Of Many Things

It’s a pretty good bet that if 300,000 people walked by your house in the space of an hour you would notice it. Yet here in New York City, where everything is just bigger and louder, some of us almost missed the calvacade of climate change activists bounding by our headquarters last weekend. We knew the march was coming, of course, but it hadn’t fully penetrated our consciousness—much like climate change itself, I regret to say. It’s the topic on all of our minds and yet one of those things we rarely talk about. The global climate appears to be changing faster than our politics.

At the same time, I sense some momentum. Many of the protesters at the New York march came from far-flung countries. It was the largest and most diverse march of its kind ever. In politics, we used to call that kind of momentum “the big Mo’”—the invisible, unquantifiable, powerful force created by a succession of wins or other events that break your way. In a spiritual context, the big Mo’ is often a movement of the spirit. On climate change, in addition to the mass movement now forming, it may take a dramatic divine gesture to get the world to act.

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The Holy Spirit has been pretty active in the church these days as well. Everywhere I travel there are signs of the Holy Spirit at work: greater openness, greater freedom, greater generosity. People in general seem less afraid, more hopeful. That is the telltale sign of a Kairos moment, a time when God enters into events in a dramatically new way. It’s no accident, I think, that this Kairos moment comes on the heels of a moment of deep despair, of scandal, the most wrenching period in the life of the contemporary church. It’s important to remember that no human being is creating this moment. If it is a Kairos moment, then it is a movement of the Holy Spirit. Like the rest of us, Pope Francis is merely a participant in this moment, even if his participation is more dramatic and far-reaching.

Another participant in this Kairos moment is the new archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich, the current bishop of Spokane. The pope’s choice of him to be the ninth archbishop of Chicago surprised many, including the new archbishop himself, who told reporters on Sept. 20 that he was “quite overwhelmed and very surprised” when he received the news in mid-September. Bishop Cupich rightly cautioned against reading too much into his appointment. “I think the Holy Father is a pastoral man. I think that his priority is not to send a message but to send a bishop and that is what he is sending here,” he told reporters.

When asked about the church’s sexual abuse scandal, Bishop Cupich praised the leadership of the outgoing archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, citing his work to implement a nationwide zero tolerance policy. “He was the one who made it happen in the discussions in Rome. He is the one who pressed for it more than anybody,” Bishop Cupich said. Bishop Cupich wrote last year in these pages that Pope Francis “reveals himself as a fresh witness of the Gospel, who is stirring our hearts to take up the journey with him as a fellow disciple with new vigor and purpose.” That is an apt description of how we should all respond to this Kairos moment, for while we are all mere participants, God couldn’t do it without us. In fact, without us, he wouldn’t need to do it at all.

Bishop Cupich is a long-time friend and contributor to America. He goes to Chicago with our best wishes and fervent prayers. He will need the prayers of all of us as he assumes responsibility for the church in the nation’s third largest city, much bigger than the diocese he leaves behind. In fact, the diocese of Spokane is about a third of the size of the crowd that walked passed my house last weekend.

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Bruce Snowden
3 years 2 months ago
Climate Change. Is that something altogether new, never before happening, or it is cyclical, predictable? What if its simply a cosmological agent in the hands of God that periodically shakes and reshapes the evolutionary printout of materiality as we know it, the old copy "shredded" as it were, through which the Holy Spirit's hope-filled refrain, "Behold, I make all things new!" becomes materially tangent? Are we dealing with something Providential or calamitous? Can't prove it scientifically, but I tend to opt for the Providentiality of Climate Change, as it seems more in line with the nature of God as I think I understand that nature to be, namely, one of hope, never of despair. What are we to do as change happens? "Fear not!" Accept it, study it, try to "tame" it, in keeping with Divine intent of human dominion over creation, realizing that true in every way, on this planet, we have no "lasting home!" Too simplistic? Sorry.
katherine schlaerth
3 years 2 months ago
I agree with the above. Archeologic finds substantiate changes, and we humans, who think we control everything, do not. The great unknowns re: climate change include the effects of cyclic and perhaps other as yet undiscovered changes in the sun, the climate in the Earth's interior, and perhaps even more widespread phenomena in our galaxy. So lets stop using climate change indirectly as a reason to halt population growth usually through immoral means, while at the same time making use of the intelligence God gave us to develop new and more optimal ways to use resources.
Bill Mazzella
3 years 2 months ago
The above two posts, sorry to say, is as medieval. If someone is abusing your child are you going to stand by and say this is providential and we must grin and bear it. God gave us the fruits of the earth to take care of. Too many times we have abused this privilege. There is only one, one, creditable scientist who disagrees with global warming. While anything is possible, do you like the odds. While you are swimming to find the Empire State Building you know it is already too late. Some got a taste of that with Sandy. Sadly the opposition to global warming is due to greed and those who think that Russ Limbaugh is the Messiah. God helps those who help themselves.
Bruce Snowden
3 years 2 months ago
Bill, Why are you so upset with points of view that obviously differ from yours? AMERICA allows in posting freedom of expression, ideas and opinions and that's all that I did. You have a perfect right to disagree, but hey, please avoid personal attacks however veiled. Rush Limbaugh is not my Messiah! I don't get your connection between climate change and child abuse. Of course I wouldn't put up with child abuse and I did say we should do things to reverse if possible climate change(my exact word was "tame") in the employ of Providence, as an "agent" of God if you wish. Or as Genesis put it, "subdue the earth."
Bill Mazzella
3 years 2 months ago
Hi Bruce, I did not mean to offend you. Your tone seemed to say that the providentiality of God does not include our working with God. I apologize for the heat. It is just that so many follow prophets of fear who just stir up anger and do not respect the reason that God gave us. For sure, when we humans mess up only God's mercy can save us. At the same time we must follow the Beatitudes to give honor to our heavenly, merciful God.
Bruce Snowden
3 years 2 months ago
Hi Bill, "Heat's" O.K when you want to cook something, or if it's on the cool side which for me is anything under 70 degrees, not in the exchange of ideas and opinions. I try to maintain the "let's talk" approach, sharing insights and wisdom collectively one with the other, even when the other side is far apart from where I stand. One can learn a lot that way and even teach. About God's interaction with us and we with Him often manifested through Divine Providence, it's my opinion that everything created by God becomes one of his "agents" through which His Will is cooperatively done. We have to nurture nature, reminded in Scripture that, "All creation groans awaiting deliverance." (The principal application of that Scripture is something other but I take the liberty to apply as noted.) You see, the God I believe in is a "sharer" and Genesis implies that when it says God's command to humanity is to "subdue" or tame the cosmos, sharing with us power and authority that is rightfully God's. Now I don't want to make this post boringly long, so let me TRY to conclude by saying that's the way humanity should address climate change, as "agents" doing God's work with Him, mindful that climate change could be of Providential origin weaved together by cosmological complexities, some of human origin, in patterns intended perhaps to change the face of the earth. Maybe down the road we'll be growing coconuts in Fairbanks and skiing in Tortola! God loves to work with "agents" - see scripture replete with them sometimes called prophets, kings, evangelists etc. I hope I've managed to be clear. And thanks for the conversation
Marie Rehbein
3 years 2 months ago
Commenters below: Climate is not the same as weather. It can be hot and cold in any climate region. However, the ambient temperature of the earth has risen dramatically in the last decade. This means, for example, that equatorial climate characteristics will be found over a greater area of the earth. It also means that glaciers will melt. Does it mean that earth will become Venus? Not necessarily, but it may not be habitable for humans. This change is caused by humans, so why would anyone throw up their hands to God to address it?
Catherine McKeen
3 years 2 months ago
As soon as I see that a Comment section is dominated by the same recurring two names, Bruce Snowden and Bill Mazzella, I read no further. Don't you folks have anything else to do?

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