Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 15, 2008
Pioneer of eco-spirituality dies at 94
Fr. Thomas Berry wanted humanity to be a benign presence on the earth
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Passionist Father Thomas Berry - internationally regarded as the dean of those working to relate ecology to spirituality - died June 1 at the Well-Spring Community in Greensboro. He was 94.
Through his teaching and his writings over the years, the priest inspired conferences, books, poetry and music, and courses in "earth justice." He even influenced some religious communities to transform their motherhouses into ecologically sustainable retreat centres.
Three funeral services for Berry were held between June 3 and 8. A public memorial service was to be held later at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.
The priest's sister, Dr. Margaret Berry, told the News-Record daily newspaper in North Carolina that Berry's health had declined over the years and his death was not unexpected.
Family members were with him when he died, she said, adding that "he had a quiet death."
Berry saw the clarion call of the 21st century as the need to move from being a disrupting force on the earth to being a benign presence.
Through his seminal works The Dream of the Earth and The Universe Story, he taught that the earth itself is endowed with an innate living spirituality that needs to be rediscovered, greeted with wonder, listened to, celebrated in song, poetry and art, and nurtured instead of exploited and destroyed by industrialism and commerce.
His other significant works were The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future and Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community.
Berry often recounted that as a 12-year-old he had a major ecological spirituality breakthrough when he looked out at a blooming spring meadow across the creek near where his family was building their new home.
"The field was covered with lilies rising above the thick grass," he wrote in his book The Great Work. "A magic moment, this experience gave to my life something . . . that seems to explain my life at a more profound level than almost any other experience.
"It was not only the lilies. It was the singing of the crickets, the woodlands in the distance and the clouds in a clear sky," he wrote.
Berry said he realized that "whatever preserves and enhances this meadow in the natural cycles of its transformation is good, what is opposed to this meadow or negates it is not good."
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