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Near the beginning of the pandemic, we were all watching more shows and one Netflix series I absolutely loved was “Down to Earth with Zac Efron”. It showed Zac traveling all over the world learning about nature and different cultures and trying to find healthy and sustainable ways to live. I loved it from a science perspective, and I loved it from a Christian taking care of the Earth perspective.

I was thrilled when I found out that at the end of last year they had released a season two. This second season had Zac and his team traveling in and around Australia. They were trapped there when the pandemic started and luckily Australia has lots of different things to offer when it comes to nature and sustainable living. As they toured Australia, one thing that caught my attention was the mangrove forests.

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Mangroves are a variety of species of trees that live along coast lines. These trees retain water in the coastal land, preventing drought, as well as holding in the soil, preventing erosion. They are tough trees, able to withstand storms and waves from the sea, able to live in extremely salty water, and some species have evolved one more adaptation to withstand the hard coastal life. They have pneumatophores, or “breathers”, to help them cope with daily flooding tides.

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These breathers are pencil-like roots that stick up out of the dense, wet ground like snorkels. They stick up above the water level to keep giving it oxygen.

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The roots grow down from the stem of the tree to long roots that grow outward called “cable roots”. From these cable roots there are small roots that grow downward called “anchor roots” with obvious purpose, and then there are the pneumataphores or breathing roots that grow upward to reach above the level of the water. The surface of these roots are covered with lenticel (small pores) which take up air into spongy tissue, which in turn uses osmotic pathways to spread oxygen throughout the plant as needed.

Sometimes my spiritual life feels like a coastal tree, drowning as the waves of life crash over me. What I would give to have a (spiritual) breathing root. If I could only breathe, then I would be okay. When I need this breath, what I need is the holy spirit. It is in breathing in the spirit that we are nourished and revitalized. Pope Francis once said, “Without the power of the Holy Spirit we can do nothing: it is the Spirit who gives us the power to go forth.”

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Just like we can't survive without breathing, without the holy spirit we can't grow. We can't live. St. Peter Damian said, “As the soul is the life of the body, so the Holy Spirit is the life of our souls.” Way too often I forget this. I get wrapped up in everything else in my life and I don’t take time to breathe. I don’t take time to let the holy spirit rush over me and heal me. How do I possibly think I can go on without the breath of life?

The holy spirit can be so powerful. It can burn like a fire! But it can also be simple and small like a breath. I invite you to just take a moment to close your eyes, breathe, and repeat this simple prayer:

Come holy spirit.
Holy spirit come.

See what beauty the holy spirit can work in your life, how it can heal you and give you strength. If you seem to be drowning, having that lifeline to the breath of life can do wonders.