Overview of Benedictines Magazine

Fall 2014

by Barbara Mayer, OSB

The Evolving Web of Life

I used to think that God created the earth and all living creatures and then was finished. Then I learned about evolution and realized that the process of creation is ongoing and ever changing,  that God continues to create. Now I’m beginning to understand the interconnectedness of all creation and that we all have the same origin.The universe began as something infinitesimally small, extremely hot, infinitely dense, and continuously expanding. With the help of the Hubble telescope and other technology, scientists now know that there are millions of galaxies and that some stars burn out and new stars appear continually. 

This new universe story teaches us that everything is related and that what happens in one area affects all other areas. That is why the drought in California impacts us, and why the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped recently are part of our family. That is why the killing of civilians and children in Gaza and the gang and drug violence in Mexico and Central America devastates the whole world. We are one.

Everything in the universe is sacred. The old concept that earth, animals and plants were made for humans to rule is no longer tenable. We are interdependent and need to care for all creatures in a responsible way. This new consciousness has made us more aware that we are co-creators with God of this marvelous world we live in. Our writers in this issue explore some of these mind-expanding ideas and their relationship to spirituality. 

Cyprian Consiglio, a Camaldolese monk, explains Bede Griffiths’ vison of reality and how it relates to an integral Christian spirituality. According to Griffiths, “Every material thing has a psychological aspect, a relation to human consciousness, and in turn is related to the supreme spirit which pervades both the physical world and human consciousness.” Consiglio believes that the development of the spirit, soul, and body of the human person is essential to the spiritual growth of the whole person. He sees Griffiths’ concepts as a bridge between traditional Christian spirituality and serious spiritual seekers today.

The Federaton of St. Scholastica chapter this year featured a talk by Sister Carol Zinn, former president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). Her presentation, “Living in these Evolving Times from a Benedictine Heart,” excited, stretched, and challenged the delegates into new ways of thinking about the world and living monastic life. Five of the delegates share their responses to her talk on the growing consciousness of our role as Benedictines in the 21st century.

Sister Susan Susquain of Chicago was struck by three concepts in Sister Carol’s presentation: our life is not for us or the Church, but for the life of the world; compassion and wide vision are needed to address differences; and the need for a higher level of consciousness. 

Sister Bridget Dickason of Atchison, Kan., focused on the three symbols Sister Carol used to develop the evolution of consciousness: a globe, a set of nesting dolls, and a slinky toy.  The globe symbolizes our interconnectedness, the nesting dolls, our development from “doing” to “being,” and the slinky, our groundedness.  She believes Benedictines can offer the world a “deeper level of conscious living.”

Sisters Mariecarmen Bracamontes and Patricia Henry of Torreon, Mexico, responded from a third world perspective.  They found it “challenging to reflect on the connections that affect all that exists and to find in the crises that we face in the Church and society catalysts for personal and community growth and expansion of consciousness.”

Rootedness in the Gospel and the Rule of Benedict is the way to be grounded as we reach for ever greater levels of consciousness, according to Sister Rita Brink of Covington, Ken. “As we open ourselves to the new understanding about human consciousness, we expose ourselves to all that life can be, and we open ourselves to a deeper wonder and awe of the divine mystery,” she writes. 

Sister Charlotte Zalot of Erie, Penn., felt that “interconnectedness” was the key element in Sister  Carol’s message. She believes that the use of Russian nesting dolls helped to illustrate that as we move forward to an ever-growing maturity we integrate all that has gone before us – nothing is lost. She finds the Rule of Benedict a sure road map to living in these evolving times.

And finally, Katherine Kraus, an oblate of Mount St. Scholastica, reflects on the role of stability in the life of a Benedictine oblate. After much study she came to see that “it involves recognizing the holy givenness of place, people, and things, and living a spirit of hospitality.” As a professional woman, she shares her experience of how rearranging her office space became a way of being more present and welcoming to her coworkers. 

These writers give us much to ponder in these evolving times. They show the resilience of the human spirit to reach further and further into the mystery of the universe as well as the divine mystery, undaunted by skeptics and unbelievers. They give us hope that God is at the helm and no storm will deter us from reaching our ultimate goal of unity and oneness with God.