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Daily Reflections
Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.

A series of written meditations and reflections


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(Photo: Sally Ramsdell)

Reflections July 2024

             July is the middle of the year.  The heat of summer tries the spirits of those seeking change in our world.  This time of testing has positive aspects, for this is when we should truly resolve once more to grow in deeper reflection on our commitments in life.  It is really an ideal time, for the berries are ripe, the crickets sing, the daylight is lengthy, and the garden is coming to maturity.  This is a good time of life and perfect for the July Fourth celebration and the healthy season of seemingly endless summer time. 

Rose of Sharon  

     You stand gaunt and tall among floral blessings,
        withstanding the summer heat and
        thunderstorms with those warning breezes;
     Some call you exotic and so you are;
        Others tag you invasive but that is false.
     You offer a fullness of flower to behold
        giving a nodding approval
        with quiet dignity and a lovely name.



Ripening persimmons in Kentucky orchard.
(*photo credit)

July 1, 2015       Seeing God in All Things

     Faith is seeing the brilliant countenance of Christ looking up at us from every creature. (my ordination card)

     In the heat of July we need to keep focused and to concentrate on being placid folks during tough times.  How can we best accomplish things when life is less comfortable than in spring or autumn?   We are called to heal a fragile Earth, to see the devastation of Earth with hearts of compassion, to discover Jesus as model ecologist, to suffer with the Lord, to find empowerment in the exaltation of the Risen Lord, and to be willing to be sent to spread the Good News to others.  An emerging challenge is how do we connect with and influence the "others" whom we come to know, and how can we incorporate them into our Earthhealing mission?

     Concentration and focus are keys to the summer months.  We can so easily be dissipated by heat and simply settle down and just vegetate.  In July, we give attention to the qualities that make Jesus the perfect ecologist and how we discover and enhance these qualities in our own lives.  Our unique personal traits influence our way of seeing and doing things, even the way we heal Earth.  Just as an eco-spirituality is based on a relativity of place and time, so it is colored by exactly who we are and the company we keep.  The teamwork composed by the giver and receiver of Good News is a challenge for us.  July is the time to test our patience, communicative skills, and respect for others.

     In July, the Pentecost season proceeds towards full maturity and the Spirit of truth and love inspires us.  The tongues of pentecostal fire that rest on the heads of each believer, plays on the uniqueness of each individual.  We do not march in lock-step as in a parade, but we need to walk together, for the risen Lord is with us.  Our individual God-given gifts call for recognition by the believing community.  We are thus bringers and carriers of Good News from an individual to a new community, then bearing different treasures back to the parent believing community.  We become champions of broadening unity in our often divided world; thus, we need to become good communicators.  The global believing community recognizes unique gifts and offers them back to God through the person of the Risen Lord.  To talk in tongues (a Pentecost gift) is primarily to make distant friends and talk with them about God. Giving and receiving simultaneously is a healing process.  

     Summer maturation leads to deeper questions well worth pondering when we take to the shade on a bright summer day: Does an Earthhealing spirituality accept all human gifts as important?  Is this vision of bearing Good News limited to those commonly regarded as talented, or found in every believer to some degree?  Do Earthhealers see how their own efforts enhance these gifted people and enrich the biodiversity of the entire ecosystem through honoring and encouragement?  Do we seek to find God's presence?

     Prayer: Lord, help us cherish fidelity during July's heat.







Colville Covered Bridge - Paris, Kentucky
Favorite fishing spot near Colville covered bridge. Paris, KY.
(*photo credit)

July 2, 2015            Concentrating on Fishing

      'Catch the fish; do not let it go.'
       The boy mastered the fish and pulled it up on the bank.
(Tobit 6:4)

     Fishing is not appealing to me because it exhausts my patience.  There are so many more things to do while the fish are deciding to bite.  However, I believe that part of the enticing quality of fishing is that it makes the fisher pay attention and thus takes a mind off of the worries and concerns of everyday life.  For those who like to fish, let them fish.
During this period we are allowed to concentrate on fishing because fishing takes concentration.  We keep reflections to limited and easily attainable goals because we need a break; yes, July can become our break time in the Northern Temperate Hemisphere. 

     Expert fishers have a vast store of knowledge.  They tell us of types of fish, the time of day or season most opportune, equipment needed such as boat, bait and line, where to find the best possible site to cast, and how to interpret the seriousness of the nibble on the line.  Those who fish know what they are looking for, even when it is just beyond their sight and grasp. 

     People sometimes omit what is nearer, and extend the quest for achievements to what is far beyond the horizon.  Do fishers see the nibbling small fry while dreaming of the big one far beyond?  Are we all dreamers or should we set our sights to attain what is at hand?  Even in fishing one can let a limited opportunity slip away.  But maybe fishing is more than a recreation that is refreshing and genuinely satisfying.  If it becomes a contest as to how many are caught, little is gained.  But it does enhance the will to concentrate on a particular task and to do it well.  Ultimately we seek God's will, and that requires us to give special attention to what is at hand, whatever the activity.

     I cannot complain about fishing because Jesus' disciples were deeply involved in that occupation.  Jesus ate fish and cooked fish for others; the loss of a fish's life was for extending and giving quality to human life.  One cannot belittle the nutritional content of fish itself and can only wish that more of the world's population had access to it.  In many developing countries, the small fishers are being crowded out by factory ships from distant large corporations.  Yes, problems abound for the little guys; furthermore, that extends to their simple lifestyle and the needs of their families.  For them, fishing is more than a recreational sport; it is bread on the table or go hungry.

     Prayer: Lord, give us each day our daily bread and this extends to the fish needed for human nourishment in many lands. 








Gurgling stream, Rockcastle Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

July 3, 2015   Revealing Secrets of the Gurgling Stream

             You set springs gushing in ravines,
             rushing down between the mountains,
             supplying water for wild animals,
             attracting the thirsty wild donkeys;
             near there the birds of the air make their nests
             and sing among the branches.  (Psalm 104:10-12)

      What is the sound of rushing water?  Often I stop and concentrate and focus on the captivating sound.  Does it start with "G" for the sound of gurgling, or"B" for babbling?  I am unable even to start to spell the sound of water rushing over rocks, although it certainly is a familiar sound.  I stoop and pause in utter confusion.  Why must I spell the sound of rushing water?  Is it not enough that I hear rushing water, let it flow through my fingers, and allow it to enter me and become musical rhythms to my heart?  Is it that we try to master what ought to remain untamed?

     Other creatures -- mice, copperhead snakes, and deer -- are attracted to the fast-moving stream, and yet do not attempt to spell it.  They come to drink and maybe find something to eat nearby.  Let's pause as well and enjoy the blessings of the gurgling stream.  Must we seek to control or dam or divert the stream, or is it enough just to listen to what it is and says to us?  Maybe the secret is to allow it to penetrate my being without any extra effort on my part, and then we will come to know it as wild and untamed and that it wants to remain that way.  Maybe through the noisy stream we learn to listen to our own heart and its depths, and find out something more about ourselves, our uniqueness, and the call for greater transparency -- so as to be able to share with others.  Let us spend more time being at peace with the untamed creatures, so that we might better discover who we are.

     Prayer: Lord, inspire us to focus in a little way on the rushing stream of our consciousness, and in so doing to hear the sound of a distant horizon towards which we rush forward.









Wildflowers along Watts Ferry Rd. Woodford Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

July 4, 2015     Enjoying Roadside Wildflowers

     ...riches last no longer than the flowers in the grass;
        the scorching sun comes up, and the grass withers,
        the flower falls; what looks so beautiful now disappears.
                            (James 1:10-11a)

     Often, when driving on the Interstate, I go past a patch of cosmos and other cultivated flowers, and their beauty is downright distracting.  Then I consider the times I travel on the smaller roads where the wildflowers are just as beautiful and there is time to stop and simply let the fragrance penetrate my soul.  But too often I pass them by. 

     July Fourth is often a time for travel, and we are often on the road.  There is much that we must attend to from oncoming traffic to who we are going to visit.  Roadside flowers do not take high priority, as might be expected.  However, a hiking trip on this day promises greater advantage for truly appreciating the countryside and its flowers.  They are worthy of special attention, for they are God's great gift to us all.

     Sweet-scented wildflowers awaken our spirits and teach us so much.  Their fragrance lifts us in rapture as though we are flying over the hilltops on a multi-colored air balloon.   When will we stop, or will we ascend on high, so high that we will never come down?  A mix of flowers may bloom throughout the growing season, but there is the lingering feeling, just as there is about summer in general -- it will pass on; we will soon return to the reality of Earth herself with all her hard knocks. 

     The glory of wildflowers rests in part in their short life span.  Earthly pleasures are deeper when short-lived, or at least seem to be.  One can speak of a child who will bloom in beauty and cuteness and then rush quickly to adulthood.  We also get somewhat melancholy in seeing older photographs of healthy and youthful faces that we know now as wrinkled and worn.  Flowers are the harbingers of ourselves -- beauty bright and glorious early today, only to fade tomorrow.  Let's concentrate on the aroma while flowers are here, and realize that aging and maturation are relentless.  Both the young and old have the time and place.  July is the maturing month, and its flowers teach us that we should welcome each as its comes and make the best of it. 

     Prayer: Lord, let us be satisfied to experience good things while they last, while knowing full well that better things are in store that will be everlasting.  Help us enjoy each time that passes.









Picture 029
Seeking patterns in nature.
(*photo credit)

July 5, 2015   Being Prophetic amid Modern Difficulties

     A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house.  (Mark 6:4)

     This biblical reference makes those of us who preach simplification of lifestyle wince.  We are aware that many Americans do not take simpler living to heart, for they find it too difficult, too intrusive, and too discomforting.  It makes people somewhat upset, because a popular preacher should make one feel at ease and comfortable -- or is that the proper attitude?  This is where the need to be liked comes and clashes up against the need to awaken hearts to what must be done.  What comes first, a contented community or a disturbed one, that is, should we first disturb the comfortable or comfort the disturbed? 

     We are at war, a war against terrorism, and yet leaders dare to impose hardships on people who become victimized and forced to flee as refugees.  Some seek to distract us by calling to consume more to make a robust economy.  But is this good prophetic witness?  American ways in the automotive culture, resource expensive foods, excessive heating and cooling, doubling of space needs, and throwaway practices all work in favor of affluence and against self-sacrifice for others.  A prophetic element of "one must do this or that" is quite uncomfortable, and much depends on how the message is delivered.  Should it be that the wrath of God may come down upon our decadent practices?  Is this to be a message of the love and mercy of God as found in parts of the Gospels? 

     A collaborative problem-solving venture is a more ideal stance.  As Christians, we are all called to witness to our kin, our neighbors, our country, and our world.  It is not what "you" must do, but what "we" as part of an imperfect community must undertake.  We risk being disliked and disregarded if placing the finger on another.  Seeking to reduce our wasteful practices and leaving our fossil-fuel economy is needed for the sake of our fragile planet.  The problem the prophet has is shared by the entire community, namely, bearing witness in a highly comfortable world and doing so amid the notion that creating discomfort is wrong under any format.  Some problems are worth exposing, but much depends on how they are treated; they will take much consideration before obtaining solutions.  However, a Manhattan-type project is needed to address the climate change issue.

     Our baptismal vows call us to be prophetic; that is difficult in this complex and libertarian world.  Can we soften the burden of prophetic witnessing and be true?  We can speak gently, wear a smile, tell a few jokes (but that can be taken as too light hearted), and say that the message is for all those out of earshot.  But reality takes hold and we know that what must be said about affluence, inequality, and climate change will bring resistance and yet, somehow, we must speak now.

     Prayer: Lord, give us courage to be prophetic in these times.











July 6, 2015   Tasting Native and Home-Grown Fruit

               I am the rose of Sharon,
                the lily of the valleys.
              In his longed-for shade I am seated
                   and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
                            (Song of Songs 2:1, 3b)

     The taste of a wild plum, the most exquisite, makes me aware that tastes are not the monopoly of the rich and affluent, for many don't know what they are missing.  So swells up the joy at going into the orchard, that place of refuge, and eating fruit off of the tree.  Unfortunately, the ones who miss simple joys include the modestly-incomed folks living on pizza and hamburgers, fries and cokes -- a horribly uniform set of tastes.  Again, it is difficult to convince them of their limited taste world, and that these missing delights could vary with the season.  Doesn't concentration on the good things of life include looking around for variety and accepting creatures as God-given gifts?

     Native local fruit (wild plum, crab apple, persimmon, papaw, and mulberry) as well as orchard fruit of a host of temperate varieties should have a special place in our lives.  When these fruits are native, they have a special quality that glues us closer to the region by finding and tasting them.  The place becomes part of us and we feel at home. 

     When plants are grown by our own hands and through our constant care in orchards and gardens, we find that the love we put into cultivation is reflected in the satisfied plants -- fruit of the "green thumb."  And produce is fresh when sun‑ripened and hastened to the table right after picking.  In many cases, commercial harvesters had their farm hands pick them partly green in order to expand ripening time during transport and sale; their taste betrays that practice. 

     What may be regarded as of little value by those who have only had a diet of store-bought produce, is of immense worth to both gardeners and consumers of local produce who know the difference.  We need to return to a refinement in taste found among those who know these differences between garden fresh and store bought.  And we need to recognize that our own horticultural and culinary efforts add much to this refinement of tastes.  Good home-grown produce is something to be proud of and is worth sharing with neighbors.  That enhances the experience of eating off the local land, and such knowledge enriches the entire community with broader experiences.

     Prayer: Lord, give us a taste for wholesome food and inspire us to spread the good word to others: namely, that what we grow and harvest have the mark of our effort within the moment of enjoyment; help us see this effort as part of the enhancement of life's quality for all.










Picture 2300
Examining intricate patterns in beetle. Spotted Grapevine Beetle, Pelidnota punctata.
(*photo credit)

July 7, 2015      Learning from Creature Teachers

       If you would learn more, ask the cattle,
           seek information from the birds of the air.
       The creeping things of earth will give you lessons,
and the fishes of the sea will tell you all.

       There is not one such creature but will know
           this state of things is all of God's own making.
                            (Job 12:7-9)

     I watched in utter fascination a little while back as a robin taught her young to leave the nest.  The aviary parent held the worm at a distance, and the fledgling strained as hard as possible and then stepped out of the nest and reached, and the adult hopped further back on the branch with the hungry youngster coming after.  With fluttering and falling and all the false starts, the amazing thing was how fast the young one learned to fly.  With good attention and concentration one finds a host of good teachers on this Earth.  Let's be ready to stop a moment and learn from them.
Are we good learners?  When we touch and come in contact with the creatures around us, we establish a basic communication, an interaction, a teaching/learning relationship.  This communicating allows us to improve our relationships with flora and fauna.  The Scriptures have examples of imparting wisdom from creature to creature.  Our shared journeys through life involve protecting the species we meet and respecting the habitats of all wildlife. 

     When people lose touch with nature through pavement and destruction of wilderness, they ignore theological lessons needed for basic humility in order to be Christlike.  When people live closer to nature and are less influenced by development and urbanization, they have opportunities for contact with other creatures more or less in their natural settings.  What we need to learn is that teaching/learning and healing go hand-in-hand.  To heal Earth we need to learn from Earth, and the more astute we are at learning, the better Earthhealers we become.  Our openness is paramount; we need only look out and get in touch with our surroundings, for at all stages of life we have much to learn.

     Prayer: Lord, teach us to learn from the things of nature, for their lessons run deep if we are open enough to receive them.







Picture 2174
Hollyhock flower is visited by pollinator.
(*photo credit)

July 8, 2015        Taking a Closer Look at Jesus

    He is the image of the unseen God and the first born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on  earth; everything visible and everything invisible,... 
(Colossians 1:15-16a)

    In July, we join ourselves beside the glorious Risen Lord; together we seek for a spiritual empowerment that is needed to help restore and beautify a damaged world.  This must be done through a proper response that will encourage others of our human family to full use of their talents.  The maturing summer beckons us to continue reflection at a deeper level of group participation and in centering on the WE who are the ones called to work together.  From the start of the environmental movement, the problem facing other "christs" has been getting people's attention, motivating them to renew themselves, and encouraging them to join an active Earthhealing team.  What is the best approach: direct confrontation, clarified information, gentle encouragement, expert assistance, compatible associates, or combinations of these?  These choices require practical decisions based on need, leaving ultimate judgment of accomplishments to the Lord.

On further reflection we see a faint image of the unseen God in the work we are doing in the very Earth herself.  Earth projects proper qualities in operation as well as ultimate goals.  As astute observers and learners, we allow Earth to become part of the WE in a very real sense as master teacher, for an eco-spirituality is constantly in touch with Earth.  God's presence emerges in the maturation (summer) of our life's journey.  Springtime brings freshness, exuberance and enthusiasm; the whole world is ready for conquest in unimaginable ways.  Granted, springtime has been a season of heavy individualization and emphasizes our personal salvation even while we are surrounded by a living community.  "Love others as you love yourself," as the Lord has commanded us.  The further goal is to love others like Christ loves us.

     How can we move to the greater glory of God through our own practical decisions?  Can we dare promote the variation and richness of all life as part of our personal and broader healing process?  Variety is a healthy and  wholesome alternative.  A Practical Variety Principle is understood by many: foresters (variety in the mix of woodland species), farmers (diversity in crops grown as insurance against single crop failure), gardeners (variety of vegetables, herbs and other plants intermingled with flowers), business people (diverse operations for the sake of economic health), and those seeking to promote cultural harmony (diverse authentic expressions of cultural roots).  In all fields, from creative writing to homemaking, from hobbies to spiritual exercises, variety is a healthy and harmonious goal.  Does this foreshadow our future participation in the communal divine nature?  In doing so do we see Jesus more clearly as perfect ecologist?

     Prayer: Lord, help us find our unique interpretation of Jesus.









Mayapple leaf_Podophyllum peltatum
Droplets form intricate pattern on summer leaf.
(*photo credit)

July 8, 2015        Taking a Closer Look at Jesus

He is the image of the unseen God and the first born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on  earth; everything visible and everything invisible,... 
(Colossians 1:15-16a)

     In July, we join ourselves beside the glorious Risen Lord; together we seek for a spiritual empowerment that is needed to help restore and beautify a damaged world.  This must be done through a proper response that will encourage others of our human family to full use of their talents.  The maturing summer beckons us to continue reflection at a deeper level of group participation and in centering on the WE who are the ones called to work together.  From the start of the environmental movement, the problem facing other "christs" has been getting people's attention, motivating them to renew themselves, and encouraging them to join an active Earthhealing team.  What is the best approach: direct confrontation, clarified information, gentle encouragement, expert assistance, compatible associates, or combinations of these?  These choices require practical decisions based on need, leaving ultimate judgment of accomplishments to the Lord.

On further reflection we see a faint image of the unseen God in the work we are doing in the very Earth herself.  Earth projects proper qualities in operation as well as ultimate goals.  As astute observers and learners, we allow Earth to become part of the WE in a very real sense as master teacher, for an eco-spirituality is constantly in touch with Earth.  God's presence emerges in the maturation (summer) of our life's journey.  Springtime brings freshness, exuberance and enthusiasm; the whole world is ready for conquest in unimaginable ways.  Granted, springtime has been a season of heavy individualization and emphasizes our personal salvation even while we are surrounded by a living community.  "Love others as you love yourself," as the Lord has commanded us.  The further goal is to love others like Christ loves us.

     How can we move to the greater glory of God through our own practical decisions?  Can we dare promote the variation and richness of all life as part of our personal and broader healing process?  Variety is a healthy and  wholesome alternative.  A Practical Variety Principle is understood by many: foresters (variety in the mix of woodland species), farmers (diversity in crops grown as insurance against single crop failure), gardeners (variety of vegetables, herbs and other plants intermingled with flowers), business people (diverse operations for the sake of economic health), and those seeking to promote cultural harmony (diverse authentic expressions of cultural roots).  In all fields, from creative writing to homemaking, from hobbies to spiritual exercises, variety is a healthy and harmonious goal.  Does this foreshadow our future participation in the communal divine nature?  In doing so do we see Jesus more clearly as perfect ecologist?

     Prayer: Lord, help us find our unique interpretation of Jesus.








An Appalachian forest
Summer hike in the Appalachian forest. Powell Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

July 9, 2015      Recognizing Jesus as Perfect Teacher

       Let's see Jesus as teacher, healer, and activist in the light of the Enneagram system of dividing human personalities according to distinction of types (Robert J. Nogosek, C.S.C., Nine Portraits of Jesus: Discovering Jesus through the Enneagram, Denville, NJ: Dimension books, Inc., 1987).  Nogosek reasons that since Jesus as God-man is without sin, he should have all nine personality types found in human beings.  This application is not intended to divert our attention into the "enneagram," a valuable subject in itself.  Rather, let's see three aspects each as teacher today, three as healer tomorrow, and then three as activist.

   Jesus is perfect teacher in discipline, wisdom, and loyalty:

    Discipline -- The exacting nature of Jesus comes out in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:17-20).  The disciples, including us today, are called to be perfect (5:48) as Jesus is perfect, and he continues to deliver this message throughout his teaching ministry.  Jesus shows that he lives what he teaches by working hard, being disciplined, and relating to all people through marvelous deeds.  Those who are disciplined have a compulsion for details and may be critical of others who do not live up to their expectations; they may become fussy about orderliness and cleanliness and regard details as sacrosanct while demanding exactitude.  On the other hand, Jesus is tolerant of others: the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:3-30), the woman who washes his feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50), and the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11). 

     Wisdom -- In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches the disciples basic blessings to dispense.  Jesus teaches with authority the need to pray, reflect, plan ahead, and set defined goals; a house founded on sand will collapse, but one founded on rock will last (Matthew 7:24-29).  Jesus spends time teaching his disciples and even after his Resurrection he opens the Scriptures for the depressed and confused on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24).  The trap for the average teacher is to become aloof and above followers, to hold back from being equal participants, and to refrain from spending additional time with the "ignorant." Jesus is so different; while he enjoys praying alone, he is not perturbed when interrupted.  Jesus sacrifices rest to share his wisdom. 

    Loyalty -- Jesus is truly loyal to his mandate, what is taught, and to those being taught. He shows loyalty in his priestly prayer, for he is leaving disciples behind (John, chapters 14-17).  He says to render to God and to Caesar their own (Mark 12:17), and he evokes a primacy among the commandments of love of God and neighbor (Mt. 22: 38-40).  The greatest sign of Jesus's loyalty is going to hostile Jerusalem.  On the cross, Jesus gives Mary his mother to John, and John to Mary (John 19:26-27).  Some teachers exaggerate loyalty and become self-righteous in their observance of rules.  However, Jesus is without legalism; he teaches his disciples how legalism is a great obstacle to union with God. 

     Prayer: Lord, make us disciplined, wise, and truly loyal.








Picture 2221
Patch of Rudbeckia in July.
(*photo credit)

July 10, 2015       Experiencing Jesus as Perfect Healer

     In seeking to be Earthhealers we look at Jesus as model:

    Sensitivity -- Jesus as a healer is found in many examples in the Gospels: the woman touches his cloak in hopes of being cured (Mark 5:25-34) and power goes out of him; Jesus uses both words and gesture when healing the blind and lame; Jesus raises the daughter of Jairus to life and tells the parents to give her something to drink; and he shows this affection for Mary and Martha at the tomb of their brother Lazarus (John 11: 1-44).  Sensitive people show emotion, and Jesus does so in the entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11 and Mark 11, Luke 19 and John 12), weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44), and in the agony at Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42).  Some sensitive people can be snobbish, self-centered, envious, and manifest self-pity to draw attention to themselves.  However, Jesus avoids self-pity; he couples suffering with his eventual rising from the dead.  He tells his disciples that they must be willing to take their daily cross and follow him.

    Serenity -- Nogosek says that Jesus is a person of great tranquility; he is filled with peace and shows this in walking on water (Matthew 14: 22-33), calming of the storm (Mark 4:35-41), Emmaus episode(Luke 24: 13-45), appearance to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18), and Resurrection narratives to his disciples where "peace be with you" is the salutation (John 20:19-31).  Jesus shows this serenity in presence with the believing Church as a community (I Corinthians 12:12-31).  The coming of the Spirit into our turbulent lives has a very calming effect.  The shadow side of this serenity is indolence or a failure to be active in one's life; some prefer to stand back, to stay among old friends, and to lack initiative.  After the Resurrection, Jesus seeks to show Peter, who goes off fishing, that he has important work ahead (John 21: 2ff.).  Jesus strives to overcome fearfulness and encourages disciples to carry on their mission.  His very passion and death is one of utter serenity, especially as he stands accused before Pilate.

    Joviality -- Jesus, as are all good healers, is jovial and cheerful.  This quality is shown in a number of ways: he goes to parties (marriage feast of Cana), eats with friends (Mary and Martha), goes to dinner with publicans and Pharisees alike (Zachaeus in Luke 19:5), defends his disciples' lack of fasting while the "bridegroom" is with them (Matthew 9:15), prepares a beach party for exhausted fishermen (John 21:5), multiplies loaves on several occasions for the hungry crowds (Mark 6:35-44; 8:1-10), speaks over and over of the eternal joys, and prepares the apostles for continuing the liturgical banquets as a memorial.  Others with many opportunities for joviality have the natural shadow side of being too easy and not taking life seriously enough; they can be overly-indulgent, lack intimacy, enjoy being an "eternal kid," and overlook the pain of others.  On the other hand, Jesus can be easy-going and quite serious as he endures the actions of Pilate and the Roman soldiers and in his teaching, healing, and activist ministry.

     Prayer: Lord, give us the grace to be good Earthhealers.








Corn tassels in Kentucky
Tassels of the corn plant.
(*photo credit)

July 11, 2015     Discovering Jesus as Perfect Activist

     Scripture shows Jesus as activist expressing concern for those in need, being ambitious for the salvation of all, and asserting a sense of justice with no lust for power; he is truly balanced:

    Solicitude -- Jesus as activist is deeply solicitous and constantly  shows concern for those in need.  He is a man for others, a person who defends the oppressed and misjudged, as he does Mary when her sister Martha shows irritation with her for not assisting with hospitality (Luke 10: 38-42).  He shows that sense of caring in the cure of Peter's mother-in-law, who thereupon expresses hospitality (Mark 1: 29-34).  Jesus comes to serve, not to be served, and to rescue embarrassed hosts as at the Cana wedding (John 2:1-11).  In the extreme, some who practice solicitude feel that others reject their offered services, and this leads them to withdraw and harbor deep resentment.  They forget that their gifts are unearned and come from God; they prefer to work rather than spend time in reflection and prayer.  Jesus is balanced; he shows solicitude when needed and gives time to pray.

     Ambition -- Jesus as activist believes in the power of deeds.  Before his public ministry, he undergoes the series of temptations, all such episodes dealing with power in some way.  After his baptism, Jesus ventures forth with a sense of power for attaining his mission: he preaches, "Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:14); he gathers crowds and addresses them; he is fearless in the face of obstacles; he is always in charge, protecting his sheep and acting as their leader.  Jesus chooses his collaborators; they do not choose him.  Jesus before ascending tells his disciples to go out to all nations and spread the Good News, for they are now empowered with the same ambition.  Jesus does not fall into the trap of this class of people, namely to be intolerant of incompetence and to judge all by the success of their undertakings.  Even in the face of rejection in his home town (Luke 4: 14-40), Jesus simply moves on to new fields and instructs his disciples to do the same.  At moments of success he does not allow fickle crowds to make him king.  Jesus undergoes suffering and death willingly.

     Assertiveness -- Jesus shows a strong prophetic stance by driving moneychangers from the Temple (John 2:13-17).  He is a strong person, one who is courageous in the face of opposition.  He does not hesitate to speak out against the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees.  In and by confrontation, Jesus engages his enemies, efforts to shorten his ministry.  Jesus does not remain silent in the face of danger and political power; he is our model of justice, encouraging us to challenge the establishment.  On the negative side, those who are assertive can be cantankerous.  Their shadow side may come out of inner insecurity, which is often the origin of outer aggressive behavior.  Jesus reacts to sinful behavior with gentleness, not confrontation, e.g. with Zachaeus (Luke 19:5) and with the adulterous woman (John 8:10ff.).  Jesus even befriends Nicodemus.  Jesus is certainly assertive, but not overly assertive.

     Prayer: Lord, help us to be effective activists in this world.









Green dragon, Arisaema dracontium
Green dragon, Arisaema dracontium.
(*photo credit)

July 12, 2015   Championing Our American Religious Foundation   

     Go prophesy to my people Israel.  (Amos 7:15)

     We have an American civic religion that is able to interweave patriotism and piety into one garment.  Our motto is "In God we trust."  We pledge allegiance with "One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."  We sing "God bless America;" we observe Thanksgiving as a national feast.  Presidents swear on a Bible, as do most who take public offices.  People post the ten commandments and erect nativity scenes in public places.

     Civic piety includes respect, which must be present in all religious practice.  But if we focus too much on piety, we overlook the urgency of an authentic religious message, namely, a confrontation with evil and a call to prepare people to reform their ways.  If this principal drive towards repentance is lacking, people can become comfortable with what they have and regard themselves as worthy and deserving of benefits; for them, worship involves idolizing the status quo.  On the other hand, an authentic patriotism does not seek to justify existing practice, but to compare current practice with the foundational principles that set this American democracy in motion.  Thus, the true civic component of religion is to recall our constitutional structure.

     The confrontation called for is part of the disciple's primary mission (Mark 6:7-13): this begins in their mission ministry under Jesus' instruction and continues in a more public manner after Pentecost, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.  Our democratic foundations allow us as citizens to take responsibility for serious current moral issues that must not be overlooked, but if unaddressed could threaten our raison d'etre.  These issues include: just minimal wage, right of working people to enjoy the fruits of labor and to have time off to worship, right to life for the fetus, health benefits for all, limits on corporate practices, protection of private property from alienation by private land developers, conscientious objection from military service, jury service without agreeing to a death penalty, protection from unlawful governmental surveillance, freedom from drug advertisements, fair taxes that include the wealthy paying what is due, and freedom of future generations from overwhelming debt.

    Moral questions abound in much of our civic legislation and general practice.  These questions must not be relegated to academic circles for discussion and to the courts and judges for decision.  A civic duty rests on all democratic citizens who have both responsibilities and privileges to see that these are preserved in our land.  Confrontation may be necessary at different times, and true patriotism requires honest effort.  Jesus' disciples, who take their mission seriously, realized the need for pacing themselves well.  So do we need a focus on preserving and enhancing what we have received as a gift from the past.

     Prayer: Lord, help us be non-violent and brave patriots.









Daylily graces eastern Kentucky flower garden.
(*photo credit)

July 13, 2015     Realizing Earthhealers as Imperfect People

    Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.        (Matthew 13, 45-46)

     One thing is evident after nearly a half century of work since Earth Day: there are many who need to be fired up for the mission ahead and they come in many stripes and colors.  Sorting out their own stories and addressing them is an almost insurmountable task. 

    We focus on Jesus as a very fine pearl and yet, while holding on to him with all our might, we are merchants of many talented pearls that comprise the human family.  In recruiting healers, we find human stumbling blocks: an unwillingness to change, and an inertia that is deep within an affluent society dead set against any tinkering with the status quo.  People prefer conveniences, addictions, privileges, and the current social, political, and economic system, despite growing inequality and erosion of the democratic process.  Our consumer culture promotes materialism and profit motivation, both contrary to sound Earthhealing. 

     Perhaps we males can learn women's approach to the art of healing; they can bear offspring and all need to birth a New Earth.  Why do many males find it less comfortable to talk about the role of nurture in healing?  Maybe it is because compassionate care is more a womanly topic among the young -- though males can eventually become equally compassionate.  Rather than offering advice or trying to fix things, nurturers seek to be present with the suffering creature.  To suffer with another before making a specific change through treatment has a healing effect of its own; sufferers find comfort in those who endure pain bravely.

    One portion of the human race tends to be more nurturing (maybe because of their wounded conditions) and plays an intuitive and initially passive role, while another would prefer to immediately attack the problem, stop the damage, and repair the wound through administrating the proper current medicine.  Just as any complex surgical operation requires a medical team, so Earthhealing needs teamwork that involves more than just procedures.  Team operation reveals the complexity of the planet's maladies and the need to renew at multiple fronts at one time.

    Earthhealing is restricted and limited by those who avoid any participation, or those act with improper bedside manners.  Those who avoid the process include deniers (climate change does not exist), excusers (it is the concern of experts), and escapees (it is overwhelming).  Those with limited response include people who  mistakenly regard themselves as self-empowered, others who become burned out, and fence-sitters who postpone activism; wheelspinners lack discipline to engage, cynics have lost their activistic enthusiasm, and the insensitive think of themselves. 

    Prayer: Lord, help us overcome limits that hinder our work.







Athabasca Glacier / Glacial view / Canada
The receding Athabasca Glacier.
(*photo credit)

July 14, 2015   Coping with Climate Change Denial     

    The Denier: "There's nothing wrong, even if recent weather is a little warmer.  Simply affirming the so-called 'crisis' doesn't exist brings far more peace of soul.  I won't believe there's any problem since some writers call this a hoax and we know Earth's weather waxes and wanes."

A hard core group of people deny that Earth is in trouble.  They may do so through inattention to the subject, or they may deliberately consider denial as part of their personal agenda and they say, "the ecological crisis is a creation of notoriety seekers and paranoid pseudo-scientists." They have little rebuttal to the fact that 97% of climate scientists hold that current 400 ppm greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is the highest in recorded time and growing toward the 450 ppm critical point. 

     Specific conditions are contested.  "The Antarctic interior ice is not melting" can be countered by saying the temperatures have not yet reached melting stages, but the outer continental margins are sloughing off as part of the melting process associated with global warming.  Many regard last year's International Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) report to be too conservative a document. Yes, severity was downsized due to political and economic pressures.  An extreme form of self-denial occurs when the denial is motivated by pay-offs to profiteers.  Status-quo seekers are the privileged or are financed by Big Energy, much like Big Tobacco held out for three decades against those proving health hazards, to sustain vast profits.  Ironically, publicizing and describing a threatened species may actually increase its endangerment by those living near such wildlife who dislike regulators.

     Prudence always says that in a serious matter -- take a safer course.  Certainly the status quo is not the safest procedure as to climate.  Denials may be caused by mental, physical, economic, social or political conditions, or a combination thereof.  At the heart of denial is the fear of loss of something held dear, namely current privilege.  It may be a newly discovered illness, impending death of oneself or loved one, financial difficulties, or an uncertain future.  Deniers simply seek to mask their fears and the possible threat to the status quo.  A temporary state of denial may have to be handled through a compassionate presence.  Really, the denial often extends from issues to possible solutions.

    Serenity is needed in times of serious crisis.  Consider the serenity of Sir Thomas More at his trial for not supporting Henry VIII in 1535.  Some of the current serene insist that deniers will change through compassionate presence and sufficient information; others are more realistic and say, "No, the illness is present and is really serious, but let's move from there to what can be done." Consensus is an ideal.

     Prayer: Lord, teach us to tackle problems forthrightly.




Formal and Informal Prayer
By Fr. Al Fritsch, SJ

     Let’s spend some time talking about our prayer life with God.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, vocal prayer, meditation and contemplative prayer are the three main expressions of prayer in the Christian tradition.  The challenge for each of us, of course, is to find the style of prayer that enables us to grow in an ever-increasing awareness that God desires our response in love.  Formal and informal prayers may include prayers of praise, thanksgiving, petition and sorrow.  They may for example, be based in scripture or be spontaneous utterances.  Christians use formal written prayers, some traditional and passed down through the generations, which are often memorized to be recited both publicly and privately.  Christians also use informal prayers, which are personal and allow individuals to connect with God in their own words.  Most informal prayers do not follow a set script and are instead expressed in a way that feels personal to the individual, using their own words and ideas and inspiration.

     There are many different ways of praying and part of our challenge is to open ourselves to be ready to receive the Lord wherever/whenever possible.  The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17), to be faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12), and to pray with unwavering belief (Matthew 21:22).  We strive to make prayer a natural part of our everyday walk with God.  Jesus gives us a model formal prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer.

     Prayer is the raising of the heart and mind to God, requiring our continual attention and effort to close the distance between us and the most high.  Children, however, are natural at prayer and often inspire with the directness and simplicity they bring even to rote-learned prayers.  But personally-inspired informal prayer comes with time and age, becoming easier as we move closer to the Lord and eternal life.  No one way of prayer is better or worse than another; each has its own place and time.

     We are always looking for ways to become closer to God and live a life that is worthy.  We know that young people can be taught to pray privately on their own, but they should also learn to play and experience the wonder of the world.  Every day should be sprinkled with prayer, like a conversation with a close friend.  Conversation often includes intensity, but also silence and moments of joy, an awareness of the miracle that is life – this can be a form of contemplative prayer.  Some people pray with music and songs, or poetry and journal writing, or study; there may be as many ways to pray as there are people, for God is creativity itself and with this, all things are possible.  Where do we fit in and how can we make our life one of greater prayer to God - our very life a sacred prayer to God?






Cornus Racemosa
Kentucky native gray-stemmed dogwood, Cornus Racemosa.
(*photo credit)

July 15, 2015     Excusing Ourselves from Climate Change   

    The Excuser: "I can't hazard a guess as to the seriousness of climate change because I am not an expert.  Let's call on ecologists and fair-minded experts to help assess the problem and implement proper solutions.  In all humility, remove me from the fray and I will bow to experts."

     Dom Helder Camara was asked, "What has been the greatest, most challenging obstacle in your struggle for justice?"  Sabra McKenzie-Hamilton reported that the archbishop paused, extending his feeble arms outward as if to emphasize the enormity of the Cross, and then without the slightest hesitation, touching lightly that luminous part of himself where his heart reached out to God...  "Myself," he replied. (Reference: The Catholic Worker, June, 1995).  Dom Camara knew that there is no distance between himself and the suffering of the Earth-Cross.  He offered no excuse, but came to grips with his disarray, himself.  It takes honesty, self-possession, and responsibility to overcome excuses.

     Soon the chips will be down and excuses could have the sound of a wimp.  When it comes to medical or environmental questions many of us regard the qualified person as better equipped to make practical judgments than we are.  What about citizen action?  A false humility can and is used to absolve citizens who fail to recognize that our democratic principles are eroding by the ones who orchestrate a denial of Earth-threatening climate change.  The excuse is like failing to vote because one does not fully know the candidates.  Exercise of citizenship is at stake here and now.

     Excuses come easier than knowing the issues.  Many regard knowledge as a sufficient contribution toward achieving solutions, placing a higher value on articulation than on acting.  Excusers prefer to stand above the fray and may say they have no expertise and lack confidence in deciding whether this person is closer to the truth than an opponent.  Saving our Earth involves us all; even those too ill to be active can pray for the success of others and for Earth herself.  No one is actually excused, for environment is not just another issue; it is part of Earth's vitality.  Excusers clearly experience powerlessness, but so do we all.  They do not know enough to judge.  Are "private" interests of profiteers involved?  Will this prolong the dangerous fossil fuel economy? 

     Solicitude is a characteristic of those who take their responsibility seriously.  They manifest a hope that even excusers have a glimmer.  Recall that the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) seeks no excuse to immediately assist a victim at the roadside.  Good Samaritans do not ask for recompense or any sign of preset gratitude, seeing neighborliness to be responding to the immediate task and helping.  They know that living in harmony and seeking the common good demand personal involvement.

     Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to act when we must do so.








Mourning dove, Zenaida macroura, in evening light.
(*photo credit)

July 16, 2015   Escaping from Environmental Responsibilities

    The Escapee: "Don't tell me any more sad tales; I have enough and can't take any more.  My cup overflows.  I have my own hobby or recreation, and it gives me enough pleasure to cope with conditions and serves as an escape valve.  If everyone would do the same, the world would be in better shape."

Alcohol imbibing, gambling, money-making, working, using drugs, shopping, buying cars, boats, or planes, travelling, performing crafts, going to movies, watching television, eating, sleeping, gossiping, going to school year after year, sitting, dreaming, and even writing can become a form of escape, but for most, when done in moderation, can be neutral or beneficial.  Much depends on the reason for the escape: a form of recreation, an ability to put one's mind at rest, the lack of psychic energy -- or a fleeing from some form of social responsibility.  Money and collectable items are creature comforts that captivate people, lead to a spiral of further acquisitions, and neglect spiritual values.    

     Christian fundamentalists focus on the early Christian beginnings from the writing of Chapters 6 and 7 of the Book of Revelation and relate these to current conditions.  People need to fall back on something that is firm and grounded in their prior faith experience, and thus seek to escape from current troubles.  Sincere fundamentalists tend to escape from the nitty-gritty of life's raw edges by a miraculous escape from this world. All through history, escapist cults have come and gone, showing the tendency to avoid dealing with reality, especially at times of great upheavals: Roman persecutions, Black Death, natural disaster in every century, and Ebola and ISIS today. 

     Reasoning with escapees is like trying to have a rational discussion with a person with a drinking problem while touring a pungent-smelling distillery.  Observing the distillation process, visiting a hospital ward, or preaching sobriety do not address addiction.  Curing all forms of substance abuse takes will power -- not rational argumentation.  Personal commitment and renewal can help to counter the escapist tendency, but this tendency can often be more easily addressed by a nurturing person who wishes to help through non-oppressive methods.  The Alcoholic Anonymous approach of understanding one's powerlessness and the need to reach out to a higher power is the beginning of control and retreat from escape. 
     Loyalty is a characteristic of those doing their calling well, from land managers to homemakers. Proper spiritual grounding requires a loyalty to the task at hand and to the Lord of history.  The prodigal son parable (Luke 15:11-32) shows the welcome of a returnee from escape and a healing process of forgiveness.  The father welcomes the escapee home with full forgiveness while the brother sinks into self-pity. 

     Prayer: Lord, help us to confront responsibility avoiders.









Geranium maculatum
Eastern Kentucky's wild geranium, Geranium maculatum.
(*photo credit)

July 17, 2015     Deceiving Self as Empowered on One's Own   

    The Self-Empowered: "We have a power within if we stop and know ourselves and determine to go forth and do it.  I certainly see the crisis, can partly blame myself and others for this mess, and know there is no escape from our duties.  If each one of us organize properly we can get the job done with gusto.  Failures are the result of our lack of organizing skills, not properly explaining the problem, or failure to focus media attention.  It is all a matter of confidence-building."

     Self confidence in one's internal power is an American characteristic and of those who trust in themselves as saviors of the world.  It is a type of deficient activism that does not deny, excuse, or escape.  Generally, the success of this sort of activism is thought to depend on hard work of socially conscious folks who have enthusiasm and develop proper skills and confidence.  However, problems are more complex than anticipated; the need for others is shortchanged.  Ambitious self-empowerment is the operative philosophy of individuals.  Being highly motivated and exuberant, these are confident they have sufficient resources.

These people are divided into those with utter self-assurance and those who put on public masks to hide their true selves, seeking to obtain approval from others.  Over-optimism feeds on the demands to prove self-worth and propels them forward.  The planet's environmental problems are a challenge to which they want to apply past success records and project future solutions -- and this can be a temptation to personal power and a can-do spirit.  For such people, more effort and focus is needed; no problem is too great for "me."  However praiseworthy, the overly optimistic omit reflecting on possible pitfalls -- and thus grounds for deception.

      Granted, an ambitious dream of success is far better than denial, escape, and excuse.  But this can regard one's efforts as potentially capable of doing more than possible on one's own.  Self-glorification lies just under the surface, and so a facade of success can be quite deceptive.  Distinguishing the results with honesty and transparency takes time, patience, and an uncanny level of objectivity.  Unfortunately, in our age funders expect concrete achievements -- and achievers believe their own success reports and fail to realize that they are dishonestly stretching the truth.   

     Ambition, properly cultivated and directed, is certainly praiseworthy, but an over-ambitious attitude can be detrimental to a cooperative spirit of benefiting the commons together with others.  This personal tendency to self-power overlooks the fact that ultimate empowerment is a God-given gift, and understanding this is crucial.  The ego empowerment is found in those who attempt to exploit others and acceptance of a "toot your own horn" culture, from politics and economics to athletic and academia.

     Prayer: Teach us, Lord, to see you as source of empowerment.







An expanse of clover.
(*photo credit)

July 18, 2015     Opening to Burnout and Dropout

     The Burnt-Out: "Threats to our environment exist but I have expended a super-human effort and am exhausted.  To hell with Earth and its rotten and greedy people!  My internal system is shutting down; the gears are frozen; I confess I am giving up; don't attempt to persuade me otherwise. Spare the effort."

     Sensitive people grasp the deteriorating condition of our world and are even quite willing to announce it in their own individual and creative ways. They may show this through their art work (visual, dramatic, musical, culinary, or other).  They are emotionally committed to making change with all the energy at their disposal.  Their habit is to expect others to see the world through their eyes, and dismiss those who are not up to their own powers of refinement and sensitivity.  However, when their personal expectations do not materialize, they could spiral into a depressed state that can paralyze them and even burn them out. 

     Many creative people work hard, but for many their romantic dreams do not materialize.  Personal energy levels slump, and what they considered to be budding and dramatic successes are now ignored or belittled by critics.   They continue for a time on mere grit and hope to inspire others by raw determination.  They discover the world full of imperfections.  Springtime enthusiasm wilts in summer heat.  Burning out comes even while denying that energy is ebbing.  Perhaps sleeping less gives way to sleeping more.  The burning out soul neglects to seek advice.

     Balanced Sensitivity must be emphasized.  The burning out or burned-out person needs support, but aside from recommending counseling, this may prove beyond our talents outside of encouraging words; the persons needs professional and psychological assistance.  It is always good to go to confidants and see whether some meaningful treatment can be initiated through their efforts.  Often, victims, being strong individuals, are convinced they can handle their own lives when life needs human support.  While the burning out see the external environment as dysfunction, they fail to see that this can extend to our interiors as well.  As the late Jim Vizzard, a Jesuit advocate for farm workers said -- "I want to give a retreat entitled: I'm not God; you're not God.'"   

     For the burned-out who has now dropped out, it may be too late to recommend cutting back.  People may not want to become involved any more because they have such bad memories of "wasted efforts."  The one in the earlier stages of burning out may simply need a retreat, sabbatical, or change in lifestyle.  Occasional celebrations have medicinal value.  Recovery does not mean abstaining from healing Earth, but to take a reduced role.  People with God's help can recover and share valuable experience of recognizing warning signs in others -- and work with them.

     Prayer: Lord, help us to be gentle with the burnt out. 








Young Red Foxes Occupy Abandoned Cabin 3
Young Red Foxes Occupy Abandoned Cabin.
(*photo credit)

July 19, 2015   Inspiring Good Leadership

     See, the days are coming -- it is YHWH who speaks -- when I will raise a virtuous branch for David, who will reign as true king and be wise, practicing honesty and integrity in the land.  (Jeremiah 23:5)

     Shepherds or leaders are needed in this troubled world.  While we need those guiding the way as religious and governmental leaders, we also need to know that each of us have a shepherding role to play in Earthhealing (e.g., parenting, encouraging others, and reminding some of needed tasks).  Responsibilities can be easily overlooked through lack of interest or denial, excuse, or escape.  To shepherd takes effort and prayerful preparation.  I did herd cattle and that takes skill, coordination, and exertion.  Jesus shows sensitivity for budding good shepherds.  He tells his exhausted disciples to "come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place and rest a little" (Mark 6:30-34). 

     While he is solicitous of the disciples, he is also aware of the crowds seeking him.  So in this occasion Jesus forgoes rest and expresses his zeal by going out and teaching at great length.  While calling to refrain from overexertion, Jesus at the same time accepts the arduous task of teaching the multitude -- sheep without a shepherd.  Good leadership means one can pace themselves and strive to get others to be zealous but not overly exhausted.  Making room for good leadership takes planning and effort, but eventually emerging leaders can do their tasks with finesse and ease over a longer run.  Gaining this experience, as is happening with the disciples, requires pacing, for over-exertion will lead to discouragement.  Periods of rest are part of leadership training.  

     Secondly, feedback is also important.  We find in the passage that the disciples report back to Jesus all that they have done and what they have taught.  They take their assignment seriously and are exhausted in the process.  Undoubtedly, the disciples see their respective tours as successful and thus report back with a sense of experience and enthusiasm.  Leadership grows gradually through prayerful reflection, evaluation, and interaction.  This becomes a community exercise, if we ultimately want good leadership; through the power of the Holy Spirit we share experiences and grow together to become good leaders.  Positive feedback is essential so that past mistakes can be avoided and new experiences gained.

     The third aspect of leadership is to know what to do.  Often, decisions are required quickly and results applied without major delay. This must be done fairly and the performance understood by all who are concerned.  Jesus as good shepherd shows his teaching and guiding skills at work, and we have need to beg for the grace to be successful in what we undertake.  Sensitivity demands that we treat people respectfully, know when they want help, forgive their eccentricities, and always show kindness and mercy.

     Prayer: Lord, allow us to see the need for shepherding.

View article featuring Fr. Al Fritsch, Lexington Herald-Leader, 7/19/15:








Stone Fence, Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, KY
Stone Fence, Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, KY.
(*photo credit)

July 20, 2015     Fence-Sitting as a Preferred Occupation

    The Fence-Sitter: "I am not one for wasting energy, running around like a chicken with its head off.  I know problems, hear excuses, and see escapists not facing their responsibilities, and it all makes me sick.  Believe me, organizers are not successful either, because they do not trust in the Lord.  And burnouts are only to be pitied.  God tells us to just wait for the day." 

     Fence-sitters are observant enough to detect flaws in activism and regard their own perceptive critique as contributing to environmentalism.  They seek to stay back and preserve their integrity at all costs.  Fence-sitting is quite different from super-activism, for the fence is a good perch on which to survey the situation, to plan and reflect prudently before taking action.  There's no denial, no excuse, just a pause and a distancing from knee-jerk types who move too fast.  However, some sitters become couch potatoes and are simply indolent and slothful.  They would prefer to control the situation through words and not deeds.  They think construction includes a measured negativity and defer any particular action.  The imperfect activists will not disturb their public perch, near to, but not precisely, where action occurs. 

      Sitting and waiting for Doomsday and the coming of the Lord has been a temptation, which St. Paul mentions in his letters to the Thessalonians.  Doomsday folks only concentrate on their own sweet salvation.  Social responsibility is beyond the horizon, and their measured inaction avoids burnout; whittling wood is counterpoint to spinning wheels.  In reply to "Why hasten about, when the end is near?" one response is, "Why not hasten about and get the house in order, because the good Lord is coming?"  Yes, assertiveness becomes a needed virtue.  Early Christians were tempted to burn incense before idols; others condemned such weakness, while others sacrificed their lives in fidelity.  Do some burn incense to materialistic idols today?  Do others see that silence is a partisan position?  (See Nov. 14, 2014 D.R.). For fence-sitters an Earth healer could be eccentric, cantankerous, and even foolish; why, some are proponents of civil disobedience.  Are not more guilty of fence-sitting than of leading the charge?  Isn't it easy to be a doomsayer or Monday morning quarterback?

     Authentic prophets, even if few in number, are moved to act assertively and overthrow the money changers in the commercial temple.  These are leaders when others fail to follow and do not look back to see if followers are right behind.  Prophets are like yeast, a leaven of bread, catalysts who bring about change and are confident that the dough will eventually rise.  In democratic societies with an emphasis on participation, the prophetic role has a strong political cast.  True prophets are enzymes in the living ecosystem who call forth and catalyze action, those immersed in but ahead of their times.  The possible prophet have weak spines.

     Prayer: Lord, give us courage to be prophetic in these times.





Witnessing in a Materialistic World
By Fr. Al Fritsch, SJ

     What does it mean to be a witness?  Simply put, a witness is someone that has seen something take place and is there to tell of all that they saw, heard, and experienced.  We all are witnesses to our life and the lives of others.  The people around us impact our lives every day, but we seldom acknowledge or even notice that impact.  A person who, being present as a spectator or eyewitness, seeing something important or amazing, is compelled to share that perception with others.  This is a form of compassion, to share our lessons and insights.

     Likewise, as Christians, we are called to be witnesses for Christ who present a testimony about the truth that we have experienced and heard.  If you have ever heard the great commission from the gospel of Luke, it’s a little different than what we are used to hearing from Matthew.  In his final speech, Jesus tells the disciples “You are witnesses of these things.”  He gives us the authority to witness, and the power and boldness to witness is given as a result of the Holy Spirit (Mark 16:17-20; Acts 1:8).  However, the willingness to witness is a decision each one must make.  The message to share is the simple truth that God loves us.

     In life and society, we must speak up.  If we are moved by the pain in the world and reacting to the real-life impacts of injustice, speaking out is just what any living, loving, sentient being does when it witnesses the sorrow of others.  By seeing, touching, tasting, and walking with others’ pain, we get to touch the Divine.  This is deep empathy, and all who are alive can tune into this experience and witness the perfection of Creation struggling with forces of degradation.  We must move forward with integrity and perceive the various dark and light aspects of material life.  But we also must be witness to the spiritual life and recognize God’s presence in our midst.  God has made us as a gift, and when we shine and live a good life we are responding with gratitude to what God has done for us.  Some go a step further as part of the church and have, from the time of the apostles Peter and Paul to the present, offered their own life as a testimony to what God has given.  St Peter and Paul were both martyrs witnessing in that fashion.

     What are the qualities of a true witness?  They see needs and are moved to respond. They go out of their way for someone else. They use their own resources for the benefit of others. They give all that they have, to serve the needs of others.  To become this kind of witness, your very life must become a sacred offering to the Creator, your home a temple, and every moment a prayer.  Our intention is to be more fully present in our lives, see more clearly every day and speak out and share insights.

     In the same way we often miss the fragility of the world and lives around us, we often aren’t taught to embrace the mighty things each and every one of us is capable of, promised by Jesus.  We show through our service that we are also true witnesses like the Apostles, and this is something to celebrate.  If we hold to this truth and are willing and courageous enough to go beyond ourselves, our example can encourage our neighbors and loved ones to also participate.  In conclusion we can only say let us continue to be faithful witnesses to what God has offered us.





Picture 14962
Early color change in July Kentucky leaves.
(*photo credit)

July 21, 2015  Pretending to be Relevant by Spinning Wheels

    The Wheel-Spinner: "I see the need for action and will not be faulted for lack of trying.  Perhaps my enthusiasm will make others pick up the ball and run with it.  It is better than being part of the fence-sitter crowd or deniers, excusers, or escapists.  Observe my earnest work, for it will pay off in the long run."

     Some individuals do not deny problems or excuse or escape their responsibilities, know they are not all-powerful, pace themselves and do not burn out, and refuse to be drawn to total inaction.  They have to ACT, though the particular undertaking is of less concern; it may be to straighten the hose for firefighters or attend a sendoff for explorers.  Some actions are virtually meaningless.  The Greek myth tells of the King of Corinth who was condemned to spend eternity in Tartarus (an infernal abyss below Hades) rolling a huge stone up a hill, which rolled back down each time he neared the top.  Was this a good deed done with all good intention, or a useless expenditure of physical energy?  This stone-rolling exercise was later Christianized and placed in the hands of an obedient monk with the stone's return to its starting place in the evening.  Certainly the "holy roller" was in good physical shape, gained a healthy appetite, and obeyed the wish of a superior, but exercised an effrontery to meaningful efforts.

     Discipline is coupled with well-intended actions showing results. However, misdirected busy work prevents citizens from choosing meaningful actions.  Energy is thrown to the wind and it turns the authentic problem into foolishness.  To renew our Earth our work must be well-planned and focused.  Jesus says to be as cunning as the devious steward in the parable; be in good condition; think out results; act meaningfully.  If ill-disposed, pray for others' successes.  Work while it is light and balance work with rest.  The monks of the Dark Ages realized that labor-saving technology afforded time from the drudgery of continual work to be given to rest.  Prayerfully reexamine the effectiveness of what is happening.  Objective assessment, whether of environmental, physical or personal resources, is better done by someone from a distance.  Depending on one's spiritual inclination, a certain surrender is required, at least the surrender to accept help by and through others.  What proves grace-laden, appropriate, and promising of meaningful results is what deserves pursuing.  

     Assisting others to come to some discipline in their own lives may not come easily for totally disordered people.  Discipline must be integrated into one's interior ecology.  All need to sort out what one is doing and discerning through expected periods of rest.  How else do we know whether we are pretending or not?  A true sense of discipline is as needed for Earthhealing as for the professional caregiver.  The totally informal individual has great difficulties restoring good health; they may even discourage orderly healers.    

     Prayer: Lord, give us the grace to be orderly in how we heal.






Picture 294
American woodcock, Scolopax minor, nearly hidden on forest floor.
(*photo credit)

July 22, 2015     Challenging Cynicism in All Its Forms

    The Cynic: "I have worked but seen few results and become cynical especially of those pretending to be successful.  Of course, I don't deny the obvious, waste time making excuses, nor seek escape allurements.  Forget jousting with windmills, avoiding burnout or burn up, resting too comfortably and expecting God to do my work, or spinning my wheels needlessly."   

     Cynics are descendants of a Greek intellectual who held virtue to be the only good, and stressed independence from worldly needs and pleasures.  A modern descendant is one critical of the rest of society and its way of proceeding.  Modern cynics may withdraw from the current environmental fray and focus completely on their own private interests.  Cynicism may take an abrasive form of light conversation about serious matters, or even a biting and bitter humor.  At the heart of a sharp-tongued critique is a lack of confidence that effective change can really occur.  For them, all proposed rational action has its faults, and this presents a rational veneer over their helplessness to change a dysfunctional society.  It is lost faith in the future, a failure of past dreams.

     Cynicism engulfs the soul; youthful enthusiasm evaporates under the hot sun of perceived failures.  A touch of misery ensures and the cynic tries to share doubts and abandonment of faith with others.  Cynicism can descend into a veiled attack on traditional values; negativism can prevail.  Alfred McBride reminds us of the proverb "A fool can ask more questions than a wise man can answer." (Reference: The Divine Presence of Jesus," Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, p. 184).  Often it is the sharp and intelligent who turn to cynicism when former hopes of intellectual conquests and recognition evaporate.  They think they have shaken the world and it did not respond.  Some cynics speak out publicly and let their thoughts be broadcast; others become reclusive hermits.  Authentic change could come for them through psychological help or counseling, or even the proper diagnosis of their mental and/or physical condition; however, they deny being dysfunctional.

     Wisdom may conquer in the long run but not necessarily the cynic.  A wise believers know that renewal will ultimately occur.  It is a mistake to confront cynicism antagonistically.  Sympathy and compassionate understanding could do far more, for the cynic is a hurting person who may crave loving kindness and compassion.  Cynicism stands in contrast to enthusiasm, which can be almost spontaneous.  In dialogue, the cynic's message should be countered without direct confrontation, but still without losing enthusiasm, which draws Earthhealers closer to their authentic inner being.  The cynic in all of us must be recognized and then addressed sympathetically, for cynicism may be a temporary stage, a calling for help, but a  condition that hardens with time. 

     Prayer: Lord, give us the forbearance and tolerance to see the illness of cynicism and as part of a dysfunctional society.









Picture 2389
Insect visits newly-opened morning glory.
(*photo credit)

July 23, 2015      Treating Affluence as a Disease

     The Affluent: "I enjoy the good things of life and why not?  I hurt no one by my activities.  My character is such that cheerfulness is needed in this overly serious world -- and my life of fun and games is a counterbalance to the concerns of others, for I add sunshine to a cloudy atmosphere.  Yes, I conserve some things, recycle somewhat, and contribute to non-profits."

The affluent are self-righteous about their materialism.  There is little serious notice to resource costs in this lifestyle and how hard  affluence is to our environment.  A latent fear lurks behind the easy-going attitude, for material possessions are not secure, and the future is always uncertain.  For such people, there is never enough stashed away for the rainy day and so the material insatiable appetite drives one into a social addiction so prevalent in this culture.  The gusto of life incites the easy-goer on an endless quest for the "pursuit of happiness," as cited in the Declaration of Independence.  The overriding philosophy is not to add up one's resource expenditures, but to keep happy and contented without looking too deeply; focus is more on self-gratification.

     Joviality is a virtue and helps add spice to life, but it can also be a sign of lack of accountability for those concerned about environment to some degree.  The challenge is to publicize issues so that a shock treatment against complacency might make the affluent aware of honest lack of needed environmentalism.  Some suggest that the best shock treatment is such things as high-priced fuel, steep downturn in the economy, another terrorist attack, or a major weather disaster.  However, one seldom realizes the resilience of the easy-going person to such mishaps. 

     A kinder and gentler shock treatment could be the moral imperative to show that we all are poor to some degree, and our solidarity is with the mass of humanity who recognize their limitations on resource use.  There is no guarantee of success.  A jovial companion may help arouse deeper sensitivity concerning the fault of excessive wealth.  Make the one lacking seriousness sober to essential needs of the poor, and this can be done with a dose of joviality.  A light-hearted approach to serious situations sometimes works, but there are no guarantees.  Once awakened, the transformed affluent person could become a reformed Earthhealer. 

     Jovial people testify to the goodness of God's creation and seem to love it all too much.  They include: lovers of good food, people persons, entertainers, comics, dramatists, musicians, and adventurers, and enthusiasts who discover the smiling face of Earth.  These grace us and help us see ourselves for what we really are.  They can make the bereaved smile; they are eco-cheerleaders, uplifting us and professing that humor is important for our human ecological balance.  A healing Earth needs a good laugh.

     Prayer: Lord, help us relax enough to know we are winners.








A glimpse into the past with fossil
A glimpse into the past with fossils in Lexington Limestone.
(*photo credit)

July 24, 2015    Discovering Earth's Many Qualities

     From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free.  (Romans 8:22-23)

     I grew up near the town called Limestone (now Maysville, Kentucky) and we would gather scattered rocks for crushing and spreading over the farmland.  The rocks were really pressed layers of shells from a wide variety of marine life, yet the place is located 700 miles from the ocean.  As a youth, I wondered what all of that marine life meant and how these nearly perfect creatures in their fossilized form were so far from what seemed to be their seaside home.  What is Earth telling us?  Is there much to learn from the movements of Earth and primitive forms of life?

     Our specific conceptions of Earth color our environmental activities.  Ideally, a cooperative group has ways of conceiving of the planet and each contributes to a total picture of seeing Earth.  The more we recognize these qualities the greater are we able to practice healing arts.  Through eco-compassion we share what hurts all around us and are better able to discover that these nine listed Earth qualities correspond to needed characteristics by balanced Earthhealers (see last week's Daily Reflection entries). 

     * Earth as related strikes us deeply.  The kinship of Earth and people is profoundly ecological -- and theological.  All beings have a created origin and are thus related to some degree.  Our collective health is interrelated.  This kinship exists now and extends to past and future generations.  Earthly creatures share a common bonding for they are made of the planet's dust, transform Earth by their interactions, bask in her glory, and suffer in her agony.  Together we proclaim God's glory.

       * Earth as victim becomes part of seeing ourselves as suffering servants.  Our fragile planet has suffered from the misdeeds of the greedy and selfish.  Many are so busy and insensitive that they pass on to their daily pursuits; others act as Good Samaritans.  Our solicitude extends from all human victims of wrongdoing to Earth herself, and we treat this planet with compassion (that is, we suffer with our Earth).  Earth can be damaged and thus must be protected and safeguarded

       * Earth as gift is seen by those with an ounce of gratitude.  We are all amazed by the bounty and beauty of God's creation.  In focusing on one or other creature we neglect seeing Earth as gift and a living interacting organism.  Good stewards realize what is entrusted of special worth, and that includes Earth's vitality.  Each of us has our own limitations, mortality, and responsibility for respecting God-given gifts.  We need to be loyal stewards for our short span, and thus, use our time wisely. 

     * Earth as beneficial is interpreted differently by exploiters and those who love the planet for its own sake.  With an increase in geological and ecological knowledge we discover an abundance of riches for all, plus a need to conserve the goodness present.  Human beings can exploit Earth's resources and forget about future generations.  Earth teaches us about the delicate balance of oceans, atmosphere, and living organisms, global aspects influenced by human activities and yet only known in recent centuries.  

     * Earth as mystery reaches into the marrow of all our bones, whether the primitive or so-called sophisticated folks.  Earth's unfolding mystery continues to baffle us.  Where did fossils 700 miles inland from the gulf come from?  How do hurricanes arise?  What causes the currents of the oceans to circulate?  Mystery is at the heart of our journey to God, and soil in a microcosm below our feet contains mystery as well.  Disrespect takes its toll, for permitted exploitation makes terrible wounds.  We penetrate some mysteries, but deeper ones arise as well.

     * Earth as oppressed seeks its liberation.  That will come as might be expected, for Earth does not fool itself or lie to others.  If the imbalances become so great, Earth rebels and becomes unlivable.  While Earth is not vengeful, as one might interpret a stern or heartless god, it is still able to be so transparent that it tells the truth: imbalances can be filled with major risks.  Earth beckons us to see that the planet has a future, and that if we do not show respect, worse things will surely happen.

     * Earth as resilient is capable of rebounding from a devastating catastrophe.  The long history of the planet shows that this is so.  While we can learn much from studying our planet, still it may not be too comforting, since rebounding takes centuries and millennia and not the lifetimes of human beings or civilizations.  Resilience shows the complexity of Earth's functions, but it does not give solace to island nations in Oceania that face inundation from climate change.  Could Earth be destroyed by human wrongdoing?  Yes, we can kill even this planet, and so resilience is a relative term, depending on the degree of damage.   

     * Earth as intelligently designed is a believer's proposition.  The current battle among the various camps about teaching evolution does not really address the basic intelligent design that the Creator has placed in all creation.  Wisdom of the thinker and investigator has done much to show the structure of this Earth, its natural cycles, movement through the heavens, changes of seasons, geological movements, and a host of other scientific phenomena.  We glory in what Earth tells us about the intelligence of the Creator and see this as a fitting natural theology, and a basis for earth, physical, and biological sciences.

     * Earth as cheerful is a quality worth cherishing.  Yes, at times Earth erupts, or harbors violent storms.  Celebration is very human, and Earth is worth highlighting on Earth Day and other times as well.  Earth's jovial nature is more subtle but can be detected even in the whimsical seasonal changes that occur.  Funny how it is that all creatures know intuitively whether we enjoy their presence or not, and Earth herself reflects the cheerful and joyful character of its Creator in its ongoing and unexpected upheavals.  Most of the time the Planet smiles in radiant sunlight and is adorned by flowers and showers.  Let's celebrate together.

     Prayer: Lord, help us see qualities of Earth that can be equivalent to characteristics that we as healers ought to possess.









Honeybees on Kenyan Top Bar hive.
(*photo credit)

July 25, 2015     Learning to be Collaborative

July is a challenging time when weather is hot and people are scattered on individualized vacations and their own ways to celebrate.  Other periods seem more conducive to cooperative endeavors and particularly where they pertain to saving our troubled Earth. In our seasonal discomfort, the test is for us to refrain from hurting the feelings of others and, instead, share an encouraging word with them when the opportunity arises. 

     I am not a perfect collaborator and admit it.  In part, it is because of being committed to certain methods of doing things; we must not give those who are engaged in their own world credit for cooperating when they don't.  We want folks who need to go slower to speed up, or those who irk us in some way to reform their lives.  Perhaps more can be achieved, if we accept people with their limitations and seek opportunities to raise them to new levels of activities, while enhancing their own personal talents and traits.  Perfectionists and those with a strong creative streak find the less advanced as trying.  More so, competition for limited resources and public recognition have a way of dampening cooperative enthusiasm.  

     In order to work in a cooperative spirit one must open the parameters to further mutual participation: a merging of two groups into one; a relationship based on working together on funding, publicity, promotion and programs; and a cooperation on certain programmatic aspects.  By face-to-face interaction we can discover what others are trying to do; through sharing we come to accept others' personalities; through working together on mutual projects we gradually realize the value of cooperation, especially when the agreements lead to successful results.    In our culture, environmental groups may have some of the same ambitions and faults as for-profit organizations; this may include those seeking to  exert power within an issue area and thus lack the transparency that others expect in order to work well together.  The group may take advantage of the good will of others, seek to use their resources as though their own, and even belittle some people in order to build up another.  Transparency is not always easy.

      Some groups work within a network in funding and goals that others of us find repulsive; thus, we deliberately refuse to cooperate.  We cannot capitulate to those who tweak a dysfunctional System.  We are not for greenwashing and that means pretending to be environmental when the results will be detrimental to genuine progress.  Failure to cooperate with some, means we have to conserve our resources and focus our attention on those who we can work with in shared meaningful goals.  We need not be pro-nuclear or pro-fracking to still find cooperative possibilities.  On the other hand, those who follow our particular agenda but differ on social issues may not emphasize differences, and thus are candidates for cooperative action.  Cooperation has many benefits.

     Prayer: Lord, give us courage to discover those of good will with whom we can cooperate on important issues of our day.








Picture 2350
Surpirse - an emergence of fungi after summer rains.
(*photo credit)

July 26, 2015   Multiplying Loaves and Renewing Ourselves 

     There is a little boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?    (John 6:9)

Little offers of change can be the stage for monumental miracles; we must all have faith that in a sincere offer from our simple store can come wonders beyond our understanding.  Renewal to become a clean heart is a small matter in a big world, but it can be an initial call for profound change for the better.  Looking into ourselves to find what we have to offer is part of renewal as agents of change.  In the eyes of faith the individual's generosity can become a ripple effect to the entire world.  As a sensitized community of faith we can call for fairer taxes, food security for all, protection of democratic process, and replacement of fossil fuel by renewable energy -- a conversion equivalent to the 1940's Manhattan Project.

     Jesus, Lord of the universe, sees a hungry crowd before him and in his sensitivity brings forth a miracle.  But as members of the Body of Christ we encourage all to use talents properly for the good of all.  The actions inspire others to act and renewal can have a multiplying effect throughout the planet.  Renewal of Earth takes renewable people, and those with the Bread of Life have the nourishment needed for the massive work ahead.  Everyone's talents may contribute, but a materialist culture deadens the attention span and willingness to share.  Believers can break loose and make a difference, multiplying an epidemic of global renewal.

     While we desire ultimate social change that will influence the great masses of people to take on their responsibility, there is need for human catalysts to begin the renewal process.  If such a renewal affects a pinpoint on Earth, so in an atmosphere of Christ's love it can be the fertile ground on which sharing and renewal can spread throughout the world.  Concrete actions can make a difference.  There is not a preset elite who reason to an answer that has an intellectual catalytic power; rather a person willing to sacrifice stimulates others to action.  All have talents needed to make change; we are convinced when reading lives of saints with a wide range of personalities.  Faith makes the difference.

Multiplying loaves can occur.  Those filled by Jesus went off and walked away, not wanting to hear more about the Bread of Life.  Healing starts with individuals and moves out from there.  All people of good will are proper candidates to be agents of change in our troubled world; their words and deeds can influence others, but they must believe it can.  Faith is the catalyst for renewal and believers can lead the way; they encourage the depressed, break the addictions of our age; and bring on the New Heaven and New Earth.  Individual efforts by renewed people may not be perfect, but each can help make profound changes if he or she is an authentic believer.  The youth with the five loaves and two fish thought so.

     Prayer: Lord, help us believe in miracles of renewal.    









The Mary E. Fritsch Center, ASPI, Livingston, KY.
(*photo credit)

   July 27, 2015      Promoting Appropriate Technology

     Solar energy has many wonderful applications and yet has been underused by Western culture.  We thought the day had come back in the 1970s during the Carter administration, but the first solar hot water units built on the White House were torn out in the early 1980s during the Reagan years.  We can make renewal energy a key to a new economy; it is a source that is environmentally benign, low-cost, community-enhancing, and people-friendly technologies.

     The lowly must be agents of change in order to achieve a better world, a New Creation.  We can't expect to be masters of global transformation and stand idly by; we must hasten the New Heaven and New Earth.  The lowly do not have sophisticated instruments, limitless resources, or attention-getting influence.  We list our resources and act non-violently to people and Earth; we use people friendly and low-cost tools and methods.  Techne (Greek) is an art or artifice and the root of "technology," of the study of practical arts and thus applied science and engineering.  From artisans to engineers is a natural progression, a work of both hands and head.  Since the start of the industrial revolution the progression is from hand work to machine production, but the pride of artisan work gave way in the 18th century to the manufactured product (textiles and metal works).  Artisans could not compete.

     Labor saving is a Christian concept.  Historian Lionel Casson remarks that people in classical Greek times had toys powered by steam (surprise); Greeks knew about but did not appreciate steam power; why save slave labor?  Christian society believes in the right of all, even serfs and slaves, to have time to rest, pray, and reflect.  Monasteries utilized the appropriate technology of water and wind power extensively, for monks expected all to have time off from servile work for prayer and rest.  Thus, windmills and water-powered units sprang up all over Europe by and through the Dark Ages and were flourishing by the Middle Ages.  For the monks and those working in the neighborhood, technology was labor-saving and championed in the Christian West, although it was overlooked in more learned Greek and more practical Roman times. 

     Today, technology is a social justice issue and has evolved into a means of material (not spiritual) profit.  A promise of leisure time for workers becomes a peril with rural, underaged and illiterate workers with long hours at low wages in harsh working conditions; this accelerated with the steam-powered engines to run machinery and, together with enclosure of commons, turned farmers and artisans into factory workers.  The dignity of working on one's own is juxtaposed with the indignities of living and working conditions within a capitalistic system.  In contrast, a broom-maker who takes pride in his product makes something that is suitable and appropriate, is environmentally benign, and fits well into a village sustainable economy. Artisan work with simple technology in people-friendly ways.

     Prayer: Lord, inspire us to honor that which is appropriate.











Frittilary butterfly on thistle
Frittilary butterfly on thistle.
(*photo credit)

July 28, 2015   Supporting People-Centered Appropriate Technology

      [Those who are] willing to undertake the discipline and difficulty of mending [their] ways are worth more to the conservation movement than a hundred who are insisting merely that the government and the industries mend their ways.  Wendell Berry

     I grew up and experienced in obtaining a farm  tractor the revolution of thousands of agricultural years from horse and ox to a fossil-fueled device.  Hay and feed cost far less than fuel of the hungry tractor, but a tractor did not have to have time to rest during the work day; horse did and the rhythm of life changed -- but not necessarily for the better.
Just as idols can be artifacts, so can a profit-making technology, and that is the case of fossil-fueled devices such as land vehicles, ships, airplanes, bulldozers, and even farm tractors known for their versatility and convenience.  Large operations bent on mass production and profit maximization first pushed artisans out and then human workers in an ever more mechanized society demanding greater concentrations of capital.  Labor saving became a mantra for material profiteers and those formerly employed became ever more under- or unemployed wards of the state.  A multinational corporation without thinking, replaces people with machines or uses foreign laborers to produce brooms at far lower cost.  Products, instead of being subjects of pride, become commodities, which can turn a fast buck for factory owners.  The former small-scale economy suffers; industry is mechanized and outsourced in a globalized society always biding for cheaper wage earners. 

      Appropriate technology proportionate to the needs of people is demanded.  Large tractors are needed on corporate farms, but not for small farmers who do hard labor that varies during the year. On a small farm the same tractor would be a clumsy burden, taking room to turn around, and compacting soil by its heavy weight.  What is good for a corporate-scale farm can be a handicap to a small plot, where initial equipment and fuel are expensive and maintenance far more difficult.  Highly commercialized operations seem advantageous, but little thought is given to the fossil fueled-device's monetary expense in acquisition, upkeep and storage, and the need for sophisticated personnel to maintain it.  While computers can be appropriate for data processing and Internet connections, new electronic ware can be planned obsolescence.

If not careful, technology can control us, the tool-using animal.  Tools are controllable but they demand respect.  Peer pressure leads to a stampede for a newer and more convenient (and costly) device; the needs of a human person give way to profit-making commercialization.  E.F. Schumacher understood the role of simple technologies in Small is Beautiful, and bigger is not necessarily better.  A good hoe may be more appropriate for a small farmer than a costly and sophisticated tractor.

     Prayer: Lord, give us a love for simple things in life.









Carp River
The Carp River, near St. Ignace, MI.
(*photo credit)

July 29, 2015  Knowing the Advantages of Appropriate Technology     

     Like a symphony orchestra whose members play in perfect harmony, the performance of our body depends on the harmonious interaction of nutrients, both known and unknown.  By supplying a rich assortment of natural foods, we best maximize the function of the human masterpiece.  (Joel Fuhrman, Eat to Live, Little, Brown & Co., 2003, p. 141.)

An appropriate technology (AT) contains numerous advantages:

     * AT costs less -- Ultimately water, wind and solar energy systems along with dry composting toilets and rain water systems have no fuel costs, can be maintained for the greater part locally, and are people-friendly.  Total costs may seem initially higher, but AT devices pay for themselves and can be reinvested locally. 

     * AT is environmentally benign -- Farm tractors demand non-renewable and polluting foreign fossil fuels, while work animals live off feed grown on the land.  Hand tools and draft animals do not require non-renewable resources.  Furthermore, solar and wind are quite appropriate at the community level with no distant generation or transmission costs.

     * AT is community friendly -- Developing nearby sources for fuel, water, food, and building materials stabilizes communities by enhancing their economy at the local level.  Obtaining distant fast food, water, building materials, and fossil fuels is inefficient and costly; garden plots provide fresh, nutritious, and low-priced produce; water conservation and collecting rainwater provides water supplies; using local native materials affords creative building design; and wind and solar supply local energy needs.

* AT is people-friendly -- Sophisticated technologies require experts to maintain and operate.  Small-scale operations can be easily handled by ordinary people, while sophisticated technologies are ideal targets for terrorists; to damage a solar array affects one unit; to cut a transmission line can become a major disruption.

      * AT increases social harmony -- Renewable energy sources return natural harmony through non-polluting emissions, nor do they drain non-renewable resources.  Simple living allows cleaner home environments without toxic materials; extractive resource practices weaken community relations and damage a sense of community.

       *  AT environments are non-threatening -- Competition is minimized, collaboration becomes the focus, and residents are freer to rest, pray, and celebrate.  The goal of mutual enhancement avoids excessive competition and intimidation.

     * AT encourages community growth and new economics -- The community that is highly (not totally) self-subsisting need not look elsewhere for its development, but discovers resources through "people power" in a spiritual sense. 

Prayer: Lord, show us simple ways to renewing our Earth.









Shinleaf, Pyrola elliptica
Shinleaf, Pyrola elliptica.
(*photo credit)

July 30, 2015  Influencing Our Eco-Spirituality by Where We Are

     We have performed environmental resource assessments in most parts of North America and have found differences in the way the residents in diverse places perceive their local environments.  Differences can be immense and localities influence environmental outlooks; thus, space and time influences an eco-spirituality.  Individual ways of seeing things are affirmed; environmental variety of viewpoints all contribute to the whole. 

     We each experience the world differently; when placed in ecological terms this is our unique eco-spirituality.  It is not that some have a spiritual outlook and others do not; rather, some have a more beneficial one than others and this ought to be shared as part of the social commons.  A great obstacle is not differences from culture to culture but a failure to champion unique viewpoints of those within cultures.  It involves a failure to affirm uniqueness in place and time and seeing creative beauty in that affirmation.  Some prefer to dictate their own viewpoints and expect others to follow.  Private experiences are overlooked.

      An eco-spirituality that is based on an absolutist construction lacks the elementary environmental sense of HERE and NOW, and thus presents a major hurdle to meaningful contribution back to the commons that ought to grow by honoring every authentic human experience.  Actually, all have their own path to God and are to make a personal accounting.  Furthermore, we discover that primitives and "cultured" find God in their private times and places.  They intuitively perceive that God is eternal and everywhere -- not confined to a single space or time.  

      HERE for me is not the same as for you.  As close partners we may experience the same climate, living space, and daily happenings, but we process, weave, and store these differently; we have different personalities that impress us.  Expanding a comparison of individuality with those in other bioregions or climate zones makes the experiences become all the more diffuse.  Certainly, the more we are drawn to share our uniqueness, the greater becomes our impulse to unite and build the commons.  The more we retreat into our self, the less we are environmentally inclined, to the detriment of everyone.  Planet zones differ. 

      Global travel adds to differences as well as observing, reading and communicating with those from different places.  My local eco-spirituality rests on personal interactions with land features, plants, animals, and people.  I do not grasp an Eskimo's or a tropical African's eco-spirituality.  Mine is from a temperate zone and is individualized by particular region and locality.  Mine is not a better grasp of eco-spirituality because of such differences, only a unique one, though social or economic status will change my manner of expressing place -- but eco-spiritualities are enhanced when viewpoints are shared globally and socially.

     Prayer: Lord, help us be Down-to-Earth in spirituality.









Kentucky travertine, Carter County.
(*photo credit)

July 31, 2015   Experiencing Our Eco-Spirituality by When We Live

      Our individual spiritualities are relative to both space and time.  We are who we are both because of where we live and when we live with variations of the seasons.  This "time" is long range and includes our awareness of changes over our lifetime, as shown in the book draft Healing Earth now available through Brassica Books.  Medium range means the decades and seasonal changes shown in the Liturgical season of the Church (quite different from Moslems who have a Ramadan season that rotates around the entire year).  This sensitivity to time is more pronounced in more liturgical Christian churches even with different prayers at various times of day and night.  This series of Daily Reflections on a month-by-month basis attempts to convey the differences of an "Eco-Spirituality throughout the Seasons."

     Some, who call themselves eco-spiritual, show no sensitivity to space and time -- and we may wonder if they are environmental.  Sensitivity to variation shows just how close we are to our Earth, which is not unchangeable, but is a planet in motion from eruptions and earthquakes to violent storms and weather pattern changes.  We may even be sensitive to changes in the barometer, it is wet or dry, humid or freezing.  Really, to be fair, many cosmological environmentalists attempt to show a sense of community that has good qualities presented by Creation-Centered Spirituality, but that also has its limits, often lacking the HERE and NOW.  Even Church leaders discuss having Easter on a single day each year for all traditions and that remains a hurdle from the earliest times until now.  A universal date for Easter could still allow an emphasis on various aspects of the grand mystery of Easter in different bioregions and locations of the Northern and Southern hemisphere (the latter experiences in autumn what Northerners see as springtime fullness of Resurrection).

     During earlier parts of this month we showed the personality characteristics of Jesus as perfect ecologist and the imperfections of classes of individuals who do not enhance the fullness of a balanced environmental awareness.  No single individual psychological type serves as a perfect primary healer, and so teamwork is essential.  Different types react differently to spatial and temporal changes, and some negate the contributions of others.  We need a wide complement of individuals, knowing themselves through spiritual maturation and working together while tolerating differences.  A mature team is composed of individuals who complement each other; differences become opportunities for growth and cross-fertilization and are honored as such.   

Christian life flourished in all parts of Earth, and each place helps give a special flavor to that spirituality.  It becomes "eco" when it is related to time and place and the personality of the people engaged.  Healing involves a cross-fertilization of all times (a continuous history of salvation), space (a global perspective covering all parts of Earth) and peoples (all psychological types containing various talents working together).  Christ is with us, and thus we perceive the WE in our many and varied personalities.  Maybe the scientific dictum at the end of each general research project fits here -- "More research is needed."

     Prayer: Lord, help us share our differences through collaboration.