With the Holy Spirit, Nothing is Impossible

Reflection for Pentecost Sunday by FAN Board Member Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our May 25th newsletter

As I write this reflection, we are still distracted and at the same time somewhat attracted to these “new times of social distance”, worried about illness and hopeful that all things will work out. The Vigil of Pentecost shares with us a similar time in the History of Relationship between God and man.

In Genesis, we hear that the “whole world spoke the same Language” and in the midst of a common language they discovered how to make bricks. A great advance from building with stone, easier to build. So here we have a change in society with the use of a new technology for building. They also discovered mortar which holds the bricks in place.

This story reflects a growing awareness and concern for a higher good that replaces the past domination by the stronger. A real shift in society at that time. But it also challenged our dependence on God and made us proud of what we can do.

What does this have to do with the Feast of Pentecost?

Pentecost found the people of God, the Church, withdrawn, dug in, not certain of what was next or even to the point of what to do. Sounds like where we might be in the time of social isolation and fear of death.

Then, there was a stirring in their midst and more especially in their hearts. Jesus’s promise of the Holy Ghost which would bring power came into their midst and changed the Church forever. Instead of doubt, they had faith. Instead of fear they had courage. And instead of withdrawing into their sleeves they preached the Good News, in good and bad times.

Today, the Spirit of God continues to call and challenge us to share our lives, our stories and reach out to those on the margins and those in the center of our lives.

Without the Spirit this is impossible to do. But with the Spirit nothing is impossible!

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on May 28, 2020 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Humanity may never again get a chance like this – let’s not squander it!

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

While to a certain degree returning to “business as usual” will not likely happen, that does not mean the vast majority of those who hold most of the world’s wealth and power will not use every advantage at their disposal in trying to hold onto broken, corrupt, unjust systems – what St. Pope John Paul II called “structures of sin” – which feed their greed while starving the morally just aspirations of the world’s poor and vulnerable.

And so, what should each follower of Jesus do?

We should sincerely pray for the spiritual conversion of the rich and powerful. And we should oppose them!

We need to put on the nonviolent fight of our lives to ensure that we don’t sleepwalk ourselves right back into a morally sick “normal.”

Old habits die hard – both individually and structurally. After the coronavirus pandemic, the sinful structures of raw profit-centered capitalism and death-dealing militarism will surely continue marching on – crushing underfoot the poor, vulnerable and the planet itself – unless we humbly admit our significant personal indifference, repent, and strive to transform ourselves and these structures of sin.

Pope Francis, in his recent homily on Divine Mercy Sunday warned that as the world looks forward to the eventual recovery from the pandemic, “there is a danger that we will forget those who are left behind. The risk is that we may then be struck by an even worse virus, that of selfish indifference. A virus spread by the thought that life is better if it is better for me. It begins there and ends up selecting one person over another, discarding the poor, and sacrificing those left behind on the altar of progress.”

The Holy Father continued, “The present pandemic, however, reminds us that there are no differences or borders between those who suffer. We are all frail, all equal, all precious. May we be profoundly shaken by what is happening all around us: the time has come to eliminate inequalities, to heal the injustice that is undermining the health of the entire human family” (see: https://bit.ly/2yWKH6P).

In every parish, diocese, civic, academic, business, labor and social forum we need to start dialoguing, planning and organizing ways to build structures and systems that work for everyone – from the moment of conception to natural death – where no one gets left behind and everyone has a seat at the table!

And we need to develop strategies on how best to influence and pressure government and corporate leaders (e.g. boycotts, divestment) to put the common good and the care of the planet as their top priorities – not power and profit (see: https://gofossilfree.org/divestment/what-is-fossil-fuel-divestment/).

All of this can easily tempt each of us to feel overwhelmed.

But it is essential not to allow ourselves to become overwhelmed. It’s not all up to you and me. The Holy Spirit is with us! Each of us in our own personal sphere of influence (e.g. family, friends, parish, workplace, social media, lobbying) can make a difference.

In their courageous 1983 pastoral letter on war and peace titled, “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response,” the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote: “Let us have the courage to believe in the bright future and in a God who wills it for us – not a perfect world, but a better one. The perfect world, we Christians believe, is beyond the horizon, in an endless eternity where God will be all in all. But a better world is here for human hands and hearts and minds to make.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.

Published in: on May 21, 2020 at 9:50 am  Comments (1)  

Jesus Sends us Forth with the Help of the Holy Spirit

Reflection for The Ascension of the Lord by FAN Board Member Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF.

This reflection was originally posted in our May 18th newsletter

At the time of the Ascension, Jesus said to his disciples, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth”. Then he was taken up into heaven. Two men in white garments stood beside the disciples and asked them why they were just standing there looking up to the sky. They were chiding them for just standing around and not moving on to do the work that Jesus left them to do. But the disciples still doubted, felt a void, saddened and frightened, having to move into the unknown without the human Jesus, departing from the comfortable. It was so much easier when Jesus was with them.

The Ascension was the context for sending forth the disciples. Jesus promised them that he would not leave them alone but would send the Holy Spirit. Jesus was sending them into the unknown when he told them that their call was universal (to the ends of the world). They did receive the Holy Spirit as Jesus had told them they would and were finally able to go to the “ends of the world” courageously and boldly preaching and living the message of Jesus.

The disciples throughout the centuries have passed this call onto us. The Holy Spirit also goes with us. Jesus does not leave us alone. When have you had to step out of your comfort zone to stand up for a justice issue? Were there times when it was hard to speak out because you were afraid of what people would say or that they would disagree? Did you feel Jesus’ presence? Through his passion, Jesus offered the ultimate instruction on the humility and love of God. With his resurrection appearances, Jesus touched our lives by announcing peace, forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. Now it is our turn to speak and act for Jesus – live out what he taught us and is still teaching us. We have to be humble, brave enough to say it, believe it and live it!

Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on May 19, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

If You Love Me

Reflection for the Sixth Sunday of Easter by FAN Board Member, David Seitz, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our May 11th newsletter

Image by Jondolar Schnurr from Pixabay

Jesus has drawn a line in the sand. You will show your love for Him by keeping his commandments. Since Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that means that to show our love for God we must keep His commandments. How will we know His commandments and how will we have the strength to keep them? After drawing this line in the sand, Jesus tells us how. “And I will ask the Father and He will give you another advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth.” (Jn 14:16) Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit will lead His Church in the way of truth. This week’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles shows how Phillip was carrying out the command of Jesus to go forth and make disciples of all nations by baptizing. Phillip baptized and the apostles laid hands on those who were baptized calling down the Holy Spirit. What a great way to show their love for Jesus by keeping His commandment to baptize for the salvation of souls.

Keeping His commands presupposes that one knows His commandments. In order to know His commands, one must delve into His Word in the scriptures. This also requires that you make an act of faith that the scriptures are truly the Word of God and are divinely inspired. In the words of Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI, “for without faith, Scripture itself is not Scripture but, rather, an ill-assorted collection of literature that cannot have any normative significance for today.”

When we read the scriptures slowly and carefully, especially the Gospels, it becomes obvious that truly following Jesus is a challenge. It is hard. Some of His commandments are difficult. Love your enemy as yourself. Go and sin no more. Take up your cross and follow me. If they persecute me they will persecute you. Turn the other cheek. Did I really sign up for this? That is a question that we all need to ask ourselves. Do we believe the scriptures are the inspired Word of God? If so, then we must take the words of scripture seriously. If they are not, then I can pick and choose, because after all, it really doesn’t matter.

I think the hardest part about keeping the commandments of Jesus is the humility required. Sometimes, loving our enemy makes our egos scream out in protest. Sometimes, keeping the moral law makes the ego whisper in our ears “you can’t tell me what to do.” Sometimes, listening to the Church’s authority to “bind and loose” (Mt 16:19) makes us cringe because it goes against our ego’s perception and ideas. It is hard to be humble. It is hard to put our own desires aside and pray that God’s will be done, not our will be done. I know personally, trusting in God’s providence has always been a challenge. I want to submit to God’s will. In my head I know that God only wills what is in my best interest. I also know that in His permissive will, he allows me to make mistakes, stumble and fall and take the wrong path. Thankfully, God is always seeking us out and no matter what path we wander down, He can set our feet back on a path towards his mercy and compassion.

So let us humbly pray to God that he will send us his Holy Spirit and help us discern His will so that we can show our love for him by keeping his commandments. Let us pray for the gift of fortitude so that we will have the strength and courage to love Him. Let us pray for the grace of humility knowing that sometimes, God’s will doesn’t seem to mesh with our will. I offer the prayer below from “Thoughts in Solitude” by Thomas Merton to help guide us.

David Seitz, OFS
FAN Board Member

Published in: on May 12, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

God’s Many Dwelling Places

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter by FAN Board Member, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our May 4th newsletter

In our readings for this Fifth Sunday of Easter, we are invited to reflect on various aspects of what it means to dwell, to live in and within the presence of God. In the first letter of Peter we hear, “Come to God, a living stone…but chosen and precious…and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.”

We don’t often think of stones as being alive or living. Oftentimes, especially in the past we even spoke of the earth, the soil and the planet as simply being matter, inanimate and simply here to serve and provide for humanity. The Native Americans and other indigenous people have always held the belief that all of creation is sacred and embodied with spirit and life. Hopefully, in our ever growing sense of integral ecology, people are beginning to view the earth, the planet and all elements of creation in the same way. May this growing consciousness help us to recognize that each person is a creation of God, connected with one another and with all of creation. Creation is truly the “spiritual house” that God has created and given to us. Francis of Assisi recognized this gift at a time when the worldview was so very limited, yet he got it!

The pervasiveness of the COVID-19 virus is truly a challenging and bold lesson that our world and all people are integrally interconnected. This pandemic reaffirms the research of Edward Norton Lorenz, a North American Theoretical Meteorologist, in what is known as the Butterfly Effect. In 1972 while addressing the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Lorenz stated: “a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can produce a tornado in Texas.” In what we have come to know as chaos theory, he taught that small perturbations in one seemingly isolated location can cause enormous changes on the other side of the world and throughout the world. To quote Pope Francis, “Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” (Laudato Sí, no. 91)

Jesus’ words in the gospel can bring some comfort and reassurance in this time of strife. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” With the ever growing number of worldwide deaths in this pandemic, we may hear this passage with a totally new and distinctive perception. God’s dwelling places are infinite and boundless. With God there is always enough and actually more than enough. May we grow in our awareness and attentiveness to God’s gracious and merciful presence within us and all around us and so contribute to building and reverencing God’s indwelling and loving presence in our midst.

Let us pray that God’s healing mercy be poured forth upon us and all people affected by this virus.

Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on May 5, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Fragile people living on a fragile planet

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

As the dreadful coronavirus pandemic clearly illustrates: Life is fragile.

In just a matter of a few months, the highly contagious COVID-19 has killed over 225,000 people, sickened many more, eliminated millions of jobs and is threatening to nearly double the number of severely hungry people throughout the world.

The World Food Program warned that the already grim number of 135 million people facing acute hunger and starvation is projected to dramatically increase to 265 million by year’s end –“unless swift action is taken.”

World Food Program’s Chief Economist, Arif Husain pleaded, “COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already hanging by a thread. It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage. Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock – like COVID-19 – to push them over the edge. We must collectively act now to mitigate the impact of this global catastrophe.”

Yes! We must collectively act now!

Please contact your national representatives urging them to significantly increase comprehensive funding efforts to assist these poorest of the poor.

In the U.S., the Christian anti-poverty organization Bread for the World is urging us to please call our two senators and representative (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) urging them to provide an additional $12 billion toward COVID-19 global relief funding for food, medical and economic relief. In addition, please also use this link to easily send them an email alert https://bit.ly/3f8Yxn1.

And kindly consider making a donation to Franciscan Action Network (see: https://franciscanaction.org/donate/).

In light of the recent 50th anniversary of Earth Day (see: https://bit.ly/2W9gEAa), we are reminded that the life of our common home is also fragile. Somewhat like what COVID-19 is doing to humanity, we humans are doing to the earth.

We continue to sicken our planet with filth. Industries, vehicles and other human activities continue to pump lethal chemicals into our air, land and water. A tragic example is plastic. Watch the eye opening PBS Frontline documentary “Plastic Wars” (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/plastic-wars/).

And our burning of fossils fuels – oil, gas and coal – is causing the earth to dangerously heat up – resulting in more frequent and more intense floods, droughts, storms, wildfires and greatly increased human hunger, poverty and sickness.

What kind of a world are we leaving our children, grandchildren and generations yet to be born? This is a very serious question.

And we don’t have much time!

Leading climate scientists of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are warning us that if major changes to reverse global warming – like converting to solar, wind and geothermal energy production and massive reforestation – aren’t largely in place worldwide by 2030 environmental disasters and human suffering will be catastrophic (see: https://bit.ly/2VMMeVy).

As with so much in Catholic social teaching – like protecting the environment and caring for the poor – our approach must always be both/and, not, either/or.

In his celebrated environmental encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis teaches, “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.

Published in: on April 30, 2020 at 4:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Overcoming of Self to Be Like Sheep

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter by FAN Executive Director, Stephen Schneck, Ph.D.

This reflection was originally posted in our April 27th newsletter

According to many critics, egoism is especially an American vice. Supposedly, our culture is one all about celebrating the self. We hold up as a hero the purportedly self-made woman or man who is “in”-dependent, by which we mean that she or he is free from depending on anyone or anything else. We glorify the idea of the radical individual, whom we describe without irony as lifting himself up by his own bootstraps. Our national myth (much abetted by Hollywood) is that our country’s uniqueness comes from the grit of rugged individuals winning greatness by their own gumption and hard work.

This week’s readings remind us, however, that to follow Christ requires a different attitude. For Christians, greatness is not about the ego. Christ calls us to overcome the self. Indeed, if these readings are taken literally, then we are to be like sheep.

Friedrich Nietzsche – whom we all know for his notion that God is dead – despised Christian morality precisely because of how it diminishes the self. In books like The Genealogy of Morals and The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche lampooned Scripture passages like this one where Christians are compared to sheep. True morality, he thought, was found only in being true to our own self will, in being autonomous – in being a law only unto oneself. Be the wolf that eats the sheep, Nietzsche thought, or at least be the shepherd, but how despicable merely to be one of the sheep!

Yet, as Christians that is our calling.

Overcoming the self is not a one-off reference in Scripture, but at the very heart of the Gospel message. We’re told to humble ourselves so as to be like children. That one who exalts herself shall be humbled and that the humbled will be exalted. That the meek shall inherit the earth. And, most profoundly, that “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mk 8:27) Today’s reading from the letter of Peter notes that even Christ sacrificed his human will to “hand himself over” to the divine will.

Which brings things back to the situation in America… Because, maybe our country is not as much about celebrating the self as some think.

Look around. We wear those masks in public. We avoid congregating with our friends. We social distance and give up travel. Yes, we do such things in part out of fear of catching the disease ourselves. But, isn’t it even more true that we do such things for others, especially for those most vulnerable to the disease, and for the common good of the whole country? Think about the overcoming of self that it takes for those who serve in public now – the nurses, the grocery store clerks, those who deliver the mail, and those who pick up our garbage.

At one of the demonstrations against social distancing recently, ugly voices were heard shouting at hospital workers coming off a shift. The shouts called the medical workers “sheep” for wearing masks.


“I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me.” Alleluia.

Stephen Schneck, Ph.D.
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on April 28, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Fight the coronavirus, not each other!

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

Even now, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to attack humanity, so many human beings continue to fight each other.

Challenging this terrible reality, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a heartfelt appeal for a global ceasefire (see: https://bit.ly/2K8aOJZ). Inspiringly he said, “Our world faces a common enemy: COVID-19. The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith. It attacks all, relentlessly.

“Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world. The most vulnerable – women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced – pay the highest price. They are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19. Let’s not forget that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed. …

“It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”

Then in prophetic-like speech, Guterres boldly declared, “To warring parties, I say: Pull back from hostilities. Put aside mistrust and animosity. Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes.”

He pleaded, “End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever”

Can we all say “Amen!” to that?

Endorsing the Secretary-General’s appeal Pope Francis said, “I join all those that have listened to this appeal and I invite all to follow it up, halting all forms of warlike hostility.”

The Holy Father added that he hoped that the joint commitment against the coronavirus pandemic, would help all of us to recognize our need to strengthen fraternal bonds as members of one human family. In particular, “may it awaken in nations’ leaders and other parties involved a renewed commitment to overcome rivalries.

Then in prophetic boldness Pope Francis declared: “Conflicts aren’t resolved through war! It is necessary to overcome antagonisms and oppositions through dialogue and a constructive search for peace.”

In addition to praying for peace, we also need to tirelessly urge our political and corporate leaders to end the fighting and stop fueling wars.

Many governments are involved in armed conflicts. In its “war on terrorism” the U.S. is fighting or preparing to fight in 80 countries (see: https://bit.ly/2RFyOs2).

And countries like Russia, China, Italy, France, Germany, U.K., Israel – with the U.S. leading the way – are sinfully fueling the estimated 70 conflicts with death-dealing weapons. Highly lucrative American corporations like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics, along with U.K.’s BAE Systems are the six largest arms manufacturers in the world (see: https://bit.ly/2wGx7Dm).

Pope Francis teaches us that it is an absurd contradiction to speak of peace while also permitting or promoting the arms trade (see: https://bit.ly/2V94GY6).

Furthermore, war and the arms trade are robbing money that could be used to fight the coronavirus and other human needs (see: https://bit.ly/3ejEUrT).

In his Easter Vigil homily, Pope Francis reminded us that we are all brothers and sisters, and that we should be singing the song of life! He pleaded: “Let us silence the cries of death, no more wars! May we stop the production and trade of weapons, since we need bread, not guns.”

And then connecting the innocent lives lost in war to the innocent lives lost through abortion, the Holy Father pleaded, “Let the abortion and killing of innocent lives end. May the hearts of those who have enough be open to filling the empty hands of those who do not have the bare necessities”

So, please kindly help Catholic Relief Services protect and aid some of our poorest brothers and sisters against the coronavirus (see: https://bit.ly/2VvxNUC).

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.

Published in: on April 22, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Open Our Eyes to Recognize You

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter by FAN Member Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our April 20th newsletter

Several years ago, while working in an outpatient diabetes management center I met a patient who, based on how she presented herself, frightened me to the point where I found myself frequently backing away and distancing myself from her during our first appointment together. Reflecting on this later in the day, I grew angry with myself. I did not want to dislike, or perhaps even worse, fear someone because of appearance. Yet, I realized that my fear of her was real.

I knew I was scheduled to see her several times during the next few weeks. In prayer that evening I felt in my heart that I needed to “just talk with her” during our next scheduled appointment.

About five minutes into our next appointment I said to her “I never met anyone from (mentioning her country) before.” That was all it took. We sat and talked about her country and her family. Over the course of several weeks, we became friends. My eyes (and heart) were opened and I now saw and knew a woman who exuded peace.

The Gospel reading this week of the disciples on the road to Emmaus accompanied by Jesus Christ is the story of each one of us. How many times do we not recognize peace, the image and likeness of God, in those people we live with, work with, meet on the street?

The Gospel teaches us that our eyes need to be opened, “but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” (Lk. 24:16) When I first encountered a person that I now consider my friend, my eyes certainly were prevented from recognizing the image and likeness of God in her! Fear had me seeing things much differently than I would envision them once my “eyes were opened and recognized” (Lk. 24:31) the image and likeness of our God of peace in my new friend.

Many people and experiences in our lives help us encounter our God if we are able to be open. It was through the recognition that my fear, though very real, was wrong, which led to reflection and prayer. Naming the cause of my struggle, and praying with it, led me to a clearer sight – God’s way of seeing this new person in my life.

A microscopic virus has opened our eyes to the interconnectedness of all humanity, of all creation. Your life is tied with mine. What happens to you somehow affects me, whether you live half a world away or in my backyard. As we reflect on how our lives have changed in the past few months, let us pray that our “eyes are open, and we recognize him” in each individual person we meet.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Member

Published in: on April 21, 2020 at 10:30 am  Comments (2)  

Four Changes at Age 50

A Celebration of the Environmental Movement’s First Manifesto of Contemplative Ecology

The following is a note by Diana Hadley, Jack Loeffler, Gary Paul Nabhan and Jack Shoemaker, written April 2020

Gary Snyder

In the months before the first Earth Day in April 1970, mention of a prophetic manifesto seemed to crop up in nearly every serious discussion of what the nascent environmental movement should be and what values it should embody. That manifesto was conceived and shaped in the summer 1969, as poet Gary Snyder toured a number of college campuses around the United States and then entered into deeper discussions with a number of other poets, visionaries and activists in the San Francisco Bay area. Affectionately called “Chofu” by other radical environmentalists during that time, Snyder gradually refined their collective vision into a ten-page draft document that became what we now know as Four Changes.

Several features of this manifesto were then, and still are, unique in the canon of writings considered foundational to the environmental movement. Snyder’s literary gifts shine through the manifesto with prescient, poetic and playfully comic qualities to them. The tone seemed as fresh and as “out of the box” as Leaves of Grass must have sounded when Whitman first sowed it onto the American earth a century earlier. The manifesto called for a radical shift in our relationship with the planet through changing the way we perceive population, pollution, consumption, and the transformation of our society and ourselves. In this manner, it foreshadowed later expressions of ecological thought that we know call contemplative ecology and deep ecology. While it was in many ways anchored in Buddhist teachings, it was also precise in its understanding of modern ecological science and respectful of the place-based wisdom of the traditional ecological knowledge of the many indigenous cultures of the world. It did not privilege Western science over other ways of making sense of the environment, but welcomed dialogue and integration of many distinctive expressions.

Four Changes was also rooted in a mature understanding of the political ecology of power dynamics and disparities in access to resources that were ravaging or planet, its biological and cultural diversity. Parts of it were so pertinent to these issues that it was read into the Congressional Record on April 5th 1970— two and a half weeks before Earth Day flags were unfurled all around the world. In that sense, it was perhaps the first robust articulation of what we now call a yearning for environmental justice. Still, the tone was hopeful—that humankind could learn to respect, learn from and embrace the other-than-human-world. As Snyder later paraphrased one of the tenets of Four Changes;

“Revolutionary consciousness is to be found among the most ruthlessly exploited classes: animals, trees, water, air, grasses.”

We offer here a recording of Gary Snyder reading Four Changes: https://soundcloud.com/bioneers/four-changes

Published in: on April 16, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment