In our temperate zone, October fools us, for we regard it as a continuation of September; however, frost can make a difference. October is a blaze of color: gold, crimson, brown, yellow, and a fading of the green. Many regard fall with its coolness as welcome after a hot summer; add on foggy morns and ever-shortening evenings as the month progresses. The yellow jacket awakens us to what is coming; trees shed leaves and ground squirrels scurry about; birds flock together and honking geese are on the wing. Let's make October all the more pleasant with a visit to a fall festival or sport event, or attend the last of the 2020 outdoor picnics. And do engage in politics during this Election Year.
Beechdrops Nothing found green on your plant, Spikelike flowers on the branches, Whitish tinged with yellow and brown, Parasitic on beech roots, Healing balm of wounds, bruises and cuts; Truly, you are humble flora.
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October 1, 2020Making 20 Suggestions for a Busy October
October is the precious time before the harsh wintery winds blow; we need to prepare ourselves for what is to come:
* Pick final frost-sensitive garden tomatoes, beans, and peppers and prepare to insulate the more sensitive vegetables so they are not killed by frost and wind;
* Enjoy the fresh autumn greens: endive, arugula, kale, mustard, spinach, lettuce of different varieties, Swiss chard, parsley, turnips and collards;
* Put on the fabric covers to winterize certain vegetables for late autumn and winter harvesting;
* Harvest or purchase pumpkins and squash for decorations and pies;
* Hike or camp amid the fullness of the colored trees, and take along warm enough clothes to endure the chill;
* Finish stacking firewood for the winter heating stove and ensure that others do the same;
* Fill the bird feeders for the departing aviary friends heading south, and feed the ones staying through harsh months to delight us through the winter days;
* Observe the scampering squirrels and let them have the walnuts and hickory nuts if they insist, for that is their winter store;
* Make sure the auto and other motor vehicles and implements are winterized, and the summer lawn and garden equipment have been properly stored away until 2021;
* Attend a special autumn festival or church event where all celebrate the season fully;
* Put covers and plastic sheeting on the uninsulated windows and glass panels on doors, and add any caulking that may prove necessary to close out leaks;
* Stay aware of the weather and the drops in temperature so that you have time to bring in the flowers and herbs you want to winter over until next year;
* Decide on the winter reading period and make plans to pack and carry along books and magazines in case of a sudden snow event that will maroon you somewhere;
* Compose an autumn poem of a story that occurred during the summer that is well worth remembering;
* Harvest the elderberries for a pie, a cobbler or some other baked treat;
* With cooler weather thank God for surviving summer's heat;
* Let gratitude also be extended to the plentitude of the growing season;
* Get out winter clothes, snow shovel and the materials to use on walkways and roadways;
* Observe the sounds and sights of the month; and
* Cheer up those who find winter to be a depressing season.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the coolness of autumn; in a spirit of gratitude help us plunge into the season ahead with hearts and minds aware of those who need special assistance.
Sharing Natural Experiences
October is the height of the traditional harvest season, when corn and soybeans are gathered, along with autumn apples, pears, late vegetables and nuts. It is likewise time to savor the last of the produce of the growing season and give special attention to nature's many last-minute offerings in herbs and flowers. A deep sense of mortality settles over the countryside as leaves turn color, wither and fall. Even in the midst of a pandemic we find value in pondering all the wonders of creation, for in experiencing these gifts in their fullness we can lift our frayed spirits. The haunting feeling of October produces an ambivalent atmosphere about what is to come. All creation -- heavenly bodies, plants and animals and communities of people -- has a message for us to find and utilize. During this rare pandemic, October's message seems more poignant than ever.
Gazing at the Harvest Moon. We can't help but turn our eyes to the heavens, especially in frosty nights when a full moon turns night almost into day. Those of us in rural parts are not hindered by the urban light pollution that fogs the skies from the heavenly star luster and immense visual expanse -- sights that our ancestors were privileged to see with clarity, but today's people find increasingly blurred. When the weather cooperates, we are struck by the brilliance and luster of this autumn moon; the shining vault of the heavens invites us to praise God for the vast panorama before our eyes. All astronomical creatures, especially the awesome distant constellations and the Milky Way, enliven our spiritual journey. The moon, which waxes and wanes before our eyes, enchants us and tugs on our poetic feelings. Nothing compares with an autumn moonlit night for discovering sacred space, for in gazing upward we are drawn to praise the Almighty.
Sounds of coming and going. Appalachia, as sacred space, is a home to many creatures, each with its own niche established millennia ago. We distinctly hear rustling wildlife as these busy creatures prepare for winter that is soon to come. Appalachia was their home long before human beings arrived, and all land creatures, marine life and flying birds give the region a certain natural character. The summer temporarily residing neo‑tropical birds leave for warmer climates as frosty times emerge; these fair-weather inhabitants prefer milder temperatures, somewhat like "snow birds" who flee to Florida or points beyond. Other more permanent aviary residents such as cardinals and blue jays stay, make do with what is here, brighten the winter scenes, and keep us company throughout the year. We appreciate summer-dwellers enlivening our lives by songs and chants, but admire all the more hoot owls and other permanent residents who survive in harsh winter weather.
Scent of wet autumn leaves. The warmer autumn daylight span is shortening, and night's coolness is increasing. Breezes creep up from the valleys to the higher reaches of the hills; the morning fog lingers; frost scampers rapidly across the landscape. Dangling multi-colored autumn leaves exude a beauty that is fleeting. Falling leaves return to Earth's humus, but in the process they emit a characteristic autumn scent, which tells us that nature is going to sleep for a while. Lessons are learned through sight and sound, but gain a special quality through the unique seasonal aromas. Nature beckons us gently through its teaching mode: accept the seasons; recycle organic matter; regard all things as of value. The humble leaf teaches us that nothing is "waste;" all is "resource" for the future. So this unique autumn experience is worth reminding others of the season's hidden joy.
Flowing water refreshes the soul. Water is essential to our existence, especially if we are thirsty and happen upon a clean fresh water source; we pause because this is such a gift ‑‑ potable water. One‑third of the world's people do not have the privilege of readily available clean pure water. Their streams are polluted; their aquifers fractured; their supplies problematic at best and often dwindling and threatened with contamination. On a spiritual level, water is life‑giving. We crave the flowing waters of baptism, for these are portals for entering a believing community. Through baptism we are bonded to God in a special way; we enter into the Divine Family; we are vowed and consecrated to God's service to help refresh fellow creatures. If we are saved through water, we are mandated to help save the water, so others can fully share this life-giving substance, both physically and spiritually.
Piled leaves for romping. Is the wild kingdom so chaotic and disordered? If we would but cease to romp about, we might discover a certain order and method to microcosmic life beneath our feet. We see swarming insects such as yellow jackets, just before frost. They have a mission to transmit life to another generation -- and little time left to do it. The hustle and bustle of these creatures have purpose in mind and this extends to humans as well. Youth seem to enjoy a certain chaotic bit of fun, but that is part of becoming bonded when social distance is not a determining health mandate. Releasing pent-up energy seems a compulsion; kids must hurry, for the span of youth is short. If it would not take so much energy, adults would be tempted to romp as well. However, we expend our energy in ordering the disordered, and raking leaves into piles is so very "adult." Autumn leaves trigger us to hasten about our orderly tasks, for we prefer to shun chaos. Let's tackle the seasonal disorder with a rake.
Our natural experiences must go beyond ourselves and invite in others who are socially starved during these troubled times. Let's share what we come to treasure in sight, sound, odor, taste and a feeling of togetherness. Sharing enlivens our downcast spirits, and strengthens a loving environment in which we can collaborate in renewing our wounded Earth. We cannot allow the pandemic to cause us to shun massive work that lies ahead. We look into current experiences and open ourselves to additional ways the senses cooperate. Opportunities are limitless; it is up to us to find and share them with our neighbors.
October 2, 2020 Ensuring Jewelweed Benefits throughout the Year
Our Daily Reflection on June 28, 2014 tells of the glories of the beautiful jewelweed (some Americans call it "touch-me-not"), (Impatiens capensis). Is there more to be said? A problem that some of us had was that the sap was a wonderful ointment for poison ivy or mosquito bites and scrapes of all sorts, and yet during the off-season nothing of this fresh sap seems available. Maybe there are no mosquitoes after frost, but the poison ivy and skin irritation can still be a nuisance. Actually, one can preserve the soothing ingredients of jewelweed for the rest of the year, if the material is prepared properly and kept refrigerated.
One cup of oil (olive, soy, sunflower or canola oil).
Four ounces of fresh jewelweed (can be leaves, flowers, stalks, or even roots) chopped into small pieces or two ounces of dry jewelweed.
Two capsules of 400 iu Vitamin E oil.
One teaspoon of tea tree oil.
One-and-a-half ounces of melted beeswax (3 tablespoons) if you desire a solid salve.
Add oil and jewelweed to a small crock pot or double boiler.
Heat over low setting of crock pot for four to five hours (double boiler simmering water for three hours).
Strain out plant materials.
Squeeze Vitamin E capsules into mixture.
Add beeswax and tea tree oil.
Stir until cool and pour into containers.
-Pat Novak, Irvine, KY
If properly preserved, the ingredients will not turn rancid for at least a year or two. Try to prepare a fresh batch each year. The good part of doing so at the end of the growing season is that one can enjoy the orange or yellow jewelweed flowers throughout the growing season and the moisture content will decrease over time (the moisture is not an active ingredient). At least dry the jewelweed until later in autumn (about two stalks per ounce). A very low-priced ointment!
Prayer: Lord, keep us aware of the little things of life; help us discover nature's remedies.
Natchez Trace, near Tishomingo, MS.
October 3, 2020 Playing with Fire and Campfires
Next week is Fire Prevention Week; let's pause to look beyond standard fire prevention procedures and caveats found in previous October reflections. For some of us who have camped in virtually every state and some provinces of Canada, a campfire at various times and seasons seemed the most important component of a good camping experience. The blaze, the crackle, the smell and taste of wood smoke, and the warm feeling on cool nights makes for a traditional outdoor experience. However, drought and environmental considerations make such favorite memories things of the past. This brings back the horror of starting a camp fire in Oregon when the bone-dry tinder just about exploded -- and we became so frightened that we immediately put the fire out.
If we look at campfires in their prime existence, these were the sites where early human beings took charge of their environment, for here they controlled fire (through flint or by carrying coals to a new combustible resource site) for warmth, cooking, driving away wildlife, and lighting. The campfire invited togetherness and then the first of ageless litanies of campfire songs and poetic expressions of the yearning hearts of people coming to know their yearnings. In more recent times, making a campfire successfully was a mark of maturity, native skill, and natural expertise, as well as a time of being appreciated by those less versed in such practicalities.
Looking beyond the benefits of campfires, we see that in many places today due to various climatic and ecological conditions, such fires are discouraged or even forbidden. Often such fire sites are messy and disturb wildlife and landscape alike; in certain places it takes precious resources when such fires use locally grown materials. We know that a few of the worst Western state fires in the past few years have been started as campfires that quickly got out-of-hand and eventually burnt tens of thousands of acres of grassland and forested areas.
We are in an age when playing with fire by grown-ups is considered as inappropriate as allowing infants to play with matches. However, we are mesmerized by fire since the first human grand conquest (control of the combustion process for betterment). Being drawn to fire is the nearest thing to a learned/instinctive reaction that we possess as human beings. The Easter fire event on Holy Saturday is when we put this entire affinity with fire into the Liturgy itself and the Resurrection Mystery. We are somehow wired to fire and yet we need to control our wiring in an ever more mature manner. Campfires become adult playthings, and we have to learn that refraining from this is both a safety and an environmental issue. Alternatives may need to exist: simulated lighting that looks like campfires even with color and odor. Has that been invented and patented yet?
Prayer: Lord, give us the grace to know how to use all your gifts well, even the gift so mundane as fire itself.
Wild grapes, excellent food plant for wildlife (*photo credit)
October 4, 2020 Restoring the Forsaken Vineyard
There was a property owner who planted a vineyard. (Matthew 21: 33-43)
It's harvest time. Vineyards are familiar sites in the Holy Land, for grapes are the national symbol, and the vineyard is a favorite and cherished place. To mistreat a vineyard is like cutting a tree -- a sin against the land and people. In St. Matthew's gospel, this parable with its setting is an allegory (a teaching method for moral principles where things and people have a hidden symbolic meaning). The vineyard is cared for by the owner, but the tenants refuse to share the produce with those sent, and even mistreat these servants. This allegory identifies Israel, the vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel (Psalm 80), as that which bears wild grapes. The wicked tenants reject the son of the King who is sent. Rejecting the will of God is wrong, and so we learn lessons that apply to all of us who do misdeeds as well.
A few years back, the Public Broadcasting System had a two-and-a-half hour show on Pope John Paul II, and though it passed over some important parts of his long life, it did focus on certain themes, one of which is the Jews and how John Paul II strived to eradicate anti-Semitism from the Church in his example and writings. It said that through the Pope's efforts the Polish people were encouraged to confess sins of anti-Semitism. Both the story of Israel and this persistent anti-Semitism may seem remote to many of us, but they invite our own reflection. If the parable were on road rage and how some drivers curse or even punch out the fellow in front of them in a traffic snarl, it might be closer to home. But isn't the parable itself a propos to the current problem of mistreating God's gifts (our Earth) as thoughtless tenants?
Look more deeply. God has patiently prepared this priceless planet from times of old (billions of years, in fact), and Earth has evolved in the glory of its uniqueness in this vast universe. We are tenants for, in our short span of mortal life, we are privileged to live on this planet containing a delicate balance of fresh air, potable water, and fertile soil. But we have messed this Earth up, littering it, subjecting its messengers of plants and animals to inhospitable environments, and threatening, endangering and even killing them. Through actions causing environmental pollution, we have threatened Earth herself.
In part, we are the current problem, and that makes it all the more disturbing. However, we must not lose heart; we must listen to the Spirit prompting us to curb our selfish ways, conserve resources, and share our many gifts with those in need. We may be part of the problem but, as brothers and sisters with Jesus, we can also contribute to the solution. We have the awesome power to save our threatened Earth and renew it, if we work together and do not lose heart.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to discover that our gifts are fragile and constantly calling for protection and healing.
People who observe addictive behavior and seek to relate to addicts who suffer from a host of personal addictions (alcohol, drugs, etc.) focus on individual behavior, efforts at control, and available means of healing these addicts. The prime attention is to address the individual's dysfunctionality and improve the addict's motivations, social relationships, work activities, and other responsibilities. Here addiction is a personal plight, and the importance of such treatment is not discounted.
Social behavior mirrors individual conduct; so does social misbehavior. Social addiction is increasingly emerging whether specific practices or materials are truly addictive (in 2001 President Bush stated that "Americans are addicted to oil"). The modern economic and political system is mesmerized by material consumption, and experts tell us that 70% of the American economy is based on increased consumer spending. New autos, spacious homes, cell phones, electronic devices, and resource-intensive (meat and processed) foods point to a culture overly focused on material acquisition, retention, and consumption. The captains of industry and commerce seek to satisfy this "wanted" (not needed) consumption and are clever in their enticements. Currently, tens of millions in emerging countries aspire to enter this Western materialistic culture.
The compulsion to buy and use more and more consumer products (which never satisfy) leads to competitive demands on scarce resources; this results in our environmental crisis with its unsustainable and Earth-damaging quest to extract, process, pollute, and dispose of wastes. This mostly unchallenged practice is addictive, and it parallels of personal material addictions. Cultures reinforce this practice through peer pressure, advertisement and pervasive commercialism. At this point the three major sins of omission emerge as social temptations: denial refuses to acknowledge personal sin and such consumption leads to global harm, climate change, and threats to Earth's vitality; excuse is the human tendency to see such threats and shift attention to experts who can handle and correct such practices; escape is a temptation by those who feel they are powerless and so overwhelmed and thus resort to shifting attention to other allurements.
When the social addiction is perceived and some action seems necessary, we must modify our behavior and attempt to get others to do the same. Limiting the use of consumer products is never a popular issue, but in the current condition of climate change must be regarded as a global responsibility. Likewise, all of us must do our part by acknowledging that we are part to blame for current conditions and must resolve to conserve resources and tackle the social addictions by currently befall us.
Prayer: Lord, give us deeper spiritual insight to see the problems that face our planet, to convince others of the need for reform, and to overcome our weaknesses so we can be of service.
In the past three years I have had to bury a number of people who suffered from overdoses. I have come to realize how difficult it is for families and loved ones to confront this issue. As we become more aware of people in special need, we discover the breadth of the addiction problem -- for it affects us all in some ways. The challenge is to call upon divine assistance, for we cannot fight addiction alone; this is a broad community project. Our solidarity and compassion will go a long way, but we are imperfect and fail to confront the social addictions that plague all of us, namely, addiction to consumer products.
The parallels of personal addiction to alcohol or drugs are what we find hard to confront. We love to be in control and value that we do not have one or other personal addiction that others we know are afflicted with. This raises a question that hits us hard: are we really in control when it comes to social addictions? Peer pressure plagues us to conform to what is popular: the latest electronic device, the prepared food and meat products, the more fashionable auto GPS mapping, the lawns in conformity to neighborhood rules, and on and on. Face it, for this is a society matter and not an individualistic one. What happens to individuals through failure to address his or her problem is also what affects an entire people who allow consumption to take command of the culture in which we live.
A few people will volunteer to live simply, but will the great multitudes? Confronting social addictive behavior requires a close look for clues at levels of addictive controls and cures. Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) moves addicts away from their attachments through twelve steps that include convincing individuals of their weakened state, exposing the need for support groups, and surrendering to the need for a Higher Power with continued assistance in the control process. A similar process is expected by an entire society if we are to control our consumption patterns. However, something more must be added for volunteerism has its limits. As a society we need to enact coercive measures that make it easier to overcome excesses and reduce resource waste.
Earthhealing as a motivational program helps us confront our weaknesses and discover that, just as with AA programs, so at a social level we need collaborative efforts. We are not able to fully overcome the dysfunctionality of our society without joint action that involves legislative efforts. Our education is not meant to make us better simple livers, but to influence us to work collectively to champion energy efficiency regulations, legal actions against Big Pharma that brought on the opioid epidemic, and mandatory recycling practices. As a people we must be willing to surrender ourselves to this Higher Power.
Prayer: Lord, prepare us to confront the reality of our social addiction to consumer products; give us the insight to enlist other citizens to help us in this needed environmental cause.
We must move from acknowledging social addictions and confronting them as an addicted people to the third stage of healing the situation at a global level. To heal demands ever deeper penetration into the structure of addiction, and this leads us to acknowledge divine assistance as necessary in the healing process. This means we are to endure an ever-deeper personal surrender to the Higher Power as occurs in Alcoholic Anonymous (AA). By acknowledging we are able to discover addiction's toll; by confronting social addiction we are drawn to fashion a compassionate heart needed for profound healing. This reaches beyond rational insight, passive surrender, and violent revolution. Rather, this continues the activism of Jesus in driving out moneychangers and challenging Pharisees.
We cannot do earthhealing alone. Something deeper is needed than acknowledgement of a problem HERE before our planet; something more than discovering means of control that are urgently expected in this wounded Earth NOW. We are inadequate at the individual or even local communal level and must stretch out to a WE -- a collaborative approach that sees a goal of renewal of all and not just substance addicted individuals. We have disturbed nature's balances; rational approaches only acknowledge problems and do not solve them; individually instigated actions such as AA show urgency, but they do not extend to a global level where we identify ourselves with suffering flora, fauna and people. We are invited to the deepest level of compassion, which invites us to become part of the socially addicted community of humankind.
A first level of humility is to acknowledge that people are crushed by addiction, but in so doing we stand at a distance and yet are willing to be help them overcome their addictions. At the second level of humility, we seek to join others in confronting the negative aspects of social addiction and to invite others to assist in controlling the situation. At a third and deepest level of humility we admit our part of the community of the addicted. We socially are in communion with all addicts; here and now we are poor with and among the poor. "Commons" takes on a spiritual dimension -- for ultimate success depends on raising an impoverished world with God's grace. We are responsible at least by implicit addictive behavior and, as democratic people, by having allowed addictive conditions to arise and co-exist uncontested.
The poor will lead the way. A renewed Earth involves calling all the poor into solidarity as healers. The poor embody a potential empowerment to rise as a body and take what is rightfully theirs (ours). This has to be more than mere forsaking of wealth (an act of power by the affluent). Genuine healing is ideally performed when all (rich and poor) give generously and all take only what is necessary and share with all.
Prayer: Lord, help us to initiate an effective program of healing the social addictions that beset our culture.
All I've done in my career is slow the rate at which things get worse. David Brower, environmental organizer
In a Jesuit class reunion over last year's Labor Day weekend, several asked me quite sincerely whether I was preparing a successor for my work. Actually, that thought had never occurred to me, mainly because I could think of no one who is crazy enough to follow me. Who wants to run a ministry that lives on a poor person’s income and yet strives for global environmental outreach? I suspect that others might attempt a similar goal, but through a more creative manner and with a better grip on Internet technology. Why with the fast changing pace of a world in crisis would anyone want to repeat my approach? Mine is a prophetic call to change.
Certainly I am pleased that my writings are being preserved in the Appalachian section of the Berea College library archives. To me that portion of my legacy can be available for anyone who cares to delve into any possible contributions over a lifetime. What is far more permanent is any love I may have generated and carried on with other people in their own work. My imperfections have had their costs and in our remaining days we pray that these can be compensated to some degree with the few deeds of love that are remaining. All too often we think about a cordwood building or something similar that we construct with our own hands, but these are not lasting and are a mere blip in the total of human endeavors.
Legacy can be a puzzling term, for many with kids and grandkids this is their legacy that in their own humility they hope to see continue. Other see a structure or constructed work of art that will last a while longer; this gives them a sense of satisfaction. Pastors often regard the communities or churches they build as their own legacy and rightly so. For others, it may be a piece of poetry or some more or less lasting craft or art, but all at best a fading dream. We go to cemeteries and look at the granite monuments and wonder whether the larger ones give any more importance to the bones than the smallest stone -- or even the unknown graves. Legacy is an imperfect form of grandeur that has no importance before the throne of God who looks into our hearts.
Those who are "institutionalized" see their good works within their college or other establishment as helping spread education to a future generation; their legacy is a corporate investment into a grand program of which they have committed themselves. Failure to contribute to such collective ventures is for them a lack of legacy. Let God be our judge and let us seek to be the best we can. What more as we seek in our imperfect way to contribute to preparing for a New Heaven and New Earth?
Prayer: Lord, help me see that love is all that is permanent and that those who follow will do a far better job than I.
General Reflections on Forgiveness
We need to discover the glue that allows us, as global citizens, to collaborate successfully. One possibility is to listen to Jesus and to realize how often he focuses on our need to seek forgiveness and to forgive others -- not once but over and over again. Through Baptism we enter the Divine Family and are expected to act in a godly fashion through expressing love, mercy and forgiveness. We are to become other "christs," who are willing to confront an unjust and unforgiving social and economic system. More than just being preoccupied with personal salvation, is the difficult mission of saving a threatened world of which we are part. Through our connection with various aspects of troubled creation we realize the need to be healers; we must seek divine assistance in the awesome tasks ahead.
Forgiveness appears to be the glue that binds us together with each other. The hardest part of the "Our Father" is that the forgiveness God gives to us is related to our own act of forgiving our neighbor. Our receptivity to divine forgiveness resides in our willingness to imitate God in the loving manner we treat our neighbor. So often the parable of the servant who was forgiven a big debt and then throttles his servant for a smaller debt haunts us. Do we act in a similar manner? Forgiving is difficult; for many it takes time and it takes courage to forgive another; it takes double courage to ask forgiveness from another; and it takes deep faith to rest assured that we are forgiven by God who is all loving and merciful.
With total forgiveness comes the peace of soul that we all seek and crave -- peace of Christmas night; mercy of Christ's gift at Calvary; joy of Easter's Resurrection; and presence of God within each of us at Communion. Being prepared to forgive is at the heart of what we are called to do to prepare ourselves to work with others. Some of us are mistreated by people who are very close, whether husband, wife, child, parent, friend or co-worker. Forgiving again and again is difficult, especially when others may counsel leaving, hitting back, divorcing, or other drastic measures. God constantly forgives us and our constant forgiveness is godly, but it’s not easy.
Forgiving is enlivening -- the life of the person forgiving, the relationship of that person to a forgiving God, and the relationship of the forgiving person to the one forgiven. Nurturing these bonds of forgiveness is at the heart of the art of healing, and is key to being creative caregivers and Earthhealers. Often we need positive encouragement and support. We are reestablishing bonds of unity; we are willing to participate in building a New Heaven and New Earth. Forgiving goes beyond uttering forgiving words to another; we must show our sincerity through positive deeds as well.
Through a forgiving heart we are able to become compassionate toward others, even aggressors, and not just to limit ourselves to saying that we forgive them. We become sensitive to their human condition, which needs healing as much as do our own broken relationships. We bless them through a movement coming from a forgiving heart, for blessing is the spiritual fertilizer that allows communities to grow. Our blessings are Good News, the spreading of God's kingdom in our world. These blessings involve bare forgiveness required so that we are forgiven by the Lord; they include realizing that my own faults hurt the very persons we seek to forgive; and they attempt to become at one with the offending parties and wish them happiness.
Cases arise where I forgive because the action done to me has ceased, or because I personally tolerate it, if still ongoing. But can I speak for a third party who is being offended by this very wrongdoer who offended me? Reconciliation needs to occur, not only between that person and me, but also between that person and the third party who is presently offended. Forgiveness is not forgetfulness; it does not overlook the action being done and thereby implicitly, at least, condone current wrongdoing, which must cease. When I make the forgiven a friend, I attempt to get this wrongdoing to stop for the sake of others; we desire to bring reconciliation to all the human family. This takes added courage.
In a more perfect world, giving and receiving are truly simultaneous. In our imperfect one, we beg forgiveness even before we are truly able to totally forgive. God's grace of forgiveness is the pure expression of God's love shown to us, for we in no way deserve this act of divine mercy. Never in Scripture does it say that those who sincerely beg for forgiveness are forgotten by God. Even on Calvary, the good thief begs for forgiveness, and he is the only person to be personally canonized by Christ -- and even before his own death. In Mark 2:1-12 Jesus cures the paralyzed man and forgives his sins; amazingly, the physical miracle is more easily accepted by critics than the act of forgiveness. The crowd begins to regard Jesus as a wonderworker; the Scribes accuse Jesus of blasphemy for saying he can forgive sins, an act that they consider belongs to God alone.
God's mercy includes the divine willingness to extend the power of forgiveness to the Church through its ordained ministers. We note that forgiveness is so wed to the miracle of the Resurrection, namely, to forgive is to give new life. "For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven..." (John 20:23). God is forgiving, and miracles point to that more wonderful act, which is spiritual and not merely physical healing. Through forgiveness, souls are healed and renewed in life. Pope John Paul II forgave the man who attempted to assassinate him. My cousin, Spanky Fister, journeyed to the Florida prison and forgave in the name of his family the murderer of his brother. This was heroic and a wonder of God's grace at work. Among the great miracles of grace is willingness to forgive others from the bottom of our hearts, and truly to believe that we are forgiven by God.
October 9, 2020 Learning Lessons from Champlain's Exploits
The audio-book, Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer is an inspirational piece for anyone taking a long trip. In fact, I heard this ten-hour story twice and found much more information the second time around. The book gives a respectful insight into the early French explorer, Samuel Champlain. Rarely do I recommend books, but this story is deeply impressive because of the tolerance Champlain showed towards Native Americans, his willingness to live among them, to learn from them, and to exchange the good of French culture with that of Native Americans. Even the word "savage" does not have the pejorative tone we place on it today, but was derived from silva, the Latin word for forest -- the woodland people.
The dream of Champlain was so different from the savage reality of the European religious wars with which Champlain had been involved in the late 16th century. He was a loyal subject of his beloved leader, Henry the IV (Great), who treated Samuel like a son. The death of the king set Champlain back in his efforts at colonizing Quebec and the Canadian regions of the St. Lawrence and Acadia -- but not entirely. Champlain's ability to bounce back was astounding, for no adversity held him down. He gave his North American friends and the early French colonists a willingness to overcome obstacles, in an effort to settle what was to be Canada.
The skills of this great explorer were enormous -- maritime shipping, military leadership, fund-raising, gardening, map-making, governance in the colonies, house-building, fortification construction, and on and on. He was a human being and some things did not work perfectly, such as his married life. However, Champlain's sense of justice and integrity impressed both colonists and Native American residents -- and the Sac and Fox continued an oral tradition of favorable tales about this unusual European for two centuries even after they moved to central United States. Champlain did not receive honors or monetary rewards of any noticeable degree and he fell out with later French rulers and bureaucrats, but he never lost hope.
Throughout his three decades in North America, Champlain remained committed to a remarkable Grand Design for France's colony. A leader who dreamed of humanity and peace in a world of cruelty and violence, he was a true visionary, especially when compared to his English and Spanish contemporaries. If Samuel Champlain were living today he would support our quest for sharing the commons with all the unfortunate of the world -- for he was a devout Christian with a global vision. He was a man of his times; he accepted hierarchical monarchy, but would have valued today's democratic government, where all are regarded as equal.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to listen well and to learn from what we hear as much as from what we read; help us be aware of famous people of integrity such as Samuel Champlain and to show them as authentic models for others to follow.
October 10, 2020 Performing Small Earthhealing Acts: Good or Bad?
We can reflect on doing small acts to heal our wounded Earth: picking up litter, disposing of a container properly, or turning down the noise-maker. Good? yes; but also bad? Sometimes.
The benefits of small ecological acts are often enumerated on this website in many ways: consciousness-raising on the part of the person to individual and domestic resource use and conservation; negative awareness, namely, wastefulness by others who may have to be reminded of their duties as consumers to use resources properly; a growing sense of respect for modern technology and its impact on the total environment; a grounding in concerns at our local level; gratitude for a multitude of individual gifts given for my short- lived use; growth in observational skill about changes in nature's seasons and conditions; opportunities for exertion in doing physical exercise in constructive ways; and new ways of teaching others positive aspects about our Earth. In little ways we grow spiritually, psychologically, and possibly ecologically -- to a point; however this point requires further reflection.
Risks exist in doing small acts: we can miss the big picture by focusing on minutiae; we can become satisfied with what we are doing in a self-righteous manner; we can become critical of what others are doing or failing to do to the point of irritating them; we can excuse ourselves from reaching out to others in parts of the world because of local activities; and we can avoid exerting and risky activities that challenge a dysfunctioning economic and political system in which we are immersed.
As a little kid I would daydream that if we had a house fire I would at least grab my shoes and a fly swatter and run for the door; at least I could save something. Then the thought came; how about helping to put out the fire? Arranging deck chairs on the sinking Titanic no matter how perfectly executed will not save the sinking ship. Then it begins to dawn that tiding up small areas may have a ripple effect, but it will not stop the hurricane that is coming. Thinking globally and acting locally prepares us to do more, namely to think and act collectively with others globally.
Small acts, when offered in a global perspective generously and openly, lead to grander acts on the spiritual plane. In fact, small acts can be transformed into grander acts, and this is precisely what we are called to do in our spiritual life. When prayerfully and sacramentally united with the Lord, we have a spiritual power to transform little deeds into bigger ones, into deeds of cosmic sacrifice -- and we have a responsibly to do so. We may have opportunities to effect grander scale change, and the invitation exists to do so. Our physical and mental efforts may be limited by age, condition, or opportunity; our potential spiritual efforts can be immense if we think big and act accordingly.
Prayer: Lord, give us a sense of power found in being close to you, and to see that through this power we can effect change.
The reign of God may be likened to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. (Matthew 22: 1-14)
As we prepare to celebrate World Food Day next week, we ought to see that our Creator has given us a banquet of food gifts -- if we only use them conservatively and share them with people in need. Celebration in the form of sharing food and a meal is found in virtually all cultures; it was observed in Israel and in the Canaanite culture that preceded it. Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Africans have celebrations and festive foods -- much as our American Thanksgiving meal is a festive event. Guests and seating arrangements are often carefully planned. Jesus was undoubtedly social and liked meals and feasts. He was at a wedding at Cana when performing his first miracle, and he attended feasts and was asked why he did not fast from eating and drinking.
Jesus used one such festive occasion as the background for his parable; he manifested his social nature to include the perpetual memorial -- the Eucharistic meal. In fact, the reign of the Kingdom of Heaven is like a meal -- full of life and joy, including inviting and sharing. The multitude allows for social support as do churches and chapels of all sizes, or vast gatherings such as at World Youth gatherings. We celebrate our common past through cultural events; we prepare for and expect a greater future when we all assemble and share with each other.
God prepared this Earth during billions of years for our arrival and presence. In only an instant of geologic time, we human beings have entered the scene and left our marks on this fragile Earth. We have not appreciated God's gifts, whereas we need to constantly say, "thank you," a free act, which only human beings can utter. Gratitude for gifts given is the pinnacle of created beings. Our life span contains a multitude of gifts, of which some were sequestered by a few of the most greedy who, in turn, failed to share these with all people. This results in hunger and destitution affecting many and super-abundance a few.
Meals reach beyond being memorials of the past, and are the preparations for a new future life. We celebrate weddings and anniversaries that look as much ahead as to the past. Through sharing food we are encouraged to join forces and make the world a better place; we know that time is short and that we must work together to preserve the quality of that precious life. As Melville says in Moby Dick, "I am a man running out of time." The festive occasion fortifies us for the journey ahead. It is a foreshadowing of a future heavenly banquet, and it gives us the energy to carry on in moving to eternity. All of us need to gather with joy and ease of heart, seeking forgiveness for past misdeeds, and begging the grace to share a future heavenly banquet.
Prayer: Lord, help us to conduct ourselves properly in the event before us, sharing the good things with those in need.
Golden ear of corn. Family farm in Woodford Co., KY.
October 12, 2020 Growing "Three Sisters"-- Corn, Beans, and Squash
On Columbus or Discovery Day it is wise for us to recount the many blessings that resulted when Old and New World cultures met in the 15th and 16th century. We hear of mixed blessings when those meetings occurred, some with benefits and some with unhappy outcomes. We hear of the spread of diseases and horrible stories of exploitation; we also learn about the multitude of benefits that include agricultural products and expertise passed on to Europe. Corn or maize is a major New World gift to the wider world along with tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, tobacco, pumpkin, squash, and certain legumes. We forget that Native Americans used highly sophisticated techniques for producing plenty of these foods.
The "Three Sisters" included corn growing on stalks, beans climbing up these stalks as though they were bean poles, and squash at the ground level acting as living mulch to retain moisture and avoid weeds. Growing the combination of the three was ingenious and occurred over sizeable land areas, but did not require tilling the entire surface areas. Where fertile land was in abundance, this proved to be excellent cultivation practice that only required sowing and reaping in the autumn. The produce that resulted all lent themselves to be dried and stored for consumption during the winter months. Furthermore, Native Americans had green-corn harvest festivals and introduced the world to corn on the cob. The resulting beans and corn cooked together yield tasty succotash.
Native Americans were introduced to the "three sisters" at different times; corn came about 800 AD and beans about 1200 AD with the crops coming from tropical parts of the New World. Cultivation of squash was far older (about 700 BC) and plants were more native to the temperate regions. However, by 1200 AD and beyond the "three sisters" held agricultural prominence, and led to more permanent settlements with women being the ones who tended the crops. This was especially true among Iroquois nations of the American Northeast.
I have grown the "three sisters;” the combination works, but I discovered that my garden space limitations does not allow for extensive cultivation. On small plots, it is far more economical and prudent to grow salad greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, and other crops that do not take much space when judiciously placed (as does the growing of corn). An added aspect is that the beans return nitrogen to the soil and thus allow a balance in growing, though some fertilizing was part of the Native American culture. People are unaware that these Native people cultivated vast tracts of land (sometimes hundreds of acres) from upper New York to beyond the Mississippi River valley. They either cleared the land or turned Prairies into cultivated fields. Their entire cultivation avoided total surface tillage -- a major labor saving practice.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be open to the lessons taught by primitive peoples, and to learn to respect their expertise in many areas involving ecological balance and food production.
Field thistle, Cirsium discolor, native Kentucky wildflower.
October 13, 2020Disposing Nuclear Waste & Modern Mythology Day
A myth is a fictional story (generally of unknown authorship) with some sort of historical basis that attempts to explain some phenomenon (origin of Earth, animals, people. etc.). We do not know the precise person who started the myth that nuclear wastes could be properly disposed, though Elizabeth Dodson Gray once suggested that it was begun by nuclear engineers who had never changed diapers. Nuclear waste differs from a diaper in that it does not undergo rapid decomposition -- for worrisome radioactive levels remain long past our lifetimes.
The Obama administration authorized the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (BRC) not to find a new site for the abandonment of the Yucca Mountain, Nevada radioactive waste project, but rather as a method of coping with the current waste materials that need some safe containment. Is "disposal" even the right word when worrisome toxic materials remain for centuries? Amazingly, some of the expert advisors to the BRC are more interested in continued generation of that waste, not its termination; the operative principle with which that group works is an expectation to make dirty diapers disappear -- but they won't.
When Art Purcell, Mary Davis, and I were working on "Critical Hour" from 1988 to 2004, the question came to us over and over, how can we explain a safe solution to the nuclear waste disposal issue? It remains an ongoing puzzle. When hot spent-fuel rods are put for a number of years in water-filled, on-site pools at nuclear powerplants, one still has problems (as the Japanese at Fukushima soon discovered after the earthquake in 2011); critical coolant can leak out and refilling that pool can be difficult. Furthermore, these pools are open to terrorist sabotage, and so are the next door powerplants. Earth Healing, Inc. is part of the coalition of groups that favor some basic environmental safety procedures:
* Stop generating radioactive waste from electricity-producing power plants but halting the operations;
* Affirm that ending the Yucca Mountain project was proper;
* Remove radioactive wastes more than five years old from the fuel pools and place into dry casts;
* Harden the dried casts to protect against natural disasters, terrorism, and unforeseen events; and
* Halt unnecessary transportation of radioactive waste to "interim" waste sites.
These elements are not solutions, only ways to handle a bad situation until a better one can be developed. Hardening materials could be of such permanent material that they will appear indestructible -- but it is the "appearing" that causes the ongoing puzzle to remain unresolved -- and the myth of safe disposal.
Prayer: Lord, teach us our limits and how we find these in problems such as nuclear waste disposal.
Fallen leaves collected in a broken fountain.
October 14, 2020 Pinpointing the Devil: Is Evil Personified?
In the summer of 2019 two events occurred that were both spontaneous and related: namely at the U.S. House of Representatives the Jesuit chaplain recited a prayer of exorcism; in the Columbian Pacific seaport of Buenaventura the Bishop went by helicopter and said a prayer of exorcism due to a large number of murders. The devil is at work! This devil has been highly successful in promoting his non-existence both here and abroad.
For those who promote the discernment of spirits and who proclaim good spirits a reality, we have to pause - does an Evil One exist and is this person doing evil throughout the world? In this age of the myth of non-personal evil, are some of us afraid of being ostracized for even considering this subject? To acknowledge evil is one thing; to say that there is an Evil One is another. Do some hold that all spiritualities are good or at least neutral in themselves? Did this author have the indignity of being shunted to a special single-person session at the World Council on Religion in Chicago in 1992 because he held there were evil spiritualities? And is that not the price of defending the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola, who championed the discernment of spirits -- and that not all are good ones?
If evil is personified, then our world has this presence of evil relating personally to people in our midst, tempting them, and enticing them to misdeeds and greed. Does that Evil One to whom we need to be delivered in the Our Father prayer also enter the homes of the unfortunate and disturb them? Does this one reach deeper than personal allurements and temptations to excessive or inappropriate use of material things and practices?
Is this Evil One masterminding a social conflict that involves the entire planet? What about the entire unjust economic system that allows for vast wealth by a few along with destitution suffered by the millions? Is the devil behind profit-making, self-centered, greed-filled motivations? Is this not where divine and diabolic powers are in battle? Have we been remise by speaking of "Spirit" with a capital letter when we only mean the "Holy Spirit?" Do we fail to acknowledge the titanic battle of good and evil involving persons beyond ourselves that is global in nature? Is the struggle today to save our world from the devastating effects of climate change also part of the authentic spiritual conflict?
Too often in the past the struggle is characterized in individual personal terms -- and that cannot be denied. When I am called to bless a house where a suicide or murder has occurred I take along the Blessed Sacrament for the diabolic powers to flee. In fact, should we pray that we face reality, for that is the mark of authentic spirituality? In doing so, we can go farther and say that with God's power and presence all evil can be conquered.
Prayer: Lord, may our spiritual leaders exorcise our nation and our world from the grips of the Evil One.
October 15, 2020 Enthroning the Sacred Heart in Our Home
Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque who helped promote the devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus through prayers and actions. One of these devotions is the "enthronement" (placing in a prominent part of one's house no matter how humble the place) of a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whereupon peace is promised to come to that place. Such a simple procedure with appropriate prayers is the start of establishing peace at our basic place of residence, with the hope that from this location of peace a ripple effect will go out to all the world. Here is a good example of acting very locally, so local that it is within our home, and that the domestic ecology will influence a broader and even a global arena at time of dramatic climate change.
Some ask a cleric or spiritual leader to come and conduct the ceremony or to give a special blessing, though this need not be the case. The placement is itself the important event, and all household members are to be alerted as to why this enthronement is so important, as a source of peace and reminder of the respect coming from all domestic dwellers. The basic prayer for such an enthronement is:
Enthronement of the Sacred Heart
O God, bless this house and all residents who live here. You desire that all who visit or stay will help create a home where the love of Christ radiates to the neighborhood and the world. Let this be a source of domestic blessing, a model for others to see and imitate. Make this a haven for your divine blessings and change the lives of those who dwell here so they are always mindful of the covenant of your Love with us.
Most Sacred Heart, hear these prayers. Through this blessing of the picture of the Sacred Heart, may your likeness and the symbol of your love be engraved into the atmosphere of this dwelling. Make this a holy place, one of peace as promised to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1674 as an important component of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. Let all here cherish the honor of your likeness in this prominent place for all to see.
Most Holy Spirit, guide those who are devoted to the love of Christ to share that love, starting at this Christian home and radiating out to all the world.
Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to fortify our homes with your special grace, so that we may proclaim your mercy.
Sacraments of Life
In the difficult work of Earthhealers we need support and nourishment. Christians are called to the sacramental life; through God's invitation we are invited into the deeper Mystery of the Divine Family. The Greek word mysterion is translated into the Latin as mysterium, or mystery, and sacramentum, or sacrament. "Sacrament" in the Eastern Church terminology is designated as "the holy mysteries;" this is the visible sign, and the hidden reality is the mystery -- Christ himself. Analogously, the Church is a sacrament for she "contains and communicates the invisible grace she signifies."
Through baptism and confirmation, we are consecrated as a special people of God. A monumental transformation occurs as signified by a new baptismal name. Through baptism the stains of sin are wiped away. We go down with Christ into baptism and rise with him in a new life involving the divine plan for salvation; we are called to perform public deeds for others within that plan. Through baptism, we formally enter into the Divine Family, and are invited to participate in Christ's death and resurrection. We die to our old selves and through God's forgiveness we take on a new life in Christ. Christians prefer to speak in familial and personal terms -- Abba, brother, spirit of love, companion, friend. We become like Christ; we become other christs. His road and my road merge, for Calvary is extended in space and time.
Our journey becomes a personal salvation story and the challenge is to anticipate and avoid the detours that may surely occur. Part of faith is realizing both Christ's constant companionship and also the importance of our calling to heal Earth and its inhabitants. People in no other age have had this particular challenge, because never before has God's creation been so threatened by human wrongdoing. Where sin abounds, there all the more grace abounds. The territory in which we are called to make our journey of faith is a devastated Earth in the twenty-first century, and so we are called to respond as consecrated people, brought together through baptism and enlivened through the other sacraments.
What is our calling? We are to help fill up what is wanting in the Lord's suffering. It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up for all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church (Colossians 1:24). Though Christ fulfilled all in his Calvary event, that event extends in space and time to today. As companions we enter into this event, and we are present at Calvary in the sufferings of all creation all around us. The further question before us is: "What would Jesus do now?" This may yield an unexpected answer, for our response is different due to current circumstances. A more precise question is: "What does Jesus do with and through me here and now?"
Baptism is an initiation, but is completed through confirmation when we receive the Holy Spirit -- a rebirth in the Spirit when we are empowered in a special way to proclaim the Good News to others. The journey is long and difficult, and thus the Holy Eucharist is our nourishment on our journey. Occasionally we stray and take those detours that are not proper; the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available to return us quickly to the right path. Socially, the bonding that makes the elemental grouping of society, the family, is blessed and affirmed through the sacrament of Matrimony. Likewise, as sacramental people, we seek the assistance of the ministers of the Church through Holy Orders. In our journey of life, we can become ill and need the special fortification of the Anointing of the Sick.
All Christians are expected to undertake a healing process, a forgiving of others and a work in friendship with them. It is the healers who must proclaim the manifestation of God's self-communication to the world of the Word (forgiving on the lips) and the Spirit of love (forgiving in the heart). At first, believers focus on their individual salvation, "Repent and believe in the Gospel!" The shortness of life and the suddenness of illness and death make it imperative to be always in the graces of God. Through confirmation, we realize the Good News must be proclaimed to others. In spreading the Good News, we discover that receivers of the News also have mysteries to communicate as well. Concerned people, who see Earth herself threatened by pollution and global warming, sense an urgency to act, an urgency in part that springs from the cry of our Earth. We must become Earthhealers.
Salvation history did not end with the Calvary and Resurrection events two thousand years ago; salvation history continues to our own time. Thus, we are immersed in the ongoing movement of salvation and participate through our journey of faith. Collaborating in the urgent work at hand demands a harmony in our actions; we are expected to muster our talents and join others, for together we can be more effective. If some people are unemployed or underemployed, their talents are un- or underused; both they and the broader social fabric suffers. That all have meaningful work is a major challenge of our age with millions underemployed, especially in developing countries. Healing Earth requires willing and enthusiastic workers doing meaningful and life-giving work. All are invited to participate; the economic system must provide work opportunities -- and it has the pent-up resources to do so.
Earthhealing also involves those who do not engage in sacramental life. While we affirm our sacramental calling as catalysts in this movement, we do not ignore the contribution of all people of good faith who seek a better future. Many "secular" environmentalists are major participants in needed environmental work. The term "anonymous" or "implicit" Christians does not seem to be fully satisfying. Certainly, many non-Christians fit into the global collaborative efforts. We must help extend the graces of sacramental life to secular associates. This requires our love, invitation and enthusiasm (the God within).
Fruits of the persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, native Kentucky
October 16, 2020 Observing World Food Day
These Daily Reflections have said much about food, especially during October and November, 2019. What does "observing" mean on this special day? Attending a festival? Preparing a nutritious meal? Feeding the hungry? Contacting a legislator's attention to world food insecurity? Recalling that the world's population will climb and level off at nine billion by 2050, with demands to double food production by mid-century? Reflect on these hints as well:
* Never waste food or allow others to do so if at all possible. Some say half of the world's food supply disappears "between field and fork" -- enough to eliminate world hunger if properly utilized. During the course of a year, Americans waste 22 of 77 lbs. of fresh fruit purchased, 36 of 173 lbs. of grain products, 39 of 131 lbs. of fresh vegetables, 27 of 70 lbs, of poultry and 43 of 168 lbs. of milk, 4 of 28 lbs. of cheese, 0.7 of 5 lbs. of butter, 4 of 26 lbs. of eggs, 0.9 of 9 lbs. of nuts, 4 of 15 lbs. of fish and seafood, 36 of 103 lbs. of red meat, and 24 of 121 lbs. of sweeteners; National Geographic, July, 2011
* Turn lawns and yards into edible landscaping for vegetables, herbs, fruit, berries and nuts -- and do so tastefully;
* Eat less meat, for this meat requires far more resources than consuming feed that goes into animal products indirectly. Choose plant-substitutes for meat-laden fast foods and encourage others to do the same;
* Support a teach-in for healthy foods (fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts), especially at school cafeterias and other institutional establishments;
* Resolve to grow more of your own garden produce next year, and to extend the garden's productivity well into the autumn and even into early winter -- and preserve excess for winter;
* Lobby Congress to eliminate subsidies for food-derived biofuels that are using 40% of this year's American corn crop, and ask that through federal subsidies this saved grain can be stored for human use in times of famine in various parts of the world;
* Attack local malnutrition as well as that in other countries, and insist that solutions to problems for the poor be found and have food stamps and adequate funding; and
* Pray and work that food security will be given equal if not greater funding than military security -- and publicize that various forms of insecurity are related.
Prayer: Lord, give us a sense of food consciousness, not just for what we eat but for what we waste, grow, preserve, and share with others who are in need.
October 17, 2020Being Aware of Food Insecurity and Terrorism
When this reflection was first drafted a decade ago the BBC reported about the hunger affecting ten million people in the horn of Africa; the reports spoke of one mother abandoning her family of six kids because she could not face watching them die of hunger. While highly dramatic and tragic, is this insecurity still being repeated in parts of the world even with a plentiful supply of food being produced and sometimes wasted? What if we were to give some of the anti-terrorism and military funding to make the world safer for those terrorized by hunger and malnutrition?
Food waste is a moral wrongdoing and something that could simply be eliminated through personal willpower and governmental controls and regulation. What if -- the corn that were used this year to make ethanol for our energy-wasting vehicles (and driving practices) were left as bulk grain, and this material used to alleviate hunger in drought affected parts of the world? Waste creates an atmosphere of insensitivity that distances us from people who suffer the terror of hunger each and every day.
Insecurity comes in various ways, and hunger is one of them. For some, it is not having means to keep the family alive in harsh conditions; for others who are caregivers, it is not having supplies to feed those pounding on the door; for still others, who are traveling, it is the threat (though somewhat remote) that some angry person will blow himself up on our plane if he can get past security barriers; and still for many of us, it is our own insensitivity to the essential needs of our neighbor in other parts of the world. In the last case, insensitivity breeds and accelerates insecurity.
Security is an evasive issue. Security means a feeling that we are protected by like-minded and vigilant people; it involves interrelatedness and generally rests within a local vicinity, a home, or domestic surroundings. The growing connectedness of our world resulting from Internet; instant communications makes us aware of the planetary extent of our neighborhood. Thus insecurity in one place affects others of us in another part of the world. A failure to be with others in time of need is creating a new threat to world security that goes beyond military preparedness and financial concerns; it involves the problem of social awareness.
This is our wakeup call! If such global security breaks down by our insensitivity to fellow human beings in need, then are we the cause of the hunger in some degree, and are we party to the terrorism that is experienced in the hearts of the Somali lady who abandoned her kids when she had to escape watching them die of hunger? Just as security comes in many forms, so does terrorism, and what we seek to avoid is individual terrorist attacks on innocent people in all places. Our sensitivity must grow!
Prayer: Lord, teach us to see hunger in its raw intensity as it affects others, and to become truly compassionate people.
Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God what is God's.
(Matthew 22: 15-21)
The Gospel story of rendering to Caesar and God what is due to each occurs on Jesus' final journey to Jerusalem. The two parties (Pharisees and Herodians) agree in one thing: to reject Jesus as messiah and challenge his authority by putting him to tests. Their hypocrisy is revealed when Jesus asks them to produce a coin, a tacit suggestion that they really did use Caesar's coinage, though they refused to do so in the temple. For them, the image of the emperor on Roman coins was a sign of unjust authority and imperial godlike character. Moneychangers were held in low esteem for converting dirty pagan money to temple coinage. Jesus turns the tables on those who seek to trick him by getting them to admit they had Roman coins in their possession.
Throughout history there have been conflicts of church (God) and state (Caesar), of the right to practice one's religion in the face of an authoritarian state, or the state siding with one religion to force conformity on another. One recalls Thomas More, "The Man for All Seasons," who tells why his love and respect for the king makes him want to help the king keep his oath of office (Magna Carta), with respect to their shared Christian faith. We could find instances of such choices down through history and wonder whether we too have a financial and credit system that borders on being a state religion of sorts; we too must render to both God and to mammon without overstepping boundaries.
On the question of rendering to two parties we remember that every gospel passage has individual and social applications. The poor belong to God; to neglect the poor is to fail to give respect to the Creator. We must respectfully ask: to whom does this Earth's limited wealth belong? To those who have the power to take and retain it with laws of their making on their side? Or to those who have basic needs? Doesn't the "Cardinal Frings Principle" (taking coal through "theft" when one is without fuel), still apply? Must we choose between those who have tax privileges and exemptions, and mothers and children on WIK programs? In this year of threatening climate change we need to ask very basic questions.
The people of this world can be good at heart and show this through inspired actions. The ruler Cyrus (Isaiah 45: 1, 4-6) was just in dealing with the people in exile and recognized their national aspirations and their desire to return to their own homeland. Today, millions of refugees would like to return to their homelands but they have no safe habitats or work opportunities; we are becoming more aware of the moral imperative to create opportunities for refugees to earn their own livelihood. Disrespect for human beings is disrespect for the Author of life.
Prayer: Lord, help us to discover both material and spiritual needs and to respect those who are over us in some way in both temporal and spiritual domains.
Martyr's Shrine is sacred ground where people of many nations and cultures gather to enter into communion with those all over the world who sacrificed their lives for faith and for justice.
Mission Statement of Shrine
It is good for us on rare occasions to make a religious pilgrimage. A decade ago Mark Spencer and I visited the Martyr's shrine at Midland, Ontario. This site is related to early Jesuit mission efforts, and I spent a formation period in 1968 at Auriesville, New York, the site of three of the North American martyrs' place of death. Near Midland is the Ste. Marie settlement, the site where two other of the eight Jesuit martyrs (John de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant) were killed in 1649, and near where the others met their martyrdom.
The shrine is located one hundred miles north of Toronto. It is open to visitors during the warmer months. The grounds are easily accessible and well-kept with flowers, ample parking, good walkways, souvenir shop, educational center, nearby reasonable lodging, cafeteria, and a shrine with daily services during the warmer months. Special attractions include memorials and altars located around the grounds dedicated by ethnic groups in honor of their own martyrs and religious leaders. The graves of Fathers De Brebeuf and Lalemant are within the reproduced palisaded village/religious center across the main road adjacent to the shrine. Water and land meet, water as means of travel and commerce for 17th century Jesuits, and land where Hurons lived.
Darkness retreats on summer's longest days, when first light contests the night; A gold-pink streak, illumines verdant lands imprinted with sapphire hands of waterways.
It is an unfolding form, an instance soon gone, a sight to behold by early birds, A moment of fleeting grace, fulfilling place, a loon's cry announcing a new-born dawn.
Thus comes streams of Good News, enhancing color, bringing on what's bright, Relentlessly new day drinks in the shadows, as pale and varied hues the rays defuse.
Blackrobes from the East overcome strife, bring gifts of light, find abiding light, Taking and sharing with those present mortal blows to usher in eternal life.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us by the sacrifices of martyrs to be enlightened to see current difficulties as divine gifts.
October 20, 2020 Witnessing as Long-Term Spiritual Investment
Uneasiness creeps in as we reflect on the life of martyrs. That was the same ill ease I experienced in grade school when reading about the painful deaths experienced by Isaac Jogues and the 17th century North American martyrs. Why did they sacrifice at relatively young ages with little success in sight? Yes, they were people of deep Christian faith, and they wanted others to share that faith with them. If a martyr is a witness to the Lord, power rests in witnessing, and that power extends to future generations. Thus, part of the witnessing is not for immediate results but as a long-term spiritual investment.
Do we realize that even terrorists can desire a martyr's death; they seek to influence others through blowing themselves and others up for a cause, even though victims of their actions are quite innocent. Certainly this appears to us a waste of opportunity by some to help enhance the world during their short lifetime. Why the despair or desperation when so much good is possible? Why the temptation of some to go out with a bang by using automatic weapons at their disposal to take down others who are innocent and often through suicidal actions? Guns are not to blame, but there are too many gunowners who have crazy ideas.
In the North American martyrs' situation, many Christians would regard their sacrifice as a power that continues down in time to our day. Dramatic actions are costly and those willing to give their lives weigh such costs in their discernment. Can we witness in worthwhile ways by performing ordinary daily sacrifices, that is, making a living and sacrificing for dependents or those who come after us. The quiet witnessing of good people is part of that spiritual investment, that being willing to do less dramatic but equally meaningful things; these witness to the power of sacrifice.
Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's Punjab state was assassinated by his own bodyguard; the governor publicly supported reform of the nation's blasphemy laws when a Christian woman was falsely accused of blasphemy against Mohammed, a capital crime. She had refused to convert to Islam and was denied access to the village water well. In defending her, Taseer was shot dead and the assassin was regarded by some (a question of how many) as a hero. However, this martyr was standing for the basic rights of an unfortunate citizen -- truly an unusual martyrdom -- though all are to some degree. Taseer's daughter resolved to carry on her father's efforts even though it remains an unpopular issue in highly-charged Pakistan, where her own life has been threatened. Hopefully, through her efforts, blasphemy laws will be repealed.
Prayer: Lord, teach us the true worth of sacrifice and witnessing, and give us the chance to do this in undramatic ways for the benefit of everyone now and in the future. Help us to give honor to those who deserve to be recognized as authentic martyrs and to learn lessons from those who testify to you by their lives.
Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, reclaiming the garden plot.
October 21, 2020Respecting Limited Garden-Space
This evening when we observe the peak of the Orionid meteor showers, we can become more conscious of space: the vast space out there, living space in our homes, acceptance of audio space to play music, space to be private, pray, cook, or space to walk about. Let's consider respecting limited garden space, for ignorance, inexperience, or failure to be tidy may waste opportunities to grow more produce within the confines of our living area. Some plants such as corn take much space and so we accept that fact and plant intensives produce; space-conscious gardeners consider the following:
* Know what grows over a period of time, for an immature tomato plant can take up little space when inserted into a row of greens or radishes, and then in summer require more space after the first crop is harvested;
* Select veggies that take up less room on the ground. Cucumber, squash, tomato, or grape vines grow with little ground space needed if allowed to be trellised or staked. They will need fertilizing and watering even when other crops become living mulch around them
* Realize that grape arbors can serve as growing area and yet much of the space beneath the overhanging vines can be good sitting or ever storage areas, especially when your garden and recreational space is at a premium;
* Potted plants can be kept indoors longer or adjusted to various places as earlier plantings are harvested, and thus space is used at all times at a maximum;
* Know the sunny and shady conditions of your garden space, for this allows you to makes for greater productivity. A cucumber can thrive in near shade; beans cannot. However pole beans can be selected so as to climb above the shaded surface under proper engineering;
* Forget about pumpkins (they take much space) unless they are permitted to spread over unused pavement or lawn;
* Roof gardening has potential provided you have a strong roof; and
* Consider sequential gardening, e.g., spring greens, summer melons, autumn root crops. Even in temperate zones, we can grow crops using protective coverings well into winter and beginning again in early spring. Choose among veggies with an ability to withstand light frosts.
Prayer: Lord, give us the wisdom to see that all gifts -- even our allotted space -- have limits and beckon creative use of the space around us.
October 22, 2020 Distinguishing the Shades of Green Works
Leaves turn from green to yellow at this season, and maybe the same can be said for attitudes about earthhealing, if we are not careful. On August 8, 2018, our Daily Reflections discussed "green" being used in many ways: envy, foliage, and environmental practice. Various degrees of greenness exist: preservation of aspects of creation through education, regulations, and enforcement and conservation practice; accepting that we are to blame and take individual conservation measures to heart; and ultimately entering solidarity with our fragile Earth and taking all measures needed to halt the destruction occurring all around us. Here greenness means using well all the gifts at our disposal -- in an experienced way.
Each degree of green beckons to deeper involvement. To say that culprits are to blame is a distant call to change; to say I "recycle my waste" begs the question as to whether I consume too much of what causes the waste; to say that I hug a tree may disregard climate change that threatens that tree. Someone’s interpretation of "green" practice may be the excuse that one has done enough; the failure is to move beyond individual satisfaction to the social dimension of delving into the causes of the environmental crisis. Tens of millions in China, India and other emerging nations are increasing their appetite for the very resources, which have damaged the planet during the last century. The need for a global environmental consciousness is imperative.
True solidarity deepens the color green; we must listen and hear the cry of the poor -- yes, poor people and poor Earth, a single social justice issue, for our resources belong to all, not just to the privileged. Placid greenness is to fixate on some individual practice and omit that deeper and troubling social dimension. It is like arranging chairs on the Titanic, or singing songs in a canoe drowning out the roar of the upcoming waterfall. Placid greenness in such areas as use of food materials for biofuels, nuclear power as "clean" energy, and carbon trading practices are not really green at all.
Other practices are good in themselves, if one does not become so fixated that this or that practice consumes inordinate amounts of time (e.g., specific food selection and preparation). "Placid" or faded green means never calling into question the dysfunctional system that causes the environmental crisis. The hesitancy may be due to fear of being different, ostracized, regarded as radical, or being a party-pooper while canoes hasten to the unseen waterfall. Any treatment of green environmentalism must include a measure of seriousness. For the status quo seekers, it appears enough to give lip service to Earth, and take on one or other practice that never threatens the system and makes others regard you as a comfortable conformist. This is when green turns pale and to cowardly yellow.
Prayer: Lord, strengthen our courage so that we take the responsibility to learn the causes of the environmental crisis and act accordingly.
Radical Sharing With Others
Gradually the divine pattern that we seek to imitate emerges as God's radical sharing of love with us is better understood. And this sharing is part of salvation history, for it involves our personal and group salvation as members of the Divine Family. We are called to act, whether individually or collectively, as participants in the divine saving plan. Concrete activities ought to include the following important but non-exhaustive topics:
1. Debt reduction -- Expanding removal of national debts from the poorest nations and the next economic tier of low-income countries. For the sake of economic justice this is high priority, especially when interest payments take a high proportion of such nation’s income, enslaving people to distant financial interests of which they have no control.
2. Fragile Area Protection -- Certain specific regions on this fragile planet deserve international protection from human intrusion: wilderness areas with endangered species, clean water sources, specific marine areas and oceanic islands, and Antarctica.
3. Law of the Seas -- The oceans are truly a "commons" (owned by all peoples collectively), covering four-fifths of the planet's surface. In the past, the U.S. has blocked an effective Law of the Seas Treaty, especially one where all oceanic resources, especially those on the ocean floor, are controlled. A UN marine force is worth establishing due to piracy and unlawful fishing and mining.
4. International Space Programs -- The International Space Lab is a major global undertaking that allows richer nations to pool resources; this highly successful program deserves support.
5. Controls on Multinational Corporate -- One of the great travesties of western law has been declaring a corporation as a "person" with certain rights, but no duties. Managers can move corporate operations quickly to less responsible nations and thus weaken labor and environmental regulations.
6. Support of the World Criminal Court -- Crimes against humanity should be controlled by legal instruments that transcend national boundaries. U.S. fear that it will lose some of its autonomy must be overcome; we cannot expect other nations to champion international law alone. The Court in the Hague needs power to arrest, subpoena, try, convict, and punish crimes against humanity. This should involve the entire globe, not a portion.
7.Trade Barriers -- The so-called developing countries claim that subsidies paid to agricultural producers in the wealthy nations drive down prices of their own competing commodities. The World Bank estimates that lowering trade barriers could boost annual growth in so-called developing countries by 0.5% a year.
8. United Nations Police Force -- Maintaining the over one-and-a-half trillion-dollar annual gross military budgets is really an actual act of insecurity. Reduce the global military budget by one-quarter and spend saved money on true security and peacemaking measures: proper housing, food storage and shipment, potable water, health, education and climate control measures.
9. Availability of Generic Drugs -- The cost of AIDS-related generic drugs for poorer nations has been dramatically reduced. Due to the current pandemic, effective vaccines needed to treat and protect potential victims must be made widely available at low or no cost through generic processing and licensing.
10. Worldwide Control of Tobacco Products -- A sincere effort is underway to ban advertisement and promotion of tobacco products throughout the world, thus saving millions of lives each year.
11. International Environmental Regulations -- Global warming is a scientifically established major Earth-threatening phenomenon, which is considered to be due in great part to the man-made activities of burning fossil fuels and escape of certain other natural (e.g., methane) or manufactured gases (e.g., certain Freons). All nations, including the U.S., must actively support the 2015 Paris Climate Change Accord with subsidies at least equal to the degree of past pollution of the planet.
12. Renewable Energy Promotion -- Provided that renewable energy is on the same or greater level of compensation with fossil fuels, there is a current healthy increase in wind, solar, geothermal and hydro energy applications. Accompanying these trends is a reduced use of coal, oil and natural gas. Will this occur fast enough to curb expected detrimental climate change?
13. CITES Treaty -- The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, to which the U.S is a party, is an effective vehicle for protecting threatened and endangered species through banning the sale and export of certain animal and plant commodities. Enforcement must ensure that treaty obligations are met in order to protect threatened species such as elephants, tigers, hippos and certain types of whales.
14. Tourism Regulation -- The current pandemic indicates that the fast-growing tourist industry is prone to slowdowns. When fully implemented, tourism requires environmental protection and just compensation for service employees both here and abroad.
15. Language & Cultural Preservation -- At current rates of disappearance, within this twenty-first century half or 3,000 world languages will cease functioning, especially as remnant populations die out and younger natives write, read and speak major languages.
Radical sharing is a global need and worth promoting by all with a moral sense of one human family seeking equality. The time is right for global collaboration involving such activities.
Passiflora incarnata, passion-flower, in early Autumn.
October 23, 2020 Doing Away with Nuclear Power
Nuclear power was a dream stemming from guilt following the terrible atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The hope was that nuclear power could be used for good, and to a certain degree by medical applications this has been the case. But what about the use of nuclear for production of electricity? This has happened even amid some mishaps at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima; and then harm from radioactivity has happened for production workers and nearby neighbors as well as the unsolved consequences of final disposing of the nuclear wastes. Lacking solutions, the industry continues to linger if not thrive due to expensive construction and maintenance costs.
One positive step towards disarmament is getting rid of nuclear power-generating facilities -- the powerplants using nuclear fuel. If some nations were the first to promote atoms for peace, let them now be first to abandon this form of electricity generation, for preparing materials for power generation is to tap the very sources needed for hydrogen bombs. The fact that several nations, namely, Germany, Switzerland, and now Italy are already taking these steps could be a stimulus for all countries, even those with nuclear armaments (U.S., Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea).
Fossil and nuclear fuels have been heavily subsidized. Since the Second World War, nuclear power has received as much in subsidies each year as wind and solar have received over their entire funding period (over four billion dollars). This favoritism has highly skewed the total energy picture to such an extreme that the general public has come to believe that non-renewable fossil fuels and nuclear power were actually cheaper. This is a myth that has now become more evident when wind generators can be installed quickly (a year or so) and cheaply compared to nuclear powerplants’ multi-billion dollar affairs taking a decade to build with billions of dollars in cost overruns. Why even bring this up except that the nuclear promoters will not go away?
Why support fossil fuels and nuclear power if the total expense is so great? The current administration has been sold to these unsafe and damaging technologies through the influence of Big Energy. Wind and solar are now much cheaper than nuclear and without a sustaining cost of security and an unsolved cost of final disposal of nuclear wastes. Wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine, but a mix of energy storage, conservation, geothermal, and hydro (and pumped storage) can allow a smoothly working energy production system. For the past two years both wind and solar (amid continued subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear) have proven cheaper -- and will be more so with each succeeding year. It is time to abandon nuclear energy powerplants ASAP.
Prayer: Lord, give our people the courage to move to environmentally safer sources of energy for the sake of human health and safety and our threatened Earth.
A view from the forest floor, Red River Gorge, KY.
October 24, 2020 Celebrating United Nations Day
Upholding the value of the United Nations is important today; it was a post-Second-World-War answer to the failure of the League of Nations to prevent a global conflict (1939-45). However, this global U.N. undertaking cannot be taken for granted. In fact, some national proponents speak disparagingly of some of the U.N. agencies as infringing on their own sovereign rights. Letting go of what is more local is always difficult, and the U.S. is a culprit in this matter more than many other nations.
In 1971, United Nations Day was adopted as an official international holiday and was expected to be observed by all U.N. member states. Today is a perfect time for recalling the four main purposes of the U.N.:
1) to maintain peace and security all over the world;
2) to develop relationships among member nations;
3) to foster an atmosphere of communication between member nations; and
4) to provide a forum to bring countries together to meet the purposes and goals of the U.N.
United Nations Day happens to be a time when schools and other institutions celebrate diversity in culture among attendees; this day can become a teaching opportunity to allow us to cultivate a more global vision, at a time when local affairs and national problems seem more enticing. Much of the focus of sports teams and other forms of competition is on beating outsiders, and thus while we have instant Internet communication to other parts of the world we can still become so consumed with our national or local interests that we overlook foreigners as brothers and sisters.
While the U.N. goals have not been perfectly met, still the continued efforts of the main body and the agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) have been instrumental in alleviating some gross forms of suffering and epidemics that have risen in the past 70 years. The U.N. has not prevented all wars and local conflicts, but has been active in checking the spread of struggles that could quickly develop into far broader conflicts.
Today, we need to protect global resources as best we can. As never before we have a global threat in climate change of which we all contribute some of the pollution; this is allowing a buildup of greenhouse gases at a rapid rate that could cause a two degree Celsius or higher temperature rise in the next few decades. Glaciers and continental ice sheets are melting fast, reefs fade, oceans rise, and habitats of especially the poor are inundated. Never before has the opportunity to collaborate in halting an impending global disaster been so great. While the U.N. organization is imperfect, it is sufficient to become a leader in encouraging this needed cooperation in order to save our planet. Celebrate the day!
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to champion the U.N. by our moral support, and help us enlist others to work together through it.
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)
Jesus says we must love God with everything we have, but how do we give all? How do we know we have done so? The "must" baffles us. We each know that love is necessary in our lives, and that to love God is the very first lesson of the Catechism. We will reflect on it; we will affirm it; we will proclaim it. Jesus interconnects this love of God with love of neighbor, thus showing that the testing of our heart comes in our outward attitudes about and our interactions with neighbor.
You must love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)
This love of God/neighbor is more than pious words, or rote prayers, or automatic answers to the primary catechism questions. Love involves meaningful deeds, even to those we dislike. We gradually learn that misdeeds speak loudly about our degree of loving others. Good deeds, when done with sincerity and fidelity, give quiet assurance that we love what we are doing; we come to know where our hearts are at a given time; this allows us to assess our love life. Our neighborliness tells us how we love our God, and the greater the love we show, the stronger will be our grounding in the love that Jesus says we "must" have in loving God.
Yes, we never love enough and so our efforts ought to be to deepen our love -- but how? At the Last Supper, Jesus gives his disciples and all of us a new commandment, to love as he loves. Thus our love must imitate that of Jesus, the most perfect model of love. We find in Scriptures his deep respect for others, extending healing to the sick; he continues teaching and ministering even when he is tired; he forgives even when he suffers and dies for all sinners. Jesus' deeds involved a surrender to the Father's will.
The goal of our love is the Source of all love, God. God gives us the power to love, and thus we surrender to God when we seem too powerless to love. Alone we love little; with God's help we can dive into the ocean of divine Love, and allow that ocean to penetrate our entire being including our hearts. This infinite sea of love contains a compassion that goes out to all our brothers and sisters. We are able to enter into the sufferings of others as though they were our own, and thus we can love others as ourselves. We thank God for the gift to love others, and thus we do so willingly even when it is difficult. If we accept that our love involves God AND neighbor, we realize our advancement in love requires divine assistance and others who share love. Our surrender is the key to our advance in love. Growth in love is based on growth in openness, and here we continue on the journey to godliness in the company of the Lord.
Prayer: Lord God, who is Love, teach us to love. Touch us and allow us to see that love grows as we surrender and not as we seek to do more and more through some inner efforts apart from you.
October 26, 2020Playing Games with Ecological Issues
You are a party pooper for breaking up our electronic games. "I'm sorry but the house is on fire and it would be good to do something about it."
Some of us get the impression, when we hear people pondering whether they would do something about recycling, that they fail to see the depth of the environmental crisis. We tolerate an Administration that has been set on dismantling most of the hard-won environmental regulations of the past several decades. How can we get this Administration to see that we can't play games with Mother Nature; energy-guzzling devices and vehicles are adult substitutes for toddler toys at a time when all of us must mature and take environmental matters seriously.
Earthhealing is serious business. To make light of pollution or climate change is to act immaturely at a time when people ought to get serious, for a catastrophe is pending in the future if we do not act responsibly today. Certainly over-seriousness can hurt causes; some humor is needed for contrast and relief.
Earthhealing involves big issues. The plea of many is that they cannot handle any more issues, for their plate is full. True, but they will need to pick and choose as to what information to focus on at a given time; however, don't discount environment.
Earthhealing will extend beyond my time. Our mortal span is not the ultimate criterion on which to focus. In fact, most issues will not be totally resolved during our lifetimes, but that is not an excuse for busying ourselves only with short-term successes.
Earthhealing can become game-play under certain conditions; it is not all fun and delight. Many like to engage themselves with artificial puzzles. Fine! Others prefer real ones. The work of healing our wounded Earth is difficult and involves all the talents we can muster in order to win -- and here we can't afford to lose, for the poor and destitute depend upon us to save our Earth.
Earthhealing leads to positive solutions. All too often the manner that youngsters are introduced to ecological issues implies that it is more facile than it really is. Fun and games have their place, but a burning building is a short-term goal worth saving through fire-fighting teamwork.
Earthhealing is a maturing process. Youth like to feel that they are regarded as adults -- and ecological issues invite the participation of all (e.g. the Global Climate Strike of 2019). Whether it is tree planting or a climate march, concrete results are experienced by each participant.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be serious about saving our wounded Earth, but realize we cannot do it all ourselves; we need to collaborate and work with all people of good will.
October 27, 2020 Seed-Saving and Endangered Species
Seed-saving is now becoming popular in order to promote heritage varieties. These are in danger of being lost by the rush to grow a small number of desired varieties of everything from grains to apples to tomatoes. The stampede to conformity tells us sad news: 90% of the grain varieties used in China less than a century ago have disappeared; of 8,000 varieties of livestock some 20% are endangered or already extinct; of 7,000 apple varieties in the 19th century fewer than 100 varieties remain. Alarm is being raised and some are trying to address the issues. ("Food Ark," National Geographic, July, 2011, pp. 108-131).
Causes for species decline are multiple, but one problem is that a few of the developed "miracle" varieties of the twentieth century have become so popular that others (especially local varieties) have been abandoned with the race for greater yields and more desired products. Local seed-saving and reuse has gone out of fashion, to the detriment of biodiversity that took ten thousand years of painstaking domestication to develop. That diversity is needed to meet the demands of new (climate change) or famine (e.g., Irish potato famine of the 1840s) conditions. Climate change will challenge certain popular varieties in unforeseen ways whether by hot or cold temperatures, drought or overly wet conditions.
Preservationists declare that this stampede to new varieties in the past few decades has been fraught with dangers of a global nature. In response to species loss, some have started projects to store in safe places the diverse seeds that are threatened or endangered -- and could go extinct. Preservation of stores of such species was first conceived by the Russian botanist, Nikolay Vavilov in the 1920s, who envisioned centers of plant origin to be established at various key places; Vavilov died of starvation in 1943 in a prison, a victim of Stalin. Heroically, others have taken up the idea of regional and global storage facilities and the Global Crop Diversity Trust and others are gathering specimens and storing these in safe places. One is Norway's Svalbard Global Seed Vault -- a massive undertaking embedded in the permafrost of a sandstone mountain on far northern Spitzbergen Island.
Seed-saving at a local or regional level is now becoming popular by those who want to preserve heirloom varieties grown by their parents, grandparents and ancestors. One can find examples on the Internet of exchange programs near to your home. We consider this local act as an important part of a community of diversity lovers; participation teaches respect for heirlooms, especially where flavor and growing conditions were prized in earlier times. Arguments for diversity will help maintain the food-growing potential of our planet. Contact Seed Savers Exchange for a free "2020 Seed Catalog."
Prayer: Lord, teach us to respect the efforts of our past, the patience of farmers who domesticated our flora and fauna; inspire us to cherish the practice of preserving seeds.
October 28, 2020 Earthhealing: St. Jude, Patron of the Impossible
Today is the Feast of St. Jude, the patron of hopeless causes. However, we know that nothing is impossible with God -- and that gives us courage when striving to heal our wounded Earth. We realize we must do all we can possibly do to bring about success while also calling on divine help. Teamwork is at the heart of our Earth-saving endeavors along with broad-based collaboration with all parties. What we often overlook is that the success depends on a community of participants -- the noble caregivers of Earth all invited from the entire community of nations. People must change their ways and focus on a profound renewal, and that demands cooperative efforts. We look into our hearts to find and purge the hesitancy to work with others of different cultures and races. We need voluntary support but also strong coercive efforts as well.
Changing insensitive hearts is part of the game plan, and all heaven is called upon to assist with the task. Some throw up their hands and say "that is impossible." Some people deny the climate change is occurring and some refuse to work for improvement of the situation. Here is where we turn to God who is mercifully with us at this critical time. My only recourse when the situation seems beyond hope is to encourage those who are discouraged to pray to St. Jude, the patron of the impossible.
For centuries, St. Jude was ignored because of sharing a name with Judas (same name in languages other than English and French), the Lord's traitor. Jude may or may not be the author of the Letter of Jude, or the one mentioned as being the "brother" or cousin of the Lord as found in Mark 6:3. Through millennia, many Christians shunned Jude when calling on the saints for help. In recent decades some regard Jude as the saint of last resort -- and his recent effective intercessory power appears.
Patron of Earthhealing. Jude (also called Thaddeus in Mark 3:16-17 and Matthew 10: 2-4) is only mentioned briefly in Scripture (Luke 6:16; John 14:22 and Acts 1:13). Jude takes a more hidden back seat role but still is patron of both hospitals and hopeless causes. In his healing role, Jude may be a possible patron for our seemingly impossible earthhealing efforts in the light of climate change. Each saint is shown with symbols in place of proper names on images or statues. Jude's symbols are a square or a rule (designer and builder), a club (was it to entice people to change their ways?), and a sword (for he was regarded as martyred and thus this expresses being a witness for the Lord). In fact, Jude stands out as a person taking the Good News to distant lands (in tradition to Persia and Mesopotamia), to plan and design what needs to be done, to entice others to join in the participative work ahead, and to help bring about what seems an impossible task. Shouldn't he be the patron of earthhealing?
Prayer: Lord, help us to move forward to healing our wounded Earth; inspire us to reach out to the intercession of St. Jude, the patron of the impossible.
October 29, 2020Navigating One's Good Name in Credulity's Shoals
As is naturally expected, we cherish our own good name. Credulity's shoals are the many places where the tendency to believe just about anything can hook most people: Twitter accounts and Facebook pages; cell or land phone's first rumor; Internet 24-hour-news coverage desperate to compete to be the first to report, for being first is power. Are those addicted to being connected willing to shave others down to their own small size?
A Good Name, whether mine, yours, or another's, is fragile and takes a lifetime to establish and preserve. Once, when asked to review an environmental report, the publisher asked whether I found any potentially libelous statements. My first impulse was to say it was straightforward reporting; on second thought, one supposed whistleblowing victim identified by the report's author was reported to have been blacklisted by an unnamed but specified county official. With little effort, the time and place of victimhood allowed virtually any reader to pinpoint the alleged culprit if so desired. In fact, having been acquainted with the victim, it was my suspicion that the blacklisting could be dangerous; the potentially identifiable person's good name was threatened by off-hand excuses publicized by a sloppy reporter.
Good names can be sacrificed at the altar of good stories, and that calls all of us to be cautious. Navigating the boat of our own everyday life requires us to steer skillfully when considering the fragility of the cargo of good names; these names are easily damaged by an offhand remark, a raised eyebrow, or the desire to elicit a laugh at the expense of another. To navigate takes respect for the roughness of the waterways of communication that can broadcast rumor or falsehood or even unneeded true facts far and wide. People are in an age of incredulity and have ears trained for something new and first ahead of others. Many consumers of information are open to giving or receiving misdeeds of others -- and this can be terribly harmful to victims.
Good names are needed for healers as well as the ones being healed. Recovering from a false or misleading report can become a major challenge. Earth's good name must be preserved and enhanced at all costs, as ought the flora and fauna flourishing here. To protect such good names may actually make us the butt of jokes -- but such is the risk. Widespread respect for the good name of all creation is the first level of defending good names; our halting the spread of rumors is the second; our public refutation of destructive tendencies may be a deeper level needed at times. A good name is a resource that can be easily damaged or destroyed with little effort, even by people who dismiss others due to a "credible" allegation. Tides run forcefully and our skillful steering of the boat of respect means avoiding damage to others.
Prayer: Lord, give us the insight to see when we can enhance another's good name, a precious jewel in a raging tide, and to find opportunities to protect their names from inadvertent damage.
Autumn Special Actions
Forgive polluters? Environmental degradation occurs in our world and some individuals or agencies are more to blame than others. Forgiveness, as discussed earlier this month, is necessary for genuine collaboration. Are polluters to be forgiven and then tolerated? Or is condoning injustice the very opposite of radical sharing -- for environmental destruction is ultimately robbing the Commons? A forgiving attitude must never be confused with permissiveness. Jesus as perfect ecologist says, "Woe to you scribes and pharisees;" furthermore, he cleanses the Temple.
Do we accept our baptismal role of being prophetic, along with being priestly and kingly? Are we willing to speak frankly, and direct our remarks to the culprits themselves? We must make these individuals (corporations cannot, but their managers can) see their faults and desire to improve and accept responsibility for their current acts. Radical sharing on our part involves opening the curtain of silence and being willing to confront another, relegating our sense of security and good will to a proper time and place. The Commons -- land, sea and air -- belong to all the people and not to a privileged few who act as oppressors of people and Earth. Yes, an unpleasant task is to confront guilty parties.
A forgiving heart knows when to speak softly and mercifully. We cannot talk to corporations that are not true persons devoid of interpersonal relations, but tools of society. One cannot preach to a sledge hammer. When the corporation has been misused, it needs to be either reformed or its existence terminated -- for it exists at the will of the people. These are matters of basic social justice and must be confronted in a variety of ways.
Jon Sobrino says that theological discourse is necessarily more dialectical than analogical. Dialectical cognition knows things in their dissimilarity, unlike analogical cognition which knows things in their likeness to created reality. The dialectical contrary is known by the structures of oppression as lived experience. Thus one's encounter with God consists in these realities of oppression, pain and injustice, opposite that of liberation, life and justice, and demands a transformation of present reality (Victorio Araya, God of the Poor: The Mystery of God in Latin American Liberation Theology, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1988), p. 31).
Effective confrontation may involve the dialectical approach and is a matter of justice and portrayal of acts of injustice. Actually, the vivid presentation is ultimately a matter of charity to both victim and culprit. Direct confrontation through public protests portray this method quite vividly, but requires organizational skills in order to be effective. This is why focus is placed in stimulating victims and their allies to join forces and confront injustices from racism to equality, to unfair migration patterns, and to restricted voting privileges.
Reflect on a green "Our Father." In an atmosphere of forgiveness, we reflect on the prayer that makes forgiving a key component in our relation to God -- the "Our Father" (Matthew 6:9-13). Since this is a communal prayer, it is more fitting to use "we" as the emerging Earthhealing community. I cannot change the world alone; we can. We praise, beg, confess and thank God all in one short prayer, the very best expression we can offer.
Our Father, in heaven -- These words take into consideration the God who directs and guides our family, who created this vast universe and who is a loving God who wants us to help usher in the kingdom of peace and justice. May your name be held holy -- The holy name is given not only in and among people, but also among all the plants and animals of creation. Making all the more holy what is already so is part of an ongoing revelation of which we are called to participate. Your kingdom come -- The New Heavens and New Earth are connected, and are already beginning to appear. We are called to halt the deterioration of our Earth, to help with the healing process, and to bring on God's kingdom of a New Heaven and New Earth. Your will be done on Earth as in Heaven -- It is the will of God expressed in the Scriptures that our world will flourish and all people will have a just share of resources and a proper quality of life. Give us today our daily bread -- So many of the world (current estimates at 850,000,000) are without the basic needs for the day. Can we worthily receive communion, if so many are without the necessities of life? Can we solve ecological problems without addressing all justice issues? Can we hoard when others have empty pantries? As members of the Body of Christ we help give daily bread to those in need. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us -- We need to ask forgiveness for the debts we have incurred due to our misuse of world resources. Within the process of forgiving do we experience God's forgiveness? And in this atmosphere of forgiveness do we find our true conditions, our wasteful consumer practices and our insensitivity to the needs of others? And are we Earthhealers taking our first faltering steps towards global improvement? And do not put us to the test -- Most of us are tempted by the addictive consumer products all around us. We are tempted to take the easy way and become wanton consumers in this world of scarcity -- and the consumer culture weakens our collective sense of togetherness by fragmenting us and leading us to act selfishly. But save us from the evil one -- The deterioration of our Earth involves various forms of evil: human greed, selfishness, and insensitivity -- the very personification of pervasive evil in the world around us. We need God's help at this time to be free, to halt the destruction of the environment, and to bring on a sense of hope for all people. We pray to be properly confrontational without succumbing to the evil we seek to expose. Finally, we pray that amid the struggle with evil we retain our hope and enthusiasm.
SUMMARY: PROPER COMMUNAL ACTIONS
During October, we have reviewed our full participation as harvesters in the work of Earthhealing. We are aware that respecting and focusing at times on natural phenomena gives us a sense of balance needed in times of pandemic, when those isolated through social distancing can become quite depressed.
We seek the glue of collaboration and find it in God's offer of forgiveness and we, in turn, share forgiveness with and for others. Only thus can we move forward as authentic collaborators. In order to assist in this process, we affirm a role of Christian sacramental life that nourishes us with enthusiasm needed to be a catalytic corps of Earthhealers; we can help accelerate the urgent work that cries to be performed at this time and place.
This work in its full environmental scope comes in a variety of ways, both at the critical local, reginal, national and global levels. We become conscious of being participants in salvation history, where we are privileged to say "yes" to the Spirit in the manner in which Mary said "yes" during the incarnation event. The ongoing vocational call is expressed through our prayer, as taught us by Christ himself.
God shares radically with us through the coming of the Son and the inspiration of the Spirit, and we must share radically with others. The communal God radically sharing Godself becomes the model for our action on all levels, where radical sharing promotes international initiatives that will control malpractice and institute eco-justice for all. Our concrete suggestions last week are not exhaustive, for radical sharing covers many areas of life as individuals and communities.
We live in multifaceted and interlocking communities of beings; the bonds of the lower levels are analogous to those on a higher one. We establish bonding with Earth, with plants, animals and other human beings and to some degree we await the response of these communities to our own invitation. As teammates in Earthhealing, WE take on a deeper role of Earth renewal that has a prophetic and confrontational nature; the times are an urgent NOW; and the effective place is the strategic HERE. Jesus speaks of catalysts, for yeast is a biological catalyst producing enzymatic action; it is an agent of change strategically placed in order to hasten the process. Thus, communion with the Lord, mobility, and strategic position are needed ingredients for us effective agents of change -- Earthhealers. As such we must be prepared to undertake the harvest that stretches out before us.
Had Sunday not been All Saints Day we would have read the Gospel passage (Matthew 23: 1-12); here Jesus says to observe all that the Pharisees teach but not to follow their example. All their works are done to be seen, and they place heavy burdens on others, while they themselves do not lift a finger to help. They do not practice what they preach. In the back of our minds we wonder, do we suffer on occasion from the same fault; do we expect of others what we do not do ourselves?
Preaching is a tricky subject, especially for those of us who write and encourage other people to do good deeds. Without adverting to it, do we restrict our preaching or overextend the issues beyond our own personal actions? When preaching much, it's hard to be perfect and this admonition extends from moral leaders to representatives in all forms of government, to representatives at the UN, World Bank and on to all civic, educational and business leaders. In fact, it applies to parents and caregivers, from shopkeepers to manufacturers. Really, it is true to say that everybody preaches through both word and deed; all say things and fail to live their words perfectly; many fail to see that even silence, when we need to speak is its own preaching moment.
On occasions, I am asked to speak on simple lifestyles. My inspiration is from my parents who practiced what they preached: living simply, having a relatively small house and few luxuries, working hard, and furnishing us mostly homegrown food. Practicing what was preached to me in youth is still a lifetime challenge. We need to constantly reexamine what we say we do to remain environmentally green and how we put this into practice through conservation of resources. Americans find it hard to preach simple living because there is so much inbuilt waste to our lifestyles. Some of this is inadvertent, and some is deliberate in a consumption-based economy. However, as Jeremiah realized, sometimes we are impelled to speak even when others do not want to listen. Social justice demands that we break our silence, and that causes us to redouble our efforts to practice what we preach.
Some will say, don't preach at all, for people are turned off in a secular society by preaching of any sort. That is a challenge, but Jeremiah shows us that false prophets preach what people want to hear -- and they must be refuted. The authentic message needs to be preached because religion is a public act; we are called to act publicly and spread Good News. We show our commitment by doing what we said needs to be done; we are not to be cowed into silence; rather, we are to constantly purify our actions so that what we preach is followed by us and hopefully by others as well. If we preach peace, we ought to work for peace; if we preach thrift, we ought to conserve resources; if we preach equality we ought to work for food security all our citizens.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to preach the Good News and to do so through encouraging words and lived deeds.
October 31, 2020 Challenging Fuel Price Speculation
The problem is through the investment in commodity derivatives (the speculators) are directly contributing to the increase in prices of gas and food around the world. David Kane, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
On this Halloween, we are spooked at times like kids by witches and goblins and other scary things. Are fuel ghouls out there especially during one Middle East crisis after another? In the past, four-dollar-a-gallon gas prices sent us scrambling to curb trips, carpool, and consider a more fuel-efficient vehicle. What causes such spikes in fuel prices may be a harbinger of things to come. The supply of fuel may be plentiful but the rise in consumption by a flood of new auto owners in Asia and elsewhere makes the issue all the more sensitive. The Saudi Arabian oil losses due to fighting in Yemen add to the volatility of fuel prices. With much grumbling American drivers fork out more, when international threats to the 100-million-barrel-a-day petroleum supply is threatened or curbed in any way.
University of Massachusetts professors Robert Polin and James Heintz of the Political Economy Research Institute at Amherst showed the May, 2011 spike was due to oil future trading. Without this oil speculation, the price of gasoline would have been some eighty-three cents cheaper a gallon -- yes, one-fifth less, had the financial spooks not been operating. Should we take this with a sense of the Halloween spirit of having been fooled and nothing more, or is there something serious in this speculation that must be addressed by an alert citizenry who must endure higher prices on surprisingly unexpected occasions?
What is happening in food-price speculation, hoarding, and withdrawal from markets is also occurring in fuel pricing -- and such practices are hitting the pocketbooks of those who can least afford it. The poor experience stretched budgets in feeding families, meeting rent payments and getting to work. Those who are hardest hit are certainly not speculators. In some cases people simply have to cut their limited food budgets in order to get to work or take care of medical treatments. Fuel prices are hardest on the poor who possess older and less fuel efficient vehicles (25 versus 45 mile-per-gallon varieties).
The problem extends beyond America to the poor of the world who feel the terrible bite of speculators. This raises the question of the dysfunctionality of our current economic system. We have got to pressure our democratic governments to reign in speculators and make it illegal for them to operate; fines or fees must be imposed on their operations so as to make them unprofitable, when speculation again raises its ugly head.
Prayer: Lord, you hear the cry of the poor. Allow us to listen and hear these cries also; give us the courage to know and expose financial crimes against humanity -- and especially the poor.