Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Sister Whale

Sister Whale

I got to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC two hours early to get one of 6000 seats for their annual Feast of St. Francis and Blessing of the Animals.  Saxophonist Paul Winter, as he does every year, led his Consort in his haunting “Missa Gaia/Earth Anthem.” The opening song is St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun, with a new second verse.

“All praise be yours through Brother Sun. All praise be yours through Sister Moon.
By Mother Earth my Lord be praised, by Brother Mountain, Sister Sea.
Through Brother Wind and Brother Air, through Sister Water, Brother Fire;
The stars above give thanks to thee; all praise to those who live in peace.

“All praise be yours through Brother Wolf, all praise be yours through Sister Whale.
By Nature’s song my Lord be praised, by Brother Eagle, Sister Loon.
Through Brother Tiger, Sister Seal. Through Sister Flower, Brother Tree.
Let creatures all give thanks to thee. All praise to those who live in peace.”

When I wrote last week about meeting two Franciscans at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and how blessed I was to sit and listen to them, I received moving responses from far and wide. Since I am going on retreat in Assisi in a month, I will spend the next three weeks writing more about Francis and his Green/Blue Theology.

Check out this fabulous icon of Francis by Nancy Earle, a Missionary Sister of Immaculate Conception.  Note the traditional Francis animals -  wolf, bird.  But look!  A whale and turtle, ocean as well as land.  One of the other Missa Gaia songs features recordings of humpback whale songs. “Praise be yours through Sister Whale.” 

Pope Francis begins his 2015 encyclical on the environment by quoting from Francis’ Canticle to the Sun, also called Canticle of the Creatures, and praising the saint whose name he took:

“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us….Francis’ response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists.”

The annual St. John the Divine Animal Blessing famously ends with a silent procession to the altar by creatures great and small.  I saw (in 2006) llamas, parrots, alpacas, snakes, a cow, (all from a local animal rescue agency) as well as all the pets brought to be blessed.  The Missa Gaia’s first year (1981, 800th anniversary of Francis’ birth) the circus was in town and an elephant led the procession.

Sadly, no Sister Whale.  But whales bless us here in Monterey all the time – this week huge pods of humpbacks have been seen right from the shore. Come say hi to your sister, and be blessed.
Our Blue Theology Ministry is hosting Blessing of the Animals services in Pacific Grove (Oct 13) and La Selva Beach (Oct. 14.)  Join us, or tell us about your service.  Remember to include God’s wet creatures in your blessings.  I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Angel Fish

Angel Fish

I was having a bad day as a volunteer guide at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  It wasn’t the thousands of guests or tens of thousands of fish.  They were just fine -  happy, curious, cute, inspiring.  What was getting on my nerves were a few of the (necessary) policies that guides must follow there – not a huge deal, things like schedules, territory, personalities, expectations.

Then I met the Franciscans, and my day was redeemed and transformed. 

My assignment that half hour was “Greet,” welcome folks as they walk in.  My above grumpiness meant I was not feeling very welcoming.  I told myself, “Just do the next right thing.”  I saw an older couple, woman in a wheelchair, staring with a confused look at our map and program guide.  OK, maybe I can help them find the otter exhibit and its special
“otter-vator” access to the second floor.  I approached, small talk re where are you from, can I help you find anything etc.

They seemed in no hurry to explore.  They said they were on a tour of the California missions and other coastal sites, like the Aquarium.  Oh, I asked, which has been your favorite mission?  (Good Aquarium staff teach us to take interest in the guests, listen, don’t just do an ichthyology lecture.)  I was still standing up while they told me about SF’s Mission Dolores, that their tour was from their Southern Cal parish, how they stayed last night at the St. Francis Retreat in San Juan Baptista.  Oh, I love that retreat center, I said, and decided to sit down on the bench next to these folks and the guy sat also.  How did you know about that retreat center?

Well, we are Lay Franciscans.  We follow Christ in the footsteps of Francis. 

Oh!  I am going to Assisi next month, I said, on retreat.  Gentle here, Streeter, stay with them, don’t talk too much about yourself or religion.   Oh, tell us more, they say, who are you going with, where are you staying?  Well I am a minister in the United Church of Christ and I’m going with 8 other UCC clergywomen.  Oh, make sure you go to…..and they told me some great stories of their several visits there. 

15 minutes later, after much talk on Francis, Clare, their church, various teachers we know in common, I said, well, you probably want to see some fish, can I help you find anything?  No, we are just going to wander, we’re in no hurry, it’s all a blessing. 

Yes, it was all a blessing.  A good travel rule – remember to slow down, listen, and sit with the strangers.  In that way we often meet angels, unaware.
Come on one of our Blue Theology service trips, retreats and pilgrimages in Pacific Grove, group or individual, and you will meet angels unawares.  I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and at  Image is from a Francis coloring book!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

May The Blue Circle Be Unbroken

May The Blue Circle Be Unbroken

These blue circles seem holy to me, like round icons of wet interconnections. 

-The 1972 iconic NASA photo of our blue planet.

-The “Blue Circle of Life” logo of the fantastic Ocean Conservancy.

-The blue heart logo from Wallace J Nichols’ Blue Marble Project - he has given away over a million blue marbles to remind us to care for our blue ocean planet.  (The Dalai Lama and the Pope have one, I carry mine in my purse.)

-The new logo of my beloved denomination, the United Church of Christ – it used to be red and black, but now it’s a blue circle and wave! 

In the Bible’s creation story in the Book of Proverbs, there’s another wet circle: “When God set the heavens in place, God drew a circle on the face of the deep.”

The geometry of water, our most basic and beloved blue, is a circle, not a square.  Water curves.  A puddle on the counter is round.  Rain drops are bulbous.  Ponds don’t have corners.  When I survey the wondrous Big Sur horizon, where ocean meets sky, there’s the faint hint of a curve, and the waves below curl to meet the shore.

For God so loved the ocean that God drew its circle, and the circular ocean gives us everlasting life.

The circle of God, the circle of water, the circle of ocean.  May the circle be unbroken.
I write these Blue Theology “Tide-ings” devotionals each Wednesday to celebrate ocean spirituality and stewardship, here and on Facebook.  This month our Blue Theology Mission Station in Pacific Grove is hosting four individuals and couples on “spiritual tours” of the Aquarium, with prayer and pilgrimage walk.  Fall is lovely on the Central Coast.  Be in touch.