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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.


A series of written meditations and reflections



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Table of Contents: Daily Reflections


November 2005

Copyright © 2005 by Al Fritsch


prairie wildflowers kentucky ky salato wildlife education center frankfort ky

Late autumn prairie wildflowers at Salato Wildlife Education Center,  Frankfort, KY
Photo: Janet Powell

November may conjure up thoughts of darkness, dampness, defoliation,  frost, first ice, and the smell of rotting leaves. But really are all of these things as bad as they sound? We now hear sounds one couldn't hear when the leaves covered the trees.  We can easily traverse the landscape without the fear of snakes and the bother of mosquitoes. And we discover the shapes of trees we so often overlooked. The garden still has the green of mustard and kale and the plentiful root crops (radishes, carrots, onions and turnips) to fill the table. If we look about us, we find walnuts and autumn  pears that haven't started to rot yet. And not all the birds are gone; in fact,  we're thankful the non-migratory wrens and cardinals remain to cheer us during the coming dark days of winter.

November has many good things: pumpkin pie, hickory nuts, winter squash, fresh pressed cider served piping hot with a dash of cinnamon, tangy endive, spicy mustard and super-nutritious kale, Thanksgiving dinner, the taste of a different soup each day, Christmas decorations and lights, the first snow of winter, brisk outdoor exercise, the memorial days for our deceased loved ones, and the nod to veterans.









November 1, 2005 All Saints Day

On one special day a year we honor all the saints of the world
-- perhaps numbering in the tens of billions. This is a democratic
day, a day when all the people who have advanced to glory are
honored for their individual journeys in life. The vast company
includes our loved ones, our close and distant relatives, our long
forgotten and near and dear friends who have passed on, and our
neighbors who were kindly, merciful, generous, hard-working, loving
and peaceable folks, who raised families and scraped for their
upkeep, who suffered without complaint, who bravely looked death in
the face, and who went on to the Lord. Close relatives decorated
those graves for a time, and when they became feeble and passed on
themselves, allowed the plots to become overgrown and forgotten.
Life went on and, at most, the departed became a mortality

But the foibles of human memory are not the end. God
remembers and calls them home, blesses them with light and gives
them a crown as the most generous of gifts whether they were
remembered or forgotten on Earth. They now stand out through their
good deeds and are enrolled in the company of the elect. We are
challenged to follow in the footsteps of the ordinary folks who
were faithful along with those of popular saints. Thus, with very
few exceptions, we are called to be among the humble masses, to
accept that role in deepest gratitude for the gift of eternal
salvation, and to respond accordingly among the glorious throng --
not as single individuals apart from others but as members of a
growing chorus of those who enter the Light.


Prayer to All Unknown Saints

Saints of the universe, we trust you are numerous and somewhat
nameless except in your own company. We know you have all the good
qualities for persevering and continuing with enthusiasm in the
praise of the Almighty. We call upon all of you to assist us in
the work ahead. We look to you because we do not wish to compete
for a limited heavenly space, to excel over others, to stand out in
a special way, to think we are special when we are like the rest in
so many ways. We realize that saving our wounded Earth takes
people who are willing to cooperate and work with others in ways
that will not distinguish them or give them power or wealth or
prestige. Healing the Earth is an urgent work requiring large
numbers of workers imitating you in fidelity and enthusiasm. You
laid the groundwork for glory in small and patient ways. You gave
gradually of yourselves until the energy ebbed away and life was
transformed into eternal light. You excelled through a collective
excellence; you participated with unselfish devotion. Guide us in
doing the same, for such work is so needed today.






November 2, 2005 All Souls Day

For if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would
have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.
(Second Book of Maccabees 12:44)

Average people often wonder why this day is called "All Souls
Day." They may think it to be quite quaint but may forget that a
sizeable portion of this world's population will pray for, with, or
to the dead and a greater proportion will respect the dead in some
specially human fashion. In part, the issue of "all souls" was
addressed well enough in last year's reflection (November 7, 2004),
as a process of polishing the unpolished jewel who died too soon to
accomplish all the work needing to be done.

Respect for the dead. Cultures honor their dead all over the
world: the Mayans in Central America, Pacific Islanders, the
Chinese and Japanese, Roman Christians in the catacombs, and on and
on. Many religions base this respect on a sense of the deceased
still being present in some way and in some state of life.
Honoring the dead makes this an integral part of any culture,
though there may exist primitive human beings who did not render
such an honor. Tombs, monuments, cave writings, biographies, grave
stones, memorials, and special days of prayers or feasting are
expressions of this honor. Native American tribes have blended
ancient rituals with Christian teachings and traditions. A number
of Earth religions consider the spirits of their deceased as very
close at hand and accessible to immediate conversation. Some
prepare meals, bring flowers, burn candles and incense.

A Christian position. We believe that in death life is not
ended but changed as we say in our funeral prayers. As Goethe
says, this life is the childhood of our immortality. Christians do
differ in whether a process of purgation might occur after death
for those not yet purified by suffering or the toil of life's
journey. All Christians hold that a number (differing in
estimates) bask in the Divine Light -- the Church triumphant. But
a majority of Christians hold a number of people are in the period
of purgation -- the Church suffering. These two groups plus those
of us on Earth make up a total community of faith in the Lord. We
work and pray together to assist those still on the journey -- the
poor souls. Thus many of us follow the late Old Testament
tradition of praying for the dead (above quotation). We affirm
this process of purgation and the indication by Jesus that
forgiving sin is a process (Matthew 12:31) And I tell you every
sin will be forgiven but not that against the Holy Spirit

Purgation in this life. People who linger in hospices, senior
citizen homes, and prisons are going through their own purgation or
purifying. They are being made pure through the blood of the lamb,
and being prepared to see the "light," as they pass from this
mortal life. We remember them as a work of mercy. We pray that
their struggle will be shortened and that their repose will be
peaceful. And we do this especially on the second of November.








November 3, 2005 Create Your Comfort Zone

Once when I was performing an environmental resource
assessment in the Northeast on a brisk autumn day, I discovered
that some of the rooms were using air conditioning and certain ones
heating. That struck us as a strange anomaly except that people
from other institutions later affirmed the same practice, "Oh no,
that is not unusual. It happens at our place all the time."
Should a building heat and cool simultaneously? Isn't this a
rather exotic waste of energy? I have entered some overheated
rooms in winter and some terribly cooled rooms in summer. If
people would just be consistent and maintain a comfort zone, they
could have immense savings in both heating and cooling bills.

This reflection repeats one of the practices mentioned under
"Other Cooling Practices" (July 8, 2005). However, here the
attention is on heating, not cooling -- and the resultant
inflationary energy bills in the months ahead. Americans often
tolerate (demand) cooler or lower summer indoor temperatures in air
conditioned space than they "tolerate" in heated space in winter.
A building will be cooled to 62-65 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and
the same space heated to 75 degrees in winter for the very same
people. The difference between what is desired in summer (62
degrees), if followed in winter, and the 75 degrees, if followed in
summer, could save close to one-third of many heating/cooling

Establish a comfort zone. Say, set the thermostat as 71
degrees. Now advance it 8 degrees as the limit in summer, that is
79, and cool to this temperature; now reduce it 8 degrees from the
71 medium for winter and set the heating limit at 63. If people
find either extreme too much, set their temperature as required --
but adhere to it both in summer and winter. Establish their
individual comfort zone. Then if they find this intolerable due to
being too hot or too cold, move them to cooler or warmer parts of
the residence and have them adjust the amount of clothing worn.
Honoring one's comfort zone year round could result in a major
energy saving.

Getting a person familiar with thermometer readings and his
or her own comfort needs is an educational task in a country that
says we must be super cooled in summer and super heated in winter.
Should we tolerate complaints of overly pampered people? As an
important side benefit in establishing comforts zones, studies show
that residing in higher summer temperatures and lower winter
temperatures is more healthy and cuts colds and respiratory
disease. Think of human health as part of being comfortable, for
who enjoys a nagging cold?





November 4, 2005 Simplicity of Lifestyle Test

On World Community Day it is wise to ask whether we strive to
live like responsible inhabitants on our planet. References to
former reflections are in parentheses. Do I (we) do the following?

1. Grow some of my (our) food -- If I (we) eat food we grow,
I (we) identify with the place, control growing conditions, save
transport fees, and experience the joy of gardening (7/13/04).

2. Drive energy efficient vehicles -- If I (we) take only
necessary trips and lack easy access to public transportation, an
energy efficient vehicle can become a major means of conservation

3. Install at least five compact fluorescent bulbs -- This
switch, if performed by all Americans, would reduce the need for
new electric power plants to almost nil (8/23/05).

4. Use appliances sparingly -- Refrain from using unnecessary
electric or gas appliances; reduce or stop television use; cut off
appliances in standby mode; buy energy-saving appliances (9/9/05);
keep cool without air conditioning (7/7-8/05).

5. Use solar energy -- Where the opportunity allows, dry
clothes outdoors (4/19/04); install solar space, hot water and
greenhouse applications (2/11/04, 7/23/04, 9/8/04, 10/23/04);
consider solar food cookers, food dryers and photovoltaics.

6. Heat and cool consistently -- Often people cool to lower
temperatures in summer than they find comfortable in winter, and
the inverse with heating. Keep year-round at a medium temperature
say 70 degrees F (+8 degrees in summer and -8 degrees in winter).

7. Create green living space -- Design and build or acquire
build relatively small residences, using local construction
materials, insulate well, allow for multiple use of interior space,
and keep place airy and free of toxic materials (4/5/05).

8. Recycle and reuse when possible -- Discardable materials
made of paper, empty metal containers, cardboard, and plastic waste
materials should be recycled (6/28/04). Obtain needed clothing and
home furnishings from flea markets and yard sales (9/10/05).

9. Replace lawn with edible landscape/wildscape -- Fuel and
other resources are expended in mowing and maintaining lawns;
these resources could be redirected to less costly utilitarian or
ornamental purposes such as for gardening or fruit trees (5/27/04).

10. Conserve water -- Most of us know most of the twelve common
ways suggested to conserve water (shorter showers, etc.); some
people may find the major one (compost toilets) beyond current
means. Water savings equal resource savings, considering water
purification and distribution to your residence (5/21/04).






November 5, 2005 Assisting our Neighbors in Need

We won't forget this past hurricane season so soon after what
happened in the Southland and especially around New Orleans. Amid
the widespread destruction, still much has been achieved because
when people have learned to work together and help each other
rebuild. Also we are grateful to the forty or so nations that
assisted our country through relief supplies. People say we forget
the ways of old. When a neighbor was hurt, other neighbors pitched
in and helped harvest the crops or rebuild the burnt-out barn.
What we have witnessed in the past few months of outpouring is that
same old-fashioned willingness to help others now manifested on a
national and even a global level. People didn't think twice; help
was on the way for those in need. Much of the criticism was over
how fast it arrived and how many bureaucratic road blocks stood in
the way.

We will cherish a number of hurricane tales told about helping
those who lost everything through wind and flood. Volunteers
pulled up stakes and took truck loads of food, water, medicine and
clothes to those in need. Suddenly as over a million people in
Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were displaced in Katrina's
wake, folks from all over America and especially in neighboring
Texas opened their doors to evacuees coming with only the clothes
on their backs. Blame was showered on agencies that did not act
quickly, but amid the confusion, individuals and groups gave and
received generous assistance. Hospitals and senior citizen homes
invited in patients and residents; colleges such as Texas A&M
opened their doors to take in entire sports teams from flooded
Tulane University so that the teams could practice and compete in
a normal fashion this school year; Strake Jesuit College Prep
accepted 400 students from Jesuit High in New Orleans and let them
use shared facilities at night to continue their education as a
body. The stories continued throughout the Lone Star state with
230,000 displaced persons, and other states as well.

Sometimes death and catastrophes have silver linings. The
smugness of overabundance is overcome in a moment and we quickly
realize that we gain or lose in an instant: ours is a passing era;
we are mere strangers and guests on this Earth. At times of
tragedy we become more sensitive to those in need whether on the
Gulf Coast or in other parts of the planet. Hidden tragedies are
often not accompanied by the luxury of worldwide publicity. The
plight of the very poor in America in stark contrast to the
opulence so often displayed in Hollywood movies is newsworthy.
Far, far less capable of such a news story is an impoverished land
with far less internal contrast but suffering from similar weather-
related or human-induced disastrous conditions.

Again, who is our neighbor? Certainly, the displaced Gulf
Coast people are our neighbors, even when their past living
conditions are little known. In assisting them, we discover a
wider neighborhood with pressing problems. Let's prepare for the
immense work of earthhealing that has planetary dimensions.







November 6, 2005 Awaiting the Expectant One

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily
perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.

She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their
desire; whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate. (Wisdom 6: 12-14)

Today some friends are awaiting the return of their son from
Iraq and harms way. They have prayed for months, followed the news
accounts in the area where he is stationed and, after each casualty
listing and no visits by a military unit, have breathed a sigh of
relief. That has been going on for months and now the tour of duty
is ending -- and they await the expected one in rapt anticipation.

November is a transitional period when we end the ordinary
year of readings and await the coming of the Advent season. We
listen to St. Paul (Thessalonians 4: 13-18) talk about the end of
time and regard this as a fitting subject after the feasts of All
Saints and All Souls. November reminds us that it is salutary to
think occasionally about our own passing from this life. Even the
Earth will pass away in order to give way to an anticipated New
Earth -- the nature of which is somewhat idle speculation. Paul
speaks of the voice of an archangel and of a trumpet of God.
Exactly how that scene of the ending will unfold is really beyond
us. We certainly can await with expectation, but to suppose that
some will be more able to visualize that happening is not even
scriptural -- for we can never fully know the mind of God. As high
as the heavens are about the earth, so high are my ways above your
ways. (Isaiah 55: 9)

The Gospel (Matthew 25: 1-13) is about the ten virgins; the
wise five virgins take sufficient oil to keep their lamps burning.
The ten do not know the hour the bridegroom is coming. The oil of
the foolish ones runs out, and when they go to buy some the doors
are closed. Some conservationists are tempted to liken the current
oil economy to this parable. In fact, it sounds somewhat
applicable since the parable says we are to conserve our fuel (trim
the wicks) and take the amount needed (for keeping the lamps lit)
for the task ahead. However, an over-application could encourage
a sense of selfishness, if one applies the parable to oil reserve
storage by the wealthy at the expense of those who do not have the
added resources to develop a petroleum reserve.

Let's pass over the temptation to talk about oil consumption
and focus instead on the need for vigilance in the expectation of
Christ's coming in our lives and the growth of the Kingdom of God
in this world around us. Here we see that anticipation makes us
work all the more meaningfully in preparing our Earth for the
coming of the Lord. We must get our house in order and be prepared
for the end that will surely come. All we know for certain is that
we are 2000 years closer to the final day than was St. Paul.







November 7, 2005   All Terrain Vehicles

Over the last three decades, numerous studies have been conducted
on the effects of all terrain vehicle (ATV) use upon ecosystems and
their valued resources.  While ATV use is considered by many to be an enjoyable
form of recreation, one must be aware of the safety and ecological
hazards associated with ATV riding.

Attesting to the rising popularity of ATVs, vehicle sales have substantially
increased over the last decade, with 21,349 new ATV units being sold in
Kentucky in 2004, as have fatalities with last year being the deadliest year on
record in this state for ATV-related deaths. According to data collected by the U.S.
Consumer Products Safety Commission, Kentucky ranks eighth in the nation for
ATV-related deaths. While the state of California has eight times the population
of Kentucky, it has less than half the total number of yearly deaths.

Children represent a disproportionately high fraction of ATV deaths, with 13 fatalities
recorded in 2004 - the highest number of child deaths in a single year since Kentucky
began collecting data in 1984.  Many thousands more have sustained injuries over the
past 2 decades, according to statistics collected by Kentucky Youth Advocates.

In addition to health effects, the environmental impact of ATV use is of growing concern
to ecologists, citing the degree of effects these vehicles have on sensitive ecosystems.
Among such documented effects are:

* pollution of air, landscapes, and waterways

* soil compaction leading to a decrease in water infiltration and increase in runoff
and erosion

* disruption of soil stabilizers such as macrofloral elements (plants),
microfloral elements (fungal, lichen, and algal crusts) and inorganic elements (soil crusts)

* reduction in perennial and annual plant cover and density, and the overall biomass

* inhibition of the germination and emergence of seedlings

* vector for introduction and spread of exotic, invasive plant and soil animal species

* changes in the physical characteristics of waterways, thereby affecting fish aquatic
insects, and other animals who depend upon clear and clean waters for habitat, spawning, or food

* wildlife stress through environmental pollution, noise pollution, and direct vehicular contact,
which can lead to displacement, reproductive failure, injury and mortality

These and other effects upon natural resources need to be carefully considered
by those choosing to recreate through ATV use.




November 8, 2005 Dorothy Day & Peter Maurin

I never knew Dorothy Day (1897-1980) except in her writings
and through the testimony of Catholic Worker Movement individuals
whom I have befriended over the years. Connie Ridge, one of
Dorothy's admirers, ran a house for homeless women in Washington,
DC; she invited me to go to New York for Dorothy's funeral but I
had other pressing business. I was truly impressed by Dorothy's
life first as a radical Communist and then as a convert to
Christianity, who never abandoned her basic radicalism throughout
a very long life. She stayed poor and blessed the poor and
homeless. Her passionate devotion to peace and justice issues
became legendary. She was a devout person who did not hesitate to
go to jail over the government's war and social policies.

I would prefer to focus on her Catholic Worker Movement (the
organization honored this November), which is a legacy of great
importance and yet so decentralized that it might outlast any
storm. The Catholic Worker Movement is not an organized
association and does not have any general rules or trademark to its
name. It has no national coordination, salaries, insurance
policies, logos, websites or other such characteristics of our
modern culture. The movement is somewhat anarchistic and informal
to say the least. The monthly periodical, The Catholic Worker, is
still listed as one penny (30 cents a year subscription) and has
excellent articles on peace and justice issues along with pertinent
book reviews and other observations. The paper is produced by a
devoted staff of volunteers who live in the style of Dorothy Day.
It is assembled at the St. Joseph House, 36 East First Street, New
York, NY 10003, (212) 254-1640. Nearby is a homeless shelter
called Maryhouse at 55 East Third Street.

A closely associated part of the core movement with which I am
more familiar is a rural counterpart to New York city's Maryhouse,
namely, the Peter Maurin Farm at 41 Cemetery Road, Marlboro, NY
12542. We were able to perform an environmental resource
assessment for this property a few years back. The farm also
serves as a homeless shelter/office complex. The Farm dwellers
named a trail after me -- my only honor. I was so pleased that
they took our assessment suggestions, along with others very much
to heart and are on the way to becoming an ecological paradise.

Peter Maurin (1877-1949) was a farmer of French peasant stock
who is regarded as a co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement
along with Dorothy Day. Apparently the two people believed that
there should be urban and rural counterparts to the Movement, and
so he moved into the Hudson Valley with some of his farming
insights. I regret not being able to have met him either, since I
suspect we would have shared many of the same viewpoints about the
world, our common farm background and faith, and our outlook on
political issues. On the other hand, I doubt whether Internet or
websites would have appealed to him or Dorothy Day. However, both
remain models for us in this overly busy and disjointed world;
both had a clear vision that is still worth imitating.





November 9, 2005 Inventorying Your Home for Chemicals

I will never forget a conversation with an intern about
thirty years ago. She had gone for a home visit in the middle of
her internship and told her mom she was working on household
aerosol sprays. Her mother dismissed the so-called problem by
saying there were no aerosol sprays in her house. The intern
performed a thorough survey and found four dozen. Over time, I
have irritated a number of school kids' moms when the youth have
performed similar home inventories to the parent's dismay. No one
remembers everything. These steps may help in your home inventory:

* Draw a quick plan of the entire house including attic,
basement, and attached garage and storage areas, for these are
important. Take a notebook for recording all chemicals present.

* Attics never prove to have much except in rare cases but
look around there as starters, since they generally are turned into
storage space. Rid that area of any chemicals.

* Basements are also used for storage and may have a variety
of paints, cement, tar, hobby materials, solvents, cleaners and
desalting materials. The same could be found in an attached garage
or storage area, where one may also find oil, antifreeze, brake
fluid, and even fuel for cars, heaters, boats and lawn mowers. In
the area closest to the lawn and garden one may discover pesticides
and fertilizers as well.

* The main living space should be truly free of chemicals.
Medicine cabinets are expected to have their drugs of exotic names
and formulations. The space beneath the kitchen sink generally
houses the second highest store of chemicals and especially
aerosols sprays. Are they all being used or have some been left
there over time? Closets are often overlooked and yet they have a
treasure trove of chemicals, some of which may prove dangerous.

The inventory may confirm for you that your average American
home has more chemicals than an 1850 scientific laboratory (see
August 5, 2004). And homemakers know little about chemical
toxicity and potency. Average residents with little scientific
expertise cannot handle the whole array of household chemicals
properly. Resolve to make your home as commercially chemical free
as possible by not buying commercial chemical products. Avoid
exterminators, if possible. I personally prefer crickets to
exterminators, for these friends are cheaper, environmentally safe,
won't harm residents, and will eat all unwanted critters.

Find out what must be done with existing household chemicals.
Most local governments work with state and federal agencies in
collecting and disposing of such chemicals. Contact them. Don't
flush chemicals down the toilet or drain. Mix and use old paint
for undercoating a storage building. Some suggest pouring waste
oil along the exterior basement wall, but it is better to deliver
this to waste oil collecting centers.





November 10, 2005 The Deer Problem

Our subject on November 18, 2004, was the "wild" turkey. Just
as these turkeys and wild geese (see October 20, 2005) have become
nuisances due in part to lack of a predator balance in our native
environment, so an exploding deer population has become a problem.
Today there are more deer in North America than there were when
Columbus discovered America -- some estimate over ten million. All
three of these types of wildlife were rarely if ever seen in our
Kentucky countryside when I grew up, but today they are a plague to
various sorts of landholders.

Deer are more ubiquitous than geese or turkeys, since they
inhabit urban as well as rural areas. Deer are beautiful and
graceful, but they are also carriers of disease and a source of
accidents when they cross heavily traveled highways or country
roads, especially at night. Hard pressed citizens address the deer
problem in different ways. I remember seeing a gardener in Wyoming
with a 16-foot high fence to keep the deer out. Folks in suburban
Cleveland asked what they could spray to keep deer from ravishing
their expensive and extensive shrubbery. At the Midwest Energy
Conference in 2002 the subject quickly centered on deer control.
While I was at Marquette University in 19898, a friend and
professor came in all sleepy-eyed and said he had been up to 3:00
in a suburban city council debating the deer problem. This problem
has proved to be one of the most frequently introduced in our
Environmental Resource Assessment Service.

Most deer control measures such as a host of chemical
repellents and noise-making devices have only limited success.
Some people treat sensitive plants with hot pepper solutions.
Orchardists install netting and wire guards around saplings, which
are more attractive and susceptible to deer browsing. Some
homeowners prefer aggressive dogs that can discourage visiting
deer, but that only deflects the problem to a neighbor's house.
Fencing is always one mainstay though deer can clear some rather
high ones. The folks at the St. Anthony's Farm near Petaluma,
California, discovered by accident that parallel four-foot-high
fence could discourage deer, which hesitate to jump because of
confusion on where they'll land.

Although one method of control may be unpopular to some nature
lovers and non-meat eaters, still the easiest way to control deer
is to cull the herd each year. Venison is far superior to tough
goose or even to grain-fed beef. It is low in fat and high in
protein. Most meat-eaters thrill at the wonderful taste of deer
sausage. I have never advocated hunting for the sake of hunting,
but wildlife control goes beyond sporting as an entertainment. It
is harvesting and processing food. I am convinced that one should
eat locally grown food, and one of the best potential sources of
home-grown protein is our exploding deer (and goose and turkey)
population. Low-income people look to such food sources, and the
environment needs defined wildlife control. Isn't it better to
encourage the reintroduction of larger predators such as the wolf?





November 11, 2005 Veteran's Day

Vince was a World War II veteran who would regale anyone who
visited his Frankfort, Kentucky, home with stories about the
adventure he had in Europe. More than just talkative, he was
enthusiastic in his narration of stories. And he had a written
collection of episodes, which described much about his character
and conduct during the tour across France and Germany in 1944-45.
What a veteran! He answered the great bugler's call this year.

Today we give special attention to veterans. A special
celebration started as Armistice Day in 1918 at the end of a war to
end all wars. But unfortunately we have experienced other
conflicts since then -- World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam
War, the first Gulf War and the Iraq War. All veterans deserve
remembrance for they risked their lives so that we might remain
free. In U.S. history, veterans have been recognized but often
only with a nod and tip of the hat. More lately, the federal
government has done a better job with veteran hospitals,
educational packages, retirement benefits, burial expenses and
cemetery places. There's also a Secretary of Veteran's Affairs.

Veterans differ as to whether they want to remember their
military experiences. Some don't talk about their past and that is
really their choice, though in most cases it's good for their
mental health to talk about the wartime episodes. Only in recent
years has much attention been given to the readjustment required
for those who have had the horrors of war implanted in their minds.
More must be done for all to "deprogram" from war and know that
others are in the same boat.

Each day we hear that a thousand Second World War veterans die
-- and the need for honor guards is a major concern today. The
last Civil War veteran died in 1955, and any time soon we may hear
of the last of the First World War veterans laying down the colors.
In turn, each war's group of veterans gathers for graying and
thinning reunions. I recall a mustering of First World War vets
when I was studying at Fordham University, and it was rather
pathetic. But again, the total veteran ranks seem to be
replenished with each successive war and set of memories. Each war
offers a challenge for those who deal with veterans' affairs.

What we learn from all war veterans is a sense of fidelity to
our country and to the sacrifice that they made for the common good
of our nation. These veterans are good models of people who are
willing to risk life and limb for others -- a certain unselfishness
that is to be highly admired. Today, we need people who are
willing to sacrifice for causes that are specific but to which
their contribution is a part of a great enterprise. If we are to
heal our Earth, we need people who are willing to sacrifice for the
greater good. The cause of waging war to save the Earth is just as
important as any of the foreign wars America has fought. We need
people who can become the new veterans who wage peace. Let's
listen to Vince's stories and profit from them.






November 12, 2005      Mary E. Fritsch

Jesus brings all things to perfection, and what he lists on the Mount of the Beatitudes is a new revelation, a new way of living.  Blessings go beyond wealth and power and fame; they are more closely associated with being poor and meek and humble.  When we look closely, we find that Jesus lives in the fullness of each of these beatitudes, for he is poor in spirit, meek, merciful and all the other attributes wrapped up into one.  Jesus is God's perfect blessing to each of us. And furthermore we are encouraged to reach out and pass on this personal blessing to others. We, as members of the Body of Christ, become an embodiment of the beatitudes in the way we act and some succeed in doing this in a variety of ways:

The poor in spirit empty their larders for others their precious time is sacrificed in order to listen to others; their moments of rest are spent attending to another starving for attention; their expertise is shared with those wanting to know; their own precious memories are put on audiotape and written records; they give from the depth of their heart to relatives and friends; they do not hesitate to donate generously, and always find more to give. They even manifest sheer joy in bestowing keepsakes at the end of an active life to those who hunger for some form of remembrance; they willingly surrender their car keys when unable to drive safely at past speeds; and they sincerely say "thank you" to the ones who take them to a nursing home, and again offer gratitude to their final caregivers.

Mourners include those who outlive their loved ones: parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, even much younger ones; in-laws, a multitude of first cousins, and then the most dear of friends. As each passes on, mourners must see them go with a tear and a smile and bid them "good bye"; with time, the older mourners of the world feel the utter loneliness of being left behind. Such is life but they will be comforted.

The meek and lowly come in all stripes and do not put on airs; they see other persons as equal or, better yet, as better than themselves. Their meekness extends beyond the human community to the animal and plant world as well; the meek show compassion when a bird falls from a nest or a flower struggles for lack of moisture. The meek have green thumbs and can willingly tend a rose garden, a host of indoor plants, a half-acre vegetable garden, plus a strawberry patch, fruit trees and lawn and all the time regard the effort it takes as a privilege. The meek can take a potted flower at random and show it humbly, and still return with a blue ribbon. The meek will not dwell on accolades, but think about the next thing to do.

Those who hunger for justice are compassionate for the hungry; so they bake and cook for them, with a sense of joy no matter how hot the kitchen or long the day. They can make the world's last hickory nut cake for it takes all November to pick nut meats from the shells. And they divide the cake justly, so all can have a proper portion. They make an extra batch of Christmas plum puddings and mock mincemeat pies for all who hunger for good food and exquisite tastes and smells. And they help establish justice through the kitchen oven and the sauce pan.

Merciful people seek God's mercy through reconciliation and they extend the divine mercy just experienced to others, never judging, never condemning, never raising objections to their conduct, always, always forgiving. The merciful can say five decades of the rosary during more than eight decades of life and say "at the hour of our death" over one and a half million times and still feel the need for loving mercy which most certainly comes to them at that final hour. Many times they remember the needs of others and beg God to grant a request, a cure, a higher quality of life. And they are never surprised when miracles occur.

The heart-filled ones rise early and retire late; they are people of immense energy, intuiting another's need, doing large amounts of work, but always for others. They think ahead and fill the cellar with canned goods, milk cows even at the evening before a child is born; they strip tobacco in winter, weed plant beds in spring, pull plants and set them in June, raise a batch of chickens, sell eggs to the hatchery, make pickles and change the brine on schedule, shuck corn in autumn, build wood fires with speed and efficiency, and cook immense meals for threshers, Thanksgiving guests, and a growing family. And they do it all with a pure heart.

Peacemakers never glory in strife, never show favorites, never overlook the forgotten and little ones. Peacemakers do not take sides, even when the family is split on certain matters. If someone is talked about, peacemakers abstain from the conversation. Peacemakers never complain about a bad card partner but, if and when they are experts, will reveal the defect in a quiet manner.

Finally, blessed are those who are willing to be the butt of jokes and to laugh with the others and never reciprocate, who don't catch a punch line and yet never ask for a repeat, who accept the menial things to do when others relax, and who love all even those who do not treat them perfectly, and never complain about a disability even when it immobilizes them for years.

Yes, most of us would strive in our journey of Faith to focus on being with Jesus and do just one of the beatitudes well. Astoundingly, Mary Elizabeth Fritsch, "Mama" or "Mimi" to some, didn't try to focus on one or other, but came close through the examples just given to do all things in a blessed way. She lived the beatitudes and became a true blessing for all of us who were privileged to know and to be close to her. And we, in our fumbling ways, should strive to be a blessing to other people as well. Then, and only then, will the beatitudes take on a more divine and human face.




November 13, 2005 Creative Fidelity

Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have
no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know
very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.
(Thessalonians 5: 1-2)

We continue the theme that we treated last week and listen to
the reading from St. Matthew's Gospel that follows the parable of
the wise and foolish virgins; this immediately precedes the famous
passage on the judgment of the king, which we will discuss next
Sunday on the feast of Christ the King. This week's parable tells
of the three who were entrusted with talents, and two made good on
investments according to the amounts given. The third buries his
talents and refuses to use them for good and thus is called a
wicked, lazy servant by his master.

Jesus is telling us to use our talents well and in a creative
manner. We can pretend to guard our talents, spiritual as well as
mental and physical. That guarding involves a fidelity to use
things not in a pre-set manner but creatively according to time and
circumstances. Yes, one can call guarding "fidelity" the use of a
Latin liturgy that is 1,700 years old -- Greek predated it by 300
years, -- or a Genesis creation story of seven days about 6,000
years ago. But that is not fidelity but a subtle form of idolatry
to pre-set concepts created by our own imagination. Either of
these non-creative practices disturbs people who want more
meaningful liturgy or who prefer to include the findings of geology
as to the ancient age of this planet and universe as part of the
unfolding wonder of the Creator. Solidifying our devotions around
special cultural patterns no matter how ancient, or making a
theological work of the Bible into pseudo-planetary science is not
creative fidelity but a form of ossification.

Putting our talents in the ditch and not allowing them to
benefit others is a form of legalism built on fear of what could
possibly happen or on a lack of freedom of choice, which is so
necessary in our seeking to be both genuinely free people. This
burying of talents occurs far more often that one would like to
admit, both on the individual level and on that of the community.
We need to see that doing something with the talents God gave us
involves a certain risk, but that that risk is needed for our
fidelity to be truly creative. We are uncertain of the results,
but we place our journey of faith in the hands of the Almighty.

We are people who must choose to do the right thing even when
there is some uncertainty about the ultimate outcome. That is
where fidelity is reinforced by hope; we take the risk out of love
for God and others and that is our exercise of the virtue of love.
Creative fidelity involves the interaction of faith, hope and love,
not one or other alone. We are asked to use our talents in these
last of times, to see that our life span is limited until the
master returns, and to see that we must be productive during this
limited time in ways different from others.





November 14, 2005 National Geography Awareness Week

There is a maze of geographic places and names in North
America and yet many of us suffer from geographic illiteracy. Can
we name all the states and place them correctly on a national map?
Can we name all the state capitals? The major river systems? the
major Interstate routes and their origins and destinations? Can we
identify all the major airports of this country or the world? The
major sports teams and their host cities? How good are we at
geography? Or are we like the New Englander who told me he thought
Buffalo was where the bisons roam. He prided himself on never
having crossed the Hudson -- after spending three years in New York

Internet assistance -- In some cases we have had to read the
map and figure out our own itinerary, though "Mapquest" and other
Internet services will do the job for us, with specific verbal
directions, exact mileage and even a map, if we desire to download
it. That is geography made too easy, even though it can save time
and outline the best route as well. It has much the same effect as
a "Spell Checker" and makes us even less interested in all the
places between starting point and destination.

Where else to learn -- Travel is a basic way to improve our
national geographic awareness; this mode of entertainment or
business gives us a sense of places, which remain in our minds long
after the trip. To a lesser extent so do travel books and stories,
video and audio tapes, educational tv shows, and movies. And some
people enjoy maps in all their forms. Inspect our new
Ethnic Atlas of the United States on this website. Have you ever
noticed how well weather reporters know their places? They are
almost as good as truck drivers.

A boast for geographic awareness. I can travel to the places
where 90% of Americans live and come within ten miles of their
residences without using a map. That means using the Interstate
system and major U.S. highways to reach the populated areas. The
catch of course is the other 10% composed of scattered rural areas,
and the complexity involved in the last 10 miles especially in
major metropolitan areas. While the boast is nice, it can also
mean taking some slightly more difficult routes, because I did not
seek AAA advisories on roadbuilding and detours.

Why important. National geographic awareness gives us all a
sense of the great expanse, diversity, proportional state size,
scenic beauty, local history, and interconnectedness of our great
country. Just about everything we hear in the news makes more
sense if we know the places named and where they are located in
relation to each other. From an ecological standpoint we learn
about barriers from the mountain ranges, commercial flows through
river basins, and climatic conditions. Our national consciousness
as a people is related to the geography of place. Maybe it's worth
a geography quiz game at home during this week.





November 15, 2005 America Recycles Day

Often we speak of recycling as an environmental component, but
not in the context of a special event or as a focus of attention.
This is the day that we are all able to look at our own practices
that may vary from place to place. I find that good folks often
spend little time recycling everything and find satisfaction in
recycling cans or perhaps paper. Some parts of the nation are more
apt to promote recycling of a wide variety of materials than are
others, dependent on outlets for recycled plastic, cardboard,
clothes, glass of various colors, and other items. One problem is
that recycling is never talked about and has been reduced in
significance in comparison to other patriotic duties such as voting
or personal assistance to the poor. Recycling simply does not
always grab the imagination and is somewhat passe' in some places.

Early recycling. I grew up before plastics, and before the
word recycling became an accepted term -- yet on our farm we were
almost total recyclers. Wood wastes and paper tinder were burnt in
fireplaces and for plantbeds, glass jars reused for canning, ashes
scattered on garden areas, clothes passed on to more needy
families, food wastes fed to dogs, hogs and chickens, manure and
agricultural wastes spread on the fields, rocks (limestone) crushed
for pasture land, and wire and other metals reused to reinforce
concrete or be refashioned in the blacksmith shop into metal items.

Imperfect disposal. The small quantity of cans and glass
items was deposited in sinkholes in our karst limestone countryside
and then covered over with soil and turned into part of the plowed
fields. Note: I would not do that today because of the fear that
contaminants could get into the aquifers. However in that pre-
organic chemical pesticide era, there were far fewer contaminants
and our waste metal and glass amounted to about a small wagon load
once a year.

Local policies. Much depends on our ability to take materials
to recycling places or have recyclers pick them up at the door.
Currently plastic, metals, glass, paper, and cardboard are recycled
through local pickup for me as occurs in many parts of the country.
All my food peels and other organic wastes are composted in the
garden area. Certainly there are some wastes, generally of mixed
substances that cannot be easily recycled, but we hope these items
can be avoided or reused over time.

National policies. Recycling can reduce resource use
immensely in virtually every area. However, recycling is generally
marginal as to profitability; some tax and small business relief
could come to help subsidize recycling centers, which can reduce
the load on imperfect landfills and incineration programs.
Often sparsely populated rural areas can hardly afford full service
recycling centers. Collecting areas and processing of certain
unprofitable recyclables need government support. Far more
recycling could be encouraged, if the recycled products were seen
to replace virgin materials from forests and mines.






November 16, 2005 International Week of Peace and Science

I have been uncertain how one celebrates the week of peace and
science, since the latter is often thought of as the source of some
of the more deadly weapons of the last century or so. In saying
this we mix science and a weapons technology that makes use of some
of science's insights -- and that is unfair. The findings of
science are always promise and peril, and we must regard the
promises in hopes of furthering peace in this world. Here are some
samples of science's role in the improvement of the Earth:

* Scientific research in coatings could facilitate the
production of low-priced photovoltaic energy that could compete
with electricity generated by coal-fired powerplants.
Potentially, the solar coatings on rooftops or other hardened
surfaces could generate sufficient electricity to make centralized
powerplants obsolete;

* Scientific drug and medical developments could be the cure
for a wide variety of unconquered diseases. The challenge is to
keep the production costs low enough so that the drugs can be
afforded by many of the world's poorer sufferers. Scientific
breakthroughs in genetic stem cell research can lead to peacetime
applications as well;

* Security surveillance in the form of rapid and low-invasive
personal identification procedures and monitoring systems are the
realm of science and technology. Effective systems could make the
world a safer place in so many ways;

Food safety monitoring, especially with regard to the vast
volume of imports from other nations, is a high priority in this
country -- and science is in the middle of the controversy. It is
possible that foods from a variety of places could be screened or
decontaminated by rapidly moving devices that are the products of
scientific research;

Aids for the physically challenged, like all the other issues
just mentioned, need a close coordination of science and
technology. Some of the improvements such as allowing computer and
Internet access to the blind are truly marvelous . One could also
add all types of educational improvements for the mentally
challenged as well; and

Low-priced water purification systems include a scientific
component. Water quality is rapidly becoming a major problem area
in our ever more water-short world. Systems must extend beyond
small scale purification of drinking water at residential levels to
include desalination of vast quantities for irrigation purposes.

International disarmament requires science to demonstrate safe
detoxification of chemical weapons as well as reasonably safe ways
to store the persistent nuclear wastes accumulating in our society.
Maybe we have to admit that science does not have all the answers.






November 17, 2005 Use Less Stuff Day

We spoke earlier about an independence from unnecessary stuff
(July 2, 2005) and about unneeded appliances (September 9, 2005).
But what about using less stuff that we regard as essential for our
everyday lives. The challenge here is to limit essentials to just
what is needed. Since our desire for stuff generally grows with
prosperity, one only has to watch family cars depositing college
dorm students in autumn to know the volume of "stuff" required for
academic life. What about people at the check-in counter at
airports? What about those coming out of shopping centers and
market places. Just taking a camping trip requires stuff of a wide
variety and the mobile home chugging across America is geared for
people who need their entire home with its stuff on wheels.
Let's ask questions about our frequently overstuffed areas:

Foods: Do we need so many items in the pantry? on the dinner
table? In the refrigerator? Do we tend to consume less by buying
a more limited number of items from lower-priced stores (example
the Save-A-Lot chain) handling a smaller variety and fewer brands?

Household cleaners: Do we need all the various brands and
varieties or can a box of soda, vinegar, ammonia, and a basic
cleanser be sufficient for most jobs?

Paper materials: Do we share books, periodicals, and other
printed materials with like-minded people? Do we reuse the backs
of pages as scrap paper?

Containers: Do we take containers to stores when purchasing
items? Do we buy bulk products so as to reduce container use?

Energy conservation: Do we curb use of lighting, cook in
larger batches, heat and cool within wider comfort zones, and turn
off unused electronics? Do we use solar energy realizing that fuel
for coal- or other non-renewable fueled plants can be part of our
essential stuff?

Water conservation: Volume wise, water is the stuff we use
most of -- and that can certainly be essential use. Do we use only
the water required for brushing teeth and washing larger and less
frequent loads of clothes or dishes?

Gardening: Do we practice organic gardening that uses no
commercial (non-natural) chemical pesticides and similar plant-
growth-related materials? Do we grow more of our own food?

Cosmetics: Are we willing to omit unneeded beauty products
and perfumes?

Transportation: Do we combine trips so as to cut down on
driving? Do we maintain our vehicles so as to reduce fuel
consumption? Do we have an energy efficient vehicle?




November 18, 2005 ICE in Your Cell Phone

from the Philippines e-mailed me the
following and I judge of being worthy as one of my daily essays.
In fact putting in one's billfold, purse or glove compartment the
"In case of Emergency" numbers is also a very good idea. People
who are prone to heart ailments, joggers and others who go about
without normal identification should consider ICE as well. The idea
goes well beyond a standard address book. Who knows when something
might occur requiring that our next of kin be notified?


The London incident (bombings early this year) has promoted
concerns and I share with you what one of my European colleagues
just sent. As long as everyone knows what ICE stands for, it is
not a bad idea. A useful thing to add to your mobile address book!
It was thought up by an ambulance man/paramedic who found that when
ambulances went to the scenes of accidents, there were always
mobile phones; but they didn't know which numbers to call. He
thought that a nationally recognized name to file "next of kin"
under would be a good idea.

Following the disaster in London...East Anglican Ambulance
Serve has launched a national "In Case of Emergency (ICE)" campaign
with the support of Falklands War hero Simon Weston. The idea is
that you store the word "I C E" in your mobile phone address book,
and against it enter the number of the person you would want to be
contacted "In Case of Emergency." In an emergency situation
ambulance and hospital staff will then be able to contact them.
It's so simple that everyone can do it. Please do.

Please will you also email this to everybody in your address
book; it won't take too many 'forwards' before everybody will know
about this. It really could save your life, or put a loved one's
mind to rest. For more than one contact name ICE1, ICE2, ICE3....
Paramedics will turn to a victim's cell phone for clues to that
person's identity. You can make their job much easier with a
simple idea that they seek to get everyone to adopt: ICE.

If you add an entry in the contacts list in your cell phone
under ICE, with the name and phone number of the person that the
emergency services should call on your behalf, you can save them a
lot of time and have your loved ones contacted quickly. Paramedics
know what ICE means and they look for it immediately. ICE your
cell phone now! Please pass this along.





November 19, 2005 Closing Military Bases

Today is the 142nd anniversary of the dedication of the
national cemetery on that bloody battlefield of Gettysburg. The
battlefield of war was being converted to a cemetery for warriors
to rest in peace -- as Lincoln so eloquently said (November 19,

About ten weeks ago the nation indulged in a base-closing
exercise that occurs every decade, a slow and painstaking exercise
of conversion of military land to peaceful uses. Stakes were high,
for many communities were faced with massive job losses, showing
just how much our economy is based on the military. I wonder what
the founding fathers would have said, when they debated whether
there should be any standing army at all. We followed the
impartial committee's daily announcements with deep interest. A
South Dakota senator who beat the then minority leader in the 2004
election had won on the promise that he would work to keep the
Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City open. Just how much is
that in the public interest when the closures were to be based on
military evaluation? Hardly. Granted, thousands of jobs in
sparsely populated states can make a red button issue.

But a deeper issue emerges: why shouldn't this and many
other outmoded and uneconomic bases be closed for the common good
and the need to turn swords into plowshares? The determinations
were to be submitted by an impartial military establishment, and
the decisions by this impartial closure committee were accompanied
by recommendations to members of Congress who are known to wallow
in the pork barrel. The political clout of the senators and
members of the House of Representative seemed to influence
decisions originally voted to be made impartially. Few seem to
care about the 50 billion dollar anticipated savings.

As a nation, we have become far too dependent on the military
-- somewhat like a chemical or drug dependence. This is disturbing
especially when it seems that the persuasive groups lobbying for
their own pet projects succeed in obtaining closure postponements.
What we often forget is that in many cases the closure results in
freeing up precious land and other resources; often a successful
transition has been made over the time period required for shutting
down the military facility. Closures do not always have to be bad
news, especially when a chunk of land is now freed for new uses.

Peace-making openings are as needed as base closures. Few
resources are given to opening lands for training peacemakers (see
Peace Corps, October 14, 2005) in a variety of capacities, for
training oversees specialists, for basing and locating disaster
relief workers, and for researching and testing materials to be
used for appropriate technology both at home and abroad. Preparing
for the transition of workers is just as important as closing
military facilities. Thus a closure plan should become a
conversion plan and as a result the local opposition to closures
would be greatly reduced.




November 20, 2005 Christ the King

The Gospel passage (25:31-40) for today is one of the most
widely known in the entire New Testament. The King, Jesus, invites
into his Kingdom all who give food, drink, welcome, and clothes to
other fellow human beings who are in need. People who see the
needy but do nothing for them are "disinvited" or rejected from the
Kingdom. The message is clear and involves a basic sensitivity or
insensitivity to the people who suffer from want in all sorts of
conditions: lack of food, drink, or clothing, and hostility to
strangers, the imprisoned and those who are ill.

We can hear this message either as individuals or as
communities. On the individual level, we can ask ourselves about
our own callousness and insensitivity due to selfish fulfillment
and the quest for comfort. Do we forget those who are in dire need
because we either see too many or fail to see any through focusing
on our own issues. The dramatic needs of people who lack
everything were pointed out to us vividly in the recent Katrina
disaster on the Gulf Coast. Few were so insensitive to the anguish
of the very poor begging for food and drinking water and a place to
get out of the contaminated water. And sadly for us as a
prosperous people, the rest of the world saw the same scenes on
their Internet and television screens.

The king addresses all wealthy people throughout the world --
we must overcome affluence and become sensitive to the needs of the
poor or we will lose our collective faith. Affluence overwhelms
so many -- and even those who only crave its possession. Our
actions do not always show the compassion. The reason is that we
as a people fail to share radically with others (see January 24,
), a mandate that involves the salvation of individuals and our
nation as well. To paraphrase Lincoln, we cannot continue in a
world half slave and half free, half of haves and half of have
nots. We cannot continue to require more and more resources to
maintain a military machine to protect those resources required to
keep our affluence intact. The global situation is rapidly getting
intolerable and the Lord is giving us warnings in the form of war,
which has caused too many casualties to fine young people. We can
add to this a series of severe hurricanes, the severity of which is
partly due to our own making through global warming.

Christ is our King. If we allow him to lead us, we will not
be in danger of individual disaster due to insensitivity. If we
honor Christ as over all things and Lord of the universe, we will
restore a sense of respect within our world. We will become more
sensitive to the devastating hunger and thirst affecting ever
larger numbers of our worldwide neighborhood. As the church year
is now coming to a close and we prepare for the new one next week,
let us do some soul searching. Can we continue to tolerate the
needy conditions now existing or should we say or do something here
and now? The question resembles those asked by railroad employees
charged with shipping prisoners to the World War II concentration
camps, and doing nothing about it.



November 21, 2005 National Family Week

American families are under stress, and we must do all we can
to support, pray for, and encourage these basic social units in our
society. The health of our nation and world rests on it. Families
may consist of traditional structures or single parent families
with little outside support and the parent working and still doing
the homemaking at the same time. Along with traditional families
are more and more new social structures demanding tolerance and
support where and when possible. All in all, the welfare of
families must be our joint concern as American citizens, through
tax benefits, affordable housing, comprehensive health coverage,
and educational and job opportunities.

I cannot say much more about suggestions for breadwinners and
homemakers because I don't experience the great difficulties in
meeting family budgets, menus, educational needs and lifestyle
demands. In over a million household units it is the grandparents
who are raising the youth. Youth-filled families must deal with
young people making demands which seem to be difficult to satisfy -
- forms of entertainment, television or internet time, fashionable
clothes and shoes, and new educational programs. Add to this the
need to guard families from harmful influences such as drugs. If
youth are not overly pampered, why drive them to the door of the
classroom -- a practice that those of us who occasionally walked to
avoid bus delays find baffling.

But going beyond family development, let's talk about another
familial aspect in which the old and young participate -- the
maintenance of family ties through communication. This may not be
as pertinent as raising children but it has its problems. Modern
families are often far-flung, moving to distant places due to jobs
or other requirements . Before the 20th century it was difficult
for families to stay in communication, but today e-mails and phone
calls enable us to remain in contact no matter where we live. The
modern expectations of close contact between distant people require
us to be even more sensitive to the needs of everyone, especially
our own kinfolks. Very close friends and relatives have constant
communication through cell phones, a form of compulsive continual
connection that is not totally healthy.

If we are challenged as an extended family to keep in a
reasonable degree of contact, then maybe the e-mail listing and
automatic mailings to close relatives and friends are necessary for
preserving and improving family ties. The family picnics at
birthdays and anniversaries, gatherings at weddings and
graduations, and sports events and occasional reunions are of
utmost importance. But we can do more than just occasional snail
mail to far flung family members who are not wired into the system;
we can print the digital photos presented on the Internet; we can
send a little remembrance when unexpected; we can phone or fax
frequently, and we can give a word of encouragement to those who
are struggling.






November 22, 2005 An Autumn Message

A change confronts us, a whisper, a hint,
dawns come later, evenings soon spent,
A profound stirring in nature's fraternity,
breaking summer's seeming eternity.

Crimson, scarlet, rust and gold are seen,
mixed with verdant pastures and evergreen,
to form a grand finale, a season's clue,
the ebbing of life's cycles which will renew.

Smells of fall -- dry decaying leaves,
pungent wood smoke hanging at the eaves,
iodine-like hulled black walnuts out to dry,
The scent of mothballs, one can't deny.

Soundscapes tell the time -- the swish of birds
in winter flocks, the cawing of crows -- avian words,
the screech of debris that the raker claims,
the yell in unison at the hometown games.

One can taste the change -- picked tomatoes hardly hale,
replaced by endive, turnips, mustard, kale,
and pumpkin pie, squash, pears, mince meats,
and fresh-pressed cider and other apple treats.

Feel the chill, sense the autumn sun at noon,
tempt one's lunacy by the harvest moon,
Goblins, spooks, witches everywhere.
foreshadow the coming darkness we fear.

We hastily do the chores of fall -- antifreeze,
chimney-cleaning, caulking, cutting fallen trees,
stacked woodpiles, roof patches, roadway rock.
and that annual turning back the clock.

Our senses tell us something's on the wane,
as nature's cycle cuts into our own fast lane,
that summer's flowers must wilt away,
and our bloom of life has had its day.

If fall must come, then let it be,
a time to hear, smell, taste, feel and see,
and give thanks for seasonal friends,
gently announcing our own earthly ends.



November 23, 2005 Drive with Care

I really hesitate to write on this subject because I am as
much a culprit as any reader. But this is most important for all
of us as we prepare for the most travelled time of the year. Let
this season be an opportunity to sharpen our driving skills, which
seem to deteriorate with age. So the following suggestions are
meant for both you and me.

* Never use a cell phone when driving. Sometimes I see a
driver and realize that he or she is not concentrating on the road.
Many accidents caused by cell phone conversations are now being
reported. When people are driving and call me, I tell them for
their sake I want it to be short and sweet.

* Drive defensively. The other day I was at an intersection
hoping to turn left, when a driver approached with his left signal
also showing. I simply hesitated out of defensiveness. His signal
was a mistake and he came barrelling through straight ahead. We
were only two seconds short of a collision.

* Pull off the road when tired. Most of us know that it is
too difficult -- and dangerous -- to drive when sleepy. Be on the
look out for an easy place to pull off. Even if the nap is for ten
minutes, it is a major help when doing longer trips. The time is
worth it. Also others have found certain things effective in
staying awake such as eating popcorn or listening to the radio.
Long trips are generally the only times I drink caffeinated
beverages. A more serious consideration is that tired drivers are
being apprehended for carelessness when involved in accidents.

* Know your trip directions. Nothing is worse than not being
certain where one is driving. Study the directions ahead of time,
look up the exit outlet prior to the one needed, and place the
listing on the dash for use when traveling in unfamiliar territory.

* Give some time to prayer. Asking for guidance and strength
when the trip begins is a good practice. Some like to meditate or
say vocal prayers on portions of the trip not requiring excessive

* Let others drive difficult portions. Some of us are losing
the skills we had in earlier years and so we will not drive in
certain highly urbanized areas with which we are not fully
familiar. It is too much stress on the limited driver.

* Avoid heavy traffic, if possible. This suggestion cannot
always be followed, but starting before or after the main traffic
flow is always a helpful rule.

* Drive within the speed limits. I need this as much as
anyone else, but it is some of the best advice to the driver,
especially when traveling on curving mountain roads with sharp
turns and narrow lanes.






November 24, 2005 Thanksgiving for the Here and Now

Now is a time to be thankful. We often think of all the
things we need to do or have not yet achieved. That original
harvest Thanksgiving related to what has been gathered to prepare
for the coming winter; we too must focus on the gifts given over
the past twelve months.

Thank God for --

* Caregivers and charitable response by so many from so many
parts of the world at major natural disasters such as the tsunami
at the end of last year and Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast;

* Additional response by so many throughout the world in
order to reduce the human suffering caused by human terrorists such
as the London Bombers;

* Sufficient energy sources even at higher prices and the
added hope that the renewable energy sources will be given greater
priority in the coming year;

* John Paul II and all the good people who graced us with
their lives and passed on this past year;

* New life in all its forms and with all its promises;

* A sparing from a pandemic that could always come at any time
and bring ruin to many communities;

* The United Nations, which is willing to undergo
reexamination for the well-being of peoples in every land;

* Relatively good economic health and being spared a major
financial crisis, which always lurks around the corner;

* The use of all forms of rapid communication and the many
messages we received and sent to inspire, encourage, and give basic
information to others;

* The visits of friends and the hospitality shown us as we
traveled about;

* The freedoms we continue to enjoy;

* The people who raise and harvest the food that we are eating

* A sense of gratitude to color this day; and

* The lives we lived this past year; and

* Our abilities to read and reflect and pray.




November 25, 2005 Calorie Counter

The day after Thanksgiving is a good time to start to count
calories. What's not listed here, can be found on food packages.




November 26, 2005 Food Choices

The days following Thanksgiving are the busiest shopping time
of the year. In the light of our sensitivity to food intake and
purchases we may look at food choices for ourselves and others in
our household. We are aware of the obesity problem both in this
Appalachian region and throughout the United States. Much of this
and associated illnesses can be countered by wise food choices,
which still permit enjoyment and a filled stomach.

Top choice: When food is accompanied by water instead of
sugary soft drinks, a meal can have a greatly reduced calorie
content (see Calorie Counter), even though the fast food places
make water less accessible than profitable sodas. If soft drinks
come with the meal, choose a diet variety. The water can replace
the desire for an additional double or triple helping.

Item choices: The choices can be quite important, as is shown
on the above listing of meats and even soups and vegetables. A can
of baked beans has several times the calorie content of other
choices, which may prove just as enjoyable and filling. The same
applies to creamed soups as opposed to other types.

Sweet choices: Desserts are usually what does us in. Think
about the pie choices at Thanksgiving! On rare occasions as on
that feast we may take a calorie-loaded selection, but what really
counts are day-by-day choices over time. Fresh fruit is far better
than sweet desserts; fruit is filled with nutrition and better
types of sugars. Even the selection of the type of pie makes some
difference, but that is generally marginal compared to eating fresh
fruit. A choice of cheese cake (200 calories for a 2" piece) is
better than a piece of chocolate cake with icing (2" piece), which
has an astounding 445 calories. Angel food cake of the same size
has only 110 calories.

Vegetable choices: Most of us know that vegetables are
available much of the year in fresh or at least in frozen and
canned form. However, it is fashionable especially among youth to
reject them. Many regard the pasta choices as faster to fix and to
fill hungry stomachs. Yes, that is true unless pizza is a steady
diet with macaroni and spaghetti being the variations. How about
more vegetables to replace these standard American menu items?
With all our resources, America has rather limited menus, and fast
food places know it. Salads and vegetables are good substitutes,
and schools and homes must get the message -- and fast.

Salad Dressing choices: A salad by itself contains very few
calories, but is hard to endure by itself. Many do not like raw
lettuce or other greens without some sort of dressing -- and that's
where we find the calories. For instance, a chef salad with
regular oil (1 tbl) is 160 calories, whereas with dietetic dressing
it is 40 calories. The same salad with an equal amount of
mayonnaise is 125 calories; with Roquefort, Russian or French
dressing it is 105 calories.



November 27, 2005 Advent Celebrations

Advent is a season of reflection and some fasting. We need to
prepare ourselves in a spiritual way for Christmas and thus to
launch this season of preparation with the right spirit. Let's
strive to bring Christ back into Christmas throughout Advent.

Light the Advent Wreath -- This spiritual symbol of Christ's
coming originated in the Middle Ages through hanging wooden ox cart
wheels in a rather dry location near the home fireplace so they
wouldn't warp in the wet winter weather. These were decorated with
Christmas foliage and candles as the season progressed, adding
candles as the days got shorter and the nights longer. Today, we
make wreaths from evergreen boughs and among them place four
candles, three purple, the major Advent color, and the fourth rose
for the joy of the third Sunday of Advent. These are lit: one on
the first week, two on the second, and on.

Link Christmas decorations with Advent -- Ask the question
amid the decorations "Who is coming at Christmas?" Advent prepares
us to experience a more spiritual Christmas expectancy through the
readings of the Old Testament. Install a crib instead of reindeer
and Santas. Let festive lights focus in on the importance of that
crib scene. If other decorations come quite early, so should
spiritual ones also rather than right at Christmas itself.

Integrate caroling with Advent songs -- Include Advent hymns
in the choral singing and caroling. Why should some beautiful
Advent songs be reserved for the Church or liturgical settings
alone? They may be sung as well with the standard Christmas ones.

Provide for children's celebrations -- Bring in the concept of
Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay as do Spanish families
in their Posadas. This may be a perfect time to intermingle
Hispanic and Anglo culture in an integrated gathering and take time
to explain the origins of the celebration.

Prepare a special Advent dish -- Several nationalities have
their own special foods especially in relation to fasting from
meat. At home, my mother would make homemade noodles (from flour
and eggs) or Alsatian Spaezel in the handed-down recipes that were
served with tomato sauce.

Link Advent to Earth themes -- We all await the healing of our
wounded Earth and the coming of a New Heaven and New Earth. That
expectancy is very much in harmony with what occurs in the Advent
liturgy. We should anticipate at this time what we expect the
future Earth to include for greater justice and peace among all the
people and the other creatures. Can't we dream of an Earth where
all have affordable housing, adequate food, potable water, a sound
education and basic health needs satisfied. As Advent is a season
of reflection, this may be a perfect time to discuss the role each
of us has in rebuilding the Earth into a more just and peaceful
place for all its inhabitants.



November 28, 2005 Lobby with and for the Poor

About thirty years ago the Catholic Committee of Appalachia
was brain-storming about what they could do for the people of the
region; I suggested a lobby organization in Washington, DC, for
Appalachia -- something that was thoroughly shot down then and
never put into effect by any organization to my knowledge. I want
to emphasize that lobbying (contacting legislators on a one-to-one
basis for an issue) for the poor is still a much needed role to
play at local, state, national and even international levels.

We have observed the advent of highly sophisticated and
effective lobbying by powerful corporations and interest groups,
political action committees, and other such formal influencing
groups. Unfortunately few groups exist to support the poor and
these are not well funded. This occurs at a time when, with the
exception of the New Orleans poor in their anguish, an entire
sector of our country including the working poor is overlooked.
Over the past few decades we have seen public housing funds
trimmed, federal public service job programs eliminated, Community
Health Center programs reduced especially in rural areas, lower
limited agricultural funds going to the wealthy growers instead of
to lower income farmers, and Women, Infant and Children (WIC)
programs continuing in critical need. Unfortunately, the lack of
programs from a quarter of a century ago is still with us. The
poor come out on the short end, when it comes to lobbying and
influence on Capitol Hill and in the halls of state legislatures.
They have few spokespersons and can't compete for lack of resources
and time to lobby.

The needs of the poor on all levels are immense: senior
citizens facilities at the state level; educational programs at the
national level; minimal health assistance in the poorer countries
at the level of the United Nations. It might be said that one is
to choose a program and help at some level. For the average reader
this may be too vague, so it is imperative that you associate with
people who are active in lobbying at some level. What do I do to
lobby for some issue? The best overall suggestion is to lobby by
talking to a legislator at an opportunity such as a district
meeting or through letter or phone or e-mail or fax.

Do something on an issue that will help the poor. Maybe you
wish to join some group and give them support and occasional
participation. You may wish to find out how to lobby on a
statewide level (see April 13, 2005, for the connection to
Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform). You may prefer to lobby on
an emerging national issue that strikes you deeply. Think about
challenging the hundreds of billions of dollars that this confused
President is planning to use to rebuild New Orleans (see September
13, 2005
). You may seek congressional awareness of the need to
expand the Peace Corps to include training people in developing
nations to manage projects for the poor (see October 14, 2005).
Whatever course of action you take can be a good beginning. Launch
out into the deep and lobby.




November 29, 2005 Inventory Personal Action Resources

Yesterday's reflection told about the need for lobbying for the
poor. If we are serious about engaging effectively in this type of
calling, we need to ask ourselves honestly what resources we have
at hand here and now. An honest personal inventory may be
necessary and, like any assessment, it could require that we get
advice from personal friends who know us from an objective
standpoint. We shouldn't allow them to discourage our lobbying
attempts, however.

The first step is the choice of issues most suited for me. Do
I have experience on the issue that attracts my attention? Do I
currently have access to others who know more about the issue? Do
I personally know the poor who suffer due to the lack of some
resource of which I am aware? Am I passionately committed to this
issue and willing to do something about it?

Second, list my personal communications skills: skills at
delivery or writing, amount of available time, ability to travel to
site of lobby exercise, and sufficient knowledge about or access to
information about the issue chosen. Do I understand the powerful
testimony of committed people who show that they are not expert
lobbyists but are willing to act as citizens?

Third, I may excuse myself for lack of time or money to engage
in lobbying. While that may appear to be a rational position, one
must remember that a single letter or e-mail is not necessarily an
impossible investment. The lobbying called for here is not a large
time investment but a long-term commitment.

Fourth, I may need to work with others either through lack of
experience or the feeling that the issue can be better lobbied
with a companion who can fill in details that I may lack. I will
grow in familiarity with the issue, so I can't afford to bite off
too much at the start. The companion is key to helping me choose
the field for lobbying and allowing it to be manageable. I may
need the companionship of a professional group that is currently
working on this issue.

Fifth, I must not let a lack of resources hold me back. I
must remember that sincerity may be a major asset of my own efforts
and that will impress a legislator far more than a complete answer
to an issue. If stuck, it is time to enlist assistance from others
who may be most easily found through an Internet search. If I have
Internet access, I can do this, but others who lack Internet skills
can not. However, Let's refuse to let a lack of complete knowledge
of an issue stop some minimal effort in helping our poor neighbors.

A lack of resources may be a resource in itself. We know
that "necessity is the mother of invention." Resourcefulness is
often quite impressive and thus a good lobby tool. Those who come
with sincerity do impress the legislators, provided they have some
focus on issues.





November 30, 2005 The Winter Blahs

For many children and a sprinkling of adults, the approaching
December brings thoughts of snow, ice skating, Christmas gifts,
jingle bells, decorations, and all the good things of the season.
For others of us, the days of dreary November are now past and we
look forward with less enthusiasm but some hope to the coming
month. As we grow older, we find winter weather a little harder to
endure than even the heat of a "greenhouse gas" summer. But can we
find better things to anticipate than gritty December forbearance?

Freedom: With the heavier layers of winter clothing we think
of ourselves as not being free. Not so. We are free of mosquitoes
for another few months, hornets, wasps, snakes, and other creeping
and crawling varmints. We are free of sunscreen and sunburns,
air conditioners and their accompanying respiratory illnesses,
overly hot cars and bedrooms, stagnant ponds with green algae,
dried out or overgrown lawns, leaves in the gutters, and vehicle
noises at all hours of the night. And summer is gone for awhile.

Coziness: In what other season can one become so contented?
The snow is falling and we can go nowhere for a short while. A
cloak of fuel-saving snow blankets the house and allows one to
concentrate on a good book or movie.

Friendliness: Summer has its parties but there's something
nice about the Salvation Army kettle, the caroling in the nursing
home, the tinsel and string of lights on homes we totally overlook
at other times of the year. There's a demand that we say hello
when we would have passed people by at other times. Winter demands
communication in ways that other seasons can omit -- and really
that is quite nice.

Variety: Cooking can be a fine art especially in winter.
That's when variety is fine tuned for people lacking summer's
freshness; it's the time when people bake cakes and prepare candy,
try new soups and salads, open up the root cellar and canned goods,
get out the nut cracker, make popcorn and, more rarely, kill hogs
resulting in sausage and other pork dishes.

Slower pace: Winter is supposed to be a slower time and not
to involve much travel. When we decide to avoid a distant event,
we make room to take more time for ourselves. Winter is when we
can think about things needing some concentration on our part.
Maybe the result is that we know someone needing special attention
-- and that is a satisfactory outcome of our reflection.

Anticipation: Winter is the beginning of a new growing season
and so our thoughts turn to the increase in light in late December
and the stirring of the Earth itself. We will soon be beginning a
new year, and the old will be behind us. This is the time of hope
starting with this Advent period. We are preparing for new life
and that is something to truly look forward to at this time. Bring
on December!  

Copyright © 2007 Earth Healing, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Janet Powell, Developer
Mary Byrd Davis, Editor
Paul Gallimore, ERAS Coordinator

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