High above the mountain ranges of the Western United States glides the California condor, the largest bird in North America, with a wingspan of nine feet. It soars to an altitude of three miles, swooping down from time to time to feed on red meat and salmon with a healthy appetite. With its black body, bare head and red knees, this majestic bird has flown through the mountains and valleys of California, Nevada and Arizona for millennia. But by 1990 only 23 remained in existence, 6 in California and 17 near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It was an endangered species.
Every species needs its own peculiar ecological system in order to survive. When that system is rich, the species thrives. As its ecosystem deteriorates, the species gradually diminishes and, in the worst cases, finally becomes extinct. Millions of species that once inhabited the planet earth are now extinct. So too will it be one day for the human race. Will its ecosystem be destroyed by a violent cataclysm of human making, a massive bomb? Will it be destroyed when a giant asteroid crashes into the planet? Will it be destroyed because a polluted environment gradually suffocates the human person? Who knows?
And religious life? Life in the Congregation of the Mission? Nature teaches us the simple lesson that we will grow and flourish only to the extent that the ecosystem created by St. Vincent 376 years ago and renewed from time to time in our history is vibrant. Otherwise we will decline and perhaps one day even disappear.
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