Global Contemplation on the Integrating Poster: Mercy and Degradation of Earth
“’We are in Need of Respirators Urgently!’ Thus Cry Out the Oceans of the World” – these disturbing words precede a video shown in Month Two of Segment Two of Mercy Global Presence: Mercy and Degradation of Earth. The images of oceans and marine species suffocating from plastic debris, our experience in this pandemic time with hospitals struggling to find enough ventilators to support very ill people with the COVID-19 virus, and the stark memory of the death of George Floyd crying out “I can’t breathe”, all come together to remind us yet again that the cry of Earth and the cry of the Poor are visibly and sadly one. More than two hundred and sixty participants echoed this connection in their conversations during the second week of August 2020 in three regional gatherings centered on the integrating poster for Mercy and Degradation of Earth.
Voices in many Spanish and English accents from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Guyana, Honduras, Ireland, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, Romania, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States spoke to the realities of this world today which demand that Mercy be lived and shared in myriad new ways. The engaging conversations were held in the large group and in small break-out groups with older and younger participants, women and men, and Sisters and Associates and partners in mercy. There was frequent mention of the wisdom of listening more attentively and carefully to the voices of Indigenous peoples who have much to teach from their ancestral memory and their lived experience close to Earth.
The images on the poster – the suffocating ocean, the drone image of degraded landscapes, and the tree frog and the violet – were a study in contrasts. So, too, were the conversations. Taking to heart Mary Bilderback’s words, “I am uneasy with the statement that the Earth has been degraded,” some challenged that it is not Earth who is degraded, but it is people who are degrading her. Some pleaded passionately for more emphasis on the practical-active aspect of living Mercy to effect desperately needed change in the here-and-now. Others celebrated the bringing together of the practical-active with the reflective-spiritual to ensure transformation for the long term. Hearing the words from the prophet Hosea, some lamented that “the land mourns and all who live in it languish” while the wild animals, birds and fish are perishing. Others focused on the pain of the pandemic for people in ways that could never have been imagined: increasing poverty, deepening hunger, increasing sexual exploitation, and inequitable impact on the most vulnerable persons.
Global Mercy was alive and well, diverse and inclusive, realistic and visionary in these regional conversations which connected all corners of our planet in energizing and hope-filled ways. In the words spoken, the faces animated in joy or in empathy, and the brief but moving words in the chat room, we responded to Catherine’s challenge to us, “Speak as your mind directs and always act with more courage when the ‘mammon of unrighteousness’ is in question.” How blessed we are to be invited to live new expressions of the works of mercy in this new time!
—Elizabeth Davis rsm, Berneice Loch rsm, Anne Walsh
Messages to: MGP Guiding Team