Saturday, March 30, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: To make all things new


Today's reflection is brought to you by
2 Corinthians 5:17-21.

As your family members,
when we are
one in mind and heart
with you,
O God,
creation is renewed.

You only want us to reconcile ourselves to each other
and to you
through our oneness of mind and heart,
to take up a full-time ministry of being of
one mind and heart
in you.

You do not count our sins against us,
but only call us to unity and reconciliation
with all your creation.

You call us to be your emissaries,
to live
in reconciliation and unity
and to invite others to join us.

You became one of us
so that we might become one
with you and all that you have made.

Give us minds and hearts
to see the many places and ways
where our oneness with you
can become the oneness
to bless your world
with the newness
it so desperately needs.

+Amen.

* * * * * * *

In thinking about the new creation in Christ that we hear about in today's second reading, I look around at creation at present and wonder how we can make it new with God's help. Unity of heart and mind, seeing the world with the compassion with which God sees it is certainly a big part of that. It's heating up down here, and it's much harder to ignore the climate crisis when you don't have air conditioning, as is the case for most of our family members in the developing world.

Climate change is also HERE -- in our backyard. Remember how hard it was to breathe in Edmonton back in August thanks to all the summer forest fires? Our sister, Mother Earth, is crying out, trying to wake us up, but are we blowing off her disasters (including storms like the one in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe) as coincidences -- at our peril?

At the beginning of a section about Weak Responses -- paragraphs 53-59 of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home (access it by clicking here) -- Pope Francis puts it plainly: "Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years." Our advancing technology won't be able to save us if we are lacking the caring culture needed to address the earth's issues, and the leadership to bring about change. Laudato Si is the Pope's small step to push humanity in the right direction, a call to wake up.

But will it be enough? We need a solid plan that the world's entire population will buy into, with international law to back it up. Otherwise, the strongest voices (of the economy and politicians looking to save their seats) win. Climate summits have been happening every year since 1995, but not one of them has brought about serious change. I am ashamed that my Canadian government has been one of the worst when it comes to reneging on its promises toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I'm ashamed -- and angry -- and grieving.

Pope Francis points out that "the alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests.... any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented" (paragraph 54).

It never ceases to frustrate me when people with economic interests in resources deride those who care about the environment, pointing out that without such-and-such a resource, life won't be so cozy or convenient. The thing is that many of us are only too aware of the inconveniences that come with protecting our planet, and are willing to put up with more hardship and hassles if it means future generations will have a planet worth inhabiting.

But if our environment continues to decline, none of our present sacrifices will matter. The fact that our family gave up one of our two cars has meant that sometimes we miss some events and activities, but life is not about convenience in most parts of the world! Most of our brothers and sisters on this planet don't have one vehicle, let alone two or more... Should we? I often wonder how we could live with no car at all. I'm sure it would be doable. But we'd all need to jump on that bandwagon to really make a difference at this stage in the game... and there's my terrible excuse.

Paragraph 55 looks at the fact that while some countries have made significant progress toward ecological sensitivity, overall "harmful habits of consumption" haven't changed. And Pope Francis and his team actually mention "the increasing use and power of air-conditioning" as an example. I'm sure you and I could list so many more. As the Pope notes at the end of the paragraph, "An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behaviour, which at times appears self-destructive." We are killing ourselves and creation by taking the good things God has given us for granted, wasting them and the earth in the process.

Paragraph 56 says that too many of us "deny doing anything wrong because distractions constantly dull our consciousness of just how limited and finite our world really is." Paragraph 57 is even less cheerful, raising the spectre of wars, nuclear and biological, once resources become scarce (I'll let you read that part for yourself) and concluding, "What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?"

But as various people in the Bible say over and over again, "be not afraid." Paragraph 58 reminds us that human beings have been able to reverse some of the negative planetary impacts we have had in the past, accomplishing small things that prove that "men and women are still capable of intervening positively. For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity, and care cannot help but well up within us, since we were made for love."

Image result for old and newThe last paragraph of this section (59) warns us against "the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness." It's not enough to buy all the 'green-washed' cleaning products off the store shelves or participate in Earth Hour once a year -- and forget about changing the rest of our lives.

The planet will probably continue as it is for some time, leaving us with the illusion that things are fine and our little actions are making a difference, but if we continue with our same old thinking "carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption... delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing [bad] will happen," nothing NEW happens. And it's the big changes that we need to make that will save us.

I had a conversation with my future son-in-law this week about the kind of future his kids (my grandkids) will see, and he reminded me that societies have undergone radical changes when necessary in the past. The Weak Responses section that I reread this week is calling us toward stronger action NOW -- for the sake of all of creation. Could we live with one less vehicle in our lives? Could we turn off the air conditioning and lower the thermostat in the winter? Shop less? Share more? Spend more personal effort instead of taking consumer culture's quick, cheap, and easy ways out?

What am I taking for granted that I can appreciate more -- or do without?

What sacrifices am I willing to make to save our planet?

And most importantly, how can we see our world with God's compassion and help to make all things new again?

Friday, March 29, 2019

Take Earth Hour deeper...

Image result for earth hour 2019

Just a wee reminder to my readers that tomorrow, March 30, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. is the 12th annual Earth Hour. Earth Hour has been a mostly symbolic action to reduce our impact on the planet by turning off the lights for an hour once a year.

But given all the climate change related disasters in the past year, it's time to go deeper with our climate action. It can be as simple as questioning our every use of electricity. Do I need to boil an entire kettle of water, or could I warm just as much as I need? How many lamps or lights do I need to use in order to accomplish my tasks at present? Does my computer (or other gadget) need to be plugged in 24/7, or could I put it on a timer? These are small considerations, but any way that we can reduce our energy use saves us greenhouse gases in the long run.

There are always ways to conserve energy. What will you do during Earth Hour? And beyond?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday reflection: Indifference or making a difference?

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Luke 13: 1-9.

We know,
O Lord,
that the people killed by Cyclone Idai in Mozambique,
are not worse sinners
than we are.

We know that those who died
in the floods of Malawi and Zimbabwe
are not worse offenders
than anyone else on our planet.

We shouldn't be indifferent to these events.

We are all your children,
just as they are.

None of us are perfect.

But all of us
are called
to change
our lives,
from excess
to simplicity,
to reduce our impact on our earth
so that our sisters and brothers
who live
where the effects of climate change are strongest
have half a chance.

So that we all have half a chance.

And all of us
are called
to change
our hearts,
to turn from fear and indifference
to loving action
so that our sisters and brothers
all over the globe
can live
in peace and sufficiency.

You are the Master Gardener.

You see our barren branches,
our sins and shortcomings,
and still you give us
another chance.

May your tender care
help us
to change our lives and hearts
so that we may also offer
your tender care
to those who need it most.

+Amen.

* * * * * * *

Cyclone Idai has been very much on my mind as I reread the sections on Global Inequality (paragraphs 48-52) for this week's reflection on Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home (they can be accessed by clicking here.) As usual, they are packed with ideas worth noting and discussing.

When I began studying (and practicing) voluntary simplicity, the fact that a lifestyle like mine is lived by only the top 8-12% of the world's population hit me like a ton of bricks. You could say that I finally began to wake up to the way that my life was depleting the lives of those in the developing world. "Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest," as the pastoral letter of the Bolivian Bishops quoted in paragraph 48 notes -- and the worst damage to the environment arises out of our throwaway consumerism which depletes and pollutes places far from our sight, often in the Global South.

What's even worse is that these effects "are insufficiently represented on global agendas" to the point that most of us go through our days without giving much thought to our brothers and sisters in developing countries (the other 88-92% of  world population) whose lives are negatively impacted by our consumer demands. Except maybe when we see news reports like the ones from Mozambique this week.

Paragraph 49 begins by stating that "there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded... one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought... or... treated merely as collateral damage." Our brothers and sisters in the developing world are paying for the "lifestyles of the rich and famous" -- and those like me -- with the resources of their already impoverished countries. In the meantime, climate change is causing cyclones like Idai, flooding here, droughts and fires there.

Pope Francis nails it when he says: "...we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor" (paragraph 49). Have you heard the cries of the poor this week on the news? I am happy to see that Caritas Internationalis has a page for donations to help those in Mozambique, and I suspect Development and Peace is working on something similar.

The Holy Father and his writing team also note that "attention needs to be paid to imbalances in population density on both national and global levels, since a rise in consumption would lead to complex regional situations, as a result of the interplay between problems linked to environmental pollution, transport, waste treatment, loss of resources and quality of life" (paragraph 50).

Paragraph 51 clearly lays out the biggest problem -- the fact that the Global North's appetite for the planet's resources is huge in comparison to the Global South's, but it's the South that is feeling the worst effects -- environmental devastation through pollution, climate change, and the North's habit of exporting waste to the South (I read several reports this week on North American plastic waste being dumped in Malaysia because there's just too much to recycle).

Paragraph 52 points out that "The land of the southern poor is rich and mostly unpolluted, yet access to the ownership of goods and resources for meeting vital needs is inhibited by a system of commercial relationships and ownership which is structurally perverse." The rules are stacked against them. But Pope Francis wants us to change the rules, calling the northern rich to help pay ecological and social debt "by significantly limiting [our] consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development."

Probably the most important sentences in this entire section are the last two: "We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference."

Before radio, television and internet, we didn't know as much about our world or people in other countries. Are we now suffering "compassion fatigue," a numbness to the plight of people we should consider to be our brothers and sisters? Or have we simply adopted indifference as our modus operandi so that we don't have to change?

What would Jesus do? In today's Gospel, he reminds us that those who experience disasters are just like us. If he was giving today's homily, I suspect he would urge us to turn back to God, drop our indifference, and start making a difference.

How have you heard the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor this past week? How have you responded to those cries? What is one thing you did? What is one thing you could have done?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Foggy morning walk

I was a bit grumpy when my hubby got up much too early for my liking this Saturday (read: sleep-in) morning -- but when I looked out the window and saw the fog, I was ready to go dog walking with my camera in short order. We decided to head to the Gold Bar/Rundle Park area of our city. Shadow was excited (as always) for a car ride, and had a lot of fun chasing his tail in the fog (not sure why -- he just did). He ended up with a hoar frosty face.

Here are a few pictures from our foggy morning walk. Misty mornings are magical to me -- as we passed the lamp post in the first picture below, I wondered if we might find our way into Narnia...








Sunday, March 17, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday reflection: Becoming God's glory

This week's reflection is brought to you by
Philippians 3:20 - 4:1.

O God,
if we really believed
that we are citizens of heaven,
would we treat your earth the way we do?

If we see your Christ in all that you have made,
shouldn't we be sprucing our world up
instead of messing it up?

We are partners with you,
O God,
in your creation,
and we trust that you can set all things right.

But we also need to do our part --
to conform ourselves and our world
to your will
so that you can bring everything into your glory.

We are all your people,
called to stand firm
in you.

Help us to truly become your joy and crown,
your glory,
by the way we work
to bring your heaven to earth
for the sake of all your creation.

+Amen.

* * * * * * *

This week's Sunday Reflection is looking at paragraphs 43 to 47 of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Homewhich can be accessed by clicking here. They're a pretty decent summary of what's wrong with human life in general, pointing out that we have a right to life and happiness -- but that through causing environmental deterioration with our flawed models of development and the throwaway culture that goes with them, we're affecting many lives in a negative way (paragraph 43).

The last time I read through paragraphs 44-47 of this week's reading, I came up with the following litany of modern woes, a sort of slam poetry summary of what Pope Francis is decrying:

Unruly growth, urban chaos, poor transportation,
noise, unhealthy neighbourhoods, visual pollution.
Gated homes, crowded slums, inefficient cities,
cement, asphalt, glass and metal, no access to beauty.
Wasted energy and water, lack of green space,
technology assuming human interaction's place.
Social breakdown, violence, new forms of aggression,
drugs and trafficking, the silent rupture of cohesion.
Digital overload, distraction, loss of identity,
lack of wisdom, deep thought, and loving community.

In an effort to make my slam poem work better, I left out quite a bit of what the Pope and friends name as contributing to society's breakdown, so I really encourage a reading of paragraphs 43-47.

Then, lest we fall into the "harmful sense of isolation" (paragraph 47) also known as 'overwhelm,' that can arise from our awareness of all this heavy stuff, we must realize that we are a big part of the solution. We can choose to stand with Christ, and listen as he asks, "Is this really the quality of life you want? How do you want your society to be? What needs to change to make it so? What are concrete steps toward changing it?"

And the slam poem changes...

God is my light and my salvation...
Careful growth by wise planning, shared public transportation,
birdsong, healthy neighbourhoods, no more pollution.
Inviting homes, empty slums, highly efficient cities,
parks, trees, flowers, and a plenitude of beauty.
Energy and water saved, open growing space,
activism and conversation in our meeting place.
Friendship and happiness, no forms of aggression;
sharing what we have is the creation of cohesion.
Wise use of media helps build true identity,
wisdom, deep thought, and loving community.

Sounds like utopia... and unfortunately, to many of us been raised to think that utopia can't possibly come true. But Jesus believed in utopia. He was always saying, "The reign of God is among you." He knew how we really want to live, and showed us how to go about it -- by loving. He was always building community.

Pope Francis is also reminding us that we need to love more than just our own lives, families, and friends -- we need to love those on the margins, and everyone and everything in creation besides.

So let's ask ourselves: How can I live and love like Christ so as to bring about a higher quality of human life and a healthier society? What is one small thing I can do today to better my own neighbourhood and build community? What is one cause I can commit to? How can we all work together to make a difference?

If you have any ideas to share, as always, I'd love to hear them. Oftentimes through discussion, change takes shape... and if we want to become God's love in the world, God's glory, we'll need to change...

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Coffee with Ralph and Lidia

I happened to see my dear Italian neighbour, Ralph, on Monday morning, as he was backing his car out of the driveway. When he saw me, his face lit up, he stopped his car, and opened the door to say (as he often does), "I haven't seen you for a longa-time!"

Conscious that his car was partly blocking the street as it was, I told him that I would come for coffee the next morning, and, satisfied, he drove off to the bank as he'd planned. So yesterday, I packed up a few St. Paddy's Day lucky four-leaf clover cookies and walked a block to visit him and his lovely wife, Lidia.

Turns out it was Ralph's 94th birthday on Sunday, and one of the first things he told me (as I settled at the kitchen table for some of Lidia's wonderful espresso), was that I would have to come and help him plant his garden soon! His son, Alfonso, had stopped by for coffee and was already seated at the table. A plumber by trade, Alfonso teased his father, saying, "Don't you think you'd better get an estimate first?"

When I told Lidia how good her coffee was, she immediately got up to get me an extra little espresso pot and Ralph disappeared to find a can of Medaglia d'Oro Caffè (Gold Medal Coffee of the Arabica variety) to take home and make for myself. Lidia also gave me back two jars in which I'd previously brought over plum jelly (made from Ralph's plums in the fall) and dehydrated apple slices (made from Ralph's apples). She wastes nothing, my friend Lidia.

We sat and chatted for over an hour, mourning the loss of the Ethiopian plane crash victims, shaking our head over the latest political shenanigans, and setting some of the world's other problems straight while I ate too many Italian cookies. Lidia told me I'm like an extra daughter to her when I come visit, and I told the two of them that I love them, too. In this year of focusing on my blessings, I definitely have to count my loving Italian neighbours!

To be honest, I've been having a sad time of late, partly because of the deaths of some other special friends, one of them just a little younger than me. Though I know I will also lose these two elderly friends eventually, for now, visiting Lidia and Ralph is balm for the soul every single time. And not because of Lidia's delicious espresso and Italian Centre cookies, but because Ralph and Lidia are salt-of-the-earth people with warm and beautiful souls who would literally give you the espresso maker out of their cupboard!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday reflection: Our response to God this Lent

This week's reflection is brought to you by
Deuteronomy 26:4-10.

What response can we make to you,
O God?

We are descendants
of wandering Arameans,
always seeking to fill the God-shaped holes
in our souls.

We enslave ourselves
to possessions that we don't need,
money that we don't have,
and dreams of fame and fortune
that will only cause us grief,
forgetting that you have already made us
all that we need to be --
your children.

You have given us this world,
"a land flowing with milk and honey,"
a land with more abundance
than we can even acknowledge,
but too often,
all we see is scarcity.

Broaden our vision,
O God.
Help us to see the world as you do.

Show us how to offer to you
and to those in need
the first fruits
of all that you have made
when we already have enough!

Help us to see and respond
to the needs of all creation.

+Amen.

* * * * * * *

If you haven't given much thought to the importance and value of our planet's biodiversity, and even if you have, I'd suggest a quick read-through of paragraphs 32-42 of the Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Homewhich can be accessed by clicking here. I'm covering all ten paragraphs on biodiversity at once -- otherwise we hear all the problems and nothing of a solution.

Paragraph 32 begins by pointing out that the plundering of the earth's resources for the sake of the economy, commerce, and production means that we are losing species that could be important for our future on this earth.

The first line of paragraph 33 says, "It is not enough... to think of different species merely as potential "resources" to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves." Every little bit of creation reveals to us an "other" aspect of God, and in our lack of care for all creatures, we are losing what we can learn from them not only about God, but about our world and ourselves. And of course, our lives are not just about us. We often talk about human rights, but not enough of us focus on the fact that all creatures have a right to exist, even if they're living in a mosquito-infested swampy area that we'd like to drain and turn into a suburb. I often wonder if, in God's eyes, our human projects are as important as the creatures we displace...

We humans probably have been making too many adjustments and interventions when it comes to planetary ecosystems -- everything from creating synthetic fertilizers and pesticides (those agrotoxins mentioned in paragraph 34) to building highways, subdivisions and hydroelectric dams (paragraph 35) to cutting down the great rainforests (paragraph 38) to replacing highly biodiverse virgin land with monocultures (paragraph 39) to overfishing our oceans (paragraph 40) to creating the fossil fuel emissions that are raising the temperatures all over the globe and damaging our coral reefs (paragraph 41).

But I have to back up and quote the entirety of paragraph 36 just because it's so well put:
Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation. But the cost of the damage caused by such selfish lack of concern is much greater than the economic benefits to be obtained. Where certain species are destroyed or seriously harmed, the values involved are incalculable. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental degradation.
Since last spring, I've noticed that certain trees in the part of our neighbourhood that is under construction (because of a new light rail transit line) are fenced off and have little signs that list their monetary value -- for example, an elm about a block from here bears a "price tag" of $6, 432. I thought that was pretty low, actually. How often do we think about the way trees add value to our lives? To the lives of other creatures? To entire ecosystems?

Just as there's no calculating the worth of a human being, there's no real way of determining the monetary value of our forests, our oceans and all of creation, or the value of our projects vs. the value of nature. And we all know that the value of money is arbitrary at best, because of the way the global economy bounces. The things our human projects create are of value to us for a limited time, but how much of nature are we losing as we go?
"... a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves." (paragraph 34)
That summarizes the problem. The solution is found in paragraph 42, and if Laudato Si was a song, this is the first time we hear its chorus:
"Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another (paragraph 42)."
So how do we go about cherishing all creatures?

This Lent, I offer you a challenge, a start toward a practical and mystical appreciation of creation: every day, go outside and find a quiet place where nature can be observed. Let your mind become aware that, as you were created in the secret darkness of your mother, so all the living things around you had their own secret beginnings because God willed you into existence at this same time, for a sacred reason unknown to you. Rest in that awareness for a few moments, and then say a few gentle words to the life around you about how you want it to flourish. And don't forget to thank God for the creation in which we are all immersed. Gratitude is probably our best response.

I think Christ is doing some of that in the video below...


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Share the journey

Lent is here again. While we should always be caring for those among us who are in need, Lent seems to be the time when we make a more concerted effort. And here's one way...

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has chosen to focus on migrants and refugees this Lent, inviting us to Share the Journey of those who are displaced by forced migration due to war, famine, poverty and natural disasters. Climate change is the latest threat as our world warms to record temperatures, forcing many people in drought-stricken regions from their homes.

The fear of migrants overtaking our homelands and bringing terrorism -- so often raised by media reports (and the President of the United States) -- is unsubstantiated. In my involvement with L'Arche, I have met many people who are immigrants. Most of them would prefer to be in their own countries rather than Canada (especially in the cold we've been experiencing this winter!), and all of them want to be contributing citizens. They didn't choose to leave Syria or Burundi or other places that were home to them, but they had no choice if they wanted to live.

The video below is a good summary of the issue of forced migration, and offers Canadians a way to help, even if we've never met a migrant or refugee. And the Share Lent website can be accessed by clicking here. It offers more information and places to donate.

As we begin Lent, let's do what we can to help our faraway family members who are forced to flee their homes. After all, humanity is one big family.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: Seeing rightly, living rightly

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Luke 6:39-45.

You challenge us,
O Christ,
to see rightly.

Our blind spots
to your will in our world
come from our own prejudices.

It is easier
to find fault with others
than to address our own inadequacies.

Known by the fruit we bear,
we must ask ourselves:
where does our treasure lie?

You tell us
that our words and actions
arise from the abundance
of our hearts.

Help us,
O Christ
to let our hearts rest
in the beauty,
goodness and truth
that is you
so that we may increase
your beauty,
goodness and truth
in our world.

Show us how to see rightly
and live rightly.

+Amen

 * * * * * * *

This week's rereading of paragraphs 27-31 of Pope Francis' encyclical letter, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home (the entire encyclical can be accessed by clicking here) reminded me of all the water that I take for granted. The Pope and his encyclical writer friends preface their comments on water use by pointing out that "... the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we have still not solved the problem of poverty." (paragraph 27).

Water is one of those things we waste and discard without thinking. It isn't just important, it's essential to life of all kinds -- "terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems" need to be everyone's concern: "Water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the sustainable supply, with dramatic consequences.... Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production." (paragraph 28).

Of course, it's always the poor -- those who lack security, wealth, and political power -- that are most affected, as noted in paragraph 29. In the developing world, they often don't have access to safe water, or have to walk long distances to access it. But even here in a "developed" country like Canada, we still have 60 drinking water advisories on First Nations reserves, though I am happy to note that's down from 132 advisories since I last looked at the website, and 3 of 4 of the advisories in my own Alberta backyard have been resolved. Inadequate water treatment, or pollution of water sources through industrial activity are an issue faced by our marginalized brothers and sisters all over the world. Too often humans are desecrating the fresh water God gives us, which flows and flows until it reaches the oceans, polluting them as well.

To add insult to injury, the poor face inadequate fresh water supplies in some places because large corporations are privatizing and bottling water, selling it at higher prices per litre/gallon than gasoline. Paragraph 30 states that "access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights." And yet we in North America continue to use water and buy bottled water as if it is an unlimited resource. Yesterday on my walk with the dog, I picked up two empty plastic bottles, grrrr. (Plastic is one of my pet peeves these days!)

Last summer, Lee and I visited the Athabasca Glacier from which our North Saskatchewan river takes its waters, and this time, there was a good-sized stream flowing off the glacer long before we reached it. Our city depends on water from the Athabasca Icefields. What will happen when they're gone? Global climate change means that some parts of the world are already facing acute water shortages, but still we forget that we can't create glaciers, or rainstorms, or a single water molecule the way God can.

Paragraph 31 points out the possibility of water shortages within a few decades, but our brothers and sisters in Australia, California, South Africa and so many other places know what it is to live with water scarcity. They have already been forced to implement measures to conserve and protect water sources. Fresh water is anything but infinite, and we should all be doing the same.

St. Francis sang the praises of Sister Water, "so useful, humble, precious and pure" in Il Cantico del Sole (Canticle of the Sun), as if she was a person standing right beside him. We would do well to treat water with that kind of love and respect.

So today, I'd like to invite my readers to get themselves a glass, go to the kitchen faucet, and fill it, and reflect on whether we are seeing water rightly -- as an extremely valuable resource -- and using water rightly. Is our water clean and clear? Take a sip and savour. Consider: how much does it cost? How do we take it for granted? How can we use less/pollute it less? Do we use phosphate-free dish soap and laundry soap? Do we remember to carry our own water bottles so that water sources aren't comodified for our convenience? Can we cut down on less critical water use such as lawn watering, sidewalk spraying, and car washing for the sake of the environment? How can we support our brothers and sisters who are affected by water shortages and drinking water advisories?

Do we treat Sister Water with the respect she deserves? Or is there room for improvement? Lord, that we may see.