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On the Path of Ecological Conversion

In the Year of Creation in the Diocese of Burlington, Lent is a time to fast for climate justice and perhaps even change personal habits to better care for the Earth.

“Over the past year, as I have learned more about the effects our dietary and behavioral choices have on the environment and those who call it home, I have gradually begun to incorporate more ecologically conscious practices into my life,” said Stephanie Clary, mission outreach and communication coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington.

The first step in this ongoing process was removing meat from many meals throughout the week. Next, she became more intentional about managing materials in her home through purchase and disposal choices like buying things in bulk and avoiding plastic when possible and separating food waste from trash for composting. “In this way, I participate in the ongoing fast for climate justice,” she said. 

However, during Lent she will fast specifically as part of the Global Catholic Climate Movement’s Lenten Fast for Climate Justice.

During each day of Lent, Catholics from all over the world will fast for climate justice, joining the interfaith Fast For The Climate and the Green Anglicans’ Carbon Fast. Global Catholic Climate Movement will highlight the impacts of climate change on various countries through social media and other communications. 

In addition to fasting from food, the organization suggests fasting from activities that produce carbon dioxide like reducing use of fossil fuels, electricity, plastic, paper and toxins. The fast encourages participants to “pray and fast for the renewal of our relationship with creation and with our brothers and sisters in poverty who are already suffering the impacts of climate change.”

“The Lenten Fast for Climate Justice is consistent with the existing meaning of a Lenten fast, and Catholic fasting in general,” Clary said. “Because of the way this particular fast is organized, there is also an emphasis on global solidarity. In addition to the personal experience of reflection and prayer that fasting facilitates, the global movement highlights the tangible effects of such practices as abstaining from meat and/or carbon in today’s world. As is consistent with most religious fasting, the ‘excess’ that is not consumed should encourage ‘almsgiving,’ charitable action toward serving the vulnerable.”

On March 3, Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne was scheduled to lead the “The Stations of the Cross with John Paul II: On the Path to Ecological Conversion” at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington. Clary and Josh Perry, director of worship for the diocese, were to present about fasting for justice at a simple soup supper immediately following the Stations of the Cross. Seasonal soup was to be provided by New Moon Café in Burlington.

Throughout his pontificate, in his preaching and teaching, St. John Paul II emphasized the gravity of the environmental crisis and the urgent need for the Church to respond to its moral and spiritual dimensions. 

For him, “the penitential season of Lent offers a profound lesson to respect the environment.”

“Lent, with its three-fold practice of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, is a time of heightened spiritual renewal which can reorient us in caring for our brothers and sisters, and in turn, caring for our common home,” said Perry.

Throughout the Diocese of Burlington’s Year of Creation, there will be a focus on prayer, education and action. “This event will encompass all three: prayer with the Stations of the Cross; education with the presentation about fasting for justice; and action with the sustainable meal shared and effective management of materials (compost, recycle, waste),” Clary said.

As this is the first event in the Year of Creation for the Diocese of Burlington, Perry hopes it is a doorway into other events in the Year of Creation: “As this soup supper and Stations of the Cross takes place at the beginning of Lent, I hope that it encourages a particular focus this Lenten season – to focus on prayer, our almsgiving and our fasting with integral ecology in mind.”

For more information on Global Catholic Climate Movement’s Lenten Fast for Climate Justice, go to catholicclimatemovement.global/2017-upcoming-moments.

Way of the Cross highlights victory of love

A French biblical scholar not only wrote the meditations to guide Pope Francis' 2017 celebration of the Via Crucis at Rome's Colosseum, she also designed her own set of Bible-based Stations of the Cross.

Pope Francis asked Anne-Marie Pelletier to share her reflections with the worldwide audience that follows the stations on the night of Good Friday. She is the first wife, mother and grandmother to author meditations for the papal service.

In the past, writers chosen by the popes have used either the traditional 14 stations followed by pilgrims walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem or the 14 biblical stations used by St. John Paul II in 1991. The main difference is that Jesus falling three times and Veronica wiping the face of Jesus are in the traditional devotion, but not in any of the Gospels.

Pelletier's stations are a variation on St. John Paul's Scriptural Stations of the Cross. She starts with Jesus being condemned to death, rather than with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, and ends with the women preparing to anoint Jesus' body in the tomb.

Because the Stations of the Cross do not have a "binding form," Pelletier told Vatican Radio, "I chose those moments that seemed particularly significant."

"I didn't think about what I wanted to say or what I wanted to transmit," she said. "Rather, my idea was to put myself on this path, to try to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as he went up to Golgotha."

The driving idea, she said, is that "love is stronger" than any evil. "The love that comes from God is victorious over everything. I believe the task of Christians is to give witness to that."

In the third station, "Jesus and Pilate," she said she felt it was important to show the "complicity" of Pilate and members of the Jewish Sanhedrin in condemning Jesus to death.

In the meditation, which was to be read at the Colosseum, Pelletier wrote: "For all too long, Christians have laid the blame of your condemnation on the shoulders of your people Israel. For all too long, we have failed to realize the need to accept our own complicity in sin, so as to be saved by the blood of Jesus crucified."

She titled the fourth station, "Jesus, King of Glory," and focused on the soldiers dressing Jesus in a purple robe and crowning him with a crown of thorns.

Their actions show "the banality of evil," she wrote. "How many men, women and even children are victims of violence, abuse, torture and murder in every time and place."

"Can the sufferings of yet one more innocent person really help us?" Pelletier asked people to consider.

"The scorn and contempt of Jesus' torturers reveal to us -- in an absolutely paradoxical way -- the unfathomable truth of his unique kingship, revealed as a love that seeks only the will of his father and his desire that all should be saved."

While the Gospels do not mention Jesus falling as he carried his cross, Pelletier imagined that he did "on his grueling journey, most likely under the lashings of his military escort."

"He who raised the sick from their beds, healed the crippled woman, raised the daughter of Jairus from her deathbed, made the lame walk, now lies sprawled in the dust," she wrote. "Through him, the Most High teaches us that he is at the same time -- incredible as it is -- the most lowly, ever ready to come down to us, and to descend even lower if necessary, so that no one will be lost in the depths of his or her misery."

In the prayer she wrote for the sixth station, "Jesus and Simon of Cyrene," Pelletier asks God's blessing for every act of kindness every person performs.

"Deign to acknowledge them as the truth of our humanity, which speaks louder than all acts of rejection and hatred," she prayed. "Deign to bless the men and woman of compassion who give you glory, even if they do not yet know your name."

The seventh station, "Jesus and Daughters of Jerusalem," focuses on Jesus' statement to the women, "Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children."

"These tears of women are always present in this world," Pelletier wrote. "They fall silently down their cheeks."

But women are not the only ones who weep, she said, noting the "tears of terror-stricken children and of those wounded on battlefields crying out for a mother."

She prayed that God would teach people not to scorn the tears of the poor, but rather "to have the courage to weep with them."

The French scholar's reflection on Jesus being taken down from the cross highlights the "signs of loving care and honor" with which Joseph of Arimathea lowers Jesus' body and how, in death, Jesus "is once again in hands that treat him with tenderness and compassion."

The attitude continues in the final station commemorating Jesus being laid in the tomb and the women preparing to anoint his body.

"Lord our God," she prayed, "graciously look upon and bless all that women everywhere do to revere weak and vulnerable bodies, surrounding them with kindness and respect."
 
  • Published in Vatican

Via Crucis meditations highlight victory of love

A French biblical scholar not only wrote the meditations to guide Pope Francis' 2017 celebration of the Via Crucis at Rome's Colosseum, she also designed her own set of Bible-based Stations of the Cross.

Pope Francis asked Anne-Marie Pelletier to share her reflections with the worldwide audience that follows the stations on the night of Good Friday. She is the first wife, mother and grandmother to author meditations for the papal service.

In the past, writers chosen by the popes have used either the traditional 14 stations followed by pilgrims walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem or the 14 biblical stations used by St. John Paul II in 1991. The main difference is that Jesus falling three times and Veronica wiping the face of Jesus are in the traditional devotion, but not in any of the Gospels.

Pelletier's stations are a variation on St. John Paul's Scriptural Stations of the Cross. She starts with Jesus being condemned to death, rather than with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, and ends with the women preparing to anoint Jesus' body in the tomb.

Because the Stations of the Cross do not have a "binding form," Pelletier told Vatican Radio, "I chose those moments that seemed particularly significant."

"I didn't think about what I wanted to say or what I wanted to transmit," she said. "Rather, my idea was to put myself on this path, to try to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as he went up to Golgotha."

The driving idea, she said, is that "love is stronger" than any evil. "The love that comes from God is victorious over everything. I believe the task of Christians is to give witness to that."

In the third station, "Jesus and Pilate," she said she felt it was important to show the "complicity" of Pilate and members of the Jewish Sanhedrin in condemning Jesus to death.

In the meditation, which was to be read at the Colosseum, Pelletier wrote: "For all too long, Christians have laid the blame of your condemnation on the shoulders of your people Israel. For all too long, we have failed to realize the need to accept our own complicity in sin, so as to be saved by the blood of Jesus crucified."

She titled the fourth station, "Jesus, King of Glory," and focused on the soldiers dressing Jesus in a purple robe and crowning him with a crown of thorns.

Their actions show "the banality of evil," she wrote. "How many men, women and even children are victims of violence, abuse, torture and murder in every time and place."

"Can the sufferings of yet one more innocent person really help us?" Pelletier asked people to consider.

"The scorn and contempt of Jesus' torturers reveal to us -- in an absolutely paradoxical way -- the unfathomable truth of his unique kingship, revealed as a love that seeks only the will of his father and his desire that all should be saved."

While the Gospels do not mention Jesus falling as he carried his cross, Pelletier imagined that he did "on his grueling journey, most likely under the lashings of his military escort."

"He who raised the sick from their beds, healed the crippled woman, raised the daughter of Jairus from her deathbed, made the lame walk, now lies sprawled in the dust," she wrote. "Through him, the Most High teaches us that he is at the same time -- incredible as it is -- the most lowly, ever ready to come down to us, and to descend even lower if necessary, so that no one will be lost in the depths of his or her misery."

In the prayer she wrote for the sixth station, "Jesus and Simon of Cyrene," Pelletier asks God's blessing for every act of kindness every person performs.

"Deign to acknowledge them as the truth of our humanity, which speaks louder than all acts of rejection and hatred," she prayed. "Deign to bless the men and woman of compassion who give you glory, even if they do not yet know your name."

The seventh station, "Jesus and Daughters of Jerusalem," focuses on Jesus' statement to the women, "Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children."

"These tears of women are always present in this world," Pelletier wrote. "They fall silently down their cheeks."

But women are not the only ones who weep, she said, noting the "tears of terror-stricken children and of those wounded on battlefields crying out for a mother."

She prayed that God would teach people not to scorn the tears of the poor, but rather "to have the courage to weep with them."

The French scholar's reflection on Jesus being taken down from the cross highlights the "signs of loving care and honor" with which Joseph of Arimathea lowers Jesus' body and how, in death, Jesus "is once again in hands that treat him with tenderness and compassion."

The attitude continues in the final station commemorating Jesus being laid in the tomb and the women preparing to anoint his body.

"Lord our God," she prayed, "graciously look upon and bless all that women everywhere do to revere weak and vulnerable bodies, surrounding them with kindness and respect."
 
  • Published in Vatican

Stations 'On the Path of Ecological Conversion'

Eric and Vela Bouchard of Island Pond, members of Mater Dei Parish in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, are both park rangers at Brighton State Park, so when they read in their church bulletin that there was going to be “Stations of the Cross with John Paul II: On the Path of Ecological Conversion,” they made plans to drive the 106 miles to Burlington to attend.
 
“We came because of the environmental aspect of it,” Mr. Bouchard said. “Care of the Earth is a passion [of ours].”
 
Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne led the Stations of the Cross at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception; about 50 people attended.
 
After the Stations, there was a sustainable soup supper and discussion of the Lenten practice of fasting and information on the Global Catholic Climate Movement’s Lenten Fast for Climate Justice.

Seasonal soup was donated by New Moon Cafe in Burlington and sustainably sourced bread was donated by O Bread Bakery in Shelburne.
 
The Stations and the program after were part of the Diocese of Burlington’s Year of Creation.
 
The special Stations reflect St. John Paul II’s emphasis on the gravity of the environmental crisis and the urgent need for the Church to respond to its moral and spiritual dimensions. For him, the penitential season of Lent offered “a profound lesson to respect the environment.”
 
At each of the 14 Stations, a scripture verse was read followed by a reflection from Pope John Paul II read by Bishop Coyne such as:
 
“One of the greatest injustices in the contemporary world consists precisely in this:that the ones who posses much are relatively few and those who possess almost nothing are many.  It is the injustice of the poor distribution of the goods and services originally intended for all.”
 
And
 
“There is a growing threat to the environment, to the vegetation, animals, water and air.”
 
The congregation recited a prayer after each reflection, focusing on a pertinent area of ecological justice like energy consumption, global responsibilities, injustice and violence, consumerism, environmental destruction and misguided models of progress.
 
More about “The Stations of the Cross with John Paul II: On the Path of Ecological Conversion” can be found at Year of Creation: Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington.
 
“It’s time we have these awakenings” about the Christian call to care for the Earth, Mrs. Bouchard said.
 
In his presentation on fasting after the Stations, Joshua Perry, director of worship for the Diocese of Burlington, explained different practices of fasting throughout history and said “fasting is related to the call to ecological conversion.”
 
The Church’s practice of fasting has varied according to time and location, but it is not just for Lent, he continued: “Fasting is an important spiritual discipline we can practice to deepen our relationship with God.”
 
Perry explained that fasting is a reminder that people are dependent on God, it allows them to focus on their spiritual selves, it helps them “clear out the clutter” in their lives to better see the presence of God and helps them see the plight of others. Fasting also allows persons to give alms – to use savings from food to do charitable works and stand in solidarity with others.
 
Judy Contompasis of Burlington, who attends The Catholic Center at the University of Vermont, saw the Stations of the Cross promoted on Facebook. "I've always seen part of my faith as taking care of God's creation," she said. "It's beautiful to see an event that connects care for the environment and faith because they are not separate and should not be separated."

Also during the meal, Stephanie Clary, mission outreach and communication coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington, outlined the Global Catholic Climate Movement’s Lenten Fast for Climate Justice in which participants fast and pray for bold action to solve the climate change crisis.
 
Fasting from certain foods, especially meat, she explained, positively affects the planet and the poor. Fifteen percent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by meat consumption, Clary noted, and producing one pound of meat requires about 1,800 gallons of fresh water.
 
“We have to care for…the Earth God has created,” she encouraged.
 
For more information, visit mercy2earth.org/lent.
 
 
 
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