September lacks the drama of May's return of foliage or November's loss of leaves, but it is welcomed all the same. The air is crisper, mist is thicker in the morning, and days are shortening. September brings fresh apples and the growing season's final push with green peppers, squash, watermelons, autumn pears, elderberries and the first of pumpkins. September abounds in hickory nuts, hazelnuts, and walnuts; it includes hustling squirrels, swarming birds, extended cobwebs, and busy yellowjackets. September includes Labor Day, fall festivals, sorghum-making, last hay cutting, sowing winter wheat, and preparing for the soybeans and corn to come quite soon. September makes us aware of our age, for it is the maturing month.
You are prolific in our land, making a rare majestic stand; with a pretty late spring flower and now raw berries to devour. What berry pie? How quite divine! Nothing surpasses it in kind.
Follow our latest works and events! Connect with Al Fritsch &
Earth Healing at:
An arbor of fox grapes, Vitis vulpina, native Kentucky grape.
September 1, 2020 Vine-Growing and Wine-Making
We all like to excel in the art of making something, and we strive for a variety of reasons: because the product is needed for our life; because it is exciting to make; because it binds people together during the making process; because it is higher quality and worth our efforts; because it expresses ourselves and our local community; because it can be a subject of wider discussion; and because it can be used for unique celebrations. Wine-making fits all of these conditions quite well.
Wine was known to the ancients for celebration and to purify drinking water; wine was a needed component in our ancestor's lives -- for health and safety were at stake. Many of us forget or never knew the pressure to make beverages that added sustenance and safety to precarious living in former times. Wine-making always involved the entire family in picking grapes, hauling them to the press, stomping them to a mush, draining extracted juice into vats, controlling the fermenting process, and bottling the product. With tender loving care, wine accentuates the locality where grown with its own characteristics. Thus, families and locality both add to making a unique wine with associated pride in flavor and quality.
This year, I have grown a respectable harvest of grapes from a series of slips after several years of fertilizing with aged horse manure. The clusters were heavy but certainly not sufficient for a batch of wine that I had tried on previous occasions -- perhaps winemaking is in my genes. My grandparents came to America in the 1870s, and my grandfather, a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War, had ambitions to become an American wine-maker. He came to a region inhabited by fellow Alsatians and settled near Augusta, Kentucky, at that time the center of America's fledgling wine industry. Soon after his arrival, a massive blight wiped out all the grape vines east of the Rockies, and thereupon California became the wine center of America -- and Grandfather Peter had to resort to mixed farming in the Ohio Valley. However, 150 years later, this Commonwealth is developing a wine-making resurgence.
What is the relationship between wine-making and Earthhealing?
Wine is grown locally and yet has soothing and healing effects on a wider level; it requires local effort with a broader view in mind as part of a global wine-loving community. Wine is a healing balm for a troubled world; Earth is healed at the local level first in vine-growing and wine-making. The wine product has global ramifications through a ripple effect; we "think globally and act locally" as fellow French-American Rene Dubos coined -- with a postscript that you may want to read about tomorrow.
Prayer: Lord, you give to us the power to transform wine into the Blood of Christ, so that we enter into the collective healing of our planet and its people. Help us to see that this transformative power in lowly wine can go out to all the world in your merciful and loving ways.
White-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus, on the move.
September 2, 2020 Thinking Globally, Acting Locally -- With All
In this time of climate change it's important that we act in a meaningful manner. The pioneer environmentalist, Rene Dubos, publicized the adage: "Think Globally, Act Locally." My love for the expression in early environmental work gave way over time to more wordy appended expressions that lacked being "catchy." However, an expanding knowledge of environmental issues meant one could not be satisfied at working just at the local level. In fact, more disquieting than for those who act locally and never think globally are those who think about global matters but never act in a domestic green fashion in their hometown. The global traveler who never plants a garden, recycles materials, or drives an energy efficient vehicle is no better than the homesteader who never thinks about climate-change effects.
Our locality gives grounding to our work. If we do not grow our own food at least in part, and if we are not watchful on what we eat, how we drive, how we heat our homes, or what we recycle, we become somewhat hollow-sounding -- and others detect it. The grounding allows us to experience gray areas of environmental work, failures due to extreme weather conditions, damage from hungry but overpopulating deer, early frosts and seed that does not germinate, and wishful dreams laid bare by lack of funds. Local reality makes us aware of the difficult global struggles ahead.
Global views energize our actions. We discover that environmental issues such as changing climate, rising oceans, melting glaciers, precipitating acid rain, or dying coral reefs cannot be solved at the local level. A global view allows us to balance needs on various levels of governance and invites us to participate as global citizens in campaigns to save our wounded planet. By use of the Internet even those of us with quite limited means can still effect global change -- through ongoing cooperation with others. "Everything is connected to everything else." Thinking globally impresses us with the global nature of our actions and allows us to see the necessity of connecting with people in other localities.
We must see the need to focus HERE in our locality and yet act NOW in our world, and act together as one people, a WE. The HERE gives us the basic creation that we must touch and feel and fashion in our backyard; the NOW gives us the urgency to think beyond ourselves, to hear the needs of people in various lands and to see that joint action is required; the WE are the ones who must act in solidarity so that we can have success that is grander than what individuals can do. The WE must emerge from the ranks, the facilitators who see the need for interactivity and are ready to promote it. A global network is thus a grand creation of all working together for goals of a healthy Earth.
Prayer: Lord, give us the energy to work at the local scene, the foresight to see what must be done now, and the faith it takes to see that a future can come through cooperative efforts.
Some environmentalists ask me why I am spending time in pastoral work (pastor of one church and parish priest at another) with so many environmental issues at stake. True, as agreed in 2004, I spend my 20 hours per week collectively in my two parishes. But I also spend 20 hours per week in environmental work (this website, Facebook essays and YouTube monthly videos). This work helps improve my interior ecology and locates me in a local community and beyond. The rationale may be solid but should it be applied by a person in his 87th year? I think so, God willing!
My work is enjoyable. Is this so bad when coming from a family of workers? Some call this workaholism, a pejorative term when referring to people addicted to work and generally under stressful conditions either self-imposed or through conditions of employment. For me, rest is certainly necessary and is the interlude that enhances hard but enjoyable work. Never retire!
My work is a privilege. For me, work started at age six and was regarded as something to contribute to a family unit. Work was a privilege that will last as long as health permits -- and God has blessed me with good health all these years. Work fulfills our livelihood and gives meaning to our lives. To those who say it is "being," not "doing," that is important, one response is that we become or enter our being fully through doing.
My work is needed. Though I am one of the oldest pastors in Kentucky and in our Jesuit Province, I realize that substitutes who could give quality service are not always available. I turned my prison work (one hundred miles away) over to the local pastor near the two federal Manchester prisons -- and he has confidence in his ministry and uses his acquired Spanish.
My work allows me to experience being poor, a necessity for any radical environmentalist. Part of that experience is realizing that, no matter how much we try, we are not perfect and depend on the power of God working through us.
My work grounds me with poor Earth/poor people. Those in environmental work would say that threatened and endangered flora and fauna are impoverished. True! But human poor folks are part of this current condition, and we must solve the environmental issues in the light of both planetary and human needs. Furthermore, changes required to save our Earth are to be undertaken in a meaningful way by the poor, true agents of change.
Prayer: Lord, I know you love a cheerful giver. Help me make my work cheerfully and gratefully given for your glory through the inspiration and comfort of the Holy Spirit. Allow this always to be done in profound gratitude for this opportunity to work.
Experiences That Are Communal
September's song rings even amid this pandemic, when fields await the harvester, time is urgent, laborers are few, and health problems require cooperative effort. As social beings we need to think of our own safety and that of others at this critical time. Communal concern in a period of excessive individualism is always a challenge, especially for Americans overwhelmed by a culture of competitive success and yet in need of cooperation right now.
Are we inspired to perform certain saving deeds as part of proclaiming the Good News? Can we find God-for-us who encourages us to share with others like our Triune God shares with us? God invites us in a special way to work within the sacramental Church that is united (one), committed in its spiritual grounding (holy), worldwide in its scope (universal), and conscious of being part of salvation history (apostolic). We are called to help save a troubled world. Earthhealing as an urgent mission must be a united, committed, universal, and historically conscious movement. We are challenged to express ourselves both individually and as a community; the more we give of ourselves in service, the more we are impelled to share. We discover ourselves by participating in God's work in this world.
We need to look about for assistance and so we look intensely at creation to give us balance and uplift us. Sights of valleys and other land forms give us joy; sounds of birds awaken our senses to the changing seasons; scents of the plant world enliven us; working with other people gives us the sweet taste of communal achievement; and in moments of utter exhilaration we express this feeling of togetherness through celebration and dance.
1. The Joyful Valleys. September is refreshing after high summer; the cultivated land proclaims plenty, especially in the freshness of morning or immediately after a rain. Gold and purple are September colors, as crops ripen and the pastures and road sides are punctuated with goldenrod, iron weed and asters. The mist envelops the valleys and rolls up to the highlands, and as it fades with the strengthening sun, we observe September beauty in all its majesty. We reach out to grasp and hold, and yet the scenes are changing before our eyes. Yes, land has seeming stability, but it changes constantly through the seasons. Autumn community involves an inherent ambivalence, for we restlessly seek stability in what we attempt to do right now.
2. Autumn's First signs: Flocking birds.
I go out and hear them congregating
all speaking at the same time -- winter comes
maybe so, maybe so.
How am I to interrupt their animated chatter?
They fly within the leafed tree in a flutter;
just as abruptly they depart for another place;
Is it the stress of impending seasonal change,
or induced excitement of sheer number?
When they pass over in such a swarm,
I shield my eyes for fear
their dropping might miss the good Earth
and hit me right between my eyes.
3. The Smell of Silage.Scents are often better than sights and sounds in recalling us to past experiences. Often the pleasant fragrance reminds us of those with whom we shared good times, even if the place is a lowly barn where we feed hungry animals and enjoy their contentment. That enjoyment extends far beyond to relatives' homes, incense-laden churches, old-fashioned drug stores, and candle shops. All such places trigger good memories. Those abiding smells are sacred to us and can be simply retained in the recesses of our individual memories. Maybe September is the time to share our moments of stories of contentment with others who are unfamiliar with the particular environment. Let's spread our individual enthusiasm to the wider community; this applies to spiritual experiences, for our mouths water for the Bread of Life.
4. The Taste of "Joy‑foam" at Sorghum Time.Kids, like folks all over the world, love sweets, and all tend to eat too much. Besides honey and maple syrup, the sweetening agent of choice in Appalachia has been derived from sorghum cane. Yes, sorghum‑making is hard work and takes real expertise -- all to capture and store the perfect sorghum taste. In the autumn, the cane is cut, brought to a sorghum mill, stripped of leaves, and then ground by a crusher or mill, powered either by a horse or mule or by a gasoline or electric-powered mechanical device. The pulp is squeezed, collected and boiled down in a long trough. The expert master sorghum maker knows how much boiling and how much skimming are necessary for clear amber syrup. Kids scamper about to partake of the pleasure of "joy‑foam," but too much could spoil appetites or turn stomachs. Part of a community's working together is helping folks know their limits and enjoy life to the fullest.
5. The Virginia Reel. How could people discourage dancing in the name of religion, when the Scriptures are filled with this expression of joy? Didn't David dance and sing? Were not the people returning to Jerusalem expressing their feelings through sacred dance? Didn't John the Baptist dance in the womb? And aren't the Scriptures replete with social life? Don't the psalms say that those seemingly lifeless mountains and hills express joy through movement? Don't birds sing and colts scamper about? Are we too leaden‑footed, stone‑deaf and hard‑hearted to experience the feeling of land and animals celebrating? Harvest time is normally good for dancing; we recall this during our social distancing.
Our sense of community must grow, especially in current times of great need. Our neighbors suffer from the virus, and this proves fatal for a number of the elderly and those with special health conditions. Only a deep and abiding communion with God and sharing with each other allows us to truly fulfill the Earthhealing mission with which we are entrusted during this critical time in history.
September 4, 2020 Facing Dilemma for Pro-Life Environmentalists
The 2020 presidential election season is in full swing, and national and state candidates are vying for support. In horror, we pro-lifers see our issues becoming partisan in ways never before intended. Some deny scientific evidence as to human causation of climate change; others regard this denial as reckless and not pro-life in the fuller definition. The vitality of our fragile planet hangs in the balance. While a number of candidates affirm pro-life stances as regards abortion issues, they also deny human involvement in climate change -- a denial similar to those advocated by groups that prolonged health decisions about tobacco as a cause for lung cancer; in the ensuing three decades tobacco companies reaped billions of dollars in profits. Through spite, some partisans want to continue to gut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's enforcement powers over CO2 emissions and reduce federal agencies to promoters of outworn fossil fuels.
Forgetting the entire web of life, certain congress members deny human-causation of climate change emissions and thus become very limited pro-lifers. To reduce or eliminate funding under the excuse of being fiscally responsible is disingenuous in a year with a trillion dollar debt pending. To escape to other issues regarded as equally pressing, when Earth herself is under threat, is reprehensible. Pro-life advocates who champion the cause of the fetus, senior citizen, hospice patient, and death- row inmate cannot remain silent. Mindful of the entire web of life makes us aware that current air pollution threatens to increase overall global temperatures, acidify oceans, disrupt coral reefs, melt glaciers and permafrost, and precipitate floods and droughts of monumental proportions. Can we afford to allow the same profit- oriented propaganda mills, which denied tobacco-smoking dangers for several decades in the last century to capture this issue also?
The dilemma involves support for some reckless candidates in the 2020 who take a pro-choice stance that allows termination of a fetus' life to the day of birth. God forbid! No party is perfect; no one accepts a totality of issues espoused by each candidate -- and this makes elections this year quite difficult. We have to judge honesty, integrity, openness on major issues, and foresightedness in matters that voters see needed or leaders. Candidates ought not be reckless and lack prudence; they must face hard issues. Moral leaders must point out that the condition of our planet is one such issue and that the unborn is another -- but both are connected. Unless we take measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions quickly, halting predicted disasters will be unsuccessful. A so-called pro-life candidate who is anti-environmental is unworthy of our vote; nor is an anti-life "environmental" person. Moral leaders must speak, for voters face a terrible dilemma: which partial pro-lifers should we support?
Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to face issues head on in this election year and vote for the best candidates.
September 5, 2020 Considering the Condition of "Staycationers"
Okay, it looks like no entire weekend off this year for travel to some distant place -- if that is what defines "vacation." However, need this be a source of guilt? For centuries, journeys were not regarded as being fun, but necessities in order to go to a funeral or take care of important business. Today, fuel prices, combined with hot weather and congestion on the road, makes a possibility of partial or total "staycation" seem more a propos for 2020, even if motel owners and distant tourist attractions say otherwise. Here are points for considering a "staycation:"
* Do different things. Don't do any of the ordinary things for an entire weekend. Let it be as though you are in outer space for this period. Prayers, yes; other ordinary activities, no.
* If restless, plan to see local sites this weekend. Most of us have never really seen the attractions within an hour or so drive, and these could be worth the time and effort.
* Invite in non-demanding relatives and friends who don't get away too often. In fact, this makes a change of pace for them and a social event for the guest as well.
* Take a special hike starting in the cool of the September day and planning well to carry all needed ingredients (water, sun block, snacks, hiking stick, extra clothes).
* Eat different foods and try a new menu. The neighborhood may not have a good selection of ethnic restaurants, but a closer look may discover a mom-and-pop's place that is quite local.
* Get a book or DVD related to the area you would have visited had you decided to take the long costly trip to far places. In the end you will know about as much and at far less travel bother.
* Sit outside one hour a day. It sounds strange for people with large porches, but that is something that is a lost tradition now that folks have "air" or air conditioning and hibernate indoors in hot weather. This is the last part of summer and we need to reflect on where we have come this climate-changing season.
* Read something new or listen to an audiobook. We all have our routines, but this is the perfect week to break them with another kind of book or periodical.
* At least entertain the possibility to attend a different event this weekend and thus have something to look forward to.
* Do nothing, plan nothing, keep a span of life unplanned, and regard this as profoundly restful -- but do go to church.
Prayer: Lord, help us be aware of our need for rest; this does not mean taking a distant trip.
Join Most Reverend John E. Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop of Lexington, KY, to discuss this and more as we host our first Season of Creation webinar, "Catholic Social Teaching, Politics, and the 'Fullness of Faith,'" next Thursday, September 10 at 3 p.m. Eastern.
The webinar will be recorded and a link to the recording sent to all who register.
REGISTER for Catholic Social Teaching, Politics, and the Fullness of Faith
Sweet joe pye weed, Eupatoriadelphus purpureus.
September 6, 2020 Correcting Fraternally Is a Duty
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Psalm 95)
Correction is always part of our journey of faith because we can easily deviate from the true path and hardly notice it. We need others to be companions on our road, so that wrong turns are exposed, and we keep on a steady course. Directors guide us out of love, and are interested in everyone's personal salvation as in their own. They extend mercy in a godly manner. In today's Gospel (Matthew 18: 15-20) Jesus teaches us the way to correction that is filled with concern for the wayward person. We cannot ignore waywardness, for something must be done. Our first response is to go and point out the wrongful practice, but to keep it between the two of us. In this way corrective measures can occur with the least embarrassment to the wrongdoer.
The one-on-one corrective situation does not always work and often the wayward practice continues. Then it is necessary for me to take it a step further, and I must go to others who can help when I am unable to succeed. Sometimes the person has heard from me on other issues and so takes this one lightly or "with a grain of salt." The bringing of others who agree with me to the scene has a dramatic effect, for it says the case is known to others and they are intent on collective correction, an "intervention" of sorts. Quite often this second level has an effect on the culprit.
When the first two levels are exhausted with no success, correction is extended to the "church," which here means the believing community. In this situation the wrongful practice is made even more public, since the community is being affected by the wrongful action. Again Jesus speaks that what we bind on Earth is bound in heaven, as mentioned here two weeks ago in Matthew, Chapter 16. This repeating of words shows the importance of the function of corrective action within a faith community. We cannot be silent; we must speak when wrongdoing occurs and has an ill effect to a broader community.
Life on our planet is threatened, and thus we must respond in some manner to climate change. Precious life is threatened by those who do wrongful acts, waste resources meant for the destitute and future generations, and invite a sense of recklessness to many others. We try correction at the individual or small group level but, if and when these correctives are not effective, we do not hesitate to take the matters to a political enforcement agency. Our efforts must include ensuring that the agency does its duty and that our elected representatives are aware when enforcement is lax. Fraternal correction is a major ingredient of our Earthhealing ministry, for deniers must be challenged. Our reluctant silence becomes part of the problem; saving our wounded planet involves difficult fraternal correction, a heavy responsibility.
Prayer: Lord, show us when to enter the fray and help address corrective measures that must be undertaken here and now.
Three-staff underwing (Catocala amestris). It is endangered in Illinois and Michigan.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
September 7, 2020 Laboring for Some Is Dreaming for Others
On this Labor Day we ought to reflect that a portion of Americans of working age are unable to find meaningful work that fits their talents and calling. Some find their jobs taken over by machines, by other laborers in distant lands, or forced onto overworked fellow workers. Those who see this job elimination are met by dismissal slips and a bleak future. Many workers spend long hours at jobs and feel their work contributes to the social order and human wellbeing. Unfortunately, others do not have this experience; they feel like cogs in a dysfunctional economic system that allows bosses and investors to make massive untaxed profits, and others who work hard to barely make a living. Their hope is that their elected representatives will take notice and help bring about needed legislative change.
Conscientious laborers regard work as a privilege to earn a livelihood. However, many are forced to take excessive tasks because by cutting out other laborers, the captains of industry can expand profits. However, labor is a form of human service for others and, when not too onerous, it can be a point of pride that one is able to bring home enough to support a family. Service can become the expression of who we are, for as Christ came to serve, and each worker can feel a deep sense of worth in serving others by doing a respectable job well. Thus the privilege of making a living brings dignity to those who labor.
For the unemployed patience is not enough. The anger may be righteous, for a nation that requires civic duties such as voting and jury duty, must also accept a collective responsibility to give employment to all so the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be rightfully fulfilled by every citizen. Through an occupation one obtains resources needed for essentials of life. The dignity and privilege of labor comes when workers can earn their keep, can direct their conditions of life, and can pursue happiness that includes a moderate quality of life for them and their respective dependents. And there are plenty of work opportunities if only properly financed.
Meaningful work within certain limits of social justice, along with an opportunity to work are two parts of Labor Day's overview. It is not enough that some should work and some look for work; we are to help finance job opportunities for all; there is plenty of work needed to rebuild our national and global infrastructures; there are plenty of potential laborers; there are plenty of financial resources locked away in global tax havens. The factors must be brought together through governmental agencies: work opportunities, laborers willing to work, and resources taxed for use as wages are all available with proper legislation. Prayer: Help us, Lord, to see the privilege that comes with meaningful work opportunities, and give us energy to change an unjust system; may all who are willing have the privilege to serve others by contributing to what needs to be done through labor.
Leaves and developing berries of the poke plant,
an edible Kentucky favorite.
September 8, 2020 Realizing Efficiency + Renewables = Security
Today on International Literacy Day is a perfect time to consider that all within our country and world must be concerned about environmental threats to our planet. That concern can expand when more people are able to read reports about the catastrophic conditions facing our use of fossil and nuclear fuels. Very blatant facts stare us in the face if we comprehend them:
* Renewable energy is coming but not fast enough to equal the rising world demand for energy to cool and warm houses, run autos and maintain the Internet system. However, increased energy demand is not generally recognized by the general public who want more air conditioning, individual auto use, Internet superstructure, air travel, meat use, and excessive packaging;
* By applying "best practice" efficiency changes to buildings, vehicles, and industry, 75% of global energy use could be saved.
Some progress has been made up to the current Administration, but more aggressive federal regulations are now demanded;
* According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2019 renewable energy sources are now providing nearly one fifth of domestic energy production and net electricity generation with dramatic rises expected in 2020s;
* Global investment in clean energy is reaching nearly a trillion dollars every three years and possibly even higher depending on economic conditions in the next few years;
* Nuclear energy generation is aging, highly expensive to replace, and having ongoing safety problems as to security and disposal of waste materials, and being phased out in many countries of the world;
* Renewable energy industries employ over a million Americans through a combination of direct, indirect, and induced jobs;
* Global geothermal power has been slow growing but has immense potential as a steady supplier of renewable energy.
* America's wind power industry is growing at a healthy rate and at a lower price than fossil fuel and nuclear counterparts. Costs for wind-generating electricity are now lower priced than coal-generated power with wind farms cost-competitive with natural gas; and
* U.S. solar energy industry's total market value is rapidly approaching that of wind and hydro; it is predicted that by 2027 it will be expanding at ten times (12.5 GW) the annual rate of wind (1.3 GW). It is truly the renewable fuel of the future.
Prayer: Lord, help us to use current information while trying to address energy-saving and renewable energy techniques.
Leaves of the sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua.
September 9, 2020Defending Public Lands
Public Lands Day comes with a yawn to some, for to them there is no need of defend established public lands. Yes, our country has one-quarter of its territory as "public" or Commons for all to have and use. However, powerful private interests are constantly looking at public resources as a gift worth taking for their own profit: forests, parks, fragile wilderness areas, public thoroughfares, airwaves, outer space. Their propaganda line is that "private" corporate controls work best, but that is a myth. Such views threaten our Commons.
Public lands include national, state, county and city parks plus wilderness areas, forest lands, military bases, airfields, prisons, highways, cemeteries, historic monuments, public educational and technical institutions, courthouses, and other public buildings and land. An alert citizenry realizes that these are Commons worth preserving for the benefit of all; such citizens using proper monitoring are the best guarantor of public lands. In fact, many private lands ought to be put in the public domain for better treatment. It would be better to extend the domain of public land since many forests, pasturelands, and wetlands have been over-harvested, over-grazed, and drained for various so-called development projects. Rangelands ought to be made public so that the bison will return to roaming freely. An informed and watchful citizenry is always better than enlightened individuals with large landholdings over which they have absolute rights.
A public defense of land involves: preserving existing public lands from infringements on the Commons (resource exploiters, developers, and those using damaging recreational vehicles); acquiring private lands that have been or could be damaged by misuse (especially fragile lands and wilderness areas); and keeping land from the forces of privatization ranging from toll roads and prisons to waterworks and parks. This confronts the propaganda that deliberately denigrates public service and management, with little mention of the motivation of greed, control, and material profit that drives privatization projects. Defense of public lands should always be non-partisan when it comes to land benefits and preservation for present and future generations.
Public lands are an investment for all citizens. In times of belt-tightening such as these, public land defense includes volunteer cleanup parties, policing and enforcement of regulations on preserving public lands, reporting of those who litter or damage the lands, accepting registration and user fees to keep public lands in sufficient resources for proper maintenance, and lobbying in defense of public land improvement and removal of invasive species. Finally, as concerned citizens we ought to promote the benefits of public lands that need to be preserved for future generations.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to defend our land Commons, your great creation of which we are called to be collective stewards.
Friends: the greatest environmental action ever undertaken in Central
Appalachia has just been initiated as indicated with this press
release. Most of the plaintiffs are victims of the mismanagement of
the nuclear diffusion plant near Portsmouth, Ohio. Hopefully relief
through jury trial will happen soon. An added note: what has held
this action back for the past 26 years has been negative comments by
the U.S. Depart. of Energy and other agencies to legislators calling
the plaintiffs a bunch of "dumb hillbillies." Never before has such a
disparaging remark been so utterly hurtful -- and is a warning never
never use such a term even though the majority of persons so
designated are poor white folks. The lawsuit proves the persistence
and intelligent collection of factual information by native
Appalachians. Al Fritsch, SJ
lease see our Youtube video below for further information. Check back with this page for future updates.
The world is full of ideas but few get called to our immediate attention due to the many distractions that cloud our day and the presence of information overload. We need to become more alert to meaningful ideas for both our benefit and that of others with whom we share them. These trigger our treasure of ideas worth swapping:
Written notes -- Note pad and writing instrument should be available when that new idea comes to us and could be easily lost. Have the pad at the phone and computer, at nightstands, auto dashboards, and pockets or purses. The resolution is to note down ideas immediately for near future recall;
Planner/calendar alerts -- An obvious suggestion! For those of us who are compulsive planners, this makes full sense. However, there is a hitch. On some occasions I cannot make out my unintelligible note even though it is to alert me to an event;
Desk alerts -- One of the best things is to paste the alert on one of your work-space centers (we have two of many things -- two eyes, lungs, kidneys and jewels). My trouble here is that computer margins are covered with addresses, quotes, and needed facts;
Sound alerts -- The radio can be a special alert along with a weather reporting system that is activated in times of storms and emergencies. Exterior local tornado and storm sirens and alarm systems are needed as well to alert us to approaching dangers. Yes, clock alarms are good reminders for those sleeping, provided we remember to set alarms -- and can hear them;
Personal reminders -- We may entrust to younger people who are more mentally agile to remind us again as to upcoming events. For a surprising number this works well when others are kind enough to remind us;
Notes at door/walls/refrigerators -- The ordinary spaces and places we commonly use can be excellent when an alert note is found there, provided the door's opening and closing does not loosen the notes. A place where food and drinks are obtained is good also;
Social alerts for others -- Swapping is a two-way street. We have ideas that can be shared that is something we suddenly realize and yet not always. The challenge is to communicate these ideas before the crowd of daily activities overwhelms us and we move on. Use of electronic devices certainly come in handy as do the use of a phone or email; and
Spiritual reminders: Some people ask the Lord to get an angel to remind them that a special event is to occur. Faith! A spiritual work of mercy is informing others who are forgetful.
Prayer: Lord, help us to become good at remembering things, and give us special reminders in our life. You never fail us.
Reflection on Forming Community
Our troubled Earth calls out for our renewal efforts and as believers we turn to the Church with her mission of salvation, global structure and network, and commitment to justice. The urgency of our mission demands everyone participate, but agents of change must be of an intense variety, and here Church has a key role. The instrument as leaven is plainly visible in its striving for oneness, holiness, continuity in time, and universal presence. The Church is a launching pad for renewal, and we need to be reaffirmed of its role during this Pentecostal season. We seek to prove to be truly community people.
Cosmic Community. Molecules are "communities" of atoms; flora cluster together and mutually support each other; fauna gather in their own types of communal life -- clusters, pods, flocks, herds, dens, colonies, hives, swarms, packs, and schools, and on and on. Elementary and even complex forms of socializing emerge in more organized communities of termites and ants. We not only observe communities by species, but also cooperating species in biological associations (biosystems) -- interdependent communities of communities. The Gaia Hypothesis states that Earth is a living being with sensate properties; this has a scientific basis, and certainly lends itself to poetic license. Earth is community.
In a grander scale we discover the interrelationship of all creatures, including human beings AND plants and animals and Earth herself. Our deepening communal sense involves a desire to stabilize our living situation through communities that stand in contrast to a world of individual dog-eat-dog competition. It takes two together to make a pair and three or more to make a community. Human beings, fractured through sin and Babel-dividing conflicts, now must embrace in global collaboration. We must establish bonds of love where familial groupings enter larger aggregates and complex communities for mutual security, support and enhancement of quality of life. These communities must include at least four elements: a basic unity in purpose, a common commitment in spirit, specific boundaries, and a history of achievements.
God gives us community life. The Spirit hovers over the waters, the Wisdom of God speaks in space and time. In a mysterious way we are brought into the divine communal action. Let us make man in our own image (Genesis 1:26). Earth has dignity as the very pulsating substrate of a New Creation, redeemed in Christ's blood, and re-created through the power of the Spirit. We look deeper now into the Church community that God inspires us to actively participate in, renewing this troubled Earth.
Pentecost, Church and Community. In the Jewish tradition, Pentecost is a harvest festival or the fiftieth day after Passover. In our Christian tradition, Pentecost is the 50th day after Easter and the birthday of the Church. At the first Christian Pentecost, tongues of fire come over each person as unique gifts; inspired, believers left their closed gathering space and boldly preached to nearby crowds; the message was heard in each person's language.
Pentecost quickens a fetus community and is a slap on the back, which begins the breathing process for each new-born babe. We as Church inhale the Spirit, Ruah, who humanizes God and divinizes human beings; we exhale by going out to others and bearing witness to the Spirit in whom we breathe. At frequent intervals, we need to gather as community of believers and inhale or be inspired; as refreshed we go out again to give witness to the Spirit. Thus, Pentecost is both an event and a process that includes inhaling and exhaling. We exhale as "missionaries," for spiritual breathing is a rhythmic pattern that constitutes the life of all believers. As disciples, we act as church and proclaim Good News to "others to whom we are sent." Receivers both inhale "Good News" from the one sent and exhale good words from their cultural and social "fields."
Pentecost is an annual event celebrated and a process of maturation through a thirty-some week Pentecostal season. The Church is the distribution platform and emergency room of a troubled world. After Pentecost, the "Church" emerged as a community in three ways: the liturgical assembly, the local church, and the whole universal community of believers. Through origin and destiny, the Church is a Trinity icon. Further, the Church, as a rare English feminine word, is designated by symbols including that of "mother," teacher in the faith, sheepfold, cultivated field, Temple, Jerusalem, and spotless spouse of a spotless lamb. Furthermore, Church is Earth's healer. As members of this united, committed, extended, and historic community we share with others just as God has shared with us these basic characteristics:
Oneness -- Communities can only hold together if they are united in a common purpose and spirit. This unity must be constantly reaffirmed and effort made to grow through prayer. Jesus' deep desire at the Last Supper that all be one is an ongoing desire down through the ages. Public oneness attracts others.
Holiness -- Worshipping communities are committed to becoming more perfect, to developing in spiritual maturity and to focusing attention on prayer as conversation with God. The believing community fosters respect for all creation, thankfulness for the gift of life, and willingness to help with Earth's restoration.
Universality -- Christ's message goes out to all peoples. In these lands where a centralized Christian structure is present, every believer is not more than three persons removed from the spiritual leader (believer knows a pastor who knows a bishop who knows the pope or patriarch). We are all connected through a personal bonding to other faithful believers throughout the world.
Apostolicity (history) -- Christ is with us until the end of time, touching someone who touched someone ... down through 2,000 years. Apostolic succession continues a temporal connection with Christ -- a physical touch that continues down through the centuries in an unbroken chain. This is our linkage in salvation history; it is our gentle touching of Earth in a healing manner, incorporating God's loving and merciful offer in the way we perform environmental actions.
Flower of the delicious okra (Hibiscus esculentus).
September 11, 2020 Discovering Okra's Many Benefits
At times we realize that individual vegetables and herbs offer a rich array of benefits. The lowly okra (a West African plant and word) is one of the better loved -- and widely disliked -- garden vegetables. People are reluctant to use this mucilaginous (slimy) okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) that resembles a snotty nose. However, let's list okra's many hidden benefits:
* Easy to grow. Don't sow too early for this is a central African food (most likely brought as seeds by African slaves). The seeds are easy to store and generally germinate well. Okra grows fairly well as our climate-changing country;
* Excellent to eat. Once assuming that all foods are good if not taken in excess, try okra leaves and pods raw or pickled (with hot peppers), or in salads, soups, stews, and gumbos, or in a great variety of fish dishes (menus accessed from the Internet);
* Stately stalks. Some plants are so fragile we fear they will wilt upon touch or even sight. Not so the noble okra that stands firm and wind-resistant, even after a rapid growing season;
* Beautiful flowers. These are members of the mallow family with large yellow blossoms before bearing. Much like the beauty of the castor bean (quite dangerous due to poisonous nature of beans), the okra plant is beautiful, but a harmless attraction;
* Nutritional benefits. Among benefits to this low-calorie, non-saturated fat, no-cholesterol food, one discovers that fresh pods are rich in vitamin A and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as beta-carotenes and lutein. Even the fibers and mucilaginous character are helpful in digestion and to relieve constipation.
Pods are sources of calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese;
* Resist global warming. Okra will be like roaches and thrive through natural or human-caused devastation. Okra can withstand heat (not cold) and dry weather conditions and be a friend in just about any hot summer conditions; and
* Rapid production. The growth of the okra pod is spectacular and almost occurs before your eyes. Harvesting at precisely the proper size takes some alertness. Too often we let the okra go one day too long and it is too woody or tough to use in food.
Okra has extremely beneficial relatives such as cousin, Kenaf. This plant is used as fiber for cordage, textiles and treeless pulp paper products. Discovering broader utility of this family encourages us to grow a little even within a garden with its limited growing space.
Prayer: Lord, even humble okra can lead us to raise our minds to you. Your gifts are of such wondrous variety, and all are worth proclaiming -- including okra.
September 12, 2020Earthhealing and the Laws of Ecology
It is wise and prudent to discover how our Earthhealing process is becoming a civic duty. A wounded Earth is a new experience, and so we are in the process of learning together that our threatened planet is out of balance due to human mismanagement of resources. In the book "Earthhealing: A Resurrection-Centered Approach" (2011 version is on this website) we developed three ecological principles:
1. All earthly creatures are interdependent; 2. Natural processes obey the Law of Conservation of Resources; and 3. Variation and richness of diversity add to the health and harmony of the total eco-system.
These ecological principles resemble the first two components to Barry Commoner's Four Laws of Ecology that will be treated next week for four days. The third principle is discussed in our book and often within these "Daily Reflections." In preparation for the following reflections on September 14-17, let us consider steps that are required for a successful Earthhealing process:
Interdependence -- We must see the connections between different parts of the system and how working together is required, because we need to be constantly alert to where one part that is out of phase affects another part as well. This step involves understanding that the work must be done, that we cannot do it all ourselves, and that we must connect with others of good will who have a sense of faith in the future.
Conservation of resources -- All instruments and materials must be well placed for immediate retrieval. An operation must consist of collecting and retrieving tools needed for immediate action. Earthhealing involves choice of public media and proper materials; we will not use bulldozers to till garden plots.
-- The natural process of healing is the best one; this must be honored and respected and allowed to function to the best degree possible. We may be able to accelerate the healing process but only within the parameters of what can be done according to the rhythms of nature.
-- Earthhealing takes concerted effort. It always takes more effort to repair damage than to prevent the damage from occurring in the first place -- that "ounce of prevention." Once we are aware of the damage, we must resolve to roll up our sleeves and get to work, for the really difficult tasks are still ahead.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be healers and to do so in a systematic manner, for the tasks ahead require cooperation, concern, attentiveness, and effort on the part of all. Make us humble workers in the Earthhealing process being aware of our weaknesses and past faults and making meaningful restitution.
Polygonia comma, resting in a patch of vegetation.
September 13, 2020 Forgiving Again and Again
Lord, when my brother wrongs me how often must I forgive him?
Forgiveness is an almost inexhaustible topic of reflection, and that is because it is difficult to execute fully for many of us. Forgiveness includes the peace of Christmas, the mercy of the sufferings on the Cross, and the joy of Easter's resurrection all wrapped into one. Being willing to forgive is at the heart of the Lord's Prayer and must be fortified at all ages and seasons.
Our profession of the resurrection to new life is done in the deed of forgiving, for we bring back life -- the life of the person forgiving, the relationship of that person to a forgiving God, and the establishing of a relationship between the forgiving person to the one forgiven. Nurturing these bonds or relationships is the most creative thing we can do, and that is why they must be done over and over, not just once, as Jesus reminds us. We become godly when we are always prepared to forgive from our hearts.
Forgiving must go beyond mere words or acceptance of another who wrongs us. An added need emerges. We discover our own insensitivity that sometimes -- but not always -- makes us part of the cause of strained conditions in our wronged world. Restoring relationships must be accompanied by our seeking forgiveness from God for our part in damaged relationships. We are able to become compassionate toward others, even aggressors, and not just to limit ourselves to saying that we forgive them. We see them in themselves, and find there a sense of their human condition, which needs healing as much as our own broken relationships with God and our world that we have damaged through misdeeds.
As part of forgiveness, we extend God's love through our willingness to give blessings. We wish the forgiven person well and do so in all sincerity. We don't want them to continue immoral or hateful acts that may strain relationships, but we pray they will grow in perfection. Our blessing helps bring this about -- for any blessing that leaves us, and is not formally rejected, will be beneficial both to the one giving and to the one receiving the blessing. A blessing is the spiritual fertilizer that allows the community to grow. It is an integral part of the Good News.
Some suffer hard times with people they really love, whether that be a husband or wife, a child or parent, a friend or co-worker. These can become the saints of this world who are willing to forgive when others would suggest leaving, forgetting and never looking back. Jesus tells us to forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven (Matthew 18: 21-35). We are to be responsive by continually forgiving, for God extends infinite mercy and forgiveness to us innumerable times in our lifetime.
Prayer: Lord, help us to extend your merciful love to others who have stepped on our feet in many ways and many times.
September 14, 2020 Everything Is Connected to Everything Else
-- First Law of Ecology --
We thank Barry Commoner for describing this first law of ecology, for we often say that connectedness among all creatures is at the heart of ecological balance. The health of the planet is connected to the balance that is found in all aspects of the environment: the interactivity of flora, fauna, climate, and soils. Damage to one part hurts the rest.
Incidentally, I got into an inadvertent debate with Barry Commoner around 1980 in a television show in northeastern Ohio. We were to be and were kindred spirits on general environmental questions. However, Barry focused blame on corporate polluting culprits; I interjected that individual citizens are also to blame, if for no more than allowing other culprits to get away with their actions. Personal responsibility must always be coupled with social repair, for we need the community of repairers to confront a misguided system.
Historical connections. This ecological principle had further ramifications that are still theological in implication. When you or I hurt the environment or human lives of our neighbor, we have to say we are sorry and ask forgiveness. But the wrong we do has affected the social fabric of the world in some fashion -- and thus the age-old understanding of temporal effects of sin that must be repaired (the indulgence controversies of Reformation times). Carbon trading is an inherently weak currently proposed practice, for it allows continuation of malpractice at the expense of others. This is a misunderstanding of a so-called "indulgence" to continue sinning; its fallacy rests in misunderstanding the need to repair a damaged structure after malpractice occurs -- and ceases. Earth needs repair through accountability by someone, not by shifting responsibility for continued misdeeds to others.
Ecologically, we can affirm the need for ecological and social repair, and that this reclamation is necessary to balance an ecological system that has been distorted in some fashion. When the fragile mantle of our vegetation has been stripped from land, some form of revegetation or repair must be done to approximate as nearly as possible the original vegetative cover. However, with care the repairs can be satisfying and in the process of repairing we become better people; we can repair social structures and at the same time make individuals more aware of their responsibilities.
Spiritually, since everything is connected, all of us can contribute to repairing damage done to our world order. We need to make restitution in some fashion such as reclamation, prayers and penances. This can be done in union with the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. Our ecological repair becomes an integral part of the need to establish justice in our world.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to see the connections of all things and that our journey of faith has an Earthhealing component.
September 15, 2020 Second Law: Everything Must Go Somewhere
Did you ever observe someone throw down his coat and cap, and it became obvious that someone else was forced to pick them up. If we drop something in the trash are we not doing the same? The discarded item must go somewhere, and most likely it is to a landfill a few miles away where the trash is buried under some fill dirt and allowed to decompose. Since the mixed materials include some organic matter, this landfill emits methane, a decomposition product over twenty times more powerful than a comparable amount of carbon dioxide (produced when fossil fuels are burned).
Tidy farming people and homesteaders develop techniques to waste less, feed some food wastes to animals, compost organic materials, and recycle metals, paper and plastic. On the other hand, an affluent culture thinks that the garbage disappears, for the privileged affluent do not have the messy work of disposing of their garbage. "Going somewhere" means to less economically desirable places at a distance to where the waste is out of sight.
Nature recycles its wastes: foliage and plant parts decompose into the soil; the dead animal or plant is food for the vulture and earthworms; water evaporates, rains down, flows and is cleansed in wetlands and tumbling over rocks in streams, returns to the oceans and reservoirs, and the natural cycle continues. We learn from nature, though it requires effort, to take from the Commons and return to it after proper recycling (which may take further resources). That is all the more reason that we allow things (buildings, vehicles, furnishings, etc.) to remain longer than a normal lifetime, because of the effort it takes to dispose and reuse their structural materials properly.
Getting rid of "waste materials" is a challenge. Some chemicals can be decontaminated by reacting them to produce less toxic products. Nuclear contamination cannot be decontaminated as though by magic; the radioactive materials must be collected and taken to a safer place for storage until nature's work is done, often over long periods of time. The issue with radioactive materials from nuclear power plants is that problems remain for extraordinary amounts of time while natural decay takes effect. Thus we are confronted because nuclear wastes must go somewhere.
Messiness and irresponsibility leads to an unhealthy environment. Recycling and proper disposal are thus practical remedies needed for this fragile Earth to readjust to the massive resource use that occurs through modern lifestyles. Earthhealing takes effort, and so the proper disposal and reuse of materials are part of a healing process. If we do not like the task of disposing of things, then don't obtain or use them in the first place.
Prayer: Lord, teach us the proper destinations of the things we have and the efforts we undertake. If heaven is our goal, help us direct our actions to a more perfect eternal state.
Ironweed (Vernonia altissima) with lovely visitor.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
September 16, 2020 Third Law: Nature Knows Best
Those who are affluent are tempted to become arrogant and forget how to cooperate with nature; in fact, such people often overlook a responsibility in respect and deal with natural processes. Use as little as possible, recycle, do not damage, and be respectful for the needs of others. Natural decomposition and wetland purification are far superior to artificial means.
Climate change. We all realize that excessive carbon dioxide and methane and other emissions can disturb the delicate balance of nature to such a degree that glaciers melt and oceans rise, along with more frequent severe weather-related storms and damage to forested areas through excessive wildfires and deforestation.
Exotic flora. The introduction of kudzu and other species and allowing these to proliferate to a point they become menaces is well known. Allowing native species to flourish where and when possible is a good ecological or green practice. Prefer gardening with native species (mint, poke, etc.). Consider wildscape and edible landscaping in place of artificial lawns. Introduce a multitude of native plants and tree varieties that resist drought.
Exotic fauna. When Europeans came to New England they introduced cattle and sheep; this led to destruction of Native American limited cultivation and use of forested areas for wildlife reserves to supplement food supplies -- thus proving destructive to wilderness areas teeming with game. The story of destruction of Australian vegetation through introducing rabbits is well known.
Species depletion. The removal of native predators such as wolves and foxes that help hold animal populations in check has been highly disturbing to wildlife balances; such conditions result in overpopulation of rabbits, deer, geese, and turkeys.
Obstructions. Dammed rivers are another area of great ecological disturbance for the natural rhythm of fish spawning; fish migration is often disrupted by such barriers to free water flow. Large dams have even greater effect such as the halting of natural siltation processes and the failure to feed proper nutrients for marine life further downstream. Large dams and their lakes can destabilize geological formations and cause earthquakes.
Over-harvesting. Excessive withdrawal of resources can also trigger threats to native fish populations (half of the world's supplies are in some degree of endangerment). The same applies to other fauna and to flora species such as prized timber; removal of these trees can endanger habitats of songbirds and other wildlife.
Appreciating natural cycles is needed, especially when human practices involve resource use or deliberate introduction, removal, or replacement by non-native substitutes.
Prayers: Help us, Lord, to establish good environmental practice so that nature's balance is less disturbed.
September 17, 2020 Fourth Law: No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
The privileged of this Earth have come to think that if they pollute the air or water or overfish the oceans they can reap profits with no need for reclamation or restitution. They think their privileges allow a free lunch. However, such a philosophy on life underlies the history of exploitation and damage to primitive cultures, and ultimate destruction of cultural treasures throughout the world. Each time a species of flora or fauna or a language dies, the world is worse off, and diminishment to diversity has occurred, a damage without a proper dollar tag.
This is an extension of the enclosure of the Commons, for the people infringing on the Commons defer payment to future generations or tolerate the damage through some exercise of evasion or repression. Those who overuse the world's resources do not realize that the infringement comes at a cost. They deny that material profiteers do not repay the environmental and social damage done by extraction disturbances, as well as resulting pollution to air, water and land. They defer payments to the next generation with the excuse that they do not have enough time to solve all existing problems -- even those they help cause. They escape into their profit motivation and see greed as virtue.
Fossil fuel use comes at immense costs, which figure varies wildly depending on direct subsidies and tax write-offs to environmental damage expenses. One research group (NRDC) puts the U.S. annual total figure at $27.4 billion. However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) calculates an astounding $649 billion annually (as of 2015), when including negative externalities related to health and global warming. Paying costs for harm done in the past is difficult for transgressors to concede or accusers to calculate restitution. In carbon trading, some hope that others will make the restitution for them, and thus take them off of the hook, not achievable in a just society.
Infringement on our common environment comes in a host of ways. None of these problem areas can be easily countered, and it is the effort such as conversion from fossil fuels to renewable energy that causes "Infringement Lunches" to be tolerated. Resource extraction is virtually never totally beneficial except for the profiteer. The temptation is to ignore true value of work, social bonding, celebration, and mutual sharing on one hand, and negative costs of human and planetary health on the other. What about proper reclamation, damage to local communities and habitats of plants and animals? How much time does it take for nature to heal? Even if natural processes can handle small changes, what about overloads on the systems? Furthermore, the greedy are willfully ignorant of the lack of free lunches. Our task is to educate all on an ecological understanding of nature, especially geared to those who think they can take without giving back.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be open to learn from nature, and to always live within our means respecting the rhythms of nature.
Liturgy, Community and Communion
Liturgy celebrates the valuable work of the people. As unique and social believers we are nourished by the Bread from Life, Christ himself, to help us achieve our goals that are beyond our unaided human efforts. Through Baptism/Confirmation we receive God's immense Gift and the mission that lies before us as part of the Mystical Body of Christ. Church Fathers say that the redemptive act could only be accomplished by God incarnate; we add that in our important mission we need the Lord himself for food. We understand the value of our work in the profundity of the Gift (Eucharist) and the act of Giving it, the Divine Liturgy.
The Divine Liturgy is instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper, which involved a solemn ritual (a Passover feast) and is repeated ever since its institution. The "Mass of all ages" as recorded by St. Justin about 150 A.D., included the following: continuity with the Old Testament; Jesus himself as sacrificed lamb; bread and wine transformed into Christ's body and blood; a solemn memorial of Christ's passion, death and resurrection; disciples assembled as one body; and the act of renewal through the Eucharist. In the Liturgy we see physical gestures, hear music, smell incense and flowers, taste bread and wine now transformed, and feel the unitive power of a worshiping community in the sign of Peace.
Just as Christ enjoyed celebration, so do his followers on Sundays and festive occasions; this occurs as mutual encouragement in the midst of our work life that includes preparing for a New Heaven and New Earth. This Divine Liturgy is formal prayer with ritualistic elements: confession of sins; Liturgy of the Word (scriptural readings) proclaimed in a solemn fashion; homily or sermon; and Liturgy of the Eucharist (Offering of bread and wine, Consecration or transformation into the Body and Blood of the Lord, and Communion). In the Divine Liturgy we give thanks (Eucharist means thanksgiving) to God, Giver of all good gifts. Liturgy means work of ALL the people working together to save our Earth. As St. John Paul II says, "to build a world in harmony with God's plan."
Eucharist and work. Nicolas Zernov says that it is no accident that a scientific civilization that not only tries to understand the structure of matter, but also to use this knowledge for the benefit of all of us, has arisen among nations trained in Eucharistic worship. We see the physical universe as friend instead of fearing and despising it. Worshipers learn sacredness and dignity of every type of labor, including manual work, which was considered as degrading by classical elites. Ancient Greeks used steam to operate toys for their children's amusement, but never for labor-saving devices (for them make slaves work). Monks, ironically in what is called the "Dark Ages," saw things quite differently; at monasteries they harnessed wind and water for sawing wood, operating forges, grinding grain, and pumping water. All believers need time to rest, pray and celebrate, and thus Sundays and feast days were for rest – do we still need this today?
Through Liturgy we overcome fear and become familiar with nature, and affirming that material resources can be harnessed for the Common Good. God, a merciful father, directs us to work as members of the divine family in renewing our wounded Earth. We join in the sacrifice of Christ, bread becomes Christ's Body, Earth receives its new destiny, and mystery is unveiled. We break bread together in a sacramental manner, through Earthly processed substances grown, crushed, baked, and fermented -- the work of human hands (not milk and strawberries). Our hands, head and heart are needed to prepare gifts for spiritual transformation. We need mutual support together in public times and places. A Haitian friend responded to critics questioning the poor folks celebrating with precious resources, "but all have to celebrate on occasion."
Liturgy as nourishment. Every individual needs food in order to live. If we are not constantly nourished both physically and spiritually, our enthusiasm wanes and we cannot perform our work properly. In God's mercy, we have spiritual nourishment without which we drift from faith and abandon our Earthhealing mission. St. Ephrem writes that Jesus filled the Eucharist with His Spirit and the one who eats it with faith, eats fire and Spirit. And if we are to heal wounded Earth, we must catch fire ourselves, for it takes energy to spark a planetary conflagration. Jesus invites us with real food, his body and blood.
Consecrated HERE. We are united in space in a believing global Body of Christ. This Earth is where our communion with God is first realized through the redemptive act of Christ. Into the promised land is born Christ Lord and Savior; on Calvary the Messiah's blood touches Earth and makes holy Jerusalem, Israel and all Earth. When we eat from the land, we become the land. When we partake of the Lord through consecrated bread and wine, we become the Body of Christ. The Liturgy is a cosmic act uniting heaven and earth and permeating all creation -- St. John Paul II; Eucharistic effects reach out into the universe. Because of the Liturgy's transcendence of space and time, it is both a past event in salvation history and a process that takes place here and now.
Consecrated NOW. Calvary extended in both space and time. Christ instituted a perpetual sacrifice, a memorial of his death and resurrection, a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us (Vatican II). The Mass is a commemorative representation "making present" the Paschal mystery, bringing about a "oneness in time" between the events of Christ's passion, death and resurrection and the following centuries. "Do this in memory of me" until the end of time. We are future directed in our actions.
Consecrated WE. Mass or Missa is so named because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with sending faithful forth (mission). We undertake a communal and contagious enterprise by joining others in global collaboration. The consecrated "WE" includes a basic ecological awareness, commitment to the community of all beings, and caring for those in need. The Church Fathers said we cannot receive Communion worthily if we neglect to feed the hungry at our doorstep; however, through modern communication and transportation, today's doorstep is global. We affirm the Divine Liturgy as sacred experience, understanding and communion of love in an unfolding Mystery of our Triune God. Here and now, sacred word and eucharistic action culminate in shared communion. The Liturgy manifest God's internal harmony and our harmonizing together. It is more needed than ever before.
This is the year of Matthew's Gospel, and in truth I have come closer to him this year through the Sunday readings. Amazingly, once while assembled in a group of four Christians I suspected that all would agree that Luke's Gospel was the favorite; however, to my amazement each of the other three chose a different Gospel. Maybe we like the various ones because of our personalities, or maybe something must be said for the periods in our life's journey. For me, this seems to be the becoming of a "Matthew Period."
Each of the Gospels has its own uniqueness and that applies to Matthew as well. True, most of the parables of Jesus that Matthew relates are repeated in the other Synoptics (Mark and Luke). Still Matthew has a special unique flavor: the entire infancy account of the wise men and the flight into Egypt; the beatitudes and the entire evangelical discourse; the entire text of the "Our Father;" the detailed story of the beheading of John the Baptist; Peter's full profession of faith and the building of the Church; the Last Judgment and related questions; and the final Grand Commission to go to all the world. Matthew has the great inclusion at the beginning of his Gospel (Emmanuel or "God with us"), and the Lord's promise to be with us until the end of the ages at the conclusion.
A theme that comes through in Mathew's Gospel is the universal message to all people, a message that goes beyond the limit of national boundaries (guiding star to Bethlehem) to the ends of Earth. The beatitudes make Matthew a darling of those who press for social justice -- and rightly so. The instrumentality of spreading the message shows a sense of orderliness in Matthew's (the tax collector) mind. The sense of charity and God's extended gifts to others appears in the beatitudes and the teachings that immediately follow. Matthew, as an agent for the Roman Empire, dealt with filthy money, of which many disliked tax agents and did not want to part with their money. Matthew had the duty to bring about this bit of bad news (pay taxes), and thus was more prepared for bringing Good News later in his life.
The certainty of style in his writings did not carry over into an itinerary of his travels after Pentecost. In some ways Matthew was the most traveled of apostles, for by tradition he was supposed to have reached Ethiopia, Persia, Syria and even Ireland. His martyrdom in some remote part of that world testifies to the ultimate supreme and geographically overlooked sacrifice of one who follows the Lord. Wherever the unknown place of death, still many places in Europe say some of his relics reside in their respective churches (including at least four in France alone). For a variety of far-flung reasons, Matthew is known to be the patron of money changers, tax collectors, accountants, and customs officials for reasons of the occupation from which he was associated. However, his patronage of alcoholics, ships, and hospitals makes us wonder.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to imitate Matthew's words and deeds, and to balance them well in our journey of faith.
Late afternoon stroll by water's edge. Mercer Co., KY.
September 19, 2020 International Coastal Cleanup
Those of us living in the interior of America have no coastlands. However, let us extend our areas of interest to lakeshores, river and creek banks, and even pond margins. All too often debris floats in, or litterers toss materials that do not decompose easily, and this mars the beauty of where water meets land. In turn, it does not take much to produce a messy, junked up appearance to what should be an enjoyable water-meets-land site.
Some have pointed out that in the last few decades when plastics came into vogue, the vast oceans have become junked up places and much of this debris (wherever it floats) eventually reaches the shorelines. Some beaches and seashores that were such inviting places for early morning or late evening strolls are now in disarray through carelessness on the part of many -- who ought to be fined the $500 state littering fine that is virtually never enforced or collected. The damaged coastlands have become "crime scenes" of careless people, some who see nothing in abandoning responsibility as long as no one is looking. It takes far more effort to refrain from use or to recycle or dispose of waste material properly than to dump it secretly.
On several occasions, our Daily Reflections mention that outsiders ought not be brought in for cleanups even though the light work often has enormous benefits when performed by the inexperienced. Beach-combing parties have their place, but the ones who clean up ought to be the users. When outsiders do the work, the inference is that locals can continue to be negligent and their actions never tested. However, some point out that no one is truly an outsider when it comes to general environment and love of pristine conditions. It is laudable that some daily hikers and strollers take along garbage bags to collect litter. Taking care includes cleaning up even when we are not individually the cause, since the one who causes will most likely never be caught -- and we can justify righteous anger at what has been done. Don't forget that those who refuse to accept back beverage containers are among corporate litterers. Let's continue to press for bottle bills.
Cleaning up the common public coastlands that are trashed should not mean that shores ought to be privatized. Rather, public coastlands ought to be policed. Often the emphasis is on curbing regulators who are public enforcers of lands and then pronouncing the junked land worthy of privatization. On the other hand, public lands (and that includes coastal lands) are deserving of public protection. "Carry out what you carry in" applies to our ventures in all places, whether the high seas, or the land, or the borders between them. Too often it is the scenic marine borders that are most blighted, and thus where cleanup efforts are most needed.
Prayer: Lord, assist us to remain tidy in our precious space, and to teach others to do the same. Give us energy to assist with cleanup when that is called for, and try to parse out blame to all careless culprits.
Turtlehead, Chelone glabra.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
September 20, 2020 Divine Generosity Should Be Our Way
The Lord is near to all who call upon him. (Psalm 145)
Our salvation is not owed to us, but comes through grace, mercy, and generosity of God. We ought to be thankful for all things and to list a few each day. The parable about the workers who are given wages for working different numbers of hours in the vineyard will cause us to pause. This is a story of God being generous with all, those who come and work faithfully in a life-long journey of faith, and those who come late and still get the same gift of salvation. In justice workers need a day's work.
As Isaiah says, "for my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8) How wonderful are God's ways! God is an infinite ocean of generosity. We can be easily tempted in our lack of generosity to think we deserve something through our own efforts, and forget that we deserve nothing. All is gift from a generous God. We can be looking over our shoulders at what others receive and wanting still more to surpass them. However, gifts to us are immense.
This Matthew Gospel passage (20:1-16) may not be a lesson in labor relations, but something needs to be said for those seeking a livelihood. Those who are unemployed have the same demands for a daily wage as those who were able to work the entire day. An honest worker deserves a wage, and we realize that this is what he or she ought to receive. But so should those who desire to work but can find no work at this time. They are caught up in the anxiety of the day that is moving on, and yet they must return to a hungry family empty-handed at its end. What a burden! The late comers too, in the compassionate words of the late Jim Wyker, an Appalachian activist, are now receiving a just wage -- for the day and not just the number of hours worked. God is a generous God.
Can God's ways become our ways? In one sense, never. But we can become more godlike in our actions, in recognizing generosity and in dispensing mercy to others. While we can never equal God's ways, we can try to imitate the divine patterns of seeking and finding those who desire to work during the day but can't. We need to be sensitive to the good-hearted who want salvation, but do not know where to turn. One way to perceive our world is a negative view that most are lost and not worth our efforts; a far more godlike manner is to perceive that most could do far better, if properly directed and given some chance. Our task is to go out and find those willing to work, and give them that opportunity. But it is more; our task is to open our hearts, be diligent with our hands, and turn our thoughts to doing good for others.
Prayer: Teach us, Lord, to be generous in what we do and to express our generosity to you for the many gifts given. Help us to list our gifts (see the Special Issues section of this website for a listing of One Thousand Things to Be Thankful).
"Peace be with you," is the familiar liturgical refrain found in key places in the Gospels. The need for interior peace is paramount as we seek to observer our International Day of Peace. Our personal internal peace is the foundation of a peaceful world, for true peace starts with peaceable individuals and moves out like a ripple to all parts of the world. The prayer we make is that all people experience internal peace of soul, for that is a foundation for a just social structure for which we all yearn so deeply.
Individual peace-making ventures extend to family and communal peace through patience and love. Peace grows through sharing the fears and struggles of those with whom we are in a network of love. So often this form of peace becomes the social capital on which progress in community expands. Often the differences we all have manifest themselves most tellingly at this neighborhood level. Peace comes through controlling our emotions and through merciful action: this peace is the healing balm of communities.
Regional peace is often overlooked, for areas of competition make us belittle others and inflate our own achievements. Some regard pitting groups against each other as a mark of capitalistic endeavor and development, but pity the ones who are on the bottom of the heap; there is where bitterness and extra stress festers and leads to battles which destroy peace. By working together in joint regional endeavors, we all can win together. Conflicts result when many find no employment in their region, and they are forced to migrate to better pastures or perhaps to sink into a hopelessness that leads to violence.
National peace is a matter of discovering security not in military might but in mutual assistance to others in need. A national security system ought to consider giving to those one or more billion people terrorized by hunger (mostly in other countries). A national peacemaking policy must include turning national armed defense forces into mobile units that can rapidly respond to natural or human made disasters at home or abroad.
International peace can be achieved if the national policies of United Nations members work for genuine peace. Nuclear weapons must be eliminated ASAP, and with no exceptions, and the more powerful nations must lead the way. International cooperative efforts are often insufficient to limit piracy on the high seas and the deliberate damage to parts of the total Commons due to lack of enforcement that crosses national boundaries. Peace is threatened when some pollute waterways and the air. Peace is disrupted when some have enormous wealth and others are destitute. Global peace must rest on a federated organization with enforcement powers; we hope that this comes very soon.
Prayer: Lord, help us to move up the ladder from personal interior peaceful pursuits in cooperation with others of good will, and as a groundswell to arriving at a global peace.
September 22, 2020 Social Networking: Formal or Informal?
On World Car Free Day we ponder how much the automobile has changed our lives for better or worse. We can count blessings; we can also find congestion, noise, air pollution, parking space scarcity, maintenance problems, winter ice, and fuel costs. When places are closed for repair some comment how nice it is to be having a brief "carfree" condition -- but they are kidding. In fact, we sometimes crave the relaxed attitudes of yesteryear, but do we really? We soon realize the mixed blessing and at times speak about these in our informal banter.
Is it like sauntering through an amusement park talking to everyone who is willing to converse? A few like to talk to everyone; many prefer doing so on occasions; some want to talk only to select individuals; and a few want no more social contact, for enough is enough. Opening the floodgates of verbiage can reduce formal activity to a state of paralysis. Thus, for the social contact person here are some operative principles:
* Subject and time limits. Social contact may include family affairs, medical treatment, or discussion of basic ideas. We sort out such contacts according to subject matter; we do not want to talk about gardening at the time of a funeral of a loved one. If we are to be car-free, make it a practice that knows when to start and stop, lest meaningful activity ceases. We have got to count our blessings; abstaining from them occasionally makes their presence fonder. We have to know when to speak or to refrain.
* Space limits. In some of our work we must have safeguards so that we can maintain planned schedules. Perhaps the place could be invaded by the uninvited, if limits are not flexible on our sacred space. Electronic devices can be turned off due to the need to retire and rest. Allowances ought to be made for emergencies that undoubtedly come to all active human beings.
* Positive process. A sense of universal contact with all people has its limits as well. For one thing, some folks glory in being negative and disruptive; these parties of disruption are candidates for a form of "excommunication" -- a public invitation that still has its own inbuilt limits. "Open mikes" may be used but these have to have moderators. Informality has limits.
Common goals. Our social contact sphere is like the Commons itself. We realize a common time, place and subject matter, and then we expect others to stay within these limits. We may be willing to be all inclusive, or we can be quite exclusive in the invitation listing. Amazingly, this is what communities do all the time so that public events can function properly. Allowing one to destroy the meeting as though that is an act of freedom is nonsense. License to destroy is social suicide.
Prayer: Lord, teach us when to be formal and when to take life with a little more ease and become familiar with you.
September 23, 2020 Expanding Our Healing Ministries
Healing is a ministry of this website, and we indicate a wide variety of ways to heal -- in fact so many that just about every person can participate in one or other ways. Here are some of the many healing activities discussed in Daily Reflections:
Forgiveness: Why first on the list? Because the greatest treatment for illness is a heavy dose of love and mercy. We must forgive so we can be forgiven, and thus become better at our healing ministry;
Reclamation: Wounded land surface areas need to be recovered through installing vegetative protection and through proper reuse of the area under question. Wise choices are needed;
Community-building of trust: Too many of our localities suffer from destructive rivalry and competition with others for jobs, recognition, and talent, and this is grossly detrimental to a healing cooperative spirit among people;
Nutrition: Individually, we must be healthy in order to become able healers to assist others. The best healing we can do physically is to eat proper foods in proper amounts (low on sugar and fats) and to exercise daily;
Animal and plant welfare: Many of the animals and some of the plants of our world are threatened or endangered through loss of habitat or aggressive harvesting practices. We must be defenders of our flora and fauna and move away from using livestock for human meat consumption;
Peacemaking: Establishing peace is no easy task, but it must be done by all of us at the family level, local community, our nation, and our entire world. All are called to be peacemakers;
Family Support: Too often the wounds that fester within family circles cause hatreds and barriers to giving each other the love needed to overcome differences and to work together;
Communication: By talking to and listening to each other the grave differences that separate so many of us are overcome. Literacy programs and dialogue all have parts to play.
Celebration: Thanking God for the many gifts we are given becomes an occasion for reconciling with others and coming together in moments of unity; and
Reclaiming the Commons: The disproportion of resources and essentials among people is a sickness that is healed when we take and share what is rightfully ours, collectively and non-violently.
Prayer: Lord, help us see the many ways to heal and to become aware of how we each can be effective in our Earthhealing ministry.
September 24, 2020 Celebrate the Black Walnut
The Daily Reflection for November 3, 2016 focused on nut-gathering in general -- and difficulties associated with the stain received in hulling black walnuts. Other Daily Reflections and Facebook essays have been on black walnut-prized wood for furniture and paneling, as well as possibility of investing in walnut groves. A top-grade black walnut log can be worth a thousand dollars.
Prized black walnut meats are worth retrieving -- though this can prove to be a chore. Certainly the thin-shelled English walnut does appeal to those who desire a meaty kernel with little effort and far less taste. However, many nut connoisseurs will say the effort to extract black walnut meat is ultimately worth it because of the exquisite taste. When I was embarrassed by the walnut stain that did not leave my hands upon washing, my fourth grade teacher, Sister Victoria, a Kentucky farm girl by birth, came to my rescue by telling the class, "There is clean dirt and dirty dirt -- and the first type one wears with dignity because it is the sign of honest work." I always look at the hands of laborers when they receive Communion and know that these are hands of dignity.
Dyes. The black walnut stain was so hard to remove from clothing that the homesteaders who pioneered the region soon found that this could be a dye for their homespun clothing.
Food delicacies. The shelled walnut meats can be eaten raw or can become ingredients in cakes, cookies, or a whole variety of baked goods. The walnuts are great in ice cream, custards, yogurt, and other dairy products, and some forms of vegetable, meat and fish dishes as well.
Business. Since few take the time to extract black walnut meats, and those who do get a nifty price for their products, many are not familiar with the pronounced black walnut flavor that is so treasured. Getting the nut shelled takes an effort -- as our neighbor with a large walnut tree says, "You can have them if you can get them before the squirrels do." I did just this once and left a supply of the nuts on my screened in back porch to dry. The squirrels broke through the screen to steal virtually all the good nuts; they knew what they were looking for!
Gifts. A kindhearted neighbor in another county, Ray Graves, makes the shelling and retrieval of the walnut meats a Christmas present and special anniversary gift that is truly worth additional gratitude. Those who strive to repeat the exercise learn quickly how much effort it takes to crack the hard nut and pick out the meat from the compartments.
Prayer: Lord, you give us many good things, some of which take an effort to retrieve. When we do, this becomes a special occasion to thank you for the gifts of autumn; black walnuts are one of these special gifts.