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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.

A series of written meditations and reflections

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August, 2022

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(photo: Janet Kalisz)

August Reflections, 2022

       August can be bittersweet: the fading of summer's green, school days again, shortening of the daylight hours.  Why is August a time for starting wars?  Were people charmed by the weather and the romantic spirit of fighting a winnable conflict in summertime?  August brings on the hint of change as the mist rolls in; the bumble bees seem a little busier; cobwebs appear; birds chatter excitedly; flowers have a deeper hue.  August clothed in greenery heralds the harvest season: plums, early apples, wild cherries, sweet corn, watermelons, peppers, melons, cucumbers, and okra.

Milkweed Glory      

Roadside glory in misty morn
           with scarlet flowers like puff balls,
           pods of light silky parachutes
           bear seed as gifts to neighborhoods.
You attract flies and butterflies,
           you welcome the Monarch larvae,
           who feed on your extended leaves
           and you drive away birds of prey.



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St. Elizabeth of Ravenna Catholic Church




An Appalachian Forest.
 (*photo credit)

August 1, 2022    Praising August's Glorious Landscape

        During this mid-summer season, we observe nature in its period of maximum growth before autumn retirement and closure.  Some will say that July is summer's verdant height, but much depends on the amount of rainfall.  If all is normal, August is the greenest just before the tint of change that occurs in mid-month.  When bounty is abundant, glory has its grandeur -- and so it can be a perfect season to see nature in its fullness among all land forms -- hills, mountains, deserts, rock formations, valleys, and plains.  August is a time of glory as found in our book (with Warren and Pat Brunner), Appalachian Sensations: A Journey through the Seasons. 

August -- Engaging in Summer's Conversations

Let the heavens be glad, let earth rejoice,
let the sea thunder and all that it holds,
let the fields exult and all that is in them,
let all the woodland trees cry out for joy.
(Psalm 96:11-12)

        The fields and trees also tell profound stories, but these are filled with mysteries that constantly challenge us throughout life.  Fields exult, and that is expressed when they speak in the blaze of sunlight, or in the quiet shadows of evening, or the misty haze of early morning.  The weaker creepy voices of nature can sometimes be fearful to us, such as when we are in the woodlands on a dark night.  All in all, we need to find ourselves when listening and engaging in conversation in the wild.  The story is one of wonder, whether breezes blowing amid the trees, or animals rustling in the woods, or a mockingbird's repertoire.  The many and varied natural voices invite us to converse with them.  Why not?  It's natural to speak to and among old friends. 

        My old Aunt asked me, "Is it wrong to talk to plants?"  No, in fact, it's a good thing to do.  Many folks talk to their pets, or chat with wildlife.  Can't we find something to say to all creatures?  If all creatures give us strength to shout with joy, let's join our voices in chorus with them.  We human beings praise God and, by joining with other creatures, help enhance their instinctive acts of praise.

We hear Earth's natural music and even enter into conversation with other creatures.  We eventually find an opportunity to express ourselves through words and in so many ways.  All too often our prayers are only those begging, and in rare cases those thanking God for gifts obtained.  A prayer of praise and blessing is worthy of our lips as we experience the expanse of God's glory in surrounding land forms.  August is a worthy time to praise. 

       Joyful Landscape: O Creator of our land, extend your constant care to all wild and tame plants and animals; may this care include all human residents who make this land fruitful by their presence and labor.  May the trees burst forth in utter song; may the wildlife dance in joy; may the meadow flowers bloom and nod assent; may cattle and other livestock yield abundant offspring; may the people celebrate in summertime.  And Lord, may you give us adequate rainfall to continue the fruitfulness this August season. 









Elephant foot, Elephantopus carolinianus
Elephant foot, Elephantopus carolinianus. Mercer Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

August 2, 2022  Destroying Stored Chemical Weapons

        During the Syrian Civil War, horrible toxic chemical weapons were used on civilian populations who have lacked protective gear supplied to military combatants.  Citizen inability to escape a gassed area paints ghastly scenes of innocents in the vise of war.  The tales of World War One veterans scarred for life slightly over a century ago involved chlorine used in the trench warfare of the stagnant Western European theater.  Even Hitler, a gassed victim in that First World War, did not use gas in the repeat conflict two decades later perhaps because it could have been reciprocal.

        An operative international treaty calls for the destruction of this feared weapon arsenal and, to date, about 90% of the global arsenal has been destroyed.  However, one storage facility 13 miles from here at Richmond Kentucky is "temporarily" storing the world's largest collection of aging chemical mustard and nerve gas shells and assorted ordnance. They are now finally within the destroying process.    We say "temporarily" because the weapons were slated to have been totally destroyed through treaty obligations by 2012.  This American storage site is the local Bluegrass Army Depot, on and near the site of an 1862 Richmond, KY Civil War battle.  The residues of too many wars linger here in this heavily populated area.  We can't afford an accident as a postscript.

        The process of weapons' destruction has begun now.  The special highly expensive process is meant to be super safe and is designed with two-foot thick walls in the rare case of an explosion.  It will contain the best and latest equipment to ensure that absolutely (possible?) no gas escapes in the destructive process (neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation) -- a safer process than routine incineration that was used in previous chemical weapons destruction operations.  Local residents are fully aware that only a very small amount of escaped gas could cause local injury and death.  Designated escape routes and congregation points are sent each year to all our Estill and Madison County residents.

        We hope and pray that in this final storage and destructive process that nothing goes awry, even with a local siren system and radios to announce any danger and escape requirements.  The chemical gas phase of world warfare is hopefully coming to an end, and we will breathe a sigh when it occurs.  However, with a few dictators possessing some remaining quantities of chemical weapons, we are left to wonder whether they will be tempted to use them when cornered -- if Syria has not done so already.  Some local cynics say, "If you smell bananas breathe deeply and die." Dark humor is not a propos with such weapons still around; they need to be destroyed ASAP and the sooner the better provided continue care is full observed.

          Flavonoids Prayer: Lord Creator, you give us the bounty of summer produce at this time and throughout the growing season.  Induce us to choose more colorful (flavonoid) fruit and vegetables for our diet: peppers, celery, mulberries, peaches, plums, apricots and tomatoes; these are loaded with anti-oxidants that help us preserve our health and psychological balance of life.  Make us ever mindful of a healthy diet so that we can serve you more faithfully in helping others.









Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium fistulosum
A tall Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium fistulosum, in early August.
 (*photo credit)

August 3, 2022  Congratulating "The Catholic Worker" at Eighty-Nine

        I am not the only one celebrating an 89th birthday this year.  In 1933, Dorothy Day's "The Catholic Worker" was born in that year of lingering Great Depression, rise of Nazism in Germany, bread lines and unemployment, bank holidays, the beginning of the Roosevelt (FDR) Administration, and domestic Communist agitation.

        Dorothy Day (1897-1980) along with Peter Maurin (1877-1949) founded "The Catholic Worker Movement" with whom I have been in deep sympathy all of my life.  This Catholic lay-operated movement is hardly an "organization" because of its informal structure.  The movement has spun off an incredible number of local groups dedicated to welcoming and feeding the poor and operating as "home" for the homeless and overlooked.  The primary print organ has been in circulation for one cent a copy for these nine decades, calling attention to Catholic social principles for all to consider.  It has always been peace-oriented and a voice opposing excessive wealth and force, and in favor of the poor and voiceless in our society.  Without any demands in the May, 2013 edition for permission or copyright notice, we are taking the liberty to reprint a notice from the first edition of this most worthy publication:

Attention Police

        The first issue of The Catholic Worker is dedicated to the police of New York City, who we expect to be out in great numbers on May Day and whose attention we wish to call to the two encyclicals, The Reconstruction of the Social Order, by Pope Leo XIII and Forty Years After, by Pope Pius XI.

        If the police don't want to buy this paper, we will give it to them.  As so many of them are good Catholics, prominent and resplendent in Holy Name Processions and at Communion breakfasts, we feel sure that they will give this issue, which is dedicated to them, their sympathetic and intelligent attention. -- May, 1933  

        Current issues of The Catholic Worker still have on their masthead "Price 1 Penny," or "25 cents per year subscription".  Yes, that has been and is the price, and is well worth it and any additional donations to support their most worthy work.  Send to "The Catholic Worker" 36 East First Street, New York, NY 10003.  You may wish to ask for copies of the last issue to list all the other Catholic Worker "Houses of Hospitality" along with addresses and mention of their own local publications.

        Grace of Perseverance: Lord, we are now at the mid-point of another hot summer.  The weather distracts us and yet we seek your protection against the oppressive heat and humidity.  Help me to be sympathetic of those who find it hard to endure the heat.  We realize that you always answer our prayer; we will continue to beg because we are confident of your mercy and care.  May we be steadfast in what we ask and confident that you will respond.








An evening in the Bluegrass
Rising moon graces the evening sky.
 (*photo credit)

August 4, 2022     Improving Our National Infrastructure

          No one likes to dodge potholes while driving that could damage our vehicles or cause a serious accident.  No one likes to cross a bridge with cracks and a candidate for failure when many people are using it.  Yes, we currently have roads with potholes and still tens of thousands of unrepaired bridges.  American infrastructure, from airports to superhighways, need constant repair and maintenance.  For too long, such work has been postponed because of high repair costs.  What an ongoing tragedy!

          Part of the problem is lack of governmental resources to bring about repair of the commonly held national infrastructure.  Too often, citizens are out for benefits that affect them individually, from food stamps to tax relief; works related to the Common Good are often postponed to another day, and that is the extended sin of our excessive capitalistic individualism, which allows billionaires to bask in their wealth and others to defend their call for no new taxes.  Infrastructure is part of the Commons and too many rightwingers prefer to call "socialistic" any movement to make infrastructure maintenance a part of our civic responsibility.

          Who is there who becomes passionate about repairing a highway or even proper sidewalks for pedestrians?  It is not a vote catcher or a popular policy worth spending too much time on -- and that is the problem.  There are not enough people to speak out strongly for continued maintenance -- and added taxes to make repairs happen.  This is the heart of the infrastructure battle, especially since a road system second to none in the world is allowed with time to go slowly downhill.  To speak for roads really is speaking for the many who use them, but as "many" and without particular emphasis for individuals.  That is never an easy thing to do.

          All are affected.  Those who suffer most from deteriorating infrastructure are the very poor who have the weakest political voices.  In the long run all suffer to some degree, but it takes some degree of sophistication to perceive harm being caused by lack of maintenance and ultimate benefits rendered by up-to-date maintenance.

          Partisanship gives rise to poor infrastructure concern and care.  The money needed to bring about the improvements is difficult to extract, unless this issue is tied into that of the need for equality and redistribution of excessive resources in the current hands of the wealthy.  If one group defends the low taxes, they tend to overlook the growing infrastructure problem.  Unfortunately, we are talking about trillions of dollars and some are frightened by such large amounts.  However, we are called to support America's social welfare.  Both parties in this election year must take note.  There is further repair needed in our ports, rails, roads and bridges.  Let's see the need and address it.  

          Mid-Summer Celebration: Lord, we deserve to celebrate when the hot summer is half spent.  We are now on the year’s downhill slope and that is somewhat heartening to know.  Believers have much to celebrate when reflecting upon the many divine gifts given.  The joyful folks are able to stop long enough to give a sigh of relief and then proceed to celebrate with all around them.  May we endure the season, and look to festivals.  An atmosphere of hope points us to the fact there's much more in store.








Working for Better Health for All

        Perhaps the cynic might say “Why focus on health, since we all have to die in some way?”  On the other hand, the Christian says Jesus focused on healing for all who asked him; in no instance did he refuse to heal the earnest seeker.  Most people seek better health, knowing how difficult illness can be for them and many of their acquaintances.  We realize that a healthy body and mind can allow an active person to perform better and improve a world in great need.  For Christians, health care has become (through the power of instant communication) a global concern.

        We first consider personal health as a major personal concern and give it attention.  Use of nutritious foods in moderate amounts along with adequate sleep, proper physical exercise and good surroundings are all part of personal health maintenance.  Concerned people likewise extend that effort to family, close relatives, neighbors and others as well, for poor health can threaten everyone.  Health in both personalized and institutional format requires our focus. 

        Recall that ancient Romans did not have hospitals or institutions for improving health.  Doctors made house calls only.  The Christian community sought to imitate Jesus and healed others immediately after the Pentecost, as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles – and has been a concern for 2,000 years.  In the fourth century AD when Christianity was allowed to be openly practiced, we discover that in Rome Fabiola, a wealthy penitent widow opened a hospital.  In that very century numerous small Christian institutions sprang up throughout the now more tolerant Roman Empire.  Health service quickly became a major Christian undertaking.  By the seventh century with the advent of Benedictines, every monastic institution had an infirmary for residents and visitors.  As these religious centers proliferated throughout Western Europe, so did institutionalized health care.  And with time Moslems took up health care and built some excellent facilities.  Furthermore, the secular world took up the practice as we know today. 

        Health care extends to the greater than human world.  We are deeply concerned that the habitat and nutrition of plants and animals remain wholesome; we know certain chemicals are toxic to specific plants and animals, and efforts to control them are necessary.  Our work in the Earthhealing program for the last half century is the recognition that harm has been done and improvement must occur.  In addition, offering one’s suffering by those who are ill can have immense merit and even improve the world.  The goal of the healing process is greater life and greater health for all, whether humans or other creatures.  While it is true that all will die and a sizeable number due to some sort of bad health, still we also know that advances leading to general health “save” or extend lives and improve quality of life. 

        Health care should be a natural right and one that requires the efforts of all in the human family to champion and work for basic equality.  Why should not all have access to inoculation for major human diseases at such a small price for each individual person?  Everyone on this Earth deserves this basic protection now afforded to wealthier people.  We may not all have access to the most exotic treatments, but we should have access to lower priced and popular ones when mass produced.  The current pandemic has made this principle more evident.  We all need to help expand basic health care for improvement of individuals and global health.  Let this be our healing mission.          






A chimney rock
A "chimney rock" formation. Bell Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

August 5, 2022    Climbing a Mountain is Enthralling

        How beautiful on the mountains, are the feet of one who brings good news, who heralds peace, brings happiness, proclaims salvation, and tells Zion, 'Your God is king!'                                                    (Isaiah 52:7)

        Mountains are favorite biblical places (appearing in print in the Old and New Testaments over 500 times).  In this month dedicated to celebrating land forms, we Appalachians give special honor to the resilient mountains all around us.  They are old, and beautiful, and enduring, and mountains have the power to heal in some mysterious way.  This has been part of our reflection in Mountain Moments (details on the website from Acclaim Press) and available through Amazon Books:

Mountains are lovely, but even more so when they are inhabited.  The bare feet of youngsters running, skipping, dancing and hopping adorn the land.  That's good news.  So are the feet of those who hobble, limp along, shift, and pause a moment for a breath -- or lie still in silent death.  All add beauty.  Even more beautifying are feet that tell of God's saving power -- ultimate Good News.  They prove that beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder, but in the feet of messengers, the ones who encourage all to share the good that is within them.  We find much to be loveable here and, in proclaiming it, we give respect and courage to others to help extend their loving care to all creation.     

        We climbed to the top of Colorado's 14,294-foot Mount Crestone in the mid-morning June sunlight and stood in utter silence with the snow-covered north slope on the other side of the jagged peak in forbidding isolation.  Alone, but with God in the splendor of a mountain top.  This prayerful experience could never be forgotten and, while lingering there, the impractical thought came to remain there forever.  It was the blessedness of our footprints that gave extra meaning to the setting and gave peace to the prayerful moment when time and place stood eternally still.  While some mountain moments cannot be repeated in intensity, we can have new ones where the prayer of the moment is calling us closer to God.  Retreating to a mountain place is not always possible, but if it can be done once or twice, we ought to avail ourselves of such a pilgrimage. 

        Are mountains not favorite places with the Lord?  Why is Jesus transfigured on a mountaintop?  Why does he escape to such places to pray?  We are influenced by the same forces that shape the hills and valleys; we admire the aged land forms that stand to so prominently.  When we accept our lives and adjust to normal life circumstances, we watch for rare opportunities to attain the mountaintops of human experience, peaks looming in everyday lives.

          Prayer on Hiroshima Day: Lord, we remember as a people what occurred on August 6, 1945 and do so with mixed emotions.  The rationale is so hard to justify, even though to invade Japan would have caused many deaths on all sides.  However, a bomb that killed so many innocent people cannot be justified, as are all our current stored and triggered nuclear weapons.  Forgive us our faults and move us on to destroy not only nearby chemical weapons, but the hydrogen and atomic bombs as well.  We are called to never let this bombing happen again, so please help us convert from military to peaceful ways, from spears to pruning hooks and much more besides.









Flowers for Hiroshima.
(*Photo by Kate Nevens, Creative Commons)

August 6, 2022  Comparing Transfiguration and Hiroshima Day

        On this Feast of Transfiguration, we note the day is also called Hiroshima Day.  The two on the same day seem to clash immensely.  The mystery of the Transfiguration is a promise and foreshadowing of glory that is to come when Jesus is King of an emerging Kingdom.  Hiroshima Day is virtually the opposite: a day of infamy when an innocent urban population in the midst of a brutal war was decimated by one atomic bomb.  We celebrate the promise of a future glorification; we grieve over a horrendous act committed to shorten a war as though ultimate end justifies means of human thoughtlessness and misjudgment.  We continue to suffer from that deed by justifying nuclear power in all its forms.  Why expand the Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge?

        As mentioned on the first of this month, we praise God for the natural glory all about, and in the act of praise we make all the more glorious or participate in "glorification."  We are not silent bystanders at the Transfiguration event; as followers of Christ, we see the need to glorify and "redeem" marred beauty.  Thus, a selective approach of seeing only nature as pristine and of avoiding damage done though human misdeeds is not proper celebration of this feast.  We are called to help glorify an unfinished creative process in part through needed repair work.

        The destruction of Hiroshima reminds us that human beings have the power to destroy something that is good -- a city where people live.  This power is present and is hidden in every nuclear sub and silo and aircraft with bombs aboard.  Merely refraining from unleashing this power does not deny its presence; repair means stopping the insanity of possession of these devices.  In other ways we see examples of destructive power in removing mountaintops, eroding arable farmlands, and clear-cutting tropical forests. 

        Glory rests in the praise we give and in the power to rebuild.  We give both words and deeds of praise.  If transfiguration is to occur in its fullest sense, we are called to do more than speak.  We must turn eroded landscape into fertile farmland.  I recall my Dad turning a neighboring broken-down farm into a productive landscape through stopping erosion, seeding land, and spreading local crushed limestone rock on the pasturelands.  Gradually, damaged fields became areas of improved productivity; his lesson was that we can assist in glorification, but it takes effort.

        Now, in realizing our role as a social body that has harmed others through weapons of mass destruction, we are prepared to repair and give glory.  We do this so the promise of transfiguration may be hastened, and God's kingdom comes.  The act of bombing Hiroshima is certainly not celebrated, but God's forgiveness is, as is our resolution to heal our wounded Earth.  Glorification comes in making restitution for past misdeeds. 

          Prayer to God of Grandeur: We glorify you, O God of all glory.  May we see all creation as part of your magnificent work, and render to us a continued sense of wonder.  You hosted the Transfiguration, a mile-marker on our journey of faith, for from Mount Tabor you lead us forward with Jesus.  We are grateful in being called to appreciate the glory of August, the deep-colored flora and scrambling fauna in our landscape.  You delight in your creation and, in turn, we discover it delightful as well.  Let us be attracted like Peter, James and John to your glory and be resolved to renew and glorify a troubled world.









Buffalo Mountain Windfarm / Tennessee
Buffalo Mountain, TN, wind farm.
 (*photo credit)

August 7, 2022  Healing Our Earth: A Sacred Trust

                When we have had a great deal given to us on trust,
                        even more will be expected of us.     (Luke 12:48)

        Human beings have the great gifts of intelligence and free choice.  With these we can do good or evil.  As intelligent citizens we can see ramifications of our actions and how they can affect others.  Our Earth is more than a place where we work out our individual salvation for a relatively short time span; in trust, we work together with others and with the expectation that Earth will be a more perfect place because of our presence.  A great deal has been given and so much is expected during our stay.

          As intelligent beings, we have a history of skills, science, and technology to make vast improvements to what we find in a place.  Land can be productive, comfortable housing established, roads built and maintained, and communications achieved over long distances.  Tools are available and with proper use can benefit others.  Our gift of intelligence is a sacred God-given trust to continue the great work of ongoing creation.  We can know ourselves, work together, and participate in glorification.

          As free decision makers, we know that not every action is intelligently performed.  We see possibilities of doing good turned to conflict, warfare, and a host of misdeeds.  Our sacred trust is vulnerable.  A well-grounded spirituality involves knowing how we have missed the mark, ways we have performed misdeeds, and our neglect of halting harmful misdeeds by others.  We bear in our collective selves the sad history of not living up to expectations.  We have allowed others to suffer when they could have been healed and given responsibilities for helping with the improvements needed on our Earth.  We tolerate disparity of wealth and unemployment.

          Individually, we each must strive to be responsible for the skills given and the deeds required.  Understanding the sacredness of the call to action adds quality to our intended responses.  God has entrusted much to us -- reading skills, comprehensive talents, reflection periods and energy to take effective action.  Our degree of appreciation for the call comes in the quality of our responses.  Granted there is only so much we can do, but an attempt is the important thing even if the result is imperfect.

          Socially, we realize the limits of individual actions and thus must participate in cooperative work with others.  This involves filling up what is wanting in the suffering of Christ.  We help save the wounded world in which we find ourselves, accepting joint responsibility through insisting on proper and fair distributing of limited resources at hand.  Our calling is to make proper repairs on what is damaged and to share resources for the benefit of all as part of the sacred trust of reclaiming the Commons.

          Prayer to Avoid Wildfires: Lord, save us from the ravages of unexpected wildfires, for uncontrolled these can be frightening and devastating.  With climate change and increased possibility of drought and hot weather, those in the wake of these increasingly frequent wildfires suffer dearly in life, limb and property.  May we encourage the thinning of forested undercover so as to be less susceptible to costly blazes.   And may we be quick to assist those who experience wildfire events.









Ripening fruit of the persimmon, Diospyros virginiana.
 (*photo credit)

August 8, 2022  Asking Whether No-Growth Philosophy Is Proper

                May the sweetness of the Lord be on us!
                        Make all we do succeed.  (Psalm 90:17)

        Gar Alperivitz speaks of a transformative change in the economic institutions "that are not required to grow."  What Then Must We Do?  Chelsea Green, (2013).  I like much of what he says in the book as it pertains to the modern American economic system and its current problems (inequality, disparity of wealth, erosion of democratic values, global climate change, etc.) and the facts that back these up.  We must come to know the current situation and be resolved to do something about it.  Material no-growth goals are needed for sustainable living, especially in a culture that is so heavily laden with the consumption burden of almost one-quarter to one-fifth of the world's resources.  This nation must cut back for the sake of our limited planet and in order to share with others who have essential needs. 

        However, growth is necessary.  While one may speak in the secular sphere of "no growth" economics as a goal, this is to break the prevailing culture that companies strive to grow and prosper at all costs.  On the other hand, to say we are not "required to grow" spiritually in a physical world goes counter to the human spirit that always seeks growth.  We must continue to mature, and so pure no-growth strictures that stand apart from a deeper growing of the spirit within us are jarring to many -- including me.  We have to leave the materialistic mindset that so fashions the human in the worldly setting.  Would that economic institutions have a non-profit (meaning material profit) basis and then proceed to help establish that workers within companies are to grow spiritually over time as well as emotionally, culturally, intellectually, and with ever advancing wisdom with age.  

        The problem when confined to a secular discussion (which may include some American religious circles) in our secular world is that it is simply not satisfying to speak of "no-growth."  It contradicts the human drive within the serious person, and rightly so.  Some would say that the end result should be private growth, while the institution remains non-profitable through its constitutional structure.  The limits of the non-profit are often a barrier to some sort of success that includes growth.

        The problem only resolves itself if we see success in spiritual growth, not so much reward, but the ability to do what God wills for us and do it well.  We need to clarify our insight in our stance before the Divine Majesty.  We are meant to grow ever nearer to perfection, but this comes with maturation and effort and God's grace.  Growth, nonetheless.  Material growth alone is self-defeating.  And no-growth economics is no substitute.  As human beings we need to experience spiritual growth.

          Prayer of Praise: Praise the Lord!  Too often we make praying to you a matter of begging for what we lack.  As we stand in the verdant August scenery, let us simply and freely praise you for giving us existence and wellbeing.  Even this impulse to praise is from you, and yet I freely stand and open myself in an act of freedom -- the greatest human gift.  May your glory be magnified!









Honeybee on wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia
Wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia.
 (*photo credit)

August 9, 2022   Controlling Guns or Being Controlled by Guns

        People on the FBI's terrorist watch lists tried to buy guns and explosives 1,453 times between February 2004 and December 2010.
                -Testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security
                and Governmental Affairs, USGAO, May 5, 2010.

        The gun situation of a decade ago has only increased as more and more guns including semi-automatics have fallen into the hands of the extremists; some of the right wing speak of the Second Civil War and they are armed for the event.  Our nation has over 300 million fire arms, not only more than any other nation, but in the hands of many who do not know how to used them properly.  A nation with 90% in favor of gun control of at least a limited degree was outraged, and rightly with each new episode of gun shootings and gun violence.

        How can so few among such a majority exert so much power?  It is the power of GUNS.  Never was a subject in such demand for national review and challenge, for the arsenal of military-type semi-automatic weapons and their multi-round clips continues to grow.  We expect more catastrophes to drop on a small classroom, movie theater, or worshipping community when the crazies want a moment of headlines and a chance to show off their arsenal.  We are a nation cowed in the shadow of the gunowners who forget that they are the bullies on the block; the public is overly confused as to their potential exercise of free expression.

        Congress is a major (but not the only) culprit.  In some ways a distracted public fails to apply the pressure in sufficient force to bring about substantive change.  For decades this federal Congress has stalled on even a serious debate of legislation originally drafted during the Bush Administration.  This would have closed the terror gap then and yet over a dozen years later it is still the issue being prepared for debate within a permissive society.  Some want their gun arsenals; others want their drugs and still others want their billions in tax havens -- and the common good be damned!  Those in the public interest must speak up.

        Unfortunately, we are a long way from gun control in this country that can readily achieve additional controls on military conduct and expenditures.  The harsh ingredients of a permissive society, a misunderstanding of constitutional rights to a local militia, and insecure individuals who have found favor through bullying add up to lack of meaningful legislation and controls.  Guns are simply out of control and we will have to pay the price -- especially the next gathering of innocent individuals who are easy targets for a crazy in some unsuspecting community of this fair land.  We can never heal a wounded Earth, if such uncontrolled arsenals abound, and no teeth are in laws and regulations to bring about controls of the most elementary nature.  How insane!

          Prayer for Earth's Bounty: God of glory, you supply us with good things such as ripening fruit, both cultivated and native.  We remember Israel's joy seeing the size of the grapes in the fruit‑filled Holy Land.  We have such bountiful blessings here in our land, if we but pause and reflect on their rich abundance.  Yes, we enjoy the exquisite taste of freshly picked fruit.  Motivate us to prize summer sights, sounds, odors and flavors and realize that they are truly praiseworthy.








Spring Kentucky 2013
Fresh spring apple blossoms, future fruit for summer harvesting.
 (*photo credit)

August 10, 2022     Preserving Produce for Winter

        The characteristic smells of August are both natural and human produced -- and the latter more pronounced during this harvest month.  I can vividly recall the smell of ragweed carpeting pasturelands with its heavy pollen in the air.  Then there is the smell of silage and the beginnings of fermentation of the corn and cane mixture as it is blown into the storage space.  There is the faint but distinctive smell of fresh-picked produce from orchard and garden.  But the most distinctive smell of August is the kitchen where Mama preserved the surplus fruit and vegetables.  This has been captured to some degree in our available book, Appalachian Sensations, with photographs by Warren and Pat Brunner:

August -- Putting Food By

YHWH smelt the appeasing fragrance...  (Genesis 8:21a)

        We hungry youngsters were always drawn to Mama's kitchen, especially for supper.  During summer it was especially a favorite time, because that was when the strong sweet smell of the day's canning pervaded the steamy environs.  The excessive supply of fruit -- cherries, plums, blackberries, peaches, grapes, and apples -- was turned into tasty cobblers.  Mama was proud of her day's work and, while we ate, she showed us jars lining the marble counter top, which were cooling before being taken to the cellar storage area.  There were sweet and dill pickles and relish, pickled pears and watermelon rinds, mincemeat made from green tomatoes, as well as strawberry, grape, and blackberry jam and jelly, and apple sauce.  And plum marmalade became the basic ingredient for her famous Christmas puddings. 

        During those pre-air conditioning days, we hardly thought about how difficult preserving food by canning actually was.  When the steamers were used for "cold packing" beans and non-acidic produce, the place became even more heated.  Perhaps that was why early homesteads had separate summer kitchens.  We didn't have one, and so Mama endured her purgatory on Earth.  Non-canners do not really appreciate the effort it takes to cook and preserve food.  We love fragrances that wet our appetites, and we enjoy finished products, but we must not fail to thank the cook.  Do we take summer's bounty for granted, and the ones who take time to preserve it?

    Grace for a Pure Heart: A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit. (Psalm 51)  Lord, I need your sustaining joy so as to serve you in helping others.  An unclean heart can soon be recognized by those we are called to serve.  Create in me a new heart that is transparent in its giving constant glory to you -- even in times of hot weather.








White crownbeard, Verbesina virginica
White crownbeard, Verbesina virginica.
 (*photo credit)

August 11, 2022   Affirming the Future of Wind Power  

        Renewable wind power, both onshore and offshore, is coming very fast and appears to have a very bright future.  While windpower optimists delight in prospect, we still hear complainers say they don't like the sound or sight of those whirling blades, or that too many birds are accidentally killed while coming too close.  That rapid wind-power growth has its ups and downs due to tax policy changes and relative condition of other energy sources.

        First, the biggest drawback in the 21st century has been the sudden rise in cheap natural gas through the recently developed fracking process.  This fuel's price has declined by 70% from 2005 U.S. levels though natural gas still commands far higher prices elsewhere (Asia and Europe) in the major energy-consuming world.  Lower cost American natural gas has cut into the coal and nuclear electricity generation rates and has slowed the rapid advance of both wind and solar applications.  However, natural gas is not perfect, not clean and not without environmental difficulties.

        Second, incentives are in place for short designated spans of time, and this causes the incentives for wind projects to rise and fall with great rapidity.  Obviously, this is difficult for those making longer-term utility commitments, though it takes far less time to develop wind farms than nuclear facilities.  Investment incentives are also uncertain on local and state levels due to financial constraints and to some red states' aversion to renewable energy replacement of fossil fuels.

        Third, wind is not being installed fast enough in various parts of the world such as in Japan, much of Africa, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe.  On the other hand, Western Europe has had a wind leadership role for decades such as in Denmark, Germany, and Spain.  Furthermore, a wind race among certain countries is going full tilt; China has gone from 114 GW capacity in 2014 to 281 in 2020 and growing rapidly; the U.S. in second place went from 69 GW during that time to 118 in 2020.  Germany in third place went from 39 GW of installed wind capacity to 62, and India in fourth place from 22 to 38 GW.  Even a few of the lower nations have surprising growth with Brazil from 6 to 17 GW during the same time period.  Overall, the world went from 369 to 733 GW with accelerating installation promised in this decade.   

        A very bright spot for both American wind and solar futures is the rapid decline in installation costs, for there is a decline of 80% decline in costs over the past two decades.  To winds favor is the raid decline in coal's fortunes and its inability to compete with renewables' electricity generation.  However, with the increased emphasis on fossil fuel replacement due to climate change consequences, we can continue to advance a prosperous wind future.

         Forest Prayer: Lord, we praise you among the trees.  They are so full of life as they stand peacefully side-by-side in vigorous community.  May they be your word spoken through their own magnificence, and beckon us to pause to reflect on their manifold message.  We too as humans must form community at the local and higher levels.  Lord give us the patience to listen to what trees teach us in the fullness of this season of growth.







Confronting Food Wastes

         Starting in Somali and spreading to other parts of Africa and beyond is a 2022 famine, and the entire human family ought to be deeply concerned.  When a child with empty stomach aches, so do all the compassionate of this Earth.  Global food distribution demands a more just process.  Yes, we are bound to use our national food bounty with care, for it is God’s gift to us at this time.  To WASTE FOOD is not only inhumane and unchristian; it is absolutely sinful when done mindfully.  A custom of leaving excess food on a dinner plate to manifest abundance should be abhorred, especially in times of famine.

         Wasting food has always made me uneasy, since in my youth we grew our own food on the farm; I became aware that it took great effort to produce sufficient quantity and quality.  We always cleaned our plates, even though other cultures consider a little remaining as signs of being filled to satisfaction.  Amid it all, food waste is a reality that is more pronounced in America and other affluent nations. 

         When we at ASPI performed 200 Environmental Resource Assessments in the 1980s and 90s, one area I was especially keen on assessing were signs of food waste in the client group.  The amount of food waste varies by organization, for both young students and elders can get in habits of food waste; youth do not care and inactive elders do not need as much nourishment.  However, in assessing one university I discovered among the student meal hall some 40% wasted prepared food due to overloading of trays and reluctance of paying students to complain; some of the prepared food was routed to a hunger center nearby. 

         We strived early on to address this resource conservation issue – as ought to be the case at all institutions.  Recently I observed returned dinner trays at a local hospital and large amounts of the beautifully arrayed food was returned untouched from the patient rooms.  With health costs so high, many economic as well as environmental resources can be found to serve smaller amounts, and to encourage those wanting seconds to be able to receive them.  The untouched food should be recycled locally if possible.

         Educational efforts at food savings could involve four different levels: general institutional administration, who are saddled with food purchases and pay current inflationary rates;  food preparing and distributing staff and the amounts served each person (who should be encouraged to come back for seconds if so desired);  food consumer who need to be willing to take less on the tray at a given time so as to encourage others to take smaller amounts; and other eating companions who should take less as models for all present.  Too often in senior institutions the food receiver is not mentally able to make a good judgment on intake.  Amid it all, seek to improve individual and community food consumption, and pray that our country and world discover ways of cutting waste and getting food to those in critical need.  I hope and pray that in the future I will not be directed to a facility where food is blatantly wasted before my eyes.  If so, may I be moved to object publicly. 







Another view
A katydid, waiting to call on a summer's night in Kentucky.
 (*photo credit)

August 12, 2022    Bragging About Our Good Deeds?

        Recently, a parishioner asked me about the wisdom or morality of bragging.  Our automatic response is not to brag about anything, but that may be too dismissive.  We are turned off by the word "brag," which has a sense of pride in our own goodness or an inflated sense of our deeds done with the false notion that we are the origin of good.  Let's phrase this somewhat differently.  Should we publicize our good deeds? 

          Ours?  The answer to essentially the same original question is "yes," and the content of publicizing may be exactly the same.  What makes the difference?  First, we do not pretend to be the author of good deeds, for the inspiration comes from God, the author of all good things.  They are "ours" only in some degree of connection or service that we perform.  Jesus tells us that we are like the servant who comes in out of the field and yet is expected to prepare the meal for the master.  The point is not discovering a good cause to rebel against a privileged master, but to find where we can be of more embracing service.  Let's assume the deed performed is a good one, but we do this and thank God we are able to be of service -- and that is an honor.

          Brag or publicize?  The content of the message may be the same, but much depends on how one toots his or her horn.  Does it call attention to oneself or does it announce that God is being glorified through the good deed?  It is part of our evangelistic faith that good things be known to others, for far too much media space is taken with the dastardly deeds of deceit and terrorism in our troubled world.  Speaking of good deeds is like a drink of fresh spring water; it means so much.  It is easy enough to cover up that any of us actually participated in the performance, or give some of the other parties in the good deed the credit even when they may not fully deserve it -- for God is the author of all.

          Should we?  Far too little good is accepted as worth mentioning today because of fear that we may be thought to be bragging.  If we make God as author of all good and then find that we are humble servants of what is achieved, then we magnify the Lord, which is what Mary did in the Magnificat.  She says that all nations would call her "blessed" but that is not bragging -- because GOD has done good things through and for her.  Praise in understanding that being party to a wonderful deed makes us blessed among all others.  If we realize power of the good deed, then we are able to "incarnate" (put flesh on) the Word spoken to the human race.  To publicize through song (Mary), homily, poetry, facial expression (Elizabeth), or dance (John the Baptist in the womb), is to give glory to God through mighty deeds and these we know speak louder than good words. 

          Grace to Avoid Wasting: Lord God, Creator of all good things, you are the designer and maker of Earth and established it, not creating it to be a waste, but designing it to be lived in. (Psalm 100)  May we enter your designing process and help establish good habitats for all people and creatures.  Teach us to waste nothing, but rather to enter into the rhythms of nature, which has a way of recycling everything.  May we respect, reuse, and recycle material resources, and render so-called wasteland more productive, at least as wildlife habitat.










raven arch carter county kentucky ky
Raven Arch. Carter County, KY.
 (*photo credit)

August 13, 2022   Highlighting Unique Rock Formations

        In this month when we celebrate the land forms of our Earth, we ought to focus for a moment on the rock formations that decorate our planet.  Within my parish are two such unusual areas, the Red River Gorge and the Kentucky Natural Bridge.  Add to this the formations above the ASPI Nature Center which helped give the name "Rockcastle" to the county where I resided for a quarter of a century.  The rock facings in each of these sites are picturesque and are recognized by one million visitors to our wilderness area annually.  They are attracted to state- and Federal-run facilities and come for sightseeing, camping, hiking, and rock climbing.

          Rocks offer thrilling moments.  Once, when hiking in the Rockcastle hills with very dense underbrush, we came upon a cliff edge and it was only a step ahead (overhanging foliage did not allow a clue as to danger).  I will never forget the near miss.  Those of us either living here or visiting realize the utter beauty of what these rocks provide, but also the need to respect them and show care because of associated dangers.  Each year several people are injured or lose their lives in these rugged areas, but for the greater part many enjoy seeing and experiencing the raw nature of our rock formations.  In younger years, I rappelled from the cliff formation and found this a thrilling nature experience.  Would that all people could appreciate these formations at closer range, for we need to touch our Earth, even the rugged parts. 

          Rocks have character.  To rest on or near rocks gives us some brief time to reflect on their firmness and their seemingly unchanging quality.  On hot summer days, rocks have a warmth that radiate into our whole being.  They seem so unfinished and capable of demonstrating the act of creation itself, something still being achieved.  In a concrete fashion, rock formations express the grandeur of the universe.  Much depends on their setting, for rocks show character when at sea or lakeshore, when in gorges and breaks of ancient rivers, and when in deserts and mountainous terrain.  Those who journeyed to the moon speak of the contrast between moon rock and Earth rock.  All are fascinated by the beauty of rock in all its uniqueness.

          Rocks are ideal places to pray.  Consider that each of us needs to find the sacred place where we feel closer to God.  In fact, we may like to return over and over, and yet many of us appreciate fresh locations for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I recall being on a castle fortress area in Alsace in France and feeling close to God, and yet I would never be there again.  We need to expect that the character of the rock formation enters into our repertoire of unique experiences and adds flavor to our lives.  It is fitting to perch on a rock and spend time in prayer and meditation, for they can impress us in many ways.

          Prayer to Be an Earthhealer: Loving God of the Universe, direct our attention to mindful past experiences and to an awareness of precious time left to be conscientious healers of Earth.  May the renewing process improve our healing skills.  Teach us to see wellness as a virtue that is gained and preserved through our humble human efforts.  You bestow many gifts, for which we are exceedingly grateful.  Hopefully, an eternal spark will be ignited to use your gifts to hasten the healing of global wounds and make the beginnings of a New Earth.










hummingbirds sally ramsdell
Hummingbirds learning to "share".
(*Photo by Sally Ramsdell)

August 14, 2022  Setting Strategic Fires through Charismatic Word  

I have come to bring fire to the Earth, and how
        I wish it were blazing already!    (Luke 12:49)

          A charismatic person can start a fire.  Is this not what the Lord wishes of us as quoted in the Luke verse above?  Fires can be good or bad, controlled or allowed to go wild.  We talk much in these reflections on fire safety and protection from careless or accidental fires -- and we respect their destructive aspects.  But fires can be controlled and even utilized blessings for keeping us warm, cooking our food, smelting ore, or even inciting another to action.  The last more energetic "fire" is our focus here.  Those with charisma have a special gift for kindling fire in others.

          A charismatic person can do harm.  Not all fires burn for good causes.  Notorious leaders such as Hitler were charismatic and could draw people for the wrong causes by the fire of their rhetoric and emotions.  Being "on fire" through misdirected or evil intent is extremely hard to redirect.  Emotionally swaying people to wrong causes is hardly a lofty goal and is fraught with terrorist consequences.  Even religiously motivated charismatic action can become extreme and cultic in tone.  It may be best not to attempt a frontal confrontation, but to hope through prayers that those who tend to follow happen upon a good leader.

          Charismatics can do good as well.  The power of their own persuasion can overwhelm charismatic individuals and their followers.  One must propose a delicate line between the exercise of that power and the freedom still to choose.  Extremism can be a form of terrorism, and those incited to fever pitch in the name of God or Allah or anyone or thing must realize the power of the fiery words, and dampen rhetoric to some degree.  Easier said than done.

          The non-charismatic can also light fires.  In quiet ways these can inspire others; a perfect example is the founder of the highly successful Spanish Mondrago Cooperative Corporation, Father Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, who was inspiring by always "needing" help in carrying out goals -- and those near him rose to the occasion.  Fire can be lit in quiet ways and marvels can result.

        Can those with a few charismatic gifts rise at the proper time and place and kindle a fire of faith in people who are allured by material things of this world?  Would that they could bring on genuine enthusiasm with its balanced approach and staying power.  Can they reach the social addicts of our society who appear paralyzed through their allurements to drugs, Twitter, or alcohol?  Can fire be lit to touch the dull, the lazy, and those who have given up?  We can only say so many words.  A far better approach is a combination of prayer and persuasion.

          Set Earth on Fire: Jesus Activist, you speak out boldly about the need to bring about radical changes on this Earth; you say that in doing so the tranquility of comfort will be broken, and your followers must launch into the spiritual fray.  To dedicate ourselves to your revolution we must be willing to forego past relationships that would hold us back.  You ask us for total commitment and we intend to conform as best we can.  May we help set fires, which need to break the status quo.










alpine flowers wyoming wy medicine bow
Alpine Wildflowers in summer. Medicine Bow, WY.
 (*photo credit)

August 15, 2022  Trusting Mary: God's Instrument of Grace

        On each August 15th we Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, the very ancient tradition from the earliest century of Christianity.  We recognize that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven.  On this day we recall the great gift that God gave to Mary and, in due time, gives to us through the Lord's redemptive graces.

          First Reading (Revelation 11:19 to 12:10).  The woman mentioned in this book is surrounded with light for the sun clothes her and the moon is at her feet, with twelve stars making a crown circling her head.  Heaven and Earth unite within her body, for Mary is the Ark of the Covenant, the dwelling place of our God.  In this account, the dragon representing the world's evil allurements is ready to devoir her child, but cannot overcome the powers of heaven.  Mother and child are in the midst of a cosmic struggle.

          Second Reading (I Corinthians 15:20-27). Through our first parent Adam, death came into the world; through Christ comes life.  Jesus is now raised from the dead and lives eternally in glory.  He is the first to enjoy the fruits of redemption in the glorious resurrection of which we will all enjoy in due time.  Through sacred tradition we hold that Mary goes before us, just as she was first in the coming of the Messiah.  Through God's grace her body and soul go ahead of us now in heaven. 

          Gospel Reading (Luke 1:39-56).  Mary visits Elizabeth and realizes that both are pregnant by divine grace.  Both offspring will be instruments of the divine plan; John the Baptist leaps in joy to be so near the Lord and his mother.  The ancient Magnificat hymn is inserted into the text here.  As mentioned in numerous previous feasts on this day, the world around us is turned upside down, and Mary recognizes this in saying the rich will be brought down and the lowly will rise.  The words resemble Hannah's prayer at the birth of Samuel (I Samuel 2:1-10). 

          The tradition of Mary being bodily taken into heaven follows the Old Testament tradition that this occurred with those who played important roles in salvation history (Elijah, Moses, and Isaiah).  Mary is truly the instrument of God's grace and plan for salvation.  Mary is liberated through her great trust in God and thus becomes the model for each of us.  We are not to put her on a pedestal, but rather see her as going ahead of us as a sure sign of what will occur at the end of time for all of us. 

        Mary is instrument of the coming of the Lord into our human history and she is also the instrument for upending the status quo world of materialism.  This occurs through her trust in what God has done for her; she trusts God; God entrusts to her a special role.  In turn, we are to learn from her to likewise trust in God and realize in faith that God entrusts much to us as well.

Ave Maria:

Hail, O Queen of Heaven Enthroned!
Hail by angel’s mistress owned!
Root of Jesse, Gate of morn,
Whence the world's true light was born.
Glorious Virgin, joy to thee!
Loveliest whom in Heaven we see.
Fairest thou where all are fair,
Lead with Christ our sins to spare.










catnip garden
Enjoying catnip in the garden.
 (*photo credit)

August 16, 2022     Preparing a Late Summer Garden

        The following are some suggestions that may help in preparing gardens for autumn and end of year.  Our goal is to use wisely the resources we have at hand in anticipation of the first frost and end of growing season.  Granted, these selections are geared to my micro-climate and may not have direct bearing on your particular situation.  But the hints may help in your own survey of what ought to be done in late summer given your specific conditions.

* 'Sow autumn turnips near the Feast of the Assumption' was a saying that my folks brought over from Alsace -- and it is a timely suggestion to follow in this country as well;
* Give special emphasis to all the Brassica family of vegetables, and that means starting plants early enough to have autumn collards, mustard, kale, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts;
* Protect delicate plants against the late summer sun for this may be necessary for autumn productivity;
* Assemble cold frame materials so that the cherry tomatoes can continue to bear well past frost in October and on under protection to the end of the year;
* Prepare space and pray for enough rain for the growing of radishes, endive, arugula, Swiss Chard, and other autumn greens, along with autumn peas that do well in cooler times;
* Water late cucumbers and continue to preserve the surplus crop throughout the bearing season.  This may be too late for sowing more hills of cucumbers that could bear before normal frost for they would need extensive protection in order to produce in the weeks of late September and October;
* Prepare to harvest the papaws that are ripening right now along with late blackberries and peaches, and the first-of-the-fall apples and pears.  Gather and prepare the coming year's supply of jewelweed for medicinal purposes;
* Taste the wild cherries and gather some of the last of the mulberries of the season along with pokeberries for medicinal purposes;
* Cultivate the late flowers (cosmos, mums, etc.) that will help grace the garden in the coming months.  It may be necessary to buy some autumn flowers to beautify the place or to gather in the wild flowers (goldenrod, ironweed, and bush phlox) for table decorative arrangements;
* Give away or exchange surplus produce with friends and neighbors;
* Offer to care for and water gardens when neighbors are away for a few weeks;
* Patronize the farmers' markets at the height of their popularity for late summer corn, eggplant, late mushrooms, extra canning tomatoes, and melons of all sorts; and
* Chop out the summer weeds that seem to creep in during the hot weather and dispatch them before they bear seeds.

          Prayer for Civic Leadership: Lord, give strength and courage to our civic leaders, for much depends on their decisions and example in these troubled times.  Let us look to past leaders such as Saint Stephen of Hungary on this, his feast day.  May our president, governor, judges and mayor seek and find your blessing in the works they undertake.  May we as citizens support our good leaders, be aware of what they are doing, and speak out when better things must be done.









covered bridge kentucky
Valley Pike covered bridge, Mason Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

August 17, 2022  Continuing American Heroic Traditions: Emil Kapaun

        We all need heroes; on this birthday of Davy Crockett (1786) we look for authentic Americans who carry on the traditions of the Texan pioneers who died at the defense of the Alamo.  In fact, it is customary to find those heroes in war situations where they sacrificed their lives for others. 

        An authentic American hero in that wartime tradition was an unlikely one at the start of his life on a farm in the Kansas prairie, namely, Emil Kapaun.  In April, some 62 years after his death in a Northern Korean prison, President Obama gave Chaplain Emil Kapaun the Medal of Honor.  Emil left the farm to become a Catholic seminarian and priest and at the time of the Korean War volunteered to be an army chaplain. 

        His heroics were described by survivors of the war in talks and printed media including The Saturday Evening Post (January 16, 1954), and these who he influenced in life became champions for his cause to receive recognition for his bravery.  It was the talk of Korean War reunions and in communications among survivors who knew him.  He was dedicated to his men, and they would kid him and say he went straight to where the battle was most fierce, in order to tend to the wounded and dying, even carrying the disabled himself back for medical attention.  He went to the battle noise knowing that soldiers were hurting.  President Obama noted his heroism in the battle of Unsan, and that many of the members of the Third Battalion, Eighth Cavalry Regiment credit their emotional and physical survival to the efforts of Chaplain Kapaun. 

        Emil Kapaun was true to his calling and stayed with his comrades when the combat group was surrounded, and went to prison with those who survived the battle -- and there the struggle for life reached a climax.  Conditions were extremely primitive; food was short and of a very poor quality; and life for all prisoners was sure misery.  Emil used his ingenuity in obtaining food where possible even through "stealing" from guard supplies and from the landscape around.  His greatest fault was failing to take all of his own ration but, instead, sharing it with those he regarded as in greater need.  Eventually, racked by pneumonia and dysentery, he passed to his heavenly reward at the prison in 1951.      

        A final recognition may be still forthcoming.  The cause of Servant of God Kapaun for sainthood is now being pursued by the Wichita Catholic Diocese -- and this is an equally hard journey.  Two miracles must be credited to his intercession.  A potential one is a college student who suffered a life-threatening injury in a pole vaulting accident; a second incident is a teenage girl who was healed from a liver and lung disease.  In both cases their families and friends prayed for healing through Emil Kapaun's intercession.

          Prayer during Perseid Meteor Showers: Lord, we stand outside on this night to see the streaks of wonderful light in the heavens.  Your creation always astounds us, but even more so when we observe your power in the activity of the heavenly bodies.  What wonder and glory abounds as we look out at the limitless universe, which manifests your fullness in creativity and power.  Allow us to enjoy your expansive expression of love in these meteor showers.








indian pink
Indian pink, Spigelia marilandica. Franklin Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

August 18, 2022    Questioning "Radical Conservatives"

        A decade ago, a multi-millionaire Floridian businessman said he was willing to bankroll my projects if I only speak favorably of the capitalistic system and deny that climate change was anthropogenic.  It sounded so simple and for a brief moment I was tempted to try practicing so-called "Jesuit equivocation," which I had heard about.  However, in refusing the offer I found the fellow overwhelmed that someone would refuse his six-figure largesse, and thus not accept that capitalistic endeavors had made him wealthy.  C'est la Vie!  Strangely, he invited me to give him a political/ economic category in which I belong so he could perhaps attack it. 

        How do you tell someone that exerting power through wealth is not a salutary conservative practice?  It wastes limited resources to gain and secure (through expensive military systems) ill-retained gain.  The privileged depend for favor on powerful governments to retain their ill-gotten loot and even disparage the very governments they depend on to ensure their privileges.

          True conservatism involves three criteria: an individual level to hold fast to age-old social values believing in the right to life of all people including the unborn and aged, and the support of traditional marriage (see specific Daily Reflection topics); on the local social level to hold to sustainable living and financial practices in community so that these are healthy places to live (see 99 Ways to a Simple Lifestyle and Healing Appalachia); and on the global level to champion basic respect for the rights of all people on this planet and the health of the planet herself (see Reclaiming the Commons). 

        This last criterion is the most misunderstood.  The first (individual rights) harks back to basic Judeo-Christian values and stands in contrast to a libertarianism, which is based on enlightened self-interest, a position fraught with unconcern about others.  The second criteria incorporates local community organizing, support for appropriate technology, local financing of development, and worker-controlled employment opportunities; here conservative values are deeply entrenched and hark back to basic democratic principles on which this land was founded.

        The third level involves radical sharing of resources with those in need as described in the early chapters of Acts of the Apostles -- a rather ancient document.  Today, through modern means of communication, neighborhood is Earth and sharing takes on global dimensions demanding controls on finances and environmental protection; this is to refrain from pitting one nation or state against another in a bidding war of downward working conditions and wages.  This federalizing of financial and environmental concerns makes this an inherently conservative position.  Thus, global radical conservatism is something worth supporting.

         Prayer to the Creator of Wilderness: O Creator of green forests, we express sorrow for damage done to the precious and necessary forest resources, the lungs of our Earth.  Allow us to enter respectfully into the cathedral of the woods and to marvel at the diversity and beauty of surrounding creation.  Certainly we sense your Presence and recognize your Trinitarian imprint on all Creation.  Satisfy us to simply see and not neglect, to taste and not over-indulge, to visit wilderness but still not disturb.  May we join others in honoring and preserving fragile wilderness areas.  Our hope is to work together to defend natural areas that will remain untouched as a resource reserve.









Striving for Desired Miracles

         We can look at miracles (beyond natural occurrences) from a number of standpoints: as being non-existent, as being rare but specific, or as being commonplace if we are observant.  Albert Einstein (1879-1955) said “There are two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  However, for some of us who believe in miracles and the vast wonders of God’s partly hidden creation, there could be that third alternative: the desire for specific miracles related to a person, time or place. 

         To bring this to our efforts today we seek miracles to serve as examples of why holy people need to be realistic models or declared “saints” for others to follow.  This I strongly feel to be a significant case; that is, after our successful campaign to rescue Pere Jacques Marquette’s bone fragments from the archives of Marquette University and return them to his resting place at St. Ignace in upper Michigan.   The great missionary and explorer who died in 1675 was also a budding environmentalist and worthy of being someone who (especially) young folks could imitate at this critical time.

         Not only is there a need for the process, but there also exists today some spiritual benefits to show that the intercession of this holy person is part of divine favor.  It seems that Fr. Frank Brawner, spiritual leader of Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Parish at Stanton, Kentucky has such a special need.  He suffers from a congenital disease that is expected to get worse with time and thus shortening his ministry.  This involves hampering his work among residents and visitors at the ecological center of this state where his parish is located (Red River gorge and Natural Bridge State Park).  The healing is desired both for him and for the many people he serves, and those in neighboring counties who may benefit from his extended ministry.  We earnestly beg God to give him the health it takes – and this is a special miracle we seek at this time.

         Even though Marquette died at a young age of 38 some 350 years ago, there was no process that was initiated to take him on the road to canonization.  Yes, Marquette was popular in secular America with towns, rivers, and counties named after him and a statue in the national Capitol; still, from a spiritual standpoint his cause seemed to have been ignored.  Currently, the first formal church procedure on the road to sainthood is to be considered a “Servant of God”; this has never been done in Marquette’s case.  I suggested the need for this process at the June, 2022 ceremony that placed the bone fragments in his grave; we ought to move in declaring him a saint as a model for environmentalists; likewise, his burial place among respectful and sustainable Ojibwa Indians is a natural location to serve as an ecological center to be visited by others.    

         Let’s face it; it will take an additional miracle to begin the canonization process in a formal manner.  I confess to being too old to see this effectively through to completion, which for many reasons ought to be done.  I pray that you the reader may be willing to help in this cause.  Let’s work together.




Bee transfer
Transferring a colony of honeybees.
 (*photo credit)

August 19, 2022  Watching Our Electronics Lower Practical Skills

        When a blackout occurs during a storm or on other occasions we are often at a loss as to where to turn for lighting or heating or how to save refrigerated contents.  It seems that we are without limbs and eyesight for a brief moment; we quickly wake up to how dependent we are on electricity for ordinary life.  It is not like Great Depression days when our family avoided costly electricity and lived with kerosene lamps, ice boxes, and cooking stove boiled water for baths -- and we survived.  Has the world become too dependent on electricity and electronic devices even though needed in emergencies?  Are they now defined as necessities? 

          Are we losing communication skills?  I have been astounded at watching ordinary people assembled but not talking to each other; they are each juggling with their electronic devices and perhaps texting friends or partners with important messages -- or at least appear important in doing so while gathering information of some sort.  Recently, two people in the next restaurant booth did not say one word to each other throughout their meal, both were busy texting.  Have they lost the skill of talking to one another?

          What about basic math skills?  I have noted that in handling exact change some salespeople pause.  Often they find it difficult to count and make exact change without the use of a computerized device.  Are basic skills of arithmetic being lost in a computerized age?  Teachers tell me of similar observations of students who find simple adding and subtracting harder without some sort of hand-held computer device.

          What about map reading skills?  We like to have a general idea of direction and connecting roads when driving.  Today, cars are equipped with GPS devices that tell exactly where to turn and how far to the next road.  Map-reading is passe' for some, but ought it to be?  We need to know our general overall locations and routes and thus better control the situation.

          What about driving skills?  We are all too aware of others distracted in the nearby vehicles as they text some distant party.  I do not like to be too judgmental, for I am at times distracted by radio adjustment or seeking a sip of water.  However, there are too many accidents that are traceable to texting and the concern is inspiring legislators to devise new driving regulations.

          What about building skills?  As a youth I learned house construction with no electric hookup because my dad feared that electric saws and other devices could physically harm his youthful brood.  We built houses without electricity.  In essence this continued in later building days, but today electric connections are vital for construction trades.  However, can people use hand saws and hammers and digging tools easily?   

          Prayer for Wild Plums: Lord, we thank you for giving us the wild fruits that are flavorful, along with a sense of taste.   Though some of us have lost our ability to taste now, I still recall and thank you for the unique delight of the wild plum.  Others have their own favorites -- and to all their own.  We enjoy the ability to find what we like and know it is given through your mercy and love.  Thank you for enjoyable things of life.






Indigo buntin
Indigo bunting,  Passerina cyanea, at feeder.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

August 20, 2022   Threatening Birds in Various Ways

         During these Bald Eagle Days, we look back at the prosperity of our bird population and, in fact, all forms of wildlife.  Our lives are enhanced by birds far more than we admit, giving us untold pleasure by their presence among us.  Who cannot be inspired by bird songs of great variety and by the flitting about and nesting habits of colorful birds?  Mockingbirds give so much joy in certain times of the year.  Let's look at certain threats to bird populations that are not adequately addressed:

          Pesticide threats.  In reference to the once endangered bald eagle, we recall how lack of hardness of shells of eagle eggs was affected by the use of DDT in the environment, and thus hatchlings were scarce.  By banning extensive use of this pesticide through federal protection eagle bounced back from near extinction.  Questions are also being raised about other ubiquitous pesticides and chemicals and threats to birds and other wildlife as well.

          Commercial threats. John J. Audubon saw little danger in hunting due to bird abundance, though the last passenger pigeon that blackened the sky of Audubon's youth died a half century after his death.  The fashion of the late 1800s was to use feathers from 50 North American species in women's and men's head attire.  This massive application threatened target species such as the snowy egret, with its fluffy white feathers that were highly prized.  During that high fashion period an estimated 130,000 snowy egrets were consumed by the leading London millinery market over a nine-month period.  By the time of the First World War this fashion of wearing feathered headgear ceased through concerted action by activists who were mostly socially elite conservationists.  

          Cat threats. Birds are preyed upon by various forms of wildlife including hawks and others of their own species.  However, the major enemy in current times are the pet and feral cats that roam about at will over the urban and rural countryside.  Some estimate that one-and-a-quarter billion birds are killed by cats in the United States each year; this threat is proving to be a leading cause in the decline of a number of bird species, especially among smaller and less aggressive ones.

          Habitat threats.  On various occasions we have mentioned how noise pollution affects nesting and roosting habits of birds.  Migratory routes, destinations, and resting areas can be so over-developed that birds are driven away.  Climate change is affecting all wildlife, but birds are more easily able to adapt to climatic variations than land-based wildlife -- but climate can affect bird life in some ways from loss of traditional feeding areas to violent weather conditions that can decimate migrating bird populations.

          Prayer for the Eagles: Lord, you give us raptors, and especially the majestic eagles; we recall this on Bald Eagle Day, and remember that their symbols show not only strength, but much more.  Eagles remind us that our pesticides from the past threatened their reproductive conditions and their very species.  Lord, teach us that we are to learn from the practices of eagles and still we are to be their protectors.  Help us see that eagles can alert us to be always vigilant and truly ecological.






Kentucky summer
Kentucky organic farmer inspects late-summer tomatoes.
 (*photo credit)

August 21, 2022   Choosing to Move Forward with the Poor  

                  Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and
                           those now first who will be last.  (Luke 13:22-30)

         People can rise to occasions that others never expected and they can achieve the unexpected, all through God's grace.  We know or hear of individuals who rise from obscurity to be great leaders, reformers, and saints.   What about entire groups of people?  We Americans regard the backwoods colonists as doing this during our eighteenth-century American Revolution (perhaps that example had some flaws, for wealthy planters were involved in leadership roles and slavery was continued).

         The quest for freedom and democracy is a long one for the poor; however, with encouragement in solidarity we can tackle our limited system and make it ours in the fullest sense.  Freedom is not given by the privileged, but taken by the lowly.  Believers in authentic change are convinced that God can display power when we least expect.  God empowers, but so that being privileged is not repeated by reformers, we must not forget that power's Source.

        Through sacred history, God invites Israel as a chosen people to constantly profess the one God and welcome and accept the coming Messiah.  Jesus Christ came among us, lived, suffered, died and rose.  Those chosen first, hesitated, and many did not accept Jesus as Messiah.  The invitation extended to the Gentile world, and so those who were last were invited into the divine family.  This message that went out and was received still goes out to a highly stratified materialistic society.  God's invitation is extended to the unevangelized through our efforts.  We are aware that we are called to present Good News to those who are forgotten and destitute: they are to be encouraged to take what is rightfully theirs -- or, with us included, "ours." 

        This taking is a spiritual empowerment and not anticipation of charity from the materially powerful.  Spiritual empowerment comes through our Baptism/Confirmation and only after we affirm that God is the source of that power.  We are to encourage the acceptance from the hand of God, not a false sense of being given from the largesse of the privileged wealthy.

        Our solidarity with the poor is fortified when we "become" the poor and accept our condition of impoverishment along with the struggles of others.  We are part of the culture that has been socially addicted; we find ourselves either allured by certain material things or we do not challenge the addicted.  We, the poor, can only rise when arising in solidarity.  We cannot tolerate continued impoverishment because it is so demeaning and so threatening to our humanity.  We live simply so that all can rise and reclaim our commons.  May the last be first.

          The Last Will Be First: Lord Jesus, you show us that some who have been called may be willing at first, but lose the sense of responsibility over time; others linger or receive a late call, which is answered with ultimate determination.  Let chosen ones not forget the glory of their calling.  Lord, keep us steadfast in the faith.  While we are in for surprises, we still seek through hope to be included in your kingdom.  And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13:29)






Picture 1884
Marbled orb weaver, Araneus marmoreus.
 (*photo credit)

August 22, 2022    Advancing an Atmosphere of Contrasumption

        By "contrasumption" we mean refusing to consume in excess or to minimize use of needed resources.  Let's consider a number of these practices that have been discussed in greater detail elsewhere in these Daily Reflections.

* Conserve energy.  Improved insulation and weather stripping can help, along with turning off unused electronic devices and becoming efficiency-conscious when applying smart-grid systems.        

* Conserve water.  This is an arena of great resource saving with numerous applications, including washing with less water through shower-reducing devices and using dish and waste water to support plants during dry seasons.

* Patronize yard sales and used clothing places.  These result in vast savings for clothing, furnishings, and dry goods.

* Reduce packaging; this includes in purchases, gifts and deliveries, and carry along shopping bags -- a difficult habit to acquire.  Recycle packaging materials for creative uses.

* Share within local community.  Exchange of produce and materials that are surplus is healthy local economic practice.

* Carpool.  When well-coordinated over time, carpooling can lead to immense savings in travel and fuel costs for individuals.

* Walk and/or bike.  This is a win/win situation, for it allows needed exercise and still costs no fuel for short local trips. 

* Go solar.  Much has been written and domestic applications are an arena of limitless potential, for the sun's rays are free when captured.  Solar costs are a tenth of 2000 prices.

* Avoid dramatic fashion shifts.  A major cost today is trying to keep up with peers and neighbors.  A conservationist practice needs to be learned, especially among those addicted to electronic devices; we do not need every new device marketed.

* Grow more of your produce.  Two areas of special home garden concentration are salad greens and herb growing.  Both of these can save in grocery purchases; they require relatively small amounts of garden space, and can be grown indoors in the "non-growing season."

* Choose seasonal foods.  This leads us to focusing on what we can grow and purchase locally rather than distant foods supplies.

* Preserve surplus produce in a number of ways using the tried and latest labor-saving techniques (root cellar, solar drying, canning, pickling, refrigeration, and freezing).

          Royalty Prayer: Lord, today we honor the Queenship of Mary.  In one instance, we who are part of republican national policy refrain from giving deference to royalty -- remembering our struggle for American independence.  In another way, we honor those set apart for honors to be of a spiritual and not patriotic honor.  We Americans do not recognize Earthly kings or queens, but, Lord, we see you as head of a spiritual kingdom and Mary accompanying you in a spiritual royal title.  To thus we say "Amen."







Late Summer - Mid Autumn
Late summer goldenrod patch.
 (*photo credit)

August 23, 2022  Calling Geothermal the Friendliest Energy Source

        At various times we have mentioned some aspects of geothermal, one of the least utilized but most friendly forms of green energy.  We have introduced geothermal applications, pinpointed the high potential geothermal areas found in our nation, brought up utility-scale geothermal that could augment domestic heat pumps and other applications, high-lighted stimulus package success in a financially weak investment area, and tried to discern the promises and troubles of this budding energy source with its slow growth rate compared with wind and solar energy.  Now we consider how geothermal can be publicized and made into a desired energy source.

* In essence, geothermal is a renewable energy source with the most significant benefits to public health and is the least-polluting of all current energy sources, according to the Geothermal Energy Association.  Binary geothermal plants produce virtually no greenhouse gases and dry steam and flash geothermal plants put out only trace amounts of emissions.  Geothermal has the lowest lifecycle emissions of any generating technology and provides over a hundred million dollars in yearly benefits to California and a third that amount to Nevada by avoiding fossil fuel emissions.

* Geothermal has initial costs but, once installed, has low maintenance costs and offers no major security threats in contrast to nuclear power.  Once drilling and installment of equipment is complete, the heat and hydrothermal fluids are mostly free of charge, since costs are up-front and in initial investment.  Germany and other nations are including geothermal in Feed In Tariffs (FIT) and are thus easing the financial start-up burdens. 

* Geothermal, in contrast to both popular solar and wind applications, is dependable and has no intermittent time delays due to nighttime or wind calms.  Iceland obtains one-sixth of its electricity from geothermal and finds it exceptionally dependable. Furthermore, geothermal offers an ideal match with other renewable sources for continuous service systems.

* Geothermal's potential is well known and the technology is straight forward and highly developed.  The ability to expand rapidly is only restrained by financial barriers, not by the need for technical research and development.  Direct steam utilization by greenhouses and fish farms is most promising, especially in high geothermal potential regions.   

* Geothermal is a good public and private investment in contrast to drawbacks in fossil fuel electricity generation.  It can furnish a quick fossil fuel replacement and some experts predict it will become a more sizeable part of the American energy scene.  Much depends on the public's acceptance and tapping into financial resources for direct investment.

          Saint Rose of Lima: Lord God, you were blessed in the life of Rose of Lima, a true model for Hispanic women.  These often suffer greatly in a macho world and with need to keep a house in order and to raise children in the faith.  May the prayers of St. Rose be extended to all who are in such need at this time.  May all of us extend a helping hand to the women of Latin America and those Hispanics who migrate to our country.  They need our ready help!






Late Summer - Mid Autumn
A look beyond.
 (*photo credit)

August 24, 2022  Responding When Death Comes Close to Us

         When we hear that death has occurred in our extended family or among neighbors, the first impulse is that I can do little but say a prayer for the family and wish survivors well.  But more can be done and here is a partial list of suggestions.

          First Notice:     
* Offer condolences in whatever way is most helpful and least intrusive.  For some, it is a personal visit or a phone call, or it may be a visit by email or other media outlets.  Ask if there is anything that you can do for them and mean it;
* If in the neighborhood of the death, bake something or bring over a dish of food to the house.  That is a strong tradition in Appalachia and beyond.  Survivors will not be inclined to cook and yet they will be in need and have hungry visitors;
* Offer to contact extended friends and acquaintances who may wish to come to memorial services or wake.  Ensure that friends are notified, even to the point of repeating what they may already know.  We all suffer from information overload.  It's a greater need when sudden death occurs; and
* Offer the bereaved that you will or will find someone dependable to house sit for them at funeral time.  Survivors may become concerned about property even in an unsettled situation.

          During Services:
* Offer the elderly or incapacitated rides to the wake, memorial ceremony, church service, or cemetery.  Many would like to attend, but are hampered through immobility and fear of bothering others who could offer assistance;
* Express your intentions to pray for and have prayers said for the deceased and for the family.  Most people, even the unchurched and agnostic, find offered prayers to be comforting;
* Help with the obituary (if possible) by surfacing good points that could be skipped in the flurry of arrangements; and
* Offer to find volunteers to care for young children of couples who would like to attend the funeral.

          After Funeral:
* Many loved ones do not have time to grieve immediately after the death, but the loss strikes later.  Stay in touch like the Good Samaritan, who was willing to check in after returning from his trip.  A call a little after is a good thing; 
* Encourage those closer to the deceased to possibly attend grievance sessions in the local church or community;
* Remember those closest to the deceased at the time of major holidays or anniversaries, especially the first month or year after the death.  If you have photos or records that may bring back happy memories, it is a good time to share them; and
* Mention again on occasion that you are continuing to pray for the soul of the departed and for his or her relatives. 

         Prayer for the Harvest: Thank you Lord for bringing us to the harvest season.  Give us the bounty that we need to fulfill the essential responsibilities we face.  Furthermore, supply us with the energy it takes to bring this harvest home.  Inspire those who are called to be harvesters, so that all may participate in reaping benefits that are present for the taking.  Trigger our celebratory nature to show joy and happiness in this season.  We go out full of tears carrying seed for the sowing; we come back full of song, carrying our sheaves. (Psalm 126)






Late Summer - Mid Autumn
Fruits of the prickly-pear cactus.
 (*photo credit)

August 25, 2022  Recognizing Nitrogen's Feast or Famine

        The deadly fertilizer fire and explosions at West, Texas a decade ago taught us all a lesson in nitrogen compound controls and their use in agriculture.  The 1995 Oklahoma bombing by Timothy McVeigh should have been sufficient warning that nitrogen compounds are dangerous.  Respect explosive nitrogen chemicals.

        From elementary science we became aware of the importance of the natural nitrogen cycle; this cycle can and is altered so as to help furnish food (proteins) for a hungry world.  The corn, wheat, and rice on which humanity depends needs nitrogen sources beyond natural production, as does other food produce.  Manures are not sufficient to supply this need; fertilizer manufacturers make nitrogen accessible to this vital food production and ammonia is a key commercial ingredient.  To ensure against classical famines, China in the latter part of the twentieth century built hundreds of fertilizer factories, and today leads the world in fertilizer production.  The availability of commercial fertilizers leads to doubling crop yields in many areas of Asia and other lands, though Sub-Sahara suffers from lack of fertilizer. 

        Still, easy access leads to excess.  Chinese agricultural experts say nitrogen fertilizers are overused by 30-60%, leading China to contribute to half of the world "excess" nitrogen fertilizers that, in turn, pollute Earth's land and water.  Agricultural excess of both nitrogen and phosphorus compounds stemming from commercial fertilizers and accumulated animal wastes contaminate water supplies, suffocate wildlife, and even affect the climate change equation.  Our own country and much of Europe are plagued by excess nitrogen in acidification and eutrophication.

        Though headway in the last half century has been pronounced, still dangers continue to exist.  Agriculture is responsible for 90% of ammonia emissions and a report by the International Institute for Applied System Analysis concludes that the EU could reduce ammonia emissions by over 30% by using standard practices; one is to reduce protein levels in animal feed.  In the EU, China, the U.S. and elsewhere controls of only a moderate degree could result in substantial nitrogen compound savings to the betterment of agriculture, human health, and Earth herself. 

        Curbing nitrogen compounds at all stages of the nitrogen cycle needs implementation: feeding, manure storage and utilization, fertilizer application, and overall nitrogen management.  It is somewhat easier to control excess than to fill the waste vacuum among small African farmers -- for costly commercial fertilizers are often beyond their economic reach; financial assistance is necessary.  Merely testing soils and giving advice through local county agents can direct farmers to proper fertilizer application.

       Saint Louis of France; Lord, we honor St. Louis for his devotion and generosity to the poor.  Again, as adherents to republican principles, some of us do not honor entitled royalty, yet we know and admire a host of canonized saints who are kings and queens (e.g., Henry, Elizabeth, Bridget, Stephen, and on and on).  However, it is not their royal nobility, but their holiness that we honor.  Certainly, these prominent kings and queens were given special mention, for Christians in their respective countries.  May we continue to see all saints as models worth imitating.



** Notice - St. Elizabeth of Hungary Job Announcement **

St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church at Ravenna, Kentucky is seeking a parish assistant to handle some of the work involved in running this small rural parish (whose parishioners are regarded as all people of Estill County). This work is challenging, for it is wide-ranging and varied and demands are often unexpected. The assistant will need to be able to drive, have listening skills and feel comfortable in our Appalachian culture.

Tasks will include a number of non-pastoral duties and record-keeping, with the Pastor most likely residing elsewhere. Ministry includes visiting the sick and shut-ins and evangelizing fallen away Catholics. It also includes cooperating with the person who handles the rather popular monthly basement sales and a special Christmas program directed to local poor folks.
Besides a moderate salary, the assistant could have access to a substantial residence on the extensive grounds, along with health benefits.

Send resume to Fr. Al Fritsch, SJ
Pastor, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church,
316 Fifth Street, Ravenna, KY 40472

(Position would optimally be starting by October 1st)




Expanding Our Neighborhood “neighborhood”

       We are all to love our neighbor, but the expanse of neighborhood varies with different people, and with our individual time and outlook on life.  No doubt an infant regards neighborhood as being in the home with parents or guardians, and neighbors being those who occasionally visit.  With time the yard is an exploratory space and neighbors are those who live nearby.  And the vision grows to a broader local community with parks, playgrounds, stores, schools and churches.  So, connection with the vicinity helps define neighbor when moving out to the world.  We naturally expand our neighborhood if we participate in normal human social life and educational opportunities.  Furthermore, the Internet and social media add to this for better or worse, because some neighbors contribute to our wellbeing and some unfortunately do the opposite.  We are moved to make decisions about maintaining and enhancing neighborhood relations.

       Then we became acquainted with the famous Jesus parable about the Good Samaritan, who comes to the aid of an injured traveler who is passed by from others who ought to have been closer to him.  What defined this helpful foreign soul as neighbor was the mercy shown.  Where does this element fit into our own lives?  Do we consider mercy in our relations with those who are neighbors in an ever-expanding vicinity, or is it all personal gratification and benefit to me?  As Christians, we are to be of service to others who enter our lives.  Do we set some sort of limit beyond which we ignore needs of others, or do we act as the Samaritan in our journey of life and see those in need -- and respond by helping them in some fashion?

       Our journey of life today is potentially more expansive than in other ages, for we can connect with and perceive the suffering needs of people in distant lands.  We can become acquainted with the expanse of the pandemic, war in the Ukraine, plight of tens of millions of refugees and suffering of the poor due to climate change.  A hurting world comes to our doorstep, if we open our eyes and ears and receive the ever-present revelation of the needy.  At this point we can arbitrarily set limits; the world scene is conceived as too disturbing and peace of soul is threatened.  We may be tempted to turn elsewhere and avoid the emerging pictures of distress.  No doubt such judgments have a validity, and we recall the Good Samaritan parable again and the priest and Levite who passed by on the opposite side of the road.  Our compassion has limits, but is this a good thing?

       We hear of a need to limit immigration or refugee intake or sharing of critical world resources, and wonder whether our world has expanded and is worth a change of attitude.  Our desire to be merciful within limits includes concern for a broader expanse of the human family and Earth’s plants and animals.  We cannot just close off others because they create discomfort when viewing the news.  The Lord beckons us to go beyond our past neighborhood experiences and see the world as an expanding neighborhood, without artificial limits.  We are one people with fading boundaries as to race, color, religion and other divisions.  Like the Good Samaritan we see a victim (our troubled planet) and in mercy must respond.  The task is great and growing, but with God’s help we can make a difference.  Lord, help us to expand our neighborhood to a round orb lacking limits – and help us be good neighbors.  






Picture 991
Blaze of color purple.
 (*photo credit)

August 26, 2022    Being Fully Aware of Humankind Week

        The greatest kindness that can be shown to humankind is to share available health facilities.  We realize that this is not the case today, for human health benefits vary from nation to nation.  Today, we find it challenge enough in our own country to give health coverage to each and every citizen, but what about ALL people on this planet?  Is the goal too lofty or is it something that must be worked towards with the proper use of often under-utilized or partly wasted resources? 

       Health Insurance for All.  Health insurance is a complex and contentious policy issue in America today.  Many of the decisions to hire new people come down to health insurance costs.  For many, even co-payments are beyond current budgets.  Health costs stand behind major decisions on every level of government.  Henry Simmons of the National Coalition on Health Care has scoffed about affordable health care when the greatest expense is due to "pushing paper," or a complex bureaucracy that costs between $300 and $500 billion each year. 

        The health care system has spiraled out of control without giving a better quality of care.  In fact, health care costs are foremost concerns even among those currently covered by health insurance, and by the American government with the implementation of portions of Obamacare.  Merely making costly medicines and health technologies available does not ensure better health, only higher costs and concern by those finding it difficult to pay.  Unpaid health bills are still the leading cause of bankruptcy.  Is health care access for all seven billion of the world's people totally "off the table?"  We hope not.

          Health care personnel shortages compound the problem.  During the pandemic many hospitals and health care facilities have had shortages in personnel ranging in dozens and more.  Worldwide, the shortage may be three million nurses alone.  Now add on the millions of people needed for service personnel, cooks, nurses' aides, administrators and, of course, doctors, and consider the ten million who could be employed in meaningful work, if employment funds could be found and made available to these potential caregivers. 

        The poorer countries of the world often spend resources training health personnel and then witness the migration of many of these promising graduates to wealthier lands.  Why should the most promising medical personnel migrate to richer lands when needed in their homelands?  And why should potential medical personnel fail to obtain a proper education due to lack of funding?  World resource sharing is in a critical need when it comes to health services.

          Reclamation Prayer: Lord God, you created all to be properly used, and our greed and ignorance in disturbing landscape is a glaring misdeed.  In retrospect, let us see damage through mining and misuse of land, halt such practices, wisely plan for reclamation, and initiate projects for the betterment of what was damaged.  In fact, when wisely done, we can help effect a new creation, which has its own beauty and benefits.  Healing is possible when land is in pain; through powers you give us, we can reclaim and heal what was damaged by greed and carelessness.










Picture 830
A hawk moth blends easily with surroundings.
 (*photo credit)

August 27, 2022  Reflecting on Church as Compassionate

       When the Lord saw her, he felt sorry for her.  (Mark 7:13)

        We are moved during these troubled times following the pandemic to show compassion on the entire global family of suffering brothers and sisters.  As Christians we are committed as Church to extend a higher quality of life to all people on this planet.  To suffer is part of our human condition, and to suffer alone is painful enough; to suffer with others becomes compassion, and we are called to globalize our compassion, a divine/human thrust towards greater solidarity. 

        Our solidarity as brothers and sisters involves the harmony resulting from knowing the condition of others and doing something about it.  As neighborhoods grow globally and come closer through rapid social media, an awareness of lack of health care access deepens within us.  A pandemic victim suffers as much in Africa as in my town.  In compassion, the Church speaks up for the health of all, not just local individuals.  Global health care is possible.

        Compassion goes out to all who cannot afford good access to health care.  The Church must never simply settle for limiting our compassion because of the immensity of the task.  God gives life and good health; we are called to the commons of enlivening by extending shared health benefits to wider arenas of people.  Many resources now spent on military could be diverted to health care. Those who believe in the future see this in both short-term physical health and longer-term eternal blessings, for death is a hiatus, not an end.  We extend compassion to all. 

          Action 1 -- Promote universal health care.
If access to proper health care is a human right, it ought to be proclaimed with courage: we believe in the possibility of universal health care -- and we will do what we can to bring this about.  To affirm the possibility of universal health care is the first step in affirming the empowerment by God to help us achieve our goals.  In November, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI spoke at the 25th International Conference on Health Care.  He stated that it is the moral responsibility of nations to guarantee access to health care for all citizens, regardless of social or economic status or their ability to pay; Pope Francis has reaffirmed that great inequalities exist in global health care.

          Action 2 -- The Church sponsors health care facilities.
The charitable work of the Church without regard to race, creed, or color is a mark of pride.  We as Church must continue to be a major health care provider in this world, from Europe to far-flung Oceania.  For centuries, the institutional Church has sponsored hospitals, clinics, hospices and other care facilities.  This health care system is America's largest, and private elder care facilities are expanding rapidly even in Asia and Africa.

         Saint Monica: You persevered in prayer and human efforts to convert your son Augustine to the ways of God -- and succeeded.  May your intercession for our efforts at improvement in life and success on our journey of faith be fruitful; may we find in your example a model of one who was persistent in prayer.  May we seek to convert those loved ones who are wayward -- in a gentle way.










Picture 15048
Spectacular blooms of the frost aster, Aster pilosus.
 (*photo credit)

August 28, 2022    Cultivating the Virtue of Humility

Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who
       humbles himself shall be exalted.       (Luke 14:1, 7-14)

        In a culture where getting ahead is to spruce one's CV and polish one's medals, it is hard to be humble.  Actually, humility grows when we make an effort.  Here are some possible hints:

        * Know your handicaps and hardships and regard them as a gift and opportunity to do something with less.  St. Paul lists his handicaps as though they are part of the sufferings of Christ.

        * Praise the achievements of the lowly.  Focus attention on the ones who are generally overlooked.  Fawning over pop stars and recognized musicians hardly cultivates humility on anyone's part.  But building up those who are forgotten has a humble goal for you.  Give special emphasis to the poor, the overlooked and the bashful.

        * Acknowledge that I am poor in so many ways and accept this as part of being human -- and be joyful by affirming solidarity with the poor of this world.  Being a humble servant is being Christlike; this includes trust that the poor will be empowered by God to rise and take what is rightfully theirs (ours).

        * Give credit to others when this could have gone to me or a smaller intimate group of "us."  Allow broader partnerships to flourish and others to receive a credit when their efforts may not have been as great as what we considered ours to be. 

        * Accept that my work is a small contribution to a massive undertaking.  This I find difficult to acknowledge, and yet it is profoundly true, for in the great sweep of things what anyone does is only a unique contribution to saving our wounded Earth. 

        * Proclaim the value of a small contribution when done in the empowering grace of the risen Lord -- Resurrection-centered spirituality.  We have to believe in the power of small tasks done with great love.  In a spiritual way we are willing to risk being seen for our imperfections.  We recognize our limitations and the shortness of our lives, and admit we are doing the best we can do.

        * Work for a future generation even though we will not live to see the fruits of that work.  Regard such work as a counter to the selfishness that sees no future after one's demise.

        * Give thanks to the Lord for the opportunity to live in these trying times.  With a sense of gratitude, we give credit where credit is due -- to the Lord who distributes good gifts.

         Saint Augustine of Hippo: You became faithful to the Lord and showed integrity and honesty in your Confessions; you defended the Church against all adversity; you continued in hope to the end, even when the Vandals were at the gates and the North African Church was threatened with ruin.  Your stamina was overwhelming.  Intercede for us in these troubled times, for we see modern day Vandals at our gates as well.          










Summer into Autumn
Lush, late summer vegetation overtakes shed.
 (*photo credit)

August 29 2022  Facing Security and Insecurity in Today's World

        As we approach Labor Day, let us Americans look once more at our basic securities and insecurities to make ends meet.  Food insecurities bedevil many of the world's poor and that includes some Americans who also suffer from lack of funds to meet both normal housing and energy basic needs.  Insecurities beset those finishing an expensive education with impending debt to be repaid and few good job prospects in sight.  Insecurities occur too frequently for those threatened by health problems.  What about the materialists who always want more, and so have an insatiable quest for more security in one or other fashion? 

          Insecurities are hard to tackle.  At this Labor Day Weekend should we consider trying to overcome our personal insecurities, or overlook them and focus on national insecurities in a threatening world?  What about curbing climate change?  Implementation of a national health care program?  Drug problems of all types?  The right to bear arms or have arms control?  The quest for security becoming all the more paramount for those overwhelmed by insecurities?  A vigilant and proper police force and safe highways?  Food security through food stamps?  Vulnerable communication and alert systems?  Threats persist, accidents occur, food poisoning springs when unexpected, and communications can be interrupted by crooks.  We all need convincing that material means of security are not fool-proof, and this becomes painfully clear with each new crash or massacre.

          Total material security is impossible.  Is the insurance sufficient?  Do we take all protective measures with food purchases?  We gradually become aware that taking additional protective measures in never enough.  Here the fine line between material and spiritual security begins to emerge on a personal and on a broader level.  Neither my home nor our nation's security rests on more guns (for guns can make us more insecure).  America does not secure friends by stockpiling nuclear warheads and constructing more aircraft carriers.  Material possessions can bring nothing but greater insecurity.  Selfish grasp for limited resources to secure ourselves only makes the basic insecurity of the world's have-nots all the greater.  Security will only come when we halt the excessive use of resources (financial and others) by a privileged few and share these with a world of riddled by insecurities; rather, let's open the door to true security.

          True security comes through loving trust in God, who inspires us to take limited amounts of goods and at the same time move to redistribute materials to those in greater need.  The act of sharing is the secret to authentic security for, by sharing all we have, we build up a lasting security that remains for all eternity.

          Grace to Take the Lowly Place: Jesus, you remind us often to be humble as you are humble.  You specifically mention to take the lowly place, which is contrary to practices sought within our secular culture.  We tend to forget that there is an empowerment in lowly situations, for those who are creative.  Seeking the higher places can lead to selfishness and excessive pride, all far removed from the service you seek us to render.  May you continue to prod us to do what is right in this culture filled with materialistic values.








Summer into Autumn
Harvest of fresh apples.
 (*photo credit)

August 30, 2022   Accepting Our Limitations As Empowering

        Labor Day is the end of traditional summer vacation, and we come to realize a desire for cooler weather.  Have you read or reviewed a serious essay and admit you do not understand some or all of it?  I wager that I have company.  In earlier times I would lay a difficult article aside to study when more time permits.  But that never came.  The excuse is only admitting my own intellectual AND time limitations as we age and find too much to still do in an ever-shortening span ahead, and an ever-increasing stack of unstudied materials.  Should we put things off to eternity?

        Limitations beset us in ways we do not want to admit.  Let's face it, there are things that remain a mystery whether unknown to all but God, or unknown to most of us inexperienced ones.  I do not understand the workings of CERN and its advances, the limits of the universe in starry space, the vast fields of biological research, and the mysteries of economics (though the last is perhaps a mystery to all, even experts).  Some philosophers tell us that the quest for scientific discoveries is quite compatible with that of religious belief in God -- and so we become comfortable with being unable to know all truth and to rest in the glory of Mystery. 

        Our limitations span a multitude of areas from current time and place, cultural attitudes, intellectual acumen, personal endurance, occupational skills, material resources, physical health, and on and on.  We are limited, but let's not overlook the limits of our time span, of which we are more conscious with each passing day.  Some accept their limitations with greater ease than others.  It is not right to dismiss an arena by saying that a field or skill is not worth learning.  Nor is it sufficient to grasp greedily for more of the limited physical pie and be left in a case of immense health-threatening stress.   

        Accepting our limitations is humbling, but herein is contained a certain knowledge of self that leads to wisdom (Psalm 90).  Humble acceptance and trust in God opens vast horizons of spiritual growth.  Much is gained by humbly accepting physical limitations whether inherent or imposed.  In due time, and with prayer to help, we can learn to feel at home with being limited human beings.  Yes, this is how we are created and it is meaningful to know who we are.  This knowledge opens a horizon to advance spiritually beyond the bounds of human limitation.  Theresa, the Little Flower, learned this lesson early on and was able to grow vastly in spiritual realms in an ocean of God's love where there is no ultimate limitation.  Eternity reaches beyond the physical limitations in which we find ourselves.  Let's consider tasks we are called to do, those we wish to do, and those impossible right now.  Let's affirm limits to physical but not to spiritual growth.

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to know our physical limitations, to be able to adjust to them with trust and a degree of spiritual peace, and to teach others to know and live with their own limitations.  








Summer into Autumn
Paw-paws, ripening on the tree.
 (*photo credit)

August 31, 2022  Celebrating Paw Paws: A Native American Fruit

       On the Cherokee National Holiday, it is an ideal time to celebrate a prized Native American fruit, the paw paw or papaw.  In the small cove next to the solar house at the ASPI Nature Center was a cluster of small trees that had the grandest of native fruit (in size and to some folks also in taste) -- Asimina triloba of the tropical custard apple family.  This temperate member of a tropical fruit family has a taste that resembles a mixture of banana, mango, and pineapple.  Perhaps it is a "tropical-tasting" temperate fruit. 

        Kentucky is a more popular area for growing paw paws, but in fact its growing range covers much of the Eastern U.S. south of Michigan and east of the Mississippi River.  This largest of our native fruits is ordinarily a half pound each, but some reach one to two pounds depending on variety.  The fruit was recognized by De Soto in his sixteenth century expedition through the Southeast; it was grown by Thomas Jefferson, who while minister to France, took seeds to Europe to show off a wonderful Native American fruit. 

        Several reasons for lack of current familiarity include the shortness of shelf life at room temperature (less than a week), though its life can be tripled by refrigeration.  The fruit is not overly attractive, is thin skinned, and is not overly colorful.  The availability has sharply declined in recent years perhaps in part by loss of native shade, for paw paws plants are highly sensitive to ultraviolet light.  

        Paw paws can furnish a host of novel and traditional culinary delights.  Paw paws can be mixed with other fruits for blended fruit drinks and inserted into interesting salads.  They can be made into ice cream and ices, added to pies, cakes, puddings, custards, and yogurt.  The large seeds are generally easy to remove.  The fruit's nutritional value is being determined, and preliminary research shows paw paws to have high anti-oxidant properties along with being a source of vitamins and a number of essential minerals.

       As the paw paw regains favor in this area, some (including our web manager Janet Kalisz) are engaged in numerous plantings and even partial or full orchards.  Since the varieties are generally highly sensitive to full light, shaded areas and even protection in early years using cloth covering is often recommended.  As the trees grow in popularity, more nurseries will offer existing and new varieties.  Note that our tree source (Stark Bro's) offers four varieties (Sunflower, Seedling, Mango, and Pennsylvania Golden) and these can be grown in American zones 4 to 8.  Other nurseries found on the Internet offer new and exciting varieties as well.  Most of these varieties ripen in middle to late September and October; so be on watch for the taste of upcoming autumn. 

          Grace to Curb Climate Change: Lord, you give us a duty to take responsibility over the creatures of the Earth.  Our overuse of fossil fuels has resulted in a dramatic change of climate that bodes for possible catastrophe.  May we return to our duties, understand our misdeeds, and repair them using the God-given talents to which you have endowed us.  Stimulate us to action and to collaboration with people of good will from all parts of Earth, so that we may save our planet from destruction.  Our need for your assistance has never been greater.  We trust in your promise to be with us until the end of the ages.  Be our Emmanuel!




Copyright © 2022 Earth Healing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Earth Healing team:
Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Charlie Fritsch
Janet Kalisz
Mark Spencer

Excerpts from the JERUSALEM BIBLE, copyright © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. and Doubleday & Company, Inc.  Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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