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Contributor Eleanor Carrano combines faith and reason in her review of Crichton's thriller "Next," a novel exploring the ethics of genetic engineering

Before the days of global quarantine, it had been a while since I’d found the time to read “for fun”, and even longer since I’d been glued to a real page-turner. But that’s exactly what Michael Crichton’s Next is. You know it’s good when you’re charging towards the end of a 500-plus page novel at three in the morning and slip off the end of the last chapter with a real sense of surprise that the whirlwind story is actually finished.

But it wasn’t finished for me. Next got me thinking about my response to it as a Catholic reader. What follows is meant to be part book review, part reflection on bioethics. Fitting for a novel starring some wonky hybrid animals, I suppose.

Next is the work of Michael Crichton, the mastermind whose movie-adapted Jurassic Park brought dinosaurs into our living-rooms. The author whose name has become synonymous with meticulously-researched sci-fi thrillers that border chillingly on social prophecy. Jurassic Park has always been one of my favorite movies (that’s for another post), which eventually led me to read some of Crichton’s novels. Having enjoyed Prey and Disclosure so much, I was surprised I’d never picked up Next when I...

Guest post by Michael Dominic Taylor, PhD. on lessons from the "suffering and storms of life"

The global crisis and collective confinement that we are living through gives us much to consider. Perhaps one of the most encouraging phenomena that we’ve seen during this time has been the appearance of animals in times and places they don’t usually show themselves, and the sights of unpolluted and vibrant bays, rivers and skies. To see jellyfish passing through Venice’s sparkling canals and deer roaming through Japan’s urban streets, just to name two verified examples, is a ray of hope in the midst of the tragic situation we face around the world. Perhaps it gives us a sense of relief to think that maybe we haven’t spoiled the earth as badly as we had thought.

I think we should meditate deeply on this subject. What might nature want to tell us?

Some seem to already know the answer—or rather, it seems that they’ve known it for a while, as they have been saying from the outset that “humans are the virus, and COVID-19 is nature’s cure.” This message has echoed across social media and is at the heart of too many eco-philosophies. In this pessimistic worldview, each piece of bad news is good news for this often politically charged...

Pope Francis offers much-needed reminders in his homily for the Easter Vigil, 2020

In one of the darkest Holy Week's in recent memory, the Holy Father's homily for the Easter Vigil sets straight our paths with powerful reminders of the value of life, true hope, and the light and promise of our faith in Jesus Christ.

“After the Sabbath” (Mt 28:1), the women went to the tomb. This is how the Gospel of this holy Vigil began: with the Sabbath. It is the day of the Easter Triduum that we tend to neglect as we eagerly await the passage from Friday’s cross to Easter Sunday’s Alleluia. This year, however, we are experiencing, more than ever, the great silence of Holy Saturday. We can imagine ourselves in the position of the women on that day. They, like us, had before their eyes the drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly. They had seen death and it weighed on their hearts. Pain was mixed with fear: would they suffer the same fate as the Master? Then too there was fear about the future and all that would need to be rebuilt. A painful memory, a hope cut short. For them, as for us, it was the darkest hour....

In an annual tradition, Catholic Ecology posts this ancient homily for Holy Saturday.

With the slower pace of quarantined life for so many, perhaps Catholics and all Christians this year can prayerfully reflect on an awesome reality of #Christianity—one that’s often under-appreciated in the Western church: Christ’s Harrowing of Hell.

This ancient homily, posted on the Vatican website, is a wonderful way to embrace the mysteries of Holy Saturday.

The Lord's descent into hell

"What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and...

What our pontiffs have been calling for is being discovered as our world slows, reflects on the value and basics of life

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

+ Pope Francis, Extraordinary Moment of Prayer, Urbi et Orbi, March 27, 2020

Listening to the Holy Father during yesterday’s stunning and truly historic moment in Saint Peter’s Square, I could not help but remember these words of his predecessor:

“What is needed is an effective shift in mentality which can lead to the adoption of new life-styles ‘in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors

Contributor Kat Hoenke explains how big or small yards, or even an apartment patio, can make a big difference in caring for our common home

We depend on healthy ecosystems for our survival. This includes clean air, clean water, and ecosystems that can adapt to a changing climate. We know that the more biodiverse an ecosystem, the better it's able to provide these "ecosystem services." However, biodiversity is decreasing on our planet.

When speaking of biodiversity in Laudato Si’, Pope Francis said “[t]he loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses. Different species contain genes which could be key resources in years ahead for meeting human needs and regulating environmental problems.”

However, there is hope.

One of the best ways to help increase biodiversity is to reduce barren lawns and plant trees and plants on native to your area on your property, whether that be in your yard, on your Parish or school grounds, or even your apartment balcony. We need to integrate our developed communities with nature. Native plants provide food for pollinators and sequester carbon, as well as increase biodiversity.

Science has shown that integrating native plants on our properties on a large scale could restore...


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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.