For What Shall We Pray?
Posted on October 18, 2016

I was recently at a wonderful lecture given by Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, a foremost theologian and the author of the challenging book “Ask the Beasts” which puts theology and environmental science together.

In the question period following the talk, the speaker was asked where one might go for material for prayer about environmental issues. She thought a moment and then suggested the Science section of the New York TIMES. This morning, I decided to follow her advice.

I read that section regularly, but I have not often thought of it as a subject for prayer. I was so wrong. Let me tell you what I found.

I first encountered a major article on Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s highest dormant volcano, where science and faith have clashed. Scientists want to build a giant telescope to peer into the galaxies., an instrument that would put the Hubble telescope to shame. But the scientists ignored the fact that this mountain is the center of Polynesian culture, a sacred spot.

The mountain top is already dotted with innumerable smaller telescopes and the moment has come when the native Hawaiians say, “Enough is enough.” This is part of the resurgence of the Hawaiian culture and an consequent increase in native pride.

While the courts will decide between the two sides, in a case that rivals Solomon’s dilemma with the two mothers, I feel for both groups How do sacred ancestors and eager sky explorers come to terms? Reason for prayer? Yes, indeed.

A similar dilemma was underlined a few columns farther on with the subject in question being the Great South Bay, between Fire Island and Long Island’s South Shore. Hurricane Sandy opened up a breach there, and the bay’s ecosystem has revived. Fresh ocean water has flushed out many of the pollutants and the bay is alive again with fish of many species. Should the breach be filled in? The locals are of two minds.

I barely had time to register the odd finding of ancient Roman coins on Okinawa or the power symbols in a Greek hero’s grave from the 15th century BC. With combs and rings and mirrors, this Greek would be at home today.

Material for prayer? More than enough . That was good advice, Elizabeth Johnson!


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