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Mary Oliver

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Dear Mary Oliver,
voice of our earth
breath of beauty
on the day of your passing,
“I wake early.”

I remember your friends:
Molly, Percy, Wild Geese, Black Swan,
Summer Days, The Journey.
I ask again what I can do with my
“one wild and precious life.”

I treasure my memory
of the night at Dominican University
when you and Percy came to us
and taught us how to
pay attention' to the beauty of the world.

Thank you for your words,
thank you for your good advice.
May I honor you
with new beginnings,
bring beauty to the world.

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Spasm

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Long ago, in the final weeks of World War II, America dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. Loss of life was catastrophic. Planetary people awakened to a stark reality: if life was to continue on our Earth home, it would be necessary for nations to arrive at an agreement to disengage from nuclear warfare.

This defining moment led to the emergence of the Cold War. In subsequent years, there have been precarious moments when the unleashing of a nuclear bomb seemed imminent. However, in recent times, the threat of a hot nuclear war has been replaced by the lethal threat of ecological devastation.

Well-known system theorist Johanna Macy addressed this shifting threat in her writings. Her early work had titles such as Despair and Empowerment in the Nuclear Age, and her more recent works focus on the imminent threat of ecological devastation; for example, Coming Back to Life.

Cultural historian Thomas Berry suggested the same trajectory through his writings, such as The Dream of the Earth and The Great Work. His work challenges us to face the depth of our environmental crisis with statements like “the bomb has already gone off.” The attention to destruction of the planet entered a new phase with the publishing of Pope Francis’s letter to the world Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home.

The response to our endangered planet has resulted in “extinction spasms” of monumental proportions. The historic work Silent Spring has become a benchmark for the era that is now upon us. The awareness of this dangerous time has brought responses from many theologians and spiritual leaders. The diminishment of natural beauty has prompted some to say that species loss is like tearing a page from sacred scripture. For those of us who embrace a theological view —that creation is a book of primary revelation, that God is in all things, and all things are in God—the reality of species extinction leads us to a painful conclusion: it is possible to have death without a resurrection.

Each year in California, monarch butterflies gather in clusters only to be replaced next year by a new generation of butterflies. Now, these butterflies, along with many other species, are on the brink of extinction because of polluted water, toxic air, and poisoned earth. Some have suggested that our lives on planet Earth are beginning to resemble a lunar landscape, where the divine presence is diminished, and our souls are deprived of the beauty of God’s creation.

Today, before it is too late, we must enter a new time, a time when once again the spring of Rachel Carson can flow purely and abundantly.

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Wonder of Mystery

I arise today
from the clouds
of forgetfulness
and recent sleep,
liberated from the cell blocks
of past sorrow and regret.

I arise today
within the healing balm
of chrism
that trickles
across my wounded soul.

“Stay the course of courage,”
I hear wisdom say.
“Embrace fresh freedom,
remember those
who have gone before.”

I welcome mercy,
anticipate the morning,
stay awake and wonder
about mystery and soul.

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Silent Depths

Allow your heart to swell,
mind to open,
soul to grow.

Ponder the face of Jesus,
listen to Pope Francis,
discover God
in our flawed and fractured world.

Follow the promptings of the spirit
in the midst of each new moment,
experience the fireball in your heart.
From silent depths of wonder,
let flow the energy of love.

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Christmas Greeting

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Grow and flow,
grow and flow together,
oceans of energy
spirit of all life.

Expand, reach, pray
in this unimaginable moment.

On this unimaginable day,
when energy flows
to invigorate our souls,
all are welcome.

Earth speaks
with wonder and surprise.

Each new energetic moment
enlivens all that is.

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To the people of Springbank, Berkeley and Beyond,

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Dear Global Prophets,

Jesus of Bethlehem and the world are waiting for us to celebrate this sacred moment. Embraced by universal love, we give thanks for the cosmic and the personal as we join with our good companions, both long-standing and new.

You stir our hearts with joy and gratitude. In this age of anxiety, we celebrate and treasure the beauty, fresh energy, and zest for life that flow from your wisdom and your words.

We join together today as a community, buoyed by the conviction that each new tomorrow will be better than those that have passed.

Together we embrace the unfinished universe that awaits us, confident that the great story will guide us into a mutually enhancing time, one that will become the omega of our lives—the Universal Christ.

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Honoring Indigenous People on Thanksgiving

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In the San Francisco Bay Area, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated with the Indigenous People’s Sunrise Ceremony on Alcatraz Island as a way to highlight the shadow side of America’s history and the treatment of the First Nations/Native Americans.

Here at Springbank Retreat, we celebrate the indigenous people’s contribution to spiritual wisdom, which is much needed today. We gather to celebrate what we call “Saving God’s Creation Through the Eyes of Our Native Brothers and Sisters,” as we honor the indigenous mystics and prophets of yesterday and today. Among those whom we gratefully remember are Saint Rose of Lima (Peru), Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (America), and Black Elk, whose name is being brought forward for canonization.

In our celebration, we join our hearts and minds in gratitude for their gifts and values, which have been transmitted so generously to society and soul. Among these gifts is deep reverence for Mother Earth as our source of life and wisdom.

We honor all First Nations/Native Americans, who were the first ecologists and who teach us about the sacredness of all creation.

We celebrate the indigenous people, whose love and companionship with the natural world teach us that if animals perished on Earth, humanity would die of loneliness.

We give great thanks for our indigenous cousins of creation, whose stories, customs, and rituals remind us that God is manifest among us on sacred Earth in many ways.

We honor the wisdom of indigenous people here and around the world, and honor their spirits, which call us forth today.

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Restoration Blues

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WH Auden was right,
power corrupts,
and absolute power
corrupts absolutely.

We hear,
subvert the probe,
fear the caravan,
another mass shooting,
twelve more lives lost.

Yet today
democracy decides.
Women—black, white,
indigenous, Asian—
help flip the House.

Fresh hope rises.
Now is our time.
From sea to shining sea,
keep democracy alive.
May happiness shine.

Blessed be!
Amen! Alleluia!
Blessed be!

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Shelley

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Each day poses new questions.
So today I ask,
How can I engage the challenges and gifts
of each new day?

Shelley, my friend,
also has her quest
as she rejoices in each new moment
and navigates about the trees.

Then she returns to our humble hermitage,
where she finds friendship and food
and takes a long nap, following kibble,
and sleeps peacefully into the night.

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Tomorrow We Vote

I see more clearly now,
peering through the marine layer
over San Francisco Bay
this Monday afternoon.

Today my vision becomes clearer
through the fog of news
that scatters truth and wisdom
to the wind.

Today I come home again
to what is just and true,
celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
from the halls of democratic peace.

Again I hear the clarion call,
from the streets of California to the halls of Congress.
We say out loud again,
“Today we march, tomorrow we vote.”

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I Feel Called

I know that poverty must cease.
I know this through the brokenness
and conflict in my heart.

I know that protest
is my most prophetic act.

I feel called today
to bring people together
to break bread and tell the story.

I feel called today
to listen to the heartbreak of our broken world
and celebrate the wonder of creation.

I feel called today to fall in love,
to feel at home,
to be touched by God.

I feel called
to compose a new paragraph
for life.

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Restoration

What do you want to tell us, Earth?
We humans, I mean,
who walk upon your face,
so replete with cosmic beauty.
You have many lessons to share,
burdens we must bear.

I join in your sorrow
for the children who tonight
will die of hunger,
sorrow for the lobotomies of extraction
that ravage your mountain tops
and leave an ugly scar.

I pray today for the compost of your soul,
the genesis of a great Easter moment
when you will be restored,
and all your offspring
will once again rise up in gentle beauty
to sanctify a better day.

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I Saw Christ Today

I saw Christ today.
Eighteen women and men
filling out applications
to discover a place to call home.
A place of privacy,
of protection from the weather
and of violence in the street.
As I gazed at these seekers,
I thought of Thomas Merton,
who one day in Louisville,
at the corner of Fourth and Walnut,
looked around at those on the street
and was moved to say,
“I loved all those people.”
In a similar way
today at St. Mary’s Center in Oakland,
I looked around the room
at the urban refugees
working on their applications
and felt like Merton many year ago.
I loved everybody.

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The Kiln of the Divine

Welcome morning’s
gentle sunshine,
her cool, crisp breeze.
Earth speaks today
of wondrous beauty.

We gather this morning,
vessels of clay,
shaped, formed and brandished
by the winds and storms of life.

Now healed, warmed and strengthened
in the kiln of God’s embrace,
we venture forth again.
Welcome and give thanks
as we await the day.

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À La Maison: Songs of our Home

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This country, so wise;
this country, so deep,
has ancient stories to tell.
For many dangerous memories,
I weep.

Many years ago,
1568 I think,
my Huguenots family
set out from Rochelle,
with dreams in their heart.

To Canada they went
in search of a home.
In circles of culture
and language of home,
they lived in settlements
to reclaim their roots.

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Arc of Compassion

Wisdom flourishes and abounds.
Squirrel dances from limb to limb,
stops to look,
then darts away.
Blackbirds hover in the sky,
surveying all of us below.

Puppies, birds, kittens
take their place in church,
although already blessed
on this Saint Francis day,
when all of life
is gift, grace and promise.

Even the asphalt jungle,
of this city is a chapel
where homeless saints abide.
All is holy now,
nothing lies outside
the compassionate embrace
of the wise and ancient one.

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Silent Depths

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Allow your heart to swell,
mind to open,
soul to grow.

Ponder the face of Jesus,
listen to Pope Francis,
discover God
in our flawed and fractured world.

Follow the promptings of the spirit
in the midst of each new moment,
experience the fireball in your heart.
From silent depths of wonder,
let flow the energy of love.

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Shouting Back

Today I stand up to face the world,
a world lacerated by wounds
of race, dollars, and psychic pain.

In the midst of so much sorrow,
I search for and discover a hope
that springs from the heart of the Earth,
from buried seeds that refuse to die,
a resurrection of new life.

Hope comes from the center of things,
where all that remains unexpressed
surges to the surface
and shouts, “Here I am. Listen to me!”

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Morning in France

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“Bienvenue to our dear land,
welcome to our ancestral home,”
I hear my mother say.
“Your family was born here.”

They faced the terror of the turbulent sea.
They came from this country,
where they spoke French,
told stories of the homeland.

In Canada, they lived in French settlements,
spoke French to keep their culture alive,
where all souls are free,
where all souls are free.

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Gazing into Mystery

How do I tell you
about mystery,
share with you
those precious things
I still do not know?

The chickadee could tell you,
“I’m confident,”
as could the raven and the cat.

It’s my words
that get in the way.
My soul knows
what as yet I cannot tell.

Gaze into the mystery.
Let your questions
say it all.

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