From St. Francis toward a Christian Ecotheology

From St. Francis toward a Christian Ecotheology

From the Hermit of Saint Bruno Nr. Canterbury (England)

On May 24, 2015, the encyclical Laudato si ‘appeared in which Francis I, the Bishop of Rome called all of Christendom toward an ecological spirituality (Laudato Si’ № 216), the foundation of an ecological conversion that modifies relations with the world around us (№ 217) and made more concrete through the application of practical directives. The Bishop of Rome names St. Francis of Assisi as the exemplar (№ 218) to arouse this sublime fraternity with all of creation which he [St. Francis] lived in such a resplendent manner.

Laudato Si’

The publication of this encyclical did cause some surprises though! both for the subject (ecology), not at all contemporary or prevalent within the magisterium, and for the chorus of praises coming from eminent peoples as the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I and former president Barak Obama, but also from other bon vivants of the world (such as Donald Trump who received a personal signed copy of Laudato Si’) but who’s objectives, actions, leadership and lives are in a totally opposite direction to the Kingdom of God; claiming to be Christians and only having time to attend Church during election years, somewhat akin to prisoners attending a parole board for early release.

Can we truly visualise St. Francis as the patron saint of Ecologists as we conceive it in this day and age by the greats of this world? Surely the sons of St. Francis, cannot remain indifferent to this question; is it not after all the honour of their seraphic Father which is at stake?

Saint Francis and nature

The relationship between the saint and nature can be summarised as follows: from the Creator to creature, from the creature to the Creator.

In first place from the Creator to the creature. Through creatures, St. Francis discerned all the goodness of God. He saw brothers and sisters in them, because they all had the same father (1st Life of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano 81). Thus, in his transport of love towards God, one day he invited birds to sing the praises of the Creator to thank him for all they received from him (1st Life of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano 58). In summary, it is because of his ardent love for God that he loved every creature of him at the same time.

From the creature to the Creator. For his soul so pure, the world was a mirror of Divine Goodness and a ladder whereby he might reach the Throne (2nd Life of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano 165). The saint had a much more tender affection for creatures who bore a symbolic resemblance to Jesus (1st Life of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano 77). Among them, he preferred lambs, because they reminded him of the One who had abandoned himself to his enemies, as an innocent lamb. All these things he said in an admirable way in the Canticle of creatures. We report the first and last verse, which show us the supernatural breath that animates the whole canticle:

Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, Praise, glory and honour and benediction all, are Thine. To Thee alone do they belong, most High, And there is no man fit to mention Thee … Praised be [Laudato si’] my Lord for our sister, the bodily death, From the which no living man can flee. Woe to them who die in mortal sin; Blessed those who shall find themselves in Thy most holy will, For the second death shall do them no ill.

Modern ecology

Ecology is neutral in itself. It is the study of the environment where living beings live and reproduce, and of the relationship they have with this environment. Or so the dictionary says. The purpose of those who study this science is the conservation of these environments so that living beings are not in danger. It is normal for those in power to worry about it, but many do not.

However, ecological concerns have gained more and more momentum due to increased industrialisation; it can be said that in the last 20 years we have witnessed an invasion of ecological issues within our daily lives.

Where does this universal phenomenon come from? For many decades, international bodies, in particular the UN, have become champions of the ecological movement. Now what exactly is meant by ecology? What objectives does it pursue? To answer these questions, it is sufficient to refer to the official acts that have been issued over time. Let’s take a look at some of these goals.

First, the fundamental objective: a change in the paradigm, that is, in our conception of the world. Christianity had Christ the King. Men were subject to this Master whom was dearly loved and faithfully served, both by nations and by individuals. And man reigned over the lower creatures. The Revolution cast out Christ the King; man then proclaimed himself sole king and became intoxicated by this sensation, whilst destroying man’s superiority over other creatures. In short, it is a role reversal (as the word revolution implies). It is the adoration of the elements, possessions, money, the cult of Earth, and finally pantheism, none of which, I believe, are Christocentric.

This new paradigm must be imposed on the whole world. Ecology is found to be an effective lever on all plans for achieving this goal. First, many Communists have laundered themselves into ecology. For example Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. In his book Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World (1988), destined to revive a new world revolution, ecological problems play a preponderant part. Gorbachev himself is the founder of Green Cross International whom inform us that they ‘strive for a secure and sustainable future.’

Finally, it is a question of moulding and combining a political and religious synthesis: achieving a world government and a world religion. A threat of catastrophe must be created within the spirit of the people, to ensure social cohesion and the acceptance of a world political authority, which will be utterly totalitarian.

Helena P. Blavatsky

As for the origin of these ideas, we find them brought together in the New Age movement, derived in turn from the Theosophical Society. The latter was founded by Freemason Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in 1875. One of her successors, Alice Bawley, founded the Lucis Trust in 1922, later renamed the Lucius Trust, a true world centre for the radiance of Luciferian cults and also the Lucifer Publishing Company. ‘Lucifer’ and ‘Lucis’ are from the same word root, lucis being the Latin genitive case meaning ‘of light.’ After the first two or three years, the name was changed to “Lucis Publishing Co.” (The Theosophical Society also used the name “Lucifer” for its early magazine publication.)

The encyclical Laudato si’.

Curiously, in this document we find exactly the same concerns held by the ecological movement. Firstly, the Bishop of Rome denounces the “dominant technocratic paradigm” which he believes to be the root of the current ecological crisis (ch 3), wanting to indicate in this manner the aims to power of industrial societies. To remedy this, he offers a new look at nature. We need “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale.” [№ 9] We note the confusion between the natural order and the supernatural order. While rejecting life-giving pantheism, he says that “The Spirit of life dwells in every living creature and calls us to enter into relationship with him.”[№ 88] From the beginning of the world, but particularly through the incarnation, the mystery of Christ is at work in a hidden manner in the natural world as a whole, without thereby impinging on its autonomy. [№ 99]

The creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One is mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end. (№ 100) All these considerations are traversed by the same constant confusion between both nature and grace. Not only did Christ united with every man, but still with everything. “Christ has taken unto himself this material world and now, risen, is intimately present to each being, surrounding it with his affection and penetrating it with his light: (…) God created the world, writing into it an order and a dynamism that human beings have no right to ignore.” (№ 221). This distinctly evolutionary doctrine is taken up almost entirely by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ., scientist, palaeontologist, theologian, philosopher and teacher, is quoted in № 83 of Laudato Si’ (cf. note 53).

Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J.

As for the New Age movement, it claims Father Teillhard as one of its inspirers. Chardin was Darwinian in stance and sentiments. In 1962, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith condemned several of Chardin‘s works because of their ambiguities and doctrinal errors, the response to his writings by other scientists in the field have been extremely critical. In 1926 his superior in the Jesuit Order forbade him to teach ever again. This is the same man whom as the Jesuit held that humanity had descended from apes and were not created by God. A decree of the Holy Office dated 30 June 1962, under the authority of Pope John XXIII, warned: “It is obvious that in philosophical and theological matters, the said works [Chardin’s] are replete with ambiguities or rather with serious errors which offend Catholic doctrine. That is why… the Rev. Fathers of the Holy Office urge all Ordinaries, Superiors, and Rectors… to effectively protect, especially the minds of the young, against the dangers of the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and his followers. [Acta Apostolicae Sedis – Commentarium Officiale, p. 526, Annus LIV Series III Vol. IV. 6 August 1962]

In reality, God does not dwell within all creatures of His creation. As the creator of natural order, He is present in everything. God lives only within a soul that is in a state of grace; it is through supernatural faith animated by charity that God makes him present in a new way (Aquinas The Missions of the Divine Persons: I q. 43, a 3)

But let’s continue and finish the observation of this new look at things proposed by the encyclical. Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world (n 236) [ID., Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April 2003), 8: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis 95 (2003), 438]: is still a Theillardian ideology. “Decree of the Council of Trent (Session XXII) September 17, 1562 … The Mass must be celebrated either on an altar which has been consecrated or on a consecrated altar-stone or portable altar (Rubricæ Generales Missalis XX).” altare symbolum est Ipsius Christi — the altar is the symbol of Jesus Christ, the altar of his own sacrifice.

Now, its the whole world that is sacred… since Christ is united with it. In the end, “The Spirit, infinite bond of love, is intimately present at the very heart of the universe, inspiring and bringing new pathways.” (№ 238) Once again we note the confusion between supernatural love, of which the Spirit is the principle and the love of God whom created the natural world. Although it cannot be said that a form of pantheism is declared in a formal manner, it is the natural outcome of such a doctrine, since participation in the divine nature (definition of grace) is in reality only natural. To impose this new paradigm and this new behaviour, the encyclical proclaims that ‘there is urgent need of a true world political authority [is this an ‘NWO?‘],’ … ‘it is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organised international institutions, with functionaries who are appointed fairly by agreement among national governments, and empowered to impose sanctions.’ (№ 167-175)

To manifest this now ineluctable authority, it is recalled that states can no longer cope with ecological problems. The potential for an ‘ecological catastrophe under the effective explosion of industrial civilisation,’ is broadly described (cf. № 4 and the whole chapter 1). A worldwide consensus on these questions must be established (№ 216). The Church addresses her prayer for this purpose (№ 216). In short, the political world and the religious world converge. Numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups, have enriched the Church’s thinking on these questions. In the religious world itself, Churches and Christian communities —and other religions as well— have expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing. (№ 7-8).

In summary, we see a convergence between ecological ideology and the encyclical Laudato si’ even if the latter does not admit it because certain points of this ideology are too overtly anti-Christian, nevertheless, what matters for the Revolution is that it continues to march onwards. This is above all a practice, and for this reason it is not allowed to collaborate with it. Probably unbeknownst to its author, the encyclical is playing into the hands of revolution and the insurrection game.

Conclusion

It is impossible to recognize the countenance of the serene Bishop of Rome within the encyclical Laudato si’, it was after all written by him and what seems to be several ghost writers of the Curia. For the Bishop of Rome, as for the Catholic doctrine of all time, creation is similar to a mirror of divine goodness. The gift of science makes us realise how empty creatures are of God and makes us desire Heaven even more; at the same time, it makes us ascend back to the Creator, the “Summum bonum, the rotalis bonum which alone is the ultimate good.” (Laudes Domini) The “Summum bonum” is generally considered as an end in itself, as well as containing all other goods. In Christian philosophy, the highest good generally defines the life of the righteous, the life they lead in communion with God and in accordance with his precepts.

While according to the doctrine of the encyclical, at the service of a universal and cosmic fraternity, God dwells in all things, according to the Theillardian ideology. Objectively, this document gives a nudge to a revolutionary world.

More than ever we pray for the Church and all of humanity, that both may receive the enlightenment and strength to avoid the jaws of revolution. The latter certainly is not desired; if it smiles at church today it is to lure her into its game, but tomorrow it could also reserve a sadder fate for all. At Fatima the Virgin repeatedly reminded us of the urgency to pray for the Church and for its leaders. So let’s re-double our efforts.

Bibliography

Continue reading “From St. Francis toward a Christian Ecotheology”
Be a gardener and custodian in God’s Garden

Be a gardener and custodian in God’s Garden

An article by the former Bishop of Birmingham The Rt. Revd. Hugh William Montefiore (†2005) in ‘Preaching for our Planet‘ pp. 82-86. Mowbray Publishing Preaching Series 1992.

A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed. Your channel is an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon.

Song of Solomon 4:12-15 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised)
Buckfast Abbey

You might think that, with a text taken from the Song of Solomon, my subject is erotic poetry, or, as writers like St. Bernard understood the poem, that it concerns the love of Christ for his Church. If you think that, I’m afraid that you will be disappointed. In fact, I am going to speak about gardening, and my text describes an oriental garden, with water, fruit and spices. It conjures up a delicious picture of sun and shade, fragrance and blossom, and the background tinkle of water. It is worth our noticing that when the writer of Solomon’s Song wanted words to describe the seductive beauty of a beloved, he turned to the imagery of a garden. Earlier he calls her ‘a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.’ (Song of Solomon 2:1.) Metaphors from the garden spring naturally to the lips of lovers, because the garden is a thing of beauty and fragrance, precious and well loved. It has been so down the ages. The hanging gardens of Babylon were one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Bible ends with a city, the city of God; but let us not forget that it begins with a garden, the garden of Eden. That is what the word ‘paradise’ means in the Greek language. 

OUR NATURAL LOVE OF GARDENS 

In Britain people love their gardens. Selling plants for gardens is big business— you only have to visit a garden centre to see that. In many European countries people live in high-rise blocks without gardens. Of course we have many of these in Britain, and that is one of the reasons why there is such a large demand for cut flowers in a big city. Yet despite this, two out of three houses do have gardens. Sometimes these are large. When I was a diocesan bishop my See house had a three acres of garden attached to it. It was by far the best perk of being within the diocese, but it was not easy to give it all the attention that it deserved. Most gardens are small. Now that I am retired, our garden measures only 37 feet by 35; but every inch of it is lovingly tended, and this is typical of many such gardens. Why is this?

It is refreshing to be able to renew our contact with nature. Something stirs within us when we see the natural processes of germination and growth. We find the beauty of flowers, plants and trees deeply moving. The variety of their shapes and colours and fragrances delights us. The presence of birds and wildlife is a further source of pleasure — although not the pests like the slugs and greenfly! As we keep down the weeds, we are reminded of their spiritual undertones which we find in the gospel parables. 

This love of gardens seems entirely proper. Francis Bacon called it ‘the purest of human pleasures’. But it is more than mere pleasure. Gardens speak to us not only of the beauty of creation, but also of the creativity of the Creator. We know that the striking colours of flowers attract bees, which enable plants to propagate their kind; but this does not explain the gracefulness of their shapes or the wonderful harmony of their colouring, or even the marvellous fragrance of some of their flowers or leaves. They are part of the beauty God imprints on his creation. Frances Gurney wrote: 

One is nearer God’s Heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth. 

I don’t think that that is quite true because I am nearer God’s Heart when I receive the Blessed Sacrament, but I’m sure you all know what she means by God’s presence in a garden. 

Because we think of gardens as something very personal, we forget that in the aggregate the gardens of this country cover some 12 million acres! That is a very considerable amount of land. It constitutes an important habitat for wildlife. I know that wildlife is often encouraged by birdtables and the like, but unfortunately some gardening activities are not in the best interests of the environment as a whole. 

Let me speak about one of these. Do you use peat in your garden? Judging from the number of bags of peat sold in garden centres the odds are that you do. Do you realise that by so doing you are helping to endanger a diminishing national and international resource? Please don’t think that this is just the cry of an ecological fanatic. It is endorsed at the highest levels: for example, the use of alternatives to peat actually has government support. Most British peat-bogs are located in the North, especially the north of Scotland and, thank goodness, they are too inaccessible for commercial exploitation. It is the so-called Lowland Raised Bogs in England that are under threat. Only about 5,000 hectares of primary bog of this type are now left. It cannot be regenerated. When it’s gone, it’s gone. 

Peat Bog Yorkshire

THE USE OF PEAT IN GARDENS 

Peat is not a soil nutrient, but it has a great capacity for retaining and releasing water and at the same time for retaining air, which is very useful for some plants. It is also very long lasting if it is not dried out. These are the reasons why people buy it. Surely, you may be thinking, peat-bogs are not all that important. But that is not so. They are unique habitats of great importance for wildlife, and for some species their last refuge. They are a valuable genetic source for the future. They act as natural reservoirs of highly purified water, and it is important to retain our wetlands for they have vital ecological functions. Peat-bogs are also important for storing and releasing carbon dioxide, although the mechanisms by which they do this are not yet fully understood. If you heed the call not to help in further diminishing peat-bogs beyond the stage where they cannot regenerate, then you could easily use alternatives, among which are included bark, coir (coconut fibre) and many, many others. Even with your little garden, you could in this way help to retain some of our ancient and valuable natural resources. 

THE USE OF PESTICIDES IN GARDENS 

Do you use pesticides in your garden? It would be surprising if you didn’t. Every gardener knows that pest is the right word to describe the insects and wildlife which spoil our growing plants, and the viruses which infect them. Indeed, those who say that all pesticides are wrong are usually not aware of the vast amount of damage that pests can do, not only to plants, but also to food in store, not to mention the 30 per cent loss that pests would inflict on crops if pesticides were not used. But did you know that, quite apart from farmers and professional nurserymen, domestic gardeners spend £30 million each year on pesticides? Some of these are: derived from natural sources, such as pyrethrum, and do no lasting harm. Others are very toxic. They linger in the soil. They can affect wildlife, and even human beings. It is the synthetic pesticides and fertilisers of which we should beware. It would be possible for you to avoid using any of these synthetic varieties and to start gardening organically instead. Have you ever thought of that? I am constantly amazed by those people who insist on buying organic vegetables in a supermarket, but who never dream of gardening organically at home! 

Press here to see bee-toxic pesticides

There are other ways in which we can be ‘green gardeners’. We can be careful not to dispose of any toxic substances such as paint and oil by throwing them on the ground. We can make our own fertiliser by creating compost through putting vegetable peelings, grass cuttings and other organic material in a compost heap or compost tumbler. We can plant species that attract wildlife. We can insist on native species of plants and food in our gardens. We can even consider growing some of our own food. These, you may think, are all small matters. Indeed, seeing the size of our gardens, that is true enough. But there are millions and millions of us, and in the aggregate all this adds up to a considerable sum. Furthermore, it can help each one of us to feel that we are doing our bit. When it comes to ecology it is the easiest thing in the world to complain about what others are doing, especially in the world of big business, without in any way changing our own life-style or our own habits. 

CUSTODIAN FOR GOD 

And the earth really does matter. It belongs to God, not to us. We are only trustees for God. This was made perfectly clear by the Old Testament law of jubilee, whereby after 50 years all land returned to its original owner. The earth, like the sea and the rivers and the air, are our primary resources. The topsoil has taken hundreds of years to form: it is an amazing amalgam of living organic matter mixed with trace elements and inorganic substances. We must not spoil it, because it will take a very long time to regenerate. Again, we must not use up valuable and endangered resources like peat. We must not use violent means of killing insects and other pests which result in lasting damage to wildlife and future plant life. The fact that so much good land has already been wasted makes it even more necessary for us to conserve what remains. We owe this to God, and we owe it to those who come after us. 

I began by extolling the beauties and pleasures of a garden. I end with a warning, lest in the care of our garden we unwittingly endanger the future. Today is Sunday. The probability is that you will be at leisure for the rest of the day; and no doubt many of you will be out in your gardens. May I ask you to look at them this afternoon as revealing to you something about the creativity of the Creator? And may I also suggest to you that, if necessary, you decide to make some changes in your future gardening practices? 

Continue reading “Be a gardener and custodian in God’s Garden”
Creation

Creation

Yes, we may know how these things happen, but we have absolutely no idea whatsoever why they actually occur. They are dependent upon what we call the ‘constants of nature’ —for scientists, the constants of nature have been surrounded by mystique, there is no particular Continue reading Creation