By Sister Christine Parks
I learned something new this year—really many things—but this is the one I’ve been pondering since September began. Maybe you already know this, maybe I’ve heard it before and forgotten, but there’s about a two-week difference between the astronomical beginning of Autumn (Sept. 22 this year) and the meteorological beginning (Sept. 1); at least according to our local meteorologists. And perhaps that explains, in part why we experience this shift of season so immediately in conjunction with the Labor Day weekend.
This year with the turning over of the calendar page from August to September, it felt like a switch had been flipped, or a doorway stepped through. August 31st hot and muggy, September 1st cooler with a dramatic drop in humidity (at least here in Southwest Michigan). And while I don’t miss the 90+ degree days (which seem to be on the increase year-to-year) there is a brief moment of melancholy knowing the days are growing shorter as another summer falls into Autumn in the northern hemisphere.
The melancholy doesn’t last though, as the increasing slant of light highlights the beginnings of trees letting go of their green gown, exchanging it for the vibrancy of fall colors; as crops mature and are harvested, the last tomatoes hesitate to turn red. It’s also one of my two favorite seasons for woods walks, with the decrease in mosquitoes, ticks and, dare I say excessive sweat.
In recent years, for people of faith, September 1st has also invited us to enter the Season of Creation (Sept. 1—Oct. 4) and celebrate our Oneness with Earth and all the beings with whom we share our common home-planet. (You can join the congregation in our journey through the Season of Creation here.)
As we entered into this year’s celebration, I had the sense of it being even more intimately connected to our congregations promises: to recognize the reality that Earth is dying, to claim our oneness with Earth and to take steps now to strengthen, heal and renew the face of Earth; and: impelled by the emerging worldview of integral ecology…we commit to exercise our credibility and moral authority as sisters and associates of the Congregation by standing in solidarity with Earth and with all who are oppressed and marginalized, taking the risks entailed in giving public voice when addressing systemic injustice.
These prior commitments have led us toward our congregational decision to join with other Religious Congregations, Catholic institutions/organizations, Dioceses, across the globe, and sign-on to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a unique collaboration between the Vatican and “all men and women of good will,” empowering all to take “decisive action, here and now” as we journey towards a better future together. In doing this, we begin our planning to take whatever actions we can to slow, if not reverse, the current climate change crisis. It is truly a challenging next step in our movement to expand and deepen our mission of unioning love, which includes more than just human beings, but is a celebration of being One in an integral communion with all of creation.
All of these thoughts and ruminations are with me these early fall days as I walk in the many amazing nature preserves in our part of Michigan; as I watch the sun journey south, followed by many of our migrating feathered friends; as I enjoyed the rising of the harvest moon. We continue to be in the throes of the COVID pandemic, and yet, even in the midst of that, we are surrounded by the beauty of this season. If I were a musician I’d write a symphony for it, but even though I’m not, I still catch the occasional strains of a paean of praise, rooted in deep gratitude, singing in my heart.
About the Author
Sister Christine Parks, CSJ, serves as a Spiritual Director, and occasional retreat and program presenter online and in Kalamazoo. She also works with the Congregation’s Protect & Heal Earth initiative and sustainability efforts. Leisure activities include gardening, long walks in nature, reading, writing and poetry.