Photo by: ElenaMJacobs

I took my place under a coconut tree and pulled my knees to my chest, watching my boss paddle out against the surf. Salsa Brava is known as the biggest break in all of Costa Rica and only experienced surfers like the man before me would attempt to brave the hell it churns up.

The rain was coming down hard, and everyone else was sleeping soundly back at the bungalow. It was 5:30a.m and I was already drenched and covered in sand, but I felt this childish joy break within me. Continue reading

Hiking the Camino through the Lens of the Five Luminous Mysteries


“To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.”  (Pope Benedict XVI)


            In the Gospel of John, chapter 8 verse 12, we hear Jesus proclaim, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” As the light of the world, Jesus guides us on our way. Through His public ministry He leaves an example of how to walk as “perfect pilgrims.” Helping to illuminate His public life, are the five Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. Throughout the Luminous Mysteries Jesus displays, among other qualities; obedience, wisdom, perseverance, humility, and sacrifice. He prepares Himself and His disciples for what is to come as they undertake their pilgrimage to Jerusalem and ultimately to the Kingdom. During this process Jesus grows in what it means to be the Messiah and what it means to be the Son of God. Likewise, pilgrimage offers us a particular opportunity to grow in grace and to grow as fellow sons and daughters of God ourselves. With that in mind I would like to take a look at the experience of pilgrimage in light of the Luminous Mysteries. Continue reading

Hope is the Virtue of a Pilgrim

We are all on a pilgrimage. Knowing we are on a journey, knowing we are made for something greater, knowing there is a destination – this is the root of hope. Walking the Camino de Santiago last summer brought light to the words of a talk I recently heard: hope is the virtue of a pilgrim.

As I listened to reflections on hope, pilgrimage, and journeying, my mind was filled with memories of the time I lived these experiences in a very physical way. One particular recollection from my three weeks in Spain was overpowering: the destination.

interior-catedral-santiagoI remember it clearly. I remember the moment I was able to stand directly in front of the altar in the Cathedral of Santiago and fall to my knees. The hundreds of pilgrims that filled the Cathedral disappeared, the pain of worn and tired muscles dissipated, and the feet that had been sore for two weeks were forgotten history. Because at that moment, nothing else mattered.
Nothing else could possibly matter except the breath-taking beauty in front of my eyes, the knowledge that Jesus would be present on that magnificent altar very soon, and the realization that we had arrived. We had reached the destination. Continue reading

Laudato si’: The Catholic approach to climate change

Laudato si’ and climate change

            Climate change is, not surprisingly, the most controversial and politically charged issue in Laudato si’. It has been a source of heated debate and confusion especially in the American context. In this essay I will outline everything the encyclical Laudato si’ says on climate change and then compare and contrast with the latest scientific, technical and academic knowledge. For the sake of clarity, I will distinguish and analyze the statements on climate change under three divisions: science, policy, and politics and economics. These are artificial divisions since these issues are all interrelated, as the encyclical itself indicates, but they serve our analytical purposes.

[Note: I encourage the reader to glance at my two previous articles on Laudato si’ about hermeneutics and its proper interpretation, so that I am not misinterpreted on climate change, as I believe the Pope has been in many cases).


Let me begin with a thought provoking – and provocative – quote that I believe gets at the heart of the debate on climate change: “Isn’t it a question of everything or nothing? To be quite frank, the Either-Or people seldom appear to practice their own severity. Their uncompromising attitude looks suspiciously like rhetoric.”

These are the words of Romano Guardini, the most quoted author in Laudato si’ and the Pope’s great inspiration for understanding the relationship between man and creation. However, these words are not from Guardini’s well-known critiques of modernity but rather from his more famous spiritual work, The Lord. The context of this passage is the Sermon on the Mount. Guardini is reflecting on Jesus’ demand to love ones enemies and on how difficult it is to fulfill this in practice. Faced with such a challenge, Guardini proposes taking small steps in the right direction. The quote above is the objection of the Either-Or people to Guardini’s solution: “But isn’t it a question of everything or nothing?”

Guardini then responds to his critics: “No, what the Sermon on the Mount demands is not everything or nothing, but a beginning and a continuing, a rising again and a plodding on after every fall”. My suggestion is that the path forward on climate change requires the same path that Guardini paves for the Sermon on the Mount – a genuinely Christian one. And this is exactly what Pope Francis has given us in Laudato si’. Let me explain.

            This curious parallel between climate change and the spiritual life is not original. The best book on climate change, by climate scientist Mike Hulme called “Why we disagree about climate change?”, makes this very point. Hulme argues that climate change is a very real threat but that to find a solution to this issue we need to explore how climate change can “bring the physical and the cultural, the material and spiritual, into a new realignment… a mirror into which we can look and see exposed both our individual selves and our collective societies” (2009, 357). This is also the central message of Laudato si’ with regards to climate change – a new realignment is needed: “the present ecological crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity…” for which we need “ecological conversion… whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them” (218).

Continue reading

“Laudato Si”, Defense of human dignity and reconciliation by Thomas R. Collingwood Ph.D

The release of the encyclical Laudato Si by Pope Francis has stirred much political debate, news clips and sound bites making all kinds of claims about what it does and does not say or what the Pope does and does not support. Yet, most of the comments seem to be disconnected from what he actually stated. Since the beginning of his pontificate his statements and interviews have been scrutinized in a manner that, at times, makes him appear as an “ink blot” psychological test with media commentators and reviewers reading into his views and quotes what they what to express.

Continue reading

What I Learned Walking 220 Miles

2015-07-24 07.46.17While walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, I met other pilgrims who were walking the way for their second, fifth, or even eighth time.

While I was amazed and in awe as I struggled through my first Camino, I also understand now why some people get “hooked on” the Camino.

2015-07-16 07.17.46More than any pain, what stands out from walking 15-20 miles a day, is the time for reflection and a realization of what’s important in life. Everything seems so clear on the Camino.

Continue reading

Rev. Casimiro Roca

Fr. Roca  Fr. Roca, who has impacted the lives of countless pilgrims who journeyed to Chimayó, NM, died on August 4th. Fr. Roca “has come to symbolize, more than any living person, the heart and soul of El Santuario de Chimayó.” (El Santuario website) Many who have completed the pilgrimage to Chimayó, NM have had the great blessing of meeting Fr. Roca and being impacted by his holiness and life of witness. Please keep him and those close to him in your thoughts and prayers.

“I may be a little one, but I like to do big things.” – Fr. Roca (Beloved Priest of Chimayo at Heart of Community)

Continue reading

How to read Laudato Si: intention, structure, form and content

Catholics who do not embrace the spirit of Evangelii gaudium will likely be confused by Laudato Si

            In my previous article I already pointed out the 3 salient aspects of Laudato Si: its prophetic style, invitation to conversion and Trinitarian theology. I was going to technically discuss climate change in Laudato si’ vis-à-vis the latest policy and science on the issue. But before I do that, now I find a more urgent need to explain the way one should read Laudato si’, given the amount of perplexed and negative responses (mostly by Catholics) in the media.

I find many of these reactions quite embarrassing for so many who call themselves ‘sons and daughters of the Church’; not primarily because they dissent from the Pope, but because of the (poor) reasons they give for doing so. There are many non-Christians who are able to read and interpret Laduato si’ in a much more open, nuanced and sophisticated way, in the same spirit in which it was written.

My central thesis in this article is that, for Catholics, embracing the spirit of evangelization as expressed in Evangelii gaudium is a prerequisite for understanding Laudato si’. Most Catholics who oppose Ladudato si’ do so because they have a very limited idea what it means to evangelize.

Continue reading

Laudato Si – Pope Francis’ encyclical for all people…

“Laudato Si” , Praised Be the Lord… for this much awaited encyclical. Creatio has been working for over a decade now to promote a truly Catholic environmental vision and practice. It is a message we have been trying to live and expecting to hear… Laudato si… Thank you Pope Francis. Read the full encyclical here.

I will follow this post with 3 other articles on: 1. The theology, structure and style of Laudato si’  2. Laudato si’ on climate change and 3. environment and evangelization in Laudato si’.

Below, my initial reflections on the encyclical:

Continue reading

Book review: “Energy, Justice and Peace”

Energy, Justice and Peace

Energy is perhaps one of the most overlooked global issues of our times. One of the reasons for our obliviousness is that we tend to take energy for granted. The alarm clock that woke us up this morning, the water that flowed from the tap, the food (energy!) we ate for breakfast which allowed us to be productive and perhaps walk, bike or drive to work all tend to go unnoticed. Everyone, rich or poor, needs energy for life – it is a basic condition for human existence. Often times, many great complex global issues such as poverty and climate change evolve in grand narratives that steal the sunlight of our attention and cast energy in their shadow. However, it is impossible to find solutions for global poverty and climate change without tackling the energy dynamics embedded within them.

The Holy See’s latest publication “Energy, Justice and Peace” places ‘energy’ in the sunlight. The book offers a rich, informative account of global energy and provides a clear and balanced proposal on how to move forward. Guided by the social principles of the Catholic Church, “Energy, Justice and Peace” incorporates a breadth of perspectives that include theological, ethical and philosophical considerations along with the latest economic, environmental, political and scientific knowledge. The outcome is a well-rounded account that cuts through controversial and polemic debates and rather offers concrete and positive ways forward on energy and its related issues.

Continue reading