Charles Brandt Speaks (part 3)

~ the Brandt Series ~

 

Charles Brandt is interested in conservation on three levels:

Restoring and preserving humanities contemplative spirit –his and other peoples; restoring what flows from the human spirit –what we create from our ink, crafts and artwork;                              and restoring and preserving the earth.

He says “If we don’t do this, we have nothing.” 

 

Fr. Charles Brandt 

on his 5oth Anniversary of Ordination to the priesthood and Consecration to the Hermit Life.

(part 3)

 

Flowering Dogwood Closeup - Charles Brandt photo

 

 

INTRODUCTION: 

 

On Nov. 5, 2016, more than a dozen people addressed the gathering at St. Patrick’s Church in Campbell River, British Columbia.

 

Bishop Emeritus Remi de DeRoo at Fr. Charles 50th anniversery of ordination and consecration to hermitic life, Nov. 5, 2016 - b. witzel photo

 

Those sharing their gratitude and acclaim for Fr. Charles Brandt included a journalist, a psychologist, a nurse, a carpenter, as well as community activists, local parishioners, scientists, 2 Bishops and the leader of Canada’s Green Party.

 

E. May letter to Fr. Charles Brandt (2)

 

 It was late in the evening by the time Fr. Charles Brandt spoke. Here are his full notes of what he touched upon during his animated talk. The nature photography is also by Charles.

  

 

~ CHARLES BRANDT SPEAKS ~            

 

Between 375 and 425 C.E. there were over 5000 hermits living along the Nile River, in Palestine and Syria. After the Peace of Constantine in 313 one could live the Christian life without offering incense to Caesar. Those who wanted to live as Christians found that the city of Rome was too corrupt so they fled to the desert. Among these were the first hermits. When a hermit would meet another hermit he would say: “Brother give me a word”, seeking some Spiritual wisdom from the other hermit.

 

Charles Brandt speaking at his 50th anniversary as hermit and Catholic priest

 

My word to you is: “Only the sense of the Sacred will Save Us.”

 

THE UNIVERSE:

93 years is a short span of time considering the planet earth is 4.5 billion years old. The Universe is 13.7 billion years old. Eternity is not long, it is UNENDING.

The 7th century monk Maximus of Constantinople and the 21st century monk Thomas Berry both said that Creation is the Primary Revelation.

The beginning is smaller than a teardrop or an electron. Expansion is just right. A billionth of a second faster, there would be no galaxies –and slower, it would be black matter. The Universe is still expanding. It’s speeding up.

 

milky-way-galaxy 2

 

Our milky way galaxy has 300,000 stars and we are l8 light years from centre. We thought we were the only galaxy but the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered others, over a trillion galaxies!

 

THE HERMITS:

During the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) the Monastic Community of the Christian Church discovered our roots as hermits. We became interested in Hermit life since that was real McCoy!

  Hermits of St. John the Baptist with Bishop DeRoo in 1965

 

The hermitage of St. John the Baptist was founded on Tsolum River in l964. It was the same time the mine site went in on Mount Washington that decimated Tsolum River (see part 2 of this series –these fish, this water, this land). No one knew locally about the hermitage, but the whole monastic world knew.

 

montestella sanctuary(Hermit of Santa Maria della Stella, Pazzano, Calabria, Italy) Antonio Viola photo

Montestella Sanctuary, Hermit of Santa Maria della Stella, Italy – photo, compliments of Antonio Viola

 

 It was a simple life, one of pure prayer, and before the age of the computer; living the contemplative life, a care-free but responsible life, awakening to the presence of God in the human heart and in the universe around us.

  Charles Brandt Archival photo

 

                                                                                                                                        thomas-merton - photographer unknown (2)

 

Thomas Merton was a mentor to this movement.

 

He said we need contemplation as a basis to preach the gospel and for transformation of Consciousness.

 

 

 

 

 

I arrived March 1965 and built the hermitage and book bindery, then later moved it to Oyster River.

 

Charles Brandt during his younger days - Brandt archival photos

 

Charles Brandt Hermitage - Oyster River, Britisih Columbia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PLEA FOR THE EARTH:

 

Thomas Berry tells us that only a sense of the sacred will save us.

 

Black Turnstone - Non Breeding Plumage - charles brandt photo

 

 

Common Merganser, female, Oyster Bay, Feb. l6 , 2016. charles brandt photo (2)

 

He is speaking of our relationship with the more than human world. His statement applies to humans as well.

 

Aldo Leopold came to realize that community by extension includes the Land: for example, the water, soil, plants, all sentient beings plus the atmosphere. This is the more than human world.

 

Aldo Leopold Quote (3)

 

Without a love for nature, the natural world, we will find it difficult to navigate life.

 

We will be a danger to all.

 

  Version 2 -charles brandt photo (2)

 

I am making a plea for the poor non-human (or other than human) creatures of the earth that to a certain extent have lost their dignity through our doing, through our disparagement of them; a plea to reaffirm their dignity so as to liberate their special powers so that they can promote the common good.

 

Cougar near porch of hermitage - charles brandt photo

 

Sound far-fetched?

 

The notion of poor has been developed with the focus on material privation, for example, what is your family income.

Thomas Clark, dialoguing with Thomas Berry suggests that the heart of poverty is not necessarily material privation, but what he calls “cultural disparagement.”

 

heard-museun-of-native-cultures-and-art-phoenix-arizona-photo-by-bruce-witzel

 

By this, he means one human group saying to another human group, “you have no worth, you have no value, you have no dignity.” This idea can be applied to race, sex, sexual orientation.

It can be the status of the laity in the church, our dealings with First Nations People, and with women.

heard-musuem-of-native-cultures-and-art-photo-by-bruce-witzel_thumb

 

So, if cultural disparagement as the denial of dignity constitutes the heart of poverty, therefore God’s  preferential option for the poor  consists in the reaffirmation of the dignity of the poor, the dignity of the disparaged.

 

Mallards in flight! - Charles Brandt photo

 

Beyond that, there is the recognition that there is a special power in the poor to promote the common good. I think that that is part of the biblical insight. Somehow the power for the redemption of humanity has been placed within the poor.

 

bruce-with-youngsters-in-malinalco-mexico-circa-1991-witzel-photo-slide

 

Our call is to enlist all of our energies to liberate that power so that the disparaged and the despised of the earth now become the ones who carry God’s power for the common good of all people.

 

TrumpeterSwans - Charles Brandt photo

 

Now, the point here is that the notion, which has been limited to the human species (not coming into contact with the ecological movement) helps us look at the cultural disparagement which we have been directing to other species of the earth.

                                                                                             

                                                                                                            buttercup - charles brandt photo

California Gull [2] - charles brandt photo         

  Racoon (2) - charles brandt photo

 

For example, the Tsolum River, we say it has no worth – or the thousands of streams that the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline would cross and then barging the oil from the port of Kitimat to the Ocean.

 

Port Hardy federal dock taken from the Canadian Coast Guard Headquarters (2) - bruce witzel photo

 

And the damage that will be done (like the lose of wild salmon).

 

Fish under the Farnham bridge - 2013 - by Charles Brandt (3)

 

These are the poor of the earth, and just like poor humans we need to reaffirm their dignity, because there is a special power in the poor of the earth to promote the common good. Not just a collection of objects but a communion of subjects to be communed with.

  Dunlins (2) - Charles Brandt photo

 

To see that the earth is more than a gravel pit or that forests are more than lumberyards – we  have to see differently, we have to change – enter into the Great Work.

  Mt. Albert Edwards, Vancouver Island BC - March 21, '15, charles brandt photo (2)

 

Our society has to change from having a disruptive influence on the earth to one of having a benign presence.

 

                                                                                Photo source  unkown forwarded from Charles A.E. Brandt

 

 

                                                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                  That is our Great Work.

 

Many Eagles - charles brandt photo

 

We make this transformation by experiencing creation with a sense of wonder and delight, instead of a commodity for our own personal benefit.

 

  Cowbird Black Creek July 2015 - charles brandt photo

 

 

                    Spider & web (2) - charles brandt photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BigLeaf Maple flowers May 2 2014 Charles Brandt photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We experience a sense of wonder and delight when we fall in love with the natural world.

 

stellar-sea-lion-charles-brandt

 

It is only when we love someone or something that we will save them.

 

Western Grebe - by Charles A.E. Brandt

 

And we can only love someone when we consider him or her as Sacred.

 

Day old fawn - by Charles A.E. Brandt

 

 

Only the sense of the Sacred will SAVE US.

 

my-house-my-blue-planet-earth_thumb

 

 

 

END NOTES

Frater Charles Brandt, soon to turn 94, is a modern day hermit monk, an environmentalist, and a Roman Catholic priest with degrees in ornithology and wildlife conservation.

 

From the film Turning Point - Thomas Merton & Charles Brandt by Geoffry Leighton

 

Charles is a leader of Christian Mediation.  He lives in a rustic hermitage overlooking the Oyster River on Vancouver Island. Much of the lower floor is devoted to a modern, state of the art book bindery and paper conservation laboratory.

Considered one of North America’s most skilled paper conservators, Charles has often been called upon to travel throughout the world saving and preserving precious documents, including some of the original Audubon series. However, he does not consider this his primary vocation.

 

greetings---from-Charles-Brandt3

 

Thank you Father Charles for your gospel witness.

 

Antelope Canyon, Page Arizona - July 2007 by Charles A.E.Brandt

Christian Zen

 

The Living Flame of Love 

 

Buddha holding baby Jesu (2) - bruce witzel photo

 

 

It seems to me Christians can profit greatly from Zen methodology to deepen their Christian faith… Surely it would be a good idea to take up this methodology and start once again to teach people how to pray…

 

Statue at Fallingwater - bruce witzel photo

 

What I want to say here is that impoverished Western man (sic) is greatly in need of something like this, because the contemplative life is fantastically underdeveloped in the developed and affluent nations.

 

When this happens, and when the contemplative dimension existing in every person becomes starved, then people go berserk and do crazy things…

 

May this be because modern Christianity has projected the image of a churchgoing religion rather than a mystical one?

 

Saint Joseph's Oratory of Montreal, Quebec - bruce witzel photo

 

May it have too much bingo and too little mysticism? Too much theological chatter and not enough sublime silence?

 

Word, words, words! Perhaps this is why we need a blood transfusion from the East.

 

Fr. William Johnston, 1971

 

Franciscan monastery in 1978 - bruce witzel photo

 

 

Manzanar Japanese-American Internment Monument in Owens Valley, California - bruce witzel photo

 

Let us pray for peace, love and awakening

among people and nations,

world religions

and earth’s commonwealth.

 

Cheers  ~ Bruce

All about the magic of water & photons – no joking!

Water fall in the woods - bruce witzel photo (3)

 

Waterfall with painted effect - by bruce witzel

 

 

A photon checks into a hotel and the bellhop asks him if he has any luggage.

 

Modular Solar Greenhouse design by b. witzel (2)

 

 

The photon replies, “No, I’m travelling light.”

 

 

Raindrops on flower - bruce witzel photo

 

~ Cheers, to the power of the sun ~

 

Bruce

 

Decathalon Solar Home, New Denver BC - Bruce Witzel photo (3)

Magic

THE GREAT WORK

 

     The Great Work before us, the task of moving modern industrial civilization from it’s present devastating influence on the Earth to a more benign mode of presence, is not a role we have chosen.

 

Highwood River meets Alberta Highway 541 - bruce witzel photo

    

We were chosen by some other power beyond ourselves for this historical task. The nobility of our lives, however, depends upon the matter in which we come to understand and fulfill our assigned role.

 

Statue in California (5) - bruce witzel photo

 

We must believe that those powers that assign our role must in the same act bestow upon us the ability to fulfill this role. We must believe that we are cared for and guided by these same powers that brought us into being.

 

Contemplating Deshutes River in Bend Oregon(4)(2) - bruce witzel photo

 

Our own special role, which we will hand on to our children, is that of managing the arduous transition from the terminal Cenozoic to the emerging Ecozoic Era, the period when humans will be present to the planet as participating members of the comprehensive Earth community.

 

St.Mary in the Mountains & local school and resident, Virginia City, Nevada (best)- Oct.3, 2016  - bruce witzel photo

This is our Great Work.

 

~ Fr. Thomas Berry ~

And Jesus was a Sailor

 

And Jesus was a sailor

When he walked upon the water

And he spent a long time watching

From his lonely wooden tower

And when he knew for certain

Only drowning men could see him

He said “All men will be sailors then

Until the sea shall free them”

But he himself was broken

Long before the sky would open

Forsaken, almost human

He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

 

photo-by-bruce-witzel-leonard-cohen-singing-hallelujah-in-vancouver-concert

December 10, 2010 ~ Vancouver concert – bruce witzel photo 

(To let you in on a secret, this was the large above the stage.  I zoomed and enlarged it, then added some special effects. Leonard Cohen was so humble and he gave everything he had.)

 

Leonard Cohen, rest in peace

1934 – 2016

These fish, this water, this land – a Tribute to Charles Brandt (part 2)

 

Start by doing what’s necessary;
then do what’s possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

~ St. Francis of Assisi ~

 

 

~ the Brandt Series ~

 

Father Charles Brandt – 5oth Anniversary of his ordination to the sacred priesthood and consecration to the hermit life

November 5, 2016

 

 

RufousHummingbird[ - by Cahrles A.E. Brandt

 

 

 

A tribute to Fr. Charles Brandt

by Chris Hilliar 

 

What does God look like? These fish, this water, this land.

 

 

Father Charles and I first met around 30 years ago when I worked for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I was working at the Puntledge River Hatchery in Courtenay and was in charge of taking water samples in the Tsolum River watershed. We were trying to determine levels of heavy metal pollution that were suspected of decimating our salmon stocks.

 

Pink Salmon in the Tsolum River - charles brandt photo (2)

 

 

Charles, of course already had a deep relationship with the Tsolum River because of his time spent at the Hermitage there. And so, it was the Tsolum River that brought the two of us together and held us together over the years.

 

tsolum river under a bright blue sky - by Charles Brandt] (2)

 

Like many of you I think of Father Charles first and foremost as a priest, but I also know him as a scientist with an analytical and keen problem-solving mind. I know him as a photographer with an excellent eye, and I also know him as, what I would call, a strategic environmentalist.

 

photo compliments Tsolum River Restoration Society - Copy

 

Charles wrote a letter that I think changed his life and mine – as well as the lives of many others. It was a short letter. He addressed it to the Honourable FC Austin Pelton, Minister of the Environment, April 24, 1985. “Dear Mr. Pelton: The Tsolum River is dead!”

 

Of course, Charles went on in the letter to explain the details and the science behind the copper pollution coming from the abandoned mine and the impacts on salmonids but he wasn’t telling the Honourable Minister anything that the Honourable Minister didn’t already know.

 

The Ministry was doing its own water sampling and already working on the mine site. But Father Charles wasn’t really writing to the Honourable Minister, he was really writing to “the world”. At least it seemed like that judging from his cc list; and those were the days when you actually mailed real letters to your cc list.

 

Steel Head Society Letter written by Chalres Brandt

 

As a strategic environmentalist Father Charles knew that to restore the Tsolum River we would have to force government to act. And his “Tsolum River is dead” letter did just that. It gave newspapers all the facts they needed and it gave them a catchy headline. Suddenly the Tsolum was in the spotlight and government had their feet to the fire.

 

Today, 30 years later, the Tsolum is on the road to recovery. Salmon runs are on the rise and people living in the watershed are active in stewardship programs and in restoration work.

 

And it all started with a simple letter from a hermit priest.

 

Pink Salmon spawning grounds Sept 24 Oyster River - charles brandt

 

In my role with Department of Fisheries and Oceans I ended up organizing a lot of community meetings – many of them were focused on the Tsolum River. They were seldom easy meetings.

 

We had forest companies; we had mining interests, government bureaucracies, farmers, residents, and environmental groups. Confrontation was always high on the list of potential outcomes, and as a facilitator I was acutely aware things could derail at any moment. But, for Tsolum meetings I had the advantage of having Father Charles on my side.

 

Father Charles attended most of those multi-stakeholder meetings and just his presence changed the atmosphere in the room. It wasn’t anything in particular that he said or did – it was just his presence. I think he made people want to rise above their natural tendencies and show their better side.

 

Charles Brandt at his hermitage - photo by Nick Didlick

 

Father Charles brought with him a calmness that was somehow transmitted to the other people in the room. That was 30 years ago Charles, and I never thanked you for the spiritual presence that you brought to all those meetings. So, somewhat belatedly – thank-you.

 

Chris Hilliar in his garden

 

At home my wife and I have a tall dresser in our bedroom. On the top I have keepsakes, memorabilia that remind me of past chapters in my life. I have pictures of all my family, art objects created by our two kids, a rolling-pin glass ball that I found in Haida Gwaii when I worked up there. And I have one book.

 

Now, Molly and I are both avid readers. Our house is filled with books. But only one small book has made it to my keepsake shelf. It’s called, “Meditations from the Wilderness”, a book of short quotations compiled and edited by Charles A.E. Brandt. I’m sure that lots of you have it too.

 

Meditations from the Wilderness (2)b

 

In preparing for tonight’s talk I thought I might find a suitable quote to share with you, but in the end the part of the book that spoke most clearly to me was in the introduction written by Charles himself. Let me read you a short paragraph. It will be out of context of course but I think you will get the gist of his sentiment.

 

“But we can have hope that as we enter into this new age, we will see a transformation of human consciousness. We will come to live fully in the present moment and embrace the spontaneities that the universe has poured – and is pouring – into us, that lead us into a loving relationship with the natural world and form a single, sacred community.”

 

Three Swans - by Charles A.E. Brandt

 

I suspect that most of you have heard Charles utter similar phrases. Of course, other people have expressed this vision as well, but what is important is that Father Charles, to me anyway, has come to embody that vision. It is as if he is living the vision through quiet contemplation, through reading and note taking, through being present in the natural world and through communicating his thoughts to those around him.

 

douglas fir cones, Sept. l4, '1 Oyster River Hatchery, charles brandt photo

 

From this mode of living a community forms – a circle of love that includes not just the people around him but all living things along with the water and the land itself.

 

Flying fawn - charles brandt photo (3)

 

 

The ultimate vision of a single sacred community will require the collective work of a large mass of humanity. We are not there yet, but we can take guidance from people like Father Charles.

 

In reacquainting myself with “Meditations from the Wilderness”, I did finally find a quote that I would like to share with you. It is probably the shortest quotation in the book but I think it speaks volumes about who this being is that we all know and love as Father Charles Brandt.

 

The quote is by Linda Hogan, a Chickasaw Native and it reads, “What does God look like? These fish, this water, this land.”

 

Northern Shoveler (female) - by Charles Brandt

 

 

Thank you Charles for giving so much of your life to those around you both human and non-human. I believe your presence here has made the world a better place.

 

 

Coast Mountains, from Oyster Bay, Dec. 2, '14. charles brandt photo (2)

 

Chris Hilliar is retired from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans. He is long time community organizer, and a senior editor for TideChange.ca, a project of a Comox Valley non-profit society called World Community Education Development Society.

 

Fish

Ecology, spirituality and sustainability – Tribute to Charles Brandt (part one)

~ the Brandt Series ~

 

Father Charles Brandt – 5oth Anniversary of his ordination to the

sacred priesthood and consecration to the hermit life

 

Photography and text by Charles Brandt and Bruce Witzel  (with exceptions)

 

 

Charles’ word:

 

Between 375 and 425 of the common era, there were over 5000 hermits living along the Nile River, in Palestine and Syria. After the Peace of Constantine in 313 one could live the Christian life without offering incense to Caesar. Those who wanted to live as Christians found that the city of Rome was too corrupt so they fled to the desert.

Among these were the first hermits. When a hermit would meet another hermit he would say: “Brother give me a word” seeking some Spiritual wisdom from the other hermit.

 

My word to you is: “Only the sense of the Sacred will Save Us.”

 

Frater M. Charles Brandt, November 5, 2016

 

  Bald eagle,near Mt. Washington, British Columbia - by Charles A.E. Brandt

 

~ Ecology, spirituality and sustainability are connected ~

  Bruce’s tribute to Fr. Charles, Nov. 5, 2016

 

 

Charles Brandt was 4 years old in 1927, when the Jesuit palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote in The Human Phenomenon:

“Our faith imposes on us a right and a duty to be passionate about the things of the earth.”

 

Charles has always lived this faith.

 

71JEvoznGhL (2)

 

 

In 1966 I was an altar server in Courtenay, but I don’t recall that autumn day when Father Charles was ordained a hermit priest.

 

Chalres Brandt's odination as a hermit priest, in Courtenay, BC - November  1966

 

None of us then could envision how Charles’ life would so touch our own – and the land, the rivers and the human creativity around us.

 

During carefree years of the 1970’s, my friends and I loved to swim in the rivers of Comox Valley.  Except for the Tsolum River. We we not not impressed with its brownish copper tone.

 

Who could imagine it was so polluted with copper leachate? Charles did.

 

Tsolum River - by Charles Brandt

 

So often we just don’t get what’s going on around us.

 

Charles says, “we are a society that is hard of hearing.”

 

Well then Charles – you are like hearing aid for us. All of us, let us pray and act that we don’t go deaf. But even then Charles wouldn’t give up – he’d just start using more sign language!

    Charles Brandt waves at his 5oth anniversery as a hermit priest, Nov. 5, 2016 - Campbell River BC

 

Over the last 30 years or so, I have spent time with Charles on just a few handful of occasions – yet I consider him a close friend, and a mentor.

My father was also a friend of Charles. When he died, Charles listened to my grief and anger.

And at times I’ve despaired about the earth, or the church, or society. But Charles has always helped me see the bigger picture, that which is universal and beyond myself – beyond each of us.

 

hidden_blackhole_lg

 

In the early 90’s I attended a meditation retreat given by Charles, on Spirituality and the Environment at the Bethlehem Retreat Centre in Nanaimo.

 

self-and-environment - cover image of book by charles brandt

 

 

The basic contemplative message of that retreat still rings true today. Charles asks each of us to work to find out – who are we meant to be? Charles’ mentor Thomas Merton, calls it “finding our true selves.” The Franciscan priest Richard Rohr calls it “recognizing our inherent dignity.”

 

 

Merton Capture 2

 

 

This is the continuing life work, for each of us.

 

 

Back in those days I worked in the log plant and booming grounds of the Port Alice Pulp Mill. I was also part of the Environmental Protection Committee. The problem was, I didn’t really enjoy the work.

Like many mills, it was good pay – but now it’s closed down.

 

A year or so after the meditation retreat, I quit the mill and travelled to Mexico. I volunteered with a group of Christian Cooperatives and Itinerant Missionaries that included health workers, seminarians, legal experts and poor campesino farmers.

 

In the Mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico 1992 - bruce witzel photo

 

My work involved building and teaching about Solar Box Ovens. They’re a simple device, just an insulated box with glass on top that traps heat from the sun that cooks the food.

 

solar-cooking-2

 

People everywhere are amazed how easy it is to cook using sunshine. I was amazed at the fine craftsmanship of the campesino carpenters.

 

Carpenter in Zapotilan del Rio, Mexico - slides0214 (2) -  by bruce witzel

 

After six inspiring months, I returned to Canada.  By then I had realized my own passion for carpentry and took it up full time. I have the Mexican campesinos and Charles to thank for all that!

In the 23 years since then I’ve been together with my wife Francis, a novelist and retired educator, along with two step children and two grand children. Charles generously shared his famous cougar photo with Francis, to grace the front cover of her  3rd novel, Chasing Down the Night.

 

Actual photo of cougar near hermitage (as appears on cover of Chasing Down the Night) - charles brandt photo

 

As Charles tells the story about the cougar, he was walking in the woods and could hear that the robins in the trees were quite excited. As he entered the door of the hermitage Charles looked back. A cougar had sat down at the bottom of the stairway. So Charles picked up his camera. After a few moments the cougar lay down on the grass. Then, he – the cougar that is – dozed off.

 

 

Fr. Charles Brandt at his hermitage - photo from Bishp Gary's blog (3)

  Bishop Gary Gordon photo

 

This past June when Charles asked me to speak here today, we were visiting on the porch of the hermitage. It was chilly and he offered me a jacket.

 

 

autumn light, hermitage, Oc.8, 16, charles brandt photo (2)

 

A bird sang from the trees beyond.

 

 

Charles said with a twinkle in his eye,

“Listen! Do hear him – it’s a Swainson Thrush – a male, I think.”

 

 

Swainson's Thrush, Red Elderberry, Hermitage, June l8, '15. charles brandt photo

 

We all know that Charles love of nature and conservation is immense, as well as his love and conservation of books and the arts.  

 

Later as I departed Charles grinned at me. Without realizing, I was leaving with his jacket. He’d repaired it numerous times, he told me. It was as old as the hermitage.

 

Charles Brandt in his Bindery

 

 

This reminded me of the time in the late 1980’s when Charles visited Saint Theresa’s Parish in Port Alice. His homily included explaining the 3R’s. First, reduce our consumption and use just what we need to. Second, repair or reuse what we are able to (like Charles does with his jacket, and books). Third, recycle everything else.

 

Charles, throughout his life, has never wavered in his commitment for conservation, restoration and preservation of this beautiful earth that abounds and surrounds us. Today, after 35 years of collaborative work, the Tsolum is no longer a dead river. The salmon have returned. This is a testimony from Charles and others, to what we can do if we care.

 

Pink Salmon spawning grounds Sept 24 Oyster River - charles brandt

 

Healing and transformation is possible. But how does such destruction happen in the first place? In Pope Francis’ encyclical, On Care for Our Common Home, he explains that “a true ecological debt exists, between the global north and south.”

Francis speaks of the world’s commercial imbalances and how the rich countries consumes so much more of the worlds resources.

 

The Pope even mentions the years of mercury pollution from gold mining by the northern industrialized nations.

 

Mining Honduras (Infographic created by Dawn Araujo-Hawkins) (2)

 

A heartbreaking example here in Canada is how the Grassy Narrows First Nation, north of Kenora, have been affected by mercury, though it came from a pulp mill. In the early 1970’s, the mink, the otters and the eagles were being poisoned from eating the fish. The wildlife couldn’t walk, swim or fly normally.

 

Black Oyster Catchers -charles brandt photo

 

Now, the Grassy Narrows people themselves are suffering horrible deaths from brain damage caused by mercury poisoning.

 

Charles says “we have to stop this destructive, addictive and oppressive behaviour.” Pope Francis has called specifically for the mining sector to undergo a “radical paradigm change.” And, as Charles says, “we seek a new way of life.”          

 

Indeed, our whole social, economic and spiritual viewpoints need to change.This is most evident with climate change. Humanity needs to quickly reduce our carbon emissions.

 

Alberta Rockies and oil - bruce witzel photo (2)

 

Canada and the United States together use about 25% of the worlds fossil fuels, yet we are only 5% of the world’s people.

 

Scientists have looked at the past 150 years of the worlds development and found that the rich nations have created by far, the lions share of climate change.

 

Vancouver BC Skyline -bruce witzel photo

 

This is part of the ecological debt that Pope Francis speaks of.

 

The economist Fritz Schumacher said this about solving difficult tasks – “Perhaps we cannot raise the winds. but each of us can raise the sails, so when the wind comes we’ll catch it.”

 

Victoria Harbour protest against Nuclear Weapons - late 1980's - burce witzel photo

 

As I begin to close this tribute to Charles, I’d like you to picture this. It’s an editorial cartoon. 

 

 

Cars are backed up on the freeway, planes fly near numerous stacks that belch black smoke.

 

slides0092 (4)a - bruce witzel photo        I-5 Seattle, Washington - francis guenette photo

 

It’s not a pretty sight and a crowd of people are protesting. They hold signs that declare –

“End times are coming!”

 

slides0017 (2) - bruce witzel photo early 80's

 

 

Another person stands apart from the crowd. He’s alone, and a little wild looking, with long hair and a beard. And he’s wearing a sack cloth, like John the Baptist – or maybe like Charles.

 

His sign says “Repent . . . . . .” 

 

                                                        “Go solar!”

 

Solar powered home near Carbondale Colorado (2) Oct. 2016 - bruce witzel photo

 

To conclude, I believe the essence of Charles’ message is this – ecology, spirituality and sustainability are connected.

 

And, there is really only one prayer – the stream of love. The great cosmic river of love.

 

Bow River, Banff - Oct 27, 2014 - Francis Guenette photo (2)

 

When Charles invited me to speak, I was doubtful and hesitant. Then he said to me quietly,

“Well, think about it.”

 

Each of us, will do well to think about it!

 

 

Thank you Frater M. Charles Brandt, ERM

for your love, your passion and giving us your word,

 

“Only the sense of the sacred will save us.”

 

 

cheers to all,

Bruce T.J. Witzel

 

November 5, 2016

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