March 4, 2016: Do we need a 12-Step program to be kinder to all creation? by Sister Janet Lander

March 4, 2016 by

Sister Janet Lander

Sister Janet Lander

Our St. Joseph community is studying “Laudato Si,” the recent encyclical Pope Francis wrote to all humanity. As a part of that, we asked, “How has pollution affected you or your family personally?”

Some of us initially confessed that here in the beauty of Kansas, it really had not. The consequence is that it is difficult to be motivated to make lifestyle changes when the environmental problem is not dramatically affecting those we love.

Others noted, however, that it is those who suffer poverty in our world who bear a disproportionate burden from environmental degradation. Perhaps we have drawn the circle of “family” too small. What if we extended it to all human beings? What if we extended it to all animals, to all plants, to all life? What if we included the planet, which is itself a living being (“Gaia” or “Mother Earth”)?

When someone in our immediate family is suffering, ill, mistreated or in danger of death, we rarely ask “Do I have energy to help?” or “Am I willing to offer my time or resources?” Instead, we often put the needs of this beloved other above our own, loving without counting the cost. And in our family we don’t merely concern ourselves with our own generation, but want life to be even better for our children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and their children!

Such selfless kindness is in tune with deep wisdom, a wisdom held from ancient times among aboriginal peoples. Important decisions affecting the whole people must be made for not just the living, but for the seventh generation out.

Some scientists posit that if we don’t make a common effort for the common good on earth, there may not be seven generations left to come. Both they and Pope Francis point us in a direction of a conversion of hearts and lifestyles, for the sake of all creation. This change would recognize that our relationships with people and the rest of creation are all interconnected. Also interconnected are the multiple systems in which we are embedded: social, economic, political, moral, ecological, technological, etc.

I don’t know about you, but I often feel overwhelmed. Where do I start? Can I make changes that will not decrease the effectiveness of my work, or the quality of life of those I love? Am I addicted to my present way of working, eating, buying, travelling, recreating, etc.?

A few years ago I gave a retreat on praying with creation, during which we spent one day considering how to be more ecologically sensitive. We wondered, Do we need a 12-Step program to free us from earth damaging addictions (habits and mindsets)? Might these be some of the steps?

  1. We admit we are powerless over our addictions that are harming creation; our lives and thus those of all creation have become unmanageable.
  2. We make a fearless moral inventory of our lives in relationship to all creation.
  3. We list all we have harmed, and become willing to make amends.
  4. We make all amends possible unless they would harm others.
  5. We seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, who creates all creation in love and reveals that love through all creatures.
  6. We try to carry this message of kindness to the community of creation to others.

This year, as our Year of Peace columns focus on kindness that builds community, perhaps we might consciously take steps to extend our kindness to every community in which we live, work, learn, recreate, and pray — human and all creation.


— Sister Janet Lander is a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee and serves on the staff at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia.






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