Vision, Mission, Values

 

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Our Vision, Mission and Values are reflected in our most recent Chapter Statement of 2013.

We call ourselves to a renewed vision of Mercy Mission, Community Living and Leadership.

 

Reflection on the Universe Story

In the first place I need to say I have found the new story of the Universe exhilarating, fascinating and hugely liberating. It has deepened my faith in God and filled me with awe and wonder at the marvels and complexity that is everywhere around me. Striking a deep chord within me is the awareness of the interdependence and relatedness of everything that exists.

My most compelling learning, as I shared earlier, is the understanding of the earth as a living, evolving, creative community with a life span of approximately 13.7 billion years. In the words of Teilhard de Chardin

“the Earth is actually a living being, a colossal biological super system"

We humans are one of the latest species to evolve. We share the same origin and substance as every part of our planet from its molten core, rocks, mountains, rivers, seas, vegetation, plant life, insects, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals. We share a substantial amount of DNA with almost all living things and we share the majority our DNA with the chimpanzees and Bonobos. Every species, animate or inanimate has its own special contribution to make to the balance and wholeness of the total earth community.

We humans are the consciousness of the earth community. We are earth / Universe aware of itself, reflecting on itself, wondering about its origins, finding God in everything; relating to the Creator in reverence, wonder and awe; seeking to develop and uphold moral and ethical values, to choose and make decisions in harmony with the Creator’s design for the wholesome, ongoing evolution of the planet. God has certainly given us a very awesome responsibility.

Until the advent of the human species the evolving process i.e. mating and birthing systems, the adaptation and mutations of the various species would seem to be programmed. Now it would appear the human species is entrusted with some responsibility for ongoing evolution, most particularly for its own evolving potential.

The darker aspect of the story, of course, is humanity’s inadequate response to this awesome responsibility and the consequent devastation of the planet. Sophisticated, first world human kind so often acts as owner and master seeing the planet simply as a resource for its own aggrandizement, ruthlessly exploiting the majority world and the finely balanced eco-system on which every living thing depends. It is a sad story of reckless greed and self interest which abuses the authority entrusted to the human race and thwarts or delays our own potential for evolving to a higher level of consciousness and awareness.

One interesting and hopeful fact I have learned is that most religious Congregations are also working with the same sort of focus as ours. These too have arisen in their recent Chapters. It seems that there is an awakening awareness across the globe about the urgent need to ponder deeply and correct serious imbalances in our attitudes and relationship to our planet home. There are more than two million accredited groups mostly lay people working on aspects related to this awareness. Many of them look to Religious groups for leadership and inspiration. A number of congregations are responding to this need through running programmes such as the Dominican course in ‘An Tairseach’.

Our Chapter Focus Relates to Deeply Spiritual Issues

Another important learning for me is the realisation that our Chapter Focus relates to deeply spiritual issues. They relate to the whole process of evolution. The Church though very cautious at first, now fully accepts, and contributes its own research to the world-wide body of knowledge we have from our scientists cosmologists and mathematicians. Sadly, however, the legacy from the past still dominates much of our religious thinking and theology.

During the ‘Enlightenment’ period the new scientific thinking, supported later by the theories of Newton, was that the earth was simply a massive machine that human kind would soon be capable of fully understanding and controlling. The notion of God was deemed, simply a need for primitive peoples to explain their existence. The Western Church moved heavily into a defensive mode. There was a great concentration on doctrine, dogma, proofs for the existence of God, sin and redemption. Catechisms were produced that gave the answer to every possible question.

It was a natural and necessary response at the time but sadly the teaching Church has never fully recovered its balance. We are still a heavily rational, dogmatic, head centred institution and therefore have lost much of the richness that is still part of the eastern Churches. In this scenario there has not been much space or encouragement for the mystic over the past centuries. Their creative, intuitive insights and experiences of higher levels of awareness have been lost to us and it is only in recent times that names such as Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen and many other mystics are becoming more widely known, read and emulated. Writers and theologians such as Teilhard de Chardin whose works clearly reflect the sense of the Earth as having its own autonomous personality, and being the prime centre and director of our future were silenced in their own life time and only comparatively recently, reinstated. 

Science and technology reveal something of the “how” of the words of Genesis 1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”

Perhaps our greatest loss has been the lack of exposure to that second great pillar of revelation that Thomas Aquinas spoke of, namely, creation, the natural world, through which comes our most intimate and immediate experience of God. Science and technology reveal something of the “how” of the words of Genesis 1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”

St. Thomas Aquinas believed that a mistake in our understanding of creation will necessarily cause a mistake in our understanding of God. The Story of creation which has now been revealed to us by scientists and cosmologists is fundamentally and spectacularly different from what Thomas understood and from what most of us where taught in school. Biblical criticism and scientific knowledge reveals that the Genesis Creation, stories, were never intended to be interpreted literally but were, creative intuitive interpretation of the writer’s insights, and pondering on his people’s existence and origins. 

The call for us today is to immerse ourselves in the new universe story to recover the sense of wonder, awe and amazement.

The call for us today is to immerse ourselves in the new universe story to recover the sense of wonder, awe, amazement, appreciation and gratitude to seek to understand more fully the relatedness and interdependence of all things and to allow ourselves to be lost in the mystery of it all. There is an increasing volume of resources now available to enable us in this study.

One of the great pioneers in this area was Thomas Berry, a Passionist priest, described as an ecotheolgian and cultural historian who died in July this year. His last book ‘The Great Work’ sets a programme, a way forward that is crucially important for our survival on this planet. He urgently stressed that our generation’s great work is, ‘the transformative effort to change human-earth relations from disruptive and destructive to mutually enhancing and beneficial.

He believes that the root of our planet’s problem is the disconnection of the human species from the rest of the planet. A literal interpretation and mistranslations of the creation story in Genesis leads us humans to understand ourselves as a separate, special creation with a mandate to subdue and control the planet. It is this understanding of ourselves which appears to give us licence to treat the earth as stuff, - a resource for humankind. ‘But what on earth can we do about it?’ you will most likely be asking yourself. It is a question that has been occupying my mind and I share a few ideas.

  • Add to the rising level of conscious awareness by becoming more aware of the beauty and mystery around us. Watch look and listen. Encourage others to do the same.
  • Allow myself to be filled with awe and amazement at the unfolding 13.7 billion year story of the universe as revealed by scientists, cosmologists and mathematicians.
  • Be aware that evolution is an ongoing process and my attitudes and behaviours have consequences.
  • Treat all peoples and the natural world with respect and reverence, finding God in all things.
  • Take up the Celtic Spirituality concept of a blessing for everything; in my heart bless the tree, the leaf, the sea, the sunset, the flower, the storm, the person next to me on the bus or at table, the person who is annoying me etc.
  • Practice contemplation, stillness, emptiness in the presence of the divine.
  • Hold all creation in prayer before God.
  • Continue efforts at conservation and recycling.
  • Ask myself is this something I need, or do I simply want it. Learn the beauty of enough.
  • Write letters on current issues i.e. Why do we need Trident or a new high speed train from London to Glasgow when the planet is at risk from the effects of fossil fuels.

I am sure there is a fund of ideas that it would be good to share.