Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Couple Restores a Cosmic Dimension to Christianity's Sense of the Sacred

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Couple Restores a Cosmic Dimension to Christianity's Sense of the Sacred

Article excerpt

The rain set in for two days, relentless. At home I watched the dark stain on the plaster over the front window to see if it was spreading -- or had that goo I'd squirted into the siding near the gutters stopped the leak? It had.

Outside, in my boots and raincoat and with my big umbrella, I slogged down to the pond to see how things fared. Actually I wanted to see if the black plastic catchments at the adjoining building site -- where the first stick skeleton of a house was already erected -- were holding back the runoff under the onslaught.

Amazingly, like my goo, they worked.

The pond water was an agitated, brownish gray, the rain trying to drill holes in its surface. Someone has been chopping down saplings in and around the pond, and several lay in the water crocodile-like. The latest collection of plastics was gathered at the western rim and the Indian Run stream down below had assumed torrent proportions.

Occasionally the rains are so heavy the stream washes over the low bridge and covers the roadway. Not this day.

There once was a sort of yellow-and-black yardstick to warn motorists how deep the water over the bridge was, but it's probably now a souvenir in some local kid's bedroom.

Standing there, being happily drenched (happily because home was so close) in a downpour that seemed endless, I knew spring was coming Despite the dismalness of it all, there were bits of untidy purple and hesitant green at the tips of different trees and bushes. We've been having an incredibly mild winter and Virginia's wild has sent out early signals that the season soon will turn.

"A profound awe-and a certain confidence prevailed -- that spring would follow winter, crops would mature, children ripen into adulthood, that the mind and heart of the human person could expand and blossom into greater fullness." In an earlier time, wrote Jane Blewett, "Christians understood that there were two sacred texts, two scriptures, both equally revelatory of the divine. One was written in a book called the Bible; the other in the sacred book of Nature. The natural world experienced daily in wind and rain, sun and sea, seasons and cycles, mountain and meadow, seed and soil, oak and oxen, life and death."

Jane Blewett -- with her photographer husband, Lou Niznik -- has been involving herself wholly and fully in skipping between the pages of these two books for a decade. In the early 1980s, Blewett was a hard-charging, far-traveling thinkster with the Center of Concern, that Washington Catholic emanater of studies and commentaries on the world of social and economic justice and injustice.

Then Lou was asked to videotape a presentation by Tom Berry, the Passionist priest geologian, seer of new sights in the cosmos-theos relationship, and seen by some as natural heir to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit paleontologist whose writing challenged, baffled and alarmed a pre-evolutionary-ecology alert church.

So former Medical Mission Sr. Blewett was feeling very sophisticated and plugged into the peace and justice world, listening to Thomas Berry as former Jesuit Lou taped. Yet want it or not, less than 18 months later they were both up in Ontario on the side of Lake Erie on the staff of an earth spirituality center run by a Canadian Passionist and a Cenacle sister who had caught Berry's dream.

Matters of the International Monetary Fund and God in the poor had yielded to mulch and humus and God in nature and the universe. What happened, of course, was that quite simply Berry's message had blown Blewett off the planet into a place from where she was suddenly looking back at the Earth in a way that encompassed us, the mortals, but is not limited to us as evolving life.

She saw "that you could easily be engaged in the human-divine endeavor, but no one had opened for me this kind of cosmic-divine door -- the way in which humans also are part and parcel of the natural world, an expression of the natural world. …

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