Ecospirituality: We are called to live as brother and sister
by Roselyn Heil, FSPA
“ ... what happens to Earth happens to every being on Earth, including us humans, both individually and in community.” Thomas Berry wrote these words in his introduction to Tom Hayden’s book, The Lost Gospel of the Earth. However, I changed one very important letter, the capital E in Earth—a grammatical distinction of subjective relationship and object.
When we delegate ourselves separate from the rest of creation—they as it, and us with subjection pronouns—we delegate ourselves as the one with the most rights and everyone else our servant or resource. When we can label them “it” we somehow release our connection with those whom St. Francis called brother and sister.
Thomas Berry goes on to express how Earth is the community through which we awaken to our interior life, our emotions and intellectual aspect of this life. “ ... Earth within the universe is the immediate sacred community whence the human derives its own sacred dimension.” These words lead me directly to the often misinterpreted Genesis story as giving us the directive to treat all the rest of Earth as our resources to use or play with and throw away when we have no more use of “it.”
And use and throw away we do.
As a throwaway society we drive activities such as human slavery—using for our pleasure, treating our brothers and sisters as “it.” Slavery today is subtle, hidden behind laws that think more of economics than of people. Most of the wounds are invisible: taking land and homes for mining; immigrants working for unfair wages and substandard living conditions; and inadequate salaries and minimum wages fail to support a family. Mining and other industry practices contaminate our air, water and soil. What we do to the littlest ones we do to our whole Earth community.
I am reminded of a story my sister, Sister Carolyn Heil, shared of a young man with autism who, at the age of 21, had spent 15 years as a participant at Camp Winston where she ministers. Alex shared that his favorite part of camp was his time with Sister Carolyn and many different animals in the nature hut. He expressed that as he learned to relate with animals he learned to be more civil with people. His story reminds me of my experiences ministering in Yellowstone National Park. In the coyotes and bison I saw how they invite us to look at the wisdom or foolishness which they mirror back to us.
Seeing ourselves in another and learning from each other is a wonderful and mysterious gift. As sister and
brother, we teach each other about ourselves. We are all one body of Christ.