Shadow of a
tree, meeting the Earth on rural Kentucky hayfield.
April 1, 2019 Promote the Family Farm
A family farm is an ideal place to teach environment and cooperative efforts to the young within a domestic enterprise. They must all work together to make it work. However, the family farm that we knew in our youth is no longer a numerous aspect of American life. While an ever smaller portion of the general population depends on farming, this sector is still is a key component of the entire U.S. economic system; through U.S. agriculture the nation and world have an adequate supply of food that ensures health, justice and dignity to all. In many commodities the U.S, is "the" or "a" leading supplier: corn, soybeans, wheat, small grains, cotton, rice, nuts, and temperate fruits and vegetables.
Family wellbeing. The farm is a good place for raising children who learn through cooperative errands to be part of the productive and spiritual life of the family. Such experiences remain with them the rest of their lives and can be passed on to descendants. This is reason enough for family farms.
Protect farmland. The American Farmland Trust states that America is losing over 40 acres of farmland every hour to roads, suburbs and other forms of development; however, this sounds incredible since some land may be doubled counted. AFT calls this land loss a national disgrace on a catastrophic scale. If farm land is not protected the damage could be irreversible.
Defend small farms. Farmers, ranchers, and fishers should have control over their lands, water, seeds, and livelihoods so that production of healthy, local, and delicious food may thrive. More and more of the total food is produced now by large factory-type farms, which must hire immigrants for the work force and use large amounts of agri-chemicals to sustain monocultural cropping.
Join spiritual forces. Farmers in the past united in cooperative and other organizations to sustain their markets. In our youth we were members of the Farm Bureau and the Southern States Cooperative. For a period several decades ago I was on the Board of Directors of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, which continues working for family farms through a number of publications, conferences and legislation policy educational activities. A score of non-profits promote the family farm.
Government support is necessary and should -- encourage farmers to keep their land in agricultural use by assessing taxes on the land based on its value as a farm rather than as a building site; zone to limit residential and commercial building on the most fertile soils; give farmers "green payments" that help cover the cost of conservation measures and reward farmers for being good stewards of their land; and pay farmers for voluntary deed restrictions committing land to agricultural use forever.
Prayer: Lord, bless our farm families and help them prosper.
Spring comes to a well-known fishing spot in Anderson Co., KY.
April 2, 2019 Give Thanks for April's Blessings
Each month is a time to show our gratitude -- and it is easier to find examples for some months including this one. With the sunshine and freshness of April, our hearts and minds go out to a plentitude of good gifts all worth mentioning. Without being exhaustive, let us give a few examples and encourage you to list your own. We are thankful for:
* Enhanced greenery in grass and in the carpets speckled with yellow dandelion blooms, which some despise but others delight;
* Pink to purple redbud and the white to pink dogwood, all ablaze in glory in woodlands coming alive with spring wildflowers;
* Gentle spring showers that bring on a plethora of May flowers of all varieties and colors;
* Frisky colts and the new-born nestlings and pups, lambs, kids, kittens, calves, and piglets -- and human infants too;
* Migratory birds, passing through on the grand flyways, many stopping and resting for a period on their journey, all adding to the color and sound of our glorious spring;
* Easter celebrations with the atmosphere of joy, victory and hope, and blessing land and all creatures with Easter Water;
* Sounds of shrill delight among children who know that winter is past and the outdoors is a friendlier place for all;
* Crack of bats as the baseball and softball season opens in the local parks;
* Opportunities to take down the window insulation, to do spring cleaning, and to air out the house on upcoming warmer and breezy days;
* The first taste of poke greens and other wild salad greens along with some of the early mushrooms by experienced gatherers;
* Longer days and shorter nights so that travel is now much easier in the evenings;
* Spring hikes with the sounds, smells and sights of new life abounding all around us;
* Leafing-out of the trees during the final weeks, which gives a fullness of greenery to the landscape; and
* Cheerful dispositions on the part of winter-haters.
Prayer: Lord, for all of these we give our heartfelt thanks. May eternal life be an everlasting April.
Fowler's toad, Bufo fowleri.
April 3, 2019 Designate Per Capita Energy Use Properly
In calculating energy consumption, does the caregiver who makes the patient call have the fuel use assigned to him or her, or to the patient? This sounds a little puzzling and it is. As we approach Earth Day, we hear a litany of statistics about resource use, and some are scary. One of these is that the United States with less than 5% of the world's population consumes about a quarter of the world's energy. That stat has been used over and over, but is it accurate? Accuracy of world population includes precise counts from some nations and imprecise counts from China and India that affects ultimate significant numbers. If one nation has a hundred million people plus or minus ten million, the total count is only precise to that degree. Furthermore, not every twig or solar application is counted and so total energy use has its own lack of precision as well. However, approximate results are worth considering within an acceptable range of error.
In 2017 the U.S. hospital ship Comfort went down to San Juan and assisted with hurricane victims. The ship used fuel to reach this destination, as did the many medical personnel to reach the ship. Helicopters used to ferry victims to the ship consumed fuel. To what extent does one assign ship or helicopter fuel to caregivers, pilots, or patients? Is it assigned to the source region or nation, the United States on the whole, or to Puerto Rico or its citizens who benefit whether as a society or as individuals? What about energy resources used to educate the medical personnel -- really an immense accumulated total? What about assigning making and testing medicines or hospital equipment or material? We soon see that designating per capita stats is increasingly difficult.
Are energy consumption stats fairly precise, or when social costs are considered are they so complex as to be nearly meaningless? Not so, for we know the energy is being used for and by someone or some group. Certainly assigning benefits is more difficult than designating energy profits in dollars or amounts of total energy used divided by the total population. To assign energy individually to the exporting nation takes the onus off of the importer who ultimately benefits from use of produced goods. Service folks cook for themselves and at work cook for others. The personnel are protected by the military with heavy energy use.
The more resources shared, the more complex the calculation. In this century the world population is to grow from seven to about ten billion people, but worldwide energy consumption could grow from about 400 to 800 QBtu (one "q" or Quad = 1015 Btu (U.S. Dept. of Energy estimates). How is all of this energy to be assigned as well as how much will be renewable energy? Designation and type of energy source are both highly significant and worth considering when we seek to become ever more green in our ordinary actions.
Prayer: Lord, help us to become more aware of what we do and how much energy we consume for the benefit of all people.
Purple cress, Cardamine douglassii. Grandma's favorite spring green.
April 4, 2019 Gather Spring Greens
Some recall a frugal and energetic grandmother who took her pan and knife and went forth into the meadow and woods to find springtime's nutritious greens to compensate for winter's lack of fresh nutrients. These early edible greens were most welcome when either consumed fresh or in a wilted salad, or as ingredients in a kettle of potherbs. In springtime the different greens are young and tender. Become aware of their presence in woods, on the roadside, in leaf piles, in gardens and lawns and in just about any space where greenery appears. Full spectrum sunlight, fresh air, needed physical exercise and sheer delight make this a long awaited springtime activity by those suffering from cabin fever.
Dandelion is queen of the green; it's abundant, easily recognized, and good and nutritious, especially when young; as it matures, the milky bitter sap will flavor the dish and require additional cooking and spicing. A good practice is cutting the crown just below the ground surface so that the entire bunch of leaves comes up and can be shaken clean. My mother always prepared dandelions with boiled eggs and potatoes and onions, and then wilted them with hot bacon grease, vinegar, salt and sugar.
Chickweed is one of the very early greens and can extend beyond the season as an edible ingredient.
Crows' foot is a variety of Toothwort and adds zing to the potherbs.
Evening primrose is also called "speckled britches" and emerges early as a rosette speckled or tinged with red and is gathered like dandelions.
Lamb's quarters comes a little later in our part of the country, but is one of the oldest foods of cave dwellers of a millennia or two ago.
Plantain soon arrives and is the steady potherb that can be gathered over a wide span but needs to be cooked for best results.
Pokeweed is also able to be gathered over a longer period. For preparation, uses and extended gathering period see our popular YouTube on this website for further details.
Shepherd's purse springs up in abundance in moist soil and is a highly popular greens choice.
Upland cress is known as "creasies" and is found as a rosette of dark green leaves in early April.
Violets are some of the most overlooked and yet both leaf and flower are edible and add to salad color.
Water-cress near to creeks and cold springs can be harvested not only in spring but in shaded areas for much of the growing season.
Wild lettuce is common in the lowlands and near streams and the most tender leaves are excellent greens.
Prayer: Lord, help us to appreciate the goodness of the many greens, which enrich our landscape, for these lessen our demand to grow cultivated varieties -- and they are nutritious.
A Spiritually Discerning Nation
Should our nation be involved in a spiritual discernment? The far left or progressive wing of American politics might say "yes"; that discernment is necessary because the current economic system is corrupt and acts at times unjustly. Certainly we need a new renewable energy economy with redistribution of excessive wealth of the highly influential power elite. On the other side of the political divide, conservatives say "yes" that the current economic system is under attack by "socialists" and that the status quo, which has made America great, is worth championing; they add that the climate change curbing advocates are overreacting and using this issue to suppress the freedom to gain wealth and the potential pursuit of happiness as envisioned by our forebears.
The battle over acquiring and retaining wealth. Here the progressives have differences among themselves, for some purists would say that acquiring wealth is bad, because current de-regulation allows for vast accumulation; for them to place limits on what can be acquired must be legislated. On the other hand, some progressives would say acquiring wealth is not evil in itself. Instead, they oppose wealth retention through lack of inheritance or wealth taxes; this reduces mobility of lower income people and gives undue influence to the privileged few; thus, immense wealth in the hands of a few damages our democracy. Some of us argue that even our founding father, Ben Franklin, was in favor of limiting wealth, something most needed today when less than one percent of our people own over half the wealth of the richest land on Earth.
Can the current system be modified? A moderate's discernment goal could be to continue what we have and make it better. Here there are a variety of opinions ranging from continuing what we have to patching up and allowing renewables, but keeping the status quo of the wealthy strata intact. However, among many conservatives morality is a proper theme (e.g., abortion), but not with respect to the current economic system. The proponents of some system modification are generally older Americans who are quick to react to any mention of "Socialism;" to mention the term reminds them that social change is the work of the devil.
Are there detectable good and evil spirits at work in America? The first priority is to know the situation, though this requires a prayerful stance -- and that is a challenge in a secular society. One way to a prayerful approach is to begin by thanking God for all our American blessings: democracy, basic security, efficient transportation and communication systems, good employment, and adequate food and health facility access (if properly distributed).
However, a discerning person observes a variety of ailments in our nation: blindness of denial of climate change through human causation, mass and individual murders with no gun control, abuse of substances and of people, wanton waste of resources, and proliferation of abortions even to the day before birth. We are reminded that failure of the U.S. to join the climate change accord is a crime against humanity. Continuation of these unresolved ailments damages our moral fiber.
Do these critical times demand social discernment? It is not enough for the discerning observer to note both good and bad aspects to the current system. Failure to move forward is both depressive to those demanding systematic change and to those focused on one or other current wrongdoing. The first group will see a need for social collaboration, knowing that no change can be done by an enlightened or autocratic individual in a democracy with existing differences without coercion. The challenge is to undertake a social discernment that is unbiased and open to the guidance of the good Spirit when the effects of an evil one is hovering just below the surface of many of our national ailments.
Is temptation at a national level unwillingness to address current problems? An authentic spirituality means willingness to face the situation no matter how dire, and with God's help to work with others who are concerned. Not all in a secularist society will desire a prayerful atmosphere, but they must tolerate those who do -- and their intolerance could be the work of the Evil One tempting them to say all can be achieved by human effort alone. Our founding parents sought divine assistance and so ought we, but that does not need to be a consensus position, only a tolerated component of a total discernment with a solid historical basis. A willingness to discern must be a focus here and this involves a variety of sub-groups.
Are there obstacles to success? Prayerful discernment accepts that evil exists, that it influences the breadth of issues, and that new ways of acting must be forthcoming. We realize that we cannot make progress towards a national consensus without addressing three major obstacles: curbing undue influence by the wealthy; confronting the ignored religious belief in renewal; and a pro-life total stance that must be addressed. A number of other problem areas fit under some of these three: equality to include adequate health care, access to higher education, fair taxes and repeal of Citizens United; tolerance to include meaningful employment, prison reform, racial and immigration issues; and pro-life to extend to political action and respect for all creatures on our planet. We must acknowledge difficulties and address each problem area in turn (which we’ll do over the next three weeks).
An imperfect process. Citizens are flawed in their outlooks and these can stand in the way of a national consensus, whether they be motivated by greed, fame, or fortune. Too few consider the wellbeing of social life of all people as benefits affecting themselves. Flawed individuals are candidates for a broadening experience, who are not always willing to extend a hand to opponents. A kinder and more gentle approach is needed. Over the next three weeks we will treat each of the major obstacles in turn with hopes to prepare our nation for a more open and balanced social discernment.
Eastern Towhee, Pipilo erythrophthalmus, Estill Co., KY.
April 5, 2019 Reclaim Our Land Commons
As we till the soil this spring, we consider the value of our land for individual use. Our American land policy developed from European, mainly Anglo-Saxon, land ethics (see Reclaiming the Commons, Brassica Books). The notion that this country could have private holdings staked out from the Native American land commons was regarded as legitimate, and protected by Colonial military might. The land policies of the dominant culture became the implicit law of the land through Western resettlement and the land and railroad grants of the nineteenth century -- and is still regarded as the almighty right to land-holdings of varied sizes.
Throughout human history certain lands were common hunting territories (native tribes considering Kentucky as commons) or were reserved for common grazing (English commons) or other purposes. Today, in this resource-short age, scarcity of global land for essential food production makes some modifications in land use and land commons imperative. Some practices include:
* Redistribution -- The small farmers of the world, especially those producing grain and oil-crops, should be assigned land to use. This may mean the dividing of unproductive estates, hunting preserves, large lawns, and golf courses into farmland;
* Regulation of use -- Forbid the use of food-producing areas for biofuel production (now occurring in our country and elsewhere). Better results could be achieved by use of non-productive space for biofuels or the use of wind and solar energy sources. Farms must be used for essential grain and oil-bearing crops and not for animal and specialty crops. Today about two thirds of available farmland is used for feed and pasture for animals while turning these lands into grain-producers for the lower income would be a far greener and just practice;
* Forbidding misuse -- Poor land practices can deplete soil through erosion, salination or destruction of soil microbes through corporate farming practices, such as pesticides or overuse of commercial fertilizers. Strip mined and urbanized polluted lands need to be reclaimed at the expense of the culprits;
* Zoning and land conservation measures -- Some regard the title to land as a privileged entitlement to use as one sees fit. The community needs to have a voice in how land is used properly; and
* Edible landscaping -- Encourage the use of lawns and small urban patches of land for edible landscape to help feed local populations. Often local rules require specific monocultural lawn grasses for urban landscape.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be humble (derived from the Latin word "humus" for soil). Help us to respect the rich microcosm of soil beneath our feet and to regard all of this wealth as the commons.
Megaphasma denticrus - Giant walking stick.
April 6, 2019 Learn Critical World Health Threats
Tomorrow is World Health Day; it is worthwhile to review some of the major threats that exist, or will soon threaten global populations. It seems so strange that, despite a world of advanced water and air purification techniques, health and safety prevention measures and sophisticated medical equipment, these health risks loom over rich and poor alike. The World Health Organization strives mightily to alert the public to new dangers, but needless death and injury persist. And our list is certainly not complete.
* Contaminated drinking water -- After so many years of knowledge about infectious diseases, how is it that so much drinking water lacks basic chlorination needed for disinfection? Shortage of potable water is starting to affect large populations.
* Polluted air -- Residents subjected to pollutants in the outdoor air, especially in rapidly industrializing countries, have emerging severe asthma and other respiratory problems. Over one billion poor people still cook their meals with wood or charcoal over fires that require close attention. Women cooks, as well as the elderly and youth who spend much time indoors in buildings with poor ventilation, are especially vulnerable. Solar cookers and better stoves could greatly reduce this threat.
* Opioid overdoses -- A public that moves from prescribed drugs to illegal ones have become a major threatened population. Furthermore the medications are over-prescribed or dispensed to those who are unable to handle them without becoming addicted.
* Substance abuse -- While the world today suffers the shortened lives of three to four million per year at current smoking rates, smokers may increase by 50% in two decades. A rising tide of middle class people with higher paying jobs may only exacerbate the spread of alcohol consumption among those with more spending money. The war on drugs seems to never end as cartels continue their lucrative business and governments fail to curb use.
* Traffic accidents -- With the rapid increase in automobiles, especially in Asia and Latin America, and the urge to drive fast and furiously on poorly constructed and policed roads, the awful toll on drivers, riders and pedestrians will be expected to rise still more in the coming decades.
* Lack of vaccination -- This last seems the most preventable threat to eliminate in the coming years, but gaps remain in a world where health funds are strapped and treatments are restricted by lack of access to proper vaccines. Some parents even in developed countries avoid vaccinations, but their concerns are regarded as unjustified by health experts.
Prayer: Lord, give us a deep concern for our brothers and sisters here and in other lands and to work for expanded health care.
April 7, 2019 Reflect upon the Account of the Adulterous Woman
Double-crested cormorant, Phalacrocorax
But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. (John 8:5)
They brought to Jesus a woman caught committing adultery, and the penalty was severe; they were really using the woman as a mere pawn in seeking to trick Jesus. As a woman she was to suffer while the male adulterer went free. But here both Jesus and the woman are being judged in life-threatening circumstances -- but one is innocent and the other perhaps guilty of the offenses of which she is accused. The Roman law did not allow Jewish people to inflict the death penalty, while the inoperative Mosaic Law said an adulterous woman should be stoned. If Jesus says "yes" to the Mosaic Law, he will defy the Roman law, and if he assents to the Roman law, he disobeys his religious tradition.
Why does Jesus start writing -- the only scriptural reference to his performing this talent? Some say he is bored by the scribes' and Pharisees’ attempts to trip him; others propose that he is writing the sins of the accusers -- or at least they think he may be doing this. He says that if there was anyone among the accusers who has not sinned, he should throw the first stone. They go away, beginning with the eldest. Does self-righteousness erode with age as we approach the judgment seat? Jesus is left with the woman; he does not condemn her, but tells her to sin no more.
First, this parable is an argument against the death penalty, not just because sometimes those convicted have been unjustly sentenced, but because human judges should not take on the power of life and death. Who are we to judge? Punishment through incarceration is enough, and convicts may repent their ways and proceed to do good even while still within prison walls.
Second, the story shows the mercy of God, for each and every one of us would find it difficult to hurl that first stone. God has given us another chance, the time we have here at this moment, regardless of our sinful past. Jesus asks the woman to repent and live a good life. This is where mercy takes precedence over legal justice, and forgiveness gives way to new life. Jesus is always with us even in the darkest moments of life.
Third, Jesus teaches us not to condone the sin while showing mercy to the sinner. We all need reform and ought not to be the first to "stone" criminals or terrorists. Crimes include the sequestering of common resources and a failure to share these with people in many parts of the world -- a form of terrorism in which we participate at least in a remote way. Modern terrorists commit heinous crimes, and we condemn the wrongdoing and still love the sinner. Let's reform our lives both individually and communally, for sin affects the human family and the social order.
Prayer: Lord, give us a sense of proper critique in which we do no not cast stones, but rather shower blessings on all.
Violet wood-sorrel, Oxalis violacea.
April 8, 2019 Participate in National Volunteer Week
During this week we ought to resolve to become more active -- and that includes helping others. Certainly, household cleaning hovers over us as a ritual that comes with the changing season. This week when the dogwood and redbud are in their glory, we appreciate opportunities to put on our volunteer clothes and focus on cleaning us a disturbed landscape.
* Trash pickup at roadsides and near rivers and lakes is needed. I find this task somewhat trying, since each throwaway is the sign of thoughtlessness on the part of someone who expects another to come behind and pick up his or her trash. Through poor policing, few have to pay the $500 fine so frequently posted throughout our Commonwealth and elsewhere. Collected fines for articles that are unlawfully disposed could reduce financial woes.
* Lobbying for new legislation is an area requiring volunteer efforts. We need a bottle and container deposit legislation even amid vehemently opposition by soft drink distributors.
* Bird sanctuaries are quite possible without setting aside reserved lands. Many landholders would like to see their woodlands designated as such sanctuaries, but have never gotten around to making and installing the designation and signage. Join in making this a community project.
* Trail maintenance requires dedicated lower-skill work provided supervisory personnel are present. If new construction is anticipated, a higher-skill level is called for. The public needs more hiking areas. Trails should not be permitted in highly fragile areas, especially if adequate policing is not possible.
* Tree planting is a good way to involve youth in voluntary efforts, and the product will have years of future growth and benefits. Nut or fruit trees offer food for humans and wildlife alike. The benefits of trees are numerous and include enhanced beauty to the landscape itself. Organize a planting event.
* Nature study programs should be emphasized. All young people should have opportunities to visit and observe areas of natural beauty, with formal educational programs pertaining to native flora and fauna, so that all can appreciate the immense natural beauty all around them. Essays, paintings, and projects dealing with such beauty should be encouraged.
* Removal of invasive species such as kudzu, wild garlic mustard or bush honeysuckle takes much time and effort. In the estimation of some, invasive species are an often overlooked major environmental threat. Those who are allergic to poison ivy must be dissuaded from working in infested areas.
Prayer: Lord, show us the many ways in which we can render a helping hand to enhance and add to the beauty of the landscape.
Flowering pear in April.
April 9, 2019 Big Government Is Bad; Little Government Is Worse
Some people disparage big government with fears of an emerging socialistic or communistic or autocratic regime. History can teach us much about the sorry state of such absolutist governments with their Stalinist mines and Nazi concentration camps. So much for oversized governments. However, not to be overlooked are the examples of failure of government (failed states, anarchy, or the usurping of government by private individuals or companies). Greedy, enterprising people can enter a place and take advantage of lack of regulation to create mischief by exploiting weaker communities and unprotected natural resources.
Size is all important, for too much government restricts freedom and so does too little; thus a lack of balance in government permits the rise of private globalized entities that can dictate terms for employment, livelihood and even the standards of living. Too little government can result in lack of regulations for checking greed that can become infectious; it transforms "need" into "want" for more and more -- and even moves down to poorer folks who strive to enter the greedy rat race. Good governance of proper size can preserve the common good and benefit the weaker members of society.
From its earliest days the U.S. has generally been plagued by too little federal government, and with time became overly tolerant about the power of the unregulated super-rich. During various periods of time (including the present), the privileged could capture immense riches at the expense of the commons; they could move wealth to tax havens, make decisions to ruin manufacturing communities, and move their businesses to foreign lands with fewer regulations. Today to our horror the top 1% of global earners has captured twice as much as the growth of the 50% poorest individuals (See World Inequality Report 2018). Increased income inequality, especially in the U.S. and Russia, has become extreme, whereas Europe such inequality growth is more moderate.
A host of problems is now plaguing the world commons: air pollution, land erosion, lack of food security, limited water rights, international lack of privacy, failure to modernize our crumbling transportation system, threats to net neutrality, movement of peoples, limited availability of health care and control of outer space to name only a few. What is starting to emerge is the demand for a more powerful UN with teeth. A superpower (e.g., United States, China or the European Union) does not have the power to regulate the globalizing trends of totalitarian businesses that are taking a greater part of the economy. Concerned citizens see the need for a federalism that has some power to tackle climate change and associated problems. The world suffers from an unregulated accumulation of wealth in the hands of a very few -- and this inequality must be addressed.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to explore the changing conditions that require a new economy geared to overcome our global problems.
Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus.
April 10, 2019 Strive to Become Ever More Merciful
We read about people in earlier centuries who went to gory executions where convicts were crucified, beheaded, drawn and quartered. They accepted that chopped-off heads were to be spiked at the city gates, or the disabled were ridiculed by crowds. We regard ourselves as far more merciful, and in some areas (not withstanding the ISIS examples) perhaps we are. Most people do not like or allow their loved ones to endure sights of aborted fetuses and dying accident victims or battle sites. However, before we pat ourselves on the back, let's look a little deeper and consider where merciless actions still exist:
* Maldistribution of wealth -- Three million die of hunger each year while in the lap of luxury some throw away half of their food supply;
* Capital punishment -- Among civilized nations nearly half of the U.S. states and a minority of nations permit the death penalty;
* Limited corporate decisions -- Plant closures can deny livelihoods and disruptions to entire communities;
* Merciless profits -- Many CEOs make 300 or 400 times their workers who in some cases barely make ends meet. Minimum wages are far too low in parts of urban America;
* Lack of comprehensive immigration reform -- Tens of thousands of migrants do not know their status in this country and refugees are in limbo in EU nations;
* Global unemployment -- Millions of new workers are unable to have meaningful work in various countries throughout the world;
* Prison terms for non-violent crimes -- Service to society could be an alternative punishment without incarceration;
* Jailing for lack of bonds -- One half million poor Americans fit into this category and are in one sense within a debtors prison; and
* Merciless spectator conduct -- booing of the defeated or the referees with little sign of appreciation for competing groups.
Mercy comes with different interpretations, and what is "merciful" action to those who would terminate human life is the inability to see mercy in comforting those who suffer. Much of this interpretation of mercy rests on the component of gratitude for gifts given and the universal love we have for our brothers and sisters.
Prayer: Lord, give us a deeper sense of mercy that seems to grow upon us as we become thankful for the gifts given to us.
Sedum ternatum, native Kentucky plant.
April 11, 2019 Inspire Workers to Own Their Workplaces
One of the two Kentucky counties in each of which I serve a small parish is Powell County, the third poorest in Kentucky. A group of us gathered a while back to brainstorm about ways of enhancing employment. Manufacturing has all but ceased as a means of livelihood, whereas a few decades ago there were a number of small sewing and other factories here. As in much of rural America, many of the factories have been outsourced. In the process of going elsewhere, profits were the only consideration, not the welfare and livelihood of the workers who were faithful for long periods of their working lives. These faithful workers were voiceless when it came to work decisions that affected their community livelihoods. Can jobs be created and worker controlled?
Those concerned about a new economy speak often about the need for worker-owned employment. This may be the wave of the future, though it is fraught with difficulties when overpowered by top down collectivistic or capitalistic decision making from a distance. Examples are cropping up of the longer-term success of worker-owned businesses, some with shares in the place of employment that could be traded, bought and sold. In recent labor history the precise structure and health of worker-owned businesses seem to differ considerably. Some original owners give up all their shares; some keep minority shares; some retain a majority with the minority in the hands of the workers; some succeed and some fail.
It is apparent that immediate involvement of workers leads to immediate internal controls. Internal theft and damage to equipment at one company virtually vanished with worker ownership and the resulting internal policing by fellow owner/workers. Management problems can be highly reduced also as democracy demands that the management is from the workers, along with removal of big differences in salary. With all realizing that their livelihood depends on their diligence and need to sacrifice at times, the decision to curb costs become far more paramount. Creativity increases among workers who can communicate their ideas more easily through the more open management systems. What stops more worker-ownership except the greed and temptation to control others?
The various models of such worker-businesses need to be studied and discussed in greater detail. Could this be a Third Way, the wave of the future? For those of us who subscribe to the principle of subsidiarity, the more control there is at the bottom, the better the conditions and health of an organization. Globalization could be such that various levels have their own independence; the higher levels are coordinators and communicators, not controllers. In fact, the issue of ownership underlies the emerging discussions of an emerging renewable economy. This is also important due to persistent inequality of wealth.
Prayer: Lord, help us to allow the lowly to rise and take over their own means of production, and as Scripture says let those in high places be brought low.
The Excessive Wealth Issue
In many ways this is a repeat of arguments made in the past on this website, but it needs to be made once again for the sake of emphasis. Allowing the freedom to acquire and retain material wealth is like allowing a spoiled brat to rule a household. Democracy cannot function properly when some have undue influence through wealth over all citizens. Political corporate wealth (as expended through Citizens United) spoils our national home. Citizens soon surrender their power to the privileged few and fail to vote and take part in government; their sovereign right to just speak as equal citizens is curtailed.
Inequality intoxicates potential leaders who will avoid genuine reform to strengthen the nation as a whole; they emphasize individual rights (a libertarian stance) versus a more social solution to problems. Some construct a stark contrast between capitalism and socialism and cater to past American biases. Many older Americans harken back to the Cold War and equate forms of social democracy with Soviet-style Communism. Such confused memories are lacking in a young generation coming to maturity after the fall of the Berlin Wall, many of whom welcome European-style social democracy.
Excessive capitalism? If young people and others are drawn to European social democracy, it is wise to review the current American economic system with its heavy emphasis on capitalism. Billionaires and multimillionaires are not currently impeded from accumulating vast undertaxed income and wealth; at the same time this country fails to provide health insurance to tens of millions of our citizens with a basic right to health access. This failure allows the wealthy to afford a higher class health care (paid in part by the taxes of the people) and those, even in the middle class, to risk bankruptcy for attempting to do so. Add to this a system where corporate funds go directly to pay for politicians' campaigning costs. The restricted avenue to the upper class could occur only through a rare lottery win and little more. Compound this with higher cost education and associated privileges for a few.
Reformed Capitalism? No doubt many would agree that some needed improvements in the current economic system are forthcoming. This is becoming more urgent as we as a nation must confront climate change ASAP and talk about the transition to a renewable energy economy. Can this be done through a Green New Deal or not? Some with strong capitalistic leanings would disparage such noble attempts and say a modified program to address infrastructure weaknesses is possible if partly privatized. They may even admit that veterans and special groups deserve governmental assistance, but soften the impending issue of climate change.
Lite-Capitalism? The argument of moderates is not to throw the baby out with the bath water; their Capitalistic answer is moderation, but with the government refraining from added taxes so that the free market will give employment to all. They argue for enlightened investment by business interests no matter what the size -- and that the "free market" will handle all. This approach may sound good at first, but is it the actual case? Do we not need more government at this time when the world seems threatened by climate change and all 200 nations (apart from our federal government) undertake global collaboration to address the issue?
Limited private property? Much is made of the domain of private property, but are there limits as Benjamin Franklin suggested over two hundred years ago? A crass "socialism” of no private property goes even beyond the garden plots allowed by the Soviets or the billionaire wealth allowed currently by Communist China. There are degrees of social restrictions that can both allow for freedom in a limited degree and yet not permit untold influence on the part of a wealthy few. Those limits could be reached by taxes on income and on wealth itself. Enough should be enough! Specifics need to be elucidated.
Social endeavors? Much depends on the degree of definition of what is "socialistic." If the term in a popular sense means to address social ills as a community rather than as individuals in a voluntary manner, then social democracy fits the definition. The least drastic method of reform is through fair taxing rather than confiscating wealth or income. Fair taxes mean all contribute to the welfare of the state and those with more wealth must realize that their condition is guaranteed by the security of the government and they owe more in proportion to safeguard what they have. If I have one dollar, the security to guarantee it is small; if I have a billion, than an immense security and military might must protect it -- and this requires far more taxes.
Equality for all? Some would object that social democracy would come at the expense of private health insurance or the ability to invest in certain enterprises, but that is not necessarily the case. The right to health access could allow for degrees of nutrition and prevention programs. Marketing structures and services do have room for private investment. Programs such as child care, adult education and infrastructure reconstruction and maintenance are areas of concern for all people, and the wealthy that already benefit must pay their fair share.
Creativity? A plethora of social programs does not put a straight-jacket on creative individuals seeking to benefit on an innovative device or service. The Internet belongs to all the people who supported its rise through taxes, not just to certain privileged users. Benefits to inventors are adequate satisfaction, along with limits of wealth and wellbeing. Removing excessive capitalism through fair taxes and a Green New Deal program gives us hope. A majority of inventions did not include compensation to the originator; everything from safety pins to the Internet included creative work of uncompensated individuals. Recognition and modest compensation should be sufficient for all, not financial fortunes. Social progress is the greatest form of creativity.
A garden of grape hyacinths.
April 12, 2019 Global Warming Coming Sooner and Faster
Many of our reflection headings this year begin with an active verb, indicating that we ought to do certain things. If one is needed today as we approach Earth Day, it is to defend the findings of 98 percent of scientists in saying our planet is warming, and that this is due in great part to human efforts. We are called to act as individuals and communities in curbing resource use and to persuade those in public office to make this a matter of top priority. This is especially true with a current Administration that has capitalized on climate denial and purging any effort to address this serious problem. Is it possible that states like California will reverse national policies to the degree needed for a new renewable energy economy?
Climate change matters are worse than predicted at the turn of the century, and the alarm continues to rise due to the voluntary nature of the Paris Climate Change Accord. Emerging middle class people in China, India and other economically advancing nations are determined to imitate the West's materialism. The supposed goal of only a 2 degree Celsius increase in global temperature will have drastic effects, but a more likely (at present expanding consumption patterns) greater rise would cause massive chaos on our planet. In a world map published a decade ago the rise of 4 degrees Celsius would not be evenly distributed, because many ocean areas would have lower temperatures and the North Pole regions would rise as high as +16C. Sober and shocking effects of such rises were enumerated on the map:
* 60% likelihood of irreversible decline in the Greenland ice sheet resulting in a 7 meter (over 23 feet) global sea-level rise;
* Reduction of permafrost in Canada and Alaska and almost complete disappearance in Asia (thus resulting in methane release, which will exacerbate climate change);
* Maize and wheat yields reduced by up to 40% at low latitudes in North America, South America, and Africa and a decrease of rice yield by up to 30% in China and India;
* Marine ecosystems could be altered by ocean acidification with significant impact on fisheries;
* Drought events twice as frequent across the Mediterranean basin and parts of Africa and Indonesia;
* Sea-level rise and storm surge likely threatening Netherlands and southeastern England;
* Half of all Himalayan glaciers significantly reduced by 2050 though amounts are disputed. The Indus river basin obtains 70% of its summer flow from glacier melt;
* Continued breaking of summer temperature records virtually every year; and
* Annual flooding affecting a half billion people in low-lying and densely populated regions with severe suffering for the most vulnerable residents.
Prayer: Lord, You want us to observe the signs of our times; help us to know and to persuade other to act prudently.
April 13, 2019 Greed Can Ruin Democracy
On Thomas Jefferson's birthday we ought to celebrate by going past the third president's foibles and faults that investigative critics have been quick to point out. Rather, we ought to dedicate ourselves to reaffirming the democracy that Jefferson so loved; we need to expose today's threats to our freedoms just as he exposed the weaknesses of King George III when writing the Declaration of Independence. The greed of banking and financial interests today along with the denial of global climatic problems would make Jefferson cringe. He would soon discover that what he disliked about the excessive powers of the British crown has now become commonplace in a world lacking global government enforcement. He knew that democracy is a fragile plant that needs constant monitoring and growth much like any agricultural crop. Without constant watchfulness our democratic process can be stifled and we could lose our precious heritage of freedoms.
Today, our American way of life is under attack by a global capitalism that allows communities to be vulnerable to decisions made in board rooms thousands of miles away. Furthermore, nothing is more vulnerable than this democracy where the power of lobby groups such as Big Energy overwhelms legislative process and defenders of democracy by purchase of legislators. With new areas of corporate finance directed to election campaigning, people are even more vulnerable to disparagement by a controlled media.
The bigness of the corporate world (something Thomas Jefferson never imagined) leads to political power, and this leads to access in Washington to the halls of Congress and the White House, and this leads to influence that perpetuates the bigness. The entire process of coming to influence is motivated by greed and profits and leads to further erosion of democratic process and citizen monitoring. Greed is never satisfied, but leads to ever higher levels of "want" on the part of the selfish. Greed is addictive to the individual and infectious to a society that finally concedes that one can function successfully only by having more power. For the greedy, basic needs and an orderly control of distribution of resources are overlooked. Greed becomes self-perpetuating.
A society that overlooks or belittles private or individual control measures (fasting, abstinence, sharing, etc.) will ignore the essential needs of the poor. Powerful greed in the hands of a few can infringe on the rights of the weaker members of society, and thus usurp the right of all to adequate resources in our world. Proper governance takes a back seat to the power of the emerging financial nobility. When corporations have a global reach and no global restrictions, the power to evade regulation grows with the power of tolerated inequality. Democratic governments become unpopular and maps of "freedom's fate" appear. Will we be true to Jefferson and other founders and not allow this to happen here?
Prayer: Lord, teach us to recognize greed, and to expose, denounce and neutralize for the sake of a healthy democracy.
Palms for Palm Sunday.
(photo by Stephen Cummings, Creative Commons)
April 14, 2019 Wave Palms Deliberately
On Palm Sunday Jesus enters Jerusalem. We realize the risks involved for he is known as a healer, teacher and prophet. To be known may mean that people are curious about who he is, for healers are welcome, teachers are worthy of a hearing, and prophets are provocative. Thus the residents of Jerusalem come out, though it is uncertain where their allegiances lie. Prophets have a way of challenging the people who are both curious and also easily resentful. Celebrities are often adulated; models are seen to be imitated; heroes are generally welcomed; names of important people are used by ones who want some of the adulation; people strain to get within the photograph of someone famous; they are fickle enough to demonize or canonize people while they are still living.
The questions each of us asks on Palm Sunday are: Where are we? Are we shouting hosannas to the King? Are we willing to accompany Jesus throughout the defining week of mission and on to Calvary? However, on closer look the "we" are so often misled by celebrities who may prove to be only skin deep in attractiveness, for we do not know the complete story of each. We are people who easily suffer from superficiality and name dropping.
Weighing the call to be authentically Christian is different from going to a concert to cheer a rock star. Certainly from a liturgical standpoint it is okay to wave palms, but only if we are committed to sticking through the ups and downs of being authentically Christian. Today, it is difficult to profess our faith openly. In a secular society where fewer Americans define themselves as Christian, it may be more difficult to practice what we preach. During Holy Week we ask about our own practices as individuals and as communities.
Do we –
Give praise to God in many ways and within Creation?
Speak with respect to and about God and neighbor?
Profess our faith through attending services regularly?
Honor the just laws of the land?
Become peacemakers with people and Earth herself?
Support life in all its forms?
Challenge the thievery of local, regional, national and global common resources?
Bear true witness to and about others?
Use the Internet properly?
Refrain from expanding our wants list of allurements?
This listing is not exhaustive, and so we ask further questions on our own practices. We know it is easier to parade with palms than to stand beneath Calvary's cross. We need not be eternal optimists on glory days, nor forever distressed at Calvary. We are Easter people with our joy and sorrow, victory and suffering, crown and cross. We must profess balance in life.
Prayer: Lord, give us the sense of your glory, but help us know that to wave palms is not the total picture of life; help us to learn to endure the thorns in stride.
Eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis.
April 15, 2019 Yes, We Are Pan Americans
What have you done to your brother? (Genesis 4:9)
Yesterday was Pan American Day and we in the U.S. have our own way of relating to our Latin American brothers and sisters, both those resident in foreign lands, and those who have migrated to our shores. Too often we treated distant fellow North and South Americans with condescension; equally we too often treat those coming to our country even as children as second class citizens.
Do we know the foibles of our hemispheric history? We created the Monroe Doctrine that told European nations to not meddle in the affairs of Latin American nations. However, we did not follow the policy as it applied to our own country and thus numerous examples in U.S. history involved power politics and occupation of nations for selfish or power-hungry reasons. Were we "Big Brother"?
The condescending attitudes towards migrants are all the more egregious, because these "illegal" migrants are often saddled with low-paying menial jobs on farms and gardens, in home care and in cleaning and other serving occupations. Without these hard-working folks, our country's operations would grind to a halt. Without proper safeguards, these people work under great uncertainty, and they suffer from those profiting from their vulnerability.
Our nation is a nation of immigrants. Our ancestors came from many lands. Over the decades, such a diversity of peoples has enriched our culture, economy, and religious experience. Widespread migration and controversies about it remain a part of our national experience. We as church must speak to this sign of the times from the perspective of gospel values and as Christian witness.
Our basic principles are clear: We respect the right of nations to enforce their borders and to enforce reasonable immigration laws. At the same time, we regard every person, illegal immigrant, legal immigrant, or citizen, with the mind of Christ as a human person worthy of dignity and respect.
Catholic Conference of Kentucky
A just immigration policy should contain the following:
* Family-based immigration reform that reduces backlogs and waiting times for family reunification;
* The restoration of due process protection for immigrants taken away by the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA);
* An earned legalization program for the undocumented population that is workable and includes a path to citizenship;
* A future worker program that permits migrant workers to enter safely and legally and that includes worker protection and the option for participants to pursue a path of citizenship; and
* Policies that address the root cause of migration, including economic development in originating countries.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to be good and fair Pan-Americans.
Daffodils in the April snow.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
April 16, 2019 Let's Compensate Domestic Caregivers
Many nights I am up with him (a husband with Alzheimer's disease) at least two or three times a night (54-year-old wife).
Every so often our U.S. government undertakes efforts to assist and compensate ten million mostly overworked relatives who care for the sick, elderly and those in special needs. These sacrificing adults give immense attention to real needs on the part of unfortunate individuals who are not institutionalized at a major expense to the taxpayer -- and who live at home under the careful attention of those who love them as expressed through heroic deeds; little is said in defense of caregiver service. Furthermore, compensation to caregivers could have a number of hidden benefits:
* Just compensation would remove from the job market millions of heroic souls, who strive to hold down generally lower-paying jobs while rushing home to care for their aging parents and other dependents. Give the outside jobs to those with less responsibility and leave the domestic tasks to those who care most;
* Just compensation would reduce the high cost of institutionalizing many who need assisted living or total care. Most often, the compensated domestic caregiver can do the task at far lower cost and with greater love and concern. Often total care through institutions comes to over $60,000 a year, far more than domestic compensation. Research finds that adult day services for dementia victims improves health and reduces stress on all parties;
* Just compensation would be good use of government money, better than much of the military expenditures. Perhaps, our nation of tolerated bonuses to undertaxed multi-millionaires should think twice and tax the rich. Through revenue gained from taxing the wealthy fairly, social services could be expanded to pay for domestic associates, home health nurses and physical therapists who assist domestic caregivers by helping upgrade their services;
* A just and fair tax on the wealthy would help redistribute income to those in most need. It would afford funds to pay for caregiving volunteer work. Such a program could eventually be global in scope and give employment to three hundred million domestic caregivers; and
* Taking responsibility for those who cannot care for themselves results in the building up of the common good; it shows how worthwhile is the work of domestic caregiving and makes all more sensitive to the thankless tasks that go under-appreciated, thus adding to the happiness of society. Those who sacrifice for those in need deserve the just compensation from a grateful society that values what they do in personal sacrifice.
Prayer: Lord, help us to find ways to compensate domestic caregivers who play a vital role in giving love and concern to loved ones who need end of life care.
White throated sparrows (Zonotrichia
albicollis) bathe on a spring day.
April 17, 2019 List Tips for Seasonal Garden Work
Gardening is on our minds now in the midst of warmer weather and planting opportunities. Sometimes we stand back and look at more general tips for the successful gardener:
* Perform garden tasks specific for the season: winter planning, for deciding what to grow and obtaining seeds; spring, for sowing and adjustments in plans; summer, for harvesting and starting a late garden; and autumn, for protecting fall crops.
* Extend summer varieties now, that is the types of tomatoes and the variety of herbs and greens both for summer and fall. The greater the variety, the better the chances that some will do very well, and less chance there will be excess of certain produce.
* Control weeds through a combination of methods. Some purchase and maintain a tiller for larger scale gardens; others like a sturdy hoe (avoid the commercial cheap ones found at bargain stores) that may be obtained at flea markets or old-fashioned hardware stores; still others use mulch on walkways or in the beds. Remember that if mulches decompose easily they may drain nutrients.
* Inspect frequently for pests. Feasting insects can be nipped early by manual removal before they proliferate. Consider growing companion plants, which are preferred for consumption by common pests such as Japanese beetles.
* Secure a good water source, for this may prove to be a dry year. All too often people rely on municipal water to tide the more vulnerable veggies through stressful times; chlorinated water is hard on produce, so collect and use rainwater. Remember that better mulching can be especially helpful during dry times.
* Watch the garden's progress, and give the task to others in those summer spells when you will be away. Do not allow the garden to be neglected, for it deserves constant tender, loving care.
* Think autumn variety of produce that can last through much of the winter. It is always time to talk about temporary or permanent cold frames that can tide one well into winter.
* Talk to local gardeners across the fence or at civic functions, while at the store, or after church. Many have suggestions for new methods, weather extremes, seed availability and new gardening literature that you may want to acquire.
* Publicize your handiwork. Many do their work but never take others to see what they do in gardening, or be moved to introduce it as a fitting subject at meetings.
Prayer: Lord, give us inspiration to sit for a moment and reflect on the actions to be undertaken, not only today but throughout the season -- and see this as part of our prayer life.
Washington Co. creek in flood
following a wet period of spring rains.
April 18, 2019 Maundy Thursday and Service
Holy (Maundy) Thursday comes from the Latin prayer of washing feet, reminding us that Jesus performs this symbolic act of service to his apostles. He shows his disciples the need to do humble service for others -- the heart of Christian spiritual activity. He transforms "lording over others" into caring for them through spiritual empowerment that is not worldly subjugation or exploitation; this loving service does not have an elitist tone of someone with intellectual or physical qualities, but rather the willingness to do our best with the talents at hand and in the conditions we find ourselves.
It is not sufficient to know that things in our world are amiss; we must assume the responsibility to help heal the broken situation of our world. We must not go to the Last Supper, stay for a short while, and then return to our secular world as though attending for a moment was sufficient. To live the service means to serve in the specific manner called for to make the world a better place. Taking on responsibility means gaining awareness of what must be done, resolving to do our part, and actually entering the healing process though physical or spiritual (prayers and sacrifices) service.
The Last Supper is filled with a creative liturgy much of which is highly significant to prepare us for Good Friday. The key liturgical reading speaks of Jesus' washing feet, a sign that Christian gratitude is expressed through service to/for others. We followers of Christ are "needy" folks. Our service is a mandate and a challenge to answer our unique calling in the light of individual talents, circumstances and opportunities. We pray for courage to overcome the reticence to give service, perhaps for fear that its exposes us to the risk of an imperfect performance.
In a spirit of creative glory we know we have been given immense gifts, and now we are moved because these need sharing through the ultimate human act of love. We do not want to appear foolish and do nothing when one billion people lack essentials of life. Our appreciation of God's gifts goes beyond observance of symbolic action; it obeys the invitation to share what has been given to us as gifts.
Gazing at stars or resting at mountain tops is fine if they are refreshing pauses before needed action; if they fool us into a quietism and inaction, they are wrong. We need to pray, reflect, look and see, give, share, and remove any form of greed that stifles our spiritual life. Through faith we become sensitive to the needy; we distinguish necessities from luxuries, and we learn how we can be fooled by wants instead of needs. Our service to and for others become a pure intention of doing this for God; our service purifies us and insures against corruption.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be humble, to refrain from damaging gifts given, and to undertake service for others in your name.
Easter Activists and the Tolerance Issue
Easter for Christians is the most sacred time of the year. We believe that Christ rose from the grave in an unimaginable Resurrection event. That is only part of the Good News: we firmly believe that we will join Jesus and rise again bodily at the last day, a launching into eternal bliss. The risings, both Christ's two thousand years ago and ours in the end of this age, are before us today -- anticipating utter joy and gladness. And this belief colors the way we see and act within our renewed world.
Easter is more than a religious commemorative event among Christian believers; it contains the possibilities of human greatness, but with eternal life ahead, and a fullness of promise here and now. Let us not allow secularists to convince us that they are doing precisely the same thing we are doing in this world that is to end. Eternal promise gives a special flavor to all the believer's human activities; there's freshness to how we rise from bed and set the tasks of this day in order, something that those who see death as "the end" do not. It is the difference between reading an engrossing book with its final words and completing the first of a series of books with anticipation to continue. Eternal life means more in store; this softens today's suffering and hardships.
America is ill. National statistics show an increasing number of deaths by suicide, alcohol and drug abuse in the past few years. Citizens feel isolated from society or do not consider the remainder of their own life as a rosy future due to impending health conditions or lack of meaningful employment. It's sad that those who are in such conditions do not see the spiritual power in offering up suffering for the sake of others. It is equally sad that many of these turn to substance abuse and weaken their moral fiber and power to say "no." Service to help victims is not always forthcoming in a land where more attention is given to self and less to social service to our needy neighbor.
Secular interactions. To address America's ailments we seek to collaborate with people of all persuasions and to do so with an open hand. Our Easter spirit includes a desire that our future be a shared one with all people of good will. A limited sharing of immediate and near future benefits is an offering that no one with good will can refuse. For some in the cooperating group a longer range view is out of the question and a mortal end means "the end." The Christian urgency to profess deeds that endure has a limited reception, for the secularist does not share an eternal quest -- and such views are often beyond mutual discourse. In order to be congenial and cooperative the Christian may be tempted to limit topics to what is more of immediate mutual concern and to avoid longer range future goals -- and even the celebration of immediate festive joy. The hope of victory over death is not to be mentioned, as though it must not be discussed, for fear of stating what is not mutually held. Easter inherently announces a long-term future; a secular world is not so blessed.
Renewal of our system of governance and ordinary life is part of our Easter event. Our deeds include acting as responsible citizens and defending our democratic process so that all can share equally in social benefits. Secularists may have near-term goals as well, but when death is their conceived end their distant horizon fades; our motivation for helping to prepare for the New Heaven and New Earth is left to be politely unspoken. Even Christians who do not participate in building God's kingdom at this time have accepted the secular limitations; they may even harbor the perverse view that it is proper to use it all up, for it will soon be consumed in flames. A proper Easter view is important for our sense of building a global crusade of renewal, an effort to unite all people of good will into a planetary effort.
A universal embrace needs to be a publicly articulated affirmation and not just a secret resolution, which remains unspoken for fear of alienating the secular world. Here is a challenge within our limited efforts at secular/religious cooperation. A secular person is permitted to expound a non-religious philosophy, which while limited still invites a believer's affirmation; but in order to be honest, believers must be willing to reaffirm what they believe -- and not allow secular counterparts (often having abandoned past religious practice) to say they know where the believers stand and it need not be articulated again. The annoyance is heard, but our praise of Easter comes from a being who cannot remain silent. In other words, believers must speak honestly from their heart to show where they are coming from (Christ has risen!) and where they are going (Christ will come again!). What's wrong with sharing joy?
Hope springs eternal! Is it enough to have a hopeful heart, or does it have to be uttered out loud? Easter's springtime cannot be contained within; it bursts forth. Secularists may wish to ignore Easter for it may arouse past personal disturbances. There is a measure of charity that must be considered, but when must celebration be curtailed for fear of annoyance? We are free to speak and this should never be a nation where the freedom to celebrate what is in our heart is forbidden public expression. The fact that others do not believe should not make it impolite to show enthusiasm in facial expression and in words as well at least once at Easter -- for it is more than a personal "my" event; it becomes an invitation to make this OUR celebration.
Our Easter affirmation embraces more than people; Easter embraces all creatures. A New Earth herself participates in the Resurrection and is being renewed and joined Scripturally with a New Heaven. The fullness of this renewal is still hidden, but will be enduring; Easter makes Earth herself worth preserving. Easter people need to affirm the emerging "Kingdom of God;" we are moved to confront naysayers and those who are in despair. We have a task to perform within a secularized world all around us, for hope is in short supply. We need to be generous in how we present ourselves as believers in the future, but we must affirm where we stand. Christ is risen!
Phlox divaricata, blue phlox
April 19, 2019 Calvary and the Mystery of Redemption
On Good Friday we reflect with some difficulty on our weak human condition. Suffering and dying are part of who we are, not overcoming us with self-pity, but regarding our suffering in union with that of Jesus and his followers. On this day we are called to embrace the world of suffering as a reality that we accept and seek to alleviate in company with others. Suffering is a reality we cannot deny or flee from; rather, suffering is a prayerful opportunity to do good, for together with the suffering Messiah at Calvary we discover that compassionate suffering is redemptive.
Suffering is not lost. Jesus suffers and dies for us. Christians, as followers, strive to plumb the mystery of suffering and find its hidden positive effects. Suffering is reparation for past individual or social misdeeds; when accepted positively it helps rebuild a damaged social order. We are invited to stand with Mary, John and the holy women below the terror of the cross. The call is to glory in that cross, not in its gory details, but in its power and glorious ultimate reality. The Christian sees what Jesus does for us, and also what we can do by standing with him in this event that transcends space and time. In being present at Calvary we enter into the divine mystery of suffering; we become ever more sensitive to those who suffer; we grow in compassion.
A personal stance. For many Christians, Good Fridays invite an individual response focusing on our imperfect self with many past misdeeds; what becomes apparent is the damage we have done to the entire social structure; we have caused Jesus to suffer at Calvary. The vivid passion of Christ manifested in liturgy and dramatic settings may lead us to a grander salvation event, a redemption to which the individual is called to participate. Individual devotions in reparation for misdeeds are needed, and are associated with Good Friday, BUT THEY ARE NOT ENOUGH. Salvation reaches beyond ourselves. Our acts must have a social dimension.
A social stance. Many seek to avoid, run from, deny, ignore, condemn, blame and do a host of other things to flee from suffering; the same applies to avoiding inevitable death itself. Few run enthusiastically to personal suffering or death, though suicidal actions of terrorists make us aware that some do for wrong reasons. Ultimate sacrifice for others and with others is part of the invitation of Jesus to join him; he suffers and dies for us all so that we might live with him eternally. The invitation is certainly to me but, more importantly, it is a social invitation to all. We join at the foot of the cross, especially on Good Friday but really every day for the ultimate sacrifice with Christ; as his followers we join Jesus at Calvary, so that we can celebrate together an eternal Easter.
Prayer: Lord, help us to approach the cross as public witnesses with Mary, John and the Holy Women. Inspire us to extend the graces streaming from the cross in company with Jesus and work to save and heal our wounded Earth as a social enterprise.
Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus
April 20, 2019 Awaiting Balance, Invitation and Promise
As we pause after the desolation of Good Friday and prepare for what is to come, we take a deeper look at a redemptive act that has brought on the salvation of the world -- and we show deep gratitude for the gift of being present and to practice compassion. We are well aware that Good Friday's redemptive act does not stand alone and that Easter is soon to come. We seek to balance the profound sorrow of the Cross with the glory of the empty tomb. Merely concentrating on glory of the mystery of creation does not stand alone; nor does a spirituality of redemption without the glory. On Holy Saturday we attempt to regain a balance that moves our attention to the resurrected Christ without forgetting the condition of those who suffer today. In compassion we seek balance between those suffering and those who have attained glory.
A balanced spirituality. Creation-centeredness diverts attention from activity needed to address the damage done; a solely individual redemption-centered approach is limited in not balancing the sense of past and coming glory. Many of those who seek a redemptive-focused Jesus-and-I relationship are also shorthanded. Focusing on self may lead to being forgetful of our neighbor. Jesus is our model; he thanks God for all gifts given including the fullness of creation; he suffers for all through his suffering and death on the cross; he invites us to participate in extending his Calvary and Resurrection event in space and time; his compassion becomes a binding glue that holds this world together.
An invitation. Jesus asks us to help bring balance to our dysfunctional world. Some 25 million people on this planet are displaced by being refugees or attempting to immigrate to a better location. Others have moved to urban locations but live in sub-standard condition lacking good housing and pot able water. Our world includes those who suffer from these unsettled conditions. We are invited to seek the glory that is to come and yet enter in a compassionate manner in the sufferings of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. The invitation to this deeper spirituality goes to entire peoples and not just to individuals.
A promise. The day before Easter allows us to catch our breath. Good Friday is powerful and takes spiritual energy to stand beneath the Cross. And Easter Sunday has the thrill and shock of something radically new. The drumbeat of suffering humanity stays with us; the trumpet of new life rings in our ears. We are being called to see God's glory in creation and to see the saving opportunity for a needy people who are part of glory through suffering. The challenge is to uphold the need to be always compassionate and yet to celebrate the unfolding mystery of redemption in the vision of renewal and resurrection. By retaining the Calvary experience balanced with the promise of eternal renewal, we learn to live with both compassion and celebration.
Prayer: Lord, empower us to become balanced Easter people, for the world is looking for examples of authentic faith.
April 21, 2019 Celebrate Resurrection and New Life
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. (Ezekiel 36:26)
At Easter, the resurrected Christ greets us with renewed life; death continues to stand before us, but in a deeper sense Christ has conquered death itself. Christ-in-power becomes our own future promise of eternal life. Springtime in our northern hemisphere reminds us that a new life is coming in our natural world -- a life abounding in wildflowers and new life. Creation transforms into new creation, and what has been great verges on becoming eternal. The saving power of Jesus at Calvary continues, and thus is now extending in space and time through the Easter Eucharist.
We are invited to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ, for the sake of his body, the Church (Colossians 1:24). The mystery of incarnation includes both Christ coming into the world and our bearing the Word to all the world; so the mystery of the resurrection draws us into a participative creation/redemption mystery. We help in the saving event by assisting in the new creation now emerging and calling for public affirmation.
Water is blessed at the Easter vigil and is poured over the newly baptized, those who experience new life in its spiritual fullness. We now can take the Easter water and sprinkle fields, forests, gardens, homes, animals and neighbors. The risen Lord's blessing is now water touched by resurrection; we are God's instruments in bringing this new life to others; we proclaim water’s cleansing and life-giving properties by extending the power of the Easter event to others through sprinkling.
The new fire of the Easter Vigil and the paschal candle are additional symbols of new life. Darkness is dispelled by light, and each of us is called to enlighten this dark and troubled world. At dawn and during the advancing Easter daytime, light fills our world and we are overjoyed by life-giving light. Just as we are bearers of water, so we are inflamed bearers of the blessed new fire that burns away darkness and enlightens the lives of others. Fire and water remind us that there is something profoundly physical as well as spiritual about Easter.
We are called to celebrate because we are more than spectators; we receive new life -- eternal life -- and this gives us joy, victory, hope, peace and forgiveness. It is the promise of joining Jesus who is now Lord in glory. Thus in his suffering, death and resurrection Jesus extends life to us, a future filled with unending community life. Easter foreshadows new life and thus resurrection, not creation alone nor redemption alone, becomes the center of our spirituality.
Prayer: Lord, give us grace to assist in participating in the new creation and in extending your saving deeds to all the world.
A leisurely hike at Land Between the Lakes.
April 22, 2019 On Earth Day Accept, Not Assign, Blame
Everything we do has a social impact or as Barry Commoner's First Law of Ecology states, "Everything is connected to everything else." When we do something good, the entire world benefits; when we mess up, that extends beyond our immediate environment; each time we toss away an empty bottle we make a ripple effect by some damage to our collective commons. These connected effects apply to both good and bad deeds, to acts of love and to misdeeds as well. It also applies each time we consume a resource whether out of need or out of thoughtlessness. If we feel guilty each time we make a cup of coffee we become paralyzed -- and this benefits no one. We do consume, but can do so to the benefit of us and others.
On this Earth Day we realize our responsibility in our use and misuse of resources, how we are not blameless as selfish users, how we find it difficult to assign energy use and misuse to particular people (April 3rd), and how we need to accept and not consume time by assigning blame for past misdeeds. To heat our coffee we use a microwave connected to a grid that has electricity generated by a coal-fired powerplant. This powerplant produces emissions that add to the pollution load of the world to some little degree. However, we often regard the smallness of the degree and not the cumulative act as performs by millions. Resource use has a social dimension, and we all bear responsibility to see that our use benefits both us and everyone.
Christians speak about how our sins crucified Christ -- and some see this reality with greater force than others. We were never just bystanders but participants in that event, though in God's mercy we see that now we can stand up with the suffering Christ in love and compassion. We help intensify the Calvary event's social dimension; we are invited to help in renewing this wounded world. When Christians endure persecution, and we enter in to alleviate them through compassionate action, we accept blame unto ourselves as part of global suffering to make a better place.
Blame is not easily divvied up among individuals, for all resources are used for better (benefits) or worse (through greed and selfishness). The greedy effects of the past do not evaporate; they contribute to the total debit of our social capital. In turn, the concept of partial remission of sin means that the social debit can be assumed by actions in which we participate here and now as members of the Body of Christ. Ecological reparation means that we can act to the benefit of others; the more we repair damage done by past misdeeds, the better we help heal our wounded Earth. Traditional spirituality often focused on individual sinners and their own personal misdeeds; that's right as far as it goes. We have a greater task; we need to accept blame even when assigned to others -- to a polluting industry and to consumers; we need to join the poor in redistributing resources for the benefit of all
Prayer: Lord, let us see blame is better accepted than assigned, especially at this Earth Day.
April 23, 2019 Patronize Green Conference Alternatives
Some regard their importance as measured by the number of conferences invited to and/or attended. Since a large carbon footprint comes with expending fuel for auto or air trips, many people have second thoughts when the meeting is beyond a subway or bike ride. The options for green participation go down as the conference-goers must come from out-of-the-way places. All in all, a number of considerations about conference-going are in order:
* The necessity of the conference. Many can complete their business by use of letter, telephone, Internet conferencing and other forms of communication without physical travel. Often conference organizers have built-in expectations in which the attendees are a major component -- and synergy is generated through personal meetings. On the other hand, the conference can be make-work for those seeking to spend time. Why not be more creative?
* The presence of everyone. Quite often people come who are meant to form a critical mass of warm bodies, but could just as easily be at a distance or have one representative present who reports back to the rest of his or her community. A car-pooled group would reduce travel costs somewhat, but many coming from one place can also be a waste of time and resources. Money and fuel would be saved if a single representative reports back to all.
* The frequency of the meeting. Greener consciousness may mean that there can be cuts in the number of times a group meets, that is, monthly to quarterly, quarterly to annually, annually to every five years, etc. The farther the distance and the more scattered the conference-goers, the less frequent the event ought to be. Another approach is to meet together infrequently and intersperse these meetings with conference calls and Internet meetings.
* The centrality of location. This can minimize travel costs.
* The structure of the meeting. So often meetings are held with canned speeches by people who are notable, but can be moving and inspiring when televised. Large numbers come and sit in an audience in a rather passive manner, and then take coffee breaks and talk with partners or other acquaintances for a period and return to more listening. Couldn't the prepared papers be distributed to interested parties in order to save travel time?
* Substitutes for conferencing. We need no longer sit in large audiences like medieval students who could not afford books or even writing materials. Today, so many other methods exist for achieving the same results besides going to a conference and dutifully taking notes. Let's mature and deliver our insights in more creative ways!
Prayer: Lord, teach us to consider other options before we decide to travel great distances. Help us see that "greener thinking" may entail less physical travel.
Fresh blackberries, gathered from an abandoned pasture
April 24, 2019 Must Jails Be What Jails Are?
Cash bonds ensures poor people are held until trial. They are charged rent for being in jail, even if they are later found innocent or charges dropped. Oklahoma City Catholic Worker
The system is broken with one half million poorer folks unable to raise money for their bonds. Thus many of these are forced to sit in jail often for longer times than the ultimate sentence -- if they are found guilty. Many plead "guilty" in order to get out with a lighter sentence -- even in some cases where innocent but jailed awaiting processing. In some cases, it is the integrity of the jailed people that increases their time spent behind bars; they don’t want a recorded conviction, and so remain jailed until trial.
As a part time prison chaplain for two decades, I had a fairly good opinion of those who performed prison work; many seek to help the incarcerated when possible. Of course, some misuse of power by the jailers occurs, and this certainly ought to be exposed. My critique did not rest against individual prison personnel, but with the entire American correction system, where one quarter of the world's prisoners (local, state and federal) are housed. Furthermore, this is done at major expense to the taxpayers -- at least $30,000 per jailed person per year. The non-bond-affording incarcerated cost taxpayers an estimated nine billion dollars. If we include those non-violent offenders who could be on public service release instead of being in jail, we accrue savings in the tens of billions of dollars over a decade.
To fiscal conservatives light dawns. The system of putting or keeping non-violent people behind bars is in need of radical reform, and much of the civilized world knows it. We Americans have not yet caught the message, but why? There may be three reasons: stories of violence lead voters to conclude that those harder on crime are securing the nation better than those who favor moderate sentences; a better-than-thou attitude makes the public offender far more worthy of harsh treatment than the one reading or hearing about the supposed offense; and some of the poor deserve what they get, for not being the citizen they ought to be. The attitude is one of harshness to the accused and a lack of mercy.
Returning to the question, must jails hold those who are too poor to raise bond even though they would most likely appear at the trial? Is the "jail" the arena of last resort for a community that does not know how to process misdeeds expeditiously? Is there a residual racial bias against minorities and especially Latinos and African-Americans? There seems to be what reporters call a two-tier system of justice for lighter misdeeds, one for those with enough money to get off and one that includes jailing for those who are poor. Some especially the violent need to be jailed, but not all. Maybe fiscal conservativism may merge with social justice and reduce the need for many institutions of correction.
Prayer: Lord, Liberator, inspire us to free the imprisoned.
Spring beauty, Claytonia virginica
April 25, 2019 Publicize Renewable Energy's Successes
Renewables are coming; better yet: renewables have arrived but most do not yet know it. We are entering a renewable energy economy, but not fast enough for those concerned about the gross effects of climate change on our planet. The headlines tell us that since 2014 the renewable energy generating capacity has exceeded that of natural gas, a fossil fuel that is being obtained in ever larger and economic amounts in the U.S. Renewables account for more than 20% of the U.S. generating capacity. Among these renewables, wind is coming on rapidly and at competitive costs; likewise, the solar capacity is now eight times greater than five years ago and expects to see lower installing costs.
At the start of last year the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) renewable energy sources accounted for nearly half of new U.S. electrical generation placed into service, a little more than one percent more than the highly touted Natural gas coming from new fracking sources. This becomes all the more impressive since the rapid growth of electric cars are drawing from these renewable sources rather than directly from petroleum fossil energy sources. We must not forget that this generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Furthermore, small-scale solar PVs are not counted in FERC reports and yet account for almost one-third of solar energy used today.
In addition to the rapid growth of solar that of wind as electricity source continues to grow by fifty percent from a previous four years. Furthermore, modest growth have been experienced by the other traditional renewable energy sources -- hydropower, biomass and geothermal; the last of these has immense potential growth possibilities especially in the western part of the United States. The growing success of renewable energy in the U.S. and throughout the world is great, but more than likely not sufficient to force a major decline in fossil fuel use mainly because these sources (coal, petroleum and natural gas) are heavily subsidized and energy demands keep rising sharply in India and the developing world.
A deliberate effort by the Trump Administration to recharge the failing coal industry and save the petroleum market share is not working, even with generous funding far in excess of the renewable energy share. The power of Big Energy is desperate to keep the profits coming no matter what this does to the environment and the climate change issue. Each year there are numerous closing of coal and nuclear generating plants with a decline in both in total generating share. However, this should not be regarded as business as usual. The general public is unaware of the rise of renewables, truly green sources of energy as opposed to polluting from fossil fuel sources and safety expenses for inherently dangerous nuclear power. Let's welcome renewables!
Prayer: Lord, give us the energy and enthusiasm to make the Earth safer and greener.
The Broader Pro-Life Issue
Three major obstacles stand in the way of a national social discernment (wealth inequality, secular permissiveness and lack of respect for integral life). The first two have been treated in the last two weeks on Facebook, but the most difficult issue is before us now. By total vitality we mean a pro-life stance on all aspects ranging from the individual person, both those in the womb and in a hospital bed, and our fragile Earth that is threatened by climate change. To talk about life issues is quite difficult because we can possibly alienate proponents on both sides of this explosive current issue. However, even at such risk we must discuss life in all its manifestations as a unity, and our omission could be an obstacle to an authentic national social discernment.
A moral issue? Our choice of beginning involves addressing first either of two very different groups: progressives who are concerned about vitality of our Earth though in environmental and non-pro-life terms; and conservatives who will even choose a functionally illiterate leader in order to preserve vitality in the womb. Both of these groups regard some form of vitality as a moral issue. LIFE involves a self-organization that is an extreme rarity in this universe; it is precious, fragile, complex, and a deep mystery, and always worthy of deep respect. To believers, life intentionally evolved for the good of human beings and not a random chance of which humans become an afterthought. Without a fine-tuned vital Earth we would not have an inhabitable home -- but our habitation is now threatened. We can't avoid this moral issue.
Which side are you on? Do two strands of misplaced libertarianism divide us: a politically correct "free choice" by the woman without balancing the right to life of the unborn; an acceptance of "right to property" by capitalists to make profits at the cost to the environment and Earth herself? To adjust the precedence of rights to individual choice and to property issues means that people will have to concede preferences in order to come together with the hope that all do so with respect for life itself. Pro-lifers must include planetary vitality and severe limits to wealth; those with personal choices must concede the process of individualization and governmental protections of the yet unborn.
A broad-based pro-choice stance. First, the ability of a woman to make an important choice is in the forefront of the Judeo- Christian world; one woman, Eve, made a choice that brought about the downfall of Adam and this damaged the human social order. For Christians, one young maiden, Mary, made the world's most important choice to be the bearer of God (Luke 2); no greater choices have ever been made. As free beings we all must make choices. However, the space in which to choose is one that the Almighty has given us by creating us in the divine image. Choices can be good or bad and all, whether women or men, have to make them in an atmosphere of freedom from coercion. That does not mean they come easily, but it also means they can come with assistance of a social component.
Freedom to choose. A judge once asked my advice: he had a pregnant prisoner who he was sure would go back to drugs if released. Did I think it proper to release her or preserve the good drug-free health of the fetus by leaving her incarcerated, even beyond the period the law has committed her? This difficult situation had me siding with her release, because even though the choice was critically hers, it had to be in freedom. Coercion is not a method of ensuring correct choices for mature people. Was this the correct advice or not? It got me thinking about a wide arena of proper practices, some far more risky than others.
Priority of rights. Issues of individual rights of all human beings include those who are in the womb, the most vulnerable of the human race. Granted, their rights have not been fully articulated. I deeply suspect that things will be different a century from now in championing those rights. Yes, care for this helpless individual rests on the mother's choices, who could choose good health and medical care, or even termination and death of the fetus. At the beginning, the state is helpless in even knowing about the pregnant mother's condition. For better or worse her choice in care and nurture during this period is primarily hers even while affecting another, a fetus' life. The exact start of independent life is a matter of controversy. It seems to me that gradually with viability this protection of rights shifts to the state as protector of human life. A fetus that is viable reaches the stage that is beyond a singular bearer's sole protection, for mid-term fetuses could by modern health facilities live outside the womb. Termination of one in such a state is regarded by many of us as "murder," and this makes the controversy all the more abrasive.
Joint duties? Viability as the beginning of state protection is a solution that does not satisfy either camp, for one it is too soon and for one too late. However, some form of distinction protects freedom, defends rights, and imposes duties on all parties. It is the mother's sacred duty to protect and foster her child's growth -- and society should be quick to assist her when she is in trouble. Failure to protect the unborn weakens the moral fiber of our nation. Some extend this duty of state protection to a fetus' heartbeat or even moment of conception, but what does this entail? Actually recognizing the choice of the mother as immediate sole protector of the fetus for the beginning period could be a concession by the pro-life forces, even when willing to assist the mother to carry the baby to term.
Considering solutions. It is far easier to say in progressive circles that the rights to wealth does not have precedence over that of Earth's viability; however the pro choice libertarian streak appears when they speak of a woman's sacred right to choose. Really it is far easier for the conservative pro-lifer to say of a distant mother that she must bring the unwanted or burdensome fetus to term; however, their libertarian streak does not extend pro-life to a planet suffering from the ills of excessive and unrestricted policies by wealthy individuals. Broader views are needed.
Singular issue weaknesses. Those with too narrow a focus do not appreciate the attitudes of others who find these current life issues challenging. A broader perspective would allow for many conservatives to see that a non-viable Earth would make the abortion issue moot and any excessive wealth imaginary; a broader perspective would make the horror of aborting a viable child a crime, and that state protections are necessary. Broadening the perspective requires a deeper discernment by all parties. Choice must include fathers as well as mothers as is occurring in the Alabama courts right now. Choice invites assistance of a compassionate community; pro-life perspectives extends concern to end of life issues that some call "mercy killing," or to the abolition of the death penalty that is still an outdated capital punishment in 31 states; it may even extend to war and peace issues and nuclear weaponry. On the plus side, broadening of issue makes more enter the discussion and feel the travail of Earth herself or the possible crushing burden of pregnancy. On the negative side, broadening the issue can be distracting and even retard social discernment.
Social consideration whether here or in cases of vaccination or child care for dysfunctional parents must be regarded as similar to the ones discussed -- but moving quite afield. A mother's choice needs to include the duties of others to help bring the individual to full term. The wealthy privileged need the social constraints of fair taxes to limit their greed and ambitions. It is libertarianism that causes difficulties in BOTH of the life issues we present here. I truly believe that humanity starts early and yet I do not believe that mothers’ actions should be criminalized; the trauma is deep enough. However, through compassion and available service we must respect and protect that helpless humanity with all our resources.
Emphasis! The right to choose does not take precedence over the right to life; this applies to choice of daily living when we must respect planetary vitality or choices of a mother over the child she is bearing. A billionaire has no right to make profits that will harm our shared and threatened Earth; citizens must not be wasteful and harm Mother Earth. Granted, restrictions on all parties (mothers and citizens) are not popular -- but such is life!
Spiritual alertness enhances the moral fiber and makes us aware of the need to discern and confront risky choices. This alertness is easily damaged by divisions within our citizen ranks that cause us to allow confrontation to become overly heated. Furthermore, this causes many of us to avoid issues, which must be resolved to the good of all parties. In truth, the LIFE issue is vital and needs resolution, for human lives and Earth herself is at stake. The challenge is a quest for national consensus on what is the nature of free choice and what are the limits; it is the choice of when pragmatic commercial operations related to fossil fuels need to be terminated and when allowed to be regulated. Can we meet the challenge of both these vital issues to the satisfaction of all? Comments welcome.
White violet, Viola
canadensis, after a spring rain
April 26, 2019 Reform and Empower the United Nations
"In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need... for a reform of the United Nations Organization...so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth." Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth, No. 67
Should the United Nations (UN) be reformed to meet the expanding needs of the world community? The New York City-based international "World Federalist Movement" and its successor "Citizens for Global Solutions" have been concerned about expanding global government through education and political action; the goal is a peaceful, free, just and sustainable world community. Ever since the Second World War the need calls for global governance because of "larger-than-a-single-nation" problems such as: global climate change, widespread terrorism and ISIS, international labor conditions and relations, mass migration and undocumented workers, millions of refugees, water-shortage issues, ocean resource development, Maritime and shipping and piracy on the high seas.
Other global problems include: Antarctic research and tourism issues, delicate international cultural treasures and trade of national works of art, space regulation and junk, disposal of toxic wastes, communications regulations dealing with Internet problems, financial and banking transactions, tax havens, tsunami early disaster warnings, and air and water pollution issues. This list of global problem areas is not exhaustive.
One nation can hardly control corporations that are larger than the nation state in which they are located. One weak state can be played against another in areas of commerce and industrial development. Small size is not the only problem. We are seeing that nation states, no matter how large, are insufficient to handle global problems, nor ought they try to do so in a unilateral manner. Even large regional clusters of states (European Union, African Union, Eastern Asian grouping, or the Pan American Congress) are unable to meet demands for a more perfect union.
Immediately after the Revolutionary War the creators of the weak Articles of Confederation gave way to the writers of the U.S. Constitution, because the union needed to be stronger. Our world is reaching the same conclusion with the often good work of the UN and its multiple agencies (World Health Organization, etc.). Enforcing sanctions takes a greater surrender of existing national powers -- and that reaches beyond the limits of the current UN Charter. The World Federalist Movement was started by fifty-one organizations from twenty-four countries in 1947 at Montreux in Switzerland. The current "Citizens for Global Solutions" offers a series of programs to publicize the need for global governance.
Prayer: Lord, help us see what more has to be done to strengthen resolve concerning global problems; inspire us to resonate with others seeking to share Earth's resources in common.
Delicate droplets of water after a
April 27, 2019 When Did We See You Hungry and Not Feed You?
We will soon stand before the Lord -- for our Earthly span goes quickly. The grand question: will we enter the community of the saved or not? Much depends on how we have treated our neighbor. So we are not caught by surprise, let's ask ourselves some important questions for immediate consideration:
* Do I waste food or only cook or buy only for immediate needs? If I am remiss about food needs I am in a general way raising the price of foods that could be nourishment for the poor in some part of the world. Wastefulness is the sign of a privileged attitude that ultimately fails to be aware of hunger.
* Do I live simply so others may simply live? Do I grow vegetables in the backyard or in containers in any available space? We can make a difference in our food supply of fresh foods and do so with resource conservation in mind. By thinking and acting in a green manner we become aware of how much effort it takes to furnish the food we eat. We learn to appreciate what we have.
* Do we share our excesses with others? The act of sharing opens us to realizing that others do not have all the good things we take for granted. Certainly it is more blessed to give; we give and furnish opportunities for others to be generous as well.
* Do we down-size our animal products menu? This is especially true for our use of and portions of meat product that take over half the world's agricultural resources to produce (including pasture lands, feed production, etc.). It is time for us to consider lower resource intensity foods, i.e., fewer animal products -- and spare the land resources for grain production for lower resource intensive diets.
* Do we tolerate excessive privileges and wastes in our world? We must insist that two thousand billionaires share with the one billion people without essential means for life? As democratic people who may participate in elected government, this nearer-term question may be somewhat disconcerting. The key is our role to play in redistribution of wealth as citizens and in working with others who want a more just and fair economy.
* Do we press for assistance to small farm food producers? Let's speak in support of the UN and other efforts to offer immediate relief for those who suffer from food insecurity at this time. Let's insist on a Marshall-type plan for small farmers to have good roads, market access and needed fertilizer, seed and other agricultural supplies. Also we need to support regional food storage facilities for times of natural disasters that are happening at ever greater frequency.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see how we can feed the hungry all around us and to launch programs to share with others.
Enjoying the sun
April 28, 2019 Consider Divine Mercy and Earthhealing
This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad. (Psalm 118)
Within this century, the Sunday after Easter has been called Divine Mercy Sunday. For years I did not understand its placement when we were celebrating Easter's joy, triumph and faith. However, with time the need for mercy (with the poor, prisoners, refugees, etc.) becomes more evident -- and the merciless aspects of our social and economic system makes this understanding are the more imperative. We are to renew and heal our Earth and this is best done in an atmosphere of mercy. Easter mercy and joy extend beyond a single Sunday, and are celebrated on every week's duration. They also need to be part of our everyday profession of faith.
God's mercy comes to us in the suffering, death and rising of Jesus Christ, who is now Lord in power (Romans 1:4). Through a seemingly powerless and humble condition, Jesus rises as triumphant Lord. At the moment of utter powerlessness, suddenly the power of God is manifested. Nor is it contained in an event of two thousand years ago; Easter grows on us in space and time as privileged to be part of the Divine Family through the fullness of our Baptism. We are called to bear God's immense mercy through our actions.
Do we look kindly on all creatures and see our chosen role of offering mercy to them? We are empowered to help heal our wounded Earth and the urgency weighs upon us. Can we bring about new life, or is the planet doomed to deterioration, to melting ice caps and flooding coastal areas, to hurricanes of immense magnitude and extremes of heat and drought? However, power comes in becoming present to the Calvary/Resurrection events, and thus we see the privilege of participating in the divine plan. Furthermore, though imperfect agents, our incorporation is a sign of God's mercy, not divine vengeance. We help through individual and social reparation which involves healing. In gratitude we show mercy.
We Easter people make a choice between life and death. Those without a sense of Resurrection fall into the death trap -- abortion, "mercy" killing, death penalty and ecological mismanagement; they see no hope, and resort to becoming increasingly self-centered and exercise misplaced power; they deny facts, excuse themselves from work, and escape to material enticements. On the other hand, Easter people affirm divine mercy and life itself through merciful deeds; these are empowered in the resurrected Lord; we recognize Calvary's powerlessness, and Easter's hidden spiritual power to bring genuine renewal. Through faith in the Resurrection event our wounded Earth can be renewed; we can now unite, work together, and help establish peace; we see that renewable energy and resource conservation are healing deeds, and part of our new spiritual endeavors.
Prayer: Lord, in your mercy, counter our unbelief. Help us see that we can better our world, and that we are rejuvenated in the Risen Lord through your infinite mercy.
The Alaska Highway, north of Fort Nelson (British Columbia).
April 29, 2019 Encourage Physical Exercising
At this start of Screen-Free Week let's consider attitudes that hinder physical exercise, whether when traveling away from home or home-bound during inclement weather. Some enjoy exercising and some are embarrassed or dread the bother. Some students hate school-mandated exercise; some elders may not find a suitable exercise or private place or convenient time. Workers give the excuse that they have had enough exercise at work. Surprisingly, many excuse themselves from exercise. Let's bolster our resolve:
* Encourage all to exercise. Spread the good word: when it comes to exercise no one has an exception. Mention types of exercise that fits a couch potato's temperament, finances, time, and body condition. Offer such options that the person never considered before (e.g., stretching in place for the elderly or individual exercises for those who do not want to compete with a friend who is far ahead in a particular activity).
* Insist that youth exercise. Some are driven to the school or school bus door and do so little walking that obesity can become a problem -- exercise becomes all the harder. Often biking or use of a rowing machine for bodybuilding can have an appeal to some who would otherwise omit all exercise to the detriment of health. Those who hate competitive sports can find alternatives.
* Suggest exercising in place. For the elderly who cannot easily walk or stand, exercises in place (while sitting) can be used to work every muscle in the body -- and these methods can be adopted with patience. The elderly may excuse themselves and forget immediate benefits: better physical health, improved mental outlook and maintained psychological balance. Some physical exercise advocates say they can tell how much an individual exercises by his or her outlook on life.
* Vary one's position. Workers, who stand at a check-out post or who work at a computer desk all day, should vary their position at intervals during the day. Sitters should have opportunities to stand; those who stand ought to be allowed to walk about; those engaged in light exercise ought to exercise more strenuously. Variety in activity is a key to better health. Travel times are the most challenging, but even here lay-over periods can be slated for exercise.
* Consider some added suggestions: set aside a specific time; record each day's time exercising or the number of rowing strokes, or carry a meter to determine distance; do not substitute attendance at spectator sports for your own exercises; you may identify with active athletes, but you are NOT exercising. Strive to find current exercising folks who are patient and willing to introduce you to a new activity such as Yoga.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to move about and to be enlivened as was King David when the spirit moved him to dance about.
A bed of dense chickweed, Stellaria.
April 30, 2019 Confront Wall Street For What It Is
Inequality in wealth, income, profits and influence continues to grow with the richest one percent controlling the world around us. Will those in low places rise and those in high places come down as the Magnificat prayer seeks? It is becoming clearer with time that this will not be done through some sort of miracle but through the efforts of all who seek justice in our world. To think the lowly can rise on their own power belittles the cooperative measures needed to achieve success through collaborative efforts of all people of good will. To trust that the wealthy will voluntarily adjust their appetites and generously bestow their excesses on the have-nots of the world is naïve, and even borders on an insensitivity that condemns us.
A democratic people must help raise up the poor and bring down the wealthy. This is a prayer not an embarrassment. Raising up the poor without bringing down the rich is insufficient, lest the top of a lower class enters and continues to act like the privileged few. Sometimes even to talk about tinkering with the status of the wealthy is regarded as radical, even by those who daily pray Mary's prayer -- a part of the official prayer of the Church. We need to consider several principles in order to further a leveling process.
First, it is intolerable to allow the gap between rich and poor to widen, for that generates more instability in the world. Many in our society on the moderate left to far right think the status quo economic system is permanent and they broadcast this over and over so as to repress creative thinking needed for a new social order and an emerging renewable energy economic system.
Second, violent methods are simply not viable because violence breeds violence, and the privileged have the power of purse and military weaponry as well; non-violent ways are the only viable alternatives. This does not mean that all will be free to have as much as they want or would like. Rather, for the greedy both rich and poor, the goal must be sharing not self possessing. Satisfaction for the greater number means that those in low places need essentials for a higher quality of life; authentic satisfaction for the privileged few comes when they are converted from materialistic to spiritual goals and find value in sharing.
Third, a fair system of redistribution must entail providing essentials to the poor and ensuring a fair return on the other end of the spectrum -- the Wall Street herd. But what is fair? Forcing the high rollers to give up bonuses taken recently should be done in the form of "fines" or taxes, whichever designation is less hurtful; it also means retention limits of income for all. Get your millions per year, if you are a nationally known star athlete or bright Wall Street broker; fine, make as much as your lawyer can weasel from some sponsoring institution, but let it be taxed fairly. This third step is difficult but not impossible.
Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to act as we ought.