NCRLC members have received by now the summer issue of our Catholic Rural Life magazine. The theme is Lay Leadership and explores how various groups in rural parishes and communities are responding to God’s call. We wanted to highlight some of our members’ stories and experiences as part of our efforts to help support rural ministry and outreach. The summer issue also was an opportune time to announce our Isidore & Maria Award recipients, a farm couple who exemplify the Catholic spirit of rural life in their community.
All this offers a welcome diversion for me, or otherwise I would go on again about the Farm Bill
(i.e., lack thereof) or environmental issues that Catholic Rural Life has been tracking for some time now. I sometimes lose touch with what is actually going on at the local level and how our members are living out the Gospel message. This is quite a relief from trying to understand the political machinations in the formation (or butchering!) of federal policies.
If I may take this a bit further, I would like to share some impressions, or actually some questions, about how we live out the Gospel message in our daily comings and goings. More to the heart of the matter, how do we experience the divine in our otherwise earthly lives? How do we find Christ when we’re out in the fields working hard, or tending the garden for the joy of the good earth, or pausing for a moment when the day seems particularly beautiful to us?
Sometimes I get too caught up in trying to apply Catholic social teaching to matters of agriculture, food production, the environment, energy issues, and so on. But the reason we seek the voice of the Church is not because of some technical expertise, but because we believe that Christ, or perhaps I should say the Trinity, is at work here on earth and leading those who will see and hear to a New Earth.
Now, I make no pretense to fill the shoes of distinguished NCRLC predecessors
who had the theological and religious training to more accurately speak for the Church than I can. My academic training was political economy and sociology, so I feel more in tune with the fumblings of man than the glory of God! I seek, therefore, the wisdom of others who might have something to say about how we find Christ in creation.
I think this as a way to better fulfill the promise of Catholic Rural Life
— which is to say Gospel life — that otherwise would get stuck in a routine of promoting conservation of the land as an end in itself. Conservation and stewardship is certainly important to sustaining our agricultural production, but that is not why Catholic Rural Life gets engaged in such matters.
Perhaps a way to think about this is to imagine a simple cycle of working the land and living sustainably in order to produce enough food to feed ourselves, which in turn gives us the strength to continue working the land in order to eat. Period. If that is all perceive in the “cycle of life” here on earth, then we are poorer for it. We may meet our basic human need to be, but leaving it at that provides no growth to becoming more in relation to the Creator of all things: to rise in maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ.
When we go on about sustainable agriculture or “ethics of eating”
or clean renewable energy from a Church perspective, we’re really trying to show that the daily cycle of working and feeding ourselves can be uplifted to fulfill a divine mission of so much more than physical needs. We are working and sustaining ourselves towards a wonderful encounter with Christ in creation. How that actually comes about, I’m not sure! And that is why I ask for your help to share your comments and reactions with us.
Let me end by saying that particular inspiration may be found in the celebration of the Eucharist. Here I rely on the words of theologian Denis Edwards
, where I often find spiritual sustenance: “When the name of Christ is invoked over the bread and wine, the Creator Spirit leads us towards a way of living and acting as part of a global community of life. These signs are intrinsically rich in ecological meaning. They point us to the whole of creation. They locate us within a sacramental approach to the whole of life.”
I believe this enlarges our “cycle of life” when it comes to the agricultural, food and environmental issues that we talk about at Catholic Rural Life. [You can read more about these insights in our Commentaries section
.] But to keep the conversation going, please share your own feelings and thoughts about what this means to you.