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.
On Nov. 5, 2016, more than a dozen people addressed the gathering at St. Patrick’s Church in Campbell River, British Columbia.
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.
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.
My word to you is: “Only the sense of the Sacred will Save Us.”
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.
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!
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!
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, 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.
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.
A PLEA FOR THE EARTH:
Thomas Berry tells us that only a sense of the sacred will save us.
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.
Without a love for nature, the natural world, we will find it difficult to navigate life.
We will be a danger to all.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And the damage that will be done (like the lose of wild salmon).
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.
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.
Our society has to change from having a disruptive influence on the earth to one of having a benign presence.
That is our Great Work.
We make this transformation by experiencing creation with a sense of wonder and delight, instead of a commodity for our own personal benefit.
We experience a sense of wonder and delight when we fall in love with the natural world.
It is only when we love someone or something that we will save them.
And we can only love someone when we consider him or her as Sacred.
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.
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.
Thank you Father Charles for your gospel witness.