Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 9, 2009
Sister stresses the ecological virtues
Catholic school employees urged to take care of God's creation
Sr. Alexandra Kovats
BY GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON – Human choices “are making home, Planet Earth, unfit for life,” says a Seattle sister who specializes in ecological spirituality.
But the cultivation of “ecological virtues” can help to end the world’s ecological crisis, Sister Alexandra Kovats told about 3,000 people Feb. 3 at Edmonton Catholic Schools’ 12th annual faith development day.
Kovats began by listing a long litany of environmental woes ranging from the destruction of massive amounts of farmland to “the radioactive holocaust.”
“That sounds like a very sombre picture,” she said. But the good news comes when we are aware of the picture.
Care for creation “is a requirement of our faith,” she said, enumerating pastoral statements by Pope John Paul II, the Canadian bishops and others who view the ecological crisis as a moral and spiritual crisis.
“If we are followers of Jesus of Nazareth, we are called to be caretakers of the home that has been given to us.”
Kovats said in an interview that “a seminal moment” for her came in the 1970s when she was returning from a conference in Minnesota.
“There was a brilliant sunset and the sky was radiant. I was informed that this was because of pollution.” She realized that the beauty was due to “a destructive mode” of how people relate to the earth.
Now she lives with three other sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. They are all vegetarian, eat and grow organic food, go on outings together in creation, try to offset the carbon dioxide they create, use non-toxic household cleaners and take other actions that help create a healthier planet.
Kovats carries her water in a steel container, eschewing bottled water as “an incredible amount of waste.”
Much of her prayer is done while “walking in creation,” she said. “Being in creation is absolutely essential to me for spiritual renewal.”
In her talk, Kovats said that just as the Copernican revolution of the 16th century meant that the earth could no longer be seen as the centre of the universe, the ecological revolution today means that humanity should no longer be seen as more important than plants and animals.
“In some ways, trees and greens are more important than we are” as they provide oxygen that is essential to survival.
Humanity is given dominion over creation, she said. But dominion should be seen in terms of “caring and loving rather than using and exploiting.”
Rather than seeing nature as made up of resources to be exploited, we should see it as full of gifts to be honoured, she said.
WONDER AND AWE
Creation should be looked at “with a sense of wonder and awe . . . at all the surprises that took place for the human to come into being.”
Too often we take things such as snowfall, rain, sunshine and flowers for granted. We need to become more aware of God’s presence in them. But not only should we “experience and breathe it in,” we should also stand back and reflect on that experience.
Just as Scripture is God’s sacred book, so too is creation, she said. “When we act in such a way that species become extinct, we are tearing a page out of the book of creation. Would you do that to the Bible?”
Jesus, Kovats said, realized that creation is God’s cathedral. He went to pray in the desert, the garden and on the mountaintop. His parables are filled with images such as snakes and doves, lilies of the field, and the vine and the branches.
“Jesus listened to the wisdom of creation and he found insights and awarenesses.”