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St. Elizabeth of Ravenna Catholic Church
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The Chaplin River, Washington Co., KY
July 1, 2020 Being Sensitive During the Second Half of 2020
Stay cool! July is the time that tries our souls. It is so hot that it does not take much to trigger harsh words or deeds. That is not a proper way to begin a mini-New Year, especially since so many make today, rather than January first, as beginning of an annual budget. Accepting July first as a new beginning invites us to review our actions and discover that the start of the hot summer is a good time to be sensitive to others who are uncomfortable.
Insensitivity in all its forms restricts our understanding of the common good. People overlook the needs of others and focus on more self-centered individual problems. The sin of affluence desensitizes individuals from the great mass of humanity; the sin of excessive property (clothes, residences, vehicles) removes too holders from realizing essential needs of those hungry or without access to health care or adequate housing. Insensitivity on a major scale leads to spiritual impoverishment and results in attempts to establish security through broader financial investments, more insurance or military hardware, personal or governmental.
Some regard concerns about global commons as impractical. "My steak would spoil before it reaches the hungry in Africa," is hardly an excuse to forget food sharing, because the transportable grain that fattened the beef cattle (source of the steak) could have been fed to others at a distance. To share with the hungry requires that we reduce our use of resources even if this entails some belt tightening. Social assistance must be increased, not shaved and our candidates this year must be confronted with this never too popular issue. Wealthy alarmists can paint vivid pictures of the poor taking materials from gated-communities. In their opinion their personal privileges allow them to enhance the current economic and political system, and lead them to believe they know best how to manage their treasures. Affluent individuals see nothing wrong by engaging in unsustainable practices, because they see no need to share with future generations saying "After our passing, who cares?" They remain sequestered from the commons as long as a selfish system supports their "legal" possessions.
The Principle of Enough when fully understood focuses primarily on essential needs of a global community as community -- and not as individuals. The concept of "commons" understood as healthy sustaining local communities refutes the need for outsiders to come and manage their affairs provided the local community is healthy. When local communities hurt from drought or other natural or human-made disasters, responsibility for the hurting human family members become paramount. The temptation is to isolate ourselves in our own concerns and not to have a global outlook. Yes, summer is a tempting time to go totally local with little regard for the rest of the human race. Let's not let this happen.
Prayer: Help us, Lord, to be sensitive to the needs of all, not just those in the local community, but help us be mindful of unfortunate people throughout the world.
Five-lined skink, Eumeces fasciatus
(photo by Walter Para, Stanton, KY)
July 2, 2020 Taxing All Fairly Is Not a Partisan Issue
Independence is never definitively won; it is forever an ongoing process. An American Revolutionary
Is it possible that our democracy could be -- or has been --taken over by a plutocratic system of governance by the wealthy? The answer by average citizens is that this is a remote possibility which would be caught by vigilant citizens. People still vote, pay taxes, get responses from Congresspersons, and watch TV debates on major issues, but what if this is all charade and real government goes on behind our backs? Some on the liberal left are convinced that this is actually the case in the U.S. at this time given the record profits by Wall Street, the feeble efforts at reducing taxes for ALL at a time when dependent mothers and infants are seeing funds reduced. They point out that certain quite profitable corporations pay no taxes at all due to specific exemptions granted by legislatures beholden to them. Is this description valid and, if so, can things be reversed by citizens seeking freedom for all?
The disparity of wealth in this country is a reality that few of us can overlook. We have a heavy portion of the world's billionaires who can do what they like with their wealth. The top of the heap is the 0.1% of the income level who collect the most and have the political establishment behind them. The voting habits of many legislators answer to the desires of the wealthy, not the average citizens, a phenomenon that characterizes both parties. Too much big money is at stake, and unfortunately elections depend on big money. "Bigness" comes from wealth; this bigness means power and access, and access means influence on the laws that ensure bigness. For the super-rich even amid their moments of generosity “Democracy be damned!" The most astounding thing is that polls the great majority are truly uneasy about this growing inequality in our fair land.
The Church has a greater mission to do than teach patience to the underprivileged. In fact, the Church must be on the side of the public, not the private domain. In such a mission, the Church condemns plutocratic practice openly and seeks to strengthen the enforcement and vigilance required by a properly functioning government. In real time, the Church ought to be a catalyst for change for the better, not the guarantor of an imperfect status quo. Jesus exhibited holy anger at the economic situation of the Temple, a place privatizing space meant for ALL the people. Jesus stood clearly on the side of the public domain. Jesus challenged an unjust system in driving moneychangers from the Temple, and leaders sought to kill him for challenging the status quo. Jesus' followers should act in a similar fashion and get angry with a privatized plutocratic system. Let's require fair taxes for ALL. We can make certain changes in this election year.
Prayer: God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; courage to change the things we can; and wisdom to know the difference. Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr
The Experience of Discovering Our Talents
July calls us to focus on our life's healing mission. The pandemic lingers and threatens to rise again in force. This July, even amid its heat, is a special time, which requires our sense of balance and a word of encouragement to others who are deeply frustrated by current events. We are called to heal Earth, to see the devastation of Earth with its current streak of racism and violence, and to rediscover Jesus as model ecologist. We are called to be compassionate, to suffer with the Lord, to find empowerment in exaltation of the Risen Lord, and to be willing to spread Good News to all so as to focus on Earthhealing.
Concentration and focus are keys to the summer months. We can so easily be dissipated by heat and simply settle down and just vegetate. Rather, let us attend to the qualities that make Jesus the perfect ecologist and how we 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 eco-spirituality is based on a relativity of time and place, so it is colored by exactly who we are and the company we keep. The teamwork to bring Good News is composed of both giver and receiver. Can we truly come together as a team? If in July, then anytime? July is the time to test our patience, foresight, communicative skills, and respect for others. Really, all give and all receive; the believing community recognizes gifts and offers them back to God through the person of the Risen Lord.
Summer maturation comes to all our senses, especially in this season of the 17-year locust's appearance and sound. Does an Earth- healing spirituality accept all human gifts as important? Or is it selective with its privileged few? Do authentic Earthhealers invite all others to be part of an active team helping to save the planet? Do Earthhealers see how their own efforts enhance these unaffiliated but earnest folks to become part of a biodiverse ecosystem calling for protection and renewal? Are we willing to look about nature and learn lessons worth imitating?
A gurgling creek is a mystery. What is the sound of rushing water? Often, I stop and concentrate and focus all my powers. 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 stand 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? 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 it freely penetrate my being. Maybe through the sounding stream I learn to listen to the hearts of people and discover their uniqueness as well.
Roadside wildflowers are enjoyable sights but distracting. I consider the times I travel on the smaller roads where wildflowers are beautiful and there is time to stop and just let the ambiance penetrate my soul. But so often I pass up the scenes. 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? Blooming flowers soon pass, and the lingering feeling is that summer is not eternal. We must confront the reality of Earth herself with accompanying hard knocks. One can speak of a child who will bloom in cuteness and beauty 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 graying. Flowers are the harbingers of ourselves ‑‑ beauty bright and glorious, but quick to fade - as do we.
The taste of summer wild plums, 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 at times. So does the joy at going into the orchard, that place of refuge, and eating fruit off of trees. Unfortunately, the ones who miss this joy include the modestly-incomed living on pizza and hamburgers, fries and cokes -- a horribly uniform set of tastes. Again, it is difficult to convince them of their narrow palette of tastes. I often wonder what else of the commonplace gifts of God we are missing. Doesn't concentration on the good things of life include looking around for variety and accepting creatures as God-given gifts? Let's refine our tastes and detect the differences between garden fresh and store-bought. Maturing involves taste broadening.
Other creatures can be teachers. I watched in utter fascination as a robin taught her young to leave the nest. The 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 parent 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 go out and learn from them.
When we perceive creatures are around us, we establish a basic communication, an interaction, a teaching/learning relationship. This communicating allows us to grow in healing skills that include respecting and protecting our troubled Earth. When people lose touch with nature through pavement and destruction of wilderness, they ignore theological lessons needed for basic humility in order to be like Christ. When people live closer to nature and are less influenced by urbanization, they have opportunities for contact with enriching teachers. What we need to learn is that teaching 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. July is an opportunity to reaffirm our healing arts and to be open to the process of gaining experience.
A herd of cows, congregating at a pond
July 3, 2020 Trying to Make July Tolerable
Some of us are more summer than winter people. However, we sympathize with those who find it difficult to endure either the extremes of cold or heat. We summer folks admit that more die directly from heat extremes in our country than from freezing weather -- and that is extending to the entire Northern Hemisphere through climate change. When hot weather arrives, the role of people who succumb to heat (sometimes including young athletes on playing fields) seems like a battle listing. The key words were "died from heat...," because in winter many succumb to related ailments such as pneumonia and flu that are triggered by chills and cold weather. The summer tolls could be reduced by attention to certain details. Here are some suggestions:
* Stay cool. The hottest part of midday is not the time to hike, garden, jog, or play games -- if you must work outdoors take your good time. Really, this is when we ought to find a cool space to nap or rest in the shade. Let's take a classic siesta.
* Keep hydrated. It is not a time to fast from water or non-alcoholic drinks of any sort. If you sweat much, try to replace the electrolytes found in appropriate drinks. Spread the same suggestion to others who neglect carrying a water bottle.
* Read a little more. Mid-summer is really a perfect time to catch up on all of the heaps of literature you have been putting off. Each book completion is a summer achievement.
* Air out the house at night. Avoid overuse of energy-consuming air conditioning. I use none in my residence, but my large surrounding trees and vegetation help. For safety's sake use AC sparingly. Open house at night, and close off during the day.
* Eat less. July's heat makes the temptation to restore body carbs and fats a little less attractive. In fact, this is an ideal season to trim down, for that helps us endure the heat.
* Have a cool treat. This could be ice water, chilled watermelon, or a good tomato.
* Rise early. Accomplish outdoor chores before the sun is in the middle of the sky in its daily arc. Do what needs to be done in the early hours, especially when the sun has just risen and there is dew on the grass.
* Inverse Internet periods. Many like to spend times of dark before the computer screen. "Inverse" means the hotter daylight times are better for emailing, blogging, googling, and scanning than traditional night time work, which is best used for resting.
Prayer: Lord, help us to continue to pray even in the hot weather, to take all precautions due to the heat, and to find some opportunities to reflect on summer blessings you have received.
Cloud uplift on a hot summer's day, beginnings of nature's fireworks.
July 4, 2020 American Independence Minus Pretensions
The story of the American Revolution is retold many times and is celebrated by countless fireworks and multitudes of cookouts and patriotic speeches. We should ask sincerely, "What does July Fourth mean today?" Let's not fool ourselves; this is the twenty-first century. Long ago our nation became independent from the apron strings of Great Britain though it took two wars to do. Our nation thrived in splendid isolation for over a century until European conflicts expanded into two world wars -- and our country was drawn squarely into the middle of both and remained afterwards as the self-appointed "policeman of the world." History moves on, and our country is now threatened with financial insecurity in ways never before imagined. Are we so utterly independent?
Looking deeper, we discover that our struggle for independence takes on a twenty-first century character. If we went from these united states to the United States in the first two centuries, now we ought to accept our globalizing role. From federalizing scattered colonies to unified benefit of all, now we consider the possibility of uniting a community of nations into a federated world body? Here our insight in union will be enshrined in our letting go of nationalistic ways and accepting a global power greater than the United States. Granted, patriotic words will fly and not all will follow their revolutionary ancestors in their struggles for union. The process is inevitable but slow, and we may not live long enough to see its positive fulfillment.
We can be fooled by excessive property and passing fame, by wasting abundant materials, and the fiction that our resources are endless. However, the sooner we assume a true "independence" that is not pulled down by material allurements and see plainly where we are, the better we can be leaders. Our goal is not to conquer others but to march together with them. Yes, we could be called to greatness, a call to be the first to see that going it alone is neither sustainable nor a path to security. Our brothers and sisters throughout the world look to us to show that the movement to freedom, first espoused in the 1770s, is to be extended to all peoples -- especially the hungry and those lacking health access.
Privilege comes in many ways. It is defined by more than who is the wealthiest, best educated, most notable, or who is able to travel independently by car in a vast land. Privilege has a deeper spiritual meaning, which refers to being the first among equals who finds the means to be strengthened in unity of purpose and goals. America was early in recognizing and acquiring basic freedoms; we became aware of the need to work for continuing to be a free society. The time is right to cherish our basic independence as well as abandoning any pretensions to greatness; we need to work with all peoples to acquire a global interdependence.
Prayer: Lord, keep us focused on reality; let us not bend to idle musing about a fictitious yesterday; now and tomorrow ALL deserve freedom from want -- and make see our role to play.
Ephemeroptera, delicate summer beauty
July 5, 2020 Meek and Humble of Heart -- And Also Angry
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart. (Matthew 11:29)
During the July Fourth weekend we ought to reflect upon our attitudes about citizenship. Is it possible to get enraged about what is happening to our overlooked needy brothers and sisters, and still be people who are meek and humble of heart? Let's consider the coexistence of meekness and confrontational emotion.
A yoke is something that ties one down to do work -- and still it can be either an individual yoke for carrying water or a team yoke for pulling a load together. We can even consider all yokes as really team ones with the Lord as the hidden teammate on those called singular. We learn from Jesus by imitating him in the way he carried his burden of caring for others. We note in the Gospels that Jesus was public in his confrontation with leaders of the temple precincts, that he acted through prayer in the Spirit, that he never waffled but was straightforward, and that he accepted the risks and consequences of his confrontations. Actually a combination of all these elements leads to being meek in openness and humble in using the simple means at one's disposal.
We all have our crosses. Individually, we are invited to accept our "cross" and ask the Lord to join in the yoke of carrying it without complaint and with cheerfulness and good will. However, all Scripture has a dual dimension, and there is a social aspect, especially to this seemingly personal situation. Our crosses can become civic and not just personal duties, worthy of sharing with others in similar circumstances. As team players with fellow citizens we do not allow another's individual burdens to be isolated from public concern and solidarity. In fact, in such cases meekness and humility involve awareness of others' conditions and our willingness to support them in their struggles.
We learn from Jesus to see the situation at hand clearly. We recognize oppression (a condition many affluent people overlook), and we can show compassion and offer a healing hand for the oppressed in the form of liberating deed. Jesus drove out moneychangers, because they had turned a house of prayer for all the people into a den of commerce for their own self-gratification. One level of the perfect ecologist is to give personal attention to burdened individuals. On the other level, we humbly accept the risk of confrontation that includes the possibility of losing. Here meekness means a willingness to accept consequences, to do so with righteous anger, and still not to be carried away by emotion. The way of Jesus includes a perfect balance of all emotions, allowing each to be operative in its turn and to be sensitive to the needs of all in the process. We can't afford to lose our cool and be a burden on the already burdened.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be meek and humble of heart, but not to lose the anger triggered by injustice to our neighbor.
Prickly pear cactus, Opuntia humifusa,
native Kentucky species
July 6, 2020 Is Credit-Card Enslavement a Wakeful Nightmare?
I went to a motel at Corinth, Mississippi on a stormy spring night a decade ago. That night, camping out was impossible. The clerk at the town's Econolodge pointed to the signs behind her that stated that they only accepted lodgers who were credit-card holders. I told her I had cash and "I do not believe in credit cards." In the state religion of Capitalism, one must believe in credit cards or you cannot survive. "If I had to have credit cards I would be beholden to the banks -- and owned by banks, which declare by a credit rating whether economically I live or die." The rain poured down in sheets outside, but the clerk stood firm -- "No card, no lodging." Fortunately, the neighboring motel did accept cash and that clerk admitted that others had told the same tale. My formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission was that this platinum-award-winning motel didn't honor American currency.
This incident triggered additional thoughts: we are enslaved to banks and yet slavery in this country is outlawed. These banks enjoy the honor of defining our acceptable behavior through their own credit ratings whether we ever had a debt in our lives. Since no organization I ever operated had a debt, we have no "rating." To be without a credit rating is to be a non-person, a person bereft of economic life, even if that life is an affirmation of a system of greed. In telling this tale I discovered that others regarded my reaction as abnormal, and that living with credit is the normal route to ordinary citizenship.
Credit is now routine and to have paid bills for debts is the sign of stability and acceptable citizenship. But why must one be indebted? There is an easy answer. Debt is the mark of acting properly with this society, and credit is related to one's conduct in a longer-term indebtedness. Our currency has given way to the "credit card" held by one of the few major banks controlling our land with an iron grip. If you want to function and have economic life you must be indebted and willing to pay off mortgages and other debts at monthly rates. In turn, the banks are to make profits, to reward their executives with large salaries, and to conduct any business they desire since they are too big to fail. If they fail, they expect taxpayers to enter into deeper collective debt in order to ensure their continued life.
The patience of non-credit card holders (the few of us left) is worn out when helpful souls try to explain to us how we are to kow-tow to the system in order to survive. They tell the young to get indebted quickly, so they can build a good credit rating as good slaves to the system. If they become dutiful peons, they will be rewarded with a future and, if fortunate, they may become successful captains of the system. In their way of seeing the world they ask, "What more is there to expect in life?"
Prayer: Lord, my prayer is not that my barriers be removed, but that I am able to stand by my convictions and present them dispassionately to others.
Indian hemp, Apocynum cannabinum
July 7, 2020 Giving the Emptying Plains Back to Buffalo
As a person who considers the bovine family my "spirit creatures," and by being born in the "Buffalo Trace" section of Kentucky, I have a special affinity for the buffalo. More importantly, this affinity includes freedom to roam at will by the buffalo (or more correctly American Bison see Sept. 12, 2014). These animals roamed the Great Plains, were a food and clothing source for Native Americans, were drawn annually to salt springs such as the ones near my Kentucky home, and became an integral part of North American folklore. The Jesuit missionary, Pere Marquette, was perhaps the first to describe buffalo to Europeans in detail.
I once suggested to a Great Plains monastery that the monks ought to substitute bison for their cattle-raising operation. This was not received well. Only then did it become apparent that this was a threat to the status quo traditional range-dwellers. A rejoinder to their opposition is that bison meat is truly an economically viable alternative to beef because it is rich in protein, lower in fat, cheaper to produce, and this form of livestock is native to, and can easily withstand, the rigors of the Great Plains winters. However, buffalo growers need good fencing, because these animals have in their genes the instinct to roam. On the other hand, recent breeders have inserted more domesticated bovine genes into buffalo, which dampen their roaming urges.
History is really on the side of the buffalo. Rescued by attention to native species restoration, a remnant herd has now increased to hundreds of thousands, but nothing like the estimated 80,000,000 at the time when Lewis and Clark took their first expedition to the Northwest in 1803. The tide is turning, and what could happen in the twenty-first century is that buffalo replace cattle on the Plains. Is this an idealistic effort to return land to its more natural state? This is a practical acknowledgment that harsh winters with snowdrifts and harsh summers with hundred-degree-plus temperatures are agreeable to Great Plains buffalo.
With the propensity to roam reduced by genetics, when contented with company, proper feed, and water the modern buffalo is not tempted to bulldoze fencing. However, a more ideal buffalo habitat includes a broader expanse than mere pens or small fields. The American Prairie Foundation (APF) and associates are buying up large blocks of rangeland in depopulating sections of the region (Montana and other neighboring states), and defencing, allowing broader space for the buffalo to move about. However, the answer is not to overly confine a discontented buffalo or forget about fencing, especially for males weighing one to two thousand pounds.
What about the global movement to plant protein? Animal protein will be food for years to come. It is far better to raise bison and move away from cattle for utilizing the Great Plains.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to respect others and promote their freedom to move about and fulfill their basic dreams.
The basil plant, repellant for flies, mosquitoes, and
July 8, 2020 Biofuels for Vehicles Versus Food for the Poor
Biofuels are considered as "renewable" by some, but do they truly fit the definition? In the quest to be energy independent the more agricultural nations regard converting cropland into corn or sugar for biofuels as good use of land. In the recent decade upwards to 40% of corn from the Midwest farmland has been turned to biofuel. Granted, that corn residue can be used for animal feed; however, even while less profitable raw corn could be shipped as grain to food-insecure lands and turned directly into food.
The diversion of that vast supply of grain to biofuels has helped maintain higher food prices on a whole variety of products from cereals and baked goods to fresh and processed meat. Potentially, foodstuffs being converted to biofuels also include staples such as cassava and palm oil. Some of these crops are being grown on land once covered by forests and clearance of land is exacerbating the global phenomena of climate change that is affecting our planet at an accelerating speed. All the more unnerving is that traditional food surplus, needed to supplement shortages from the vicissitudes of nature (floods, earthquakes, and droughts) are sparse; storage bins are low and food prices high.
Let's look more deeply at the use of corn-turned-to-ethanol fuel for vehicles. Many of these vehicles are inefficient and many are driven for purposes that are luxury at best. The affluent population could drive more efficient electric vehicles, refrain from excessive air travel, walk or bike for many errands, could afford to have their subsidized ethanol eliminated, and allow billions of dollars to be diverted to environmentally safe wind and solar renewable energy; the renewables can become part of a system that charges the growing number of electric and hybrid vehicles.
Growing corn for vehicle fuel is not a wise use of resources and land. It takes mostly fossil fuel-derived energy to maintain the tractors and machinery to convert seed into ethanol products, even while this process has been made more efficient over time.
Perhaps to reduce immediately utilized surplus grain the farmers could be encouraged to grow other commercially profitably items such as soybeans, vegetables, hemp and oil-bearing crops. The masterplan in a resource short world is to convert more and more cropland into foods that are directly used by the hungry masses and not to pass this through animal feed for meat and other animal products that take far more resources including cropland.
Biofuels have been considered a mixed blessing when developing a viable mix of renewables (solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal, and hydrogen fuel) to replace fossil fuels. When the biofuel comes from substances that otherwise could be wasted then there is an advantage, but don't include on this list growing corn for ethanol fuel.
Prayer: Lord, help us see the light, namely, that not everything defined as renewable is good for us at this time.
Early summer squash blossoms
by Sally Remsdell)
July 9, 2020 Checklist for Reducing Stress in Difficult Times
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it is about dancing in the rain. Sally Ramsdell's byline
Life is mortal, and living contains its own inherent threats -- a stray bullet, a cell-phoning driver in the other lane, a falling meteor, an unexpected illness. While we live we are subject to handicaps and situations that come in the way of life, yet we should not let these hidden threats overwhelm us. It is always wise to avoid known threats and take positive steps as a sign of our respect for life. The following are found in this series:
Sense the divine presence.
Share food with the poor.
Donate to worthy causes.
Avoid alcohol beyond moderation.
Avoid drugs -- only take legally prescribed ones.
Leave credit cards behind.
Seek to be and remain debt-free.
Maintain the vehicle in proper condition.
Avoid driving too fast.
Get plenty of rest.
Eat nutritious meals.
Consume proper portions.
Think positively on all issues, even health ones.
Stand up for all life.
Take fire prevention steps.
Know your escape routes.
Activate a home alert system.
Keep alarm systems activated.
Keep the mind active with real puzzles.
Think ahead to the next project.
Invest in local, civic and social capital.
Keep car in good operating shape.
Do daily physical exercise.
Walk if you can.
Submit to regular physical checkups.
Stay intellectually alive and connected.
Read a book a week.
Eat slowly, eat well.
Get plenty of sleep.
Make an annual retreat.
Review funeral arrangements.
Prayer: Lord, help me keep this list, make it known to others, and encourage them to make their own as well.
Reflection on Imitating Christ
The maturing summer beckons us to continue reflection at a deeper level of group participation. We center our attention here and now on the potential of the WE in our midst, our fellow human beings who hesitate about being authentic healers of Earth, teachers and activists. What is our best approach to imitating Christ as perfect ecologist: direct confrontation, clarified information, gentle encouragement, expert assistance, compatible associates, or combinations of these? The divine presence emerges in our life's summer journey. Springtime brings freshness, exuberance and enthusiasm while we are still wet with the waters of baptism. Unfortunately, springtime is a time of individualization and emphasizes our personal salvation even while we are surrounded by a living community. "Love others as you love yourself," as the Lord who loves all commands us. Let's move from imperfect levels of self-love and embrace our often-discouraged neighbor.
A Practical Variety Principle is understood by foresters (the mix of woodland species), farmers (different crops 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); all are healthy and enhance the whole community. In different fields variety is a healthy and harmonious goal. Does this foreshadow our future participation in the communal divine nature -- a foreshadowing of autumn activities?
Jesus as Perfect Ecologist: Now let's penetrate more deeply into Christ's ministries in the light of the Enneagram system of dividing human personalities according to distinction of basic types. (Reference: Robert J. Nogosek, C.S.C., Nine Portraits of Jesus: Discovering Jesus through the Enneagram. Denville, NJ: Dimension Books, 1987). Nogosek reasons that since Jesus as God-man is without sin, he should have all nine personality types found in human beings; we find these qualities as showing forth in the Gospels presenting Jesus as teacher, healer, and activist.
Jesus as Teacher: Jesus shows a sense of discipline in the Sermon on the Mount. His message is one of being perfect as he is perfect. Jesus shows that he lives what he teaches by working hard and being exacting on himself. Jesus is tolerant of others, such as the Samaritan woman at the well; he accepts the sinful woman who washes his feet with tears. Jesus is a disciplinarian with a kind and merciful heart. Jesus calls for wisdom; he teaches the disciples with authority the need to be wise, to pray, reflect, plan ahead, and set defined goals; he says a house founded on sand will collapse, but one founded on rock will last. Jesus seeks to pray to the Father; he is not perturbed when interrupted; he sacrifices rest for the needs of others. As teacher he has a sense of loyalty and responsibility; his priestly prayer at the Last Supper shows that he wants his disciples to be loyal. Jesus gives Mary his mother to John; he says to render to God and to Caesar their own things; he evokes the first commandments to love God and neighbor; he goes to Jerusalem to face impending death threats.
Jesus as Healer: Jesus is a sensitive healer: the woman touches his cloak in hopes of being cured and power goes out of him; Jesus uses both words and gesture when healing the blind and lame; Jesus raises the little girl to life and tells her parents to give her something to drink; and he shows this affection for Mary and Martha at the tomb of their brother Lazarus; he weeps over Jerusalem, and agonizes in Gethsemane. Jesus avoids self-pity by always coupling his rising from the dead with his suffering and dying, and he never regards himself as a lone tragic figure. He tells his disciples to take their daily cross and follow him. Jesus is serene and a person of great tranquility; he is filled with peace, walks on the waters, calms the storm, comforts Mary Magdalene, the Emmaus disciples, and frightened disciples calling for "peace be with you;" he calls to Peter to be faithful; his passion is one of utter serenity, especially as he stands accused by the High Priests before Pilate. As a sincere healer Jesus is jovial and cheerful; he goes to parties, eats with friends, takes dinner with publicans and Pharisees, defends his disciples' lack of fasting while the "bridegroom" is with them, prepares breakfast for exhausted fishermen, multiplies loaves for hungry crowds, and ordains apostles for continuing liturgical banquets.
Jesus as Activist: Jesus comes to the poor, undertakes his mission and confronts those who oppress others. He has no resentment, no lust for power and no cantankerous spirit; he is a truly balanced activist. He is deeply solicitous and a person for others; he defends Mary's practice of listening against her sister Martha's busyness; he cures Peter's mother-in-law who thereupon expresses hospitality; he rescues the embarrassed hosts as at the Cana wedding. Still, Jesus as activist manifests a sense of ambition, for his ministry to succeed. He gathers crowds and addresses them; he is a leader choosing his collaborators to go forth into the whole world. In the face of rejection in his home town, Jesus simply moves to new fields; he does not allow the fickle crowds to come and make him king. Jesus as activist shows assertiveness; he cleanses the Temple, he is courageous in the face of opposition; he confronts the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees and reacts to sinful behavior with gentleness, not further confrontation, e.g. with the tax collector Zachaeus and with the accused adulterous woman. He is assertive, not overly assertive.
Teamwork seeks to find all these qualities present to varying degrees among participants, though only rarely in a single balanced individual -- peace-loving, solicitous, loyal, properly ambitious, sensitive, assertive, disciplined, wise, and jovial individuals. The human situation is not filled with perfectly balanced team members, but rather includes those who deny, excuse and escape from their callings, avoid personal development, or who go to extremes in the use of one or other quality. A good team works together and compensates for the weaknesses of individual members.
Canis latrans, a mother coyote,
Washington Co., KentuckY farm
July 10, 2020 How Do We Address the Power of Corporations?
We can have a democracy or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. We cannot have both.
Justice Louis Brandeis
The current federal Administration has been far too cozy with the wealthy and with large corporations, even though at times there is talk of doing something about it. Much attention is given to squeezing funds from WIC programs to Pell summer grants, virtually all assisting the poor or lower income individuals. All the while, the disparity of wealth keeps widening in this country. This is more than cruel; this cries to heaven for God to hear.
Beating up on the down-and-out is part of the insensitivity of an age of affluence in which those not yet reaching such levels seem to be satisfied to aspire to be rich some day, and so invest in the lottery. Many of us were enraged a little while back when we heard that certain corporations while profitable have paid no income tax and even get some "tax relief." At the same time the CEOs make 400 times that of their lower employed. There are many deadbeat corporations and the total evaded taxes may be to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars lost to the coffers of the rich each year. Consider that the total tax havens of the global superrich contain about $24 trillion (equal to our national debt).
As long as such cruel unfairness continues, one can expect a growing disrespect for the American democratic process. If one is wealthy enough, with proper lobbying and excuses, this person or corporation can get by without paying taxes and with nest eggs coming to the door. Considering that the malnourished die by the millions each year, many are getting away with murder when what could be given as essentials are sequestered by the rich. A lesson from history is that patience can run short and violence may very well ensue. Differences of such proportions when suffering lower-income citizens dutifully pay taxes and endure high fuel prices. A day of reckoning is coming.
Many may say the topic of inequality is too complex for this election year and should be delayed. Others say it must be treated here and now. As our nation careens towards financial bankruptcy and the debt limit is being negotiated every year, one must turn from fiction and fantasy to the raw reality that action must be taken as ASAP. Putting this off threatens our democracy at its very core, for the legislation of those who are paid by the rich will only ensure continuation of the status quo. Fair taxes would be the perfect remedy for a nation that has financial ailments of such a severe order. This should not be a partisan issue for all want the taxes to be fair and yet minimized where possible. True patriots must deliberately be of service to the superrich by relieving them of their excess through fair taxation.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to see reality and to act accordingly with the proper, merciful confrontation that is most needed now.
Western salsify, Tragopogon dubius
July 11, 2020 The Right to Potable Water
Human health and quality demands that the plentiful supply of potable water be accessible to every human being. Some demand the right to water for essential purposes and some demand their water "rights;" unfortunately, others are silent to what is their basic right. Certainly there are differences between those demanding essentials and those demanding their "property" for affluent purposes. Infringement on water rights includes control of access, overuse of water resources, and pollution of water quality. Control of quantity and quality of water involves a number of agencies, and can become an involved issue; domestic access to adequate potable water is often limited by barriers that must be removed, and so cooperative and political actions at all levels from households to community water districts to international agreements on limited water resources are needed.
For the thirsty, taking urgently needed water has a prior right over those who have control of water resource for profit making. Such taking by the thirsty is not stealing, for essential needs come first -- not some legalistic property right. To fill a swimming pool with potable water at low cost while others of lower income have to pay for bottled water would be called a gross injustice -- but it happens in the world in which we live.
We as citizens must feel a responsibility to help resolve water conflicts. Proper water distribution demands systems for delivery of high-quality water to points of need with minimal waste occurring. In theory, water is free; in practice, fees may be charged for source maintenance and protection, delivery, apportionment, and policing of end point use. Reclaiming our water commons involves taking:
* Taking of needed water could be encouraged when the have-not is deemed powerless. Will this reach levels of armed conflict?
* Taking those who waste or pollute water to court is a growing possibility, as well as reporting those who waste water to enforcement personnel. This includes taking nations who dam water upstream and halt the free flow of water for traditional use by downstream parties to world court.
* Taking up the cause of people who would otherwise see their public water supplies privatized with fees imposed where free water was formerly available needs confrontation.
* Taking on "water rights" groups (generally agricultural users) to renegotiate contracts, when essential needs of urban people are not being met, may be needed with some changes in irrigation practices and agricultural use for less demanding crops.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to "take" gracefully for all who thirst for fresh and unpolluted water.
Pastured cows, grazing
July 12, 2020 Becoming Efficient Sowers of Good News
Imagine a sower going out to sow (Mt. 13:4)
Many of us sow seeds and yet we "broadcast" in such a manner that the seeds are not always fruitful. Our hopes are that the land accepts the seed and in the natural process it gives a yield. On closer examination we find that we have much to do with the productivity of the seed, and so the sower has to act properly -- though this extends beyond the original parable.
Some seed falls on the end of the communications path and the words get picked up by bloggers and those who tweet bits of news, and so do absolutely nothing with them. The poor with whom we work are simply forgotten in the noise of the information blizzard all around us. Many seeds are being sown from all directions.
Other seed falls on patches of rock, sprouts, and withered for lack of soil. This is the affluent who are totally insensitive to the needs of others. These throw a little sprig of charity at the poor, and pass on, for their material cares consume their days.
Other seed falls among the thorns, the cynics of the world around us. These people ought to be able to make it fruitful, but their barbs and close connections with similar friends choke out the message of good news and thus no progress can be made.
Finally, well placed seed falls among the sincere, those willing to sacrifice their surplus so that all might be able to have the essentials of life. These are the fruitful hearers, who in turn can replicate the message manyfold.
We return to the sower, for good seed being sown is expensive and needs to be as productive as possible. What we learn from the parable is that sowing has different levels of production, and yet the last of the four is the fruitful one. The attention of the sower must be focused on productive areas of the arena of media and the public. Not all are willing to receive the message, and extra effort at attempting to convince them could be fruitless.
The extended parable means that we can be disappointed when we see our words dismissed, overlooked, and even laughed at by the cynical. We must focus on the good ground and thus have confidence that seed can be fruitful if sown among the sincere poor. The message is that fruitfulness is possible; the challenge is to hone the sowing to be directed to this target audience. Once the cynics or the insensitive are identified, we ought to see that our efforts should not be wasted in appeasing idle twitterers or cynics. Let's direct attention to those who can make the best with what is available. Ease of communication is a gift; let’s use it well.
Prayer: Lord, make us good sowers of Good News, realizing who will truly receive the word and focus our attention on them as much as possible.
A very, very small mushroom, species
July 13, 2020 Keeping Renewable Energy Decentralized
Approximately four acres of parking space at the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens are now covered with solar arrays. This is good because parking lots are wonderful places to gain solar energy that will furnish one quarter of the Garden's energy needs. Many other parking lots as well as warehouse roofing in this nation could recharge electric cars using solar energy. By the millions now homes and other buildings are potential space for solar panels to help recharge electric cars and electric home appliances. The renewable energy philosophy is to think renewable, think local, and think convenient all at the same time. Wind farms deserve promotion especially offshore of heavy population centers such as our Northeast and California. While larger scale, they are regionally local and avoid transporting fossil fuels or even extensive long-distance grid systems.
Renewables are arriving and are cost effective and now both wind and solar energy sources are competitive and even becoming lower in price than coal in its rapid decline from a being a major energy source. For too long we never counted the toxic substances and carbon dioxide emissions as well as health of miners as part of the fuel total cost. Decentralizing energy turns focus away from large centralized power plants (including multi-billion dollar nuclear powerplants and seeks to bring energy production/consumption closer to home.
A roof array of solar panels (like the 32 panels on our St. Elizabeth of Hungary church complex) indicates that local energy is being produced on the spot even when tied into the electric system; however this distributed system does not require expanded electric transmission. Producing energy even on renewable farms miles away leads to massive expansion of rights-of-way and new transmission lines -- and inevitable transmission losses. All of America's energy could be produced on those parking lots and roofs if we put our minds and resources to it. Added to this is the bright prospect that new roof coatings will bring down solar production costs dramatically -- by at least half -- within a decade. Much depends on how well the feed-back of surplus energy will be integrated into the utility controlling the transmission network.
Using methane collected at landfills as fuel is one global- warming-reduction procedure for escaping methane has 23 times the climate- change effect of a comparable amount of carbon dioxide. Methane is an interim fuel while awaiting renewable and local energy sources to replace coal and petroleum sources. Recall the potential for energy sources: small-scale hydro at existing dam sites, wind turbines on the Great Plains, biofuels at forest, industrial and agricultural waste sites, AND utilization of roof tops and parking lots for recharging electric vehicles. Renewables need not be at large land plots; they can be come from local sites.
Prayer: Help us, Lord, to think more locally and with conservation of resources in mind.
Watering system, home-brewed
July 14, 2020 The Jury is Out on Fracking and Shale Gas
Natural gas from shale formations is hot, very hot. Such deposits are found in many parts of the world, including parts of 24 of our American states. The potential, when compared to oil fields, is immense. We mentioned that landfill methane (natural gas component) should not be allowed to escape, for it is 23 times more effective in global warming than carbon dioxide. However, while shale gas is naturally contained, it could be released by hydraulic fracturing or "fracking." The impact is where the jury is still out: How much will escape in processing?
Years ago, we thought shale fuel was dead here in Appalachia, since digging up the rock and procuring the oil product would take more energy than the final fuel content. However, leaving shale rock materials in place and extracting the gas (and oil) through hydraulic fracturing has proven to yield immense quantities of fossil fuels which are proving quite profitable. However, the picture in an age of severe climate change is not perfect.
Fracked fuels yield carbon dioxide emissions. Cornell University researchers found that fracking for gas contributes as much, or even more to global warming, than does coal, because some amount of methane escapes unutilized. After EPA researchers were forced to stop analysis to find escape amounts, we are in the dark as to quantities of methane is 23 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Toxic substances are or could be found in water emission. Today the Haliburton Loophole passed in 2005 to keep from disclosure of the contents of franking operational fluids is a gross inconvenience when some of these can be harmful to people in contact with contaminated water. This contact is already proving a source of concern for people living near where fracking fluids are injected back underground.
Land disturbances are not as severe in fracking as in coal mountaintop removal, but communities are disturbed by noise and congestion through use of heavy equipment on local country roads.
Earthquakes are fracking-induced by insertion of materials in certain strata of rock, and this unexpected phenomena is more than bothersome in such states as Oklahoma and other places.
Without better knowledge of the extracting process we are currently unable to make a complete environmental judgment. Prudence requires that we go slow when it comes to new energy sources, even though the amounts of gas and oil extracted turned the U.S. from a net energy importer to net exporter in this century. In fact, the U.S. is now the largest oil producer to the fracking process. Its economic benefits versus environment.
Prayer: Lord, teach our people to go slowly enough to weigh all issues with care, thinking more widely than the profit margin.
An evening hike, approaching sunset
July 15, 2020 Recognizing the Need to Count Important Matters
Teach us to count how few days we have and so gain wisdom of heart. (Psalm 90:12)
Interestingly enough, the inspired psalmist understood so many centuries ago that limited days could indicate the need for a wisdom stemming from "counting." Quantitative measures do have a meaning in life and ought not be discounted by non-counters. Jim Vizzard, a Jesuit activist of the mid-twentieth century, used to say one needs to make a retreat, "I'm not God, You're not God," and accept the spiritual results. In other words the above title recognizes that subject in quantitative terms and, being human, we ought to have some feel for quantities. In part, that is because, with each day, life span is shortening and our ebbing energy can almost be measured. Youth may think of spans and resources as limitless but that is not true -- our span is measurable, even if we are unsure of exact length of the current span of time.
Knowing ourselves means that we cannot continue to do the exerting things (jogging, skiing, partying, excessive driving, etc.) that we were so proud of and could be counted when younger. None of this counting was wrong, and often had a goal of competing against oneself. Wisdom could result from the spiritual considerations of even our physical efforts that fade or are imperfectly performed. The object of aging is to see advantages in taking on areas of spiritual motivation, and to recognize them early to gain "wisdom of heart," a virtue needing affirmation.
Wisdom is needed in our lives for many reasons: to pace ourselves in the work we plan, the vacations we intend, the gifts we give, and the time we tweet; to let others know that they are exceeding their own limits and that resulting stress will only hurt them; to tell policy-makers that their expectations are most likely unrealistic and that drive them further from reality in planning for future applications; and to not get stressed ourselves when we conclude that certain plans will not now, or perhaps never, be reached in our lifetime.
The need for wisdom is better seen when we have only a few days left. Others may wait to take up matters later since they feel (falsely) that they have plenty of time. However, we are like team members with only seconds remaining in the game of life, so let's make every second count. Each day calls for a more perfect performance. Our prayer must be a resolve to do the best we can, and yet admit it is not a perfect success. Our fidelity is what counts now and always -- not some unrealistic measure of success. While we learn to count our days, let's challenge all -- including ourselves -- who count wrong things: books, perks, wealth, cars, house-size, friends, press mentions, invitations, Facebook friends, etc. It is enough just to count the few days left even when we don't know how many there are.
Prayer: Lord, allow me to repeat the above quotation: Teach us to count how few days we have and so gain wisdom of heart.
Almost full moon, July.
July 16, 2020 Suggestions for Improving an Annual Retreat
All of us whether extremely busy or not, need an extended period of time to reflect on how things are going. We need to get away and not be bothered by routine activities; we need to be free from abrupt phone calls or door bells, from intrusive electronic device notices and responses. Some seem to endure the response to the need while others of us look for a traditional time (mine is now) or place to seek a time to converse with the Lord. After 64 of these I have suggestions worth sharing:
1. Set a place and time. Though other things can intrude on occasion, setting this makes upcoming annual retreats possible and not delayed to a distant future.
2. Abstain from external matters. Enter the event with a resolution not to do external business matters during the retreat span. The only exception is the spiritual duties of religious observances, which is part of ordinary life. Leave unrelated reading material at home.
3. Isolation is needed. Consider a cut-off from the rest of the world. Tell associates and loved one where you will be and that disturbance will only be in the most extreme cases. Daily connectedness should be limited in order to be with God.
4. Goals may be burdensome. Sometimes we need to answer a specific question, and that is an immediate goal but not the conclusion. Leave answers to the movement of the Spirit.
5. Limited conveniences are helpful. This does not mean to seek the lap of comfort. In fact, differences in daily routine can intensify a sense of gratitude for gifts given. However, curbing sleep or fasting may prove too distracting. Some require more comfortable retreat house settings than do others; others find the grand outdoors a true blessing.
6. Silence is golden. Some retreats are preached and should not be dismissed -- if one is moved to make this variety. I prefer a silent retreat away from phones and Internet.
7. Keep a record if so moved. I must confess to never looking again at most of them, though recording is part of my retreats.
8. Enjoy the outdoors. It is important to see that God speaks to us in the beauty of nature and among the wildlife around us. We need to be open to the moments of such conversation.
9. Travel light rather than with excess baggage. Take comfortable clothing and personal items, but leave extras at home.
10. Prepare to arrive at a resolution.
Prayers: Lord, give me the grace to make a good retreat.