The Earth: the fundamental sign of the time

The veteran folk singer Tom Paxton  appeared at Hugh’s Room in Toronto on Friday April 20. My wife Joan and I attended his concert an and he remarked that on Earth Day (today)  he would be in Tarrytown, NY joining 92 year old Pete Seeger for a concert “in honour of the planet” and to aid environmental projects in the Hudson Valley to which Seeger has been active for decades.

Paxton sang this song which he penned for the first Earth Day 1970.This will serve as an introduction to maybe the greatest and most important “sign of the time” which the Roman Catholic Church has failed to attend to in recent history

Whose Garden Was This?

Words and Music by Tom Paxton

Whose garden was this?
It must have been lovely.
Did it have flowers?
I’ve seen pictures of flowers,
And I’d love to have smelled one.

Whose river was this?
You say it ran freely?
Blue was its color?
I’ve seen blue in some pictures,
And I’d love to have been there.

Ah, tell me again I need to know:
The forest had trees, the meadows were green,
The oceans were blue and birds really flew,
Can you swear that was true?

Whose grey sky was this?
Or was it a blue one?
Nights there were breezes?
I’ve heard records of breezes,
And you tell me you’ve felt one?

Whose forest was this?
And why is it empty?
You say there were bird songs?
And squirrels in the branches,
And why is it silent?


Whose garden was this?
It must have been lovely.
Did it have flowers?
I’ve seen pictures of flowers,
And I’d love to have smelled one.

This staggering fact of ecclesial amnesia bordering on autism will serve as a warning as how potentially irrelevant the Roman Church has become in the eyes of millions of its adherents in the past forty years.This omission from the main stream of church life stands out as one of the reasons the institution has become so uninspiring  to so many people.

In this first essay on the topic, we ask a simple question: on this holy day of “ordinary time” how many sermons in Catholic Churches will be preached on the topic? How many dioceses can one name where this issue of global warming/climate change has had pride of place?

Well, all is not lost. powerful Catholic voices have been raised to join “the words of the prophets written on the subway walls and tenement halls”, words, songs,literary flares in the secular night to warn us of the impending catastrophe.The good news is that below the radar great voices have kept insisting that the Spirit’s presence has been present animating and energizing the lives of humans and nature

One voice however  stands out in the Catholic pantheon, one voice which was never diverted from other worthy signs, one voice which resolutely proclaimed that the globe must confront “the environmental crisis”.We will look at the work of Catholic priest Thomas Berry



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