The month of June allows us to experience summer in its early fullness, with anticipation of the hot weather that July through September will bring. June is different, for winter has surely passed and summer is upon us, with all the fury of heat and humidity that the season can deliver with flashing lightning and pealing thunder. Amid impending events, June finds spring plantings coming to fruition: beets, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, onions, cucumbers, new potatoes, chard, zucchini, and early tomatoes.
Spectacular member of a pious lily tribe, welcome floral immigrant from Asia; Colorful guardian of our roadside, you need no tending and yet return ever stalwart each succeeding season. You bloom but a day with eyes to heaven, a reminder of our eternal goal; Thanks for your exotic summer leaven.
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Exactly a half century ago, I was attending the first United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm, Sweden. Looking back, some things are somewhat the same and some very different. At Stockholm, an eagerness seemed to prevail along with an optimism that awareness would lead to almost automatic positive results. Certainly the budding environmental movement was still in shock at the profound degree and global nature of air and water pollution, being revealed almost daily through the popular press and television. Much attention was being given to auto and other heavy industrial corporate pollution and the need for rapid improvement. Ecological problems had a media worthiness that was truly fresh and even exciting. New revelations seemed to be appearing almost daily, resulting in that assumption that knowledge would lead to quick remedies and solutions; we would soon be moving on to other issues.
This Conference had both an official governmental gathering and also a citizens’ parallel meeting, even though there were cross connections throughout the two weeks. I was told by a Swedish acquaintance that the person seated quietly two rows over was their Prime Minister, Olof Palme. His lack of security might have been expected then, but it also led to his assassination in 1986. I went over and thanked him for attending our conference, my only direct connection with political officialdom.
We had a number of good speakers who talked about new sources of pollutants; one Brazilian professor described that the Amazon rain forest, the lungs of the Earth, was being denuded by cattle ranchers who were clearing the land for pastures. I vividly recall a panel of all white males discussing global conditions, and a well-rounded African delegate came forward and with a flick of her hips knocked over the chairs and seated herself at the table: she said she represented the women and all the people from the Third World who could not afford to come to this conference; about half of us applauded her action and the other half seemed horrified.
At the evening social events I was able to converse with Rene Dubos, one of the Conference’s leading lights, who was also serving our new Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) as an advisor – and he did give encouragement to launching our specific environmental projects. From his inspiration at Stockholm, I decided to write the book “The Contrasumers: A Citizen’s Guide to Resource Conservation,” pointing out that individuals, as well as corporations, are environmental culprits and deserve monitoring and to become more aware of current wasteful domestic practices.
Through participating with delegates from many countries, we saw the global nature of environmental problems and the difficulties that face what was thought a short-lived problem area. In fact, the Conference had the distinction to inform the world (even before much awareness of climate change), that the ecological damage is deeper than originally anticipated and that reparation is costly. Here the role of national and local government was starting to emerge, and the naïve was giving way to greater governmental regulation and control. It was adramatic beginning with much to follow.
June ushers in summer, and summer has its credits and debits in so many ways. In younger years, June was my favorite month, for this was the time that formal classes ended for a few months and we would be free of schoolwork. I resolved to learn on my own during that summer "vacation," but such learning was always deferred due to crowded outdoor activities. Summer meant freedom from winter clothes and sharp western winds. In youth, June was when we shed our shoes and went barefoot-free among the fields and pathways. Also, it was the season to travel on short visits to moderately distant relatives and still be back to milk cows in the evenings. Later, when free of dairy hours, June was for hiking and climbing mountains, a reminder on this National Trails Day.
Our earlier summers were often gun-toting and defiant of state bans on weapons, for this off-season portion of the hunting year. To us, killing crows was warfare, not hunting. Pesky crows could playfully pull up sprouting seed or rip green ears later in August. In June, we sought specimens to hang up on a pole, because other members of that aggressive flock hated the practice.
Our June landscape explodes with a majestic array of colors, sounds, and smells, and we know that the land is truly bountiful -- provided rains come at the right time and place. We welcome the thunderheads bringing the needed rain, provided the delivery is not too violent. A browning June landscape is a horror that we prefer to forget. Generally, in no other entire month are woods so green, for even in July black locust leaves can turn rusty looking. However, the myth that June will last forever disappears as daylight reaches its zenith and then inevitable decline begins.
June is a month for special communion with nature in all its glory of flowers and verdant plants, but it also includes memories of the somewhat sweaty and distasteful duty of "making hay" (see June 3). It is the season of new wildlife and livestock in all their lovely expressions, but also the season of ticks, flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and other worrisome pests. This is the start of berry season; that was for us a way of making pin money during scarce financial times. However, berry-picking was anticipated then, but now the strawberry means backache and raspberry- and early blackberry-picking means "stickers" (thorns) with accompanying scratches. Mulberries were so much easier to pick, but the trees were tall. Nothing in this world is perfect.
Summer activity meant growing appetites. Culinary delights came in June with homemade ice cream, cherry and rhubarb cobblers, fried chicken, stewed summer apples with cinnamon sprinkled on the top, new potatoes, sliced cucumbers with vinegar and onions, and the last of the spring salad greens. Then came the first taste of the season's tomatoes -- a summer delight.
Saint Justin Martyr: With enthusiasm, we honor you. In the very earliest days of the Church, you mobilized the defense of the Faith through written and spoken word. You wrote forthrightly to the Emperor about the Liturgy, and this was so astoundingly in similarity to the liturgical pattern today. Your Apology and Dialogue with Trypho are forerunners of the thousands of essays of defense, which will follow through the ages -- and your position brought you martyrdom. Intercede that we today may defend our faith with the same skill and devotion you showed so long ago.
Solomons seal, Polygonatum commutatum, common spring Appalachian wildflower.
June 2, 2022 Celebrating the Cyrus Cylinder and Human Rights
I am he who says of Cyrus, 'My shepherd -- he will fulfill my whole purpose, saying of Jerusalem. "Let her be rebuilt," and of the Temple, "Let your foundation be laid."' (Isaiah 44:28)
The clay 2,500-year-old "Cyrus Cylinder" is one of the most precious "documents" originating in the ancient world and in public display today. It is a proclamation of human rights for people who were exiles, and it includes a statement tolerating their religious beliefs. Some entitle this the "first bill of rights" and Thomas Jefferson was aware of the contents written by the Persian King Cyrus (559-530 BC). An actual hand-pressed record of the proclamation was discovered in 1879 in Babylon (or Nineveh) in modern Iraq. It was taken to the British Museum where it has been on display ever since. A decade ago, the museum sent the object for exhibition in five U.S. cities (Washington, Houston, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles). It was viewed by many of us.
Past glory is revealed. Modern Iranian leaders speak with pride of their heritage of proven human rights. It is time all people on this planet recognize the importance of this ancient proclamation through which King Cyrus allowed freedom of religion; he permitted Jewish exiles enduring their Babylonian Captivity to return to their home in the Holy Land. Because of his good deeds Cyrus was praised in several places in the Scriptures (see above quote from Isaiah and elsewhere in II Chronicles, Ezra, and Daniel). Furthermore, the Cyrus Cylinder offers proof for the historicity of Scriptural accounts of the Babylonian captivity.
Today, this document holds special relevance. The Cylinder's fame rests in an ancient broad-minded expression coming from the Persian Empire which was in its zenith at the time. The honor in this document extends to all people and not just one nation. What came about before is all the more needed now. The Cylinder was an instrument of peace and justice so many years ago, and even today can serve as a peace symbol at a time when clouds of war hang heavy over the Middle East landscape.
This has a future possibility. This rare 539 BC-Babylonian cuneiform is more than an expression of Cyrus' victory over his enemies. Perhaps ecologically, this is a model for what can be achieved today and proof that Earthhealing is possible. Freedom of religion and movement of people is part of commons being reclaimed right now. Far better than bombs and warplanes is a document that people in modern day Iran, in Israel, in the West Bank, and throughout the world can acknowledge as a common aspiration of people of all religions and cultures. Warfare threatened at this time in Iran is no solution. Common recognition of cherished human rights must be the goal of a fragmented world.
Prayer in Touching Soil: Lord, give us a sensitive touch of soil, for we are kin to Earth in feeling and rhythm. Surely, we connect in many ways: through bare footprints, in dancing steps, in walking in the grass, and in spading and tilling the garden. May we continue to connect with our soil and see this act as a profound sense of affinity. We need to be gentle to the touch and yet find it a meaningful affirmation of our simple kinship. Lord, never let us forget from where we came and to where we are going.
June 3, 2022 Making Hay: Pleasant and Unpleasant Memories
June is the month of haying or making hay. A city slicker may ask, "Isn't the hay out there in the growing grasses and all you do is cut it?" No, cut grass is not hay. Pile a little of it in a heap and you soon find it heating and emitting steam on cool mornings. These heated heaps of cut vegetation, if left standing can become moldy and lose their value. Hay demands adequately scattered vegetation that dries out through cooperative sunshine. The drying is important for Hay is properly prepared grassy materials used for animal feed or bedding. Much in the hay-making art depends on human decisions and natural conditions, sometimes not of the haymakers choosing, such as rainy weather. Making good hay is an art in timing, for the drying must be just right; skilled farmers know this quite well.
The "fun" is not so much in the cutting or the drying, but in gathering hay and proper storage. In our youth, we went through three different phases of haying in a short span: stacking cut hay in the field for winter use; raking, making hay shocks or windrows, and bringing to the barn with horses pulling wagons of loose hay; and baling hay either by a stationary baler or a moving implement. Actually, loose haying is almost gone and the size of hay bales are now large rolled ones over several hundred pounds, far heavier than the small rectangular bales we produced seven decades ago.
Work involved collecting loose hay (pitching with hayforks and placing properly on the hay wagon) or baling. At least this happened outdoors in the open air; harder labor was the actual storage operations in enclosed structures. In the case of the original loose hay, storage in a hot barn in summer became a vivid meditation on hell. The operations were sweaty and dusty -- and almost choking in a tight barn loft -- never again, Lord.
The quality of the hay depended on vegetation used. Some "weeds" were more fiber than leaf and thus of poorer quality. Other grasses such as alfalfa and Korean clover were highly prized by the livestock. Good farmers desire quality hay for better milk and meat production, and so decisions on what to grow are key to haymaking success as much as the proper operations.
Amid it all, looking ahead involved a pleasantness to haying, knowing that on cold winter evenings the cattle and other livestock would devour the hay with relish. What was being stored would be appreciated in another season when fields could not furnish enough nourishment for the animals. Furthermore, the hayloft and haystacks were enticing and pleasant places for kids to play when it was rainy outside. The scent of new-mown hay (coumarin) and stored hay of various kinds were great sensations.
Grace for Our Journey of Faith: Lord Jesus the way, strengthen our powers to be mobile and come ever closer to you. Bolster our courage in troubled time; make us even-tempered as the heat of summer intensifies in the coming months. We need you as our companion, for the way is long and dangers lurk. At the same time, help us raise our heads and see that amid challenges there is joy in doing your will and having you directing our steps.
Reflection: Climate Change Curbing and the Russian/Ukrainian War
If the current war continues, is it still possible that the international community could limit climate change within reasonable goals (1.8 degree Celsius rise in global temperature)? Certainly the nations allying with one or other side can still participate in climate change talks, but with a limited degree of total cooperation. Can the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27 at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, November 2022) encourage full participation of all warring parties? The neutrality of Egypt will be a favorable component in the possible participation. Just as there is a functioning United Nations, so this upcoming conference could be open for all parties to attend and cooperate with each other.
On the one hand, the process of renewable energy implementation is proceeding at a brisk pace among the non-warring nations, with accelerated solar and wind applications. At the current pace this could allow a limited 1.8 degree Celsius increase in global temperature that is barely within a framework to avoid global catastrophe. Will current investment in fossil fuels cease (3.8 trillion dollars since 2016)? Will the economic condition of the world allow for growth in renewable investment? Will supplies of renewable equipment be adequate to meet demand? Will the current grid system accommodate additional renewable energy production?
Current fossil fuel demands are making the retirement of these fuels questionable, anytime soon. Lower priced bargain Russian oil on producer terms is partly a cause for the emerging problems. Will the pace of decline in coal and natural gas, as well as petroleum, continue at a predicted rate of decline, or has the current military struggle changed the dynamics of substitution to renewable fuels? The 2030 and 2050 goals depend on what is happening in this fossil fuel substitution rate. Low-priced coal and oil are currently meeting the growing demand for energy by India and other developing nations.
Curbing actual worldwide energy use is quite likely, if the global economy takes a substantial downturn; such would have obvious bad effects, but could be a welcome condition for curbing climate change. A concerted global energy efficiency program would still be possible even while the military struggle continues, but there would be a vast distraction caused by the war. Such a program would only work best under highly peaceful conditions, for it involves positive motivation and agreement among all national parties, and especially among the heavy energy producers and consumers Russia and China.
Successful climate change curbing is highly unlikely, if the war in Russia and the Ukraine continues with no change in status among the division of nations. If there is no peace, the likelihood of curbing climate change is virtually impossible, and thus one might expect an upcoming global catastrophe. The only true guarantee to an emerging atmosphere of renewed collaboration is to obtain peace now and as quickly as possible. We need peace to work together. Furthermore, the war is costly as to actual expenditure of fossil fuels by the various nations. Thus every effort, from an environmental standpoint, is to bring about a peace in Europe and throughout the rest of the world. We pray that peace comes soon for the sake of warring victims and for the welfare of the planet itself.
An Appalachian rainbow. Estill Co., KY.
(*Photo by Sally Ramsdell)
June 4, 2022Upholding Our Earth on World Environment Day
On World Environment Day we acknowledge the need for long-term healing of our wounded Earth. I recall early celebration of this day when emphasis was placed on awareness of existing conditions and educating people about the situation. Granted those efforts are still needed, still they are simply not enough. Why not? Because pollution effects brought on principally by industrialized societies, once affecting one-tenth of the world's population, are now involving the entire world's population. Mere safeguards to moderate pollution can only slow and not stop climate change. We must reemphasize the need to advance to deeper levels of eco-awareness:
First level eco-awareness is when keen observers point out some of the ways in which Earth is being harmed by pollutants in air, water, and land. Over the past decade there have been increasing revelations about damage from a multitude of sources, the primary ones being fossil fuel combustion. Climate-changing substances have been identified and efforts made to curb these. However, this is the level of diagnosis and emergency measures, not fundamental and longer-term healing.
Second level eco-awareness is what I was engaged in for a quarter of a century at an appropriate technology demonstration center. This involved ways to introduce alternatives to harmful practices causing the environmental crisis; the activities are shorter-term healing operations and include introducing forms of renewable energy, recyclable materials, and conservation techniques that are commonplace today. However, this is equivalent to palliative measures for giving comfort to an ailing Earth.
Third level eco-awareness is to get to the underlying causes of the major disturbances. This means addressing the destructive materialistic consumer culture with all its ramifications. It means curbing those who abuse resource use, including the super-wealthy and their modeling of materialism that a vast world population wants to emulate. There's lack of courage to address the unsustainable and uncontrolled resource expenditure; this extends to inequality in possessing resources and a culture of striving to be consumers like the affluent.
We should encourage all three levels, but not rest at the first two. In perceiving the addictive nature of the consumer culture, we need a prayer crusade to God to penetrate a culture of satisfaction and to acknowledge the need for divine assistance in healing our wounded Earth. Unfortunately, a secular and materialistic culture either denies the wrongdoing or shows reluctance to talk about collective deficiencies that include all of us. Pray that we act properly and follow with citizen action.
Prayer for the Environment: O God of worlds and universe, on tomorrow's World Environment Day you give us time to appreciate our planet, our home, our origin. Thanks for allowing us to recognize the bounty of this planet and also its vulnerability, for this our fragile Earth can be harmed by our greed and ignorance. Forgive us for failures in over-using resources, and give us the courage to move forward to greening our mother Earth.
June 5, 2022 Inspiring Pentecostal Differences and Similarities
Pentecost is one of the three major feasts of the Church, and the start of the second half of the liturgical year that goes to late November. The Holy Spirit comes before and within us, inspiring us to take up the Christ-like work in our daily lives. We experience both our role as unique individuals called to be agents of change and our participation in a global collaboration in making this troubled world a better place for all. Thus, the Spirit's tongue of fire on each person shows uniqueness, and then feeling of family through the Spirit shows unity. We show infinite variety in facial expression, sense of humor, manner of praying, and reaction to information and situations. Yet our coming together and believing as one body is expressive as well.
Fidelity to the Spirit includes our recognition and love of variation and willingness to communicate with others. We begin to see that a Spirit-filled life gives us both the freedom to be ourselves and the attractiveness in working with other people of good will. This sense of freedom is creative and liberating; this sense of togetherness gives a comfort of working with companions in the faith. We can recognize that spiritually-starved people tend to immerse themselves in the worldly culture; they cling to conforming traditions and regimented ways of thought; they lack freedom of the Spirit.
Babel, as found in Scripture in the division among peoples, stands in contrast to Pentecost that unites people, even granting differences in tongues and places of origin. Is Babel declining when each of the world's approximate 7,000 languages die out at one every two weeks? We learn about each language and its wealth; we make differences accessible when needed; we add to the Commons while recognizing our own diversity. Babel is selfishness standing apart; it involves greed in grasping gifts that are not shared but considered worth possession by privileged individuals and elite. However, fuller human growth demands sharing unique gifts in a sense of brotherly and sisterly fellowship. Competition gives way to radical sharing.
Variety is celebrated when others come to know culture as treasured by a few; we share the divine spiritual delight of the multitude of expressions of spiritual uniqueness. When some want to restrict variety through power moves or lack of interest, a Babel grows in individualized selfishness. When people want to celebrate the great blessing of human cultural expression and use resources to ensure the continuation of recorded languages even when threatened with extinction, this becomes a Pentecost event -- for the love of the Commons is realized even amid the diversity of the cultures present. All reach out to Pentecost for the return of the human being to a family willing to celebrate uniqueness, as the tongues of fire rest on the heads of each.
Pentecost: Holy Spirit, you came to the assembled as rushing wind and gentle individual flames; you inspired disciples to break out of their closed room and go into the massive crowd; you gifted them with tongues that spoke to the people assembled from all over the world; and you empowered them to move hearts. May that action of two millennia ago continue in this the Birthday of the Church and be in the present tense a movement to continue what was begun years ago. Fill us with that same Spirit to go to others with the Good News of salvation.
The cherry tree, with fruit.
(*Photo by Tim Martin, Creative Commons)
June 6, 2022 Spicing Cherry Season with Happy Memories
Why tarry when it comes to cherry? Perhaps it's because June has many distractions. Over the decade we've mentioned virtually every popular fruit and yet omitted a favorite by accident. Some cultivated and wild cherries come to fruition later in the growing season (I observed this in both Michigan and Oregon), but June is Kentucky's cherry time. Whenever ripened, the cherry is beautiful and delicious provided we get there before the birds.
In youth, our blond-to-red sour cherries would be fully ripe right after Memorial Day in late May. That meant picking them, which I always found a pleasant job, since one could eat a number till the belly ached. Picking cherries is a better task than sitting and pitting them -- a grossly tedious undertaking. In this season long ago, we were rewarded with the blessed smell of Mama's cherry cobbler sizzling in the oven. Then while the pan was still warm, we could have it as a signature June dessert, perhaps with vanilla ice cream on top.
Our cherry trees were not hard to tend, for they were dwarf and took little pruning. Their blooms were pleasant, but not as spectacular as the flowering cherry trees at Washington, DC's Tidal Basin (a favorite jogging route during my sojourn in the nation's capital). Cherries, like pears and plums, are known for blossoms and fruit, though it takes specific trees to excel in each.
After my family sold the farm, I have driven past on the way to visit relatives and the nearby cemetery where so many ancestors and relatives are buried. The entire orchard area of my old home became overgrown, but a number of cherry saplings proliferated and still bore fruit well into this century. Since some of these small trees extended into the right-of-way of the adjoining state highway, I would stop and, even with local dogs barking, enjoy a few handfuls of fruit with a flood of past memories. It is always a wonder how forgotten tastes can revive pleasant memories.
I must not tell a lie; on our church grounds we are considering cutting down a rather large eighteen-year-old cherry tree perhaps mislabeled by the supply place, for it has had nary a fruited cherry. It has grown brutishly large; it consumes sunlight space needed by other fruit trees, but does bloom beautifully each late March or April. A few years back at our parish we cut an eighty-year-old wild cherry tree because it was sloughing branches. While wild cherry wood is valuable when grown in cooler northern states, Kentucky's wild cherries are not as prized for wood. However, our wild cherries are tasty when not overly indulged. My dad never allowed wild cherry on the farm because the wilted leaves could poison livestock, a fact overlooked often and resulting in race horse deaths in our Bluegrass Region a few years ago.
Prayer to Mother of the Church:We fly to your patronage, O Holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and Blessed Virgin Mary.Amen.
Eastern swallowtail on blackberry flowers. Powell Co., KY.
June 7, 2022 Declining Importance of American Coal
Coal production bears a bittersweet story at this time of a sea change, from 50% of American electricity production at the turn of the century to half that percentage now and falling fast. A number of aging coal-fired powerplants are closed each year and replaced by renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, coal is still used due to the current growth in energy demands throughout the world, and our hopes is that more closures will occur during the rest of this decade as we strive to achieve a zero-carbon economy.
Sweetness, from an apparent environmental standpoint, is that decline of American coal use in the past few years has resulted in lowering of carbon dioxide levels along with certain pollutants such as sulfur oxides and mercury. That is good news in Clean Air Week. For non-environmental but economic reasons, the movement away from coal occurs with increased oil production in this country along with a glut of fracked natural gas, all adding to growing American energy independence, even while accessible American coal is still relatively plentiful. Drilling gas is a safer occupation than mining coal, and land disturbance is not near as great. However, it is problematic as to whether the natural gas substitution for coal is really an environmental plus due to gas leakage.
Bitterness resides in many of our coal fields, while some laid-off miners look forward to shipments of coal to expanding Asian and other overseas markets. Much depends on where coal mines are situated to rail, barge, and seaport shipping facilities. The ones less suited to coal export witness closed mines and idle machinery. Activity in my railroad town of Ravenna has seen declines from six coal trains a day at the turn of the century to none after 2016. The transfer yards are quiet and a museum to train locomotives is being built in their stead.
The causes of coal's precipitous decline are numerous: new coal-fired plant costs have been rising due to new governmental regulations now going into effect; plummeting prices for plentiful fracked natural gas haves occurred making it a favored fuel; existing coal plants have operated past the deadline originally expected (60% over 40 years of age); newer and middle age powerplants can be converted with relative ease to gas-fired ones; and (the sleeper of them all) the lack of strict federal regulations on natural gas production. The latter point is worthy of coal industry and laborers' complaints, namely, calling for an equal playing field, since fracking has a number of environmental disadvantages. However, calling for regulations even on competitors is not on the agenda for fossil energy producers. Rather, emphasis is on retraining laid-off miners in renewable energy applications.
Prayer for Gardeners: Lord, show us the season for working the good soil, for planting and cultivating, for harvesting and enjoying garden produce. You created Eden as a garden; you expect us to fashion a miniature place where renewal of life can be fostered and something abundant can spring forth for the good of our neighbors. Inspire us to work locally and cooperate broadly for the Common good; may we recognize our collaborative interdependence, and share resources with others, especially the hungry and homeless.
Arisaema atrorubens, Jack in the pulpit. Cedars of Lebanon, TN.
June 8, 2022Promoting Climate Activism
It is easier to talk than to act. We can see what must be done far quicker than be moved to do something. Today we are observing a new breed of doers, those who are willing to put themselves on the line and return priority to activity.
Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation. In fact, today our observations are accompanied by scientific evidence that something is profoundly amiss. The global climate is in a precipitous rise not experienced since the Ice Age ended 11,300 years ago. The study of ice and sediment cores from sites around the world averages out regional anomalies and allows a clear picture of the global temperature history. During the last 5,000 years, Earth on average cooled about 1.3 degrees F until the last 100 years, when it warmed about 1.3 degrees F. Climate models project that global temperature will rise another 2.0 degrees dependent on the magnitude of carbon emissions. Researchers say we should be near the bottom of a long-term cooling period, but that is history.
How do we react to clear scientific evidence that continues to confirm a series of probabilities of coming disaster, which humans have caused? We can expand our renewable energy sources, and all the while our world is using far too much non-renewable energy, causing this rise in carbon dioxide level. Changing fossil fuel by transitioning from coal to natural gas is hardly enough. Nor is a plea for legislators and administrators to change energy policies according to their own political propensities. A growing consensus that climate change is a serious issue is also not enough. Actions that bring about national and global attention are called for and some of a new breed of activism speak of the need for some form of civil disobedience in order to accelerate concern about the issue.
Must we work or pray that the renewable energy sources gain acceptance at a faster speed? Certainly. Some of us have been doing this for half a century. Hammer on gas pipelines? It is symbolic and may lead to arrests, but not necessarily win hearts and souls. Divest from Big Oil companies by educational institutions? That may have some effect, when a certain school is a large investor, or it may start the awareness that Big Energy is hardly the way to go. On and on, the questions arise and those with growing concerns ask for still more telling action.
The rise of concern is greater among our younger folks, for they are the ones who will suffer during their lifetimes from the mistakes of this generation. Some are starting to speak out, even though the recent pandemic has been highly distracting. All are asked to do something each in his or her own way. The time to act is shortening; we must act now.
Rivers Prayer: Creator God, the rivers clap their hands as the psalmist says; they move merrily and continue to the sea with the soothing sound of gentle delight. Seen from a distance they meander, though under your control; seen within their channels they seem so powerful -- and truly are. In floodtide, they make us feel helpless -- and so we are. In a multitude of ways rivers teach us to respect their presence and benefit from their movement. May we always sing river songs as praises, and listen for theirs as well.
It happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. (Luke 7:12)
This Gospel tale of woe is as old as history with parents enduring the burial of dead infants, youth involved in accidents, and young soldiers killed in combat. All too often in this land of great medical advancements and safety standards the added tale arises involving senseless urban violence and gangland killings of young people -- with sorrowing parents having to endure the burial of their offspring. This brings together a compassionate community, media notice, and often a wider community of sympathy as occurred with the massacre of the twenty children (and six adults) at Newtown, Connecticut. One massive killing after another and then we return to everyday distractions.
This is Senior Citizens Day and we discover that many of our seniors are subject to moments of deep sorrow when their children pass away before them. Some seniors still blessed with good memories must endure seeing their loved ones precede them in death. Often parents say they would far rather had been the one who passed first -- but sometimes that is not the case. Seniors generally do not expect their offspring to precede them in death; pain occurs and is more devastating where widows have no direct social means of support except in their children. In the Luke Gospel a widow experiences the death of her only son and Jesus expresses deep sorrow. Perhaps he anticipates as much in his own family? Yes, Mary, a widow, would lose Jesus at Calvary.
Examples of similar stories will continue to haunt us. Today, far too many American youth are gunned down in this manner in both urban and rural parts of America. Blame it on guns or gunners and perhaps blame it on easy access to massive amounts of ammo. Is this a condition so prevalent within our culture that it will remain as part of the American way, because we have little or no control over availability of ammunition clips by those who harm?
As Christians, we are to protect precious life and to help give new life through God's power. Can we create conditions in which less violence will occur? Some ninety percent of the annual 45,000 automobile accidents are caused by human error, and in half of the cases the victim's parents will have to go to funerals of their offspring. Must we see repeated the sorrow of one younger than the normal life span passing before their parents? One is one to many. How many could have lived to have a normal life, and yet are cut down before their time? Gangland murders, auto accidents, drug overdoses, and other such incidents will continue, but we could at least reduce their frequency through meaningful policies not now in place; at the same time we can curb such senseless occurrences.
Grace for Informal Prayer: Lord, keep me in communication both in formal settings of worship and in the private space of meditation. Allow me to blend the formal and informal, the times when astute and graceful and times I lack proper clothing and posture and yet I'm seen by you. Lord, make me more familiar to you, even while respecting your majestic power and radiance. Do not let the rapid circumstances of life keep us apart, for you are always near and certainly I wish to affirm this at all times.
Ask Father: What Must We Do in This Environmental Crisis?
The current environmental condition of the world affects each and every individual person of faith. It is not enough to leave response to technical experts who address the urgency of climate change and who propose a path to a renewable energy economy. All citizens must be involved and participate to some degree. This is of particular importance in Kentucky, since our Commonwealth has for years been foremost in fossil fuel production, the emissions of which have caused part of the climate change problem. Let's listen to the call to action by Pope Francis in Laudato Si and in his recent book, Let Us Dream.
The first thing all people of faith must do is to be knowledgeable of existing global and local conditions. The Holy Father affirms that the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together, and we must attend to both sets of conditions and the causes that bring about degradation. Denial of these existing problems is virtually impossible, but saying these difficulties are of human causation is frequently heard. The hard truth is that humans are to blame and are required to make reparation in some way.
The second area of concrete activity is for all to do their part in enhancing a damaged environment. Many suggestions have been offered over the past half century and a majority of people do something, either by sorting recyclables or refraining from blatant wasteful practices. However, we know that more must be done: in moderating use of electronic devices, potential installment of solar energy, reduced travel, or through carpooling or taking public transportation. The list of "green" practices is varied and involves many, with physical and economic benefits; ample examples exist, including those on our own website <www.earthhealing.info>. It's important to become involved and likewise to encourage others.
The third and most difficult area of environmental activity by people of faith relates to the need to share resources, especially with those with essential needs. This renewal of the human as well as physical environment is a necessity, as recent Popes have affirmed; they have emphasized that the Commons belong to all of us, not just to a privileged few. We are starkly reminded that today, less than 1% of people own over half the wealth of the world, while a billion others are destitute, lacking food or lodging security. In addition, climate change is affecting still more of lower income folks and driving them to destitution. Yet, addressing the problem of super-wealth is neglected by many Americans of all political persuasions. Recall that our Founder, Ben Franklin, wanted limits on individual wealth; so should we.
Pope Francis in Laudato Si speaks of the impact of present imbalances causing the premature death of many of the poor, along with conflicts sparked by the shortage of resources and other critical problems. He also says in his current book, “We must redesign the economy so that it can offer every person access to a dignified existence while protecting and regenerating the natural world." Pope Francis, Let Us Dream
As citizens in a democracy, we must confront this growing inequality, see it as part of the environmental renewal called for, and be willing to pressure legislators who are often beholden to the super-rich. Let's support non-violent action, including fair taxes for all; with added income from undertaxed wealthy this country could repair and maintain our physical infrastructure and expand renewable energy (solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and tidal) sources. An aroused citizenry must speak and apply pressure politically to bring about needed changes, which includes expanded social benefits in health, education and jobs. To continue the status quo with its current inequalities cries to heaven for change; we must both listen and respond as part of our civic and religious duty to champion social justice.
All people have a right to Earth's resources. Retention and private use of excessive amounts of wealth, which should be taxed and shared in the Commons, weakens our basis of participative democratic government. Through sharing resources, we will be able to become equal partners in the important tasks ahead. Those of us advocating radical sharing of resources need to overcome the fear of popularist bad-mouthing and threats from the powerful. Yes, the process calls for countercultural discussion and willingness to live simply, so that all can simply live. We need to reflect in a closer interpretation of the Actsof the Apostles: "they shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed." (2:45). Today, with instant communications the entire world is our community; applying this Scriptural example demands an expanded global vision. Let's pray we all move in that direction.
June 10, 2022 Realizing that Global Wildlife Is Under Peril
Wildlife threats come from land development, poaching for body parts, and lack of concern. The United Nations estimates that our planet is experiencing a major wildlife die-back period: official bird counts show decreasing numbers and varieties in our temperate zones, in part due to destruction of winter habitats, especially heavy logging of tropical forests. The Monarch butterfly has a reduced wintering area in Mexico due to recent land development. Siberian tigers have been decimated by commercial exploitation; other factors include internal conflicts, poaching (e.g., African highlands gorilla), and lack of police protection.
Monitoring and protection can make a difference. For instance, the North American whooping crane has come from near total extinction to healthy sustainable population levels through conservation efforts; the bald eagle has been removed from the threatened lists; the Illinois River otter moved from endangered to a pest status requiring controls. We must respect and give space for wildlife to flourish. We may never meet a tiger "there" in the woods, and yet their presence enriches us.
Unpoliced wildlife reservations in lower-income nations have resulted in uncontrolled poaching by inhabitants seeking bush meat to supplement protein needs. While most wildlife forays today are for good camera shots, that was not the case a century ago when wildlife sporting forays were fashionable. Sport hunting and poaching of sparse species for desired animal parts (e.g., certain tigers and rhinoceroses, bird feathers) are out of favor, but further trade restrictions are necessary. Nineteenth- and early- twentieth-century "conservationists" were wealthy enough to travel great distances to hunt game for sport, but they could not brag about such exploits today. Exceptions to restricting wildlife contact involve protective measures, research, and obtaining materials for virtual tourism projects to protect fragile habitats.
Excessive harvesting happens. Bison roamed by the tens of thousands on the Great Plains, and yet systematic harvesting in the nineteenth century saw herds virtually disappear -- in part to subjugate natives who depended on these animals for livelihood. Unsustainable harvesting of certain species of wildlife (eastern elk, bison, whales) has resulted in tragic declines and extinction of certain species (passenger pigeon). Human negligence and harmful practices have caused 1,141 of the 5,487 known species of land mammals to be at risk of extinction -- and there are more threatened flora and fauna besides. Frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians are among the hardest hit by today's many strikes against wildlife; they have weathered 300 million years to evolve into more than 6,000 singular species, as beautiful, diverse -- and imperiled --as anything that walks, or hops, the Earth.
Prayer for Spreading Good News: Holy Spirit, inspire us to speak and spread the word at every opportunity. Fill us with a message of clarity and forethought. Direct others to come and join us in conversation; keep us focused on a higher level of concern and social consciousness. Allow us to have the courage to confront those who broadcast fake news, and direct us to break silence and speak with forthrightness and enthusiasm. Awaken listeners to hear what is being said, and inspire us to share our insights with a widening audience. May our message consist of well-chosen words.
Adapting to Emerging Immobility
The loss of freedom in any form is not something we welcome, but it comes with age and with impairment of limbs and eyesight. Physical freedom to move about is something we have cherished from early childhood. We enjoyed the ability to stand and walk, skip and dance, kick and jump, and just hike or jog for miles and miles. Even our dreams occasionally bring back memories of freer days, when the bright landscape beckoned our advancing conquest. Growing immobility encompasses our own legs and feet, as well as our use of bikes and autos. It means restricted driving at night, in heavy rain, in icy weather and on congested streets. Advanced immobility can include the lack of total physical balance and a propensity to fall unexpectedly. Our physical freedom takes on a new dimension, an added burden, and a challenge to express gratitude for being alive and striving.
Now we face new limitations and with a positive spirit must discover good substitutes and make the best of where we are. Compensation can take various forms while in a semi-independent stage that is prior to total dependence on others; here are some worthwhile practices:
Use the phone or Zoom in place of person-to-person visits. While a certain quality is lost without the personal contact, still much can be achieved, especially when one (in Zoom or FaceTime) can see reactions to what is said by various parties. Wider use of emails may also compensate for personal contact.
Reduce personal trips to those that are more necessary. The pandemic taught us that some trips could be reduced or combined in an abbreviated fashion. Our past habits of traveling frequently are modified and involve time and resource savings all the while.
Recruit others to assist with former activities that are now too difficult to undertake alone. I have been forced to get volunteers to help with caring for my herb and vegetable gardens, though it would have been so pleasant to have done all the work myself. Inability to balance myself while working and fear of falling have taken a toll, though supervising at a distance allows some of the same goals to be attained, except now done with the help of others.
Continue physical exercise, but of a different sort. Giving up jogging after 43 years was difficult, but then giving up hiking or walking was even more so. An ability to still use a walker allows some leg exercise, but it is now necessary to expand the use of the rowing machine in order to still get about a half-hour of physical exercise each day.
Increase the sightseeing experience to celebrate the changes of seasons. Others can assist to help us compensate for former total immersion in nature – for observing frequently the changing landscape can be appreciated even at a distance. Find opportunities to get fresh air and full spectrum sunlight, which are so needed for physical and mental health. Thank God for past mobility and all its glory; and anticipate an eternal freedom to be totally present and mobile with family and friends in the Lord.
On World Population Day we ought to consider that in parts of the world a struggle exists between human populations and wildlife for scarce land. However, with proper global support programs a balance can be maintained to the benefit of all.
Wilderness ought to be restricted as to vehicle access. Wildlife needs protective habitat, and this is becoming more obvious in various parts of the world where human development impacts on certain endangered species are evident. Sub-Saharan Africa is hard hit at this time, even on some of its wildlife reserves. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, dedicated custodians have gone unpaid for years and some have become targets of poachers and military units in conflict zones. Brazil is creating Amazon Forest protective zones, but needs to do still more. Wildlife managers deserve proper wages and support for constructing protective barriers. At the Chinese Wolong Nature Preserve, threatened pandas are being bred and raised in sufficient numbers for ultimate release. By protecting natural habitats, Sichuan Province, where pandas dropped to a low of 1,200, is now seeing increasing numbers.
Specific fragile regions must be declared wilderness areas and excluded from human intrusion: unique rock formations, remnant tropical and temperate rain forests, certain springs and water sources, fragile desert areas with rare flora and fauna, and specific oceanic islands. Sufficient policing is necessary; developers should be kept from the land, exotic species should be excluded and removed, and tourists should not be allowed to visit these areas, but rather encouraged to be virtual visitors.
Wildlife sanctuaries and reservations need global policing and maintenance support. This is because some wilderness areas are the targets of competing demands from increasing human populations needing cropland, as well as those seeking "bush" meat to supplement protein demands. While Western population growth rates are small, this is not true in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, where health and education services and employment opportunities are strained by expanding populations. Reasonable population controls require national efforts to sustain them using means that respect cultural and religious sensitivities. Moslem lands like Iran and Indonesia have moderate population growth rates, while Moslem lands with major economic and social imbalances have higher ones. A long-term goal is to achieve social and ecological balances, which moderate population growth. To maintain an urgent balance of wildlife/human habitat conditions one solution is to furnish livelihoods to maintenance/police personnel near wildlife sanctuaries. When local populations regard their wildlife as treasures, then a harmony can be regained.
Simple Lifestyle Prayer: Jesus, you lived simply in your ministry without a fixed abode or added comforts; you were born in a manger and died naked upon the cross; you taught your disciples to take nothing extra with them during their ministry travels; you blessed those who were poor and sick; you recall the simplicity of Mary and Joseph in younger years. Your lifestyle was not one espoused by today's "Prosperity Christianity," with all its materialistic aspirations. Instead, you wanted us to imitate you, and so we must, if a genuine anticipated renewal is to occur.
June 12, 2022Being Godly Bears the Marks of the Trinity
Trinity Sunday always challenges us because of the depth of the mystery involved. Homilists always handle this deep mystery with kid gloves. However, we cannot avoid but must confront mystery, for it challenges us in our eternal quest to know and be with God. All of creation shows the characteristics of our God and this is evident in the different degrees of Resonance (see our book by that title). Furthermore, we realize that all human beings are made to God's image, and that through our Baptism/Confirmation we vow to act in a more profoundly "trinitarian," fashion. We believe in the coming of the Incarnate Word among and within us, and the manifestation of word through living deeds that we strive to undertake according to our circumstances in life.
Respect, deep down and moving respect, is the hallmark of Godliness, for it reaches to the entire great and magnificent extent of this massive universe. The supremacy of God's hand is before us, and this tells us something about the intelligence and balance that make up the unfolding world around us. Respect is the virtue on which all authentic religious expression is based. During springtime, life quickens with exaltation associated with a new growing season. We pause to experience life in some of its many forms -- a buzzing, busy bee going from blossom to blossom, a nestling venturing forth, a shimmering countryside ablaze in spring beauty. Private experiences must extend outward through public worship, for what is experienced is not privatized for the godly.
Sharing love is part of our godliness. From respect proceeds merciful love that shows itself in our lives. We discover the life of Jesus now penetrating within our hearts. Here the history of creation finds its deepest seat in who we are and how we act as companions of the Incarnate Word spoken through our world. We become that Word to others through our lives. In speaking as a Church, we unite as people who are the Body of Christ, and our spoken liturgical Word is the fullness of the Lord in our midst. Whenever we praise God, spread the Word, and live fully Christian lives, Christ is with us.
Enthusiasm springs forth, not only revealing the God within but the Spirit bursting forth; this is a creative power at work in our world and now expressed in loving deed. We are more than private or public silent worshippers; we are people who extend what we receive in a way that others can benefit. The Spirit flows forth as loving expression from experienced Word and empowers us to go beyond the believing community and assist others in a meaningful fashion; thus, through deed we extend God's creative powers. Through what we discover in our world, and what we love in Christ, we bring about an enlivening of Spirit; we show hope in the future glory now emerging in the world around us. This we believe in our daily trinitarian activities.
Resonance Prayer: Holy Trinity, we celebrate your love in the resonance of Persons. This mark of your greatness is stamped in all creation in the form of resonance in the smallest part of the atom to the widest span of the universe, from the coming forth of elemental life to our growth in faith, from our celebrations in music and art to our compassion for victims, and from our community life to the demands of a global collaboration in order to save our planet. May the resonance of Heaven be sensed by us and enhanced on Earth where the mark of your togetherness and love is evident.
June 13, 2022 Knowing Canadian Tar Sands Exploitation Dangers
Many Canadians as well as U.S. citizens are quite alarmed about the prospect of development of tar sand areas of northern Alberta Province for fuel purposes. This source of fossil fuel can be either strip mined or more often melted with steam by using 2 to 4.5 barrels of water for each barrel of oil produced. Waste water in the extracting process can easily pollute pristine rivers and lakes of the North and never be cleaned up to prior conditions.
One of these concerned Canadians has been Bishop Murray Chatlain, who is now Archbishop of Keewatin-the Pas in northern Canada. He speaks about the threatened rivers and Lake Athabasca in his former diocesan territory. He reminds us that water is a fundamental human right and a gift from the creator. As the thirsty Israelites called to God, so the First Nations (Natives) call to God as they petition governments. Bishop Chatlain lists these grievances of his people and how they have constantly expressed concern about threatened water quantity and quality that could occur through tar sand exploitation, as well as potential impacts on human health. The Bishop's flock have petitioned the government about changes in their health status since the tar sands development has been initiated.
The Canadian Government has been slow at recognizing these specific environmental problems. Bishop Chatlain has declared that residents have the right to participate in the process of review around the tar sands issue. Legal limits must be set to protect northern waters. Using local natural gas to extract the costly oil will heighten climate change. He has called for collective participation in efforts to do the following:
* Suspension of new oil sands lease sales and oil sands project approvals until there is a proper understanding of the combined effects of this development into the future;
* Establishment of limits and guidelines to protect the environment and people of Alberta and downstream in the Northwest Territory (NWT);
* Commitment to hold environmental hearings, with right of participation of NWT communities on the cumulative effects of the tar sands projects;
* Legal binding transboundary agreement on water between the NWT and Alberta;
* Commitment to use dry tailings technology for all future oil sand development; and
* Support for more environmentally sound energy sources and overall energy conservation to ensure that we do not take away opportunities for future generations.
Risk-Taking: Holy Spirit, be near us in times when in high energy or carelessness we take unnecessary risks. Yes, life involves all sorts of risks, from a simple auto trip to walking in the late spring sunshine. However, you teach us not to take unnecessary risks to life or limb, whether in youth or in our older years. Sometimes in the call of duty you urge us to take risks for the good of self or others, and that is when we need your grace the most. Help us be courageous in risking our life, reputation, good will and all when need arises. We trust you will keep us safe.
A celebration on Flag Day.
(*Photo by Julia Flosum, Creative Commons)
June 14, 2022Discussing Civil Disobedience on Flag Day
A decade ago I was invited to sign up with a group that was soliciting large numbers of activists to pledge civil disobedience (CD) to fight the Keystone XL Pipeline (President Biden removed this from consideration on his first week in office). At sign-up time 30,000 pledges resulted from the first appeal and it was almost double by the second appeal a week or so later. These pledges were compiled and sent to the White House to serve notice that the activism of the mid-20th century was not dead. That request for personal pledge gave me pause; what must we do to halt passing highly polluting tar sand products through the US.
I am not against the tactic of civil disobedience (CD), but have been reluctant to take part in public demonstrations for a number of reasons during my public interest career. In its early days a half century ago, my reasons were that I worked as a military chaplain during the Vietnam War and worked at some government-sponsored scientific research, both of which could be jeopardized by public CD activities. During my years in Washington, DC through one alternative public interest organization (Technical Information Project) we received governmental grants from the National Science foundation and the USEPA. My non-involvement reached a crescendo with the sit-in at the Seabrook Nuclear power plant when virtually the entire staff of our CSPI operation was arrested in New England. Only three of us were not involved. Upon returning to Kentucky, for many years I served as part-time chaplain at Federal prisons at Manchester, Kentucky; I obtained an FBI clearance -- and wanted no arrest record.
When the cause is justified, I am not opposed to those who perform acts of CD, especially Robin-Hood types of activities that help the poor who are hurt through inaction. Public CD actions attract publicity and make the distracted aware of issues that all ought to consider. However, CD leading to an arrest makes the individual a known person -- and that can be advantageous. We can ask forthrightly whether Dorothy Day, a great twentieth century model as champion for the poor would be considered for sainthood without her arrest record. The first draft of this reflection was on the feast of the martyrs, Saints Perpetua and Felicity, known today for their CD against the Roman emperor. CD is done out of serving the Lord, not out of fame that is a secondary effect of such actions. CD can make heroes and heroines.
What more needs to be said? I endorse the public acts of people, but I prefer that change can and is made through Robin Hoods who can also effect change in quiet and hidden ways of pursuit. This removes any temptation to perform public CD for a certain glory that can, in some cases, attract the reckless. If public display halts fossil fuel pipelines, more power to organizers and participants in making a renewable future.
Prayer to Respect the Flag: Lord, on this day of national symbols, help me to regard the sacred symbols of our nation. Move us to be thankful for what has been wrought for good, to resolve to treat the flag with respect, to help make better what is imperfect, and to commit ourselves to work with other citizens in voting and serving on juries and in civic responsibilities. Let us do all this while flying our flag bravely, especially on Flag Day.
Memorial for Daniel and Rebecca Boone. Frankfort, KY.
June 15, 2022Possessing Guns and Being Unarmed
On National Smile Power Day people urge us to lighten up and have a pleasant time. Certainly there is hidden power in a good-natured smile when unexpected. We need the generosity of pleasant folks to see that this can change things for the better. Smile!
For a decade I have worked occasionally on an extended essay called GUNS; I think back on our adolescent possession of guns and how the power associated even precedes and exceeds that of any who possess driver's licenses. It is one of the first powers that can be so easily misused in our short lives, and can even accidentally shorten lives. In moments of truth, gun owners will tell you about a sense of power felt, whether the gun is exposed or hidden. Perhaps gang members and certainly child soldiers would vouch to what it means to have a weapon that elicits fear, for the holder has the power to kill another. Over three hundred million guns in America comes to one per person (though only half have them), and some have an arsenal that should make us wince. Don't smile!
American weapons are not evenly distributed, thank heavens. Hopefully the very young, the senile, and those with mental problems do not have them. In fact, half of all Americans do not have weapons; they are unarmed. They are the ones with a true interpretation of the Second Amendment of the Constitution that allows the militia to be the bearer of community arms, not a bunch of ill-trained and often uncontrolled individual upstarts who lack the courage to go unarmed. Thank heavens, some are able to rely on our community's joint security and give policing groups the materials and moral support that it takes to safeguard wellbeing. There's power in being willing to live unarmed. Smile!
Unfortunately, a gun-crazed society places its safety in material things (e.g., police, military, drones, or personal guns). We are the most heavily armed nation in the world, but are we safer because of it? Mass killing occur at a rate that exceeds one a week. This mentality of material security draws weak and frightened people to arm themselves as though that will make them safer. A look at statistics shows unsuccessful defense by the untrained, through false scare tactics and unintended fatal accidents. The trigger-happy can-do terrible things, and media has many examples leading to mistaken identity and deep regret. Merely arming untrained individuals is asking for trouble. Don't smile!
The good news is that it may become fashionable again to rely on a community-sponsored unbiased police force, well-trained and disciplined, to act justly for all. To these should be given the weaponry necessary to keep law and order, combined with easy communicative access to the people. Citizens must develop a trust in this form of law and order, when it is possible to go unarmed about daily life. In the hidden power of peacemaking, we discover a spiritual power that can make the world a better place. Smile!
Grace for Sociability: Holy Spirit, you prompt us to speak to people and at times to be silent and removed from their company. Inspire us to act and connect with others through social media or other ways, including even over a backyard fence. Some of us in aging find one or other social means an added barrier because of hearing difficulties. Direct us when to speak to others and when to refrain. Broaden our perspective, even when we find it difficult to address the needs of loved ones and neighbors. Internet makes it far easier to speak to a distant friend; trigger us to keep in touch and arrange time to become more sociable.
Bearded Robber Fly, Asilidae sp., with prized catch.
June 16, 2022 Introducing Forgiveness to an Unforgiving Culture
It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love. (Luke 7:47)
Forgiveness is such an integral part of Christ who forgives sin, welcomes sinners as in Luke's Gospel Chapter 7, demands that we forgive in order to be forgiven, says that we must forgive over and over many times, forgives on the cross, introduces the prodigal son, and extends the power to forgive in the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Easter. We must be reminded that forgiveness is key to Christian love, and this upcoming Father's Day is a good time to reflect on our heavenly Father who is all forgiving.
Denial of personal sin is rampant. When a culture is one of denying one's personal sin, it allows all of us to find fault in others, but to strive to be free of personal guilt. Do we realize that no one is perfect this side of heaven, and so pretending to be free of fault is utterly dishonest? We can build up an interior impression that we are innocent until another proves us guilty, and that is rarely the case if all mind their own business.
Excuse challenges guilt. We can be extremely wasteful of resources or cause grief to neighbors, even admitting that certain misdeeds may have occurred, and are ready to blame others. For the excusing one, a hundred other factors play the part of overlooking personal sin. This is not denial of actions. but a pruning of the fault to a size that makes it easy to wear.
Escape is looking elsewhere and forgetting faults. This becomes a sought-after occupation and includes reviewing the media's accounts and basking in the ones to whom the fault is laid. Though the individual may deny personal guilt, or feel an excuse is possible, still certain offenses by others are more worthy of our attention. For these, the book must be thrown, three counts and they are out, and no tolerance is the rule of practice action. The culture that imprisons more people than any other nation in the world is not a paragon of forgiveness for neighbors. Pharisees were quick to talk about sinners; but social media does the same.
By saying "through my fault" at the beginning of the Sacred Liturgy we are assessing our own stance before God more openly; then as beggars we affirm our condition as needing God's merciful love. We accept consequences and do so knowing that this focus on ourselves allows us to move in an atmosphere of forgiveness to seek out and forgive others who fault us in any way. To forgive is to see faults as being healed and thus new life can and does occur. While those who are imperfect still must be treated with respect, we must forgive even when we can't forget. In our culture it is impossible for a person to be totally resuscitated since records remain, and that is all the more reason we must be quick to forgive; this gives way to a newness of life.
Berry Prayer: O God, Creator of all good things, you give us this season of berries: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, dewberries, gooseberries, and a little later mulberries, cranberries and elderberries. These have grand tastes and can be prepared in culinary delights. Some are harder to retrieve because of thorns or due to where they grow; this makes them all the more treasured when gathered. We thank you for these good treats for humans and wildlife alike. May we broaden our variety of foods so as to enjoy more of your good creations -- and celebrate simple things with ever greater devotion and appreciation.
TO WORK IS A PRIVILEGE
People regard their work in different ways. For many, work is a necessary part of keeping alive and having the necessities of life for self and dependents. To a great number of these, work is a duty and required for ones wellbeing and livelihood. No doubt a good portion of these try to make the best of trying situations; a number thank God for the health and energy it takes to continue earning their keep and that of loved ones. Others, such as slaves, see work as burdensome and successfully endured without rebellion or sabotage. In addition, some avoid work through laziness or a constructed elitism that considers work the duty of others, not themselves. Last, some consider mid-life that they have worked enough and it is now time to enjoy life—perhaps, showing they do not enjoy their work.
This brings us to work as “privilege,” during the short time we have the energy to be involved. Life is short, and work life between infancy and old age is indeed limited. For the Christian, work can be service in the manner of Christ washing the disciples’ feet. Answering the call to serve others is to fulfill our mission -- and it can be enjoyable all the while. Doing God’s work opens us to participative creativity work within a world community. We hope that what we do helps to make the world a better place. The ability to do something positive and to do so with a sense of fulfilling our calling can bring peace of soul; this is an added privilege in itself that compounds the worth of what we strive to do.
Seeing work as privilege is not the normal fare, but it does call for humble acceptance. Such an attitude is not better than others as such, but still, a positive attitude is worth considering. Duties, sacrifices and burdens can be positively considered and made meaningful. Certainly the quality of our work depends on a positive attitude, and not in a sense of pride and being better than those who toil with little reflection on what they do. Such a tragedy does not see unique value in work. Ou
hope is that all see some value in what they do, and try to make it a positive part of a short life. Work time is of short duration – and can be wasted and misused. To see this as such in a humble way is certainly a challenge. Is it the best I can do at this time?
Privileged work should not be personally judged as to the potential of achievement; that will have to be left to God. Working at any given time in the best manner possible is what we strive for, knowing full well that our past work had its imperfections that need not be repeated if we are wiser. We are always called to take advantage of gifts given, and some of these are never fully activated. Our ultimate success is beyond our judgment, but we do hope privileged work adds to the coming of the Kingdom. Those whose physical or mental condition renders them beyond being active workers, can be fully engaged in the global worker community by praying that active workers see what they do as meaningful experience. May all see work as worthy of sharing with people of good will in building a New Heaven and New Earth.
Wildlife is part of our world that we celebrate in June. The welfare of this wildlife is also a major component in any reflection on reclaiming the Commons. Do not wildlife members have legitimate claim on land, water, and air resources along with us? These are our brothers and sisters and fill our lives with joy and refreshment. Songbirds and raptors, squirrels and rabbits, butterflies and lightning bugs, all carry a message worth some summertime reflection. As a family of creatures, we benefit by wildlife's presence and they ought to benefit from ours as well. With global development comes those who take liberties with wildlife, and this calls for enhanced protection and respect. It is too easy to overlook wildlife pouching and hunting.
The reckless practice that killed off the passenger pigeon and decimated forestlands worldwide now is moving on the global search for sharks (millions deprived of treasured shark fins) for popular Asian cuisine, and left to die finless in the oceans. We not only threaten the habitat and breeding grounds of large numbers of wildlife; some of the most blatant exploiters poach the remaining herds of elephant to slaughter for ivory and seek the remnants of tiger populations for commercial body parts. Never before has there been such a widespread war on our wildlife.
Added to this widespread poaching are resulting climate extremes that beset stressed wildlife and conditions worsen. Drought can be naturally caused, but we humans can worsen it through climate change conditions. Purists would say that artificial feeding or watering is improper, but they tend to forget that we who cause these conditions through habitat misuse, hunting, and pollution must do something to compensate for misdeeds incurred. If we damage, we must also take remedial measures; if our actions impact the wildlife populations, we must provide essential needs for stressed and threatened wildlife.
A National Geographic issue featured an article on elephants at a watering hole, and how there was a distinct pecking order in who drinks the water first. It was a story of social interactions within herds, but a reader could note in the photos that the watering place was a concrete trough for wilderness mammals. Artificial means are being used to keep elephants from thirst in those parts of Africa, and only rightly so. Nearer to home, it is quite worthwhile to feed over-wintering birds and water the temporary residents in summer, to provide sanctuaries and resting places for migrating wildlife, to water newly planted trees and all plants, to furnish feed to mammals and ensure access for adequate water supplies, and to look after other wildlife needs. This is a duty when human beings have so impacted the lives of wildlife -- and wildlife protection is an act of Christian justice.
Prayer for Fathers: Lord, as we prepare to celebrate Father's Day, help us to embrace the providence and protection that you give us as Father of all Creation. You are the model for all fathers who must protect and provide for their offspring in challenging times. Move us to encourage fathers who need spiritual grace to hold families together during this era of pandemic and its terrible effects on young and old. May all fathers have the courage to continue wisely in their paternal duties.
June 18, 2022 Fostering Hospitality on International Picnic Day
International Picnic Day is open to several interpretations. Certainly, we are expected to be sociable with our neighbors who are from other lands, or to try to be sociable when we are visiting in foreign lands. We may attempt to speak their language, though I always find difficulty in trying to speak French when returning to my grandparent's hometown. In fact, memorable picnics were ones in Hunawihr in Alsace on both my 70th and 80th birthdays and these included festive foods of France.
Jesus expressed his sociable nature in the many recorded dining incidents in his life: the feast at Cana, Mary and Martha's invitation, several multiplications of the loaves at vast picnics of thousands, dining with Pharisees, the Last Supper, the Emmaus episode, and feeding the apostles after Easter. We cannot image that animated conversations were not part of these events. Jesus loved picnics and dining events. Christian fellowship continues that tradition, and as Christians become more international in composition, picnics should actually gain favor.
Sociability takes effort and when we lack energy due to sickness or overwork, we simply shy away from more festive occasions, or cut them short to the disappointment of those more energized for such festivities. In fact, our physical appearance may have something to do with how we conduct ourselves. So will our lack of mobility or disabilities, such as hearing loss, that makes it difficult to engage in conversations by missing the topic. Certainly, such limitations enter into our degree of sociability at given times of day, or season, or age in life.
Another ingredient in sociability is our willingness to mix with others, or rather our preferences to share only with like- minded or acquainted individuals; partygoers can become quite selective in their sociability. It is important how the early and later Church insisted that all be treated in the same manner in liturgical celebrations. If some are wealthy as St. James says, we are not to defer to them and give them special places of honor.
Acceptability and sociability may be more akin than first thought. Social acceptability goes hand in hand with those we are inclined to "like" or "dislike." Being down-to-Earth means that we accept a broader range of others (the earthy) into our company. Communal welcoming allows for creating greater ripple effects on a world with essential needs of life. In financially hard times, we are tempted to limit social services, and venture to question who ought to be invited to the banquet of life. Social benefits are a mark of communal and even national inclusiveness. We must be open to the embrace, to turn our sharing of world resources into an international picnic -- and thus grow in global sociability.
Corpus Christi: Lord Jesus, you are the heart of our budding togetherness; you give us your Body to be a sharing in the divine life. This immense gift of communion is worthy of celebrating; today is a special time to do so. Raise our spirits to this occasion, since you are truly with us and companion in the storms of our world. Our joy in your presence should be manifest to those who wander without sure faith. Some believers go in public procession to show their gratitude; others of us try to witness in a special manner at today's Liturgy. Gladden our hearts and move us to rejoice in your Body.
"Monarch, Danaus plexippus, sunning on the shore.
June 19, 2022 Holding Corpus Christi a New Covenant Cosmic Event
The Eucharist is the cosmic act uniting Heaven with Earth and penetrating all of creation. This one act of praise restores all creation to the One who created it, giving back to the Father a redeemed creation.
John Paul II Letter on the Eucharist, #8
We are part of the Body of Christ and celebrate the Lord's promise to us on this feast of Corpus Christi. This stands at the heart of the New Covenant, a joining with the Lord who is present in a sacrament of the Eucharist, a truly cosmic moment.
The solemn and formal covenant ceremonies among people in Old Testament and ancient times included a walking of both parties in the path between two halves of slain sacrificial animals; this was a solemn formality like a handshake. If either party disobeyed the covenant, then a mishap would occur. The promise of God to Abram (later Abraham) of the Promised Land (Genesis 15: 5-18) is sealed with just such a solemn covenant and is but one of numerous covenants recorded in the Old Testament. The Old Covenant promises with Noah, Abraham, and David were not negated but fulfilled in a grand manner.
The New Covenant is the bonding of God with us as a people through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This New Covenant is expressed in an atmosphere of loving service that Jesus explains at the Last Supper. In turn, he shows how to be a servant at the Calvary event, followed by his glorious Resurrection. Thus, a New Covenant is affirmed by us as disciples through our actions, our own loving service with the Lord. Our individual covenant with the Lord starts at our Baptism with our vows to renounce Satan and all evil, and enter a loving relationship with Our God.
In return for our affirmative response, we are promised first a peace-filled living relationship with the Lord and, at the end, a resurrection from the dead and eternal life. God is faithful to us in promise; in turn, we are faithful in striving to live the way the Lord wants us to in a grace-filled life. The affirmation of this individual covenant is performed when we receive the consecrated host, the Body of Christ and commit ourselves each time to be more deeply connected with that reality of his Mystical Body.
At each Eucharist, Calvary is extended in space and time, an ever-renewing New Covenant happening. In receiving the Lord in Communion, we recognize the monumental event of our salvation that includes the whole universe and our togetherness with creation. This is what Saint John Paul called a cosmic event. Thus, our reception has immense implications, and the more we believe in its power and efficacy, the more we are empowered to further the Body of Christ through our action. We partake in the cosmic act of sacrifice and become part of it -- if we truly believe.
Prayer to End Slavery:O God of freedom, open our minds to how much we are still enslaved to the materials things around us. Texan slaves discovered their freedom in 1865 and celebrated on June 19th; let each of us discover that you alone are the ultimate source of liberation and you bestow a sense of freedom to all your children. Make this a resolved communal discovery, so that in the atmosphere of freedom we can announce the Good News to others that all are free at last.
We can hardly heal a wounded Earth unless we address the problem of millions of refugees in today's world. Throughout the planet some thirty million people flee warfare and oppressive conditions. During this century much attention has been focusing on refugees from the Middle East and the Syrian Civil War; well over one million externally displaced Syrians and perhaps in worse shape, over three million internally displaced refugees still live in unsettled conditions. Many of these have left homes with little more than the clothes on their backs and move to homes, camps, or settlements that are generally overcrowded and lacking much of the amenities of life. Basic sanitation is wanting; schools for the displaced children are sparce and rudimentary; adequate food and lodging is a constant problem. The refugees are as one says, "alive but little more."
The United Nations and other public and private agencies have been struggling to keep up with the demands of these incoming refugees. Not only are the surging numbers a problem, but also keeping alive those global long-term refugees who include over five million Palestinians and 25 million Africans and Asians in various nations. Attention to these unfortunate people falls heavily on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other relief agencies. Refugees are in flux; some come suddenly; others return when conflicts are resolved. However, many such as Palestinians continue in this temporary status of limbo for decades. During this century, incoming exceeds outgoing refugees, and one wonders whether climate-change will trigger numerous "refugees from climate" as homestead floods and other extremes disrupt live.
Settling strife so refugees can return is the best solution, but that has ongoing difficulties. The Middle East conflict has no end in sight right now. The second possible solution is to find permanent homes for some refugees who often include those not fully meeting the definition of authentic displacement, but are economic refugees seeking a better life. Perhaps refugee unfriendly conditions exist because the mix of politically displaced and economic-betterment seekers slows the process. Receptive nations such as U.S. and E.U. are reluctant to receive large numbers of refugees, especially during trying financial times when many refugees lack desired skills. Even Australia, one of the most welcoming of countries, has begun a process of discouragement due to boatloads of Asians seeking to reach this relatively empty continent's shore. Let's support increased refugee resettlement.
Turning longer-term refugee camps into settlements is a current option. Children need schools; housing needs to be safe; food and potable water must be available, and working people need more permanent jobs to help support their families. Yes, we must redouble support for refugees and their agencies.
Summertime Prayer: Lord of the seasons, you gave us this time for growing things and for improving our living conditions. Yes, we know it is getting warmer and soon to be limiting outdoor activities during mid-day. Amid the heat, we find ourselves present to pace ourselves and adjust to the changing days, fully thankful that this summer time is short and yet meant for our endurance. Guide us to use it properly for the benefit of all.
June 21, 2022 Bringing a Halt to Global Deforestation
With the arrival of summer heat, we know the forest fire season is soon to come to many parts of our country, especially areas where diseased trees have been affected by pine beetles and other pests. The degradation of forests that seems to have compromised immune systems due to air pollution is unfortunately not confined to our country alone. The global forest cover (the lungs of the planet) is endangered. One-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the massive deforestation operations occurring on this planet. Causes include excessive logging, general road building and urban development, mining operations, wildfires, and clearing for plantations and pasturelands. Can many of these contributing factors be halted or reduced so as to stabilize the global average temperature rise to two degrees Celsius?
Observations are not optimistic. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration figures, carbon dioxide now stands globally at over 420 parts per million (PPM), having increased from 339 ppm in 1980 to 410 ppm in 2019 (a 20% rise in less than four decades. Halting this rise must be immediate in order to narrow the window of opportunity to save our planet from a massive warming effect. Every effort to reduce these emissions is necessary and major focus must be on both retiring fossil fuel-fired power plants and decline in deforestation practices.
All forests deserve proper forest management and harvesting practices, controlled access roads and restrictions on motorized vehicles, invasive species eradication and native wildlife encouragement, pest control, and the funds necessary to carry out these measures. The United Nations "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Program" (REDD) was established to put financial value on carbon stored in forests (especially in rain forests as found in Brazil and Indonesia). Through carbon-trading schemes, money (optimistically first estimated at thirty billion dollars) would flow to emerging nations for forest preservation, but field verification of forest conditions remains problematic. Such a dependence on the working of various agencies in different countries could make theoretical climate-change curbs far less effective in the practical realms.
One emerging technology, lidar (light detection and ranging), gives three-dimensional computer images for accurate and inexpensive stored-carbon-content information. Another possibility is direct grants to national enforcement agencies and to sponsor good management procedures at the local and regional level. Another is a resource extraction tax on forest products. Still another is simply prohibiting export of exotic rainforest types of wood to curtail commercialization of wood from endangered forests in impacted parts of the world.
Prayer during Storms: Lord, protect us we pray with the confidence of faith. Some light candles during storms, when lights blink and the roar of rain and hail on the roof deafens us -- and yet ironically there can be even then a silence of fear and anticipation. These storms call us to deeper faith and help us understand the forces of nature that confront us; we know that such events will be even more frequent with global warming. Strengthen our resolve to curb climate change for the sake of future generations. Let these storms continue to be our wakeup call.
June 22, 2022 Car-Pooling and Sharing Many Resources
Champions of private property (we all need some property) always struggle with just how much of a good thing must every individual possess, and surpluses be shared with others. The majority of working Americans have private autos, but should all drivers use them to commute? What about larger but rarely used extension ladders or chain saws? Some equipment needs to be used by the owner for the sake of proper care or safety, and so there is more than mere sharing of these items. Using public means of transportation is a more perfect option than private use for automobile owners (it was Pope Francis' option until recently).
Many in our rural counties do not have the public transport option. Here many commuters to nearby cities have parking areas at key places, where some cars are parked and others car-pooled; this means that people realize great saving in fuel and reduction in congestion. There is a slight inconvenience when passengers have different drop off points or when some poolers do not follow the schedule. When car-poolers are quite dependable, this car-sharing works quite well for everyone, since it could amount to economic savings over time. Promotions by community groups or traffic lanes favoring greater occupancy all add to popularity of car-sharing.
Regulated sharing has been expanding to strangers during difficult financial times. Sharing of lodging space is now a business and much is being written about unused housing being rented out for short-term living by outsiders -- provided parties are guaranteed safe in some fashion. Again, some sharers can trash a place, or the accommodations are not what were expected, leading to some renter dissatisfaction. Modern social networking today allows for better knowledge of both lender and renter. Some urban businesses such as motels are finding this hurts their more regulated businesses and call for tighter regulations on the upstart companies promoting sharing. Regardless of how traditional businesses react, some control is needed in this arena of the conservation ethic for more satisfactory use of vacant and idled property. Certainly insurers, now experiencing some challenges with incidents of sharer mishaps, will find workable solutions.
Neighborly sharing of tools such as garden tools, farm implements, tree trimmers, and picnic equipment, as well as guest rooms for rare visitors all make for a more sustainable community. Economic savings and social capital accrue without having all parties buy all that could possibly be needed. For every sharing community, not all is a happy ending, for some damage or do not return property. Some will be reluctant to loan that which would be needed in better quality at a future time. However, we can put safeguards in effect and check out renters and borrowers -- and social media can help in identifying less-known individuals.
Saint Thomas More: Lord, you gave to Thomas More, Chancellor of England, the courage to defend his faith when under attack, as portrayed in "The Man through all Seasons." While under tremendous stress and harsh conditions, this honest lawyer defended his position against an entire English Parliament. His courage speaks volumes to us today who need to defend the right to life, the curbing of climate change, and the redistribution of the resources of the world to those in need. He was willing to stand virtually alone through the spiritual graces you showered upon him. Lord, be graceful today as well, when we are limited in support and hold an unpopular position, the right to life for the unborn.
June 23, 2022 Taking Up Our Daily Cross Faithfully
If anyone wishes to come after me, he will deny himselfand take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:21-22)
What do these words just quoted really mean in these somewhat difficult times? In this year of post pandemic, following Jesus means being willing to do what we are inspired to do given our own limitations. We look back at the world of the coming of the Messiah. The entrenched establishment had it rules and regulations, and had predetermined how the Messiah was to fit into schemes of obsessive observance of a rigid legal framework. Coupled with this was a political agenda of liberating Israel from oppressive Roman rule -- and a complex picture of strife emerged.
In what ways are we called to be followers of Christ today? Our crosses are associated with responsibilities in modern life that include busy schedules, massive allurements, and financial and civic exceptions. Many of our responses depend on our physical and mental ability and situation. When willing, we still find life with its ups and downs somewhat difficult to endure. We have to be alert to true conditions around us and including ourselves; we have to discover a sense of urgency to do something; and we act in meaningful ways. Often circumstances make us break away from the prevailing culture and act in courageous ways.
Faith calls us to be more down-to-Earth. In accepting a cross, we discover a hidden power -- a spirituality rooted in self-surrender and also self-discovery -- a process that Soren Kierkegaard addresses in The Sickness unto Death. One of the points in this age of climate change activism is to see that we are addicted to our consumer culture. We may condemn use of fossil fuels and yet the electricity powering our streetlights is currently from coal-fired power plants. Furthermore, we tolerate the people who contribute to destruction of our planet and do so through our inaction, which allows them to continue doing misdeeds.
Taking our cross includes accepting life's challenges and the opportunity to grow in such an acceptance of being Christian. In part, our self-sacrifice involves understanding our innate powerlessness in a vast world of dangers and troubles. "What can I do as an individual?" A sense of powerlessness overwhelms me. Maybe it is even as self-revealing to say, "What can we, a body of believers, do in order to remain faithful?" Even here, powerlessness creeps in and sucks at our collective vitality. Followers of Christ look to God for the power to act, a power resting in the resurrected Jesus. Yes, we are powerless when acting alone or even in groups trusting in their powers alone, but the Spirit inspires us to launch out with God's help into the deep. In this sign of the Cross, we will conquer.
Saint John the Baptist: Lord Jesus, we follow you in considering your humble cousin John the Baptist as the greatest. We find it hard to imitate his lifestyle, because of its raw simplicity, but he was a person of total commitment. He understands that you, Jesus, far exceeded him in mission; yet he expounded his efforts in being prophet of the Most High and in going before you to prepare your way. He showed forthrightness in exposing immorality where it existed in Herod's Palace, and for this gave up his life. Again, we see his greatness, but find it challenging to follow. Lord, give us the grace to address our issues today in the style of John, the prophet.
Ceremonial Reburial of Pere Marquette’s Bones
At St. Ignace, Michigan on June 18th we were able to return and rebury some bone fragments of the great Jesuit explorer, Pere Jacques Marquette. This has been a major concern of mine for thirteen or more years, and I deeply appreciated being invited to and participating in the event. In researching my book on Marquette, “Water Sounds,” I made the shocking discovery that these bone fragments were unceremoniously stored in a box in the archives of the Marquette University Library at Milwaukee. It was a known fact that the fragments were removed by Joseph Marly, a workman who was engaged in finding the exact chapel site of Marquette’s burial in the 1870s; he brought a handkerchief containing over thirty of these small fragments to the then pastor, Fr. Edward Jacker, who, in turn, placed some at the Marquette gravesite monument and the rest he presented to Marquette College (later a university) in 1882. Apparently, a box of these fragments was left in the University President’s Office for years and then was transferred to a stack of boxes in the library archives.
My personal efforts to change the University’s attitude about a proper burial for these fragments was, for a long time, to no avail. My attempts to see that the bones could be identified led to sending letters to descendants of the Marquette family in France for saliva samples; three of these samples have been in cold storage for a dozen years. However, the top expert on DNA identification at Virginia Tech told me that only an unusual family DNA characteristic (after 15 generations) could give us absolute proof. Cost of such an undertaking would be prohibitive. We needed pressure from Native Americans to retrieve and rebury the bone fragments.
Many of those I told the story to were as horrified as I as to the fragment storage conditions. A northern Michigan environmentalist and activist, Jon Magnuson, relayed the story to local Ojibwa Native American friends; they demanded from the University that the bone fragments be returned. The university’s reluctance was overcome by Jesuit Provincial Karl Kiser, and so in March of this year a delegation went to Marquette University for a ceremony of transferal at the Campus Joan of Arc Shrine. The local burial committee met many times and planned a spiritual commemoration event for the Internment – occurring on Saturday June 18th, with joyful festivities starting the night before at the Marquette Monument, next to the Museum of Ojibwa Culture. I was invited to lay a black Jesuit-owned cloth over the bare fragments that were then sealed in an elaborate birchbark canister. This was placed in an opening at the Marquette burial site accompanied by drums and songs of the local Ojibwa community. It was for them, a returning home. All the friends of Pere Marquette breathed a collective sigh of relief; a disrespectful situation had been corrected and no major biased journal article was written about the long-time failure to act.
A very positive account of the transfer was written by Jon Magnuson in the “Christian Century.” In essence, I hope this is not the end but the beginning of the Marquette story. Some of us are hoping that the cause for Jacques Marquette’s canonization should be formally begun; this would involve as a first step a declaration of him as a “Servant of God.” The local home at St. Ignace could be the center of a radiation of Marquette’s spirit and influence to people throughout the world. Pere Marquette was a great missionary, adopted Native American, explorer and naturalist – and deserves to be a model for youth and everyone in these troubled times. With determination and human effort, this step for Marquette to become a saintly model can be achieved through the grace of God.
Ceremonial Reburial of Pere Marquette's Bones - June 18, 2022
Fr. Al Fritsch assists with the sacred reburial of Father Jacques Marquette's remains, at the Marquette Monument site, Museum of Ojibwa Culture, St. Ignace, Michigan.
Misdeeds done to our wounded Earth must be repaired in several ways: by halting misdeeds being performed; by making reparation for wounds already inflicted; and by repairing the social order damaged from misdeeds. The last two relate to today's Sacred Heart Feast.
The most basic act is to initiate healing by requiring a halt to the misdeeds -- and this is not achieved while fossil fuel consumption remains at such high levels. Corrective actions here and now are formidable and require citizen action, both in our community and beyond in our nation and world. As citizens, we join and support pressure groups to force governmental agencies to act responsibly, to develop effective regulations to halt pollution, to enforce the regulations now, and to pressure world governments to do the same. Our environment is global in scope and pollution knows no national boundaries.
Second of all, beyond halting environmental misdeeds, reclamation takes on added urgency because wounds to our world require our attention, especially erosion and unreclaimed surface mined areas, brown fields, waste dumps, and water bodies polluted through environmental mismanagement. Such repairs are late in coming but urgently needed, lest our people lose heart. Unfortunately, such physical repair work is costly and often postponed during times of belt-tightening.
Lastly, repair must be performed for the entire social order, which has been disrupted by damage to our Earth. This third level is one of deepest spiritual awareness and yet it must be achieved in order that true healing occurs. Reparation includes pious sacrifices and prayers performed to repair the damage my own sin and that of others has done to our total social order. The world is damaged by misdeeds, and forgiving words are not sufficient. However, our Earthhealing must include reparation for that order of the universe around us -- those of the local community, region, nation, as a whole and an entire Earth.
To offer profound reparation through prayers and good deeds is to fill up what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ for the good of all. It is to heal and respond to the words of Jesus at today's Calvary: "Look what they have done to my Earth!" God, who so kindly made this world in which we live and allowed the human race to evolve to its present conditions, has been offended by our lack of response to divine love. Reparation is to enter into the act of Christ on Calvary to such a degree that we suffer with the Lord in an extended act that continues through space and time. We can help in the salvation of the world through a spiritual healing process that is healing at its most meaningful level: confronting the social addiction that plagues consumers and to remove the inequality that is so painful in our world of poverty.
Prayer to the Sacred Heart: O Sacred Heart, please dwell in our hearts and make charity the root and foundation of our lives. Thus, through you we can grasp fully with all others in faith the breadth and height and depth of your love. May we experience all knowledge of your love so that we can attain to the fullness of God. To you, whose power now at work in us does immeasurably more than we ask or imagine -- to you be glory forevermore. May we love others like you love each of us.
Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field until everything belongs to them and they are the sole inhabitants of the land. (Isaiah 4:8)
We are in an age of globalization when key financiers can acquire, retain and transfer vast amounts of wealth through existing legal means. Their power makes them feared by officeholders and average citizens alike. Is it not the Church's mission to cultivate discipline and address the economic inequality of our age? In a variety of ways, we have pointed out the social justice thrust of redistribution of world resources to those of essential needs. To the degree these needs can be met at different political and social levels, we can apply the principle of subsidiarity, encouraging citizens at all levels to make this a goal worth working for. People of the Book regard land as sacred and a Commons given by the Creator as owner to be protected by stewards and temporary caretakers --not absolute owners. The land is holy and some of it is set aside as dedicated to worship. Land is "ours" as community to use, a divine gift, which we are invited to acknowledge through gratitude and respectful action. Limiting use of resources comes in different ways:
Action 1 -- Promote individual and community fasting. The Church has always had periods of time devoted to fasting and abstaining, as part of the discipline expected of its members. People can have too much of a good thing, and so human will power is better served by periods of time when we simply do with less of a good thing. This is a focus of particular seasons before a big feast, such as Advent prior to Christmas and Lent prior to Easter. The rigidity of fasting and abstaining varies with times and cultures and so this is not a matter of uniformity, but that which is fitting a certain age or time in a person's life. The thrust here is to accept the concept of limits on what we have to use -- and this approach is as old as religion itself.
Action 2 -- Acknowledge and promote redistribution. Social action is also needed. How much is good enough and how must is too much? This applies to land as well as to economic investments. In an age of land scarcity, limits need to be sought and redistribution performed fairly for the Common Good. When missionaries followed the colonial flag, they often preached what they thought indigenous people lacked. As party to colonialists, colonial-age proclaimers neglected to see Good News as a two-way street. Many indigenous people had advanced concepts of sustainability worth contributing to a broader global community. Absolute land use rights that permeated Western colonial practice clashed with the communal nature of landholding among Natives. The time is ripe for us to reaffirm the good in primitive cultures when sharing resources, and to truly share basics through fair taxes.
Prayer for Travelers: O Prime Mover of the Universe, you move mountains, tear down idols, and break the false attachments of our hearts. We can't take vehicles to Heaven, even when they are such a part of our earthly convenience. Forgive us for adoring idols, which remain hidden in the traffic jams, or parked on the carports of our homes. Break the grip that these autos have on our hearts, and allow us to open ourselves totally to you. May we adjust to proper travel means needed for our life’s journey, and distance ourselves from those "necessary" vehicles when possible.
Welcome summer wildflowers! Honeybee on wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia.
June 26, 2022 Following Jesus on the Journey to Jerusalem
Once the hand is laid to the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)
Hand plowing is difficult enough, but without going into details we are faced with the equally if not greater difficulty of following the Lord in today's world. We vacillate as to whether we want to lead or follow; we come to realize in life that we have to do both. The Gospel of Luke is a travel narrative, and Jesus is heading to culminating his mission in Jerusalem. Today's Gospel passage reminds us that the journey of faith is not all roses.
Following is part of being Christian. We are called to follow the Lord from the time of our Baptism when we enter the community of Christ's Body. We choose to have a covenant relationship with our loving and merciful God, and this means that in following our calling we are willing to do expected service with the promise of eternal life. We sometimes fail and must be called back again. The road to reach the end is long and dusty; we need to follow the Lord, for that road is too blinding when trying to go it alone.
Our "Jerusalem" lies somewhat before us beyond the curtain of current time. In some ways it has a familiar ring to the road Jesus took with temptations and opposition; in other ways it is a different time and place. We note that Jesus had disciples to accompany him on his journey; we also need companionship on the unexpected and sometimes difficult terrain of our journey. Our "Jerusalem" refers to a destiny of life and it has a resemblance to Jesus' own travel and final sacrifice.
The journey includes the Spirit who is with us. Jesus' journey is resolute for he is led by the Spirit. We are one with the Lord and that means we go where the Spirit directs us as well. Jesus is a realist and knows that hard knocks lie ahead; we foresee possibilities of hardships with diminishment of powers and the final struggles of life. Jesus does not allow the temptation of Peter (who suggests that the journey be cancelled) to influence him; we too are called to overcome the test of detouring or giving up our journey of faith. Jesus does not want followers who hesitate and turn back; we look for faithful companions and know the Lord is with us also.
Leading includes being other christs to our neighbor. Can we follow and lead at the same time? Jesus asks us to be lights to others just as he is light to us. If we look up, we observe some folks wandering about leaderless and craving some directing person. We all have only a limited period of precious time to achieve our goal. Acquaintances pass before us as time flies by and we become aware of needing to act. We are called to help others overcome their pitfalls and to join us as companions on our joint journey.
Grace to Follow Christ: Lord, your road of ministry led to Jerusalem. You asked first your disciples and then all who bear your name to follow you, even if it is a difficult and costly journey. May your determination to reach the goal be ours as well. We are called to accompany you; you have promised to always be at our side as friend and companion. We are not to turn back, but look to the horizon; we are not to divert attention to other ways. You direct us; continue to show us the way.
Blue mistflower, Conoclinium (Eupatorium) coelestinum.
June 27, 2022Listing Benefits and Risks of Natural Gas
Plentiful fossil fuels strike us as a great benefit. Many consumers and some industry groups would say "yes," but some discerning citizens have second thoughts.
* Thanks to the recent engineering procedure of hydraulic fracturing of plentiful shale strata, fossil fuel can be obtained more easily. The abundance of this relatively cheap fuel has been recognized during the past two decades;
* America's fracking of gas (and oil) opens the prospect of energy independence. Facilities built on the Gulf Coast to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) are now applying for licenses to export American gas to Asian and other lands;
* Industries hard hit in recent years by outsourcing such as metals now have advantages of accessible markets, expert labor force, less travel cost and time, AND cheap natural gas;
* Royalties help some farmers and landholders in gas-rich American areas along with some associated businesses;
* Gas-fired power plants replace dirty coal, which is known to pollute our air with such toxic substances as mercury as well as excessive amounts of carbon dioxide; and
* Gas drilling is less risky than underground coal mining and less land is disturbed than for surface coal mining.
* Increased use of gas goes beyond being a substitute transition fuel (to replace coal). It actually helps arrive at a “tipping point" in climate change. The Proceedings from the National Academy of Science says that uncombusted methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas emitter;
* Some undetermined amount of natural gas is leaking from drilling and transport operations (an in fairness from coal mines as well), for it may be more than the leakage rates of 2% originally estimated. These leakage rates vary according to extraction process, purification procedures and distribution methods;
* Popularity of natural gas by an energy-addicted public does not bode well for dispassionate discernment about consumption practices. This gas can erode a conservation ethic and retard the planned growth of renewables for a carbon-free 2050;
* Fracking natural gas involves a number of environmental costs that must not be discounted, such as water contamination and excessive use in drier areas, fracturing of domestic water wells, minor earthquakes from water injection, and toxic materials harming livestock and wildlife; and
* Boom-and-bust gas drilling can be disruptive of the social life of communities, causing congestion, pitting neighbors against neighbor, and eroding social capital by wealth disparity.
Prayer for Busy People: O God, we speed along, and a host of images and phantasms pass before our eyes on life's superhighway. In many instances, we seem to never stop and ironically are isolated in our busyness. Still, we affirm that you are with us, the motor that runs the machine on which we journey. Place us in cruise control, with you leading us on the way to our final destiny. Inspire all of us in high gear to be grateful for energy, health and friendly associations, and for the desire to do your will --even when we take too little time to seek and discover it. Be with us, O God, throughout our journey.
(*Photo by Janet McKnight, Creative Commons.)
June 28, 2022Affirming Agreements on National Handshake Day
Many an agreement is resolved by a handshake and without written statements at least at first. We wonder how many alliances and international agreements have been sealed with famous handshakes in history.
Historic handshakes: Some regard the most famous handshake as being between Queen Elizabeth II and former IRA Commander and then Northern Ireland First Deputy Minister Martin McGuinness. Actually the eight listed in Historic Handshakes by Christopher Klein are: Generals Lee and Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865; President Nixon and Elvis Presley; President McKinley and his assassin Leon Czolgosz just before the shots; Adolph Hitler and British PM Neville Chamberlain in 1938; three-way handshake among Churchill, Truman, and Stalin in 1945; Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli PM Menachem Begin; PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin; and President John Kennedy and a 16-year-old Bill Clinton, a Boys Nation delegate.
Solemn handshakes. The flag of our Kentucky Commonwealth has the pioneer and the gentleman shaking hands together. Interesting! I recall that my Dad made an agreement with a local cattle trader to sell his yearly supply of beef cattle through a handshake -- and then before the final transaction occurred, the price of cattle went up and we lost much. I said to my father, "Why there is no written contract, is there? Only your word?" And he replied, "But it is MY WORD." On a word and the symbolic handshake the agreement was reached, and Daddy's word meant something. Our family lost some income but we gained an understanding of what "word" means -- and that lesson was well worth the many dollars losses.
Secular history. One theory about handshakes is that it shows the other party that the weapon hand is free of any deadly instrument and thus open to agreement. We become a free agent to execute the handshake as a partner in some peaceful fashion.
Liturgical history. I have noted over time that some people prefer to give a very firm handshake to express determination and resolve and portray to the other party something about personality. I suspect that a weaker handshake gives them a poorer impression of me. Once on a Mission talk in Michigan, I suffered from a sprained hand but still tried to endure the art of greeting each person after church with a handshake and a light one at that, since each undertaking was painful. A lady grabbed my swollen hand and scolded me while shaking it vigorously. I recalled the story that Abe Lincoln suffered exactly the same during one of those festivals at the White House when he had to shake untold numbers of hands.
Oceans Prayer: God, you are glorious and create joyful creatures. You allow the oceans to speak in the roar of the waves, and yet you are the master of the seas. At times, you let oceans be calm and soothe our frayed nerves in the musical splash at the seashore. Oceans delight us and yet they can be fearsome at times. Continue being their master and ours, giving us the equanimity to sort out times of oceanic respect and times of delight on our marine experiences.
June 29, 2022 Designating Books-in-Progress a Novel Concept
The digital age of printing allows us to edit existing (digital) books at will when we decide that updating needs to be done. This means a new copyright and ISBN number when we assemble a new set of additions and changes. Indeed, the effort and cost of doing so is minor compared to developing newer printed editions. Not all projects or books lend themselves easily for this approach, but certainly those of current events, environmental issues, social philosophy, or clarifying theological issues allow for such a process. Perhaps those who are very near death may regard a work closure as a last hurrah. True! However, if we have the intellectual energy, spark of creativity, and willingness to communicate with others, this digital age allows for still more advantages for continuing writing works-in-progress:
Openness by the author: We are always open when our works are simply in progress, the pen is never rested, and the final result presented to the world. This also keeps the author from having to defend his or her final word, for it is not expected to be. The exercise can be humbling, for it opens us to new concepts and to defy elitist temptation that this is the last word. Obviously, this opens to others using ideas, camouflaging in their own and often more succinct style, perhaps even negatively belittling our work, and then feeling completely free to advance their thought. That is fear of our competitive age. However, we take comfort in knowing that copyrights for older and dated versions are operative.
Invitation to audience: Readers who want to enter the discussion, and have much to offer, know that more is coming and they could influence upcoming results. While naysayers have fewer grounds for final judgment, they may prefer to put people into pre-established categories. However, this approach can be liberating to positive readers who feel restricted in critique of a finished work when something is at variance with their own clarifying position; they may hesitate to give opposition to something realized to be a good work. If their contribution may be articulated in the next edition, then they find it more appealing to collaborative through current discussion with the author.
Defies final judgment: Reviewers or judges do not like this method and yet some of us who make these works-in-progress free of charge are doing so for the budding practice of cooperative book writing. Transparency tells what is now in our mind. An open and easily accessible social media allows contributors to enter in and contribute their expertise. Judges and critics may lack this urge for creative advancement, even while pretending to be positive. Thus, an unfinished word does not allow for condemnation of that final work-in-progress, because it's still being written. Judges are invited into a scripting room and it could be beneficial.
Saints Peter & Paul, Apostles: Lord our God, encourage us through the prayers of Saints Peter and Paul. May the apostles who strengthened the faith of the infant Church help us on our way to salvation. May we discover in the vast differences of their personalities that you work with people of unique talents to accomplish a unity of good. May we learn a lesson from these two.
Rose pink, Sabatia angularis. Rockcastle Co., KY.
June 30, 2022 Tackling Unwelcome Medical Costs and Wastes
When we hear someone has an organ replacement or another complex treatment, we hope and pray the insurance covers the cost. We say a prayer when someone lacks coverage and hope this person is not forced into bankruptcy. Furthermore, we wonder how some can heal when they lie in an expensive hospital day after day. Does the cost weigh on them? Mounting indebtedness on the part of hard-working people certainly can be a form of mental torture. Of course, some of those needing health care are victims of fraud and phony medicine that they accept from unregulated outlets. We need a single payer health system -- and more.
Let us look deeper and discover the heart of the medical waste issues. For years we have heard that of $2.5 trillion dollars Americans spent on medical care a decade ago, some one-third of this is wasted. These wastes include inflated drug prices and improper, uncoordinated, or unnecessary treatments. Sometimes proper diet or cessation of health-damaging practices (smoking or drug intake) could have prevented costly treatments. Efforts at focusing on cleaning up homes can eliminate respiratory problems; good diet can reduce obesity; stopping smoking can save lungs and other parts. A conservation ethic has a major prevention component.
A decade ago, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services looked for fraud and waste for the Medicare and Medicaid that affects one hundred million citizens in our country. He reported instances where Medicare paid four times the cost of the most commonly ordered lower-back brace; he noted that infections and overmedications are events of deep concern and half could be preventable. These conditions afflict one in every four hospitalized Medicare patients. He added that these events contribute to 180,000 deaths each year and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. This is just part of the total waste in the healthcare system, but highlights the lack of concern about a medical health conservation ethic. We need a monitored single payer health plan.
Through education we can become aware of medical waste issues -- and we mean more than just where to dispose of materials coming from hospitals and clinics (a problem in itself). We know that all parties (health professionals, legislators and patients) must team together to reduce waste and save those who suffer or die from this appalling waste of resources. Physicians are the key, for they order treatments and prescribe medicines. More and more, doctors choose generics versus name brands and decide whether every test is really necessary. They respond to a "Choosing Wisely" campaign needed to reduce the driving cost of health care that could break our nation, if waste is not eliminated. However, patients have a role to play and should ask whether this medicine or treatment is really necessary, or whether inexpensive but effective alternatives are possible.
Prayer in Faith: Resurrected One, our faith is seeing your countenance looking up at us from every creature. We move about in summertime and see flowers and greening trees and skipping rodents and busy bees; they all smile with your presence in the great mystery of life itself. Deepen our vision, strengthen our faith, make it burst forth to proclaim your presence to a lonely and often isolated world. Let us move from seeing to speaking and even shouting our faith with joyful and loving hearts.