Ruth McGoldrick, SP, a Sister of Providence from Holyoke, MA and also co-founder of the Women of Providence in Collaboration, has generously shared with me a presentation she did for their Associates. I intend to share that with all of you in parts or sections in this blog. So here is Part TWO.
Scripture and the Desert Fathers and Mothers are filled with stories about friendship with animals and nature. St. Basil prays tenderly as follows: “May we realize that they live not for us alone but for themselves and for Thee and that they love the sweetness of life.” I love that quote.
The Celtic tradition is certainly characterized by its awareness and in-touchness with God’s presence in all of creation. God-intoxicated people the Celts were: earthy and creation-centered. This is seen in their reverence for water and hills and their pilgrimages to Holy Wells and Mountains which survive today. Celtic Spirituality is undergoing a great revival as people search for their souls in ancient traditions. This is also seen among the English in their love and care for their animals and gardens and for their tiny villages which are environmentally tidy and friendly.
Religious Orders have preserved creation-centered spirituality as well, particularly the Benedictines and Franciscans and more recently most women’s Congregations. Julian of Norwich teaches much about healing the split between the sensual and spiritual. Another colorful medieval mystic is Hildegard of Bingen who lived from 1098-1178. This contemplative nun was a poet, painter, musician, botanist, herbalist and counselor and the originator of the word “greening.” To Benedict’s desire to cultivate nature and Francis’ kything with it, she adds a woman’s grasp of nature’s most intimate and dynamic secrets and processes.
Coming to our own times, we can look at poets and priests such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and de Chardin as well as Yeats and Mary Oliver to name but a few. Teilhard de Chardin reminds us that the primary feature of the creation story is one of ceaseless transformation, that our sacramental universe is ever-evolving and that we too must be ever-changing and evolving.
OUR CHALLENGE AS PROVIDENCE PEOPLE
One of our challenges as Providence People is to study and know the treasures contained in the writings of the mystics, tradition, and present documents and writers. There also definitely needs to be a shift in whatever religious perspectives allow us to still feel superior to nature and our willingness to just “use” other creatures merely for our own convenience and satisfaction. As Providence People we believe that God is ever at work bringing order out of chaos while helping us write a New Story, delighting as always to be” writing straight with crooked lines.” This might be hard to believe in the midst of our present pandemic and other crises, but we must trust that Providence is with us in it all.
The task of writing and living a New Story is both painful and energizing and calls for great creativity, patience, healing powers and skills. We must trust that new energies will arise out of the present explosion of psychic and spiritual pain we are experiencing today in the United States and throughout our planet. Just when we thought we could relax a bit – behold our Provident God arrives and says: “Behold, I make all things new, yet again. I am gifting you with an enlarged consciousness and a deeper spirituality. “ However much we may wish to reply: “No, thanks! Forget it, O God.” Yet such is the mystery of Divine Providence that we have chosen to reveal in our Charism. We proclaim not a static but an active God; we follow not a dealer in death but a giver of life; we adore not a stale novelist but a creative mystery writer; we follow a weaver of new cloths and a taker of endless journeys. Exciting? Yes. Stress-free? Not always. Grace-filled? Definitely.
Sister Ruth challenges us to trust in what is unfolding throughout our planet, to study the writings of the mystics, tradition, and other writers, and always to believe that Providence is with us in it all.
Barbara McMullen, CDP