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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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May, 2020

Calendar Decmber 2019

Copyright © 2020 by Al Fritsch

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Claytonia virginica, spring beauty
(*photo credit)

May Reflections, 2020

      Spring has sprung in all its glory; snow is a fading memory; we thank God for sunlight and flowers and birds.  We look out to a vast  universe of heavenly bodies too hot or too cold, too dry or too filled with liquid methane, too fiery or too frozen for life to exist; we thank our Creator in the warmth of expanding daylight for being able to live and be involved in the HERE, a blessing, and NOW, a double blessing.  Yes, May is lilac and bridal wreath, lily-of-the-valley and ox-eyed daisy, red clover and black locust bloom, multiflora rose and apple blossom, strawberry and rhubarb, spinach and kale, mushroom and poke shoot; it's buzzing busy bumblebees, chirping hungry robin nestlings, gurgling streams, and croaking frogs.  Enjoy May's freshness, for June is around the corner.

                                     Wild Strawberry

                       Fragaria virginiana
                       You're really enlivened from runners,
                       With flavorful red fruit and tea leaves,
                       A healthy sign that spring has arrived.

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Experiencing Nature's Power

        May comes in its natural glory along with its troubled tidings this year, a month filled with buzzing bees and chirping birds, blooming black locust trees, and long-stemmed lilies.  The beauty, sounds, and fragrances should not fool us into believing the month is gentle and delicate in every aspect.  Pandemic haunts us at a time of utter natural promise -- a mix for promising better days and raw reality.  New life unfolds hidden power to move forward.  A bud bursts forth suddenly and soon comes rapid growth triggered by the warming sun.  In our temperate zone, May reveals a power of growth, a dynamic force coming to fruition.  Birds exit the nest; meadows sprout tall grass; April's showers bring May flowers. 

          Grace builds on nature.  In this Easter season God's grace allows us to discover the Creator's handiwork in our midst.  We believe the Divine will penetrates the shadows of our troubles and allows us a new vision for our wounded planet.  Nature's sudden burst of new growth is matched by the urgency to address our wounded people and Earth herself.  This urgency besets us this year in the form of a rare coronavirus pandemic.  We are heartened by the glory of the landscape, radiance of dazzling sunlight triggering the prolific photosynthetic process, and buzzing pollinators ever so busy in this season. 

         May's verdant growth reminds us that this is Eastertime, the season of a New Creation.  Christ springs forth from the tomb, the radiant light of a new dawn occurs, and effects reach out to all living creatures; renewal is coming but it takes faith to see it fully at this time.  May's beauty enhances Easter's glory; high spring is here and prepares us for the coming Pentecost event when eco-spirituality reaches maturity.  Many do not notice nature as they socially distance themselves from others for the health of all concerned.  We hear the cries of the impoverished, signaling no true peace unless we confront the frightful uncertainty in our ranks.  The clear call is for us to overcome differences and work as one global family of brothers and sisters.  Let's be true agents of change, encouraging others that things can and will get better.

          Flowers: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.  The meadows clothed in passing glory call us to delve deeper into nature's lessons.  Jesus mentions the glory of the fields, which are so often overlooked and always short-lived.  Wildflowers are vivid examples of a glory that we are unable to create on our own, yet the meadows shine for the artistic hand of the Creator.  Look about: there are marvelous hills and streams and forests and waterfalls.  We behold this glory in all creatures while knowing that wildflowers will soon fade.  Let's act in order to save our wounded Earth for its vegetative and wildlife health are delicate like spring flowers.  This is the acceptable time; this is the moment of salvation.

          Spring reveals nature's added sounds.  May's symphony is audible with trees swaying in the breeze, chattering migratory birds, and scurrying excited mammals tending their young.  May has its daytime and nocturnal activities and periods of rest.  The resistance of the leafy branches become musical instruments.  We stop and listen, and we give joyful thanks in response: animated conversation, hand claps, songs, and whistling.  Even when urged to hold our social distance we find pauses as precious moments to reflect; we discover rhythms of sounds and silence, of movement and rests, of action and stops.  Continuous sounds cannot convey the fullness of a symphonic movement; the symphony needs both the movements and the rests -- and we are truly conductors.  

         Chancing upon a Lively Vine.  In our Appalachian region gentle aromas often exude from powerful, growing vines, which can reach over or above the forest canopy or choke the understory (multiflora rose, kudzu, Japanese honeysuckle, or fox grape); the tenacious canes of blackberry and raspberry make us pay attention.  The seasonal colors and fragrances of later blooming vines such as the trumpet plant and wild potato extend "vine time" well beyond the month of May.  Vines are strong and powerful and, in the case of kudzu, somewhat fearsome in their ability to overwhelm the other vegetation and conquer the land.

          Hives of Honey.  In this month of wonderful smells and tastes we can't forget the role of bees and other pollinators, busier than ever after a winter's rest.  These humble creatures operate as a community, gathering nectar, and telling other workers through dances where the floral sources are.  Amazingly, they work as one unit, and teach us how to act while sweetening our taste buds.  Are our herbicides going to endanger these dear friends?

         Radiant Light and Rainbows.  God's covenant with Noah (Genesis 9: 8-15) touches all living creatures including our living planet, and is sealed with the heavenly rainbow.  This rainbow speaks of promised life: a fetus in the womb, a coyote pup, or a struggling flower in the crannied wall.  Each contains the promise of flourishing life.  Yes, our planet Earth is alive (the Gaia Hypothesis), and God's covenant with us is also with the living Mother Earth.  "I will never again destroy you."  The gentle power of God shows itself through moving mammal, growing ivy, working bees and radiant rainbows even in times of pandemic.  In this our precious time of retreat, let us reflect on our misuse of power and utter powerlessness and still gain Easter empowerment.

        This divinely-endowed empowerment is divided into five moments: Stage One -- God's overwhelming power in creation and in the sacred events of salvation (power of the Creator and Redeemer); Stage Two -- our idolatry or illusion of mastery and control over events and persons, which are impoverishing (power over others);  Stage Three --our assertions of worldly power and signs of ultimate human powerlessness (no power by ourselves); Stage Four -- our discovery and identification through God's grace of the mysterious power by imitating Christ's journey from powerlessness to spiritual power; and Stage Five -- spiritual cooperation within the poor global community.  During May we treat these five points in turn.

Cypripedium acaule, pink lady's slipper.
(*photo credit)

May 1, 2020     Wildflower Week Is Worth Celebrating

        Here are eleven ways to celebrate Wildflower Week:

* Take a hike and spend time outdoors, for the foliage is now coming on the trees, and the understory has little time before the sunlight can no longer reach the flowers of April;

* If you attempt to seize the blessed moment of this wildflower season, get the camera and take some photos, for they are worth viewing, treasuring, mentioning, and sharing;

* Select your own or a library's wildflower book, and leaf through it for some samples of what are present in your woods, or absent but worth seeing and learning about;

* Learn about one new wildflower this season and tell others about it;

* Pick a bouquet of exotic (invasive) wildflowers that are usually found in fields or vacant lots and arrange them as a decoration for some special place;

* If you have broadband Internet access, scroll down the months at this website, especially in spring and summer, and discover how many times wildflower photos appear in the last five years.  There are dozens with few repeats;

 * Generally we refrain from picking anything but invasive species.  However, select a wildflower and press into a plastic laminate to make a bookmark for future admiring and utility -- these also make a fine gift;

 * Write a wildflower verse or at least think about composing one when the proverbial rainy day gives a special inspiration;

* It is not too late; sow some wildflower seeds for this summer's growing season but do so quite soon.  Prepare the soil properly, sow, pat it firmly, and moisten the surface so the plants will sprout and grow;

* Support the state government's efforts to insert wildflower patches at road shoulders or median strips.  While a little distracting to drivers, they are also uplifting and add beauty and quality to the lives of weary travelers; and

* Should you really have time, identify wildflowers and make signs for them -- and get others to help install the signs so viewers can learn the varieties in your neighborhood.

          Prayer: Lord, inspire us to learn from the glory and beauty of seasonal wildflowers, and to see their pristine moment as a sign that we have but a short time to glory in the sun as well.









Little brown jug, Hexastylis arifolia
Little brown jug, Hexastylis arifolia.
(*photo credit)

May 2, 2020   Should We Be Concerned about Commercial Justice?

    We talk about social justice extensively and yet often ignore a need for a healthy economy that includes commerce.  The founders of our country included a number of provisions that allowed the free flow of goods to take place across state boundaries; in fact, the efforts for a federal Constitution were heavily devoted to the need for a healthy commercial economy as part of pursuit of happiness.  The founders did not like the idea of the states being mini-nations seeking commercial trade policies across 13 national boundaries.  Likewise, commerce down the Mississippi River was a major concern in the early days of the Republic when the Spanish controlled the entrance at New Orleans.  The temptation in the 1790s by "western" farmers was to leave the young Republic in order to freely export their surplus agricultural produce. 

        Commerce in goods is part of a complex business picture that includes personal ethical issues such as quality of materials and specific quantity of items exchanged or bought or sold.  Countless regulations dealing with units of measure, instruments and their calibration, and price levels and advertising for products exist.  Goods move, but only in a protected business atmosphere involving governmental regulation of commerce.

    A question is asked whether all trade must be free or whether any trade is truly "free."  If the two parties are unequal and one has a great advantage over another, then freedom to trade is compromised.  Commercial concerns extend beyond individual persons and include the interests of nations and larger corporations.  The phenomenon of globalization is associated with pipelines and container ships and trade; and the freedom to move goods from one place to another is a major area of concern.  The "free trade" emphasis from NAFTA to that with South Korea have become national policy issues.  Each deserves careful scrutiny; benefits are debatable in some cases of where industries flee to other lands.

    Can small farmers be assured of markets for their products?  This is a challenge because of high up-front costs of investing in fertilizers, pest control agents, as well as the barriers to taking products to distant market centers.  The UN International Fund for Agricultural Development says that rising food prices should lead to investment in irrigation and other farm improvements.  However, limited farmers in less-developed lands have only increased cereal production by 1% in this century, whereas those in rich countries by 12%.  Support for these farmers is of utmost importance as the world population rises on to nine billion by 2050.  Movement of farm goods requires transportation facilities (seaports, airports, railways, and highways).  This is a critical issue, when the U.S. and world discover the power of concentrated wealth, namely a majority of world resources controlled by less than 1% of the elite.  Commerce must be focused on benefits for the poor.

          Prayer: Lord, inspire us to give adequate attention to a just distribution of resources for healthy global commercial ventures.









tree gall CODIT
Tree oddity, a large gall near breast height of a tree.
(*photo credit)

May 3, 2020           Becoming Sheepgates for Others

       I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.   (John 10:9)

     Jesus is the Good Shepherd and invites us to become his helpers and fellow shepherds.  When we speak of the sheepgate it is an applied way to treat this sheep metaphor.  I recall visiting a goat farm once; a young kid got loose and ran frantically up and down the fenceline of the neighbor's farm trying to get back to the flock.  The family had to take time and go over to the farm and retrieve the frightened kid through gateways that eventually led to its return to familiar territory.  The kid was secure again!

          Human faults build fences, tall and unclimbable.  All sinners wall themselves in, imprisoned by their own hands.  Each needs a way out, a gate with well-oiled hinges and easy latches -- a way to leave the prisons of the mind and heart.  Thank God for mountain gaps and passes, for paths and roads, for coves and gorges and fords and smooth flowing water.  Thank God the sinner can still find these among the shadows of a dying year -- and through some new beginning go out to broader space.

Appalachia: A Meditation, Al Fritsch, SJ and photographs by Warren Brunner, Loyola University Press, (1983), p. 138.

        In enclosures, we may find safety, but through gates we exit and enter freely.  Gates provide a way to freedom, the passageways to the horizon, the needed way in and out.  Jesus, as good shepherd is the tending and merciful one.  At times we need to stay within the fold for companionship and safety; and Jesus helps us do this.  At other times we venture forth because our hearts are truly restless for the completion of our journeys of faith.  As we say at Pentecost, we need to venture forth from the community and to return for refreshment by and with the community.  Jesus calls himself the light, way, lamb, shepherd, life, and the sheepgate.  Jesus is our companionway from Earth to eternity; he helps us find safe resting places on our faith journey, life's ins and outs.

    The emphasis here is on the shepherd, not the sheep.  We are not dumb sheep; rather, all must use sheepgates and help others do the same.  With Christ we learn to become good shepherds and help a wandering world to find its way, to get refreshment and safety from enclosures, and yet to move out in daylight to new pastures.  This is the task of committed Christians: to follow and learn to lead with all the expertise it takes.  We are the gateway for others to follow and to orient their own lives.  We could make it difficult or easy, and thus we are challenged to act properly.   The hope is that we show the love and mercy of the Easter season. Gates seem so simple, for they can open and close easily.  The task is to help frightened sheep find openings and pass through. 

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to follow you not by slavishly entering and leaving after you, but by helping others who are wandering outside or trapped within to find ways to enter and leave.









coltsfoot Tussilago farfara
Transplanted coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara).
(*photo credit)

May 4, 2020      Aging Can Involve Adventures

                        Aging Concerns

      It is time to rise, though it's middle of the night;
       Time is fleeting that will ne'er return,
      and blessed sleep fades away;
       Yes, emerging eternity will make us free.

      Maybe we have spent the bedding span
       thinking back with great regrets;
      A purgatory here present that bespeaks
       what could have been if we were better then.

      A day ahead that looks the same
       as yesterday and the day before;
      And what will today and tomorrow bring?
       Mercy, how can it be? C'est la vie!

      Where is the energy to rise,
       to find my footing on the floor below
       and gain balance so no stumbles occur?
      Just to find the light is a brief delight.

         Sleep long gone by now,
       as daytime aches return to full notice;
      I grip the furnishing while on the way
        to find the place to be, to see, to pee.

Prayer:   Lord, help us to enjoy this time of life, for it will never be the same again; and we had better make the best of it, and live this journey span as best we can.   









Lee County Virginia
Weathered black barn against a backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains..
(*photo credit)

May 5, 2020         The Marginalized Activist Dilemma

         We once had a worker who it became apparent was determined to become disabled so as to be funded for life.  Fortunately, that was not a false judgment on our part.  Twice he told us of falling down, and expecting to be seen and hopefully observed to be hurt.  Twice was enough and so we had to dismiss him; he went on to another job and within two weeks played the same trick -- and they fired him.  A short while later at his third job, he received his wish.  That apparent fall required a helicopter to airlift him to the emergency ward and, after rapid release from the hospital, he got the disability status and payments for life.  A wish fulfilled!

    In somewhat the same way, we activists like to describe the story of injustices so that others will take notice -- but what if no one listens or pays enough attention to give us the designation of "activist for this or that cause?"  What if they say we do not really exist in their or anyone else's area of concern?  This leads some activists to take more drastic means to receive notice -- the dramatic action that draws media attention.  We have become aware that terrorists practice extreme activism, mainly through an exit from life by being blown up along with other, often innocent, victims.  The publicity catalyzes acts of copycats and their associates.  One possible way of halting such terrorism may be by refusing to reveal persons performing such acts no matter how dramatic they are.  In due time, the terrorism would cease because the message is not getting across as a publicity stunt.   

        A counter approach to violent forms of activism is to resort to mercy and love -- for this relies on the spiritual reality of the world in which we live.  The spiritual world accepts temporary marginalization as an imitation of Jesus, who was marginalized by the establishment of his day.  In so doing in a non-violent manner, this form of activism counts on the trust that ultimate success will occur, but that our physical presence or even a dramatic exit is not necessary for success.  This form of activism trusts in the spiritual economy of salvation, and that we hope our good deeds are remembered by God, even if not by those creating media events.  We seek to be the Lord's servants, not winners of popularity contests. 

    St. Theresa, the Little Flower, is our model, for in life she was certainly not in the forefront of activism, and yet she truly was an "activist" all her life even when hospitalized.  She prayed that her practices of love would become known later, even after she had died -- and so it was as witnessed by her simple autobiography becoming known to the world in many translations.  The miracles attributed to this popular Saint were countless, and so her prayer was answered, and her activism of love and mercy triumphed.  Publicized activism may be successful in influencing others for motivational purposes and longer term benefits.

          Prayer: Lord, inspire us to be active and yet to realize that the full affects may await a period after we exit mortal life.  Help us here and now see that being is greater than doing.








Evening grosbeak Coccothraustes vespertinus
Evening grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus) feathers.
(*photo credit)

May 6, 2020      "No New Taxes" versus "TAX THE RICH"

        Congress and political groups struggle over deficit spending and ever deeper indebtedness.  The voices are somewhat muted when it comes to taxation -- a way of answering these obvious problems of lack of money.  Too much money is thrown in the wrong direction.  True, those funds need to be well-spent and for the benefit of all.  What if some are getting away with murder by allowing neighbors to die without proper food, water, and access to health care?  Some may tell me that since I pay no income taxes, I have no right to speak.  They are correct about the first point, for my "income" goes into a community pot and to the non-profit agencies it sponsors.  However, there are plenty of taxes that affect us all: the taxes at the gasoline pump or when we buy laundry soap and pay a 6% Kentucky sales tax.  Proportionally, we in the lower income brackets pay more taxes.  A state property tax was attached to a donated secondhand vehicle based on its "blue book" value.  

        Others object that billionaires will not commit murder, but they are often the most charitable of citizens.  Let's take a look at all three bold terms.  Yes, if we allow the global destitute to go without proper medicine and food and drinking water, then we help kill them -- and if this is done willfully, when we know these needs exist and still sequester resources, then that is essentially murder.  Withholding resources that must be shared as needed for their lives is to pronounce death to them.  Charity is often a misnomer.  To give according to the donor's personal dictates and retain much wealth to help fund candidates to public office is a blatant disregard for our sacred democratic process.

    Responsible citizenry is not to swallow gullible myths, but to become vigilant to those who evade legitimate taxes.  Some will recall the tenure of President Ronald Reagan and regard him as the champion of less taxes -- though his first act as California Governor was to oversee the highest tax increase by any state government to that time; his federal record as President included eleven tax hikes.  The current administration is highly resistant to any repeat of history -- with friendly billionaires getting the largest tax breaks in American history.

        People love to construct and defend myths that are untrue -- e.g., "ALL Americans are over-taxed."  That is pure bunk!  As governments on all levels seek to cut, cut, cut, the aroused and overtaxed citizens ought to shout, "TAX THE RICH!"  The upper one percent own over half the wealth of this nation and reap over half the profits.  We need to break up the international tax havens and redistribute wealth to programs that assist those in greatest need.  Of course, use money wisely, but allowing the undertaxed to decide is unwise, for such are the ones who start financial crises.  Promote "fair" taxes.

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to cease being a complacent citizenry and, through vigilance, to create a fair system of redistribution of the abundant resources to our needy and that of the world.








Dame's Rocket Hesperis matronalis
Dame's rocket, Hesperis matronalis.
(*photo credit)

May 7, 2020         National Day of Prayer                 

        While we have prayer intentions each week and even each day, still once a year we have an annual National Day of Prayer.  Hopefully, every day involves constant prayers of praise and thanksgiving, and yet a national day is still a good idea.  There is a host of needs for family and friends, our church, our nation, our freedoms, our health, and on and on.  Among our prayers is the act of begging pardon for past faults of which there were many.  Now let's recall some areas that we often overlook and give them special attention today:

* Thinking about additional personal and family needs that stand out at this time and even include the hopes of a miracle for a little one with an incurable disease;
* Remembering our local needs and the people who suffer from illness or addiction or the allurement for tobacco, alcohol and drugs;
* Confronting our regional and national budget crises and our unwillingness to tax the rich and cut wasteful spending of all sorts -- including a war in Afghanistan and the highly inflated military budget;
* Formulating a coherent energy policy that addresses climate change and also focuses on replacing fossil fuels, biofuels from food products, and nuclear power, utilizing instead environmentally benign wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, some biofuels, and tidal energy sources;
* Assisting victims of natural disasters from earthquakes and floods as well as those suffering from extreme weather conditions that are becoming more frequent due to global climate change;
* Helping the poor in Africa cope with rising food costs through promoting local farm programs and curbing excessive use of land for foreign and luxury item production such as growing tobacco;   
* Helping to heal the divisions that separate the rich from the poor by overcoming the disparity of wealth and power in our country and abroad;
* Pressuring our elected representatives to begin a process of improving our damaged infrastructure in this country and promoting fair taxes to see that this can be done;
* Defending the helpless, homeless, hungry, sick, elderly, and unborn;
* Breaking the cycle of greed, which seeks to overwhelm those who are voiceless or timid;
* Encouraging those who are unemployed and the poor to unite as one people and take what is rightfully theirs (ours), as a means to a decent life and the exercise of true democracy; and     
* Purging our self-righteousness and conceit, to humble us as a sharing people, and to make us ever more sensitive to the needs of all who yearn for the basic essentials of life.

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to open our minds to your presence and to soften our hearts with your love.  Mold us as your people into a fitting instrument to do your work.








Reflecting on Divine Power and Human Illusion

       Christ's Resurrection reminds us of differences in our concepts of power.  This pandemic has brought us the raw reality of our illusions of human power; by contrast, Easter is the manifestation of Divine Power and calls forth our affirmation of belief in new life.  In coming to our lack of power in time of crisis, we seek divine guidance so that we can discover our companionship with the Lord in the noble work of authentic restoration; this urgent work can only be achieved with divine help.  Now is a deciding moment, freeing ourselves to be more receptive to the grace-laden Resurrection while praising God's creative power.

Stage One: Divine Power Manifested. 

It is about Jesus Christ our Lord who... was proclaimed Son of God in all his power through his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:1-4).

       Empowerment emerges, a message first detected in Mary's Magnificat and Simeon's prophesy, confirmed in the teachings and healing of Jesus, and then plainly visible to eyes of Faith in the Paschal Mystery.  Easter dawns; a new and undefined power emerges beckoning us to follow and be catalysts of change.  We are called to suffer and die with the Lord in order to be empowered to imitate him in the Paschal Mystery.  Jesus Christ bursts from the bonds of death in a greater event than the Big Bang, the initiation of the phenomenology of power (the start of creation).  We see that creative power in roaring waterfalls, storms or waves; we feel it in the sun's warmth and the clustering of creatures in herds, flocks and swarms.  God's power at work is beautiful to behold: it’s the power to bring death to new life, the core of Christian belief.  "The Lord is risen!"

        The Paschal Mystery involves going through suffering and death to new life.  For believers, the center of credal belief is that Christ conquered death and is risen; with him we are promised life eternally if we suffer and die with him.  Easter is both an annual event and an ongoing celebration, especially each Sunday.  Believers proclaim Resurrection as an apologetic tool to evangelize others and bring them to salvation, for the Lord calls all.  Many are tangled in their misdeeds and we show them the way, for we have been forgiven in the love and mercy of Jesus.  We bear the Good News of forgiveness and recall the forgiving father in the Prodigal Son Parable -- "He who is as good as dead has come back to life."

       We identify with Christ in the poor.  Resurrection becomes a living experience magnified each time we receive Communion and are willing to be one with the poor Christ and all the world’s suffering; we can say -- "we the poor."  Easter is a historic reality, a sharing with others, a compassionate presence with the poor, and an act of empowerment (a whimsical Creator/Lord manifests power through the powerless and a preferential option for the poor).  In protecting the rights of private individuals, special consideration must be given to the weak and the poor (Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum).  That is foremost among grateful believers.

Stage Two:  Power Over Others and Types of Impoverishment

Power tends to corrupt and absolute
power corrupts absolutely (Lord Acton).

      Look for a moment at worldly power, an illusion of grandeur, of being masters of a situation.  It is the power of those who are affluent enough to give charity, expecting recipients or victims to express due thanks.  Does charity often have attached strings, an exercise of power, a covert or overt control over others, much in the manner of an International Monetary Fund loan from the wealthy to the needy nation?   How often is power misused?

      The Earth belongs to all, not to the rich (St. Ambrose).

       This passage is quoted by Pope Paul VI in the encyclical "On the Development of the Peoples;" he reminds us that early Church Fathers took the obligation of the affluent to those in need quite seriously.  Through the Paschal Mysteries we know that all are redeemed in Christ and through his radical sharing there cannot be resources sequestered from those in essential need.  Classes of "haves" and "have nots" must be eliminated -- and this pandemic awakens us to radical change.  Some methods are harsh: external coercion in the form of financial depression, terrorism, or authoritarian control; some are gentle, such as voluntary simplicity by the affluent or revolution involving all parties working together to bring about profound change.  Coercive options degrade human beings and produce inordinate suffering. Voluntary simplicity by affluent people would be virtually a miracle, and we cannot count on miracles.  More profound and fundamental changes that are effective are necessary, while agents of change have limitations.

        Power is exercised by parents over children, masters over slaves, teachers over students; it is exercised by Wall Street, on the football field, the executive suite, and the mass media.  It can be autocratic, sluggish, merciless and even ruthless.  Modern culture glorifies in power, relishes it, champions it, and tries to bless and sanctify it.  Such power permeates America, the West, the world; it sweeps up decision makers, silences critics, and overwhelms prosperous nations in the illusion of absolute right to ownership.  The rendering of deference to these pretenders of power, especially by submissive recipients of gifts, enhances that illusion of power -- but this pandemic shatters pretentions.

        Many sincere people are genuinely confused about who are in real need; this may be due to their own current social or spiritual impoverishment.  They may deny or minimize economic poverty, talk about misuse of charity on the part of giver or recipient, or conclude that all people are impoverished, at least spiritually; Mother Teresa spoke of the wealthy being spiritually destitute.  This pandemic brings out the best and worst: heroic caregivers and those totally self-serving; those concerned about neighbors and the exploiters and profiteers; those who collaborate and those who are withdrawn to self-survival.  This is a time that calls for the better to come forth, an authentic spirituality of caring.   Spiritual empowerment beckons and is just beyond the horizon.



Unidentified mushrooms, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
*photo credit)

May 8, 2020     Energy Efficiency Demands Top Priority

        Conservationists agree that every effort must be made to focus on energy conservation as the cheapest and most efficient way to meet increased energy demands; this is especially true as the world seeks to battle global climate change  Coal, natural gas, and oil production are still subsidized, and renewable energy alternatives are being installed at a rapid rate.  However, still greater attention ought to be given to energy efficiency for the benefit of all.  Curbing energy use reduces the demand for more and more powerplants and the corresponding needs for increased fossil fuel extraction, processing and transportation, along with energy wasted in transmission losses from large-scale electricity generation processes.  Mini-grids and domestic solar call for greater attention.

        Fighting climate change involves a focus primarily on energy conservation -- for green building materials, smart grids, transmission systems, domestic and office electronic devices, and more efficient cars, trucks and planes.  Energy efficiency standards for vehicles, lighting, powerplants, and appliances go a long way to reducing energy needs for this decade if the right legislator are voted into office this year.  A global effort to boost energy efficiency with existing technologies could cut more than 20 percent of world energy in the 2020s. 

        Vehicle manufacturers are being challenged to make painful adjustments to get efficiency averages up to 45 or 60 or 75 or even 100 miles per gallon.  Several nations and American states are insisting on fuel-conserving resources of ever greater efficiency.  Mass production of hybrid and energy-efficient electric vehicles as well as renewable substitutes lags because retooling takes time.  Electric vehicles powered by solar energy could help cut motorized vehicles loose from the umbilical cord of petroleum fuel, but electric vehicles must also be increasingly efficient.

        Efficiency is a national and global win-win situation; one expects the era of ever-more-efficient lighting (LEDs and compact fluorescents) and other electronically efficient practices such as conservationist domestic heating and cooling practices.  Many energy producers have not taken a strong public stand on energy efficiency; their influence is considerable and their profits are high.  When new sources such as fracked natural gas are found and the relative price of fuels declines, the cost of initial energy conservation innovations becomes less attractive.  Even with all the hype about future shortages, petroleum production booms right now.  An energy tax could make a profound difference and get conservation on an equal and greater par with the fuel producers, processors and transporters.  Our resources are meant for both present and future generations, so let's practice conservation.

          Prayer: Lord, encourage us to be people who do not waste things, and let us see that energy use is one that needs special discernment at this time.




St. Elizabeth of Ravenna Catholic Church






Chickory, Cichorium intybus, North American invasive exotic species
*photo credit)

May 9, 2020          Social Responsibility in 2020

          Responsibility is the awareness that there are more than gifts to me, rights for us, and deserving rewards for many.  As social beings, we live in a two-way street, and so we are expected to show gratitude for gifts, duties related to rights, and a general sense of responsibility that pervades our environment.  Previous essays on this subject dealt more with what individuals ought to do -- personal responsibilities.  Social responsibilities also extend to all groups in government, business and local communities. Corporations sometimes follow the extreme capitalistic expression of "the only social responsibility is to make a profit."  Instead, may concerned citizens regard social aspects of corporate practice to include a judgment on where and how investments are placed, what to expect from corporate managers as to conduct, how to combat climate change, and how much attention ought to be given to their laborers and local communities.

        While the subject area of social responsibility is quite diverse and nuanced, still let's give attention to the social aspects of a disparity of wealth.  If everything is connected to everything else (Barry Commoner's First Law of Ecology), then all parts of this world and all activities have some impact on other parts.  The free acts of individuals make a difference in society, and thus good deeds benefit and bad ones harm.  The same applies to communities where acts of kindness benefit as well.  Thus, if we as groups, or regions, or nations, use excessive amounts of the world's resources, others are affected in some way.

        The social dimension of our collective actions enters the purview of the global arena.  Waste and frivolous use of resources, when food prices around the world continue to rise, will affect all of us an especially those suffering from food insecurity.  Our nation has a social obligation within the community of nations both to address climate change and to collaborate in efforts to halt the rise in greenhouse gases.  We as citizens are socially responsible in the manner in which we vote, and in our vigilance over elected officials once they are in office.  If such is the case, our national actions are no more isolated than our individual ones. 

        Since our nation is highly influential in the way it acts and consumes products, the consequences of our collective action are all the more social in their effects.  The failure by our Administration to work with all other nations in the Paris Climate Change Accord becomes a blatant crime against humanity.  Thus if we are expected to help feed the world's hungry, we must also be conscious of environmental demands at this time; we must be sensitive that our collective actions can cause ocean levels to rise. "When did we (as a people) see you hungry?"  Is the divine reply -- “When you allowed one thousand billionaires to go uncontrolled and one billion people go hungry, you did it to me?"

          Prayer: Lord, help us to spread the message of social responsibility to everyone, especially those in our country.






St. Elizabeth of Ravenna Catholic Church





Prickly Poppy, Argemone polyanthemos
*photo credit)

May 10, 2020         Learning to Be of Service to Others

     I am the way and the truth and the life.  (John 14: 1-12)

        Diaconia means the call to give service in the Church, both those called to the priesthood, deaconate, or religious life, and those who are called to ministry of healing, educating, lecturing, cleaning, performing music and dance, or engaged in environmental modeling of the community.  The Acts of the Apostles shows the gradual movement from Jerusalem to Rome, and the spreading of the Word first to the Jewish community, and then to the world.  As mission expands, offices or services or ministries develop with it.  Over time millions of church members have responded to the vocational call to minister within the Church.

      Peter is that first bridge-builder in the Church; as first pope, Peter lays the cornerstone and we hear the Scripture: You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people.  Yes, this passage extends beyond Peter and includes the priesthood of the faithful, not just the ministers of the Liturgy.  The invitation in these critical times is for all of us to help build bridges among divided people.  The goal ahead is lofty, but the road to reach this goal is challenging and takes all of us working together in selflessness and love. 

        Jesus is the way that we are to follow in our journey of faith.  Jesus is the truth that is the foundation of a common understanding allowing us to work together in order to establish the Kingdom.  Jesus is the life, a divine family in which we are invited to live through the grace of Baptism.  In turn, we become Christ to others and show them the way that they are to travel; we are to present Good News, the truth of the Lord's presence.  We are to live in such ways that others will want to imitate us, not in worldly ways of affluence.  We ought to consider this call to be like Christ as a sacred duty, for we are a chosen race, a holy nation, God's own people.    

     May is graduation time for many students as their educational journeys from kindergarten through technical or professional school wind down.  Graduation means a change in location and stage of learning and maybe career.  We add to the worthy graduates' celebrations through support, prayers and meaningful gifts.  We can become the way, truth and life for them.  We realize the effort it will take for the one moving on the way to adjust to new, difficult, and even risky situations.  Part of serving others is to aid in the transition through prayer, encouragement and helping them discern their next step.  A healthy society and church need all posts filled.  Let us emphasize that making a wise choice is important for them personally and also for our society in which they intend to contribute.  Give these people options, for they are called to serve others in these troubled times.

        Prayer: Lord, inspire us to assist others who are on the road to their own achievements; help us to assist them when we can. 










Homegrown chives, in bloom
*photo credit)

 May 11, 2020      How to Combat Mounting Food Prices

        From time to time we observe rising global food prices.  Part of this results from less and less land in grain and vegetable production and more and more in luxury use of potential food producing-land.  For instance, there's much land used for making ethanol for fuel (a major waste of arable land space) and for parks, recreation areas, lawns, tobacco-growing and for certain livestock and their feed.  Essential grain and vegetable growing areas give way to the luxury use by the affluent.

        Some time back an emaciated lady and her child came to my door and asked to my surprise whether our parish was still distributing leftover pizza.  I was unaware of the practice, but offered instead a share of our storehouse full of nutritious foods. She replied, "No, we just want pizza."  I later found a pile of rock-hard slabs of pizza in the bottom of the community food freezer, from a past dispenser of charity who collected stale pizza from the local commercial outlet.  As a compulsive non-waster I soaked the pizza in tomato juice and microwaved it for lunches.  But why couldn't that begging lady have accepted our other food to feed her hungry child?  Such is life!

          One answer is ignorance.  Our "Moms for the Morning" program at Our Lady of the Mountains Church seeks to address this problem.  The group does comparative shopping and creates simple lunches, and takes the rest of the purchased ingredients home to prepare family suppers.  This program excels over pure charity, and allows the poor to take charge of available food.  Thus the first way to combat high food prices is to purchase basic ingredients (not prepared commercial foods), and do one's own cooking.  The very poor of the world who are frugal know this lesson all too well, but others have much to learn about nutritious food preparation.

         A second answer is to buy food in bulk.  Billions spend over half their income on food, and rising prices can lead to riots and starvation.  Subsidies to ethanol fuel producers have contributed in part to rising corn prices, and this has had a longer-range effect on global grain prices.  We must realize that excessive auto use influences global food prices, and that some must cut their corn products purchases, because they do not have enough money to buy cornmeal to make tortillas for their family. 

          The third answer is to promote the growing of produce on one's own land even where minimum space is available.  Most non-urban people can find some space, and most people can find some time for gardening.  High food prices are expected to continue to rise with increasing population in certain regions.  Simply growing greens and radishes as quick crops and these can become nutritious supplements to basic grain meals.  We ought to help support small food-growing operators, for hunger and food insecurity is a form of terrorism that must be addressed.

          Prayer: Lord, help us be aware of the need to feed the hungry. 










Phlox divaricata, common blue phlox
(*photo credit)

May 12, 2020  Renewable Energy: An Answer, but When?  

        This reflection considers renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, certain biofuels, and such future sources as tidal energy).  These are clean and environmentally benign fuels; their installment costs are going down with new technical improvements and economies of scale -- and now are cheaper than coal as a source of electricity.  They have great advantages over nuclear power (with disposal of wastes problematic and inherent safety problems); they are replacing fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases that are causing catastrophic climate change problems.   A major problem is not that renewables are coming though not fast enough; the real problem is the rapid rise in energy use in many major consumer areas (e.g. India, China and the United States) and the extending of fossil fuel use to fill the gaps before the renewables come on board.

        The good renewable energy news is that potentially by 2050 the world could be on a totally renewable energy economy, if the will for good energy policy will be implemented.  A recent study in the journal, Energy Policy, projects that total global energy use could be renewable by satisfying the following goals: 4 million 5-MW wind turbines; 1.3 billion 3-kW roof-mounted solar photovoltaic systems; 90.000  300-MW solar powerplants (including PV and concentrated solar); and a smattering of geothermal, wave and tidal powerplants.  This study left out biomass (because of pollution and land use issues) as well as nuclear energy.  However, this could be amended to include hydro powerplants as well as geothermal sources.

        The longer range renewable outlook is bright for a variety of American cities (at least 100 urban areas expect 100% renewables by 2050 along with an increasing number of states with progressive governors).  Similar plans are expected for a number of major companies and with entire conscientious countries committed to abiding by the Paris Climate Change Accord.  In a number of other places the work is dragging due to giving less attention and resources to bring about energy changes.  Electricity grids need to be upgraded, smart grids installed, public transport upgraded, and electric transport introduced on a large scale globally.  

        An added problem is that fossil fuels are still highly profitable among Big Energy firms and the climate change deniers who have powerful political as well as economic influence and are focused on continuing massive their pet fossil fuel subsidies and tax benefits (over a trillion dollars in the last three years).  This power is focused in our U.S. federal Administration and especially in the Environmental Protection Agency in the current hands of a former coal lobbyist.  Continuing power by the merchants of doubt has an immense effect in foot-dragging just as the effects of the curbing of smoking during the 1960's-80's struggles over smoking-related cancers.  Changes are not coming fast but maybe the election year may hasten things along.

          Prayer: Lord, help us translate our idealism into practice.










Jacobs’s Ladder, Polemonium reptans
(*photo credit)

May 13, 2020       Right to Have Land -- Particular Land? 

     Reclaiming the land is one of the most difficult of all global commons issues, for land is definable and boundaries can be easily drawn.  Some nomadic tribes have held common lands on which they moved about; others settled on a particular tract and called it "theirs."  Unlike air and outer space, land does have limits and boundaries -- and these have often been the subject of wars.

          Do inhabitants have a right to possess certain land and how is that right derived?  People do have some right to movement from place to place, thus making ownership by those already there somewhat contested.  However, those making a living growing their own food on particular parcels of land have a right to continue to use this land for purposes of livelihood.   What about commerce with the products of a particular piece of land?  Does all the half of the world's population who are urban have a right to particular space?  What space?  These general questions are hard to resolve, but we can seek to refine questions to more and more particular land-related circumstances.

          Do small farmers have a right to grow their essentials of life without being forced from their land?  These producers are often driven from lands in various places including America through oppressive regulations and increased property taxes.  Also in China and other rapidly emerging countries political and economic pressures may hasten exodus from specific farm lands.  The subsidies in richer nations that go to large agricultural enterprises overwhelmingly compete with small-scale farming products.  These small farmers lack "fair market" advantages, namely access to fertilizers, tools, and access roads to markets.

          Ought productive land to be controlled by local populations for the production of food and other essentials?  In many parts of the world, larger landholders use the land for their own extravagant purposes -- lawns, hunting preserves, and scenic areas.  Also agencies can squeeze local farmers to grow specialty crops for domestic use or export, and thus turn local farming into servitude for broader commercial interests.

          Ought fragile non-arable land to be held as global commons to avoid exploitation?  This applies to much of the mountains and deserts, to critical watersheds for large populations, to large expanses of forestlands that are the planet's lungs, to areas of historic or cultural significance, and to virtually all non-agricultural and non-urban areas.  In these areas national governments or their local subsidiaries ought to be land guardians and thus omit private landholders.  International agencies ought jointly to control Antarctica and strategic shipping routes.                                                                        
          Prayers: Oh Creator of all land, help us to understand what is commons, and what needs to be privatized for better management and fairer distribution.  Give us a sense of belonging and sharing, and to avoid excessive possession and control by a privileged few. 












Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana.
(*photo credit)

May 14, 2020       Poke Salad Time and Celebrations

        This week in Blanchard, Louisiana, there is a Poke Salad Festival -- and in other places in the South people are also enjoying the glories of this productive native plant.  Poke has always fascinated me; as kids we would paint our arms with poke berries to the horror of others who did not comprehend our child's play.  Yes, but there are far more aspects to poke than the extreme poison of its roots, and the mild effects of the berry as a homemade medicinal.  I have long regarded poke's edible shoots as the welcome sign of springtime. 

        Poke dishes abound among Appalachian people.  We break off the fresh sprout that will grow back in a matter of weeks.  Those that are the size of asparagus spears are cooked like other greens after boiling twice, draining, and discarding the water.  The poke leaves have the taste of spinach in all its rich and nutritious greenness; the leaves can be eaten with vinegar and oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  The sprout should be stripped and harvested while it has an early green skin; the sprouts can be coated in cornmeal and fried, or creamed (like asparagus), or treated with a vegetable oil and lemon seasoning -- and possibly bacon bits.  Often, cooked poke shoots are eaten with eggs and bacon.  Mountain people use the term "Poke Sallet” and refer to a dish eaten with fried bacon and cornbread.  Variations are shown in our most popular video on YouTube (reached from this website).  Other recipes include ingredients such as sesame vinaigrette, jalapeno peppers, and macadamia and scallion pesto.  

        As the season progresses the red-coated stalks appear.  That never fazes some of us, as we strip off the maturing red skins and boil with two changes of water, and proceed in the manner of preparation previously described.  Some fear poke-- and it is possible that folks may have digestive problems, so a little caution may be needed on first trial.  Still, for confirmed poke lovers advantages abound: a noticeable one is that the plant regrows in the same location year after year; another is that the plant weathers drought wonderfully and requires no irrigation or fertilizing; the plants reproduce at an astounding rate -- and the taste is as good this year as last.  For quantity, quality and maintenance-wise, nothing beats this native plant that can become a staple of a greens patch with little labor involved.

        The Tennessee Polk Salad Association has a major meeting each year.  Note the spelling "Polk" in the State with its native son James K. Polk and the Elvis Presley recording of a song by the same spelling.  Note also that the Association has a disclaimer that its recipes and materials are meant for information and educational purposes only.  Many folks regard the poke plant as poisonous for a number of reasons; the root, while highly poisonous, can be used as a natural pesticide and also with precaution as a medicinal. 

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to use what we have in our wonderful native plants, and to do so with discretion and proper care.






Reaching Out for Spiritual Empowerment

         We know in faith that Christ's Resurrection is the eternal springtime of human possibilities.  Just as the rising sun gives us new daylight and winter gives way to Easter, so forgiveness of our misdeeds ushers in a new beginning.  Believers start to see the immense task of both forgiving and healing; they see that as a people we are making indelible ecological marks that cannot be totally erased, even when we are forgiven.  They sense the need to work together as a critical mass of people to halt ecological damage; they anticipate beginning a genuine restoration process that includes lifting the lowly and bringing justice to all.

Stage Three: Powerlessness before God. 

         Pandemics have a way of teaching us about the limits of human power.  When accidents happen, we feel helpless and realize we are not perfect experts in a technically sophisticated society.  We depend on others and are interdependent.  This sense of being at someone else's mercy is an expression of powerlessness.  Likewise, we are powerless to persuade others to say "yes," for rational persuasion may not change addicts.  However, we can learn much from addicts who hit the wall and then turn to a Higher Power; they testify that the poor, through grace, can arise to new life.  We are interdependent; we need others and that includes divine help at this critical time.  We become aware of our limitations, our utter gratefulness that God is the one who blesses and sustains us.  We must think like poor folks because we are experiencing a type of collective impoverishment, at least of former dreams of power; paradoxically, we have a hint of something enriching in the prospects of deeper companionship with the Risen Christ who is present with the poor.

          Good News among the poor.  Christlikeness among the poor shows in many ways, such as their -- urgent desire for redemption,  dependence on God and interdependence with one another, security in people and not in things, lack of exaggerated sense of self-importance, expectation of little from competition and much from cooperation, lack of excessive privacy needs, ability to distinguish between necessities and luxuries, dogged patience born of acknowledged dependence, interpretation of the Gospel concretely and as Good News, joy over the promise of future salvation, and, when really poor, response to the call of the Gospel with a certain abandonment.  Through these characteristics the poor are better prepared to meet the Risen Christ.  Besides, the affluent in our consumer culture have not expected an impoverishing pandemic.

          Accepting poverty as opportunity.  By opting to stand on the side of the poor in a moment of utter emptiness we find the spark of enlightenment to spread the Good News.  The Spirit inspires us to creativity; a spark comes alive within the naked soul: we can arise and act but we need guidance in how to proceed.  From Jesus we hear, "fear not, you of little faith."  Fear that grips the self-centered elite must not paralyze us, for our prayers for guidance are always answered, and we need them now. 

Stage Four: Finding God's Power. 

         The need for companionship and solidarity motivates us to further action.  We know that God's power transforms human isolation and powerlessness, empowers us through suffering sacrifice, and forgives our past weaknesses.  The poor seem to be mirrors and feedback loops for new companionship; they rest in forgiveness, which affluence ignores.  The poor are the ones we must turn to in these critical times, for we are all companions in need.  Struggling people find a moment of consolation in being together; through faith, distance from the Power Source narrows; Divine Love draws souls to deeper levels of involvement, now mesmerized by an attraction for the poor Christ identified with the poor -- Calvary ever-present.  Together we share our deep dependencies with each other and with the Lord.

          Sharing with our limitations.  New-found empowerment can now be recognized and shared through liturgical celebration.  A worldly conceived powerlessness is now seen as juxtaposed to a transcendent Power stimulating, inviting and catalyzing former material addicts to action (a Twelve-Step Program for Earthhealers).  This realized powerlessness leads to Deep Power and goes beyond our desire to do it ourselves; we are all lowly in time of crisis.  The Good News is that the lowly are called to lead the way and be agents of change.  John XXIII says, unequal partners are not capable of coming to lasting agreements.  If equality is necessary can it only come by the arising of the lowly?  And holding an axe over the head of the elite, as in France's Reign of Terror in the 1790s is failure in a just and lasting transformation.  We must act mercifully in our working together, for violence of any kind has no place.

          Dawn of spiritual empowerment.  Easter expresses power within perceived powerlessness, lordship through the cross.  When showing our utter dependence on God, while working at times as though all may depend on ourselves, spiritual power emerges.  This is the heart of the Paschal Mystery.  God will roll back the stone of our lethargy, but we must do more than prayerful observance; we are empowered to accept the invitation to participate in restoration.  In place of the "power of the mighty self or other humans" we affirm the "power of the Almighty."  Affirming Power while recognizing inherent powerlessness involves a paradox: we become empowered and creative while humbly recognizing our limitations and our dependence on God's power.  Through obedience and sacrifice, we suffer and die with Jesus in order to arise with him as companions.

          New Creation.  The heart of the Easter message is the spiritual empowerment that is utterly gratuitous; God favors working through humble souls.  Insight into power at the moment of powerlessness is the pico-second of regeneration, the instant when the dynamics of empowered human activity resembles the Big Bang event.  The Creator fashions healers into a New Creation, a participation in the Easter mystery of lordship.  We sense our nothingness and greatness fusing together through Divine Power.  We look at the innocent Jesus who offers himself as suffering servant, who through an act of powerlessness now exerts spiritual power.  Now we the lowly surge with spiritual power.




St. Elizabeth of Ravenna Catholic Church



My Grandma's tomato plant
A Grandmother's tomato plant, patio grown.
(*photo credit)

May 15, 2020     Decisions During a Tomato Year

        Some who grow their own tomato plants will say this is a little late to be reflecting on "tomato year" in the Northern Hemisphere.  Perhaps, but many of us do not start our plants from seed, but rather purchase them from others who maintain greenhouses; we prefer simply to grow and harvest the luscious fruit.  All things considered, these tips may be helpful:

      Stake or not stake?  My late Uncle Ed used to stake only half of each crop -- gambling that, whatever the weather, some plants would prosper.  A dry season tended to favor the unstaked variety and a wet one the staked plants (from opportunistic diseases).

       One or other variety?  Tomato lovers favor different varieties, depending whether eaten in fresh salads or preserved in some fashion.  A good canning tomato is not necessarily chosen for a salad or sandwich.  Variety allows for a longer growing season.

          Solely planted or interspersed?  Those of us who prefer the tomato at every meal know that we have to grow quite a number.  For those of us with limited arable space we seek to intersperse tomatoes among other vegetables.  Tall tomato plants take less room and allow for early spring crops to mature before needing more space.  Planting tomatoes among radish, endive, kale, spinach and mustard allows double land use.  Even cucumbers amid the tomatoes work quite well, for vines are living mulch for maturing tomato. 

          Extended season or a simple taste?  Many folks do not like as many tomatoes as this writer eats in the year, and so prefer to curb the summer season, and move on to other autumn crops.  I like an extended season going from at least late June to November. If you pack green tomatoes in paper they can be enjoyed at Thanksgiving and even Christmas.  Greenhouses and special varieties offer extended seasons; "Tommy Toes" is such an ideal candidate.

          Water or not?  Watering is needed if we desire a plentiful harvest in dry times.  Irrigation is preferred, but can be done conservatively by use of water inlets near the plant roots; this avoids watering the foliage or surrounding unused areas. 

          Preserve or give away?  Both saving and giving are favored if the tomato harvest is good and neighbors would appreciate the surplus.  One can preserve in many different ways: deep freezing, making catsup or sauce, canning whole tomatoes or as juice, drying into a leather, or wrapping in paper and storing in a root cellar for late autumn.  Fresh or preserved tomatoes are good gifts. 

     Announce healthy benefits?  Some folks disparage the tomato and that is unfortunate. This fruit is packed with vitamin C and a variety of nutrients and especially antioxidants.

          Prayer: Lord, help us to teach others to grow wholesome produce, to become expert growers, and to share their expertise.










Anthropogenic arrangement
Anthropogenic arrangement, Rowan Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

May 16, 2020    The Ambivalence of Armed Forces Day         

        When our American military are engaged in the longest war in history in Afghanistan (now almost two decades old), it still seems unpatriotic to be overly critical.  Each Sunday one of our public liturgical petitions is for the safety of those in harm's way.  The major groups of Americans in such predicaments are the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard who serve our nation and world in this time of conflict.  Let us never cease to pray for peace.

          Yes, to personnel needs.  No one wants to undercut the essential needs of military personnel and their dependents.  They ought to have proper supplies and defensive gear, as well as appropriate housing, health access, and other amenities for their families.  Thus, protective equipment for individual members of our military should be a high priority in any budget.  Buying such items is not the same as purchasing sophisticated weaponry costing millions and billions of dollars.

          No, to military industry wants.  Almost half of the entire world's military budget is paid (or borrowed) by our federal government for the upkeep of America's military forces -- the most sophisticated the world has ever known.  But do we need aircraft carriers and missile defenses and far-flung bases in countries that could defend themselves?  The myth that we must constantly increase military budgets out of loyalty for our service members is simply feeding an industrial-military complex that President Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address in 1961.  We are beholden to a system that is not-so-much defense, but rather wanton profit-making consumption of precious resources.  A better defense would be to redistribute a heavy portion of those defense dollars for appropriate food production, water distribution and affordable housing of millions throughout the world.  Now that is security!

          Yes, to military defense and more.  No doubt, a military presence can be useful.  Our American military personnel deserve good protection and proper supplies.  We do not have to saddle our military with super-expensive devices that are of little use in current combat zones -- and timeliness is associated with profits.  The defense industry is not part of Armed Forces Day.  A military presence is welcome when a tsunami occurs in Indonesia, and our military can come quickly and efficiently to assist stricken victims.  We are starting to learn a lesson: military discipline can be used well for the benefit of suffering people, victims of natural disasters.  Defense ought to be directed to weather extremes; military personnel can be trained for instant global response in times of tragedy.

          Prayer: Lord, watch over our defenders; let them come to know what real defense is all about, and to be trained to be first responders in time of global emergencies.  Help our nation to move away from the outmoded militaristic postures of the past to one of caring concern for populations endangered by natural and human- caused disasters.










Spirobolid Millipede, Narceus americanus

*photo credit)

May 17, 2020     Doing Good Deeds through Self-Control

      If it should be God's will that you suffer, it is better to do so for good deeds than for evil ones.  (I Peter 3:16)

     The Spirit is with us and gently teaches us to live through good times and bad.  As we prepare for the upcoming hot weather of ever-more-record-breaking summer heat we discover that this is meant to be a teaching/learning period.  We are trying to imitate Jesus and the qualities he exhibits during his ministry (patience, mercy, controlled anger, listening, attending, healing, etc,).  Being a good Christian has its ups and downs, and we are called to live as we are called to be and do, or in a loose manner of speaking, "ride with the tide, go with the flow." 

     Jesus, our teacher through the Holy Spirit, indicates the path we are to take: we are called to live a good life; in doing so we assist others to do the same.  The two (love and service) are joined and not observed singly, as though individual perfection by attending to self and service to others are separate.  Jesus is perfect in his individual life; and Jesus heals, teaches, dies and rises for us.  Through perfect loving and perfect service Jesus indicates to us a path that we are to follow through self-control.

        Now we come to something that we have learned through modern research and studies: children who are taught self-control have fewer addictive problems and better financial and physical health later in life than those who are not.  Self-control comes in part through a child's imitation of parents, teachers, and others who prove good models.  Can we celebrate our learned (not inherited) self-control and realize that this involves religious practice?  This becomes a touchy subject, for many would say that later problems have many causes, and they place the onus on freedom of the person who chooses misdeeds.  The Paraclete or Spirit works with us, and we work with those who assist us in our journey of faith.  We learn through hard knocks and ultimately hope to move towards perfection.  Learning, without the harshness of episodes of lack of control that hurts others, opens us to better service.

        To do better service takes practice, and self-control is a key ingredient.  Furthermore, the part that our faith plays is utterly important; the time we spend fasting and abstaining or confessing our faults has a way of teaching us self-discipline.  No one is perfect, and so we accept penitential practices, not just for personal salvation (though needed also), but for the social good of all through our improved service to others.  Jesus tells us that to love means to control our lives and follow him.  The message is so simple, but also so often unheeded.  We prefer gimmicks that are shallow and forget that a ministry of service requires watchfulness and practice -- and it takes effort.

          Prayer: Ever-loving God, help us to celebrate our joy in the resurrection of the Lord and to express in our lives the love we celebrate.  Open us to ever greater service to and for others.










An old, almost forgotten cemetery, Woodford Co., KY.

*photo credit)

May 18, 2020         Every Person Is Irreplaceable

        When a friend or relative dies we know they will be more than missed: they are irreplaceable.  They are unique beings created by the hand of an infinite and all-powerful Creator, who made all the universe composed of billions of diverse stars and planets.  The same might be said of unique snowflake designs, though who can prove or disprove that phenomenon, since no similar patterns have been detected?  Yes, we know more about people than about stars and snowflakes and all human beings (for whom this planet Earth is totally unique) are different.  Granted, designers of occupational positions specify slots that they want to be perfectly replaceable.  However, that is wishful thinking; we may conceive of special molds and thank God for them, but the ones who fill slots are unique.

        We seek for children or grandchildren to be "chips off the old block," or similar to parents or grandparents -- but they simply are not, and it is wrong to think they ought to be.  WE ARE DIFFERENT, and we ought to celebrate differences as much as similarities.  What is more difficult in such groupings of supposed sameness and dissimilarity is to seek to have people fill our ill-formed stereotypes.  Those who speak of types of personalities have things to say, but they must be careful, for everyone comes as a surprise once we know them thoroughly.  We are not cannon fodder for senseless generals to use on their chessboards, nor workers to fill slots in a faceless industrial plants or computer banks; we are created in the image of an all-creative God. 

        Celebrating differences can be liberating.  We are not what some who do not know us expect us to be; we are meant to plot our own course in life and not follow footsteps of others we cannot possibly fill; we are to be judged individually before the Divine Author of all differences, not by judges filled with biases and expectations fashioned on unmerciful limitations.  As irreplaceable, we can be missed genuinely even when disliked or having manifested severe limitations.  God loves each of us and asks all of us to love each other -- so our uniqueness is somehow related to godliness, and manifests the magnitude of all creation.

        Those who follow models, or saints, or heroines/heroes, or celebrities, or champions, or ancestors remember: God created us to be who we are.  Yes, we are social beings who must surrender some of our individual likes and dislikes, for the sake of the greater movements of this world.  However, regimented sacrifices come at a price that should always be recognized and calculated.  Replacing one person with the image of another is an impossible task with inherent limitations.  Thinking it possible is a grand deception that once in a while fools us all.

          Prayer: Lord, help us be who we are, to be thankful for the blessed chance to live, and also thankful for the other good souls we cannot be or pretend to be -- but from whom we can learn much by simply knowing them.  On second thought, don't let our irreplaceability hinder our coming together as one body.










Wild legume

*photo credit)

May 19, 2020          Radical Sharing Reconsidered

        John the Baptist answered, If anyone has two tunics he must share with the one who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.  (Luke 3:11) 

     In our attempt to reclaim the commons for all, basic attitudes on the part of all parties must be reconsidered.  We need a radical sharing that flows from and understands the essential needs of all people (social awareness), that permits the giving up of excess to the group (solidarity), and that trusts resources taken will be used properly (cooperative trust).  All three components are necessary, and each calls for ever-deepening levels of service.  Radical sharing has a hidden power to overcome self-interest, to build sociability, and to lead ultimately to a harmonious global community.  Awareness that giving up some things is necessary can challenge imperfect or selfish giving for name or fame. 

        Simultaneous giving and taking with the good of all in mind allows for growth in a spirit of togetherness that gains strength with time.  If all parties merge toward perfect harmony, one gives and another takes -- or ideally all do both.  The basic attitude is one of gratitude directed principally to God, giver of all gifts, but also extending to the givers for the sense of magnanimity, and to the takers for being merciful and not showing envy or revenge.  Radical sharing goes to the root of our motivations and to a compassionate love of the human family, all of whom will benefit through the act of sharing.  All give up something: those with resources must give up excesses that do not really belong to them; those who take, and do so for the benefit of the community.  Givers give up surplus; takers give up self-interest.

Often we reflect on those heroic enough to give a needy person, whether loved one or stranger, one of their kidneys or other organs.  Sharing of surplus wealth by individuals or by nations is of a lesser degree, but necessary nonetheless for establishing a just social order.  Such radical sharing leads to liberation of people, both the holders of excess and those who are destitute.  All liberate and all are liberated.  The Spirit is the catalyst, and all sharers serve as witnesses and catalysts. 

        Those who practice sharing in common are candidates for being agents of change, for what is done on the local level must now be globalized.  We are to share resources fairly with all people.  Ideally, that involves a parting with one's excess, but if that is not achieved, a merciful taking must ensue for the benefit of all.  Both givers and takers are challenged to grow in freedom through generosity.  Radical sharing is the realization that, what one gives and another receives when done freely and non-violently, binds the world more tightly together as one people. 

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to share as givers and receivers, and in doing so to break the selfish barriers that hold us back.










Sandhill Cranes, Grus canadensis
*photo credit)

May 20, 2020      Water Rights and Water Shortages

        Water, water everywhere in the vast oceans, but water that is potable and pure enough for drinking and irrigation is quite limited in many parts of this country and the world.  We read that a potential water crisis looms over California both urban areas and farmlands, over the Colorado River basin, especially for the desert city of Las Vegas, and looms over the neighboring state of Arizona and even into parts of Mexico.  At times in this century Nevada's Lake Mead has dropped to only 40% of capacity, but how much this drought is due to climate change is unclear.  The crisis is intensified by competing demands for heavy agricultural and Los Angeles and other large urban area water needs. 

        Is this shortage a foreshadowing of other water crises to surface both in America and other major global metropolitan areas?  Capetown South Africa residents will testify to recent severe shortages.  Some people do not become alarmed because they are confident that modern water demands could be curbed quickly by rationing the precious liquid.  Why all the swimming pools?  Why grow green lawns in the desert?  Why all the water used for washing vehicles and sweeping leaves off pavements?  Certainly elementary water conservation measures delay crises until later -- but not for the long term.  Desalinating ocean water for use has a promising future, but solar processes are not immediately applicable, and taking salt out can become expensive.

        One can discuss the water crises as fourfold: physical, legal, political, and cultural.  Droughts, perhaps caused in part by climate change, bring on depletion of available water sources;  legal differences can result from how water is assigned by previous long-standing agreements before shortages cropped up; politically, people within the areas of need have different degrees of influence in water decisions.  Serious "water wars" can develop in the upcoming years.  Legally, an established "right to water" may surpass growing certain water-prone crops, watering lawns, or filling the pool when others are forced to ration essential water use.  Water problems call for cooperative action to avoid anticipated friction between rich and poor over accessible water.

        A right to water is essential for all, and thus water is part of the commons.  Powerful corporations or individuals should not take over the sources and require payments according to their own profit-making schemes.  Water, like air, ought to be free.  More than ever, communities affected must form water districts capable of treating all parties fairly.  However, should people be allowed to grow lawns of bluegrass or irrigated cotton in water-short western regions?  Thirsty people ought to raise a storm of protest. On our part, promoting water conservation along with solar desalination of brackish and sea water are high priorities. 

          Prayer: Lord, the Calvary words "I thirst" are being heard in many parts of the world.  Will we be able to hear, listen and respond in ways to help furnish potable water to all in need?









Forest, unbroken.
*photo credit)

May 21, 2020      We champion Trees for Many Reasons

     Trees are becoming endangered or threatened in certain places and among some varieties (hemlocks, elms, dogwoods, certain oaks, etc.).  Trees are valuable to our world, and so we should encourage students to write essays on "We need more trees because they --"

serve as habitats for wildlife;
act as the lungs of our planet;
mitigate climate;
shade us in summer;
support swings;
cool surroundings;
act as wind barriers in winter;
offer sap that can be boiled down into sweetening agents;
are beautiful to behold;
provide names for towns and streets;
help furnish that beautiful dash of autumn color;
clean the air by catching airborne pollutants;
retain moisture;
store carbon dioxide as a living storage system;
mark the countryside by their distinct shapes and locations;
furnish fruit for the taking and nuts in abundance;
are sacrificed to make timber products;
populate a forest with its own inherent value; 
are resting and nesting places for birds;
have potential to be memorials for the planters;
become energy savers when planted in urban areas;
give off fragrance when in bloom;
remind us of better times;
increase the sales value of property;
provide a hidden refuge for tree-house dwellers;
make us look heavenward;
outlive most of us, reminding us of our mortality;
soothe the harshness of a ruined mine field;
furnish medicinal needs from leaves;
become hitching posts;
protect us during unexpected showers;
become part of a viewscape;
attract visitors;
whisper in the breeze;
fix in our memory youthful joy;
are signs of life in the desert;
allure those who need to get away;
act as balm for the wounded;
serve as escapes from dangers;
can become the lightning rods of our property;
invite good pruning and other management practices; 
are a blessing to us all; and
give glory to God by their presence.

          Prayer: Lord, help us to see how valuable trees are to us and inspire us to spread the Good News.







Spiritual Power Through Us as Other Christs

          During the darkest periods of history, quite often a small number of men and women scattered throughout the world have been able to reverse the course of historical evolution.  This was only possible because they hoped beyond all hope (Br. Roger of Taizé).

          A small cadre of believers can catalyze change and we hope beyond hope that a pandemic of righteousness will embrace all the world, and the great multitude will follow.  Natural catalysts as yeasts start from a minute and critical point; they spread their effects far and wide and lead to change.  In this pandemic such catalytic effects are expected with the rising of the poor; it takes a spiritually-empowered cadre to set fire to the world.  

Stage Five: Spiritual power emerges. 

        We now discover a power founded in our dependence on God our Creator and Redeemer.  We experience our humble place, our unworthiness, our limitations, and our need for God with us.  We realize the New Creation is radically different, not a public proclamation, but a mysterious whisper confided first to believers.  We know this event is greater than first creation because it includes the suffering and death of Christ -- and we are invited as companions within the Divine Family.  A profound restoration is required due to human past wrongdoing, and Christ's power is now manifested in glory.

        The Christian believer imitates Jesus in refusing to resort to military force.  God works within us in a non-violent manner that includes political involvement.  History gives examples: the revolts against Britain's salt taxes by Mohandas K. Gandhi and his followers after the First World War; the 1950s bus and subsequent strikes led by Martin Luther King in Alabama; the challenges to South African Apartheid by Nelson Mandela.  Influential political actions include educating, citizen lobbying, communicating with legislators, and organizing for needed reforms, all the while knowing our limitations, constraints and dependence on God.  And in eco-justice we extend non-violence to include animals and plants.

          The Magnificat: the lowly will be exalted.  Mary's prayer (Luke 1:46-55) is our prayer too; those in high places will be brought low.  The hope is that the lowly take what is rightly theirs non-violently, and that the affluent let go of what they regard as rightly theirs and do so humbly and contritely.  The gentleness that characterized the Violet Revolution in the Czech Republic at the time of the Soviet Union's collapse is a model of what could be done ecologically.  Recall that wealth is seldom surrendered without a struggle, and responsibility rests with the lowly, the poor, as primary and non-violent agents of change.

          Realizing power in being poor.  Isn't efficiency the important issue, and how fast can this be achieved?  Historically, changes that show that the lowly can and do rise to levels of democratic participation have been occurring at a steady pace over time.  Constant calls for deepening levels of change ring out throughout the world, and thus the focus turns more to how than to exactly when.  Now is the time; now is the day of salvation.

          The Christian challenge is to guide the movement from below as a grassroots movement.  By opting for a preferential option for the poor we focus on acquiring what rightly belongs to the Commons, not to await the affluent princes to relinquish wealth.  The ideal is to take non-violently and to give up freely and without regret.  Recall that the Declaration of Independence began the American Revolution, but it took a seven-year struggle.  The Magnificat verses are a prayer, a hope that God's power will be manifested through properly acting human agents. 

          Equalization is a precondition for authentic healing, but the path could be varied: voluntarily, through coercive measures, natural disasters, or violent struggle; it could be a fundamental spiritual change by both the wealthy and the poor (truly revolutionary in the deepest sense), or a series of environmental actions initiated by the lowly as agents of change.  In The Contrasumers:  A Citizens Guide to Resource Conservation, I argued for a rising gradation of environmental actions running from education, demonstration, research, citizen organizing, and political action to nonviolent passive resistance, guerrilla theater, and eco-activity of a more active sort.  When primary actions are unsuccessful, one naturally moves to more active involvement; this is grounded in basic Christian ethics.

          Deep Power.  We must look beyond the regular use of power to effect change and enter a special cooperative venture with the Divine in the work of saving our Earth and fashioning it into a New Creation.  This deep power should not be confused with deep ecology, a term coined in 1972 by Arne Naess, who rejected the idea that beings can be ranked according to their relative value.  He regarded the right of all forms of life to live, as a universal right which cannot be quantified; no single species of living being has more of this particular right to live and unfold than any other species.  In deep power we must gain a sense of solidarity with the poor (Earth and people) through compassionate presence and eventual identification of "we the poor."  Thus, our rank among living creatures is not elitist, for we are humble servants to them.  Through deep power we challenge the great disparities between rich and poor that hinder our service, so apparent in this pandemic.

          Deep power is established through the rising of the lowly to achieve basic human needs to live a good quality of life.  The "have" and "have not" classes cease, along with the political systems which permit them.  Deep power encourages the lowly to take what is rightly theirs either with or without relinquishment by the wealthy; it recognizes the importance of human participation in the divine re-creative act of healing our wounded Earth.  Deep power rests with the Risen Lord present with the poor and acting non-violently.  This power broadens to Eco-deep Power when attention extends to the damaged environment and ecological restoration methods needed for an authentic Earthhealing venture.







A natural bouquet of May wildflowers.
(*photo credit)

May 22, 2020    The Ministry of Shared Suffering 

        Radical sharing reaches into the depths of our core humanity and sharing our compassion with others.  If for some reason this is absent, let's pray for its presence.  This sharing of suffering in all its forms is an essential part of spreading the Good News, a sense of following Christ by giving service to others.  Nothing hurts more than to suffer alone and without any sense of sharing; nothing is more comforting than to know that what hurts is somehow transmitted in a spiritual way to others -- and that they also enter into this community of suffering.

        In the heart of all activity is the hidden power of love, that power that is repressed by those who hate and who refuse to forgive their neighbor.  However, love that is expressed overpowers all evil.  That is why those who suffer must be made to discern their own suffering as a gift sent by God for the good of others.  Saint Theresa, the Little Flower, understood this in a very special way.  She suffered with her tuberculosis and really never recovered; she experienced no startling miracles in which she rose from her bed and went off doing great deeds for others.  She suffered willingly through the condition given her, and through her compassion in God's grace extended her ministry after death at the global scene.

        The ministry of suffering is meant for everyone, but is principally the focus of humble sowers of good deeds and not reapers of them.  Often the spiritual benefits are delayed until after the sower of seeds passes on.  Our spiritual life has a mortal/eternal continuity and we are often reluctant to speak this truth to the ill, elderly, and immobile.  However, this is a worthwhile subject, for many people want something in the future to look forward to and realize that salutary effects spring from and beyond their current sufferings.  They want to know that after their current immobility they will run, skip, dance and move about in eternity.  Yes, they suffer even while they hear the distant music and celebrations.  The future awaits them -- and us.

        Shared suffering is a reality in which we can all take part and contribute positively for the good of close and distant souls.  In an age of activism, some regard sufferers as living lower qualities of life than the healthy with all their busyness and mobile.  However, passive suffering is salutary and, when offered in a positive manner, can be very productive -- perhaps the most productive.  This is a valid ministry, a communion with Jesus on Calvary, a purification of soul, a growing vision, a spiritual reality, a shared global experience.  When we are beaming with health, we ought to learn the act of compassion that can extend to all in our troubled world.  Sufferers await the Good News that their condition can be and is a shared one.  An added benefit is that all are invited to participate, not just sufferers.

        Prayer: Lord, teach us to share in the sufferings of others, those known and unknown; inspire us to be compassionate towards all who suffer.









Fresh cherries enjoy a spring's soaking rain.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

May 23, 2020      Clean Nuclear Energy?  Not So!

        President Trump and a host of federal legislators may feel beholden to purveyors of promises about "clean" nuclear power.  This "clean" is an utter falsehood, worth confronting by those of us who have not been persuaded by nuclear industry propaganda during the last half century.  Ask each legislator willing to vote to greenwash nuclear power, how much financial support they have or are receiving from that industry.  Remind them of the following:

        1. Nuclear power uses uranium that has been proven to pollute places where mined, processed and enriched as well as causing countless health problems for workers at various levels of processing;
2. The spent fuel remains a toxic problem for centuries, with no final safe waste storage place yet established in this country and with none in sight;
3. Remember Three Mile Island!  Remember Chernobyl!  One mishap could do vast damage to entire areas of the nation (some with dense populations); 
4. Nuclear powerplants are tempting targets for terrorist attacks, and thus the major need for guarding these facilities in an extra secure fashion that is not required for renewable energy productive sources;
5. The immense expense of building a nuclear powerplant is to be expected (plus eight billion dollars and rising to which consumer must someday pay), for nothing could be allowed to go wrong without immense consequences; 
6. Radiation may be odorless and undetectable by eye, but it is being released at all levels of the operation, not just when accidents occur.  There's NO safe level of radiation exposure when it comes to human health;
7. Spent fuel pools could be subject to a "zirconium" fire if the national electrical grid system were paralyzed by a solar flare.  An Oak Ridge National Laboratory report says that such a flare in this century could cut grid power from one to two years, for two-thirds of America's 98 nuclear powerplants;
8. Nuclear powerplants are so risky that no single utility would ever dare pay insurance costs without governmental guarantees;
9. Coal has in the past been often used as a principal fuel source to operate plants that help enrich fuel in nuclear power facilities, as well as process structural and operational materials;
10. Per kilowatt, produced nuclear power causes six times the amount of carbon emissions as does windpower and two to three times more than solar power.

     The only major reason the temptation exists to declare nuclear energy as "clean" is because of the money given to the legislators to declare it so.  There's nothing clean in that either.

          Prayer: Lord, make us honest and trustworthy in our use of language, and to bury the myth that nuclear power is clean.









Bladderpods (Staphylea trifoliata) by streamside.
(*photo credit)

May 24, 2020    The Grace of Holy Discontent    

        On this feast of the Ascension, we look heavenward when Jesus is taking leave of his disciples.  They stand in a state of stupor, a feeling of being left behind with a task, and no paternal leader to articulate it.  In reality the Lord does not leave us alone, but does beckon them and us on to the unpleasant task of leadership in a troubled world.  Do we stand looking up to heaven for action when we are expected to move on and address publicly difficult moral subjects?  The immediate task at hand is before them with no "father" figure with immediate answers to guide them.  Ironically, this is where we stand on whether earthhealing is truly pro-life.  Some realize that Earth's vitality demands protection; others forget environmental problems and claim to be pro-life in a very restricted manner; can these views be considered a single issue?

        In a partisan way some might think certain portions of the current U.S. government are highly pro-life; they may miss an opportunity to take moral leadership in addressing all parties (pro-life and pro-choice).  Today, Americans look for leadership from all moral leaders and yet some remain silent and are afraid to speak up, both for the environment and for the life of the fetus.  It is not easy when partisans of both side of a debate call out for ever greater emphasis of their choice position.  It is not easy today to take a unified stance and defend it.  Broadening one's perspective takes courage.  Recall St. Peter's coming to understand that the Good News must go out to ALL the world.

        What is at stake is to challenge a prevailing paternalistic spirit among those who follow religious, economic, or academic leaders.  Those who strive to "think with the Church" ought to realize that this means primarily thinking together within the Church community.  We certainly need to do more than attempt to read the thoughts of leaders; we must contribute to the entire process of following the Spirit, who moves us to think within the active Church as a community of believers.  Good thinkers must go forward with a public expression of their thoughts; at times the thoughts may be disturbing and cause uneasiness on the part of the audience filled with a holy restlessness that St. Augustine mentions as part of our journey of faith.

        Discontent can be generated by the Good Spirit prompting us to do more; yes, we experience being on the right track, even also an accompanying restlessness with an uncompleted task before us.  Contentment with solutions may be lacking, but basic happiness is still possible.  The Ascension opens the door; the ultimate solution is ahead in eternal life.  Holy discontent includes the fact that I will not solve problems by myself; I need the help of others.  I need divine assistance to address the quest for life in all its forms.   Earthhealing involves the risk of opposition, but the Spirit is with us and gives us words to say.

          Prayer: Lord, give us the energy to be comforted in your grace and yet realize that it is time to be restless in some matters.







St. Elizabeth of Ravenna Catholic Church




Spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) with a visitor.
(*photo credit)

May 25, 2020      Urban Centers: For Better or Worse

A nobler want of man is served by nature, namely, the love of Beauty.   Ralph Waldo Emerson

        I once heard a National Public Radio guest espousing the good qualities of urban life: proximity to places of work and business, public transportation, social life, and other amenities.  The assumption was that with more residents there is an economy of scale; with over half the world now crowded into cities, this means the population has voted for cities by moving to booming metropolitan areas.  Certainly health and educational centers cluster in urban areas, as do museums, night-life, concert halls, and festivals.  Fashion is more urbane; restaurants are more varied; speech is more cosmopolitan.  People are attracted to where the action is -- and to where the better paying jobs are located.  Today, our policies favor concentrating funding to the urban area, and thus the location of higher-paying, employment opportunities, but is this the whole story?

        I like to think that much of my work over the Internet (daily reflections on Earthhealing Website, weekly essays on Facebook, and monthly videos on YouTube) is not dependent on the current geographic location; this of course is possible by access to broadband Internet and network neutrality; the key is to have freedom of mobility.  Granted, some places have less Internet access, but benefits accrue in less-congested areas as well as urban ones.  On this birthday of nature lover Ralph Waldo Emerson, advantages of less-congested places may be worth broadcasting.  Certainly, a less-crowded and noisy countryside has advantages, as well as its slower pace of life.  All things considered (and with possible jobs in the non-urban areas), the vote could swing heavily towards country-life, provided communications and transportation are available.  Today an increasing number of writers and independent operators opt away from cities.

        I will not live long enough to see this movement away from cities, but several factors point to that counter-movement: universal Internet and phone service can counter urban communications advantages; terrorist threats turn people away from crowded areas; noise and congestion factors are harmful to human health; higher food prices lead more people to grow their own produce; improved public transport renders more rural areas accessible to distant urban ones; trees are more desirable as a forested non-urban phenomenon; social networking reduces the need for constant physical connections and proximity to work; business, banking and purchases require fewer trips to malls with more taking advantage of Internet commerce; higher city temperatures in summer favor non-urban living conditions; and air pollution will be troublesome in urban areas even with electric cars and growing renewable energy sources. 

          Prayer: Lord, make us indifferent to where we are located, provided that we do your will in being of service to others.









Flowers of the mulberry (Morus) tree.
(*photo credit)

May 26, 2020      Windpower and Changing Landscapes   

        Windpower is coming, and is certainly more environmentally friendly than fossil-fuel and nuclear facilities.  However, some people object to windpower for various reasons.  One objection that is so often overlooked is that neighboring property-holders make money on the turbines situated on their land; however, neighboring residents feel cheated when they have to "suffer" the change in scenery with no monetary benefit.  One answer is to adjust local taxes to include the money-making turbines so that local schools, roads and other public services benefit more from their presence.

        While that objection is unspoken, the threatened change in viewscape is often a major concern.  At various times and places particular windpower projects have detractors who cite assorted environment issues, e.g., viewscape deterioration, noise, and bird kills.  Cape Cod residents objected to the first Massachusetts off-shore wind farm, for this mars their unobstructed and privileged viewscape.  However, is this a valid objection in an age in which critics also could benefit from renewable energy sourced electricity?  Do they prefer 19th century days when transmission wires were absent from an "idyllic" landscape -- and when residents cooked and heated water without electricity?  Modern improvements demand sacrifices.  Dutch windmills used to pump water and to grind grain are now regarded by tourists as positive scenic assets, beautifying elements in monotonous lowlands. 

        What about the swishing sound of the turbine?  Does this disturb the neighbors?  Recall that other environmental negatives, such as polluted air from fossil-fuel plants, cause breathing difficulties and shortening of life for those living near the powerplants.  Sounds may be annoying until one gets used to them -- and yet they are mild in comparison with loud music, which can harm eardrums.  The rotating blades kill thousands of birds flying past, but plate glass windows result in millions of bird deaths, when the animals become confused by objects in their flight path.  Some turbines close to residences cause interference with communications' signals of various sorts.  Furthermore, really close turbines can cause some vibrational disturbances.  Nothing is perfect, and hopefully the wind turbine will be far enough removed to allow for peaceful cohabitation. 

        The landscape is changed by electricity-generating powerplants and transmission wires; don't forget that beautiful mountaintops are lost in surface mining of coal.  However, the transition from fossil fuel to renewables is not fast enough; our tolerance is similar to the founding fathers ambivalence about early slave "property."  However, one solution is to quicken the arrival of renewable energy in all its forms, and windpower is one of these.  Objections to windpower exist but they are nothing compared to miners whose health is compromised by coal and rock dust. 

          Prayer: Help us, Lord, to translate the mighty wind of Pentecost into the Good News of renewable energy for all.









A moment for contemplation.
(*photo credit)

May 27, 2020        Thinking with the Church in 2020

        Is "thinking with the Church" something that is old-fashioned?  Let's look at this from the viewpoint of a faithful member of a Church congregation.  Not thinking with a group is a negative attitude comparable to a flu virus that contaminates a community.  Groups seek positive approaches for good membership growth.  For the Church, the goal is to be fortified by liturgies, sacraments, and homilies, so that each person can help spread Good News.  This evangelical aspect of the Church's mission is key to active membership.  Positive thinking is paramount.

        People and even Church leaders make mistakes.  Positive-thinking people need unifying words, pledges, creeds, commitments, and liturgies.  Within our Catholic communion we have had times of scandal and yet are confident that reform is possible and is an on-going process as Pope Francis says.  The Principle of Subsidiarity emphasizes doing what can be done best at the lowest level of organization.  Flowers for the altar are a local concern as is specific music.  Global communication needs to come from the broadest level because scattered groups need unity.

        Environmentally speaking, global regulation is utterly needed to save our endangered planet.  A fortiori, we need globally-functioning groups within the basic and unifying aspects of our Liturgy, without denying that certain aspects could have local differences.  God's love is shown in all creation and we are called to bring this message to the entire world; all creation tells something of the glory of God, and we find traits of humility, generosity, beauty, and more in different parts of creation, whether dolphins or flowers. Yhwh, our Lord, how great your name throughout the Earth!   (Psalm 8:1)

        God's love of creation permeates all things and binds all things together.  We humans are tempted by greed and selfishness; we try to be gods with our own attempts at fame and fortune.  Misdeeds abound, and these can harm our fragile Earth.  When we seek to love God and others who are part of our human family, we soon see the potential for misdeeds affecting the human community; when we look deeply we see that our past misdeeds have damaged other parts of creation as well, for sin is social in nature.

        God is merciful to us who seek to be healed both individually and as a community of love.  We seek to heal because we love; we want to return the loveliness of creation, to beautify through acts of reparation.  Why remain weighed down by misdeeds?  Our past misdeeds haunt us, and yet ever so slowly we learn that God's mercy is forgiving; we are invited to help repair a damaged body of believers.  We recall that we are the first generation to sense the harm to Earth that we have caused by selfish lifestyles.  Let's be the first heal it and help in the healing of each other.

         Prayer: Lord, help us to pray as one universal body and yet also act in ways to meet the current challenges of our times.








A lovely, flower-lined walkway through the forest/
(*photo credit)

May 28, 2020        Haircuts: An Earth Healing Topic?

        What's the matter?  Have I run low on topics for reflection on my nine-year reflection cycle?  Yes, haircutting can be a possible topic if related to healing our troubled Earth.  Well we need to be somewhat respectful of personal appearances to a certain degree in order to persuade those we meet to live a better life.  Treating our wounded Earth requires us to improve respect for creatures through mutually agreeable practices in ordinary life.  If armies are in retreat and only limited supplies are available, how about issuing combs?  Proper grooming has a place in keeping spirits high, and that is needed for healers as well as comedians, artists and musicians.

        After plugging the important services of barbers and hair dressers, comes my disappointing comment: I have not had a professional haircut since 1980 (immediately before my parents' 50th wedding anniversary).  Yes, I have plenty of hair and thin mine every month lest it grows out of control.  You see, my decision to go personal in haircare occurred at the time that the Jimmy Carter Administration (which was so good to public interest folks), was coming to an abrupt end (Jimmy lost his bid for a second presidential term to Ronald Reagan).  In fact, the Reagan crowd called me and others to Washington, DC, and dismissed our government-funded "Science for Citizens Program" in one stroke.  It suddenly became evident that tough times had come -- and so personal haircutting became a mandated economy matter for me.  I figured that this practice has saved $6,000+ during four-decades.

        The secret to self-administered haircuts is to have thick hair or none at all.  Nicks and marks are easily covered over for thicker-haired people, and the baldies are blessed with no cutting needs.  In fact, having few salutary features at old age, I find the only public notice comes because of my head of hair -- God's gift.  Once someone even asked if I use a stylist; my reply was true, "No, I'm too cheap for that."  But financial savings is not the only advantage; personal hair-tending takes only a few minutes every week, and so time saved by not going to barbers (wherever they are located) is time available for worthwhile enterprises.  What is the point?  Be cheap?  Do it yourself?  Save money -- and time?  Doing things ourselves allow us to be good earthhealers by self-barbering, gardening, preserving and cooking practices.

        Trade-offs must be acknowledged.  Support barbers.  The barbershop is a place to exchange ideas and engage in citizen discussion.  Conversing with our neighbors enhances social capital.  Furthermore, I acknowledge that patronizing barbers keeps money in the local economy, and barbershop customers have more to give others than just fees -- and we who seek to economize on time ought to take note.  In making social sacrifices we lose something for ourselves and others, a grace that comes with conversation.  Maybe my occasional walk through the neighborhood is my compensation.

     Prayer: Lord, I have little to pray about on this subject.






Domestic Environmental Actions as Ecojustice

        Restoration of our wounded Earth involves a variety of actions.  Starting at the grassroots we resolve to bring about changes even in times of pandemic, for to restore a healthy environment is a noble goal.  For instance, returning former farmlands, now urbanized, to productivity is a way to increase edible landscaping.  This is beneficial: it furnishes fresh nutritious vegetables and herbs; it provides an opportunity to practice "organic" growing at low price and thus be free of commercial and highly toxic chemical pesticides; it makes the grower proud of to be a food producer; and it affords an opportunity to recycle and reuse kitchen and yard wastes. Suggestions for being a genuine restorative gardener include:

1. Start small -- Consider one hundred square feet in the form of beds.  Generally, seeding, planting, weeding, thinning, and harvesting of such a small area can be handled by one person.
2. Welcome variety -- Nothing is more detrimental to gardening popularity than to have too much of a good thing at one time and a lack of resources to preserve the excess produce. 
3. Design placement -- Place vegetables in beds both as companion plants and to conserve growing space.  Think ahead as start new plants while a previous one is maturing.  Put taller plants or vine trellises to the north end and smaller plants on the south side of the garden.
4. Go organic -- The absence of commercial pesticides is better for the soil microbes, wildlife and general environment, as well as for the individual health of those who eat the produce.  Most pests can be removed by hand and through mechanical means in small areas as soon as they are detected. 
5. Extend growing season -- Spring and autumn vegetables should be planted keeping in mind their tolerance to seasonal weather changes.  Using permanent or temporary seasonal extenders and cold frames with plastic, paper, glass or cloth coverings will increase the productivity and growing seasons.
6. Beautify garden beds -- The inclusion of flowers, both to curb pests and to add color and variety is highly desirable.
7. Keep records -- Gardening invites growth in experience and skill; keeping records of successes and failures is good for the improvement of gardening experience year by year.

           Prayer for Restoring Damaged Lands

      O God, merciful and loving Creator of all things,
         look kindly on this landscape before us,
       In past times it gave praise and glory to You
         through its abundant vegetation and unique beauty.
      See it today in the starkness of the devastation
          that human greed and thoughtlessness has rendered;
       Do not do what we humans so often do, namely,
           turn away and deny what has occurred.
       In the bleakness of the empty standing cross,
           let us have the power to look and see
       What devastation human beings have wrought,
           that we now witness with profoundly heavy hearts.
       We first ask pardon for human faults to You
           and to the land itself in all its gentleness;
       We beg forgiveness for it was a human family affair,
           and perpetrators went their merry way.
       Let this prayer of contrition be something more,
           for mere words do not suffice for what has occurred;
       Let us pledge to match word with deed
           in the spirit of the Calvary event before us.
       Now we stand as witnesses before the tomb
           knowing full well what we have done,
       If not in deed at least in omission
           of our duty to care for all creation.
       Here we make our pledge to repair as best we can
           the wounded Earth around us
       And to work for the needed regulations
           to keep this from happening again.
       O God, renewer of all creation and giver of new life,
           Bring the graces of Resurrection
       On this harmed piece of Earth;
           And allow us to be bearers of its Good News.

        Eco-justice includes exalting of the lowly -- and that includes wounded Earth herself.  Restoration through gardening is grassroots effort; simultaneously we recognize the need of "top down" global restoration that includes curbing climate change through renewable energy sources.  Individuals need to work together for global collaborative efforts such as the 2015 Paris Climate Change Accord; this is critical.  The U.S. must participate, for to fail to do so is a crime against humanity.

        Earth-saving or healing operates by successive stages: seeing the urgent need for saving our wounded Earth; recognizing that justice is due to all living creatures; realizing that the lowly must rise to take charge and even serve the lowly threatened and endangered species; finding the Risen Lord among the poor who are the proper agents of change; and identifying Christ-like actions that respect all life in a manner of the respectful poor, namely non-violently.  We are not anthropocentric but rather, in reclaiming the legacy of Teilhard de Chardin, Christocentric; this is manifested in the Easter or Paschal Mystery in which we are called to participate.

In May we experience an urgency to act, a willingness to challenge the class divisions in our world and opt for the poor, the agents of change, and in solidarity to insist on non-violent procedures.  We sacrifice and die with Christ; now we ascend with him in the fullness of his power as loving and serving Lord.  If eco-justice is both local and global, healers of Earth must follow Rene Dubos' dictum -- "Think globally and act locally," or maybe a more nuanced modification: "think and act locally so we can think and act globally."  We simply have to do both to save our Earth. 

                 Extra: Eco-Spiritualities

There are a variety of eco-spiritualities, which we could survey as we strive to focus in on one more suitable for Earth healers.  We neglect to classify actual exploitation of resources done by a secular or some so-called religious-based philosophy (through a misinterpretation of Genesis Chapter 1 to mean that people should act in a domineering fashion over animals and plants).  Rather, we ought to love, respect and care for them.  In fact, the only spirituality in exploitation is from the evil spirit.

        A naturalistic or animistic spirituality finds god(s) in the natural world, and that world becomes alive in the spirits that inhabit plants, animals and given places.  A multitude of primitive cultures fit into this category, all worthy of research and discussion, for some have developed capacities to practice sophisticated approaches to protecting the environment within their religious cultic traditions. 

        A homesteading spirituality developed in recent times in North America; this often involves unchurched settlers in rural areas (though some attend churches), who have left more conventional lifestyles but who are deeply involved in using correct conservationist practices in home, garden, landscape, and their selected simple lifestyles.  These find delight in the natural world, enter into the social and environmental affairs of local communities and, to a lesser degree, into the broader education of the general public.  Their main thrust is to enter and be a part of a given remote or more natural community and to scale back direct involvement in the modern American culture.

        These two just mentioned could be variants of a creation-centered spirituality as introduced by Matthew Fox and others who champion theirs as a reaction to more accepted variants of redemption-centered spirituality.  This latter type has found a sizeable following throughout Christianity and tends to ignore the importance of creation in spiritual life;  proponents place greatest emphasis on Earth as a mere passageway to our eternal heavenly home with less attention to its current condition, and in rare cases even showing indifference to destruction of resources since the world is soon to end in fire.  Many fundamentalist Christians, who are quite concerned about redemption through personal acceptance of Jesus, fail to have an explicit ecological stance, though in this century a growing number of their leaders are becoming more environmentally aware. 

        A creation-centered approach would essentially stop at our January eco-spirituality with the majesty and complex forms of creation, the diversity of beings and the community found in the web of life on this planet.  Advocates would deny a hierarchy of being, be more feminist in orientation, and reject anthropogenic tendencies of redemption-centered people.  However, by posing either/or choices these show neglect of the importance of the personal Jesus in our lives as treated in our February through May eco-spiritualities.  Creation-centered people sometimes speak more generally in cosmological and so-called non-theological terms regarding creation as the primary revelation in distinction from that revealed in Scripture.  For some of them, one should leave the Scripture on book shelves for a while.

        A redemption-centered spirituality emphasizes human sin, the need for repentance, the saving power of Christ, and the importance of the redemptive act of Calvary.  The emphasis is on individual salvation, and the spiritual traveler looks to God's merciful love of all and the need for individual forgiveness.  Both Creation and Redemption spiritualities have good aspects.  The former focuses on our need to respect all creatures and the interrelationships that include the community of all beings.  The latter places emphasis on the individual person and less on other creatures or the community of these creatures.  The first could tend to be overly academic and secular -- "I'm one of many creatures"; the second, emotional and individualistic -- "I'm saved, are you?"  And both spiritualities can be fundamentalistic though it comes as a surprise to some.

        I agree with Bob Sears in promoting the term resurrection-centered spirituality.  We regard this as more inclusive, for it accepts the good aspects of both creation- and redemption-centered spiritualities through an utterly high respect for creation and through identifying Christ, the Risen Lord, as author of a New Creation.  A more holistic creation and redemption (both/and) approach affirms: the glory of God's love and mercy; the role of Jesus Christ as redeemer with his blood touching our wounded Earth; that we enter through compassion and co-sacrificing with Jesus; that all creation, not a single portion, is redeemed in Christ; that the pattern of Christ's redemption is repeated in our own lives; that by uniting our sufferings with the Lord we become his partners in the salvific work; and that Earthhealing is a part of the total redemptive act.  Paraphrasing the Emmaus account in Luke 24:26:  "Did you not know that the very Earth must suffer and so enter into its glory?"   The entry into glory, liberation from human wrongdoing, and a radically new life is at the heart of resurrection-centered spirituality.


Intricate flower of the wild ginger (Asarum canadense).
(*photo credit)

May 29, 2020        Discerning When to Drive or Not

        As the summer travel season begins, we ought to reflect upon our privileges to drive on our public roads, on which half the population will be moving today.  That privilege gives a sense of freedom, but also bears an awesome responsibility.  Many people regard themselves as more skilled drivers than they really are, and many of us overlook the fact that driving skills and attention span can erode.  Often we fool ourselves with distractions.

     Yes, this subject involves curtailing our auto use at some definite time in life.  Drivers on public highways with powerful vehicles (that can be weapons) must consider the obligations to ourselves and our older licensed relatives and friends, with whom we help discern their driving ability; that's not an easy undertaking.  When will it be necessary to reduce or stop driving?  What effects will that have on one's sense of mobility?  In a car-filled society with as many vehicles as people, this becomes one of the major lifetime adjustments requiring an honest discernment process -- and I'm curbing night-time and congested driving.

        Multi-tasking.  No one is good enough to drive while drinking alcoholic beverages or taking drugs.  The list of forbidden substances and practices is in some states being extended to include texting or cell phoning.  Use of those devices on a broad, empty highway with no other car in sight may be exceptional, and certainly not the rule.  What about eating or listening to an engaging lecture on the radio?  We all know that there are times to stop and do what has to be done, including making that phone call or eating something.  Good judgment is required, but thinking of the safety of others on the road is a major consideration.

          Restraint.  The "when to reduce driving" may include a variety of circumstances such as rain or snow, and when others should do the driving.  Due to my eyesight, I refrain from various circumstances and dangerous roadways.  That is always subject to critical review with the assistance of experienced drivers (and our auto insurance companies).  Renewed driving exams are certainly a burden as we age, but are still a laudable and necessary undertaking.  Granted, restrictions on certain driving for youthful drivers cut accidents; maybe the elders need the same.

          Total ban.  This sounds foreboding, and certainly IS, for people who for over six decades being "behind the wheel" as a sacred right.  Many drivers matured with their own vehicles -- washing, refueling, repairing, vacuuming, and shining them.  Now, when keys are withdrawn by necessity, advice, or demand, some feel a loss as great as losing a limb or eyesight.  To drive or not to drive; to drive now or later; to drive here or not; to stop driving -- these are issues that virtually all of us have to face and help loved ones to make.  Are we really prepared to be dependent?

          Prayer: Lord, inspire us to see our driving as a privilege and to take all caution needed to protect ourselves and others.









English ivy vine and pink geranium flowers line a not-so-busy walkway.
(*photo credit)

May 30, 2020     Memorials: Real and/or Artificial

      I have never met a person who valued artificial flowers more than real ones -- yet we all know that artificial flowers have their place.  Flowers of whatever types and kinds have a certain gradation of value, but are inherently worth something.  The flower is our way of expressing remembrance and gratitude for the person to whom they are dedicated.  Real flowers are fresh and have their scent and fleeting beauty.  However, artificial flowers last longer.  Yes, Memorial Day includes both the real and artificial.

          Growing flowers are of longer endurance than those that are cut and laid on graves as remembrances -- but growing them takes continued effort.  Rarely in America do we find the European custom of tending graveyard plots with potted plants and freely-growing flowers.  However, when in Lee County, Texas, a few years back with my sister to visit America's only Wend colony, we discovered to our surprise that the burial ground had its flower growers.  What acts of devotion and love!  I recall our great, great grandparents' graves at Shonau in the Rhineland in Germany; the growing flowers that adorned the cemetery were incredibly beautiful and manifested a sense of care.  The cemetery where my parents, grandparents and some great grandparents are buried in Old Washington, Kentucky, allows rose bushes to be planted at the individual plots.  Thus, two of my first cousins tend to graves, since my siblings have all moved away.  We are extremely grateful for their devotion.

      Fresh-cut flowers that decorate graves are also beautiful, but they last but a day and soon wilt and die.  My mother made a big fuss about selecting flowers of mid-spring (lilacs, peonies, roses, poppies, bridal wreath, and tulips) to decorate the graves of her loved ones.  Some got almost a carpet of flowers, and others a single flower -- but all were still remembered.  I shared her sense of obligation to visit special graves at this time of year, and add some wild daisies -- for that was what my grandmother said would be enough.  Doesn't it mean more to the flower-giver than the flower- receiver?  Bonds still hold.  In Switzerland, when graves are unattended, remains go to an ossuary, and the space reused.

          Artificial flowers are often colorful, durable, and striking resemblances of real ones.  Some cemeteries are abandoned and the space is not needed for reburial.  Rather here, if loved ones have died or moved away, weeds appear and the place reverts to wilderness that can have a healing effect over time.  Artificial flowers are an intermediate solution, for the amount of tending is reduced but not totally absent.  Loved ones can place their artificial bouquet and then return to a distance residence.  Some burial "gardens" place artificial flowers on every grave over a time period and then replace them when they fade.  These flowers give a colorful appearance from a distance, and a sense that folks are attending and remembering those who have gone before.

          Prayer: Lord, help us say it with flowers -- and add a prayer or two as well.





St. Elizabeth of Ravenna Catholic Church





A bed of iris buds, waiting to bloom.
(*photo credit)

May 31, 2020       Pentecost and World Evangelization

        Pentecost means spreading Good News, and the story told in the Acts of the Apostles account has a treasure of profound theological thoughts; these applied at the first birthday of the Church two millennia age and continue to have freshness and power down to our own day:

Pentecost is God's work, not ours.  We may enter like children who are passive observers, and with time develop into outgoing active participants who both spread and retrieve the Word;
The context is a prayerful atmosphere among the assembly that is brought together for public worship;
The fearfulness of the assembly is evident by reason of the locked doors at this time of great distress;
The suddenness of the Spirit's coming means we cannot anticipate the arrival, for such events are beyond our reckoning and are received with wonder;
The powerful winds of change blow upon us and move us from our locked-in and complacent ways of acting to become active proclaimers of the word;
A flame touches each of us in the assembled body, and so the life of Church involves all gathered together.  This individualized flame indicates that the Spirit gives us unique gifts that must be used according to our individual calling, and yet be to the benefit of the entire Church;
The impulse is to move out from a semi-private grouping to the broader world containing people from all the known regions of the world at that time -- a global manifestation that makes this into a catholic body;
Empowerment by the Holy Spirit helps us overcome our weakness and reluctance to speak out and act in courage to a broader world in need;
Spreading the message involves speaking to others in tongues that they understand.  Language is becoming understood by others and they in turn can give feedback to the messengers of Good News from their own cultures;
Witness to events in the life of Christ is at the heart of our message to those who await the Good News.  This is the core message preached at the first Pentecost and that is continuing by our efforts and divine grace down through the ages.  The Holy Spirit continues to speak;
The Audience is the assembled crowd from all over the world.  This shows that the Good News is not meant for the designated small number or for only Jewish chosen people, but rather for people of many lands and cultures -- though all have a sense of anticipation; and
Breathing is the added feature for we all need additional air or Spirit to allow us to retain the energy to go forth again.

          Prayer: Holy Spirit, give us the grace to go out to others, authentically communicate with them, and share our gifts; then let us bring back other Good News to enhance the growth of the Church.


Copyright © 2020 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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