The beauty of May is best told with blooming irises --
Irises Mild is the virtue, beauty the quality mark, Delicate like a New Fire's first-lit spark; Iris, glorifier of the fifth month, Ancient messenger of the gods. Flowers like multi-hued rainbows earth-bound, Too bright, tulips; too humble, lilies of the valley; Too outrageous, peonies; too temporary, locust; Too faint, blueberries; too hidden, blackberries. Divine-designed iris in prime blooming time! We find them where we put them years ago, Faithfully returning, ever so faithful; Brave survivors of winter winds once again. Irises herald and greet summer's heat, Stout stalks waving with the breeze; They love the sun, well, some sun, Foretelling a sweaty season just begun.
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In a public interest spirit of neutrality, we ought not omit forms of extremism among so-called progressives; these are often hidden from public discussion, especially by a liberal public media. I am convinced apart from some partners that "pro-choice" extremism is the direct result of a profitable pro-abortion industry. We should not tackle the two extremes of the last two weeks (inequality and far right extremism) and fail to consider this one as well. Seeking to remain a truly progressive person, I defend the voiceless (the fetus), stand against libertarian thinking in favor of social justice, and favor the biological science that finds no sharp division of the life process in and beyond the womb. Likewise, I defend the basic right of free choice, for the greatest choice ever made was Mary's consent to be the Messiah's Mother. Human freedom includes choosing at critical times; but we hope and pray they are proper choices, which are part of life experiences. This division is not choice vs. Life, but life vs. Death.
Why an extremist position? This is a complex matter of choice of rights (the right to choose by a mother and the right to life of a fetus). A wrong choice can be a free action, but not a proper one. Strangely, the "pro-choice" faction most likely does not deny priority of rights. For instance, if a woman (or man) chooses to strap explosives around their waist and make certain demands in their "free choice" in order to get their intended result, we would say the social danger to others is so great that they must be stopped through some legitimate means -- even if they put on explosives in their bedroom. The right of life of a community takes precedence over the freedom to make a demented decision that affects the safety of that community. We agree!
Our right to safety takes precedence over this individual "right" to choose. What about the safety of a fetus, which is principally in the hands of the mother (some would say of both parents)? If a fetus is a living person than an abortion is the terminating of human mortal life. The proponents of so-called progressive thinking say that this is the sole right of the mother to determine the continuation of another's life within her womb -- and control. They would most likely not agree with Imperial Roman male householders who could decide life of young children or slave; at that time power over life was different from what it is today.
Those willing to make distinctions and respect life in its fragility, believe that extremists have no right to unlimited property when essential resources are denied the destitute, nor rights over another human's life. Rights of life and rights of property both demand discerned choices. Any right can become dogmatically absolute, e.g., "her right to choose." We accept the right to choose, if an option is not harmful to another. It sounds liberal in saying, "I won't deny her right to choose." A true liberal's response is "Oh yes I do, under certain circumstances." An aggressor coming at you with a weapon could be resisted to the point of taking his life to halt the attack (your life versus his) -- a conflict of rights. A libertarian, of whom I always find difficulty, would say the billionaire has a right to his property and a woman the right to choose whether the life of one inside her should continue. Both circumstances involve conflict of rights.
This issue of choice versus life is quite complex. To say we must honor her decision as being hers to make is at the heart of differences. I honor personal decisions that do not affect other real people, such as the right to conceive. Once there's life in the womb it is another matter, for parents have decisions as to the well-being of the new person. The safety of the fetus depends on the mother's choice in proper rest, food and abstinence from toxic substances. What can I say about her continued smoking? A judge asked me whether he could keep a pregnant drug abuser in jail beyond her time. Certainly a hard decision!
It is absurd to say people have an absolute right of freedom to choose and their choices must be honored. When does the fetus become a person with rights to life? Biologically there is not really a difference in the entire growth process, and certainly at the moment before birth and after birth. If breathing needs assistance does it mean that people on ventilators lose all human rights? Rights of individuals to do what they want (make noise at midnight near a hospital) are limited by other's rights to peace and quiet. Some may say they do not want to bring the fetus to term, but is this a moral reason for terminating the life of the child? This is certainly a life-or-death question.
This extremity of the absolute right to choose, if held by a political party (and the Democratic party chief wanted pro-lifers to be expelled in 2020) is no better than to allow the other party the extreme of allowing a dictator who would rule in place of citizen voters. Is the day before birth when a child could be legally aborted (in some states) and be murdered if killed the day after birth? Infrequency in actual case history is no justification for the taking of lives that are viable. Something is extremely wrong, just as is the reasoning to replace democracy with a dictator; both are extremes, which threaten our democracy. Interestingly, many so-called progressives are rightfully against the death penalty.
This is not a question of overseeing the bedroom. The right to defend safety of a fetus rests heavily with parents; it is also a social issue requiring state protection and halting of abortion mills. As a scientist I affirm that science is solidly on the side of the unborn -- human from the first development and not later human that allows time for aborting without murder. The political battle will certainly continue, but I prefer to be a Democrat, until a party of Commoners (see March essays) is established. We must continue this discussion for some togetherness of well-meaning citizens. Comments are welcome.
During much of the 20th century, May Day was regarded by the Soviet Union as a time to celebrate the worker. In much the same manner, on Labor Day we in America celebrate workers and take a critical look at labor safety and justice conditions. However, let's look beyond worker safety to other related issues.
In-sourcing: An effort is being made to return jobs to America and bring back some businesses using the incentives of skilled labor, lower-priced natural gas, proximity to markets, and lower transportation costs -- and more recent tax benefits in certain parts of the country. Productivity is high per unit of product, and the patriotic incentive of "Made in America" cannot be discounted. Yes, new job creation is restricted by use of computers, robots, and labor-saving higher tech machinery. But there is still much meaningful labor to be done.
Infra-structure construction: Considering that our country should never tolerate unemployment, the answer is to tax the wealthy and corporate profits and deductions, and use proceeds to create WPA-type jobs that will equal the workmanship of the post-Great Depression programs. No doubt the work is needed today and we certainly have willing workers; it is the funding that demands a national willingness to get the financial resources from the coffers of the tax havens.
Skills and technical training: The above in-sourcing phenomenon can only continue to flourish if we have skilled people, because the age of workers pushing buttons or putting in one set of bolts on an assembly line is fast disappearing. When a robot replaces a barely-thinking person, the likelihood is an unemployed and unskilled worker. Certainly some new skills can be taught the under- or unemployed and should be a governmental priority in order to raise the level of employment capacity in our country.
Job Fairs are perfect May events, and a component in getting more people employed -- since several million jobs are to be filled at this time -- and the challenge is to get people to move to a job and not to a jobless condition. What a sad message to tell citizens they are not worth anything! Why look outside of our country for workers? Make the opportunities available to more and more of our people as a sign of meaningful citizenship.
Out-sourcing volunteers, especially in health and education fields, could give valuable experience to new graduates and also benefit poorer nations through the skills of these willing
people. Government grants to help forgive college loans could be part of this volunteer program, and fortunately this condition is being addressed in different ways today.
Prayer: Lord, allow us to think about creating programs that benefit those willing and able to work, and to address worker opportunities with a fresh sense of urgency.
May 2, 2021 Addressing Excessive Consumerism Like Vinedressing
Whoever remain in me and I in them will bear much fruit.
(John 15: 1-8)
Vine Sunday hits close to home, for I was taught vinedressing from my father who would trim the vine twice, once in early spring before the vines grew, and once in mid-summer to allow the grape clusters to mature without extra unproductive vines. Jesus mentions this twofold practice in the Gospel of John passage. We are vines connected to the root of Christ, and we know that to detach a vine from the total plant causes it to quickly wither. When close to Christ, we are like productive vines; we need to see the dead wood of excessive consumerism (unneeded material products) removed by the pruning tool in spring, and then the later growth (wasteful types of goods) trimmed still further in our summertime of life. By careful use of material things, we are drawn away from a consumer-based economy to become a spiritually-fruitful people.
The analogy of proper plant care is interesting:
* Vines need nutrients and moisture in order to thrive, while we need a connectedness to Christ through prayer and sacraments; * Vines must be protected against the rash elements, and we need the Lord's protection against worldly temptations, including excessive material goods;
* Vines are expected to bear much fruit at the harvest time, and we bear fruit as part of the community of believers;
* Vines have their natural beauty, and so do those who conserve and use resources properly; and
* Vines are expected to yield grapes for years to come, and we are expected to help build a future New Heaven and New Earth.
We are part of the total community, the vineyard of the Lord. The long history of our Church is one of connectedness as revealed in the marks of the Church (one, holy, catholic, and apostolic). Unity and holiness are part of our mission. We are connected through the ages back to the Apostles, and being connected today with our Pope. At confirmation we are touched by someone who was anointed by someone… back to Christ; in our world today, I know someone who knows someone who knows the Pope, Christ's visible representative. We are connected in space (universally) and in time (for 2,000 years).
Excessive consumerism distracts us from our important mission of furnishing fruit. God is our vinedresser and we, as vines, need the nourishment furnished by the Lord. We need the spiritual connection with Christ, and through discernment we come to realize that consumer products are deadening and wasteful, distracting us from the spiritual mission at hand. Our fruitful efforts are expected to be here and now for others to see and follow; they are also meant for the future, and thus we must trim them so that others unborn may benefit. Well-tended vines are meant to last.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be fruitful vines and in becoming fruitful through being connected to you and the human family.
Appreciating the beauty of a spring wildflower.
May 3, 2021 Conquering Pandemics and Tropical Diseases
Just how well are we as conquerors of diseases? That is a valid question after our Covid-19 experiences of the past 16 months. Part of the medical problems of this century include not being attentive to current and future needs and to have the test procedures available and ready along with protective gear and equipment when the new problem emerges. Hindsight is always more perfect than foresight. Is the incentive present to address the diseases of our world today -- or does it depend on economics?
Cancer and affluent diseases are quite well funded; however, possible diseases in the future or tropical diseases affecting poorer people are never that popular. With so many people scared last year by the pandemic, one would guess we are learning a lesson and discovering that existing and potential outbreaks must be fully addressed: the total global health security is at stake. No better body is able to coordinate this security program today than the WHO (World Health Organization). Curbing American funding at the time of very great need last year verged on the immoral. Why punish a hard-pressed global agency working to stop the pandemic? Early and critical warning of any pandemic requires attentive leadership, for we are one family demanding a pre-alert system.
In January, 2012 the WHO and a number of major governmental and private funding groups including the Gates Foundation agreed to focus on ten of the worst of these tropical diseases (e.g. sleeping sickness) that either kill or sap the energy of the afflicted regions in which one billion unfortunate victims were living. The results were mixed and show just how important it is to keep an ongoing medical research program based on need and not economic profits. An MIT study found that treating intestinal worms can cost as low as fifty cents per person; general benefits and even school attendance could be greatly improved in many of these afflicted countries for low initial outlays of money. The various charitable agencies realize that addressing both existing and possible health diseases are part of total health security.
We have noted in past reflections that the Carter Center at Atlanta, Georgia has helped reduce and bring under control the Guinea worm affliction in West Africa, through a combination of better medication and sanitation -- an unusual mark of success. The other targeted tropical diseases deserve equal attention. As for treatment, it is found that some can be treated simultaneously with drugs for diseases such as elephantiasis and river blindness. However, even providing free drugs through assistance programs does not mean they will be used properly. Some health experts say that blanketing regions with certain drugs will only lead to drug-resistant varieties springing up. This means that current and future health threats are challenging issues.
Prayer: Lord, help us see that all people have a basic human right for proper health access and medical treatment.
May 4, 2021 Damaging Democratic Process through Super PACs
We shudder when reflecting on big money being allowed legally for "Super PACs;" they simply corrode our American democratic process. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court made an awesome (to many of us, "awful") decision in the now infamous Citizens United case. Independent funds could not be limited in federal elections, and this opened the floodgates for massive amounts of undisclosed funds going through subterfuges with patriotic-sounding names to tear down or build up targeted candidates. And of course, the mass media reveled in this new-found income that could spell victory or defeat for one or other person regardless of qualifications. Money and cleverness of promotion could spell political success.
By now the spectacle has moved to one of downright wanton disregard for the electorate and the citizen vote of little people. The superrich have power through the money in the media to decide on the one they desire to be elected; a complacent electorate obeys the well-funded favorites and their privileges. This is happening to such a degree that the democratic process is shaken in its roots and power is no longer with the vote of the majority. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group calculates that the super PACs in the first two years of existence raised $181 million, and has multiplied several times in the last decade. This money was given by a very small number (perhaps fewer than 200 of the undertaxed and profligate superrich). In fact, half the funds come from as few as 37 people giving as much as a half million dollars each. Recall that casino magnate Sheldon Alderson and wife gave $10 million in one year to Newt Gingrich.
A lethargic electorate will view with little reflection what they see on the TV screen and, when the message is repeated enough times with convincing voices and visuals, the gullible are taken in once more. This glib approach to information gathering and vote deciding allows the power of the super PACs to be realized even when the elections are local or statewide. One candidate who the rich decided upon is the one who is best able to handle the interests of the funding source -- and democracy erodes all the faster. Beat down an opponent; build up a PAC supporter. If and when super PACs work long enough, the results are devasting. Gun control is a victim of such a big-spending undertaking.
Super PAC special interests are hardly ever environmental ones, for environmental corrections are often costly and cut into corporate profits. Super PACs are most effective in four areas of our corporate "free market" economy, namely, the military-industrial complex, big banks and financial institutions that "must not fail," Big Energy and lax regulations, and the big drug and health insurance conglomerates. These four, plus their revolving door lobbyists of ex-legislators and associates, can bring ruin to our democratic process. How long will we allow superrich mischief?
Prayer: Lord, give us backbones to stand up against unfair practices that harm our people and our democratic values.
Distillery wall with Vinca minor, periwinkle. Millville, KY.
May 5, 2021 Being Good Samaritans as Earthhealers
And who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29)
Our normal tendency is to restrict neighborhood to those closer to us -- and that occurs often when aware that we have limited resources to share with others, whether those resources be time or energy or material goods. However, occasionally the needs of those more distant seem far greater than those nearer to home; thus, we strive to extend our concern outward to them. We even find ourselves asking whether in choosing one area of concern over another we are hardening our hearts to some groups or individuals. We realize that past sufferings of groups must be addressed; failures to give justice haunts us; and present pandemic suffering challenges our discernment and endurance. Compassion must become a neighborly virtue.
Jesus shows us how to be with others in their current suffering; through compassionate mercy he teaches us who are neighbors -- those who are in immediate need. The Scriptures speak through example of Jesus' response forthrightly given to a wide variety of the sick and weak he encounters in his journeys. We strive to be more Christlike. Our lived experiences are certainly different, but that should not stop us from first seeing sufferers as the Good Samaritan does with the robbed victim. The Good Samaritan takes what supplies he has at hand (oil and wine) and gives immediate assistance to the sufferer; he then continues by taking this person to the inn for rest and even pays the fee for his lodging. But this is not sufficient; he makes a commitment to do more, and thus says he will return and ensure the person's needs have been met.
Jose Laguma says Christianity gives a possible utopia that is both place and way. He quotes the Salvatorian martyr Ignacio Ellacuria as having three moments of reality: noetic moment, taking stock of reality; ethical moment, taking responsibility for reality; and praxis moment, taking charge of reality. These three appear to be similar to our various descriptions of Earthhealing as the HERE, or the acknowledgment of the existing situation; the NOW, or the decision to take responsibility and act with compassion; and the WE, or the commitment to undertake the healing in a spirit of collaboration with all people of good will.
Within the movement towards teamwork we see that our ability as a social unit is handicapped by biases we suffer as a people. Thus, the WE now undergo the larger incorporation of a Higher Power, without whom we will not achieve the results we seek. The insatiable appetite of the consumer culture leaves people constantly striving for more material things. We fail to act. Desolation in our inability leads to further acknowledgment of imperfections, and compassion leads to seeking a more spiritual solidarity among believers. Neighbors calls us to awareness.
Prayer: Lord, help us see those in need, respond immediately, and continue our concern through commitment to joint healing.
May 6, 2021 Finding Enough Work for Every American
The right to employment is part of the right to livelihood, and our government is the ultimate guarantor of this right when private job openings are limited. In these uncertain times millions of unskilled workers have been replaced by robots or foreign labor -- and the productivity per remaining worker keeps rising. Is there enough work to go around for everyone? Here are six areas that may permit a fully employed work force:
1. Subsidize home and pre-school care for infants, elderly, and all home-bound. Every home-care giver deserves a living wage, because the good of our people demands that those in need of constant care have dedicated caregivers who earn their keep. This removes many from institutional care, and those benefiting could include half the millions of Americans un- or underemployed. All preschoolers deserve approved experienced guardians in home facilities -- and paid by governmental funds.
2. Keep the under 21-year olds in training (in many cases technical school for acquiring meaningful work skills) until 18 years of age and thus keep dropouts out of the potential labor pool. Through subsidy encourage the 18- to 20-year-olds to continue in skills training for at least two additional years at public expense; that could be less than $50 billion in costs -- easily met by reducing military personnel numbers.
3. Reintroduce Conservation Corps for young people after formal schooling so that they can gain access to experience that will be needed in the future. Forest management, trail-making, eradication of invasive species, road beautification, urban forestry projects, surface mining and brown fields reclamation, park improvement, and heritage building enhancement are just some things that could keep a million youngsters meaningfully employed.
4. AmeriCorps and Peace Corps expansion could take several hundred thousand newly graduated college students with reduction or elimination of debts through years of service overseas.
5.Renewable Energy Development would only require that a level subsidy field be given by Federal policies to wind, solar and other renewables in contrast to recent fossil fuels favoritism. In fact, renewables would be enhanced, and upward to two million more people employed (often privately) through a carbon tax that could be directed to supporting renewable energy projects.
6.WPA-Type Infrastructure Improvement could give work to several million workers in road maintenance, bridge replacement, airport expansion, waterway upgrading, flood control, and other related projects so vitally needed today. Eighty-year-old projects still serviceable from post-Depression WPA could be replicated.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to use our ingenuity to connect people, jobs, and funds for the common good.
Discovering The Gift of Appalachian Trees
Among a book series containing Warren Brunner's photos and my accompanying texts is this final collaboration involving the wonderful trees of Appalachia. These creatures have so many good qualities (fruit, nuts, wood, shade, soil enhancement, landscape beauty, and on and on). We discover that trees are part of our lives as expressed in the narrative in "The Gift of Appalachian Trees." Our Appalachian region is blessed with trees that clothe our hills and hollers in beauty, and they prod us to celebrate their presence in word and photograph.
Declare them. The trees around us enter our ongoing conversation with land and people. They are companions and partners in our physical and spiritual life. Surprisingly, we find that trees, which exist in numerous shapes and sizes, inspire us to see who we are and how we relate to others. In fact, local trees are members of what expert Lucy Braun called the Mixed Mesophytic Forest, whose vast variety number more than any other temperate forest in the world -- a real distinction. When others come and visit, they are captivated by the charm of our various trees and how they live together in harmony -- truly a gift to celebrate.
Share them. We are moved to urge others, whether residents or visitors, to see value in our forests. We encourage tourism because sightseeing within our forests is good for the soul. We invite you, as readers, to experience our unique wooded landscapes: see the beauty during every season of the year, taste our forests' fruit and nuts, hike the scenic trails, camp amid the wildlife, even climb challenging cliffs and partake of water sports and other forms of recreation. Just be gentle and kind to trees and confront those who want to damage them or exploit them for their personal profit. Yes, trees are vulnerable in this chainsaw age to the clearcutters who want to open land to commercial bargain hunters. Preserving forests in which our trees are community members is part of our renovating a once ravaged region. This is our humble effort to protect our fragile trees.
Bless them. Environmental care has a strong spiritual component. Many Scriptural passages affirm the special place of trees in the fullness of creation, from Adam and Eve's apple tree to the tree of the cross. Trees inspire prayer; rooted deep in the Earth their branches reach out to the Creator; they express joy and sorrow, exuberant youth and mellow old age, winter shapeliness, spring freshness, summer warmth and autumn's color. A momentary reflection gives us all a deeper understanding of God's harmonious hand at work in our world. In our book we have collected seventy-two tree-related activities in alphabetical order of human interactions, along with selected photos. Trees impact our lives and most likely yours; please compile some of your own experiences.
The Gift of Appalachian Trees
By Al Fritsch, SJ (Author), Warren E. Brunner (Photographer) Amazon Books
Over two decades our three-acre parish grounds have been transformed into an edible landscape, that is, one that furnishes food and herbs for residents and neighbors, as well as feed and habitat for some wildlife. Currently we have transformed about half of the lawn space into fruit trees, blueberry and raspberry patches, a pond for frogs, and an herbal garden together with several vegetable garden plots. We protect the lower stems of our eight varieties of fruit trees with plastic guards, and we ring garden plots with rows of mustard to discourage rabbits and deer from entering these areas. Flowers areas include irises and annual plantings of marigold and cosmos and other varieties.
The intention is to expand the current varieties of twenty- four herbs (six mints, bee balm, chives, garlic, oregano, stevia, parsley, basil, dill, cilantro, fever few, rosemary, thyme, lamb’s quarters, sage, lemon grass, savory, fennel and comfrey). New furnished plans come through our active local Garden Thyme Herb Club. We intend to add chervil, chicory, cumin, horehound, horseradish, lavender this year. Actually, the largest problem is the invasion by certain weeds and even flowers such as Black-eyed Susans along with local grass. Keeping both the beds and bordering gravel paths clear of invasives is a challenge. A broadening variety of trees now include mulberry, hazelnut, pecan and walnut.
Previously we were hesitant to include the parish grounds in a neighborhood project due to supposed limitations on church insurance coverage. However, this is an official parish project by current interpretation and worthy of local community support. We have been encouraged by other groups changing their grounds to meditative garden space; this becoming an integral part of church ministry. Our grounds are an ideal space for stimulating all senses to experience "sacred space:" sight of the surrounding mountains; sound of bees and crickets along with local birds; smell of the more aromatic herbs; occasional offerings of taste of the herbal plants and nearby fruits and berries; and of feeling of the breeze and sunshine. We declare the outdoor space as part of church activities, and thus included the space as meditative grounds available for local visitors.
Improving and maintaining such physical facilities will take some effort. The entrance is to be clearly marked, and the walking space must be hardened enough to allow for elderly with walkers and wheelchairs. The beds are bordered and plants identified by signage. In due time better approaches will be built as well as added benches installed. Currently we have statues of St. Francis and St. Fiacre (patron of herb gardens) along with a mounted gong made from a recycled fire extinguisher. The place deserves further publicity and decorations.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to extend the "Holy Land" to our backyards, and to make these into places of prayer and reflection as well as inviting to selected wildlife and visitors.
White trout lily, Erythronium albidum. Woodford Co., KY.
May 8, 2021 Questioning Whether Coal Has a Future
Sitting within sight of what until 2016 was the major coal-haul railroad-switching center in America, in the number-two coal-producing nation, it is perhaps a perfect place to ponder the future of coal. The trains no longer run and sit idle by the score. The Sierra Club counts the many coal powerplant closures which are continuing this year as well. Why this condition:
* True electricity-generation costs: Is coal generation really as cheap as all think, or are we deferring some costs to future generations, namely, immediate air pollution effects, reclamation of land, ash deposition, and long-term respiratory health costs for ex-miners' black lung disease mounting into millions of dollars?
* Environmental and Health costs: In an age of escalating health costs, will society require coal extraction to bear its fair load of expenses without subsidies and tax incentives and breaks?
* Land disturbances through surface mining: This has had major environmental impacts and the need for reclamation will add large extra costs. Can this be paid by current mining operations?
* Ash deposit problems: Could the burnt coal residue be turned into concrete and other products, and avoid ash deposits that are worrisome to nearby residents when allowed to escape?
* Accessible alternative sources: Will renewable energy sources (especially wind and solar), make these fuel sources far cheaper than coal -- as the last few years suggest? There are no new coal powerplants and the cost of retrofitting older ones is prohibitive.
* Global trends: If the trend is true in America, does use of coal in electricity production follow that trend in China and India and other nations; rather are these younger consumers learning rapidly to move to cheaper renewable energy sources?
* Competition with natural gas: It appears in most recent research that natural-gas-drilling escape is double what was thought, and is closer to 4% of total amount drilled. Since methane is about 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide greenhouse gas, then the two fossil-fuel sources are about equal or even worse for natural gas after considering all factors.
Future technologies: Is it possible to effect gasification of coal in situ without major land disturbance or external pollutant escape? Is this perhaps wishful thinking? Certainly coal emission capture procedures are being tried, but how successful can they be without expenses that make coal increasingly uncompetitive? Are the costs so great that there's no way of saving coal as a fuel?
Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to discern future trends regardless of the complexity of the situation.
Finding a nest of turkey eggs in the forest.
May 9, 2021 Earthhealing Involves Loving People and Earth
This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.
Today's readings give us a sign of a loving God who watches over all of us and expects our love in return. The love knows no national boundaries and shows no partiality (Acts 10); the source of love is God who first loved us (I John 4:7-10). Jesus calls us friends and commands us to love and bear fruit that will remain. Furthermore, this vocational mandate includes an empowerment, for God will give us the means to do what we are called to do.
Accepting social blame involves love. The heart of the ministry of Earthhealing is an atmosphere of love that is environmental in scope. Within this ministry we discover what the Lordship of the Resurrection involves from our part; we are empowered by the Lord to perform grand deeds. Acknowledging our own contribution as social beings to confront addictions before us means that we are part of the total mystery out of which divine mercy and love must flow. The crisis is not directing blame to other parties; it acknowledges that we are all at fault either in what we have done or have failed to do. Blame becomes something social and responsible restitutions is a challenge.
A mother's love is a special reflection on Mother's Day and a mother's special loving care. Our mothers certainly come to mind, and the love, care and devotion with which they brought us into the world. Furthermore, the love of Christ takes us naturally to his own mother, who shows a loving sense of ushering her new-found son into the world and caring for him in his early years. Mary's Magnificat is a mother's love story, a revolutionary movement filled with gratitude, devotion, and responsibility to bring him to the world. This poor maiden opens for the poor the promise that they will be as instrumental in bringing about profound change in our world.
Earthhealing knows no boundaries, nor any targeted culprits beyond a social group including our global neighborhood of which we are partly to blame for wrongdoing. Love teaches us how to have a sense of total compassion, for we all share in suffering -- and that includes all threatened earthly creatures. Our Earth commons has been damaged and in need of reclaiming, and thus we are called to be reclaimers, who are Earthhealers in this general designation. We must humbly accept our role in the atmosphere of love in which Christ empowers us to operate. Earthhealing involves welcoming what we have to do because we are participating in making the New Heaven and New Earth. Not only do we acknowledge social blame in a spirit of neighborly love; we accept our responsibility to make restitution for the common good.
Prayer: Lord, we are to love deeply like you love: universally for everyone, fundamentally as source of love, willingly as Christ has done for us, and gratefully for being called into the Divine Family.
A lone shooting star, Dodecatheon meadia. Cedars of Lebanon State Park
May 10, 2021 Rejoicing in Springtime Delights
You crown your year with your bounty, abundance flows wherever you pass; the desert pastures overflow, the hillsides are wrapped in joy, the meadows are dressed in flocks, the valleys are clothed in wheat, what shouts of joy, what singing! (Psalm 65:11-13)
We are often using the term "joy" at Christmas and Easter, but should not this special characteristic exude from us at every season of the year? Maybe we need to go out on a hike and simply enjoy what we see in the landscape, the sound of the birds and bees, the feel of the warm sun, the smell of earth and flowers, and the taste of a wild strawberry or any edible thing in season.
Experiencing joy even while the span of mortal life continued to shrink is most fitting, for we are people who know how our misdeeds have been forgiven, and we are enabled to help repair damages in the little time remaining. We know that the beauty of creation still shines through -- for God's forgiveness is expressed in the verdant landscape. The month of May is when vegetation covers over the scars of a wounded planet, and we affirm with joy that Earth is made anew to the glory of God through our good deeds.
The following is my reflection found in the book featuring Warren Brunner's photographs, Mountain Moments (Acclaim Press, 2010). Buy one from Amazon Books and reflect on the photos. One is of a little girl who is running down a hill, photographed by Warren in her first chance to run after a bout at being an invalid -- what joy! Mobility, whether fleeting clouds, or growing plants, or winging nestlings, or bolting colts, or humans free of faults are all moments of joy -- and God enjoys every moment of it.
All creatures exude joy. Why not? They exist and that is cause for joy. Spring showers, summer rain, autumn mist and winter snow all show joyful moments. The sun sends smiling beams on the hills and warms them so they smile in return. The winds and breezes speak more loudly and the rivers clap their hands as well. This is more than poetic license. All nature has a bounce that cannot help but infect those who reside here. This happy surrounding is enough to make us smile and delight in what God has given us. St. Francis sees it in brother sun and sister moon; so ought we. We smile with Earth and all its parts but more -- we can freely articulate this joy through prayers of praise and good works for others. Let's get all to smile and enjoy life itself.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to express joy in smiles, and greetings, and encouragement to others, and just spending time in springtime in the wonder of your creation.
Awakening of the hazelnut, Corylus americana.
May 11, 2021 Declaring the Holy Land a Pilgrimage Destination
A host of reasons make us inclined to declare the Holy Land in the Middle East a global destination, which many should seek to visit at least once in a lifetime. In so doing we contribute to global peace. Twenty-nine years ago this spring, I made my only visit to this sacred place as a participant of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Memories are still fresh.
Culture in the Holy Land bubbles over. Here in the Middle East is the focal point of three world religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Many of the over half the world's believers are followers of the Book; they would like to see holy sites at least once in their own lives. If every person were given such an opportunity just once, it would mean a million pilgrims every month of the year continuously being repeated -- and others would perhaps want to return a second or third time.
Pilgrimage is a form of tourism with a religious goal in mind. At this junction of three continents modern land, air, and sea travel are available -- and worthy of use after the pandemic. For those who cannot travel to the Holy Land, a virtual series of TV videos, YouTubes and other audios and visuals are available and this can give some pilgrim experience much like making a virtual "Stations of the Cross." Reading The Holy Land in Colour by Sami Awwad brought back memories from my sole 1992 trip. We know that Muslims desire to make the Hajji, a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca; why not extend this to the holy Jerusalem location as well? And why should not Jews scattered elsewhere and all Christians strive for that one lifetime experience as well?
Economics of such pilgrimages would benefit all parties. From an economic standpoint this is an opportunity for local residents to run lodging, food, transport, guidance, and souvenir shops and business places. Services and travel impact the environment less than processing more and more consumer goods. Yes, energy is expended, especially in air travel, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime expense and well worth the effort. Global fellowship and world peace would be enhanced by this interreligious effort of a common destination. This keeps down the horror of one group wanting to conquer another or that one group has exclusive rights in what should belong to all: a Commons of place to be shared by all.
Earthhealing ministry, often regarded in local terms, could have a global outreach as do global touring to historic and religious sites. Recognition of the Holy Land as a global asset and destination could have a healing effect and reordering of our goals. In sharing the Holy Land, we worship one God -- the ultimate mission for chosen people that has not been rescinded. We reaffirm that oneness when we consider a global pilgrimage program --participating in Earthhealing by those of different faiths.
Prayer: Lord, allow all people of faith the opportunity to renew their spiritual wellsprings and thus become Earthhealers.
Wild blue phlox, Phlox divaricata, Madison Co., KY.
May 12, 2021 Earthhealing Is Essentially Quite Practical
About six decades ago Rachel Carson presented us with Silent Spring, and a lot of water has run under the bridge since then. Occasionally we reflect on Earthhealing as a broad concept of repairing a wounded world. Is Earthhealing primarily application of existing principles and methods of reclamation, or is there more? I did mostly practical work at the primary level after helping to co-found the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, DC in 1970, and then spent a quarter of a century (1977-2002) directing an appropriate technology demonstration center in Kentucky (ASPI). Practicality was my primary concern, for both client organizations to become greener and for raising funds through environmental resource assessments.
While experiential work is utterly necessary, I hesitate to say that it is so focused that reflection and theory are to be shortchanged. Rather, we need cycles of active work at the practical level and periods of reflection on that work, to come to more encompassing levels of understanding and action. Earthhealing is a global task; it is not the brain child of the erudite, but must be grounded in experience at the grassroots level. You cannot heal Earth unless you first touch Earth -- and thus in older age when far less mobile and energetic, I still must garden in order to keep communion with Earth herself.
The healer must always think of practice as requiring two components: actively healing self in order to be honest about what one is able to do as a healer; and actively extending the healing to the broader world in which we find ourselves immersed. Teaching does not come first and then we apply what we teach or learn. Teaching and learning are coupled, for we gain more experience when sharing that learning with others -- who teach us as well. Yes, healing and teaching go hand-in-hand, but it is the healing that allows us to regard Earth as a community and not solely as an individual experience. Without reflecting on hands-on and interactive healing we would not be good teachers and learners.
This brings us to the heart of the Earthhealing process, namely, the teamwork needed for solving current problems. The ecological crisis is not due to failure to understand the problem at a basic level; it stems from our failure to acknowledge our social addictions. Once these are seen as socially dysfunctional, then we discover our need for assistance from and with others -- and with a Higher Power. This then makes the environmental crisis a crisis of lack of trust and love. We find that we need the help of a global people who are willing to collaborate and trust each other. And this trust points to a divine origin. These insights demand reflection and the practical willingness to surrender ourselves to trust in God for the sake of genuine earthhealing.
Prayer: Lord, keep us practical, but allow a precious pause to reflect and to focus us on where we are going as global healers.
May 13, 2021Looking up to Heaven? Why Not Act Now?
Ascension Thursday is the day we need to move out from our imposed isolation and demonstrate to the world the virtues the Lord asks us to exhibit. There are many ways to demonstrate solidarity publicly. Public work must go deeper than impulsive activism; it embraces the willingness to dedicate our lives to doing our duty to all parties over an ongoing span of time. A deepening understanding of Earthhealing causes us to rededicate and recommit ourselves to ever more serious responsibilities.
Are we willing to act? The disciples were looking up to heaven for the Lord to return quite soon and lead them on the way. However, that mistaken understanding of "soon" took time to sink in. Delay is a sister of patience; a deeper level of work that takes more time was involved through the centuries. A world that seemed to be in the control of foreign and often pagan elements must be confronted and engaged in a meaningful manner -- and that's not done in a day. Ongoing engagement becomes a critical issue. St. Paul says "if you don't work you don't eat." If we are to be part of the mystical body of Christ, we are to be engaged through being Christlike in our challenging the powers of the world. We become the hands and feet of God at work; we engage in the economy of salvation. We come to gradually be aware of the current situation, the HERE, and confront it fully.
Do we act quickly? Taking responsibility occurs over a period of time. Thus, we are able to see what needs to be done and to put this into some degree of action ASAP (as soon as possible) or NOW. We look at the parable of the Good Samaritan who sees a person in need and does something about it immediately. This is an instant taking of responsibility just as most of us would do when coming upon someone who is hurt. We could run to escape the scene, but that is not right. When we respond we do so by direct assistance or we call for assistance on 911 or for help among those around as much as possible. To engage now is an Earthhealing mission, even though the completion of the mission will take time.
Do we act effectively with others? Here a level ethical responsibility transcends into a longer-term commitment, much like people who make sure the victim is cared for over time. This takes assistance to the WE of our society, but it is not a responsibility we abandon but rather expand through collaboration. If we assist someone as a Good Samaritan, we are willing to return in a period of time to make sure all is okay with the victim -- and to offer additional assistance if necessary. This broader range of involvement is needed because victims are not generally cured in an instant; a social cost occurs with misdeeds and these costs are only corrected by longer-term solutions that take time and effort. Thus, we are effective if we are in the process for the long haul and show compassion for victims.
Prayer: Lord, teach us the true spirit of the Ascension when Jesus leaves us to continue the greater works that he has begun.
Sharing Words through the Seasons
In my 3,300 daily essays I never addressed poetry as a specific subject, even though I value others' poetry and inserted some of my own efforts in past Daily Reflections. In fact, in my current collection, "Words through the Seasons," I give no introduction and no pre-publication hype or explanation. Part of this absence is due to my being puzzled as to what to say. How does one approach poetry as a general topic?
At unexpected times, I try to express my current emotional state, and in rare circumstances even throw the results away. However, some verses have been retained for future sharing. Certainly, it's a mixed bag. Our human emotions conveyed through an economy of words appeal to me, whether being my own or others. I have often encouraged friends and those within our current writers' club to communicate their thoughts in their own unique fashion. Yes, it takes courage to make our thoughts known and a willingness to be judged by others, even when they are sympathetic. And then there's the excuse that the work is not finished, and needs an additional touch before our mortal span ceases. Poetry can be really hard to handle once fashioned.
It seems that poetry is primarily for the individual scribe, and for this reason much poetry never sees the light of publication, but simply dies with the poet's scattered effects -- a fragile selfie of sorts. Others of us, even with far less talent, will still pen a poem to be shared -- but only with people who are willing to read it. On rare occasions, I have with full attribution reprinted a popular poem, for its given effect; however, that is rare. My own creations come with changed emotions when trying to say this in prose fails to deliver a desired effect.
Only my first poem, "Upturned Plow," has ever held my fancy, even though it was penned in my Jesuit Juniorate period at Milford in 1958 (yes, 63 years ago). Even while it faithfully bears the emotion of seeing rural values being threatened by urbanization, it now seems overly emotional. So be it! It was a noble attempt at the time when I was leaving farm life for good. I realized then and now that poetry may have its style, place and specific emotional moment. To express it in our own fashion as in a daybook or diary may have value, but to publicize it is a deeper calling, even though it bears the risk of being misinterpreted.
Consider revealing your poetic self. Be willing to describe your emotions, if and when inspired, and then consider sharing them with others. It takes will-power and courage, for some may laugh or dismiss your efforts. In this light I offer my assembled poems to you. Please find "Words through the Seasons" on Amazon Books for a modest price. I welcome your comments, for perhaps they will trigger both my creative juices and yours. Furthermore, I encourage you to share and publicize your poetic reflections, for so many have hidden potential worth actualizing. Godspeed!
May 14, 2021 Questioning Whether Libertarianism Is Unchristian
Often we hesitate to question libertarianism due to wanting to remain non-partisan in these reflections. Yes, purely partisan politics has its weaknesses. Few if any issues are so private and individual as to be removed from public discourse and social concern. The libertarian seeks to maximize individual freedom and underplay any surrender to the social commons. The private (generally wealthy) party with the greater power has a solution to be imposed on the rest: to each his own. What makes this discussion more complex is that some elements of libertarianism (freedom to take individual actions without hurting others) are to be championed; likewise, some libertarian actions are simply detrimental to the social order in which we all participate.
I recall several decades ago when libertarians sponsored a forest discussion among members of the regional activist Heartwood forest group in Indiana. Several of us contested the libertarian thrust to privatize the National Forests that was the hidden agenda of the sponsors -- and several of us exposed the hidden reason behind bringing us all together. Again, instead of silence or subterfuge, let's address political agenda issues publicly.
Libertarians can be politically visible and active, and even seek political offices under traditional party names. At the heart of the matter is a limit on the social controls so needed in a globalizing world. The Christian must be not taken up with over privatized or overly communitarian tendencies, but hold to the Principle of Subsidiarity, namely, giving to the lowest level the freedom to act on that level when something can better be performed at that level. Many environmental and financial regulations are best performed at an international or global level and more than locally with limited results.
In its foundation, Libertarianism seeks satisfaction in individuals being left alone and thus free from the burdens of social and ethical responsibilities to others. Jeffrey Sachs says that two as diverse as Buddha and Aristotle saw flaws in this pure position; Christians add, so does Jesus in everything that he says in Scriptures. We are called to be selfless, to find happiness in going out to others, to saving ourselves by sacrificing ourselves.
One answer to the possibility of a modified "Christian libertarianism" is that few people would admit to be purely libertarian -- and their moderation takes them outside of purview of this reflection; the moment they adjust their motivations and politics to enlightened self-interest (which also has deep flaws), they are no longer purely libertarian but have moved further to the socialized end of the political spectrum. To become more social not only helps needy neighbors, but also opens the door at self-enlightenment through giving satisfaction to others.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to champion and balance both individual freedom and participation with others in responsible social action.
True prophets have a hard time, whereas false ones are often popular and well-received by both peers and local supporters. In order to save our wounded Earth, we must take on an authentic prophetic stance that demands a number of characteristics, which we find in Jesus as true prophet and guide:
Be public. No prophet whether good or bad hides in the shadows. The prophet speaks out even when others are hesitant to act. A courageous forthrightness is a telling point. In our willingness to be Earthhealers we must not hide our word under a bushel basket, but share our light with a darkened world.
Be clear. The message may not be instantly popular, but it is something the average citizen can understand. Keeping people guessing is not prophetic. Of course, part of clarity is to seek a response from the audience in the manner that the message intends. To get an opposite reaction is not intended, but may be being "up to no good" or a trouble maker.
Be charismatic. Someone perhaps is public and clear, but lacking in energy and enthusiasm; this will not win followers and may actually be a detriment to the cause. True prophets make their message part of them, and show a spiritual commitment to what they profess. They are aware that moving others takes more than words and must include a certain fiery character expressed in and through the delivery. Prophets want hearers to be moved to action.
Be willing to risk. The prophetic message is not automatic with guaranteed "success." The true prophet does not first measure popularity, but accepts possible resistance by some as inevitable; this must not turn the basic message into a compromise. In some cases prophets are overlooked, despised, ignored or even forced to face injury or death. The prophet announces the news as John the Baptist did and yet he lost his life for doing so. So did Jesus. Both were willing to risk all in proclaiming the urgency of their message; so ought we.
Be at times solitary. The disciples of Jesus did not accompany him in driving the moneychangers from the temple. Quite often the lack of support is evident at the start of a movement, and yet the prophet must be willing to initiate and continue action with or without immediate support.
Be called. The prophet is willing to take time, listen and discern the Spirit in a prayerful manner. Each Christian is anointed in Baptism/ Confirmation to be priest, prophet, and king -- and each takes on a unique character depending on the individual gifts given. Openness allows the Spirit to speak; if listening we perceive the Hound from Heaven, then we are moved to act.
Prayer: Lord, help us be prophets in order to save our wounded Earth; help us listen to our own prophetic call.
May 16, 2021 Joining with Christ as Priest, Prophet and King
Go out into the whole world; proclaim the Good News to All Creation.
The entire creation is the recipient of our work and ministry. In reality, this going to the world allows us to see the vast scope of our work and how we are to be like Christ and part of Christ's movement into the world. We must do something and do it now, and not limit the arena of where we act. Our work springs from the powers vested in our Baptism/Confirmation.
Prophetic: We have the powers to see, to acknowledge what is wrong in the world, and the willingness to express the truth and take the consequences. The HERE is what we observe in a face-to- face encounter; we refuse to run from the situation of our world. The prophet is the one who takes the task at hand to be one of going out and does not hesitate to become involved. The Spirit moves us to engage a world far beyond our local community, and this engagement breaks the bonds of the vicinity's environment and expands our concept of neighborhood to the entire planet. Awareness of those who act "locally" must become expansive to all levels of community -- domestic, local, regional, national and global. By first clearly seeing the situation around us, we can be able to go forth as prophet to address the issue as hand.
Priestly: We are to do more than see salvation as the issue; we are to take responsibility and do something that is open and showing a power to change the world. This power to speak out combines the prophetic with a leadership role, an agent of change, who is willing to spread Good News and to do so in such a manner that the process of change will be hastened. Proclaiming Good News has immediacy or a NOW to what is seen and must be changed. The proclaimer accepts the role of being a true catalyst by offering him/herself for the good of all at the right place and time. The priest makes offering and sacrifices in a formal manner, and when done compassionately is effective. This benefit is extended beyond a local community; incorporating our offerings for and with others has an ever-expanding ripple effect in healing our wounded Earth.
Kingly: Leadership involves responsibility or responding to a world in need, and that means all creation. Our leadership is a joint venture, a WE, that embraces the democratic spirit of an entire people who need to learn from and embrace all creation. One could argue that this is solely a priestly role, but the leadership of teamwork in Earthhealing is paramount to success and has a broad democratic role to play. We must embrace more than one level at the same time in this age of globalization. While the priestly function begins at the individual level, the kingly role must foster a cooperative gathering of concerned people, and leadership takes on a participative manner of global collaboration.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to spread the powers given in our Baptism/Confirmation to an entire needy world.
May 17, 2021 Admitting "Through My Fault" Is Humbling
The beginning of the Catholic Mass contains an optional longer confessional text that can prove meaningful when recited before the whole Court of Heaven; we need to come before the Lord with a humble stance because of the misdeeds of we the people. In saying more than "Lord have mercy" all members of the congregation strike their breasts three times and say that these misdeeds were through "my fault." Yes, for some this is a weekly experience that is utterly different from an "innocent" American culture, where it is always the other guy's fault. Yes, imperfections are OUR faults.
Know ourselves. We are wrongdoers and permit others to be as well; we admit this before the congregation, an act that is revealing and, on top of this, we are admitting our faults before the entire Heavenly Court. We need cleansing so we can proceed with the Liturgy; we seek the warm embrace of a merciful God.
Act responsibly. The state of being forgiven is a moment of liberation, a freeing from the bonds of sin so that we can act in a more effective manner and truly join wholeheartedly in the celebration. Here we see that we help make up for what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ by our own participation. We help repair damages done by us individually and collectively.
Commit ourselves for others. In freedom we are prepared for the work that is ahead of us. We are to extend the Word through spreading the Good News and the love of Christ through the deeds we do for others. We commit ourselves to improve our daily actions. Being immersed in our culture, we fail to see that every personal fault creates social disorder which need to be rectified.
Reclamation is needed. In healing our wounded Earth, it is not sufficient that we merely stop performing misdeeds; we must also repair collateral damage that persists after we cease wrongdoing. These repairs were the many additional spiritual activities that have been recognized throughout the Church's history, and are needed even today. The original concept of indulgence (certainly not a freedom to commit sin as some falsely said) was to help restore the world to a proper order. The concept is misunderstood by some otherwise bright environmentalists.
"Cap and trade" is based on this false concept of indulgence, namely, one is permitted to continue practices provided others make the restitution that is needed. Here the wealthy get off by paying others to be more socially responsible and less polluting. It is far worse than previous misunderstandings, for here the trader is removed from social responsibility by paying a group that will do the repairing of damages done by the trader's misdeeds. However, a socially responsible theology must acknowledge our own faults and we must resolve to make proper restitution in a social manner.
Prayers: Lord, teach us to take responsibility for our own actions and not try to shift the blame to others.
When I grew up on the farm we were expected to work from a very young age, since that was the only way the farm could stay viable during the Great Depression. We had to all pitch in and do our part. It was unthinkable that we would be allowed total free time or to do what we wanted during much of the summer vacation. My dad had four expressions that he voiced virtually each morning except Sunday, but these depended on the season of the year:
Autumn -- "The days are getting shorter." (Sept-Nov)
Winter -- "The days are short." (Dec to Feb)
Spring -- "There's much work to do." (Mar to May)
Summer -- "It's going to get hot." (Jun to Aug)
Should youth be working? One experience that has made my life more fulfilling was the ability and capacity for work -- the first resulting from required farm work discipline, and the second by virtue of good health. Today, federal work rules highly restrict youth as to age or type of work -- even forbidding certain types of work to youngsters. Is this really a good thing or not? Many jobs ought to be done by older mature folks (especially the un- or underemployed), but a multitude of jobs await fulfillment provided that reasonable compensation be found for these young people who have the opportunity to perform meaningful work.
Farm work can be dangerous and so the touchy issue of how much youth ought to be involved. Should the youth be allowed to drive bulldozers or operate chain saws? Construction work can be as dangerous as farming -- and what about mining and forestry forms of work? Certainly not every job should be available for youth with so much unemployment of the un- or underskilled. Risk-taking comes easier with youth because they often think of themselves as invincible and invulnerable; they will take hair-raising risks that older folks would hesitate to try. As a youngster, I did just such things on occasion -- and the memory still gives me chills.
Volunteer work affords youth (even pre-teens) opportunities to see their work with tangible results and take pride in what they can accomplish. Trail-making, road and riverbank cleanup, house painting and minor repair, and yard work would be such tasks worthy of youth participation when under proper supervision. Visiting and assisting in care of senior citizens can have a socializing effect on youth as well. Domestic chores are good for the early years to teach a sense of responsibility. Older youth can be employed as baby-sitters, allowing parents to have an evening away; they can run errands for the elderly and shut-ins. However, declining newspaper popularity means fewer paper-deliverers. Scouting projects can still afford desired work, and the feeling of accomplishment this brings. Attendants at major events and checkout and bagging at supermarkets are teen work prospects as well. There is much work for all if we just look about.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to value work and see its benefits for all ages of workers.
Rose acacia, Robinia hispida, Wolfe Co., KY.
May 19, 2021Reclaiming "In God We Trust"
Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are from God?
In Reclaiming the Commons we listed nine areas of commons (air, water, land, culture, health, communications, silent space, flow of goods, movement of people), and we did not say the listing was exhaustive. Upon reflection, our American founding fathers trusted in God, and our national motto was placed in the last stanza of "Star Spangled Banner" composed during the War of 1812; later in 1864 the Secretary of the Treasury shortened the phrase to "In God We Trust" to fit on all American money. In many ways this motto is part of our commons though some may like to see it erased.
Commentators say that within one generation Americans have adopted a shocking array of addictive behaviors. Acknowledging our condition is the beginning of a multi-step program to address social addictions -- though this may not follow precisely a step-by-step individual program. However, we do need to include our trust in a Higher Power and surrender to the divine will. As social addicts we acknowledge that we have lost control and we need God's help lest we die in our selfish ways. We must gradually come to trust that God, who is all merciful and loving, will assist us in the reclamation work we need to do. No better time to reaffirm this than on World Goodwill Day.
Breaking the addiction to our consumer culture is not guaranteed. To heal our wounded culture will take honest work and recognizing that we cannot do it alone is a gigantic step in the right direction, just as all addicts must admit the need for others -- and that ultimately means a Higher Power. To look to ex-addicts for assistance is to admit that the poor will lead the battle for change that we must undertake to overcome our material addictions. The heart of the believer's faith rests in not doing it alone or attempting to be little gods who have a power within our nature to rise through superior intellect to regain control. In opening ourselves we find Christ with us; we grow in the urgency of the mission, for he guides us.
Never before has the mission been so urgent -- and this mission is open to failure or success. Never before has there been such a threat to human and flora and fauna existence as during this time of climate change due to excessive fossil fuel use. The demand is for meaningful urgent action, which needs cooperation on the part of all people of good will. To continue to call for and to make room for this participative action requires people who have a faith in the future, a faith that is nurtured by real spiritual food -- not by symbols, not by play-acting. Our saving work demands the nourishment that only God can give us through prayer and sacramental life.
Prayer: Lord, help us to know ourselves and take humble steps in asking your help through repeating "In God We Trust."
Inspecting and admiring garden-fresh tomatoes.
May 20, 2021Designating Today's Robin Hoods as Agents of Change
We have the rich, we have the poor, and the twain hardly ever meet. In these critical times the Spirit moves us to become Robin Hoods; then we will take from the wealthy and give to the poor. Do some find such thinking a threat to law and order? On the other hand, don't the Commons belong to all? Aren't different forms of redistribution worth exploring? Taking from the surplus of the rich for the poor redistributes essentials and opens the formerly wealthy to a chance of salvation. However, often Robin Hoods take on less dramatic ways of acting that are worth exploring:
Behind-the-scenes advisors shun individual publicity but attempt to influence public leaders through persuasion.
Care-givers raise the spirits of the ill and encourage them to be cured and return to active life -- or encourage them to offer their sufferings for the salvation of the world.
Essential takers follow the "Cardinal Frings' Rule" to take from a larger supplier when essentials (food or fuel) are needed by the poor.
Ghost writers working for leaders can be efficient agents of change in crafting political talks, celebrations, and dedications.
Global cyber warriors are bent on halting the military or financial activities of enemies through Internet procedures.
Guerrillas or those fighting in non-organized units for some form of change could also include spies and saboteurs.
Internet hackers may range from sophomoric nerds to those bent on closing down competition, some for fun, some mean-spirited, and some for greater access to information.
Media producers perform behind-the-scenes calls for action.
Moral supporters are parents, relatives, friends or teachers who have a moral influence on activists.
Prayer partners offer their petitions for supporters who are more publicly active reclaimers of the commons.
Spiritual counselors and confessors engage people in looking at imperfections that retard them from being exemplars for justice.
Teachers and mentors see that the good others can do through influence is an extension of their own philosophy of life.
An Understanding ear is attached to a person who listens to another and helps them transform their fighting words into deeds.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to ask critically about the needs of others and to choose effective ways to bring this about.
Hospitality When The Latchstring is Out
The title for my autobiographical essay collection is "The Latchstring is Out." This title refers to Kentucky pioneer homes with wooden lock bars that could be raised from the outside when the latchstring was extended -- now others are welcome to enter; otherwise, the door remains barred when occupants desire solitude and safety. Hospitality accompanies the exposed latchstring and is something we should all promote, especially when engaged in earthhealing activities. All citizens are invited to participate in renewing our wounded Earth, and the interior environment is an arena of renewed life. We can enter and join in the collaborative work ahead. The latchstring gives to others an insight into an individual's willingness to share environmental awareness emerging from early youth to maturing old age.
My earthhealing journey involves a lifetime. Some episodes sound rather hilarious now, but not so when they were endured. Others seem so easy in retrospect, but it involved some trying experiences. Instead of a year-by-year repeating of many activities, I have focused on one particular action per year during a period of time when that was a prominent stage of development. In this way, the journey is far easier for readers to follow. We all have focal activities, which color our specific responses; from young years on the farm to elderhood on these rectory grounds, each passing year has unique ambitions, goals, stressful situations and accompanying conditions for better or worse.
Environmental awareness is not instant, but builds over time with periods of preparation, formal activism, and even regret for imperfect performance. Each has its place, though lack of success can tempt one to remain silent. However, on second thought (which is what this total reflection is all about), one discovers that past partial success or failure added to a total life experience and is well worth reviewing before that last slippery moment when all life flashes before our final breath. With time we accept ourselves, even forgive ourselves, and find life's adventure worth sharing.
This yearly collection of reflections is meant to offer a suggestion to others who have never kept a daybook of life and do not intend to, or who have given little organized thought to past history. By taking the opportunity to reflect on highpoints of various stages of our journey, we find things worth formalizing into a narrative pattern, if not for the public, at least for acquiring wisdom. Our past history makes us who we are now; it is our concrete experience from which we learn, improve and wisely move beyond; it becomes content of ever deepening spiritual awareness when possibilities shrink and new hopes surge. In this reflected listing we find meaning; we rediscover God's gifts to us; we accept failures; and we resolve to look ahead to better days.
May 21, 2021Listening to Renewable Sources Blowing and Splashing
The continued emissions from carbon dioxide will be having an effect, as the window of time for controlling greenhouse gases closes in the next two years. While this pessimistic outlook haunts us, a simultaneous optimistic opening of the renewable energy source/energy efficiency window occurs. Fast enough?
Wind is blowing strongly in many places, bat is untapped. In 2021 the installment of wind turbines along with solar arrays will be the major contributors to new energy sources not only in the U.S. but throughout the world. New fossil fuel sources are taking a back seat and nuclear energy sources are vanishing due to both expense and safety. The American renewable energy increase alone is sufficient to meet energy needs for two million homes. Coal- burning powerplants are going out or being converted one by one to natural gas. More and more wind farms are being constructed, and sizeable leases confirmed off the East coast near large urban areas. Wind and solar are now commercially competitive and even advancing to becoming advantageous.
Tidal and waves are flowing as well. The coasts of the U.S. have additional renewable energy sources that are not as popular as wind and solar, but when developed their potential will be great; these are wave and tidal energy resources. A decade ago, the U.S. Department of Energy released an assessment report that said that all water-related renewable energy sources (including currently utilized hydropower) could potentially supply 15% of the nation's electrical needs by 2030. The maximum theoretical electric generation from waves and tidal currents will amount to approximately 1,420 TWh per year, or nearly one-third of the nation's total annual electricity usage. This opportunity is especially promising among populated West Coast states.
With new renewable facilities on or near the coasts, this nation in the next decade could meet half of its energy needs with renewables. Some may object to obstructions to their private oceanic view, but ought to remember that facilities in many of these cases will be further out to sea and beyond view. Such viewing barriers are nothing compared to the environmental impact resulting from emissions of land-based, coal-fired powerplants that so many of our citizens have had to endure in past decades; lives have been shortened by emissions from fossil fuel powerplants.
Counter to this movement to renewable energy sources is the economically challenged fracking operations with immediate access to natural gas in America and other countries. New off-shore petroleum sources are being discovered and opened in Arctic regions as cover ice melts. The world is taking possible human-caused global climate change seriously, but not enough during the Trump Administration. Maybe the winds of change are permanent.
Prayer: Lord, help us to become concerned about global sustainability and take measures to act responsibly.
Do we take for granted the lowly turtle, these slow-moving but friendly creatures, which carry their shelters on their backs? All wildlife is ultimately at our mercy as we regard exploitative mastery as a power over life or death. The frailness of turtle habitats and reproduction methods reminds us to be gentle in our care for creation, and especially our slow-moving, land-based brothers, the tortoise. Occasionally, I have stopped on country roads and moved a little terrapin to the side of the road; others admit doing a similar deed. In fact, a study of treatment of wildlife triggered a researcher to put fake turtles and fake snakes at various locations; he found that 90% of drivers sought to avoid the former and 90% of them tried to hit the latter -- even backing up on an occasion for a second run over of the poor fake snake.
I go into my strawberry patch each year at this period and there's my resident terrapin munching on my strawberries; it pauses when I come and looks up unblinking but with such utter innocence. I can only say "Go ahead little fellow; you will enjoy my berries more than even I do." However, I often wonder whether turtles understand English.
In our world it takes special additional practices to allow turtles to thrive, especially the giant ones. These remnants of evolutionary activity are cited as exceeding normal imagination (30 feet and one-half ton in weight of every color and description). These varieties are often found in the tropics and especially in the Pacific islands. In Central American nesting areas, many marine turtle hatchlings never make it from where eggs are laid to the water's edge before being preyed upon by wildlife and by the human population who prize turtle eggs. Wildlife organizations are paying residential populations to police and protect the hatching and on their perilous journey to the sea. Turtle lovers were impressed when the Gulf BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 was in full flow; volunteers arrived from many places and converged on west Florida Gulf shores, scooping up and transporting unhatched turtle eggs to the opposite (Atlantic) shore to protect them from the threat of oil contamination and more recently from the growing plastic contamination of our oceans.
With some of these long-living creatures being threatened by plastic in the oceans, fishing nets and gear, and by oil and toxic spills, we hate to mention that the turtle makes a tasty dish for gourmet eaters. In fact, good-sized land turtles can be harvested and the flesh has what some Appalachian harvesters call portions of all other meats (chicken, pork, etc.). When on the farm, we did harvest turtles but were unaware of how threatened these beautiful and unique creatures might be. I would not advise this hunting prize at this time, especially when we are striving to reduce meat consumption. They are beautiful but often endangered species.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to respect the creatures such as turtles that give us rare joy by their very existence.
May 23, 2021Pentecost:Proclaiming the Power of the Word
The power of the "word" is a focal point for me, an aged activist with limited resources at hand. We can remain active in recognizing that much can still be done through discernment that involves thinking through the enterprise of writing.
Word, well and timely spoken or written, can become a powerful instrument of change. Common Sense, by Thomas Paine showed this influential activity at the start of the American Revolution, for his essay molded the spirit of change and collaboration among colonists. The written instrument must be clear, short, and to the point and something that catches the fire of the reader who passes on the experience to others. Words can become incendiary depending on the vocabulary choice of written text or the charism of the deliverer of spoken word. Violent or non-violent action may follow, depending on phrase and presentation. Equal to power of delivery is receptivity of hearer or readers. When people are aroused as French revolutionaries in the 1790s, then an unpredictable situation did and can still explode. Measured words allow a degree of control over resulting deeds. So much depends on givers and receivers and the temper of the times.
Protestors and demonstrators have at times in this century been willing to occupy public or private parks or abandoned or foreclosed buildings; they look for acceptance of their expressed message and challenge. The demonstrator expressed word through being present, spoken chant, written sign or other ways. The goal was to elicit response or reaction to a perceived unjust and dysfunctional system. Deeds of basic dissatisfaction are expected to follow and, in turn, these deeds are articulated as triggers to inspire a broader audience. At times in history, as in 1848, the message crosses national boundaries and catches the widespread unsettledness of global circumstances. The hopes have been that battling climate change could become such a triggering issue.
Incarnational theology justifies the power of the word for Christian believers, for the Messiah as eternal Word was born in time (an historic event). The full impact of that event has only gradually been unfolding, and yet it real today, especially among poorer folk in developing nations. New life is emerging and profound change is in the air. Christ is the Word, speaking in time as an ongoing Pentecost.
Words take time to sink in. We need patience when speaking words, even well-chosen ones, and time to have them heard and listened to. We need not follow the temptation to smother them with the verbosity of an Internet chat room when giver and receiver ought to spend time reflecting. Moving word, well spoken, and well received, leads to deed, well-grounded and quite effective.
Prayer: Lord, at this Pentecost give us Spirit to inspire, wisdom to choose wisely, and energy to go forth and spread the Good News to all of Creation.
May 24, 2021 Exposing Corporatocracy and America's Victimhood
First of all, the word "corporatocracy" is easier to understand than to pronounce. Evidently. this term refers to the corporate controls and influence in American economic and political life. Jeffrey Sachs in The Price of Civilization defines corporatocracy as a political system in which powerful corporate interest groups dominate the policy agenda. To be specific, he goes on to say that this is the burden of the United States at this time and focuses on the fact that both major political parties are deeply entangled in this form of government.
Corporatocracy arose over the confluence of four big trends: our system has weak national parties and strong individual districts; the post-World War II military-industrial complex (a megalobby operation); big financial money for elections (see May 4th on Super PACs); and globalization's race to the bottom that tilts the balance of power away from workers to corporations. These four have led to a perfect storm in which the lobbyists (involving many ex-legislators and aides) have overrun Washington's halls of Congress. Besides the military-related advocates, others include Big Energy, financial institutions, Big Ag, and drug-related lobbyists and firms.
Much of this chapter by Sachs is devoted to showing how weak both political parties are; these parties simply ignore the overwhelming will of citizens in such matters as making the wealthy pay higher taxes to halt the growth of national debt, as well as a complete absence of long-term plans and budgets for everything from environment to general government. This review of corporatocracy standing alone is terribly pessimistic, for it does not allow for any way out without taking dramatic measures; it also shows that no one is really challenging this system. When the chips are down, all bend to the power of money and its massive influence on electing them; those seeking elected office all too often spend all their time raising money for the next election and not for legislating in a meaningful fashion.
Sachs has his own way of weaving through to possible solutions, but maybe we need to reintroduce the solution to our efforts at calling for reclaiming the commons. The ultimate Commons is, as we have said in the reflection of May 19th on our national motto, "In God We Trust." We are so dragged down in the weight of bureaucratic and corporate bindings that we can do little by ourselves. A people drugged on consumerism in its rawest expression are addicted, and when addicted act irresponsibly and have lose control over their lives. Responsibility takes will power and this takes an admission by the addict that we are powerless and must rediscover our trust in God. In doing so, we find the wherewithal to say "no" to the super-rich and all they stand for -- and start to take back our democracy.
Prayer: God, deliver our country from the fangs of the wealthy, and open us once more to authentic democratic values.
May 25, 2021 Discussing Natural Gas Development and Application
The "fracking" process of forcing special fluids into shale rock strata and therein liberating natural gas has now become a massive commercial enterprise, especially in certain parts of our country. In a little over a decade the U.S. went from net natural gas importer to exporter; this phenomenon was totally unpredicted at the turn of this 21st century. Is this a godsend or is this hastening human-caused climate change that has been neglected in popular discussion with the all engrossing pandemic? And is the latest health problem actually a blessing in disguise?
Godsend: In some parts of America during recent milder winter conditions and partly by competitive fuel prices, natural gas customers have seen prices plummet by almost half, and others found unexpected savings on their fuel heating bills. Lower prices mean a viable way to substitute natural gas for coal in powerplants. They also mean that some industries such as steel products that were dependent on lower fuel prices (but higher transport costs) are coming back to our fair land. And the natural gas is rich in ethane that is a basic component of plastics and other chemical activities. New jobs opened in industrial and energy sectors in parts of the rust belt.
* Note that the King Hubbert estimates were developed in 1956 for Shell Oil to predict domestic energy resource decline. These curves of rise, peak, and decline predicted mid-century fuel supplies fairly well, provided techniques for retrieval did not change. Fracking was a fuel changer and thus affected the original predictions -- and they certainly did.
Warning: We like win/win situations, but are the results better than our American dependence on coal as the primary electricity generating fuel? Currently, methane from various sources contributes an estimated 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions. If methane has about twenty-five times more greenhouse gas potency than carbon dioxide coming from coal and other fossil fuel combustion, does this mean that estimated escape of up to 4% of natural-gas-drilled is adding significantly to the climate change equation? Is natural gas production MORE a greenhouse emitter than coal use? Coal impacts as toxic pollutants and land disturbance are avoided by less mining, but water and air impacts from natural gas extraction may be also quite worrisome. And then we observe major disruptions of democracy with natural gas and oil as contributors to the power of Big Energy. Come renewables!
Economically, natural gas fracking has been considered a success for many; ecologically, the verdict is not bright. Optimistically, some would like a win/win situation; however, hydrofracturing is exempt from Federal regulation and oversight. Fairness requires a better handling of new wealth and better curtailing of escaping gas. Renewables must come ASAP.
Prayer: Lord, give us a discerning spirit since so much depends on our choices of fuels during this decade.
Water droplets appear as jewels.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
May 26, 2021Downsizing as an Earthhealing Practice
In order to curb climate change and recover from pandemic effects it is necessary to downsize both present lifestyles and future expectations. Downsizing is a key to commitment in this age of readjustments on domestic, local, regional, national, and global levels. Concerned citizens ask a number of pertinent questions:
How well do I budget? A credit average of $18,000 debt per American (and that does not include home mortgages) is terrifying. Downsizing must seek to remove the credit burden that our grandparents never knew before the age of credit and debit cards.
Are there too many electronic gadgets? I first wrote this this the week I gave away my Kindle Reader because it was more worrisome than electronic books on my home Computer.
Do I protect my free time and manage credit? We may consider "free time" as something to cut into for some work project that is taking more time than expected. That is perhaps a mistake that tempts us all. Free time should be unplanned and held as sacred. Some parents give quality time just being with family and hold this as an important aspect of life's commitments.
Do I reduce substance use? This applies to all areas such as prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and even food. Keeping tab on domestic practices is a good start.
Is the dwelling too spacious for personal needs? We meet people who move into smaller residential space; they are pleased once happening for savings on upkeep time and heating and cooling.
Must I please supposed impressionable peers? Often the size of the house, car, or types of clothes fit the exterior demand to be equal to or better than peers. However, the challenge with downsizing is to make others see that thrift has a value.
Can a garden be a key to downsizing grocery bills? Part of downsizing may be smaller servings of meat or less frequent eating out. Another could be curbing meat consumption across the board and emphasizing more grow-your-own vegetables and fruits.
Should I use fuel-burning vehicles less? Perhaps the stay-at- home pandemic has taught us something about travel and mobility.
Lastly, can we downsize our expectations? Often we fail to see the permanence and benefits of living more simply. Downsizing is personal responsibility, but it is also a national act of patriotism that may demand closing more overseas military bases and less expensive military hardware manufacture by congressional districts. We can prosper through downsizing at all levels.
Prayer: Lord, give us the strength to downsize material consumption and to do so with a sincere heart and willing spirit.
Halberd leaf yellow violet, Viola hastata. Red River Gorge, KY.
May 27, 2021 Applying AA Twelve-Step Program to Social Addiction
Alcoholism and a number of other disorders, such as drug addiction, can be treated by applications of the traditional "12-Step Program." In the social addiction of "consumerism" we could discover that certain basic steps have been highlighted. For some, this one-by-one step in transferring from individual to social addiction may appear too "forced." Furthermore, those who take it upon themselves to undergo step procedures may not be the principal culprits. The main traditional focus is what is worth imitating: an acknowledgment of being powerless in our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable; and that we believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to a normal life.
Amazingly, we as a people fail to see as we are immersed in our consumer culture that the entire economy has gotten out of hand, and mere tweaking of the system at one or other point is not a sufficient fix. A culture that lives on gross economic indebtedness is attempting to transfer to a future generation the cost of what is considered needed today, and this is because we cannot face up to the reality of living within our national and global means. Indebtedness in many lands and in our own country has reached chronic proportions and there is no immediate cure at hand -- only modest ways of reducing the pace and size of the bankrupting process. Why are we comfortable with it in the first place?
The call of the wise is to awaken to what we are doing; we are powerless without divine help to break the chains that bind us to these cultural traits. Certainly, the pandemic has triggered some basic awareness during time spent indoors and away from the busyness of everyday life. When we realize the challenge to change, we have recourse to fall back on our American motto, "In God we trust." Has the mention of God gone out of fashion in our secularizing culture? The inability to curb that coronavirus did put the fear of God in many and made more people aware that much depends on our relationship to the Almighty. The nation's founders recognized this; so ought we.
We have been an addictive people living beyond our means with a host of consumer products from autos and spacious housing to costly prepared foods to electronic devices. Too little thought and too much indebtedness. The immature party must cease, and we must address the serious global health and environmental problems of today. The pandemic has been an alarm bell that our enticements are distracting us; we must overcome immaturity and grow responsibly even when the process is not unanimous; a critical mass of concerned citizens can make a difference. Part of the fault is that we think some can be extravagant while others act maturely and realize that allowing the unsustainable practices of the affluent is devastating to us all.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to come to recognize what has plagued us as a wake-up call to become more mature in addressing our collective faults and live more sustainably.
Modeling Jesus Christ Activist
Activists are often removed from the mainstream and still seek to find companionship in what they feel called to do. Often, due to being unpopular, they experience loneliness and social distance. For them, models of those who are effective activists are always welcome. This reflection is meant to inspire activists who are followers or who deeply admire the life of Jesus Christ. He is a model of perfect activism and had all the components listed in the following appendix. Let's deepen our understanding of his active works of teaching, healing, organizing and his suffering and dying in the light of our modern activistic requirements.
Many people would not identify Jesus with modern leading public organizers who exhibit qualities of activism that upset the status quo and foster fundamental change. However, by looking at all aspects of the life of Christ, one finds a variety of the components of modern activism, such as risk-taking, confrontation and solitary witness as part of Jesus' works as found in the Gospel narratives of Holy Scripture. At the same time, it is wise to consider and mention some of our acquaintances who exemplify some of the same characteristics in their own areas of activism.
For many people of faith, "activism" is regarded as contrary to a pious Christian's way of proceeding. For these folks, conformity to the status quo is regarded as Jesus' way of acting. Quite often, those who champion and urge imitating Christ's works speak from a more scholarly approach or through a conservative acceptance of current conditions involving our present unsustainable economic system. However, don't they differ in outlook from the Jesus who appeals to those seeking radical change in their lives? Hopefully, on closer reflection a person will be drawn to reconsider their degree of involvement in questioning the current economic system.
Jesus states his mission publicly and clearly, both in the local scene and in his travels throughout Galilee. He does not seek approval from the religious or political establishment before he acts; he chooses words to show his opposition to the current system and its leaders. He selects a small group of natives to carry on his mission and spends time instructing and training them for the tasks ahead. His focus starts in the Holy Land, but reaches out through his disciples to a world arena. His communication with his Father shows an obedience to a manner of living and dying and a willingness to see the task to completion. His forgiveness indicates divine mercy; his compassion extends to a variety of people: male and female, young and old, infirm and well, rich and poor. He calls for change through a simple life and continual service to those in need. All of this adds to a sense of activism needed then -- and needed now to renew our wounded Earth.
A variety of components of an activist agenda are enumerated here. With serious reflection these can also be found in the life and activities of Christ as narrated in the four Gospels.
* Desire for change -- current conditions are insufficient
* Convinced of rightness of issue
* Clear vision of Outcome
* Public commitment to position
* Sense of urgency
* No compromise tolerated
* Words punctuated by importance of deeds
* Personal commitment
* Expectation of opposition and risks
* Refusal to run from threats and opposition
* Willingness to accept personal rejection
* Enthusiasm for subject matter
* Willingness to share victory
* Utmost determination
* Expectation of victory in struggle
* Keeping motives purified
* Justified anger with status quo
* Size up the current situation
* Convinced that change is possible
* Wholehearted endeavor
* Inherent stamina
* Acceptance of assistance when offered
* Ahead of the times
* Believer in the future
* Not being exotic in procedures
* Meaningful actions
* Basic realist
* Ignore those who threaten
* Some control over emotions
* Sensitive to others who are oppressed
* Awareness of gradual improvement of method
* Having audience in mind
* Strive to make others change their ways
* Psychological balance
May 28, 2021Fulfilling Memorial Day through Deepening Love
Memorial Day is a time of remembering loved ones. This has a sacred history that goes far back before the American civic duty to commemorate the fallen heroes of past wars and sacrifices. Primitive people remembered their dead; David's psalms remembered God's goodness; and at the Last Supper Jesus called for a memorial until he comes again. Memorials are part of being fully human.
To live in Christ's love is to keep the commandments and involves respecting our fellow human beings. This is part of the godly life, the life of the ones who are close to the Risen Lord who laid down his life as the greatest expression of love. This weekend, more than at almost any other, we recall those who made the supreme sacrifice for their loved ones: soldiers on a battlefield who died for their country; workers, farmers, pioneers, housewives, and untold others who sacrificed for their immediate families and descendants; the missionaries and those who gave their all to establish a community of believers; and the untold heroes and heroines who care for the sick and elderly especially during this concluding pandemic.
God is Love. Every bit of loving that we do and see in the world around us is an expression of the God who is present to us. Even the animals coaxing the nestlings to fly away manifest God's love in their actions. When we see people freely serving others in love, we see the greater totality of God's love being manifested in hospitals and sick rooms. We often wonder whether we could love enough and how can we both love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves -- the two great commandments. By loving God, we enter into the arena of infinite Love, and thus are immersed; we are not creator of the space for love, only being able to open ourselves to receive love's rays.
Love's ever-deepening call. We seek to find love in its entirety, and to do so as followers of Jesus who gave all. We are commanded by the Lord to "Love one another and I love you." That love means we extend the goodness of the Sacramental gifts through radical sharing to others. We know we must love with everything we have, but that comes so hard for us to do. Loving takes compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. To love as Christ loves is impossible so why try? This question is always raised when we conceive of loving as continuous acts of kindness -- which can manifest love in some little ways. However, the dilemma of never approximating Christ's love is a misunderstanding, the product of an erroneous competitive culture worthy of critique. Actually, we become one with Christ and thus bring him so close that his love for others becomes our love for them. Thus, we enter into the love of Christ, not compete with it; we find teamwork and not ambitiously striving to get ahead.
Prayer: Lord, help us on this Memorial Day to love you with our whole heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves -- and to grow in that love on Memorial weekend.
May 29, 2021 Declaring Joan of Arc a Perennial Teenager
Tomorrow's feast of Joan of Arc (1412-31) is of someone who was a historic heroine and not a fictional character in French History. She lived a short but extraordinary life almost defying reality, but still very real. How could a late Middle Ages illiterate youngster rise, shine, and die so suddenly and remain in history as an unappreciated light, a dream of teens?
A peasant farmer's daughter was her background, more austere than perhaps any other world-leading personage. After coming into the world on January 6, 1412 she tended cattle and went off quietly to pray. All my life as a Francophile, whose grandparents were French by birth, Joan of Arc baffled me; how could she have been?
As a prophetess, she truly held a unique role in religious and secular circles where the blend of both is so distinct. Joan became known in her land when she predicted several French defeats in the One Hundred Years' War and her calling was recognized.
As Maid of Orleans, she led with no military experience; she rallied soldiers in ways no captains could do and without using her sword (only carrying a banner with the words "Jesus, Maria") and led troops into a successful battle at Orleans in 1429 -- and the army won; she went on to lead in another battle at Patay.
As a supporter of monarchs, she stood beside her weak king, Charlie VI, when he was crowned in Rheims in 1429. Interestingly, he lived on past her short sojourn, and later became a reasonably successful king in an age of royal weakness and spinelessness.
As an illiterate virgin, sold by the Burgundians to the English, she actually offered her life for the ideal cause of her people. As a captive in 1430 she was isolated and brought to trial without legal support -- even from her king who failed to save her.
As a saint and martyr, she was accused of being a heretic and thus burned by her English captors at the stake. With limited education she was forced to attempt to answer cleverly conceived questions. She called, Jesu, as she was consumed by fire -- a sound that haunted soldiers to their dying days. The English said, "We are lost, we have burned a saint."
As a female activist, she was an exemplar for knowing how to take responsibility. One accusation was that she dressed in male military attire; what a charge! She was exonerated through a trial two decades after her death at the insistence of her family.
As a French and global phenomenon, Joan helps her country even amid the hostility of secularism long after her death; she leads a world to acknowledge the moral force of religious values.
Prayer: Lord, raise up new Joans to take leadership roles and help save our wounded Earth with the bloodless sword of idealism.
How rich are the depths of God -- Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? (Romans 11:33-34)
This is the Feast of the Holy Trinity, an embarrassment to some who do not want to say "Father" and "Son" and to others who do not believe in this mystery. For most Christians this is a call to redouble our own efforts to reaffirm what we hold in the ancient creeds that we recite each Sunday and on feast days: one God and three persons. Our statement of belief is simple; our imaginations are stretched; our words fail us and yet this is what we as a Christian community of two billion people hold in our hearts.
We attempt to live the truths that we hold in some way, but we look for more than words. How can we make the deep mystery of the Trinity alive in our lives? Maybe our respect and reverence hold a key. One possible approach is to consider the deep reverence that we hold for the mystery of all creatures who enter our lives. We know that they are created in the image of God to whom we show deepest reverence. This God is so wrapped in mystery that we do not try to pretend to come to any complete understanding.
Secondly, we cannot see God but we do see Jesus Christ who has entered into human history, God becoming one with us. We seek to imitate Jesus who proceeds from the Father and thus this act of Divine Love, which is a gift to us, is accepted in gratitude. Jesus' new commandment given at the Last Supper is that we are to love as he loves us, a command never fully realized. However, we spend a life time deepening our connection with Jesus, and thus enter more deeply into the mystery of Divine Love.
Thirdly, we show the Spirit that proceeds from the Father and the Son who inspires all to enter into the unfolding mighty works of God. The Spirit inspires us to proceed from our expression of love of Christ to do good deeds for others. Especially, we accept the command to love by showing compassion for those who suffer -- and they are all around if we but gaze about. In following the Word we move to deed, and this reflects the dynamics of the Trinity to the best that we can express, for our loving deeds are far mightier than mere expression in word.
We are able to do three expressions of belief in the Trinity: a deep and profoundreverence for all things created and thus for the Creator as well; a universallove for all with whom we come in contact and thus entering into the shadow of Christ's universal love; and the actual move to meaningful deed in assisting others through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer: God, we praise you: Father all-powerful, Christ Lord and Savior, Spirit of love. You reveal yourself in the depths of our being, drawing us to share in your life and your love. One God, three Persons, be near to the people formed in your image.
May 31, 2021Promoting Radical Environmental Change
Without a radical and urgent policy change direction the world risks to lock itself into an unsustainable energy future.
Maria van der Hoeven, International Energy Agency Director.
We hear an alarming report on some environmentally-related issue as to a new pollutant or inefficient ecological practice. A school is evacuated when someone breaks a mercury thermometer -- and they forgot to spread some flowers of sulfur in the spilled area and go on with business. Note: In high school we spread liquid mercury to shine dimes and we survived. Mini-alarms are topics for TV evening news, but they are also simply part of the cacophony of sounds when twirling the dial and browsing the Internet and radio outlets. In fact, information access and competition for attention to numerous mini-alarms yield to the excuse that major alarms are like the rest, a form of "alarmist" propaganda. When major alarms call for radical change and involve corporate bottom lines, merchants of doubt suddenly appear and reaffirm the status quo.
Climate change is a major alarm and has been given time and again by 99% of climate scientists, all the major international scientific associations, the Vatican's Science Advisory Commission, and all who call for prudence in lifestyles. Even though the world has been in the midst of the largest recession since the great depression, global carbon emission decline has only been a portion of what is needed to overt catastrophe in a few decades. Even with current moderate renewable energy source growth to one-fifth of total energy use, the change over from fossil fuels is not fast enough without a concerted Green New Deal on the part of all nations. We must not only accept the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement; the U.S. must be first to implement it completely.
America has been forced in the last year to undergo changes in order to control the coronavirus pandemic; we all learned together to reduce and control our social contacts -- and it certainly was somewhat successful. We discovered together that changes are possible if governments and people work together. We have only a narrowing window of time to make this radical change to a renewable energy economy -- but we must act together to succeed.
Small-scale environmental actions are not satisfactory to bring about the needed changes. We must curb fossil-fuel use ASAP and this demands halting subsidies for fossil-fuel applications and diverting investment in Big Oil. What makes this all the more urgent is that the time to change is growing ever shorter and the rising of greenhouse gases continues to occur even when we know that rising oceans and extreme weather conditions are growing. The call is for those who believe in the future to rise up and insist on collaborative radical environmental action now.
Prayer: Lord, we acknowledge that certain issues are more urgent than others; awaken us to help curb climate change.