Thomas Berry: in memoriam

Posted June 1st, 2009 in Blog, Featured 1 Comment »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

“…if the challenge is so absolute, the possibilities are equally comprehensive.  We have identified the difficulties but also the opportunities of what is before us.  A comprehensive change of consciousness is coming over the human community, especially in the industrial nations of the world.  For the first time since the industrial age began we have a profound critique of its devastation, a certain withdrawal in dismay at what is happening, along with an enticing view of the possibilities before us.”

Thomas Berry, from The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future

Thomas Berry

Thomas Berry

Always that mix of incisive description of our condition and yet, hope; honesty about our predicament and faith that we still have what we need to get out of it.

Thomas Berry died early this morning, June 1.  It would be hard to overstate the impact he has had on faith communities around the country, and even the world, in shaping the language and dynamism of an ecological spirituality.

Cultural historian and Passionist priest, Berry offered a blistering critique of industrial society and our Western alienation from the Earth, from the living systems in which we are embedded.  With eloquence, he described how the human might help bring about the transition from the Cenozoic era and the devastation of the industrial age to a new era he called the ‘Ecozoic,’ a period when humans begin to play a ‘mutually enhancing’ role within the Earth community.  He was 94 years old.

[To hear Berry describe the ‘great work,’ click here .]

Berry wrote many books and essays, and, if you are not familiar with his work, I encourage you to explore his  writings to find out why so many people, even those of us who never met him, think of him as a mentor and guide into the new era of ecological wholeness, healing, and renewal of the meaning of the human.

Today, among the many emails I received about his death, came this poem, written by Diane Pendola.  I asked if I could post it here, and she graciously gave permission.

You Are My Body Now

Re-membering Thomas Berry

Died June 1, 2009 at the rising of the sun

Let all rivalry cease.

Let all delusion of separation vanish like mist beneath the sun’s rays.

Let breath rise.

Let breath be absorbed in our own lives.

May we inhale your resurrection.

May we exhale your spirit upon the world.

We know you now as the intimacy at the center of our hearts;

as the “I Am” that speaks from the center of the Universe.

The very rocks cry out.

The rivers and winds forever tell your name.

You whisper back:

You are my body now.

Yes, we say out loud.

We are your body now.

Let it be done according to your word.

Written for the beloved community of Thomas Berry,

whose spirit he animates.

By Diane Pendola, 6-1-09


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One Response

  1. Megan McFeely

    A poem about Thomas from Drew Dellinger–

    Carolina Prophet

    Poem for Thomas Berry

    we were dreamed
    in the cores
    of the stars.
    like the stars,
    we were meant to unfold

    we were dreamed in the depths
    of the undulating ocean.
    like the waves,
    we were meant to unfold

    like bursting supernovas, birthing elements,

    which crucibles give rise to creativity?

    the world makes us
    its instrument.

    Father Thomas,
    speaking for stars, in a voice
    old as wind: ‘origin moments
    are supremely important’

    what are the origins
    of a prophet?

    found in syllables of Sanskrit,
    or Chinese characters?
    in a decade of midnight prayer?

    in childhood epiphanies
    rising like heat?
    blue Carolina sky;
    dark pines;
    on the lilies,
    in the meadow,
    across the creek.

    born in Carolina
    on the eve of the Great War,
    Saturn conjoining Pluto in the sky.
    raised in a world of wires and wheels,
    watching dirt roads turn to pavement.

    brooding intensity,
    measuring loss
    when others could see only progress.

    white hair communing with angels of Earth

    Father Thomas, reminding us
    we are constantly bathed in shimmering memories
    of originating radiance

    we are constantly bathed in shimmering memories
    of originating radiance

    the psychic stars:
    the conscious soil:

    this thin film of atmosphere;

    and only gravity
    holding the sea from the stars.

    when a vision of the universe takes hold
    in your mind, your soul becomes vast as the cosmos.

    when the mind is silent,
    everything is sacred.

    like the spiral
    like the lotus
    like the waves
    like the trees
    like the stars,

    we were meant to unfold.

    –Drew Dellinger (