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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.

A series of written meditations and reflections

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August, 2022
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March 2013 Calendar

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(photo: Janet Kalisz)

August Reflections, 2022

       August can be bittersweet: the fading of summer's green, school days again, shortening of the daylight hours.  Why is August a time for starting wars?  Were people charmed by the weather and the romantic spirit of fighting a winnable conflict in summertime?  August brings on the hint of change as the mist rolls in; the bumble bees seem a little busier; cobwebs appear; birds chatter excitedly; flowers have a deeper hue.  August clothed in greenery heralds the harvest season: plums, early apples, wild cherries, sweet corn, watermelons, peppers, melons, cucumbers, and okra.

Milkweed Glory      

Roadside glory in misty morn
           with scarlet flowers like puff balls,
           pods of light silky parachutes
           bear seed as gifts to neighborhoods.
You attract flies and butterflies,
           you welcome the Monarch larvae,
           who feed on your extended leaves
           and you drive away birds of prey.

 

 

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Forest
An Appalachian Forest.
 (*photo credit)

August 1, 2022    Praising August's Glorious Landscape

        During this mid-summer season, we observe nature in its period of maximum growth before autumn retirement and closure.  Some will say that July is summer's verdant height, but much depends on the amount of rainfall.  If all is normal, August is the greenest just before the tint of change that occurs in mid-month.  When bounty is abundant, glory has its grandeur -- and so it can be a perfect season to see nature in its fullness among all land forms -- hills, mountains, deserts, rock formations, valleys, and plains.  August is a time of glory as found in our book (with Warren and Pat Brunner), Appalachian Sensations: A Journey through the Seasons. 

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August -- Engaging in Summer's Conversations

Let the heavens be glad, let earth rejoice,
let the sea thunder and all that it holds,
let the fields exult and all that is in them,
let all the woodland trees cry out for joy.
(Psalm 96:11-12)

        The fields and trees also tell profound stories, but these are filled with mysteries that constantly challenge us throughout life.  Fields exult, and that is expressed when they speak in the blaze of sunlight, or in the quiet shadows of evening, or the misty haze of early morning.  The weaker creepy voices of nature can sometimes be fearful to us, such as when we are in the woodlands on a dark night.  All in all, we need to find ourselves when listening and engaging in conversation in the wild.  The story is one of wonder, whether breezes blowing amid the trees, or animals rustling in the woods, or a mockingbird's repertoire.  The many and varied natural voices invite us to converse with them.  Why not?  It's natural to speak to and among old friends. 

        My old Aunt asked me, "Is it wrong to talk to plants?"  No, in fact, it's a good thing to do.  Many folks talk to their pets, or chat with wildlife.  Can't we find something to say to all creatures?  If all creatures give us strength to shout with joy, let's join our voices in chorus with them.  We human beings praise God and, by joining with other creatures, help enhance their instinctive acts of praise.
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We hear Earth's natural music and even enter into conversation with other creatures.  We eventually find an opportunity to express ourselves through words and in so many ways.  All too often our prayers are only those begging, and in rare cases those thanking God for gifts obtained.  A prayer of praise and blessing is worthy of our lips as we experience the expanse of God's glory in surrounding land forms.  August is a worthy time to praise. 

       Joyful Landscape: O Creator of our land, extend your constant care to all wild and tame plants and animals; may this care include all human residents who make this land fruitful by their presence and labor.  May the trees burst forth in utter song; may the wildlife dance in joy; may the meadow flowers bloom and nod assent; may cattle and other livestock yield abundant offspring; may the people celebrate in summertime.  And Lord, may you give us adequate rainfall to continue the fruitfulness this August season. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephant foot, Elephantopus carolinianus
Elephant foot, Elephantopus carolinianus. Mercer Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

August 2, 2022  Destroying Stored Chemical Weapons

        During the Syrian Civil War, horrible toxic chemical weapons were used on civilian populations who have lacked protective gear supplied to military combatants.  Citizen inability to escape a gassed area paints ghastly scenes of innocents in the vise of war.  The tales of World War One veterans scarred for life slightly over a century ago involved chlorine used in the trench warfare of the stagnant Western European theater.  Even Hitler, a gassed victim in that First World War, did not use gas in the repeat conflict two decades later perhaps because it could have been reciprocal.

        An operative international treaty calls for the destruction of this feared weapon arsenal and, to date, about 90% of the global arsenal has been destroyed.  However, one storage facility 13 miles from here at Richmond Kentucky is "temporarily" storing the world's largest collection of aging chemical mustard and nerve gas shells and assorted ordnance. They are now finally within the destroying process.    We say "temporarily" because the weapons were slated to have been totally destroyed through treaty obligations by 2012.  This American storage site is the local Bluegrass Army Depot, on and near the site of an 1862 Richmond, KY Civil War battle.  The residues of too many wars linger here in this heavily populated area.  We can't afford an accident as a postscript.

        The process of weapons' destruction has begun now.  The special highly expensive process is meant to be super safe and is designed with two-foot thick walls in the rare case of an explosion.  It will contain the best and latest equipment to ensure that absolutely (possible?) no gas escapes in the destructive process (neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation) -- a safer process than routine incineration that was used in previous chemical weapons destruction operations.  Local residents are fully aware that only a very small amount of escaped gas could cause local injury and death.  Designated escape routes and congregation points are sent each year to all our Estill and Madison County residents.

        We hope and pray that in this final storage and destructive process that nothing goes awry, even with a local siren system and radios to announce any danger and escape requirements.  The chemical gas phase of world warfare is hopefully coming to an end, and we will breathe a sigh when it occurs.  However, with a few dictators possessing some remaining quantities of chemical weapons, we are left to wonder whether they will be tempted to use them when cornered -- if Syria has not done so already.  Some local cynics say, "If you smell bananas breathe deeply and die." Dark humor is not a propos with such weapons still around; they need to be destroyed ASAP and the sooner the better provided continue care is full observed.

          Flavonoids Prayer: Lord Creator, you give us the bounty of summer produce at this time and throughout the growing season.  Induce us to choose more colorful (flavonoid) fruit and vegetables for our diet: peppers, celery, mulberries, peaches, plums, apricots and tomatoes; these are loaded with anti-oxidants that help us preserve our health and psychological balance of life.  Make us ever mindful of a healthy diet so that we can serve you more faithfully in helping others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium fistulosum
A tall Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium fistulosum, in early August.
 (*photo credit)

August 3, 2022  Congratulating "The Catholic Worker" at Eighty-Nine

        I am not the only one celebrating an 89th birthday this year.  In 1933, Dorothy Day's "The Catholic Worker" was born in that year of lingering Great Depression, rise of Nazism in Germany, bread lines and unemployment, bank holidays, the beginning of the Roosevelt (FDR) Administration, and domestic Communist agitation.

        Dorothy Day (1897-1980) along with Peter Maurin (1877-1949) founded "The Catholic Worker Movement" with whom I have been in deep sympathy all of my life.  This Catholic lay-operated movement is hardly an "organization" because of its informal structure.  The movement has spun off an incredible number of local groups dedicated to welcoming and feeding the poor and operating as "home" for the homeless and overlooked.  The primary print organ has been in circulation for one cent a copy for these nine decades, calling attention to Catholic social principles for all to consider.  It has always been peace-oriented and a voice opposing excessive wealth and force, and in favor of the poor and voiceless in our society.  Without any demands in the May, 2013 edition for permission or copyright notice, we are taking the liberty to reprint a notice from the first edition of this most worthy publication:

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Attention Police

        The first issue of The Catholic Worker is dedicated to the police of New York City, who we expect to be out in great numbers on May Day and whose attention we wish to call to the two encyclicals, The Reconstruction of the Social Order, by Pope Leo XIII and Forty Years After, by Pope Pius XI.

        If the police don't want to buy this paper, we will give it to them.  As so many of them are good Catholics, prominent and resplendent in Holy Name Processions and at Communion breakfasts, we feel sure that they will give this issue, which is dedicated to them, their sympathetic and intelligent attention. -- May, 1933  
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        Current issues of The Catholic Worker still have on their masthead "Price 1 Penny," or "25 cents per year subscription".  Yes, that has been and is the price, and is well worth it and any additional donations to support their most worthy work.  Send to "The Catholic Worker" 36 East First Street, New York, NY 10003.  You may wish to ask for copies of the last issue to list all the other Catholic Worker "Houses of Hospitality" along with addresses and mention of their own local publications.

        Grace of Perseverance: Lord, we are now at the mid-point of another hot summer.  The weather distracts us and yet we seek your protection against the oppressive heat and humidity.  Help me to be sympathetic of those who find it hard to endure the heat.  We realize that you always answer our prayer; we will continue to beg because we are confident of your mercy and care.  May we be steadfast in what we ask and confident that you will respond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An evening in the Bluegrass
Rising moon graces the evening sky.
 (*photo credit)

August 4, 2022     Improving Our National Infrastructure

          No one likes to dodge potholes while driving that could damage our vehicles or cause a serious accident.  No one likes to cross a bridge with cracks and a candidate for failure when many people are using it.  Yes, we currently have roads with potholes and still tens of thousands of unrepaired bridges.  American infrastructure, from airports to superhighways, need constant repair and maintenance.  For too long, such work has been postponed because of high repair costs.  What an ongoing tragedy!

          Part of the problem is lack of governmental resources to bring about repair of the commonly held national infrastructure.  Too often, citizens are out for benefits that affect them individually, from food stamps to tax relief; works related to the Common Good are often postponed to another day, and that is the extended sin of our excessive capitalistic individualism, which allows billionaires to bask in their wealth and others to defend their call for no new taxes.  Infrastructure is part of the Commons and too many rightwingers prefer to call "socialistic" any movement to make infrastructure maintenance a part of our civic responsibility.

          Who is there who becomes passionate about repairing a highway or even proper sidewalks for pedestrians?  It is not a vote catcher or a popular policy worth spending too much time on -- and that is the problem.  There are not enough people to speak out strongly for continued maintenance -- and added taxes to make repairs happen.  This is the heart of the infrastructure battle, especially since a road system second to none in the world is allowed with time to go slowly downhill.  To speak for roads really is speaking for the many who use them, but as "many" and without particular emphasis for individuals.  That is never an easy thing to do.

          All are affected.  Those who suffer most from deteriorating infrastructure are the very poor who have the weakest political voices.  In the long run all suffer to some degree, but it takes some degree of sophistication to perceive harm being caused by lack of maintenance and ultimate benefits rendered by up-to-date maintenance.

          Partisanship gives rise to poor infrastructure concern and care.  The money needed to bring about the improvements is difficult to extract, unless this issue is tied into that of the need for equality and redistribution of excessive resources in the current hands of the wealthy.  If one group defends the low taxes, they tend to overlook the growing infrastructure problem.  Unfortunately, we are talking about trillions of dollars and some are frightened by such large amounts.  However, we are called to support America's social welfare.  Both parties in this election year must take note.  There is further repair needed in our ports, rails, roads and bridges.  Let's see the need and address it.  

          Mid-Summer Celebration: Lord, we deserve to celebrate when the hot summer is half spent.  We are now on the year’s downhill slope and that is somewhat heartening to know.  Believers have much to celebrate when reflecting upon the many divine gifts given.  The joyful folks are able to stop long enough to give a sigh of relief and then proceed to celebrate with all around them.  May we endure the season, and look to festivals.  An atmosphere of hope points us to the fact there's much more in store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Working for Better Health for All

        Perhaps the cynic might say “Why focus on health, since we all have to die in some way?”  On the other hand, the Christian says Jesus focused on healing for all who asked him; in no instance did he refuse to heal the earnest seeker.  Most people seek better health, knowing how difficult illness can be for them and many of their acquaintances.  We realize that a healthy body and mind can allow an active person to perform better and improve a world in great need.  For Christians, health care has become (through the power of instant communication) a global concern.

        We first consider personal health as a major personal concern and give it attention.  Use of nutritious foods in moderate amounts along with adequate sleep, proper physical exercise and good surroundings are all part of personal health maintenance.  Concerned people likewise extend that effort to family, close relatives, neighbors and others as well, for poor health can threaten everyone.  Health in both personalized and institutional format requires our focus. 

        Recall that ancient Romans did not have hospitals or institutions for improving health.  Doctors made house calls only.  The Christian community sought to imitate Jesus and healed others immediately after the Pentecost, as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles – and has been a concern for 2,000 years.  In the fourth century AD when Christianity was allowed to be openly practiced, we discover that in Rome Fabiola, a wealthy penitent widow opened a hospital.  In that very century numerous small Christian institutions sprang up throughout the now more tolerant Roman Empire.  Health service quickly became a major Christian undertaking.  By the seventh century with the advent of Benedictines, every monastic institution had an infirmary for residents and visitors.  As these religious centers proliferated throughout Western Europe, so did institutionalized health care.  And with time Moslems took up health care and built some excellent facilities.  Furthermore, the secular world took up the practice as we know today. 

        Health care extends to the greater than human world.  We are deeply concerned that the habitat and nutrition of plants and animals remain wholesome; we know certain chemicals are toxic to specific plants and animals, and efforts to control them are necessary.  Our work in the Earthhealing program for the last half century is the recognition that harm has been done and improvement must occur.  In addition, offering one’s suffering by those who are ill can have immense merit and even improve the world.  The goal of the healing process is greater life and greater health for all, whether humans or other creatures.  While it is true that all will die and a sizeable number due to some sort of bad health, still we also know that advances leading to general health “save” or extend lives and improve quality of life. 

        Health care should be a natural right and one that requires the efforts of all in the human family to champion and work for basic equality.  Why should not all have access to inoculation for major human diseases at such a small price for each individual person?  Everyone on this Earth deserves this basic protection now afforded to wealthier people.  We may not all have access to the most exotic treatments, but we should have access to lower priced and popular ones when mass produced.  The current pandemic has made this principle more evident.  We all need to help expand basic health care for improvement of individuals and global health.  Let this be our healing mission.          


 

 

 

 

 

A chimney rock
A "chimney rock" formation. Bell Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

August 5, 2022    Climbing a Mountain is Enthralling

        How beautiful on the mountains, are the feet of one who brings good news, who heralds peace, brings happiness, proclaims salvation, and tells Zion, 'Your God is king!'                                                    (Isaiah 52:7)

        Mountains are favorite biblical places (appearing in print in the Old and New Testaments over 500 times).  In this month dedicated to celebrating land forms, we Appalachians give special honor to the resilient mountains all around us.  They are old, and beautiful, and enduring, and mountains have the power to heal in some mysterious way.  This has been part of our reflection in Mountain Moments (details on the website from Acclaim Press) and available through Amazon Books:

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Mountains are lovely, but even more so when they are inhabited.  The bare feet of youngsters running, skipping, dancing and hopping adorn the land.  That's good news.  So are the feet of those who hobble, limp along, shift, and pause a moment for a breath -- or lie still in silent death.  All add beauty.  Even more beautifying are feet that tell of God's saving power -- ultimate Good News.  They prove that beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder, but in the feet of messengers, the ones who encourage all to share the good that is within them.  We find much to be loveable here and, in proclaiming it, we give respect and courage to others to help extend their loving care to all creation.     
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        We climbed to the top of Colorado's 14,294-foot Mount Crestone in the mid-morning June sunlight and stood in utter silence with the snow-covered north slope on the other side of the jagged peak in forbidding isolation.  Alone, but with God in the splendor of a mountain top.  This prayerful experience could never be forgotten and, while lingering there, the impractical thought came to remain there forever.  It was the blessedness of our footprints that gave extra meaning to the setting and gave peace to the prayerful moment when time and place stood eternally still.  While some mountain moments cannot be repeated in intensity, we can have new ones where the prayer of the moment is calling us closer to God.  Retreating to a mountain place is not always possible, but if it can be done once or twice, we ought to avail ourselves of such a pilgrimage. 

        Are mountains not favorite places with the Lord?  Why is Jesus transfigured on a mountaintop?  Why does he escape to such places to pray?  We are influenced by the same forces that shape the hills and valleys; we admire the aged land forms that stand to so prominently.  When we accept our lives and adjust to normal life circumstances, we watch for rare opportunities to attain the mountaintops of human experience, peaks looming in everyday lives.

          Prayer on Hiroshima Day: Lord, we remember as a people what occurred on August 6, 1945 and do so with mixed emotions.  The rationale is so hard to justify, even though to invade Japan would have caused many deaths on all sides.  However, a bomb that killed so many innocent people cannot be justified, as are all our current stored and triggered nuclear weapons.  Forgive us our faults and move us on to destroy not only nearby chemical weapons, but the hydrogen and atomic bombs as well.  We are called to never let this bombing happen again, so please help us convert from military to peaceful ways, from spears to pruning hooks and much more besides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Untitled
Flowers for Hiroshima.
(*Photo by Kate Nevens, Creative Commons)

August 6, 2022  Comparing Transfiguration and Hiroshima Day

        On this Feast of Transfiguration, we note the day is also called Hiroshima Day.  The two on the same day seem to clash immensely.  The mystery of the Transfiguration is a promise and foreshadowing of glory that is to come when Jesus is King of an emerging Kingdom.  Hiroshima Day is virtually the opposite: a day of infamy when an innocent urban population in the midst of a brutal war was decimated by one atomic bomb.  We celebrate the promise of a future glorification; we grieve over a horrendous act committed to shorten a war as though ultimate end justifies means of human thoughtlessness and misjudgment.  We continue to suffer from that deed by justifying nuclear power in all its forms.  Why expand the Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge?

        As mentioned on the first of this month, we praise God for the natural glory all about, and in the act of praise we make all the more glorious or participate in "glorification."  We are not silent bystanders at the Transfiguration event; as followers of Christ, we see the need to glorify and "redeem" marred beauty.  Thus, a selective approach of seeing only nature as pristine and of avoiding damage done though human misdeeds is not proper celebration of this feast.  We are called to help glorify an unfinished creative process in part through needed repair work.

        The destruction of Hiroshima reminds us that human beings have the power to destroy something that is good -- a city where people live.  This power is present and is hidden in every nuclear sub and silo and aircraft with bombs aboard.  Merely refraining from unleashing this power does not deny its presence; repair means stopping the insanity of possession of these devices.  In other ways we see examples of destructive power in removing mountaintops, eroding arable farmlands, and clear-cutting tropical forests. 

        Glory rests in the praise we give and in the power to rebuild.  We give both words and deeds of praise.  If transfiguration is to occur in its fullest sense, we are called to do more than speak.  We must turn eroded landscape into fertile farmland.  I recall my Dad turning a neighboring broken-down farm into a productive landscape through stopping erosion, seeding land, and spreading local crushed limestone rock on the pasturelands.  Gradually, damaged fields became areas of improved productivity; his lesson was that we can assist in glorification, but it takes effort.

        Now, in realizing our role as a social body that has harmed others through weapons of mass destruction, we are prepared to repair and give glory.  We do this so the promise of transfiguration may be hastened, and God's kingdom comes.  The act of bombing Hiroshima is certainly not celebrated, but God's forgiveness is, as is our resolution to heal our wounded Earth.  Glorification comes in making restitution for past misdeeds. 

          Prayer to God of Grandeur: We glorify you, O God of all glory.  May we see all creation as part of your magnificent work, and render to us a continued sense of wonder.  You hosted the Transfiguration, a mile-marker on our journey of faith, for from Mount Tabor you lead us forward with Jesus.  We are grateful in being called to appreciate the glory of August, the deep-colored flora and scrambling fauna in our landscape.  You delight in your creation and, in turn, we discover it delightful as well.  Let us be attracted like Peter, James and John to your glory and be resolved to renew and glorify a troubled world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffalo Mountain Windfarm / Tennessee
Buffalo Mountain, TN, wind farm.
 (*photo credit)

August 7, 2022  Healing Our Earth: A Sacred Trust

                When we have had a great deal given to us on trust,
                        even more will be expected of us.     (Luke 12:48)

        Human beings have the great gifts of intelligence and free choice.  With these we can do good or evil.  As intelligent citizens we can see ramifications of our actions and how they can affect others.  Our Earth is more than a place where we work out our individual salvation for a relatively short time span; in trust, we work together with others and with the expectation that Earth will be a more perfect place because of our presence.  A great deal has been given and so much is expected during our stay.

          As intelligent beings, we have a history of skills, science, and technology to make vast improvements to what we find in a place.  Land can be productive, comfortable housing established, roads built and maintained, and communications achieved over long distances.  Tools are available and with proper use can benefit others.  Our gift of intelligence is a sacred God-given trust to continue the great work of ongoing creation.  We can know ourselves, work together, and participate in glorification.

          As free decision makers, we know that not every action is intelligently performed.  We see possibilities of doing good turned to conflict, warfare, and a host of misdeeds.  Our sacred trust is vulnerable.  A well-grounded spirituality involves knowing how we have missed the mark, ways we have performed misdeeds, and our neglect of halting harmful misdeeds by others.  We bear in our collective selves the sad history of not living up to expectations.  We have allowed others to suffer when they could have been healed and given responsibilities for helping with the improvements needed on our Earth.  We tolerate disparity of wealth and unemployment.

          Individually, we each must strive to be responsible for the skills given and the deeds required.  Understanding the sacredness of the call to action adds quality to our intended responses.  God has entrusted much to us -- reading skills, comprehensive talents, reflection periods and energy to take effective action.  Our degree of appreciation for the call comes in the quality of our responses.  Granted there is only so much we can do, but an attempt is the important thing even if the result is imperfect.

          Socially, we realize the limits of individual actions and thus must participate in cooperative work with others.  This involves filling up what is wanting in the suffering of Christ.  We help save the wounded world in which we find ourselves, accepting joint responsibility through insisting on proper and fair distributing of limited resources at hand.  Our calling is to make proper repairs on what is damaged and to share resources for the benefit of all as part of the sacred trust of reclaiming the Commons.

          Prayer to Avoid Wildfires: Lord, save us from the ravages of unexpected wildfires, for uncontrolled these can be frightening and devastating.  With climate change and increased possibility of drought and hot weather, those in the wake of these increasingly frequent wildfires suffer dearly in life, limb and property.  May we encourage the thinning of forested undercover so as to be less susceptible to costly blazes.   And may we be quick to assist those who experience wildfire events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_MG_2487
Ripening fruit of the persimmon, Diospyros virginiana.
 (*photo credit)

August 8, 2022  Asking Whether No-Growth Philosophy Is Proper

                May the sweetness of the Lord be on us!
                        Make all we do succeed.  (Psalm 90:17)

        Gar Alperivitz speaks of a transformative change in the economic institutions "that are not required to grow."  What Then Must We Do?  Chelsea Green, (2013).  I like much of what he says in the book as it pertains to the modern American economic system and its current problems (inequality, disparity of wealth, erosion of democratic values, global climate change, etc.) and the facts that back these up.  We must come to know the current situation and be resolved to do something about it.  Material no-growth goals are needed for sustainable living, especially in a culture that is so heavily laden with the consumption burden of almost one-quarter to one-fifth of the world's resources.  This nation must cut back for the sake of our limited planet and in order to share with others who have essential needs. 

        However, growth is necessary.  While one may speak in the secular sphere of "no growth" economics as a goal, this is to break the prevailing culture that companies strive to grow and prosper at all costs.  On the other hand, to say we are not "required to grow" spiritually in a physical world goes counter to the human spirit that always seeks growth.  We must continue to mature, and so pure no-growth strictures that stand apart from a deeper growing of the spirit within us are jarring to many -- including me.  We have to leave the materialistic mindset that so fashions the human in the worldly setting.  Would that economic institutions have a non-profit (meaning material profit) basis and then proceed to help establish that workers within companies are to grow spiritually over time as well as emotionally, culturally, intellectually, and with ever advancing wisdom with age.  

        The problem when confined to a secular discussion (which may include some American religious circles) in our secular world is that it is simply not satisfying to speak of "no-growth."  It contradicts the human drive within the serious person, and rightly so.  Some would say that the end result should be private growth, while the institution remains non-profitable through its constitutional structure.  The limits of the non-profit are often a barrier to some sort of success that includes growth.

        The problem only resolves itself if we see success in spiritual growth, not so much reward, but the ability to do what God wills for us and do it well.  We need to clarify our insight in our stance before the Divine Majesty.  We are meant to grow ever nearer to perfection, but this comes with maturation and effort and God's grace.  Growth, nonetheless.  Material growth alone is self-defeating.  And no-growth economics is no substitute.  As human beings we need to experience spiritual growth.

          Prayer of Praise: Praise the Lord!  Too often we make praying to you a matter of begging for what we lack.  As we stand in the verdant August scenery, let us simply and freely praise you for giving us existence and wellbeing.  Even this impulse to praise is from you, and yet I freely stand and open myself in an act of freedom -- the greatest human gift.  May your glory be magnified!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honeybee on wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia
Wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia.
 (*photo credit)

August 9, 2022   Controlling Guns or Being Controlled by Guns

        People on the FBI's terrorist watch lists tried to buy guns and explosives 1,453 times between February 2004 and December 2010.
                -Testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security
                and Governmental Affairs, USGAO, May 5, 2010.

        The gun situation of a decade ago has only increased as more and more guns including semi-automatics have fallen into the hands of the extremists; some of the right wing speak of the Second Civil War and they are armed for the event.  Our nation has over 300 million fire arms, not only more than any other nation, but in the hands of many who do not know how to used them properly.  A nation with 90% in favor of gun control of at least a limited degree was outraged, and rightly with each new episode of gun shootings and gun violence.

        How can so few among such a majority exert so much power?  It is the power of GUNS.  Never was a subject in such demand for national review and challenge, for the arsenal of military-type semi-automatic weapons and their multi-round clips continues to grow.  We expect more catastrophes to drop on a small classroom, movie theater, or worshipping community when the crazies want a moment of headlines and a chance to show off their arsenal.  We are a nation cowed in the shadow of the gunowners who forget that they are the bullies on the block; the public is overly confused as to their potential exercise of free expression.

        Congress is a major (but not the only) culprit.  In some ways a distracted public fails to apply the pressure in sufficient force to bring about substantive change.  For decades this federal Congress has stalled on even a serious debate of legislation originally drafted during the Bush Administration.  This would have closed the terror gap then and yet over a dozen years later it is still the issue being prepared for debate within a permissive society.  Some want their gun arsenals; others want their drugs and still others want their billions in tax havens -- and the common good be damned!  Those in the public interest must speak up.

        Unfortunately, we are a long way from gun control in this country that can readily achieve additional controls on military conduct and expenditures.  The harsh ingredients of a permissive society, a misunderstanding of constitutional rights to a local militia, and insecure individuals who have found favor through bullying add up to lack of meaningful legislation and controls.  Guns are simply out of control and we will have to pay the price -- especially the next gathering of innocent individuals who are easy targets for a crazy in some unsuspecting community of this fair land.  We can never heal a wounded Earth, if such uncontrolled arsenals abound, and no teeth are in laws and regulations to bring about controls of the most elementary nature.  How insane!

          Prayer for Earth's Bounty: God of glory, you supply us with good things such as ripening fruit, both cultivated and native.  We remember Israel's joy seeing the size of the grapes in the fruit‑filled Holy Land.  We have such bountiful blessings here in our land, if we but pause and reflect on their rich abundance.  Yes, we enjoy the exquisite taste of freshly picked fruit.  Motivate us to prize summer sights, sounds, odors and flavors and realize that they are truly praiseworthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Kentucky 2013
Fresh spring apple blossoms, future fruit for summer harvesting.
 (*photo credit)

August 10, 2022     Preserving Produce for Winter

        The characteristic smells of August are both natural and human produced -- and the latter more pronounced during this harvest month.  I can vividly recall the smell of ragweed carpeting pasturelands with its heavy pollen in the air.  Then there is the smell of silage and the beginnings of fermentation of the corn and cane mixture as it is blown into the storage space.  There is the faint but distinctive smell of fresh-picked produce from orchard and garden.  But the most distinctive smell of August is the kitchen where Mama preserved the surplus fruit and vegetables.  This has been captured to some degree in our available book, Appalachian Sensations, with photographs by Warren and Pat Brunner:

-----------------------------
August -- Putting Food By

YHWH smelt the appeasing fragrance...  (Genesis 8:21a)

        We hungry youngsters were always drawn to Mama's kitchen, especially for supper.  During summer it was especially a favorite time, because that was when the strong sweet smell of the day's canning pervaded the steamy environs.  The excessive supply of fruit -- cherries, plums, blackberries, peaches, grapes, and apples -- was turned into tasty cobblers.  Mama was proud of her day's work and, while we ate, she showed us jars lining the marble counter top, which were cooling before being taken to the cellar storage area.  There were sweet and dill pickles and relish, pickled pears and watermelon rinds, mincemeat made from green tomatoes, as well as strawberry, grape, and blackberry jam and jelly, and apple sauce.  And plum marmalade became the basic ingredient for her famous Christmas puddings. 

        During those pre-air conditioning days, we hardly thought about how difficult preserving food by canning actually was.  When the steamers were used for "cold packing" beans and non-acidic produce, the place became even more heated.  Perhaps that was why early homesteads had separate summer kitchens.  We didn't have one, and so Mama endured her purgatory on Earth.  Non-canners do not really appreciate the effort it takes to cook and preserve food.  We love fragrances that wet our appetites, and we enjoy finished products, but we must not fail to thank the cook.  Do we take summer's bounty for granted, and the ones who take time to preserve it?
-------------------------

    Grace for a Pure Heart: A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit. (Psalm 51)  Lord, I need your sustaining joy so as to serve you in helping others.  An unclean heart can soon be recognized by those we are called to serve.  Create in me a new heart that is transparent in its giving constant glory to you -- even in times of hot weather.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White crownbeard, Verbesina virginica
White crownbeard, Verbesina virginica.
 (*photo credit)

August 11, 2022   Affirming the Future of Wind Power  

        Renewable wind power, both onshore and offshore, is coming very fast and appears to have a very bright future.  While windpower optimists delight in prospect, we still hear complainers say they don't like the sound or sight of those whirling blades, or that too many birds are accidentally killed while coming too close.  That rapid wind-power growth has its ups and downs due to tax policy changes and relative condition of other energy sources.

        First, the biggest drawback in the 21st century has been the sudden rise in cheap natural gas through the recently developed fracking process.  This fuel's price has declined by 70% from 2005 U.S. levels though natural gas still commands far higher prices elsewhere (Asia and Europe) in the major energy-consuming world.  Lower cost American natural gas has cut into the coal and nuclear electricity generation rates and has slowed the rapid advance of both wind and solar applications.  However, natural gas is not perfect, not clean and not without environmental difficulties.

        Second, incentives are in place for short designated spans of time, and this causes the incentives for wind projects to rise and fall with great rapidity.  Obviously, this is difficult for those making longer-term utility commitments, though it takes far less time to develop wind farms than nuclear facilities.  Investment incentives are also uncertain on local and state levels due to financial constraints and to some red states' aversion to renewable energy replacement of fossil fuels.

        Third, wind is not being installed fast enough in various parts of the world such as in Japan, much of Africa, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe.  On the other hand, Western Europe has had a wind leadership role for decades such as in Denmark, Germany, and Spain.  Furthermore, a wind race among certain countries is going full tilt; China has gone from 114 GW capacity in 2014 to 281 in 2020 and growing rapidly; the U.S. in second place went from 69 GW during that time to 118 in 2020.  Germany in third place went from 39 GW of installed wind capacity to 62, and India in fourth place from 22 to 38 GW.  Even a few of the lower nations have surprising growth with Brazil from 6 to 17 GW during the same time period.  Overall, the world went from 369 to 733 GW with accelerating installation promised in this decade.   

        A very bright spot for both American wind and solar futures is the rapid decline in installation costs, for there is a decline of 80% decline in costs over the past two decades.  To winds favor is the raid decline in coal's fortunes and its inability to compete with renewables' electricity generation.  However, with the increased emphasis on fossil fuel replacement due to climate change consequences, we can continue to advance a prosperous wind future.

         Forest Prayer: Lord, we praise you among the trees.  They are so full of life as they stand peacefully side-by-side in vigorous community.  May they be your word spoken through their own magnificence, and beckon us to pause to reflect on their manifold message.  We too as humans must form community at the local and higher levels.  Lord give us the patience to listen to what trees teach us in the fullness of this season of growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Confronting Food Wastes

         Starting in Somali and spreading to other parts of Africa and beyond is a 2022 famine, and the entire human family ought to be deeply concerned.  When a child with empty stomach aches, so do all the compassionate of this Earth.  Global food distribution demands a more just process.  Yes, we are bound to use our national food bounty with care, for it is God’s gift to us at this time.  To WASTE FOOD is not only inhumane and unchristian; it is absolutely sinful when done mindfully.  A custom of leaving excess food on a dinner plate to manifest abundance should be abhorred, especially in times of famine.

         Wasting food has always made me uneasy, since in my youth we grew our own food on the farm; I became aware that it took great effort to produce sufficient quantity and quality.  We always cleaned our plates, even though other cultures consider a little remaining as signs of being filled to satisfaction.  Amid it all, food waste is a reality that is more pronounced in America and other affluent nations. 

         When we at ASPI performed 200 Environmental Resource Assessments in the 1980s and 90s, one area I was especially keen on assessing were signs of food waste in the client group.  The amount of food waste varies by organization, for both young students and elders can get in habits of food waste; youth do not care and inactive elders do not need as much nourishment.  However, in assessing one university I discovered among the student meal hall some 40% wasted prepared food due to overloading of trays and reluctance of paying students to complain; some of the prepared food was routed to a hunger center nearby. 

         We strived early on to address this resource conservation issue – as ought to be the case at all institutions.  Recently I observed returned dinner trays at a local hospital and large amounts of the beautifully arrayed food was returned untouched from the patient rooms.  With health costs so high, many economic as well as environmental resources can be found to serve smaller amounts, and to encourage those wanting seconds to be able to receive them.  The untouched food should be recycled locally if possible.

         Educational efforts at food savings could involve four different levels: general institutional administration, who are saddled with food purchases and pay current inflationary rates;  food preparing and distributing staff and the amounts served each person (who should be encouraged to come back for seconds if so desired);  food consumer who need to be willing to take less on the tray at a given time so as to encourage others to take smaller amounts; and other eating companions who should take less as models for all present.  Too often in senior institutions the food receiver is not mentally able to make a good judgment on intake.  Amid it all, seek to improve individual and community food consumption, and pray that our country and world discover ways of cutting waste and getting food to those in critical need.  I hope and pray that in the future I will not be directed to a facility where food is blatantly wasted before my eyes.  If so, may I be moved to object publicly. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Another view
A katydid, waiting to call on a summer's night in Kentucky.
 (*photo credit)

August 12, 2022    Bragging About Our Good Deeds?

        Recently, a parishioner asked me about the wisdom or morality of bragging.  Our automatic response is not to brag about anything, but that may be too dismissive.  We are turned off by the word "brag," which has a sense of pride in our own goodness or an inflated sense of our deeds done with the false notion that we are the origin of good.  Let's phrase this somewhat differently.  Should we publicize our good deeds? 

          Ours?  The answer to essentially the same original question is "yes," and the content of publicizing may be exactly the same.  What makes the difference?  First, we do not pretend to be the author of good deeds, for the inspiration comes from God, the author of all good things.  They are "ours" only in some degree of connection or service that we perform.  Jesus tells us that we are like the servant who comes in out of the field and yet is expected to prepare the meal for the master.  The point is not discovering a good cause to rebel against a privileged master, but to find where we can be of more embracing service.  Let's assume the deed performed is a good one, but we do this and thank God we are able to be of service -- and that is an honor.

          Brag or publicize?  The content of the message may be the same, but much depends on how one toots his or her horn.  Does it call attention to oneself or does it announce that God is being glorified through the good deed?  It is part of our evangelistic faith that good things be known to others, for far too much media space is taken with the dastardly deeds of deceit and terrorism in our troubled world.  Speaking of good deeds is like a drink of fresh spring water; it means so much.  It is easy enough to cover up that any of us actually participated in the performance, or give some of the other parties in the good deed the credit even when they may not fully deserve it -- for God is the author of all.

          Should we?  Far too little good is accepted as worth mentioning today because of fear that we may be thought to be bragging.  If we make God as author of all good and then find that we are humble servants of what is achieved, then we magnify the Lord, which is what Mary did in the Magnificat.  She says that all nations would call her "blessed" but that is not bragging -- because GOD has done good things through and for her.  Praise in understanding that being party to a wonderful deed makes us blessed among all others.  If we realize power of the good deed, then we are able to "incarnate" (put flesh on) the Word spoken to the human race.  To publicize through song (Mary), homily, poetry, facial expression (Elizabeth), or dance (John the Baptist in the womb), is to give glory to God through mighty deeds and these we know speak louder than good words. 

          Grace to Avoid Wasting: Lord God, Creator of all good things, you are the designer and maker of Earth and established it, not creating it to be a waste, but designing it to be lived in. (Psalm 100)  May we enter your designing process and help establish good habitats for all people and creatures.  Teach us to waste nothing, but rather to enter into the rhythms of nature, which has a way of recycling everything.  May we respect, reuse, and recycle material resources, and render so-called wasteland more productive, at least as wildlife habitat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

raven arch carter county kentucky ky
Raven Arch. Carter County, KY.
 (*photo credit)

August 13, 2022   Highlighting Unique Rock Formations

        In this month when we celebrate the land forms of our Earth, we ought to focus for a moment on the rock formations that decorate our planet.  Within my parish are two such unusual areas, the Red River Gorge and the Kentucky Natural Bridge.  Add to this the formations above the ASPI Nature Center which helped give the name "Rockcastle" to the county where I resided for a quarter of a century.  The rock facings in each of these sites are picturesque and are recognized by one million visitors to our wilderness area annually.  They are attracted to state- and Federal-run facilities and come for sightseeing, camping, hiking, and rock climbing.

          Rocks offer thrilling moments.  Once, when hiking in the Rockcastle hills with very dense underbrush, we came upon a cliff edge and it was only a step ahead (overhanging foliage did not allow a clue as to danger).  I will never forget the near miss.  Those of us either living here or visiting realize the utter beauty of what these rocks provide, but also the need to respect them and show care because of associated dangers.  Each year several people are injured or lose their lives in these rugged areas, but for the greater part many enjoy seeing and experiencing the raw nature of our rock formations.  In younger years, I rappelled from the cliff formation and found this a thrilling nature experience.  Would that all people could appreciate these formations at closer range, for we need to touch our Earth, even the rugged parts. 

          Rocks have character.  To rest on or near rocks gives us some brief time to reflect on their firmness and their seemingly unchanging quality.  On hot summer days, rocks have a warmth that radiate into our whole being.  They seem so unfinished and capable of demonstrating the act of creation itself, something still being achieved.  In a concrete fashion, rock formations express the grandeur of the universe.  Much depends on their setting, for rocks show character when at sea or lakeshore, when in gorges and breaks of ancient rivers, and when in deserts and mountainous terrain.  Those who journeyed to the moon speak of the contrast between moon rock and Earth rock.  All are fascinated by the beauty of rock in all its uniqueness.

          Rocks are ideal places to pray.  Consider that each of us needs to find the sacred place where we feel closer to God.  In fact, we may like to return over and over, and yet many of us appreciate fresh locations for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I recall being on a castle fortress area in Alsace in France and feeling close to God, and yet I would never be there again.  We need to expect that the character of the rock formation enters into our repertoire of unique experiences and adds flavor to our lives.  It is fitting to perch on a rock and spend time in prayer and meditation, for they can impress us in many ways.

          Prayer to Be an Earthhealer: Loving God of the Universe, direct our attention to mindful past experiences and to an awareness of precious time left to be conscientious healers of Earth.  May the renewing process improve our healing skills.  Teach us to see wellness as a virtue that is gained and preserved through our humble human efforts.  You bestow many gifts, for which we are exceedingly grateful.  Hopefully, an eternal spark will be ignited to use your gifts to hasten the healing of global wounds and make the beginnings of a New Earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hummingbirds sally ramsdell
Hummingbirds learning to "share".
(*Photo by Sally Ramsdell)

August 14, 2022  Setting Strategic Fires through Charismatic Word  

I have come to bring fire to the Earth, and how
        I wish it were blazing already!    (Luke 12:49)

          A charismatic person can start a fire.  Is this not what the Lord wishes of us as quoted in the Luke verse above?  Fires can be good or bad, controlled or allowed to go wild.  We talk much in these reflections on fire safety and protection from careless or accidental fires -- and we respect their destructive aspects.  But fires can be controlled and even utilized blessings for keeping us warm, cooking our food, smelting ore, or even inciting another to action.  The last more energetic "fire" is our focus here.  Those with charisma have a special gift for kindling fire in others.

          A charismatic person can do harm.  Not all fires burn for good causes.  Notorious leaders such as Hitler were charismatic and could draw people for the wrong causes by the fire of their rhetoric and emotions.  Being "on fire" through misdirected or evil intent is extremely hard to redirect.  Emotionally swaying people to wrong causes is hardly a lofty goal and is fraught with terrorist consequences.  Even religiously motivated charismatic action can become extreme and cultic in tone.  It may be best not to attempt a frontal confrontation, but to hope through prayers that those who tend to follow happen upon a good leader.

          Charismatics can do good as well.  The power of their own persuasion can overwhelm charismatic individuals and their followers.  One must propose a delicate line between the exercise of that power and the freedom still to choose.  Extremism can be a form of terrorism, and those incited to fever pitch in the name of God or Allah or anyone or thing must realize the power of the fiery words, and dampen rhetoric to some degree.  Easier said than done.

          The non-charismatic can also light fires.  In quiet ways these can inspire others; a perfect example is the founder of the highly successful Spanish Mondrago Cooperative Corporation, Father Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, who was inspiring by always "needing" help in carrying out goals -- and those near him rose to the occasion.  Fire can be lit in quiet ways and marvels can result.

        Can those with a few charismatic gifts rise at the proper time and place and kindle a fire of faith in people who are allured by material things of this world?  Would that they could bring on genuine enthusiasm with its balanced approach and staying power.  Can they reach the social addicts of our society who appear paralyzed through their allurements to drugs, Twitter, or alcohol?  Can fire be lit to touch the dull, the lazy, and those who have given up?  We can only say so many words.  A far better approach is a combination of prayer and persuasion.

          Set Earth on Fire: Jesus Activist, you speak out boldly about the need to bring about radical changes on this Earth; you say that in doing so the tranquility of comfort will be broken, and your followers must launch into the spiritual fray.  To dedicate ourselves to your revolution we must be willing to forego past relationships that would hold us back.  You ask us for total commitment and we intend to conform as best we can.  May we help set fires, which need to break the status quo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

alpine flowers wyoming wy medicine bow
Alpine Wildflowers in summer. Medicine Bow, WY.
 (*photo credit)

August 15, 2022  Trusting Mary: God's Instrument of Grace

        On each August 15th we Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, the very ancient tradition from the earliest century of Christianity.  We recognize that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven.  On this day we recall the great gift that God gave to Mary and, in due time, gives to us through the Lord's redemptive graces.

          First Reading (Revelation 11:19 to 12:10).  The woman mentioned in this book is surrounded with light for the sun clothes her and the moon is at her feet, with twelve stars making a crown circling her head.  Heaven and Earth unite within her body, for Mary is the Ark of the Covenant, the dwelling place of our God.  In this account, the dragon representing the world's evil allurements is ready to devoir her child, but cannot overcome the powers of heaven.  Mother and child are in the midst of a cosmic struggle.

          Second Reading (I Corinthians 15:20-27). Through our first parent Adam, death came into the world; through Christ comes life.  Jesus is now raised from the dead and lives eternally in glory.  He is the first to enjoy the fruits of redemption in the glorious resurrection of which we will all enjoy in due time.  Through sacred tradition we hold that Mary goes before us, just as she was first in the coming of the Messiah.  Through God's grace her body and soul go ahead of us now in heaven. 

          Gospel Reading (Luke 1:39-56).  Mary visits Elizabeth and realizes that both are pregnant by divine grace.  Both offspring will be instruments of the divine plan; John the Baptist leaps in joy to be so near the Lord and his mother.  The ancient Magnificat hymn is inserted into the text here.  As mentioned in numerous previous feasts on this day, the world around us is turned upside down, and Mary recognizes this in saying the rich will be brought down and the lowly will rise.  The words resemble Hannah's prayer at the birth of Samuel (I Samuel 2:1-10). 

          The tradition of Mary being bodily taken into heaven follows the Old Testament tradition that this occurred with those who played important roles in salvation history (Elijah, Moses, and Isaiah).  Mary is truly the instrument of God's grace and plan for salvation.  Mary is liberated through her great trust in God and thus becomes the model for each of us.  We are not to put her on a pedestal, but rather see her as going ahead of us as a sure sign of what will occur at the end of time for all of us. 

        Mary is instrument of the coming of the Lord into our human history and she is also the instrument for upending the status quo world of materialism.  This occurs through her trust in what God has done for her; she trusts God; God entrusts to her a special role.  In turn, we are to learn from her to likewise trust in God and realize in faith that God entrusts much to us as well.

Ave Maria:

Hail, O Queen of Heaven Enthroned!
Hail by angel’s mistress owned!
Root of Jesse, Gate of morn,
Whence the world's true light was born.
Glorious Virgin, joy to thee!
Loveliest whom in Heaven we see.
Fairest thou where all are fair,
Lead with Christ our sins to spare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

catnip garden
Enjoying catnip in the garden.
 (*photo credit)

August 16, 2022     Preparing a Late Summer Garden

        The following are some suggestions that may help in preparing gardens for autumn and end of year.  Our goal is to use wisely the resources we have at hand in anticipation of the first frost and end of growing season.  Granted, these selections are geared to my micro-climate and may not have direct bearing on your particular situation.  But the hints may help in your own survey of what ought to be done in late summer given your specific conditions.

* 'Sow autumn turnips near the Feast of the Assumption' was a saying that my folks brought over from Alsace -- and it is a timely suggestion to follow in this country as well;
* Give special emphasis to all the Brassica family of vegetables, and that means starting plants early enough to have autumn collards, mustard, kale, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts;
* Protect delicate plants against the late summer sun for this may be necessary for autumn productivity;
* Assemble cold frame materials so that the cherry tomatoes can continue to bear well past frost in October and on under protection to the end of the year;
* Prepare space and pray for enough rain for the growing of radishes, endive, arugula, Swiss Chard, and other autumn greens, along with autumn peas that do well in cooler times;
* Water late cucumbers and continue to preserve the surplus crop throughout the bearing season.  This may be too late for sowing more hills of cucumbers that could bear before normal frost for they would need extensive protection in order to produce in the weeks of late September and October;
* Prepare to harvest the papaws that are ripening right now along with late blackberries and peaches, and the first-of-the-fall apples and pears.  Gather and prepare the coming year's supply of jewelweed for medicinal purposes;
* Taste the wild cherries and gather some of the last of the mulberries of the season along with pokeberries for medicinal purposes;
* Cultivate the late flowers (cosmos, mums, etc.) that will help grace the garden in the coming months.  It may be necessary to buy some autumn flowers to beautify the place or to gather in the wild flowers (goldenrod, ironweed, and bush phlox) for table decorative arrangements;
* Give away or exchange surplus produce with friends and neighbors;
* Offer to care for and water gardens when neighbors are away for a few weeks;
* Patronize the farmers' markets at the height of their popularity for late summer corn, eggplant, late mushrooms, extra canning tomatoes, and melons of all sorts; and
* Chop out the summer weeds that seem to creep in during the hot weather and dispatch them before they bear seeds.

          Prayer for Civic Leadership: Lord, give strength and courage to our civic leaders, for much depends on their decisions and example in these troubled times.  Let us look to past leaders such as Saint Stephen of Hungary on this, his feast day.  May our president, governor, judges and mayor seek and find your blessing in the works they undertake.  May we as citizens support our good leaders, be aware of what they are doing, and speak out when better things must be done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

covered bridge kentucky
Valley Pike covered bridge, Mason Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

August 17, 2022  Continuing American Heroic Traditions: Emil Kapaun

        We all need heroes; on this birthday of Davy Crockett (1786) we look for authentic Americans who carry on the traditions of the Texan pioneers who died at the defense of the Alamo.  In fact, it is customary to find those heroes in war situations where they sacrificed their lives for others. 

        An authentic American hero in that wartime tradition was an unlikely one at the start of his life on a farm in the Kansas prairie, namely, Emil Kapaun.  In April, some 62 years after his death in a Northern Korean prison, President Obama gave Chaplain Emil Kapaun the Medal of Honor.  Emil left the farm to become a Catholic seminarian and priest and at the time of the Korean War volunteered to be an army chaplain. 

        His heroics were described by survivors of the war in talks and printed media including The Saturday Evening Post (January 16, 1954), and these who he influenced in life became champions for his cause to receive recognition for his bravery.  It was the talk of Korean War reunions and in communications among survivors who knew him.  He was dedicated to his men, and they would kid him and say he went straight to where the battle was most fierce, in order to tend to the wounded and dying, even carrying the disabled himself back for medical attention.  He went to the battle noise knowing that soldiers were hurting.  President Obama noted his heroism in the battle of Unsan, and that many of the members of the Third Battalion, Eighth Cavalry Regiment credit their emotional and physical survival to the efforts of Chaplain Kapaun. 

        Emil Kapaun was true to his calling and stayed with his comrades when the combat group was surrounded, and went to prison with those who survived the battle -- and there the struggle for life reached a climax.  Conditions were extremely primitive; food was short and of a very poor quality; and life for all prisoners was sure misery.  Emil used his ingenuity in obtaining food where possible even through "stealing" from guard supplies and from the landscape around.  His greatest fault was failing to take all of his own ration but, instead, sharing it with those he regarded as in greater need.  Eventually, racked by pneumonia and dysentery, he passed to his heavenly reward at the prison in 1951.      

        A final recognition may be still forthcoming.  The cause of Servant of God Kapaun for sainthood is now being pursued by the Wichita Catholic Diocese -- and this is an equally hard journey.  Two miracles must be credited to his intercession.  A potential one is a college student who suffered a life-threatening injury in a pole vaulting accident; a second incident is a teenage girl who was healed from a liver and lung disease.  In both cases their families and friends prayed for healing through Emil Kapaun's intercession.

          Prayer during Perseid Meteor Showers: Lord, we stand outside on this night to see the streaks of wonderful light in the heavens.  Your creation always astounds us, but even more so when we observe your power in the activity of the heavenly bodies.  What wonder and glory abounds as we look out at the limitless universe, which manifests your fullness in creativity and power.  Allow us to enjoy your expansive expression of love in these meteor showers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

indian pink
Indian pink, Spigelia marilandica. Franklin Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

August 18, 2022    Questioning "Radical Conservatives"

        A decade ago, a multi-millionaire Floridian businessman said he was willing to bankroll my projects if I only speak favorably of the capitalistic system and deny that climate change was anthropogenic.  It sounded so simple and for a brief moment I was tempted to try practicing so-called "Jesuit equivocation," which I had heard about.  However, in refusing the offer I found the fellow overwhelmed that someone would refuse his six-figure largesse, and thus not accept that capitalistic endeavors had made him wealthy.  C'est la Vie!  Strangely, he invited me to give him a political/ economic category in which I belong so he could perhaps attack it. 

        How do you tell someone that exerting power through wealth is not a salutary conservative practice?  It wastes limited resources to gain and secure (through expensive military systems) ill-retained gain.  The privileged depend for favor on powerful governments to retain their ill-gotten loot and even disparage the very governments they depend on to ensure their privileges.

          True conservatism involves three criteria: an individual level to hold fast to age-old social values believing in the right to life of all people including the unborn and aged, and the support of traditional marriage (see specific Daily Reflection topics); on the local social level to hold to sustainable living and financial practices in community so that these are healthy places to live (see 99 Ways to a Simple Lifestyle and Healing Appalachia); and on the global level to champion basic respect for the rights of all people on this planet and the health of the planet herself (see Reclaiming the Commons). 

        This last criterion is the most misunderstood.  The first (individual rights) harks back to basic Judeo-Christian values and stands in contrast to a libertarianism, which is based on enlightened self-interest, a position fraught with unconcern about others.  The second criteria incorporates local community organizing, support for appropriate technology, local financing of development, and worker-controlled employment opportunities; here conservative values are deeply entrenched and hark back to basic democratic principles on which this land was founded.

        The third level involves radical sharing of resources with those in need as described in the early chapters of Acts of the Apostles -- a rather ancient document.  Today, through modern means of communication, neighborhood is Earth and sharing takes on global dimensions demanding controls on finances and environmental protection; this is to refrain from pitting one nation or state against another in a bidding war of downward working conditions and wages.  This federalizing of financial and environmental concerns makes this an inherently conservative position.  Thus, global radical conservatism is something worth supporting.

         Prayer to the Creator of Wilderness: O Creator of green forests, we express sorrow for damage done to the precious and necessary forest resources, the lungs of our Earth.  Allow us to enter respectfully into the cathedral of the woods and to marvel at the diversity and beauty of surrounding creation.  Certainly we sense your Presence and recognize your Trinitarian imprint on all Creation.  Satisfy us to simply see and not neglect, to taste and not over-indulge, to visit wilderness but still not disturb.  May we join others in honoring and preserving fragile wilderness areas.  Our hope is to work together to defend natural areas that will remain untouched as a resource reserve.

 

 

 

 


Copyright © 2022 Earth Healing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Earth Healing team:
Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Charlie Fritsch
Janet Kalisz
Mark Spencer

Excerpts from the JERUSALEM BIBLE, copyright © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. and Doubleday & Company, Inc.  Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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