The air that we breathe


8 Sep 2020

In spring we deepen our association with the element of air, and of wind, and its invitation to open ourselves to a God who flows in directions that we cannot predict.

The following is taken from the fourth and final article which appeared in Madonna magazine. The series was based on the Principles of Earth Link whose vision is of a world where there is ‘respect, reverence and care for the whole Earth Community’.

In summer there was an overview of the principles espoused by Earth Link for a theologically informed ecospirituality. In autumn and in winter we spent time connecting the seasons to the Christian tradition of God’s intimate presence in all, and to the profound darkness of the suffering of Jesus and the hope that comes from his resurrection.

Now it is spring. In the words of Henry Kendall:

Grey winter hath gone, like a wearisome guest,
And behold, for repayment,
September comes in with the
wind of the west
And the Spring in her raiment!
The ways of the frost have been filled of the flowers,
While the forest discovers
Wild wings, with a halo of
hyaline hours,
And the music of lovers.


The Spring edition of Madonna magazine is about discernment, a process facilitating good judgment. There is much focus on discernment in the Catholic Church in Australia in the lead-up to the Plenary Council which is now to be held in 2021.

Six papers have been prepared based on the themes emerging from broad consultation with the people of God. We are now being asked:

‘How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church that is missionary and evangelising; humble, healing and merciful; prayerful and Eucharistic; inclusive, participatory and synodal; a joyful, hope-filled servant community; open to conversion, renewal and reform?’

Spring has something to offer as we enter into discernment about this question. Spring is associated with the element of air. We can use this association to prepare for discernment. Let us be still and be conscious of our own breath – of our breathing out the waste products, and of our breathing in the freshness.

Blow out loudly and vigorously, and let the air of the earth and the universe come into your lungs and fill the vacuum.

We can enter into the spirit of our land and draw on its wisdom.

I pray
To dissolve myself in the earth
Whence I came
With each out breath to ask the earth
To purify
To mingle
To dilute
This over-concentrated humanness
And with each inbreath
To breathe in the ancient flow
The unconditioned pure certainty that comes
From 4000 million years of uninterrupted success…
And with the outbreath
To tease it out into the world
(as much of it as will surrender)
And out into the world
To mingle, comingle, dance and dissolve
So that the next inbreath comes in
Pure and uncompromising
From the vast southern ocean breath
From Antarctica (remembering Gondwanaland)
When that land and this land were one
And my DNA scurried out of the way of dinosaurs)
And once again dissolve
The puny structure of the ego
The wretched disconnected human song within
So long deprived of connection
With the great billion voice harmony
Which alone can give it meaning and endurance.


In the spirit of openness that can emerge from the above attentiveness we can read the papers around the six thematic areas. Using the lens of Earth Link’s vision of a world where there is ‘respect, reverence and care for the whole Earth community’, I affirm insights from the various papers, hear the pain and disillusion within and towards the Church, and welcome the recommendations for enhanced understandings and practice.

In particular I welcome insights such as the following:

It is the challenge of our age that the delicate ecology of the earth is suffering at the hand of human power and control. Without being mindful of humility (our closeness to the earth) or mercy (the right of all, including future generations, to the fruits of the earth), the vulnerable natural world in which we live is easily traumatised and damaged.

I am heartened that ‘[l]istening to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor has also now been re-awakened as central to the tradition’ and that ‘the consultation shows an increasing awareness among Catholics of the urgent challenge of working for an “integral ecology” connecting all aspects of our “common home”, the earth (LS 11).’

I regret that there is not a deeper acknowledgement of the sacred and sacramental nature of the Universe and her people as the basis of deepened respect, reverence and care. I am delighted that this question is posed: ‘How can the Church in Australia foster recognising that awareness and responsibility for the “integral ecology” of life in our common home (LS 11) are not incidental to the Christian life, but are a constitutive feature of our baptismal call to holiness, in the particular setting of Australia’s regional relationships in Oceania?’

The journey of discernment towards the Plenary Council will continue beyond this spring. However, in this season we deepen our association with the element of air, and of wind, and its invitation to open ourselves to a God who flows in directions that we cannot predict.

Spring invites us to a radical posture of surrender in releasing our own plans and making room for God to blow us in the most life-giving direction.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of Madonna magazine. It was the fourth and final in a series of reflection Sr Mary Tinney who is founder and facilitator of Earth Link, a project of the Sisters of Mercy, which encourages ‘deep bonding within the Earth community’. If you wish to follow up this material in greater depth, you can find more in her book When Heaven and Earth Embrace: how do we engage spiritually in an emerging universe? Which is available at Morning Star Publishing.

Email this Print This Page