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In the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, we recognize the power and meaning of our own baptism. We also come to understand how God uses ordinary matter in His sacraments—like water, bread, wine and us—and makes it extraordinary.

From the Church's catechism (§1238) on baptism, we read that "The Church asks God that, through his Son, the power of the Holy Spirit may be sent upon the water, so that those who will be baptized in it may be 'born of water and the Spirit.'"

Sacramentally, water has become a pathway to eternal life—as here, now, in this fallen world, it is a pathway to biological life. Sadly, water is scarce in too many places, and as this report from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops tells us, this scarcity leads to horrible human suffering.

Water is vital for sustaining the life of each person, for sustaining health and socio-economic well-being, and for making possible the very existence of life on our planet. The total amount of water on Planet Earth is fixed. Of the world’s

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January 2011

Working in government allows one to see Original Sin in dreadfully evident ways. As we read too often in the papers, careers in “civil service” can easily become a means to selfish ends. As a government official myself, I can attest firsthand that many who make civil service a vocation on any level could learn a thing or two from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know I can.

But then there are the often under-reported stories of someone doing something right.

My agency, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, recently saw its director, Dr. W. Michael Sullivan—who was appointed by Governor Carcieri some five years ago—step down for Governor Chafee’s choice for the position. Changes in leadership can be exciting for staff staying on, but for the person saying goodbye, such transitions might be distressing, a time of turning inward or walking away in a huff. This possibility makes the story of a last...

Every so often Amazon.com does me a favor. While ordering books for school last year, the website suggested an obscure little book by Joseph Ratzinger--now His Holiness Benedict XVI. Written in 1986, it's based on a series of homilies on the creation accounts of the Old Testament. It sounded interesting, it's a subject I'm fascinated with, and figured for $10, how could I go wrong?

Well, I was right. This book is a must read. (And it fits perfectly in a section of my thesis on B16. Praise Amazon.com God!)

First, this little book asks a big question: Why don't more catechists teach about creation and what Genesis is telling us? If you teach religious eductaion and this topic seems unimportant, or too high a hurdle to jump, read "In the beginning." You'll not only have...

Very often the Holy Father says one thing, and the media reports something else. Or they take one line of a lengthy homily or text and make that the center of their conversation.

In Sunday's homily for the solemnity of the Epiphany—the visit of the three wise men—Benedict XVI reflects that all creation resonates with the beauty of the creator; that a true exploration of nature is a pathway to know God. He notes that

the universe is not the result of chance, as some would have us believe. Contemplating it, we are invited to read in it something profound: the wisdom of the Creator, the inexhaustible imagination of God, his infinite love for us. We must not let our minds be limited by theories which come only to a certain point and thatif we look wellare not in fact in concurrence with the faith, but do not succeed in explaining the ultimate meaning of reality. In the beauty of the world, in its mystery, in its grandeur and its rationality we cannot but read...

News that the Holy Father has made appointments to his Council for New Evangelization brought to mind that there are connections between ecological realities and the call to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. These connections shouldn’t come as a surprise.

After all, the truths we proclaim come from the same God who created the laws of life. One such law is the reality that organisms benefit from proximity—indeed, an intimacy—with their own kind as well as other species.


Groupings of plants or animals (or even bacteria) very often form “micro-environments” that assist each individual organism. For instance, in the case of plants, a cluster of foliage creates a shelter that protects the ground from scorching sun, helps retain moisture, and provides physical support in times of stormy weather.

Human cultures act the same way. People grow together in micro-environments called families, parishes and communities. We share each others’ burdens and bounties, and protect each other from harm. A community can absorb injury to its members when survivors respond with...

The very day violent storms hit Arkansas, thousands of birds--mostly red-wing blackbirds--tumbled from the sky. Elsewhere in the aptly nicknamed "Natural State," a major fish kill also has scientists and residents scratching their heads. Of course the media is in a frenzy, and the conspiracy theories are, well, about what you would expect.

While all available evidence points to "natural" causes for the rather spooky bird kill, the fish kill is still more a mystery--although a single-species fish kill is usually caused by disease.

The problem is, while qualified scientists seek answers, it's easy for the less informed and those prone to drama to see evidence of secret military testing, or alien invasions, or that illusive end time.

But a mystery does not imply a supernatural (or extraterrestrial) cause. Sometimes, very natural events occur in a sequence that is partially hidden.

That some of us seek to fill in the missing links with epic, sci-fi or conspiratorial details...

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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.