Bay Area Conference of Associates, Affiliates, Religious and Friends, Inc.

Eco-spirituality: Transformation of Mind, Heart, and Will

Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home

March 1, 2023 – Sister Carol Zinn, CSF

 “The Lord God formed humanity out of the clay of the ground and blew the breath of life into the nostrils, and so humanity became a living being…even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart for I am gracious and merciful…it is good for us to be here.” (Scriptures of 1st and 2nd Sundays of Lent and March 1st).

Pondering the abundance of creation, Sister Carol Zinn, CSJ, approached the process of eco-spiritual transformation through three formats: the Mind, the Heart, and the Will. Sr. Carol identified transformation of the mind as balancing your household by honoring and respecting relationships. She explained that in the transformation of the heart one stands in the present while preparing for the future. The transformation of the will comes with a commitment to the unknown and forging into a journey of strength and trust.

Sr. Carol used three analogies to help us see these transformations in graphic terms. Using the symbol of the three-legged stool we saw strength and stability that supports our understanding of who and what we are. This gives us the capability of respecting all of God’s creation and taking care of our common home. If we are grounded in the belief that we are stabilized in moving forward with an organic purpose, we can make a difference, stand firm, and be stable.

Observing the caterpillar metamorphing to a pupae, a chrysalis and then a butterfly, allows us to capture the essence of change by living in the presence but knowing we have to prepare for the future with care and caution. We must take the calculated risk of saving the earth’s living and inert creations for today and tomorrow. If our heart believes in this, it can be done.

Next, we were asked to consider the usefulness of socks – all kinds of socks – thick ones, thin ones, long ones, short ones, bright colored ones, even drab ones. It doesn’t matter what they look like. They are all socks. What we use as a purposeful piece of clothing can always be identified because it serves the same purpose. Can this be the education for the covenant between humanity and the environment? Something so common and mundane can be the building block for a step forward; a choice we can control; a future we can see as strong and faithful.

Sr. Carol reminded us that ‘everything is connected and interconnected’. She asked us ‘where is our call to transformation most evident in our lives and how will we respond’? Her answer came with these words:

‘The way I am with others/Earth is the way I am with God.

The way I am with God/Earth is the way I am with others.’

    Dr. Carol Zinn, CSJ, MTh, PhD, a Sister of St. Joseph from Chestnut Hill, PA, has ministered in the formal and non-formal educational profession. She works with multi-sector and multi-issue groups in helping people deepen an understanding of global realities, local efforts, and the connections inherent.  Dr. Zinn worked as the Education Program Director for Global Education Associates, a non-governmental organization working to further global systemic change. Dr. Zinn served on her Congregation’s leadership team and in the Presidency of LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious). She worked with Congregations as they discerned the future of their mission and charism and the fully living of religious life during these transformational times. Currently Sr. Carol serves as the Executive Director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Submitted by Kathy Noether, EW SND Associate, Co-director BACAR, Inc.

East West Associates, Sisters and Friends of Notre Dame de Namur “Looking Forward to a New Dawn: Kindness, Compassion and Healing.” January 23, 2021 Submitted by: Sister Beth Plesche, and Associates Kathy Noether, Dede Waters-Masters, and Laura Leon

Technology sometimes dictates to us what it wants. Having planned a zoom conference for January 9, 2021, the connections simply did not work. But, as fate would have it, we gathered together on January 23rd with more guests than originally planned! We felt as a team we needed time to see where we as associates are with the many factors that have bombarded us over the last year. Yet, we wanted time together that would lift us up and bring us contemplative thinking of sustenance. Thus, we chose the title “Looking Forward to a New Dawn: Kindness, Compassion, and Healing”. We have brought to you here our morning so that you can reflect with us in prayer and hope.

Beginning with prayer we joined with one another to say:

Generous God, you smile upon the wide diversity and beauty in the humanity whom you created, but you weep at the great divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”  We come before you today as we begin a new year seeking kindness, healing, and compassion.  We aspire to help you heal our world through a greater awareness and a deeper commitment to one another.  Help us to look at our daily living, so that who we are and what we do has a positive benefit to our brothers and sisters everywhere in our earthly home.  Light our vision so that we are ever conscious of those who seek food, shelter, safety, and medical care.  Enable us to use the earth’s resources mindfully.

Awaken in us a sincere gratitude for all that we take for granted.  Give us the gifts of wisdom and discernment so that we can navigate the constant news and differing opinions that surround us.  Let us take people’s stories to heart, seeking our common bonds and resisting the cynicism that tries to take hold of us. Infuse us with compassion so that we know the pain of the hungry, the violated, the homeless, the burdened, and all those who yearn for a better life for themselves and the children they love. Loving God, stir our hearts.  Grant us the strength and conviction to be true care-takers of the world.  We who have been graced with abundance need the courage and generosity to inclusively share our gifts with our brothers and sisters.  Amen.

Following this we presened three aspects of love that connect us both in our daily lives while integrating our charism and mission in Notre Dame. We spent time with the first being KINDNESS.

We might look at today as a time to fill the world with kindness. How can we do that? Well just look at one another here on your screen and we see people who have filled the world already with years and years of kindness. But there is still more. 

Any act of kindness can have an effect. Taking time to listen to someone who is grieving, hurting; taking time to cook a meal for someone who is not well, taking time to smile at someone that passes you by…little acts, simple acts of kindness that goes a long way. 

Kindness is the act of doing good to others and at the heart of our human qualities including compassion, forgiveness, love, friendship, hope, and generosity. 

Aesop once said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Kindness is contagious…it’s a win-win situation.

Kindness is a willingness to celebrate someone else – to be happy for someone else. We can experience a greater feeling when we are kind. We can imagine kindness as Kahil Gibran paints this picture when he said, ‘Kindness is like snow falling. It beautifies everything.’ So in practicing kindness one can transform your view of the world by creating feelings of trust and safety.  And as Desmond Tutu once said, “ Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Know that kindness affects the user and the receiver.

Joyce Rupp tells the story of “…one aging man who planted seeds of kindness.” She follows that idea with her own plans to water and watch over her seeds of kindness with care so they will continue to produce more kindnesses in her own life.” 

Kindness is a simple act that involves no harm to others and it comes with benefits such as increased happiness and a healthy heart. It can even slow down the aging process and help relationships / and connections with others. Henry James said, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind.”

Kindness broadens our life and is a symbol of respect to the receiver. The Dalai Lama reminds us that if you can’t be kind, then avoid harming others. He says his “religion is simple. It is kindness.” 

I’d like to share with you some examples of a few small acts of kindness such as to read or send an Amanda Gorman poem to a friend; Zoom a friend; give a thank you note to your postman; do a nagging chore; send a song or a quote from the inauguration; reach out to someone living alone; express gratitude to a friend or relative…

And…I am sure you could add many more.

So let us look back at the words of Saint Julie, foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who breathes life into kindness as she always sang, “How good is the good God.” Always goodness…always kindness.

Let’s take a minute or so to reflect on these thoughts of kindness……And so we pray: Our response is “Bless them Lord.”

For those who are hungry…

For those addicted to drugs…

For those who have no family…

For those who are handicapped without care…

For those who do not know love…

For those who live in filth and degradation…

For those imprisoned and their families…

For those who are friendless…

Next we consider the realm of COMPASSION.

We begin with the Dalai Lama: “We are called to develop a compassionate heart.” 

So we must ask ourselves what this means? 

One definition says developing the skills that help us feel and understand the emotions, circumstances, intentions, thoughts, and needs of others. This takes deep listening. The result will be to offer sensitive, perceptive and appropriate communication and support.

Ilia Delio says, “Get inside the skin of another.” 

We have also heard, walk in another’s shoes.

None of this happens without slowing down, taking time to listen to the others’ stories 

Pope Francis tells us we must listen deeply before we can dialogue or reach out to others. 

Compassion does not mean taking on another’s pain or suffering. It is about holding the other in our heart. Compassion, deep listening, and presence – we are called. 

Let us pause for a moment to go deep inside.

And so we pray:

Our response is “Bless them Lord.” For those who are shunned because of their race, religion, or status…

For those filled with anger and hate…

For those who suffer with illness…

For the illiterate…

For those who are lonely…

For those who live in immobilizing fear…

For the victims of trauma and war…

For those who have no faith or hope…

Finally, we listen to thoughts of healing. Someone once wrote, “Some people cannot be cured, but everyone can heal.”

What is Healing?  Merriam Webster says that healing is contrary to a decline, a failing, a weakening or relapse. 

Healed by the centering of oneself in the spirit of a living and loving God, there is a belief that the path to healing is through “prayer that is rooted in the belief that there is a power greater than oneself that can influence one’s life. It is the act of raising hearts and minds to God or a higher power.” ( For the soul, we may pray for healing of our mind, our body, our spirit, and/or our lineage. To be healed is to be given strength to continue, especially when it is difficult to see the gifts of kindness or compassion in ourselves and others and uncover our purpose. 

In “To Heaven on Foot” by Sr. Mary Linscott wrote “A careless surgery had so damaged one bone in her foot that the doctor, who was asked to verify her relics when they were exhumed in 1888, hesitated to authenticate it, as he said that a person with such a malformed bone could never have walked at all. Julie knew that she walked in the virtue of a miracle. In 1804 she had taken her first steps after twenty-two years of helplessness, in obedience to a command” ‘If you have any faith in the Sacred Heart, take a step forward.’ Whether the power of walking was restored by rectifying the surgeon’s clumsiness or simply in spite of it, she never paused to question. It sufficed for her that God had restored her health and energy. Her one ambition was to use both for God’s glory. “

As for St. Julie, she knew as we are invited to as well, that healing is a resuscitation to accept the gifts given to us, to revive these gifts within, and share– however simple those gifts may be- with those around us. Healing, in essence, is to acknowledge with gratitude of God’s love in the simple comfort as is found in a warm fire, a soothing broth, or gentle smile of understanding. 

The following quote is from the documentary, “Heal” (2017): “Focus on life. Focus on something that brings you joy. Focus on love, focus on your loved ones and spend every day doing things that make you feel good…I say think of the word remission as actually meaning remember my mission so now it’s time for you to go and remember your mission.” 

So how can we move forward and heal? Like St. Julie, one step at a time, taking our steps in faith, knowing we are led by God, the healer of our souls. 

Let us take a few moments to let this message wash over us. Time was taken at this point to go into small groups followed by a closing prayer.

Universal Lord, let us humbly serve one another with Christ-like compassion, reserving harsh and unproductive judgments and the assumptions that our actions won’t really matter.  Let us be aware of the suffering around us.  Let our ears be open to others’ cries of distress.  Give us the courage to speak up for injustice in all forms.  Keep us available to receive the messages you send us, Lord, aware of our own power to influence others for good or evil.  Grant us self-discernment so we can meet our own sufferings with hope and trust in you. Revive in us the willingness to work with others in building up a universal kingdom and the steadfast spirit to begin again and again.   Infuse in us a commitment to bring all your children to wholeness and holiness.  Amen.

We hope that this sense of Kindness, Compassion and Healing wll bring bring each of us a time of contemplative thought and peace as we face this unprecedented time together.

Categorized as Updates

By BACAR, Inc.

A conference of Associates, Religious and Friends of the San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey, Stockton, and Sacramento

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