jack o'lanterns and turning them into compost. The pile of composting pumpkins was almost five feet high (you see it in the picture above). Below, there's a little video of my friend Markster Composter turning it about 5 months later...

I always turn my pumpkins into pumpkin soup, muffins, and peanut butter pumpkin dog biscuits that Shadow-pup absolutely loves... but if you aren't inclined to use yours for cooking or baking, I think a pumpkin smash sounds like a lot of fun (and it keeps pumpkins out of the landfill while making great compost for enriching soil)! It's a free event, a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and all are welcome. If you go, say hi to Markster for me!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Seems to me that kids today possess more talent than my friends and I had at the same age. Or maybe because they've been raised in a world with social media, they're less shy about sharing that talent? Whatever the case, I delight in their creative efforts, and hope to share more of their talent here in my moodlings.

The young guitarist featured in the video below teamed up with a vocalist from Scotland, and what you see is a pretty cool international collaboration that features some lovely images of Edmonton, too. Well done, Don and Scott. Love those harmonies!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday reflection: Realities vs. ideas

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Sirach 35: 15-17, 20-22, 26.

O God,
are the just one.

We are all your favourites.

But your ears are especially attuned
to those who have been wronged,
and you hear the humble
ahead of the proud.

Perhaps you are hearing your voiceless creatures,
those who are losing their place in your creation
because of human beings and our greed.

Help us,
help us,
help us,
in your kindness,
to do what is just.

Show us how to live more lightly,
to let your creation evolve as you would have it,
and to use technology only as necessary.

Your mercy is as welcome in time of distress
as clouds of rain in time of drought.

Let us trust in your goodness,
rely on your mercy,
and become your justice
through wise choices in our lives.

Make our actions speak louder than our misplaced technologies,
our realities more important than ideas.


* * * * * * *

Over the past two months, these Laudato Si Sunday Reflections fell by the wayside so that I could participate in some climate action of my own. I took a refresher course on waste reduction, helped to plan a Climate Vigil, attended two School Strikes for Climate, and worked for my local Green party candidate. It was an amazing and uplifting two months, for the most part, but there's still so much to do!

When I took this picture,
I didn't realize that Greta
and her Youth for Climate Justice entourage
were just behind me and to the right...
And all the while, I've been walking, figuratively and literally, with Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish activist who is doing her utmost to wake the world to the climate emergency that we find ourselves in. People don't like the truth she is telling, it seems, but the part of our common home that is California is burning yet again, there have been frightening reports of other ecospheric issues, and our lifestyles simply must change to keep our climate from warming more than 1.5 degrees. The polarization in our discourse around how to actually do that is a sign that people everywhere are afraid, for one reason or another. These days, I'm puzzling over how we can move through the fear toward actual solutions.

This week's section of Pope Francis' letter to the world, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, includes "The Globalization of the Technocratic Paradigm," paragraphs 106-110 . It looks at technology's role in our present ecological crises (the paragraphs can be accessed by clicking here and scrolling down).

For a long while, it seems, we have been dreaming that technology will be the solution to all our problems. We heard that dream again in our Alberta Budget this week when the Finance Minister talked a lot about using "clean technology" to green our petroleum industry -- rather than reduce our use of the fossil fuels that are warming our planet. Clearly, the government has bought into the idea of technology as saviour.

But Paragraph 106 notes that technology depends upon human beings who, "using logical and rational procedures, progressively and rationally gain control" over our surroundings through "a technique of possession, mastery and domination." More and more of us -- especially our young people -- are finally realizing that that there is no "infinite and unlimited growth" when it comes to the earth's energy and resources and their renewal. Mastery and domination are a dead end if we end up overheating the only planet we have.

While it is true that we have come a long way in knowing how to build and create and impose order with our machines and computers and factories, we have not been able to foresee the ways these technological advances have endangered our existence. Technology is just one kind of knowledge, and "technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups" (paragraph 107).

And who are those powerful groups? Can we trust them to improve life for all species on our earth? Not so far. When scientists began to notice that our climate was heating up, big corporations produced 'experts' to undermine the truth their own researchers had uncovered. Money and power are more important to them than facing up to reality, so they manipulate knowledge to confuse the public with arguments that climate change is a hoax, wasting precious time we could have been using to find and develop alternate energy sources.

For many of us, knowledge and technology have become so integrated into our daily existence and so indispensable in our daily tasks that "It has become counter-cultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same" (paragraph 108). But where technology and its particular kind of knowledge are destroying habitats and species, we need to stand against it, to be counter-cultural.

But it's never easy to buck a trend, is it? This week, I succumbed and joined the cell phone universe -- but only for texting my kids and making the calls I would have made on our now non-existent landline. I refuse to live through cellphone technology because I tend to agree with the last line of paragraph 108 -- so many of the motives behind our technologies are about power, and "Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one's alternative creativity are diminished" by such power.

And what is this power? Jesus knew. He talks about it in Matthew 6: 24 when he says, "You cannot serve both God and wealth." Our society is hung up on wealth and materialism, and the economy has become the bottom line to the point that we've lost the big picture -- that we were put on this earth to look after one another. As the Pope and friends say at the end of paragraph 109, "We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning, and social implications of technological and economic growth."

Paragraph 110 says it straight out: "technology makes it difficult to see the larger picture." And that larger picture is life as we know it, "appreciation for the whole, for the relationship between things, and for the broader horizon" that shows us our place in the vast goodness of all that God has made. Technology is not "the principal key to the meaning of existence" but by thinking that it is, we have come to a place of "environmental degradation, anxiety, a loss of the purpose of life and community living."

Electronic waste at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre
So how do we put technology in its place? Perhaps we can begin by turning it off more often, and by living with less of it. Here I'm talking about the devices that surround us -- phones, computers, TVs, things that distract us or divide us from our families and communities. We can also give more thought to the use of all the machines/technical components in our lives.

Are our time- or labour-saving devices really saving us time or labour? Or have we been brainwashed into believing that they make a difference in our lives as they guzzle gas or energy and create unnecessary pollution? (We often forget the pollution it takes to manufacture these items... never mind the waste when they stop working.) Do we really need the latest techie gadget or gizmo, or is it one of those market items that will end up in our landfills sooner than later? How many single purpose appliances are filling our cupboards and using unnecessary resources? Is that whisk-o-matic doohickey for frothing my hot chocolate really necessary? No matter what our sense of entitlement or our marketers tell us, we need to consider the realities of our lives and whether our knowledge or technology will really work for us -- or against our earth.

"Realities are more important than ideas," say Pope Francis and friends in the last line of paragraph 110 -- and they are 110% right.