Monday, November 20, 2017

Some Thoughts on Accompaniment

Accompany.  This word struck me particularly as I finished reading “In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez,” a book that makes connections between global health and liberation theology.  Dr. Farmer and Fr. Gustavo both share the importance of accompanying the poor in order to address a root cause of health disparities and the biggest scandal of theology: poverty.  When we accompany, we start from a bottom-up approach and acknowledgement that we are called to stand in solidarity with others because we are one. As Dr. Farmer reiterates again and again, we do not live in “First World” and “Third World” countries; we live in one world.  An example of this I learned when visiting San Diego recently is that there are pollution concerns in San Diego travelling up the coast by air and water from Tijuana; wouldn’t investment into the public health infrastructure in Tijuana lessen the burdens not only of the Mexicans but also the Californians? 

I am also struck by the world accompany for several other reasons.  First, its root is “con pan” – with bread.  When we break bread with others, we are standing – or eating – with one another in solidarity.  When we can ensure that no one is excluded from our table, but that there is bread for all, we are really living as if everyone on earth is our kin.  Next, this is a word used by immigration activists, as immigrants benefit from having people to accompany them to trials when they are facing deportation:  immigrants are often treated more humanely when accompanied by a U.S. citizen who recognizes their human dignity and knows something of the danger that often awaits those who are forced back to their home countries.  Also, I found out that there is a retreat within the Methodist/Protestant traditions that parallels the Day by Day Agape (DDA) retreat I went on as a teenager at Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries, that the Protestants call “A Walk with Emmaus.”  The Emmaus Walk as I have come to experience on my DDA and other retreats, is also one of accompaniment.  It’s accompanying a fellow human being on their walk with God – a shared experience that can be truly transformative for both parties.

Accompaniment in the search for global health, food justice, immigrant rights, spiritual discernment, or any other human journey has love for the other at its root in all cases.  It’s the same root as the motivation of St. Francis of Assisi when he decided to embrace the leper on the side of the road, and the same motivation that St. Francis spoke about when he told a fellow friar “charity, not food” is what was important in the breaking of bread with a hungry friar. Charity, that is, in the context of the original meaning of the word it is derived from (caritas) – love for one’s neighbor.  In this holistic understanding of the word charity, we come to accompany our brothers and sisters in a way that honors their dignity rather than sees them as recipients of handouts that does not allow them to have a role in their own liberation.  This type of accompaniment has allowed Dr. Paul Farmer to build up the organization of Partners in Health to have 13,000 employees, two thirds of them being local community health workers, many former patients who many have never had a job in their lives before.  It’s an accompaniment that sees people holistically, acknowledges the social determinants of health, creates jobs, and helps people lift themselves out of poverty. 

It’s this type of accompaniment we can use in building one to one relationships when organizing for a goal, for those who seek to do something to manifest hope as an alternative to the utter hopelessness we can feel in challenging situations where we see so much suffering around us.  Fr. Gustavo speaks a good deal about hope amidst suffering, as well – citing Jeremiah 32 and Job as influential Biblical texts to meditate upon.

Ultimately, it is especially up to those who have privilege to decide to accompany those who suffer at the hand of unjust policies and systems, recognizing that we can gain strength from the hope that lives in the wells of our own and others’ experiences.  And of course, the person being accompanied must choose to be accompanied. When we befriend those we accompany, the journey becomes a shared human experience from which both people can benefit. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Building a Catholic Food System

Mass is a celebration of the Eucharist – the body of Christ, the physical manifestation of the divine presence on Earth.  Millions of Catholics go to mass every weekend and celebrate the Eucharist, and Christians of other denominations similarly celebrate the meal Jesus had with his disciples through weekly services. But what could it mean to take the celebration Eucharist even more literally, to live out the spirituality to which our faith calls us?  
“Give us this day, our daily bread,” we pray.  How can we let Christ live through us in a way that better helps to ensure the world’s hungry receive their daily bread?  This question is one that necessitates seeing ourselves as interconnected with our brothers and sisters across the world, so we can maintain the spiritual stamina needed to create a more equitable food system.

Photo credit: Gerald Wen, member of Harmony Farm CSA & St. John the Baptist/Holy Cross Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Care for Creation committee. Used by permission.

In December 2016, I helped to facilitate a food justice breakout session within a Catholics of Color Climate Justice workshop, organized by the Franciscan Action Network in partnership with Climate Reality Project. One participant asked how we might build a food system based on Catholic principles.  I started brainstorming what this might entail.  
A food system based on Catholic principles would value the five components of the Good Food Purchasing Policy of the Center for Good Food Purchasing: local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare, and nutrition.  A Catholic food system would care for the hungriest among us, both on the other side of the world as well as the other side of the street, making sure everyone not only has access to food but gets fresh, quality, nutritious food, that doesn’t degrade environmental sustainability but promotes ecological well-being instead.
Picture this: going to church and picking up a farm share with food grown on an organic and biodynamic farm owned by a religious congregation, and having surplus food that is grown be donated to the church’s food pantry or soup kitchen, thanks to the support of other parishioners who can help to subsidize the additional food.  Having quotes from Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” sent out in your weekly emails reminding you to pick up your vegetables from the farm. Coming together with parishioners to discuss integral ecology and spirituality – how our faith informs how we live out our engagement with the earth. And having the opportunity to visit the farm, meet the people who are growing your food, and even pick some of the produce yourself.
That is exactly what is happening through Blessed Sacrament Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City. Blessed Sacrament has partnered with a lay Catholic community known as Benincasa (after St. Catherine Benincasa of Siena) that is supported by the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt. Benincasa Community and the Social Action Committee at Blessed Sacrament host a “Community-Supported Agriculture” program and support the church soup kitchen in providing farm-fresh food to the community. Grown on Harmony Farm and offered alongside a discussion group and excerpts from Laudato Si in a weekly newsletter, the food provided by Harmony Farm is spiritual as well as physical nourishment.

Photo credit: Kelly Moltzen, taken at the Care for Creation retreat at Harmony Farm

2016 was the first year of the farm-to-church partnership. In 2017, Benincasa is starting to expand the program to other parishes.  The parish of Holy Cross/St. John the Baptist, run by the Capuchin Franciscans, has taken up the challenge, and parishioners have decided to donate funds for a bulk farm share that will be purchased for a new soup kitchen. The soup kitchen will be parishioner-led, too: several people have already taken the Food Protection Course and are now licensed to supervise the many volunteers who are ready to prepare food and service the soup line.
Biodynamic, organic farms such as Harmony Farm are practicing regenerative agriculture, which can trap carbon in the air into the ground, thereby helping to reduce carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. If regenerative agriculture was practiced globally, 100 percent of current, annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would be sequestered (1). This is a refreshing alternative to food from a system that is a significant contributor to climate change and environmental degradation.
Because of our industrial growing practices and cultural habits, red meat and dairy contribute nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions of all foods.  The beauty of eating a plant-based diet with foods grown locally, organically, and even biodynamically, is that we can build a new food system while simultaneously providing climate solutions.  Creating a system that feeds the hungry with nourishing food from the earth also puts the power and responsibility back into parishes and takes it away from the food industry, a harmful system that perpetuates food insecurity as Andrew Fisher recently made clear in his book Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups.
Ideally we can work towards the full meaning of the root of the word charity (caritas), or “expressing one’s love for God through love for one’s neighbor and oneself,” a love that includes dignity of the receiver, and also keep in mind the roots of charity in the Judaic tradition, where the highest level of charity is when receivers are able to become self-reliant.
To make more sustainably, ethically grown produce available at an affordable price for all, we would need a Farm Bill that is committed to biodiversity and incentivizes produce rather than subsidizes corn and soy as staple crops.  More affordable fruits and vegetables would also support equity for communities of color that are disproportionately affected by health disparities. We also need to make sure children are being taught from a young age about healthy and plant based eating, and provide them with opportunities to learn how food connects them to the earth and others.  There is a great model for this in WANDA, or Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics & Agriculture.  In ensuring that young girls are educated about the healing power of food, we can build a new generation of leaders who have the capacity to sustain themselves and one another.  
By focusing on growing more fruits and vegetables and promoting a plant-based diet, we can also reduce our reliance on the resource-intensive and often unethical practices involved in raising animals for meat.  The Saint Francis Alliance is a network of Catholics who advocate for vegetarianism because they recognize the inherent value and dignity of animals, and know that an ecosystem which treats animals well will also be one that is sustainable and healthy for humans.
Equipping ourselves to build a food system that honors the dignity of all of creation promotes improved food and water security for everyone, which can also help reduce violence and conflict especially in areas where resource scarcity is a threat to human livelihood.  Yet creating this new food system is not an easy feat: in order to accomplish the task, we must recognize the challenges that come with defending creation, ethical treatment of farmworkers, and the poor’s access to land. This became a lifelong struggle for Cesar Chavez, and Oscar Romero was assassinated standing up against corruption and in the name of Christ, and for the right of the poor to have access to land.
A food system based on Catholic principles is one based on the premise of integral ecology – recognizing our profound interdependence with the earth and one another.  It’s based on Catholic Social Teaching, including honoring the dignity of all, rights of workers, a for the poor and vulnerable, and the care of creation.  And it’s one that allows us to fully live out the three dimensions of eco-conversion: the spiritual dimension, lifestyle dimension, and advocacy dimension. It’s one based on grace, where the incarnate is not desecrated, but its sacredness is instead honored as we share meals through community.
(also posted at  

(1)  Rodale Institute (2014). Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming. This compelling statistic is backed up by Rodale’s Farming Systems Trial (FST), the longest-running test comparing organic and conventional cropping systems.

Friday, November 25, 2016

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, We Give Thanks for You

We all know that Thanksgiving is a time when Americans recognize the importance of expressing gratitude for the abundance which the Earth provides us with, and for the family and friends with whom we share it. Thanksgiving commemorates the hospitality offered by Native Americans to the European Puritan colonists, as winter was setting in and the colonists were unprepared for the cold months ahead. The Native Americans provided food and support. However, the history of Thanksgiving is much more complex than that, and also involves violence, conflict, and massacres. It was actually not celebrated as a national holiday until the midst of the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln declared it a holiday and a time for families to re-unite. This history is important to think about as present-day armed security forces inflict horrendous abuses to Native Americans at Standing Rock in North Dakota and those who are standing in solidarity with them as they protect their land and water from exploitation.  Which is why this year especially, I have felt conflicted about this holiday, a sentiment I believe is shared by many people across the country.

We cannot stand idly by and pretend like Thanksgiving can be the same as it has been celebrated for generations. The situation at Standing Rock brings to the forefront a history of centuries of exploitation, trauma and broken promises experienced by Native Americans.  Not to mention the insult to injury added to non-whites overall, through the terrible racism which has surfaced with the 2016 election. The United States has always been a place of violence and abuse of Native peoples, and of other people of color, even as it sees itself as a beacon of freedom for all. How can we now hold up that beacon, even as the armed forces inflict violence against our own people? 

Over the past few years, I’ve come to learn about the roots of much of this violence, by learning about the Doctrine of Discovery, the 1493 papal document which allowed explorers to lay claim to any land they “discovered” that was not owned by Christians.  This doctrine, which has not yet been officially renounced by the Vatican, still governs U.S. Indian law today, still being cited into the 21st century.  I really do wonder how likely it is we will begin to see Native Americans and their land treated with the respect they deserve until this document is rescinded and removed from U.S. law.

Meanwhile, over the past year and a half, Catholics and non-Catholics alike have had the opportunity to read and discuss Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si.  This modern document, which discusses at length the dual “cry of the earth and cry of the poor,” calls us to dialogue and action on behalf of all of God’s creation. Through dialogue, we can identify actions that help us carry out the work to which our spirituality calls us. 
It was through such a dialogue that I came together with several followers of Pope Francis to plan a potluck meal this week in honor of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church.  Through a network of kind-hearted faith-rooted social justice advocates I know in NYC, several of us, especially Sara Jolena Wolcott from Union Theological Seminary, Tom Dobbins from the Catholic Charities office of the Archdiocese of NY, and Terry Michaud from the Blessed Sacrament Social Action Committee and the Metro NY Catholic Climate Movement, and myself, came together to organize a dinner and discussion around the topic of indigenous peoples, and food, water, and climate justice, in honor of St. Kateri.

Held in the dining room of the Blessed Sacrament rectory, the dinner was attended by members of Blessed Sacrament’s Social Action Committee and RCIA program, members of the Metro NY Catholic Climate Movement, Tom Dobbins, Sr. Odile Courier from Holy Name Parish and Franciscans International, and several others. After prayers, we went around our circle of about sixteen people sharing what brought us into the room. People asked rich questions around food, climate, spirituality, faith, and history of the church. We started off with everyone sharing what brought them to the room. Responses were rich, and varied across the topics of food, climate, spirituality, faith, and history of the Church.  Some were concerned about food waste, portion sizes being so big, how food is valued so much less now than it used to be, why is food a privilege, and why are food dyes and other toxic chemicals fed to kids in the form of junk food. Others discussed the poor state of recycling, and how overproduction stems from a fear of not having enough. Sara reminded us that wastelands used to be referred to as “the commons,” a far cry from what most wastelands look like today. Some wanted to learn more about St. Kateri and contemplate how we can better “welcome the stranger.”

There is a thirst to learn what will wake up the planet in regards to climate change, to reconnect with creation, and to learn, what is the liturgy to support sustainability in the Catholic Church?  One woman who grew up in the Bronx reminded us that “life grows through burned buildings and cracks in the concrete,” and that, “life has to have its day.”  Sr. Odile shared how working with the indigenous people in the Philippines taught her about what it means to be close to nature/creation, and how we are so disconnected from it. A French citizen, Sr. Odile reminded us to keep our ethnocentrism in check: the U.S. is important but other countries' backgrounds are important too and we need to act together. Someone mentioned that we need to have the moral courage to talk about economics; the financial bottom line not always being the most important factor to take into consideration when making decisions.

Given the current U.S. political situation, there was a comment about the history of Church opposition to the Third Reich. An interesting comment was also made about the harm the church has done by perpetuating a false split between spirit and matter, to which I responded by saying this false split is debunked through recognizing the divine nature in all of creation including the food we eat, and the importance of food and faith in bringing us around the table together (one of the core tenants around which Christianity was founded). I also shared my discovery of the amazing parallels between Native American prayers and the Canticle of the Creatures by St. Francis of Assisi in praising creation, as I believe now more than ever, it is critical for us to recognize the parallels between Catholic and Christian spirituality and indigenous spirituality.

Sara Jolena then gave us a history lesson through retelling the story of where we are today in a way that tied together the fifteenth century Church, the Doctrine of Discovery, colonization, the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and St. Kateri. The essence of the story is as follows: through a papal bull, in 1451 Pope Nicholas V gave permission to King Alfonso V of Portugal not only to explore but also to enslave the peoples of the West Coast of Africa who were assumed to be non-Christian "pagans," or "Saracens," or Muslims. This enslavement would become the Transatlantic Slave Trade. A 1454 Papal Bull gave the Church authority to the witch hunts, destroying the lower-class "indigenous women of Europe."  In 1493, when Columbus returned from the "New World," Pope Alexander VI wrote several other bulls that encouraged conquest of any land not inhabited by Christians. This became known as the Doctrine of Discovery. It supported Spain’s conquest of the New World, starting with the landsdiscovered” by Columbus. The Doctrine of Discovery had at its premise that “the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.”1  [The tragedy, which was made painfully clear to me during a recent talk by a Colombian visitor to the Union Theological Seminary Center for Earth Ethics, is that indigenous peoples did not quite need to be “converted” to Christianity, especially through violent conquest which is against the core tenant of Christianity. The Natives already possessed a respect for the divine nature of creation and did not need to hear Jesus’ message as much as the people to whom Jesus preached and ministered to in his corner of the world.]

St. Kateri, meanwhile, was a Native American who converted to Catholicism and practiced a devout religious life. She chose the name "Kateri," the Mohawk form of Catherine, taking the namesake of Catherine of Siena.  Her short life was marked by illness, loss, sorrow and suffering as she witnessed her family suffer and become turned upside down in the contact with the Europeans, who brought disease, a monetary-based economy hungry to consume the natural resources of this land, and a faith that stirred her heart. despite her family's protests, she refused to marry anyone except Jesus Christ. She lived between two worlds: Catholic and Mohawk. So far as we know, she treasured both. Eventually she moved to a monastery in New France where she and another Native woman yearned to start their own nunnery; they were told that they were too young. She died at age 24 surrounded by her new-found community. According to the priests who sat besides her as she was dying, after her death, the scars from the small pox that had marked her face since she was suffered from the disease brought by the Europeans at age three vanished and her face began to brightly glow. It was one of many miracles associated with her.

Given this history and the current state of affairs with Native Americans, I find myself asking, what would St. Francis of Assisi do?  The Doctrine of Discovery didn’t come into existence until a few hundred years after Francis’ death. But he gave us the Canticle of the Creatures, which is of the same thread of understanding of our place within the ecological web of life as the beliefs held by indigenous peoples. He also gave us a lifetime’s worth of inspiring actions that he took in response to the simple command he heard through prayer to “repair the house” of God.  In the same way that Francis’ life and spirituality has been a source of inspiration for Franciscans for centuries, St. Kateri’s ability to bridge indigenous culture and Catholic tradition should be a source of inspiration for us all as well.  So, in the wake of human rights atrocities and what Pope Francis refers to in Laudato Si as “unbridled exploitation” happening at Standing Rock, may we remember that Water is Life, and do all that is in our power to protect it for one another and for generations to come.


*Updated to include edits from Sara Jolena Wolcott 

You may also find this resource useful:  How to Give, and to Give Thanks, to Standing Rock  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Light Game

"Through a young intern’s experience in a garden, we come to see how learning the incarnational art of growing food and coming to a deeper realization about why we’re here go hand in hand. In this simple narrative, Mary craftfully weaves together a story that reveals the connections between organic farming, religion, science, energy, light, and life to bring us to reflect on life’s deepest questions. The Light Game is a must-read for anyone searching for deeper answers, who questions religion, or who questions their own life. It will help us more clearly see the light inside each of us, and show us how we can each bring more light into the world."   - Kelly Moltzen, MPH, RDN, Franciscan Action Network board member & Wake Forest University School of Divinity Re:Generate Fellow
The Light Game, available for free on Kindle until September 14

"What if life is a game and there is only one rule?"

We are all searching for answers about the meaning of life. So much so that we often forget about the core truths about what it means to be human, and that people of all religions are in search of the same thing. Those of us who practice religion all seek to understand the "cause, nature, and purpose of the universe," which is how defines "religion."  But what if it all is actually very simple?  In my own tradition, I've realized that the very premise of the religion - that Jesus' life was about sharing what it means to live as an incarnational human being on Earth - becomes an elephant in the room when considering the schism between the life Jesus taught us to live and the human predicaments we find ourselves in at this moment in time. Catholics and other Christians often forget about the incarnationality of the religion, spending entire livelihoods deliberating on philosophical and theological concepts instead of living out what the religion tells us is important: how we live life on Earth.

To be in-carnate is to be in the flesh. The word represents a spiritual being residing in the flesh, in human form.  To fully live as humans we have to know how to nourish ourselves with food from the Earth, and so it is important for us to consider how the food we eat is grown, and even better, to grow some of that food ourselves.

Mary Colborn helps us make a critical discovery about the nature of the energy that produces our food in her new book The Light Game. As an organic farmer and lifelong spiritual Catholic, Mary helps us see that the energy that is used by plants to produce oxygen and food comprises the same vibrating molecules that make up the energy we live off of and is shared in our interactions with one another. Through the various parables (many rooted in the natural world) and healings performed by Jesus throughout his lifetime, Jesus was telling us the same thing. We are Light. We are all made of the same divine energy as that which created the cosmos.  And therefore, each of our lives is critically important, as we are all part of the whole.  We all have an integral role to play during our time on this Earth.

I met Mary through the Global Catholic Climate Movement and had a chance to visit her farm in Michigan recently after supporting her Barnraiser fundraiser earlier in the year.  I've been interested in supporting her work especially after realizing our shared interests in promoting regenerative agriculture within the Catholic Church. While at the farm, Mary read me an almost finalized version of The Light Game. As the book is about a young intern working in the fields of Mary's farm and wrestling with questions about the meaning of life as Mary ponders these questions out loud with her, it felt almost as if I was in the book itself, as I helped harvest produce and talked to Mary about the contents of the book. We picked green beans and raspberries and reflected on Franciscan spirituality, integral ecology, and the challenges of trying to sustain a farm in this day & age with little government support for small-scale organic farmers. I met Mary's sister Tina, saw the chickens, barns that need repair, and acres and acres of unused farmland potential that could be created into a teaching farm with student interns as Mary envisions. I also saw the giant Love Letter on the side of her barn that she talks about at the end of the book. As a struggling small-scale organic farmer, Mary hopes to use the proceeds from the book to revitalize the farm, create a food hub and internship program for young farmers. She's not working alone, either- Mary hopes to do this in tandem with the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Food Innovation Center, which is building a food hub for farmers in the Kalamazoo Valley of Michigan.

I cannot stress enough how exciting this project is, and how profound The Light Game's message is. I would really like you all to read it, and so would Mary.  In honor of World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10), Mary is making her book available for free for five days, downloadable on Kindle or the Kindle app.  Please check it out and share your comments - we'd love to hear what you think! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New Heaven, New Earth: Musings on Permaculture & Integral Ecology

There has been oppression, corruption and war for millennia – this, we know, is not something new.  Jesus and other prophets have actively taught means of interacting within corrupt systems to bring about Heaven on Earth.  Many of these people, Jesus included, did their ministry and prayer work in natural environments, and told parables that led people to contemplate the natural world. Coming to these realizations throughout my lifetime, I immediately recognized myself in the story of permaculture expert Bill Mollison, as told by Fred Bahnson in Soil and Sacrament:   

Mollison had grown up in a small village in Tasmania, and became horrified as he saw fish stocks collapsing and large sections of forest disappear. He began to protest against the political and industrial systems that were to blame. ‘But,’ he wrote in Introduction to Permaculture, ‘I soon decided that it was no good persisting with opposition that in the end achieved nothing.’ For the next two years Mollison withdrew from society. When he returned he realized he did not want to oppose anything ever again and waste his time. He wanted to come back only with something positive, ‘Something that would allow us all to exist without the wholesale collapse of biological systems.’ What Mollison came back with was the beginnings of permaculture, a ‘whole human system.’

I likewise decided early on to focus on building a holistic system. Thus, my career has focused on nutrition, public health, and promoting sustainable food systems whenever possible.  What I’ve realized since the 2015 release of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si is that these ideas about permaculture are very much in line with the concept of integral ecology.

We can use systems thinking to create an integrative food system where food grown is connected with healthcare and mental health systems and a more sustainable environment. We can put the systems in place to put Laudato Si into action. To do this, we will need to educate, but we will also need to organize and advocate.  While Bill Mollison may have chosen not to oppose anything and Jesus did much of his ministry in the fields, we must also remember that Jesus also flipped over the money tables in the temple.  It’s clear in the Bible that man cannot serve God and mammon, and that we shouldn’t worship the golden calf. Yet, that is what so many corporations are doing now.

According to Citizens United, corporations are people – but of course, we know that’s not true. We know the people making up the corporations are people, not the corporations themselves.  We also know it is not good to wish ill on the people making up the corporations. It is good for them to have livable wages to support themselves and their families, healthcare, and meaningful work.  To make sure everyone has a fair chance for these necessary components of healthy living, the people who are most enmeshed in corporate greed – amassing gross wealth off the backs of the working poor – need to back off a good deal from their possessions and materialism, and open up to more of a communal, humane way of interacting with the marginalized.

With decent financial and human investment, we can create more green jobs, include people affected by injustices in the decisionmaking processes, and capture carbon back into the Earth to mitigate and prevent catastrophic climate change. This is just as true in the Bronx as it is in Harlem, as it is in the bayous of Louisiana, as it is in Haiti, and every other place affected by environmental injustices.

In Soil and Sacrament, Fred Bahnson also quotes Rainer Maria Rilke:

All will come again into its strength:
the fields undivided, the waters undammed,
the trees towering and the walls built low.
And in the valleys, people as strong
and as varied as the land.

What a vision of shalom! When I read this I thought first of bringing shalom to Haiti, where the water has been dammed up leading to much dry, barren land, exacerbated by deforestation due to the burning of wood for cooking fires.  It reminded me of the holistic vision for restoration of this island nation that I’ve begun brainstorming with several others over the past few months. But this prophetic poetic excerpt can apply to anywhere we wish to restore with shalom - God’s holistic peace.

So, how can we begin sharing the stories of people creating a “new heaven and a new earth” and living out Laudato Si?  When will we begin to create a truly holistic system of integral ecology and shalom?

1Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Revelations 21: 1-4