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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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July, 2021

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Copyright © 2021 by Al Fritsch

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July Reflections, 2021

            July is berry month; it is generally the hottest month in this ever-warming era.  July brings the fullness of foliage, summer flowers, and a sense of God's grandeur in creation.  Kentucky's July beckons others -- the homesick, sightseers, rock-climbers, and campers -- to come and visit and enjoy our Commonwealth.  In non-pandemic times July means celebration: festivals, cookouts, parades, potlucks and fireworks; it's a time to gather and enjoy wild and domestic produce: blackberries, cultivated and wild plums, peaches, summer apples, wineberries, raspberries, cantaloupes, apricots, green beans, cucumbers, squash, peppers, corn, and beginning of the grand tomato season.  Welcome July!

                                                  Phytolacca Americana
                                      Humble but still very majestic,
                                                Unfertilized but quite prolific,
                                      Edible green shoots when first sprouted,
                                                Full of dark crimson clustered berries --
                                      Mid-summer's grand medicinal treat. 

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Ghost pipe, Monotropa uniflora. Laurel Co., KY.
 (*photo credit

July 1, 2021      Attempting to Focus Today    

I try to pray, Oh Lord, to you,
   yet it is a litany of what to do.
As I survey the overwhelming milieu
  with moments too few, too few.

Again, I pray the liturgy of the day,
  again as before the thoughts delay,
My feet of clay get in harm's way.
  Please deliver me from this fray.

Battle plans, legal stands,
  helping hands, threatened lands,
Endless fights, warring clans.
  Who knows the time spans?

Make me like a moth drawn to the light,     
  make the night a cloak of might,
In the darkness keep it bright,
  Focused clearly on a way-off sight.

        We need to focus on the important things of life and avoid the allurements, which crowd our minds all too often.  The recent pandemic has given us greater cause to focus on essential needs and the Common good.  Yes, we have personal, economic, political, social and health problems striving to crowd out any spiritual reflection, so needed right now.  Each of us have our own list of distractions, but we should strive in the heat of summer to return to times of special focus on the Creator of all good things.  July's festive celebrations are ideal for dissipation during times of reflection and prayer, but let's resolve not to let this happen.

          Prayer: Lord, inspire us to be mindful of our duties and obligations as individuals and as a people committed to you.   May our country be focused on correcting the inequalities that plague us and cause us to neglect our infrastructure maintenance; help us to cooperate with other nations in curbing climate change.










Vivid colors of insect on leaves of poke.
 (*photo credit

July 2, 2021       Celebrating the Fourth in New Ways

        The recent pandemic has been sobering, to say the least.  Besides fireworks, we may be at a loss in ways to celebrate the Declaration of Independence.  For the last sixteen months our attention has been drawn to global health issues.  In many ways we are now wiser people and so should regard attention to others in this holiday season.  As did our founding parents, many of us see our patriotism linked with a trust in God.  Uncertainty was present in 1776, and is today as well.  Let's think individually, family/locally, nationally, and even globally:

          Individual -- Read American history and especially the Revolutionary War account.  We are always caught in amazement that our country was able to pull together over such distances of land mass and with such slow communication and transportation -- and to successfully wage a campaign of independence against the major world military power. 

          Family -- Visit with relatives and friends some historic site within reasonable reach of your residence.  This is a good time to see a local museum or monument, or a scenic lighthouse, or a presidential birthplace or library.  Much depends on what is within easy reach by travel, but the likelihood is very high that each of us has overlooked a local historic or scenic location.

          Church community -- Consider a special prayer for our nation and the people who need to be more firmly united, after suffering too much divisiveness.  Invite a friend who wanders far from spiritual ways to go to church with you this weekend.   

          Broader community -- This is the time for frequenting the local farmers' market or yard sale, since surplus produce is now appearing in plentiful quantities; there's plenty of bargains this time of year.  It is also an opportunity to socialize with neighbors and give them an encouraging word.

          National -- Get involved in a political campaign on the local, state, or national level.  It is time to check on the newly elected to see if they are striving to keep their promises.

          International and global -- Consider for summer reading a book about another country, so that we can virtually travel without leaving home.  It is far easier that way.  Furthermore, we need to become a nation that acts as an example to others in the struggle to conserve resources and curb climate change; this has been overlooked far too long.  We must redouble our national efforts to conserve resources and establish a renewable energy economy.   In fact, our country must again take the lead in resource conservation.  It is time we as a people advance to a leadership role, just as we did when becoming an independent nation.

          Prayer: Lord, inspire us to say again with a sense of humility, "In God We Trust."












Empowerment at Time of Crisis 

          On this July 4th weekend, we recognize serious threats to our nation and democracy, for we have several crises facing our fair land: climate change that must be addressed; a Big Lie accepted by literally millions of confused citizens; and Congress handicapped in its efforts to come to terms with the economic inequality of our people.  Thank heavens for concerned citizens, many honest administrators, and a sense of responsibility growing on the part of many residents.  Our democracy is threatened as well as the well-being of the planet itself, calling for us to work together at both national and global levels.  In our June Facebook essays, we have shown how expanding inequality can weaken our democracy, foster greed, promote violence among those who suffer from insecurity of essential food and lodging, and hinder global collaboration that is needed for success in economic renewal.  We seek some sort of empowerment to address these problem areas.

          A feeling of helplessness may accompany this gigantic undertaking; we face obstacles; we shutter at repeated demands to overthrow the current government and establish an autocrat to "save America;" we are shocked by the numbers who buy into a Big Lie -- many of whom are armed.  Amid such a darkened atmosphere, we wonder whether we can preserve American democracy that was paid for at such a bloody price.  We must not panic at the shortness of time to act.  The autocrats and profiteers work against us and appear to have many in government captive, along with silence by academic, civic, and even religious leaders.  All the while we know that our resources and time are limited.

          What can believers do?  All people of good will must be honest: we admit current social and political conditions demand working with what we have; we cannot remain passive and silent, but take a positive public stance; we must affirm a power in collaborating with others of good faith; we must call for a just and equitable future after the current hurdles are surpassed; and we must affirm that this process needs divine guidance and support.  Yes, a hidden power exists to face evil intent with a solid basis of democratic principles that can overcome violence seekers and profiteers.  With the Lord, all things are possible, and this empowers us to renew our Earth.

          Tackle powerlessness.  On this July Fourth many citizens have a sense of powerlessness.  In fact, individually we can do little more than violent acts by the despairing.  However, admitting our limitations must be coupled with a sense of togetherness and the power that comes in organized resistance.  Empowerment can transcend prevailing powerlessness with a sense of togetherness witnessed during the first American Revolution.  This empowerment will be broken into components during the next three weekends: power of well-chosen words written and spoken; power of responsible deeds done for those most in need; and power of prayer to keep us humble and down-to-earth.  We can succeed, for we must.  




Calypso orchid, Calypso bulbosa.
 (*photo credit

July 3, 2021  Humbly Seeking God's Help Is Truly Patriotic

        A year ago, our nation was suffering from the pandemic and our message on July Fourth weekend was to imitate Christ who entered Jerusalem riding on an ass.  The triumphal military parade that had to be postponed was not really in keeping with the sacred tradition of that first Independence Day celebration in 1776.  The signers of the Declaration of Independence were quite aware that if they did not hang together, they would hang separately.  We are deeply aware after the pandemic experience that parading military might does not solve America's current problems and is grossly unrealistic given the existing situation.

        The call to return to American greatness could prove hollow when that refers to wealth and economic wellbeing.  Certainly improvements have been necessary and ultimately are on the way.  But the greatness, if any, is totally different: namely, a sincere calling on the God in whom we trust as stated in our motto.  In 1776, there was no military structure to oppose the power of the British Empire.  There was no history of equal wealth or democratic process.  Much of the prayer for divine assistance was based on real needs by a weak collection of colonies and a keen awareness of overcoming oppression.  

        We stand today, as in other times of crises, in need of divine assistance when facing natural threats of a new virus.  Military greatness is hollow.  Certainly, we are called to strive for health safeguards, medical equipment and facilities, quick alert times, tracking and testing, and the global efforts to produce an effective vaccine to meet current needs.  We need to be humble that global problems demand collaborative endeavors on the part of the family of nations.  We cannot go alone, as though without need of others, thinking that our American "self" is what is all important.

        Part of the American problem has been a sense of exceptionalism, that we are privileged and better than others. Our revolution was successful to some degree, but in many ways it is still ongoing in order to secure true liberty for minorities.  Individual freedom (e.g., gun rights) is deep in the American psyche -- and this has led to the severity of the pandemic and the inability to follow simple social norms and practices for the good of all.  Crowded beaches and bars last year emerged as a black mark on American conduct.  Added to this is a lack of national leadership and we witnessed a perfect storm of infection, the effects of which will take a long time to heal.  It is embarrassing to say that other nations have handled the pandemic in a better manner than America.  We have much to learn and that is humbling;  it is also part of the reality of who we are; we must move now to a global stance and realize that our American experience does have much to offer others -- provided we present this within a humbling act of sharing among equal global citizens.

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to be patriots of the 21st century, to be humble in asking help, and to pray for divine assistance.









Early summer squash blossoms
photo by Sally Remsdell)

July 4, 2021       Risking Being Prophets Today

        This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary... "A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relatives and within his own house."
                        (Mark 6:3-4)

        The prophetic message and its difficulties return in today's liturgy readings (Ezekiel's hard message to Israel; Paul's thorn in the flesh; Jesus's words about his hometown opposition).  True prophets had a hard time two thousand years ago and also today.  This is especially true on Independence Day when proper exercise of patriotism means being like Christ as humble messiah and not some military power-broker.  We need courage to speak against pretending of justify a false exceptionalism.  The Gospel passage tells about Jesus's situation, but is it so different from our own when we conceive of neighborhood as a broader world?  We are called to speak in a prophetic manner, even if this proves unpopular. 

        True prophets have a hard time, whereas false ones are often well-received and lauded -- especially if telling what the audience wants to hear: jobs will be plentiful; fuel will continue at low price; credit debts are manageable; there's no need for new taxes; climate problems are easily solved; it’s great to strive for riches.  Unfortunately, politicians and others do not often aspire to be true prophets, and doubly unfortunate is that hearers don't want inconvenient truths to be mentioned.  The fault does not lie with the prophetic message, only with two things: the weakness of the people called to tell the message; and the weakness of the hearers who want another message.

        Must modern prophets grow stronger backbones and thicker skin?  Is there any way to make the hearers receive and listen to the message willingly?  Certainly we are aware that not all Americans think and act the same way, and so we can expect false prophets and poor listeners.  True prophets need courage to speak and people with spiritual insight to respond to the word.  Will an honest portion of the population be sufficient to preserve our nation from false detours and struggles?  The message of true prophecy may be subject to false interpretation by those deceived by materialistic aspirations.  For prophet and audience to be in tandem requires living faith and an atmosphere willing to do what has to be done.  Amid all adversities Good News demands to be delivered and heard. 

        Fidelity to the word and not the ongoing assurance of success is what move one forward -- and hearers who are sincere will be struck by a radiance of fidelity.     Climate change of human causation is an unpleasant message, and some still deny that a global problem exists or that we need a renewable economy.  One must take such attacks in stride, and patiently expose the special interests who are merchants of doubt.  Consistent honest exposure is of utmost importance and involve a clear message of change.

          Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to risk being vilified and still never let it stop our enthusiasm to spread the Good News. 










Ephemeroptera, delicate summer beauty
*photo credit)

July 5, 2021      Writing Letters Still Has Charm and Value 

        As of this writing I am in the process of reducing a volume of past talks, meetings, correspondence, and notable event records -- for the sake of those who must clean up after my passing.  In this tossing out of materials I note how careful we were decades ago in writing letters of introduction, negotiation for a speaking engagement, or thanks for favors.  Often these were not just small notes or emails, but substantial letters.  One temptation has been to save these as souvenirs of the pre-email period, when we can erase them now with little thought.  Looking back, however, something charming existed in those days of careful composition and lengthy replies.  Has the hastily jotted email damaged the hidden charm of letters written and copied for records?

        Think back to previous decades and the letters preserved by those in war that became printed diaries and books, or letters so well composed, such as between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson that they became part of American History.  These were often formal reflections, since mails were slow, distractions were fewer, and well-thought-out policies were worth sharing with friends.  Today we have blogs and mindless Twitter and even comments on the Facebooks of a multitude of sharers.  Social contact is so much a part of modern instant and low-cost communication that some would call it the new ordinary.  Today's communicators are willing to spend money and time to keep their cell phone connected and bills paid -- but how much of this is quality time?   Is it argued that wasting time together has become modern solidarity?

        Emails are so quick, even when sent as condolences to a distant acquaintance; they take composing and correcting, but not with the finesse of the long hand-written letter.  However, some of us through shaking hands have digressed to deteriorating penmanship; thus, typed copies are better for the sake of readers.  Still, the phone call is often the more efficient way to make that needed communication, we have all but ceased posting letters for mundane business.  Email records can be retained if one cares to retain a history of events -- but this can be boring.  Letters sent by snail mail or email are more permanent than personal conversation or normal phone calls.  When being thoughtful in communicating, we avoid emotional outbursts that we regret later.

        Each of us considers writing to certain people in a more designed and composed manner.  But the task seems to become more onerous with time, with shaky hands, and via higher priced first-class stamps.  There are those certain types of business we do not want to open to the public traffic of the Internet -- and so we resort again to the art of letter-writing through the regular post.  Let's face it, there charm in both writing and receiving letters, twice cherished.

          Prayer: Lord, you bless us with the wonderful letters of Saint Paul and others; here we find the essence of Christian thought.  Grant us grace to continue writing letters that benefit all.










An evening hike, approaching sunset
*photo credit)

July 6, 2021     Remembering Sightseeing Trips

        On this past Independence Day weekend many Americans have been on the road, and they see a parade of sights go past.  As we travel, we suppose that the sights are retained as though the brain is a video recorder.  Not so!  We may have some vivid flashbacks due to something memorable, such as a near drowning or road accident, but the ordinary sights fade rapidly; yes, many pleasurable scenic sights flash now and are soon forgotten.  Let's retain a few.

        1. Photographs are the easiest way to capture what it was like to "sight see" beyond the camera lens.  Most often trips will mean something special in the act of recording them, and new electronic devices have camera facilities making this all the easier.

        2. Diaries or daybooks can bring back the memories by referring to the actual scene and the mood we had at seeing the site.  This can fill in the details with associated memories of moods, weather, types of trees, landscape charm, and even remarks made by traveling companions.

        3. Memorable chats with local folks will be remembered long after the exchange, especially if we choose to ask questions about some local history or folkways that makes a lasting impression.  This becomes a learning experience that will be treasured and recalled as long as our gift of memory can still recall.

        4. Souvenir that is either commercial or not.  This could be a colorful leaf from a site, a pebble for your walkway as a collector's item (though taken near but not from an exact historic site), or a rock from a road cut, a geological souvenir that costs little.  And then there are tons of commercial items.

        5. Local food delights can be discovered by keen observation or inquiry, especially when patronizing mom-and-pop eating places or local bakeries or orchards.  Eating local cuisine makes us part of the place visited and can be subject to recall by food lovers.

        6. Mark the map exactly on the day and place, and keep it on a wall in your room.  All the major trips I have taken are recorded on a map and, when reviewed, this brings back happy memories of the trips taken, though some involved special events, which are generally remembered as choice memories.  

        7. Narrate highlights of the trip to friends or relatives so that in telling they will be implanted on the brain.  If not kept humorous, this narration can be deadening; at least, make highlights the subject of prayer to a listening patient God.

        8. Write letters of thanks to people visited or met.  This becomes part of the record of gratitude that adds delight.

          Prayer: Lord, let our memories never fade and, if they do, at least leave us a vestige of love for carrying on life's journey.










A cool rushing stream in hot July. Harlan Co., KY.
 (*photo credit

July 7, 2021         Listening to Water Sounds

        Sounds of water affect us differently with each season of the year, from the snowflakes hitting the window glass in winter to the gentle April showers of spring, to the cloudburst of summer, and the steady rains of autumn.  Often running brooks emit their own unique sounds, but these are often dampened by surrounding summer foliage.  Water sounds occur in all seasons, but in summer's lazy dog days’ vacation let's strive to listen more intensely.

        Sometimes we need to visit the brook and try to pronounce the sound of rushing water, even if this is a challenge.  In fact, the water sounds, whether soft or loud can soothe our frayed nerves.  Water has an instinctive pull upon us; water sounds are a call to draw nearer to the brook-side and the need for nature's steady rhythm to offer healing relief.  The rushing current of a river can energize us; lapping water can mesmerize us; a trickle can thrill us.  Sitting at a river bank or riding a boat or listening to rain all serve a human purpose -- and summer is a good time to experience this.  Think of the sound of a canoe paddle striking water or the splash of a diver plunging into a swimming pool. 

        More than half of Americans live within one hour's drive of large bodies of water, all of which could have the splashing, crashing, repetitive sound of waves hitting the coast lines.  Again, waves sounding on shore touch our inner being and become a form of relaxation so needed and so sought.  Other profound but quite irregularly heard sounds may include an overwhelming waterfall with its deafening roar that tells us how small we are and insignificant our concerns.  What about other infrequent or off-seasonal sounds: the approach of a shower or rain storm heard from the distance; the rolling sound of incoming tide; hail striking a tin roof; or crunching of snow under one's boots?

        Some may seek out the outdoor natural water sounds and omit the water sounds of a boiling teakettle or a tub filling with water for a bath.  The ones, who get outdoors infrequently, seek access to natural sounds when possible, and even look for ways to create water sounds in their own homes.  They may have energy-driven (hopefully solar-powered) fountains outside on a patio or, if such is beyond their means, at least a domestic "waterfall" or the gurgling stream of recirculating water to aerate the fish tank.  Save and reuse the water, for a dripping faucet indicates wasted water and can become irritating over time; so can the hiss from a steaming pot that needs to be attended.  Indoor water sounds are welcomed by shut-ins and elderly, and maybe more during the dog days of summer.  Hopefully, they can be soothing, delightful and refreshing.  Let's not forget that hot weather makes water sounds a way of tolerating the heat.  Consider obtaining our book, Water Sounds from Marquette University Press.

          Prayers: Lord, you give us life-giving water from the pouring at Baptism to the sprinkle of holy water.  Make us ever more appreciative of the many sounds of water in our lives.










Cloud uplift on a hot summer's day
*photo credit)

July 8, 2021  Discovering the Existence of Solastalgia

        I hate coined words, especially if we stumble when we try to pronounce them.  However, since people associate the newly coined one in this title with a mental condition suffered by many inhabitants of our Appalachian region who are plagued by mountaintop removal in their domestic surroundings, it may need introduction.  It is akin to nostalgia (a longing to return home or for a condition of long ago).  Solastalgia is a place-based distress engendered by unwelcome environmental change (G. Albrecht, 2007).  It has been applied by a series of researchers at Radford University in Virginia to people living in the vicinity of coal-extracting mountaintop removal (MTR) operations and reported by Paige Cordial, et al. at the 2012 Appalachian Studies Conference.

        Among the unpleasant findings discussed were: increased risk of birth defects in MTR communities; loss of common grounds, supplemental income, ability to garden and recreation opportunities; loss of family cemeteries; community discord and displacement; prevalent rates of serious psychological distress and other major depressive episodes; poor physical and mental health; and other environmental problems such as toxic waste dumps.

        Each of these areas have had some degree of research on the effects and are all significant in that the testimony of the residents leads to clear signs of solastalgia.  An entire neighborhood ranging from scenic view, roads, and all the normal environmental aspects of what constitutes "home;” this has been displaced and rearranged even for those who do not move away but are helpless witnesses to what the massive land-moving operations are doing to a countryside.  As we have noted many times, Appalachian people identify with their land, something that is regarded as relatively stable and present long after each generation passes away.  Experiencing a changing once-considered permanent landscape has a traumatic effect on a community of people.  Some of the surging conflicts among these residents can be directly traced to MTR operations.  The hills are leveled and the valleys filled -- and what were the haunts of former time are gone into a moonscape atmosphere seen on all sides.

        I recall the experience of taking a person back to her family cemetery that had been damaged by logging operations and that was so very shocking to her.  When the cemetery itself is lost in such massive land operations, the trauma is all the worse, for the sacred ties to the past have been broken.  The trust that governments are meant to help protect communities is shaken.  Researchers have conducted interviews where people express feelings of vulnerability, because they lack support from a once stable community.  Interestingly, this entire area of emotional and mental damage to a community is never given the prominence of air, water, and land pollution problems in MTR cases.      

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to have compassion for all brothers and sisters who are harmed by recent fossil fuel extractive operations.







Power in Spoken and Written Word           

          During this month we are seeking empowerment, one that will be effective and involve all citizens within an exercise of defending and strengthening our threatened democracy.  This runs counter to two current tendencies: capture of an economic system by the privileged super-rich, and the proponents of the Big Lie who wish to install an autocrat to "save America."  Our task is to arouse a patriotic majority of citizens through spoken and written word, for when well-placed these can create a hopeful climate for renewal.  

          Be respectful and aware.  The word needs to reach back into a successful democratic history.  We recall those who championed the democratic process of the two-party system as well as the American Way through two centuries.  We remember that over time obstacles have been overcome and democracy can work through the participation of all citizens and not by the fiat of privileged wealthy or violent autocratic followers of some guru. 

          Be public.  Yes, dangers to our democracy are real and must be addressed in a public forum and media.  We believers in the democratic values of our past must speak out and write boldly in forceful ways, lest we lose what has taken so much blood and tears to gain.  Silence is unacceptable; public speaking and writing are demanded to reach willing viewers and hearers.  Power in word has moved people through the centuries and can do so again today.  We must not be deaf to a proper alarm, even though a Big Lie has been foisted on the public and has attracted millions of followers; so all the more can the power of the awesome truth draw the patriotic spirit of citizens to proper political action.

          Be bold.  Believers, who have reflected on that first Pentecost event two thousand years ago, know the importance of leaving an enclosed hidden safe space and confronting the crowds and doing so with spiritual power.  We are also aware that the word boldly spoken or written can capture the wanderers and focus attention; at the right time and place it can be powerful and efficacious.  Words have changed the course of civilization, raised armies, organized crusades, captured the wayward, and turned hearts to better or worse.  Yes, we are to believe in the spiritual power of the word to sway others. 

          Be challenging.  The speaker must believe that what is expressed is worthy of acceptance and can have results.  If we are unsure of what is said, that hesitancy stands out.  A steady word can lead to meaningful action, and so the call is for courage by our agents of change who believe in acting according to what they believe and say; such words can awaken passive citizens to responsible action.  The demand is for mutually firm convictions.  Even amid expected opposition, agents of change must be bold; only then can the word become empowering and those of good will know that in God's grace we can succeed.  Empowering word becomes a challenge for all who desire success. 





Hemp,dogbane, Apocynum cannabinum.
*photo credit)

July 9, 2021  Questioning the Focus on "Cheap" Natural Gas

        Most of us are aware that this century has seen the rise of the "fracking" fossil fuel extracting process.  Herein, vast quantities of petroleum and natural gas have made the U.S, change from a net fuel importer to a net exporter of oil and gas.  With this plentiful supply of natural gas, has come a decade of substituting dirty (air pollutants) coal powerplants by what many perceive to be cleaner natural gas.  However, we need to question both the words "cleaner and "cheap," if we consider total environmental costs.   

Natural gas was part of our Easter Special Reflection --
        Remember that a "tipping point" [in climate change] is that point beyond which there is no recovery -- a runaway condition.  Hence all programs related to energy conservation and renewable energy substitution must be undertaken post haste in order to reduce dependence on ALL fossil fuels, even the plentiful and highly popular natural gas obtained by the new fracking process.  Since methane, the main constituent of natural gas, is twenty-five times more influential in greenhouse effects than carbon dioxide -- and as much as two to four percent of that gas may leak in drilling and processing -- the increasing popularity of that fossil fuel may actually be hastening the arrival of the tipping point.

        The fracking process has allowed Big Energy to have access to American natural gas in plentiful supply for the rest of the century without paying for security and transportation costs of obtaining distant oil.   Even at reduced costs to the consumer, one must ask whether it is not costing the environment through the added burden of escaping natural gas and all it entails.  Part of the profit coming through ease of transport of gases from increased pipeline infrastructure has been curtailed; the resistance to such pipelines and associated eminent domain issues by small farmers, Native American tribes and others has been recognized by the federal courts last year and were curtailed or stopped completely.

        Renewable energy (mainly solar and wind) is now commercially competitive with natural gas.   However, Big Energy extends the life of fossil fuels for the sake of profits, even though such applications have a telling effect on climate change.  The added greenhouse effect of escaped methane through fracking is a hidden danger, not a better solution.  Proceedings from the National Academy of Science says that uncombusted methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas emitter than carbon dioxide.  Assuming EPA estimates for leak rates, compressed natural gas-fueled vehicles are not a viable mitigation strategy for climate change because of total methane leakage from natural gas production, delivery, and the vehicles themselves.  The window of time to switch to renewable energy sources is closing.  The faster we eliminate this "cheap" energy source with its hidden environmental cost the better.

          Prayer: Lord, help us see our social addictions in fuel use, and be willing to address them in a forthright manner.












The basil plant, repellant for flies, mosquitoes, and asparagus beetle
*photo credit)

July 10, 2021      Refraining from Constant Social Contact

        During the pandemic the ability to keep social contact through the Internet and phone is of critical importance, and we thank God for rapid communications.  Yes, we can call 911 when someone is in trouble or know when a storm is approaching.  Instant communication when needed is a blessing, but are there not limits to all good things?

          Distractions are rampant.  All too often we hear from drivers about erratic behavior on the highways and much of this caused by driver cell-phoning or texting.  Yes, I have done some distracted driving in dialing a radio station or peeling an orange.  Shame, but I do not text and I am among the minority without a cell phone or similar electronic device.  Distracted auto driving can result in serious accidents and deaths, even from operating boats, trains, and airplanes.  Often crowded schedules result in the temptation to call and converse while driving -- but is this proper?

          Silence can be golden.  Besides the dangers of distraction, the opportunities to look about, to observe surroundings, to take in the freshness of air, or the brightness of sunshine are all overlooked by this popular urge for constant social contact.   Distraction goes beyond the duties of working, driving, and studying, and includes the times needed to reflect and be silent and to ourselves.  Do many fear the silence as though the lack of contact may make them less socially connected?  A compulsion to be together with friends has a good basis in communal life, and yet like all good things can hinder our needed silent space. 

          Prayer is alternative connectedness.  From a spiritual standpoint, communicating with the ever-present Lord does not require a cell phone or iPad.  Prayer is a true alternative for it requires no sophisticated communication device costing money to purchase and keep maintained and secure.  No, even the destitute can connect with God, and many do.  Of course all human activity can be a prayer, but that is harder to achieve when distractions blot out the needed focus on God.  Why must we look elsewhere?

          Space improves relationships.  A feeling that big brother or sister (even a loving one) is watching has an effect upon us.  An overly observant parent does make life more difficult for some who want and value their independence and free time.  Connectedness has a result of infringing on that freedom of being private when one desires to be.  Space has its place in maturation and human development, and even in improving human relations -- for absence makes hearts grow fonder.  Periods of time away from phones can clear the mind, settle nerves, invite private reflection, and give one the chance to collect one's thoughts.  If totally connected with the glue of social media, one soon arrives at a rather miserable life.  How do we balance social and quiet time?

          Prayer: Lord, teach us the art of being truly authentic social beings, knowing when to talk and when to avoid unnecessary chatter.












Western salsify, Tragopogon dubius
*photo credit)

July 11, 2021  Sending Missionaries Out Two by Two

        Those who spread the good news have a delicate and difficult task before them, and individuals acting alone find it doubly troublesome.  We need mutual support of companions because the movement is most often to an alien culture, which has good aspects worth affirming and others needing criticism.  Missionaries elicit mixed reactions with some in the receiving country showing encouragement and others ignoring or condemning them.  Few missionaries receive awards; many live and die in remote places and unrecognized by the public at large; some are misinterpreted and violently opposed; others are soon forgotten by a clamoring world of wealth and recognized success. 

        Missionaries are devoted to their inspiring founders and show fidelity through a hopeful message -- that a transcultural bridge can be constructed to the benefit of all parties.  Approaching an alien culture takes some close-at-hand support, because we need reinforcement in our efforts.  What we leave is both good and bad just as what we enter in a new cultural setting is a mixed picture.  A person who has to go it alone (as often happens with prisoners of conscience) can endure faithfully, but at a great human price.  If missionaries are to break loose from the prisons of conformity, they must distinguish how they are similar and how different from the culture they left behind in the one now residing.  

        Furthermore, a well working team can be corrective among themselves, if they are open to such criticism; they can grow together in addressing the new situation through personal admonition and recognizing barriers to delivering the Good News.  In most cases two can do the job better than one; like-minded people working in unison and through teamwork can learn new ways faster as partners.  Both healing and teaching become paramount for one must see the glory of creation, the value of suffering and work, and the spirit-filled renewal of a fair and just system.  Christian activities have a social dimension.

        Earthhealers are missionaries, for the mission is to heal a broken world.  No one wants to confront an established order that is geared to resist change or exists in an unjust privileged economic or political position.  The healer must be in communion with the victim and at odds with the culprit -- and so there is a dichotomy that is drawn out in a world where rampant and highly unchallenged materialism plagues us in many ways.  The distance traveled by the earthhealing missionary is not one of geographic space as that of culture, for to continue living without challenging a culture of death, disparity of wealth, and resource waste is to implicitly hold to live-giving tenets.  The call today is for global collaboration that starts at the grassroots and demands working effectively within local communities.

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to be missionaries in the fullest sense, to affirm the message, to go out to others in need, and to speak with conviction in spreading the Good News.












Ripened mulberries from garden tree
*photo credit)

July 12, 2021    Harvesting Is a Joyful Time 

        At various times during my Daily Reflections we speak of harvesting crops (fruit wild and cultivated, various vegetables, wheat, corn, silage, hay and even tobacco).  It is not the specific technique and memories associated with harvesting that we consider here, but the joy in the heart that comes when gathering in produce.  Scripture spoke of the sorrowing of sowing and the joys of harvesting, and that some would sow (not knowing what the result would bring) and others would reap what they did not sow.  Really, for this part of the world a major harvest month is July through August and later could also be considered.  Wheat and small grains are threshed (or combined) generally in July even when some harvesting occurs in some form in virtually every month.

        Why joy, when harvesting takes more effort and sweat than sowing?  One answer is that sowing has uncertainty involved; a store of precious seed is being dispersed without certitude that something will result from the action, and so the unpredictability and anxiety associated leads to a certain "lack of joy" found in the certitude of a harvest, whether moderate or generous.  However, we know that har vest vary and poor folks suffer immensely from a failed harvest.  Hopefully 2021 will yield a plentiful harvest and become a time of joy and celebration.  And then there are the ample meals associated with the harvesting operations described elsewhere in these reflections.

        The joy of digging potatoes, picking plums, shucking corn, gathering nuts, making sorghum, filling silos, "putting up" hay, and even cutting tobacco was not always immediately evident to the one doing the repetitive operation, but fresh air, sunshine, and final recompense did lighten and enhance the harvest operation. The human effort afforded an anticipated reward and a sense of gratitude for the plentitude of the event.  Yes, the urbanized world contains many who have not experienced the "joy" of a harvest.  The non-harvesters see repetitive bean-picking as back-breaking work, but fail to see that when completed a joy comes to the grower/harvester.  Certainly, repetitive laborers in the field may thank God for substantial rewards, but migrants and laborers do not always see fair benefits.  Hopefully, those who champion harvesters' causes ought to experience the operation for it softens rhetoric.  Don't condemn harvesting, for we need food. 

        Joy includes gratitude to the creator for the opportunity to harvest, especially when a harvest seemed in grave doubt or the harvester is not fully fit for the work involved.  Joy includes the act of gathering, though that is a simple joy that remains a mystery to non-agrarians or non-gardeners.  Joy includes satisfaction for mission accomplished and the comfort of knowing that some provision has been achieved for the harsher weather ahead.  Joy comes in the harvest celebration of achievement. 

          Prayer: Lord, you invite us to simple moments of joy; let us see these as prelude to eternity after the grand harvest.












Canis latrans, a mother coyote, Washington Co., KY farm
*photo credit)

July 13, 2012  Attending to Smokers Who Are Killing Themselves

        What do we do about smokers -- our loved one, neighbors or friends -- who are slowly killing themselves -- and even know it?  There's no easily solution or single approach, for much depends on one's relation to the smoker.  Let's try to assemble various cautions, comments, exhortation, and charitable remarks on the part of the change agent.  Much depends on the willingness of smokers to recognize their addiction, the actual family responsibilities of smokers, and the smokers' proximity to death.

          Addictive behavior recognition: There is plenty of available literature to use in assisting smokers to acknowledge an addiction and to recognize the need for assistance and a Higher Power (e.g. Alcoholic Anonymous programs).  Many addicts, including tobacco smokers, do not like to be labeled as such, and so efforts to help overcome this condition could be quite helpful for such individuals -- if performed by the right person at the right time.  Encouragement may be given either to the individual smoker or to someone who is close to them to be an assistant.  When a smoker makes a first meaningful move to quit, every degree of support ought to be offered by loved ones and those closer to the addict.

          Responsibilities: For those who have dependents, especially children, and whose parenting and means of support is critical, a friend, loved one, or relative may have a duty to remind the heavy smoker of the need for staying healthy for the sake of others at this time.  Help may include methods in which the smoking addiction could be addressed (medication, counseling, etc.) and that it is important that cessation programs be started immediately.

          Degree of Smoking Ill Effects: What about those who are well into degrees of lung cancer and its associated spread and side effects?  Many smokers who near the end say it is useless, and so will continue the smoking addiction.  A sense of hopelessness prevails after doctor, loved ones, and clergy have failed to change habits.  Smokers need to be encouraged to quit even as the time shortens and recovery seems hopeless.  Pray that the end will at least be a smoke-free one.  It is always helpful to remind smokers that their caregivers find the smoking obnoxious and at least the dying smoker should consider the wellbeing of the caring personnel.  We cannot tempt God by asking for a miracle, especially when the ill will not stop smoking. 

        Granted there is only so much an outside party can do. If the person wishing to help another is an ex-smoker, the story of quitting may be effective.  Praying for the smoker involves telling the smoker that the praying person is quite concerned.  All can be put in the hands of God -- and it has and does work in many instances.

          Prayer: Lord, help those who are addicted to all forms of substance abuse.  Help us to size up individual and social situations and to assist when possible, knowing our limitations.











An abandoned home,weathering in place.
*photo credit)

July 14, 2021  Reclaiming the Commons: Eccentric or Socially Just?

        Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric. -Bertrand Russell

        The question is raised about our reflections in a book entitled, "Reclaiming the Commons," which can be easily obtained from Brassica Books.  Some see "commons" as a very nebulous concept that refers to air and maybe the oceans and Antarctica, but little else; for them land and material possessions belong to those who have legal proof of ownership, no matter how that legality was contrived.  For some of us the "commons" involves all resources needed to establish and preserve the Common Good for ALL and not just the privileged few. 

        To claim the commons for all is a necessity in order to halt the horrifying concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, erosion of democratic process, financing of needed infrastructure of our nation, and the food and health security required by all people.  However, to say such things brings on the name-calling: radical liberals, socialists, communists.  Who creates this hostile condition except those who pushed their way through hook or crook to the privilege of ownership of what belongs to ALL the people.  Let's be willing to ask some basic questions: isn't it wrong that so many are without essentials when so few have such immense influence through control of financial and material resources?  Is this crushing disparity of wealth a danger to democracy, for the few can decide policy through funding and influencing legislators?  

          Disparity of wealth is unfortunately accepted by the popular majority through the propaganda of those who are privileged and have control of a portion of the social media.  To break this fetish of kowtowing to the super-rich, with their tax havens and unfairly retained wealth that evades taxation, is a focus by those seeking social justice and the Common Good.  Fair taxation would break the disparity and allow financial resources to be used to give needed jobs, maintain the infrastructure and maintain food and health security.  This includes caps on wealth (hardly eccentric, since it was Ben Franklin's idea) and on final wealth size.

          The poor as revolutionary leaders is hardly a new idea on this Bastille Day.  It is evident that most wealthy people are insensitive to these basic needs.  A demand for democratic process means that all participate in bringing about a more just society -- and the poorer folks are the majority.  "Taking what is rightfully ours" when the emphasis is to take FOR the social group (not for greedy individual takers) becomes a redeeming virtue.  The art of taking in an atmosphere of social justice is the act of correcting what is currently unjust -- hardly eccentric.  Wealth privileges must not continue if our democratic process is to be preserved.

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to be prophets who risk to call for social justice in order to reestablish the Common Good.











Sunset over rural Kentucky land
*photo credit)

July 15, 2021   Refining the Urgent Climate Change Strategy

        Renewable energy in all its forms will contribute to the reduction of the current climate change scenario.  Change from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is occurring, but not fast enough.  Who would have suspected at the turn of the century that ice sheets, both in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, would be melting at the current rapid rate?  Or that Siberia would be warming to the 90s in summertime?  Certainly, we are greeted by the renewable energy combination now outdistancing coal and nuclear as energy sources and competing aggressively with natural gas and petroleum. The statistical picture for renewables is quite bright, but we should not let our guard down.  Let's face it, permafrost in northern areas is melting at a more rapid rate than expected, and thus contributing more methane to the atmosphere (and this is 25 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide).

        At the global scale, the Trump Administration forced the U.S. to withdraw from the climate change battle.  The first and foremost strategy is to launch a program of global cooperation and a willingness (as the primary polluting nation) to contribute funds to halt the climate change effects among poorer nations; these are victims of our past fuel consumption. 

        The second strategy at the national level is to implement a Green New Deal that will put this country on the road to energy conservation and implementation of further both on- and off-shore wind as well as solar, geothermal, tidal and hydropower.  Among the incentives of such a program must be promotion of electric vehicles to replace the internal combustion fleet now on the road.  This cannot occur fast enough.  Much of the national program is to be funded by legislation; it also includes persuading the general public to conserve resources and move over on a domestic level to renewable energy resources.  The vehicles could be recharged at office and domestic locations from solar and other renewable energy sources.

        States and local communities have been doing their part and they continue to have a role to play in the movement to a renewable economy.  A major role could be education with the school system and also the general public.  Inherent waste such as excessive street lighting could be avoided; furthermore, improved recycling programs and sorting of discarded materials could be quite helpful, or water conservation.  Programs to assist the elderly and ill during extreme weather conditions, as well as housing for the homeless are longer-term improvements, which will hasten the renewable economy and be aware of social justice.  State programs to assist those seeking domestic solar applications vary from state to state.  Local hydropower projects could be encouraged where existing dams could be utilized. 

          Prayer: Lord, give us insight on what to use, when to conserve, where to save, and how to encourage others to do so.  Inspire us to see the urgency to promote change now.






Power in Mighty Deeds

         We look beyond words to deeds to manifest our sense of responsibility as participants in democracy.  In fact, our actions to assist those with essential needs is at the heart of being of service to others.  Nevertheless, our words transformed into effective deeds require certain qualities:

         Transparency:  Only rarely are successful deeds done within a democratic society in a hidden fashion; we prefer to do these openly so they can be affirmed, criticized both in process and periodic review, and improved.  Monitoring by responsible citizens entails a responsibility to perform activities openly for all to see.  Clarity is demanded so that the task is understood in its fullness and beckons engagement of greater numbers of citizens.

         Simplicity:  Those deeds done in profit-motivated pursuits are beyond this discussion, for our social works ought to primarily be for those in need in a world where a billion people suffer from lack of food or lodging security.  Our response ought to include championing a sustainable living method with conservation of basic resources as part of our lifestyle.  The deeds we do ought to reflect good economics and good ecology by all participants.

         Welcoming:  Our deeds should be done with people-friendly conditions in mind.  A privatized approach to deeds may be needed at times, but it is far better to do such actions in a social context; here spiritual value and growth of the well-being of individuals are highlighted.  Attention must be given to feedback on the part of recipients of such deeds and their approval.

          Maturation:  Deeds can exhibit various qualities, and doers can grow through spiritual and educational experience; furthermore, they can improve in physical and spiritual health during the process.  Reflection on all forms of improvement is encouraged.  Even the process of greater equality for all places the privileged super-rich in a growth position through redistribution of their resources -- and the salvation of their souls.

          Focus:  Too often a deed is part of a multitask operation and while it must remain so, each aspect deserves its proper attention.  When this involves a critical issue, more attention is necessary.  One recalls distractions by numerous individuals of the first American Revolution; during the extended duration of the war many drifted to personal areas of gain and left George Washington and leaders short-handed.  We too must face a long effort and continue our focus on climate change, economic equality and preserving our democratic institutions.  We can't afford to be distracted.  These anticipated deeds will trigger opposition from profiteers and autocrats, who may seek military and police forces to delay or halt any changes leading to renewal.  Risks can be expected and confronted; they must not retard empowering deeds. 






Sunset: nature's own fireworks on display.
(*photo credit)

July 16, 2021      Affirming a Culture of Life
        Earthhealing is an affirmation of life; it involves healing a fragile planet in need of life-giving service.  When we squish a bug, it makes us aware that life comes quickly and, in many cases, ends with ease.  We reflect more deeply and recall how improbable was the possibility of life on Earth in the first place.  However we look at it, life deserves our constant respect and protection.
          The culture of life is one where all proper qualities of life are enhanced and regarded as worthy of respect.  Quite often, this refers to "pro-life" opposition to abortion in all its forms, and extended to oppose any willful termination of life, whether by individual sufferers, caregivers or others.  Further extension has involved "web of life" issues, such as those of war and peace, using the original concepts expounded by the late Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Bernardin.  Furthermore, the culture of life has been applied to those who champion abolition of the death penalty.  Some would like to extend the culture to include promoting healthy living in contrast to misuse of food, drugs, and other substances.

          The culture of death, on the other hand, is mentioned in counter-distinction to the culture of life.  Briefly, this culture includes those who promote abortion and dismissal of the personhood of the fetus at all stages of life, those who champion euthanasia or forms of mercy killing, those who show satisfaction at the death of certain criminals, and those who promote and profit from warfare in many forms.  In an expanded way, this culture extends to all who forget about the rights of individuals and especially the destitute and hungry; they may even regard some deaths as a form of drastic population control.  Anyone who callously disregards life during this pandemic and extends this to threatened and endangered animal species is participating in the culture of death.

          Sensitivity is a precondition to the culture of life.  People showing compassion (suffering with another) for all human beings and even for threatened animals and plants are partaking in the culture of life.  This requires more than merely observing when life is threatened; it embraces a love of God's creation and a willingness to be of service in affirming and safeguarding life.  Such a sensitivity may not be a basic part of our consumer culture; in fact, an insensitivity comes with secular materialism and a disregard for the sufferings of our neighbor; compassion is dulled by excessive individual selfishness and personal concerns.

        Socialization is part of growth in sensitivity for life; it involves being of service to others and caring for neighbors who are in need.  In essence, life demands social interdependency for improved happiness and prosperity; without this elemental social outlook life would wither. This can be applied at the individual and broader levels and includes global trade and security policies. Striving for equality and respect for life go hand-in-hand.

          Prayer: Lord, let us be pro-life and affirm it.












Ambrosia artemisiifolia elatior COMMON RAGWEED
Ambrosia artemisiifolia elatior, common ragweed.
(*photo by: Frank Mayfield)

July 17, 2021            Controlling Ragweed

        July is the time for the familiar ambrosia smell of the ragweed, a familiar plant pest in this country and, for that matter, in all global temperate zones.  Actually, there are many varieties of the plant -- and most are bothersome.  Many people show their allergic reaction to an ample supply of ragweed pollen and punctuate the season with sneezing and watering eyes.  Sufferers generally know the source though they may blame the goldenrod, which produces colorful but less airborne pollen than the lowly ragweed. 

        A hearty ragweed plant produces immense amounts of seeds that some birds find as winter feed; beyond that benefit is the weightier detriment of having increased its zone of growth to even desert and mountainous areas through irrigation, road penetration, traffic, and other modern human operations.  The ragweed is not ubiquitous, but certainly aspires to be.  It can cover vast areas of untended grasslands to such a degree that it can choke out more beneficial vegetation.

        Mowing is obviously the one manner of control that is sought by many -- and the frequent lawn mowing populace will be able to control the weed within their own lawn but not around unkempt neighborhoods and abandoned lots.  Mowing near the ground has to occur frequently or else the cut off stem will sprout and gain a seed head again within the normal growing season.  Such cuttings do not eradicate ragweed but do control its growth to a degree.

          I recall that parts of our pastureland on our Kentucky farm could not be clipped easily due to the severe terrain, and these areas became hotbeds for ragweed. In fact, it would act as an overstory of grasslands itself, something like a mini-forest which the livestock fail to eat and allow to go to seed.  By late summer the stands in unmowed areas would cover the ground in a heavy overstory over bluegrass that strived to grow as well.

          One eradication method is to burn the landscape containing the ragweed after it is clipped and enough dry matter is available to burn.  Actually, this method is frowned upon in populated zones with no-burn ordinances, but can work in rural unregulated areas.  In such cases, the stems can be destroyed and the sprouting spoken of above is discontinued.  Unkempt border areas deserve special notice, for these can become nurseries for the next crop of ragweed.  All in all, chemical or biological control agents have not been found to do a specialized task and like all such controls have the propensity to also harm neighboring friendly plants such as sunflowers or cultivated garden produce and herbs.  Make the goal of ragweed eradication to detect the plant early on and eliminate it before the flowering and pollinating stage. 

          Prayer: Lord, teach hay fever sufferers to see the good of each season in turn, to accept unpleasant pests that enter their lives, and to expect that all seasons require handkerchiefs.










A look of gratitude after receiving a hand-full of grass from the other side of the fence.
(*photo credit)  

July 18, 2021    Being Sheep without a Shepherd

          The situation was fluid.  The hunger for proper moral leadership is the central issue of today's Gospel passage (Mark 6:30-34).  A vast crowd came to Jesus eager for hearing his message.  At that very time his disciples had returned somewhat excited but exhausted, and Jesus was attempting to provide them some rest time -- something certainly needed after their mission experiences.  However, plans were abruptly changed when crowds followed demanding attention.  Urgency took priority!  Rest must in some circumstances be delayed and allowed to await an eternal rest.

          Shepherding as a means of control or an exercise of power is certainly NOT what we are talking about here.  Overly protective parents or leaders who want to dictate choices to underlings may have a sheepherding instinct, but that is different from this situation.  Earthhealers do not have time to seek out groups of human "sheep" in order to control them; rather, we need to see multitudes already milling about seeking some form of leadership.  The media and all with profit motivation see commercial audience opportunities; yes, wandering "sheep" are in need of attention.

          The current situation calls.  The challenge for us is to discern the difficulty in teaching and guiding these wandering souls.  It might take the unpopular practice of "tough love," of breaking the chain of addictive behavior that allures many away from the good path.  We can act like Jesus did even though the situation is somewhat different.  Individuals need the saving power of grace; so do entire cultures that are now being enticed to follow western consumer culture with its wasteful use of precious resources meant for present and future generations.  The addictiveness of a consumerist culture grows when catering to insatiable wants of a middle class with money and a storehouse of goods to acquire.

          The cries of the poor move us to act.  We would like to stop and simply rest, but the urgency of saying something that matters for the social good weighs on us.  This desire to rest or forego rest even trumps traditional retirement.  Certainly, if we have good health and the Spirit moves us, we are to sacrifice personal rest when the good of others is demanded.  Curbing climate change is just such a circumstance and, if we have the energy to act, we must do so as the Spirit moves us.  We need neither to seek to gather an audience where one does not exist, nor to avoid the scene because our teaching may risk being fruitless.  Rather, we must believe in the power of the Good News to capture the wayward spirit of so many beset by conflicting voices.  God is certainly in charge and will triumph -- and we are called to be change agents through acts of shepherding when needed in a troubled world.

          Prayer: Lord, give us eyes to see the multitudes, insight to know their needs, courage to speak to them, and faith that good results will follow though perhaps not always in our lifetime.











Dog days, pup cools off with a drink from a water fountain in the park
Dog days, pup cools off with a drink from a water fountain in the park
(*photo credit)

July 19, 2021         Designing Green Picnics

        Several years ago, a person who had completed a picnic came up with a huge garbage bag of Styrofoam plates and asked where we dumped our garbage.  We were recycling virtually everything, and I said we had no such practice; the person was astounded that our nature center did not have a dumpster.  Surely we generated garbage and disposed of it properly.  This Styrofoam-filled world says much about picnics.  Perhaps, we ought to reexamine the lowly summer picnic and how to make it as green as the foliage around us.  Here are eight simple rules:

          1. Select a picnic location with the least travel possible.  Choose a spot that does not disturb the landscape (generally but not always a designated picnic area) and where all materials generated will be gathered up and disposed of properly. 

          2. Obey fire rules.  Quite often campsites provide grill areas for open fires, unless prohibited by specific permanent or temporary drought rules.  The designated fire locations will be most helpful to keep from having a runaway blaze in arid landscape.  Be prepared to preheat or grill materials, if the fire season demands no fires or only the use of propane heaters.

        3. Have healthy foods home-grown and domestically prepared if possible.  So often the picnic is the time to loosen on nutritious food rules with hot dogs, soft drinks, and a host of sweets and items normally not on the regular menu.  If one can be creative with the picnic spirit, go light on junk food.

        4. Carry in beverages that are best suited for the occasion.  Refrain if alcoholic beverages are not allowed.  Also minimize soft drinks when fruit juices, mint drinks and lemonade can replace the standard commercial ones.

        5. And now the dinnerware.  Most prefer disposable items for there is less worry associated; we recall that in older times it was always the plates and silverware that could be taken home and washed that evening -- and considered normal fare.  How about being green and doing the same again?  Yes, it's a challenge!

          6. Keep the noise to a minimum so as not to disturb nearby picnickers.  Some enjoyment and laughs and shouts are to be expected, but direct active youth to places away from the immediate picnic areas for before- and after-picnic fun and games.

        7. Choose activities in which more can participate in as post-picnic events -- and reduce the call to be overly competitive.

        8. Upon preparing to leave, inspect the grounds to make sure no trash is inadvertently left behind.  Green can be enjoyable!

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to see the need to have green picnics in order to foster togetherness and cement social relationships.









Tobacco farm Nelson County Kentucky
Family-owned tobacco farm in Nelson County, Kentucky
(*photo credit)

July 20, 2021  Deworming Tobacco Plants and Praying Mantises

        Warning!  Please accept my regrets but this reflection may be uncomfortable for those squeamish about worms.  Some wince over worms and others of us are most fascinated by them, for we need earthworms to fertilize and aerate the soil; we know worms are food for birds and other wildlife -- and good bait for fish.  Also for gardeners, worms can devoir produce and are regarded as pests that we must rid from the patch, either manually or with friendly insects with voracious appetites to consume the aphids and other garden harming creatures.  Here we couple "deworming" with the praying mantis, a common creature in this region.

        One of the July tasks when we were farm youth in the 1940s was to deworm the tobacco patch.  I have read accounts that some young people who hated their farm chores regarded this as the most distasteful work imaginable -- and, if they didn't know how to properly dispatch the plump "green horn" tobacco (or tomato) worm then that would have been a case of being splattered with tobacco juice.  However, by merely pinching the insect right behind its head and decapitating it with thumb and forefinger results in a perfect execution without a single drop of worm juice touching body or clothing.  If one never learned the art, then I pity them.  So sad, they were poor learners of an art that allowed good memories.

        Environmental benefits came through the human touch, since no pesticides were demanded when people dewormed by hand -- adding to the slightly better condition of organic tobacco as smoking material.  The absence of pesticide applications was ideal; when heavily plagued by the worm my dad and workers applied "Paris Green," an inorganic arsenic compound, which was toxic enough and led to a sickening condition on hot humid summer application days.  The truth was and still is that manual deworming is the greenest approach to plant maintenance, whether tobacco or garden produce. 

        The praying mantis is an unusual looking "friendly" insect with a long thin body and a large head and claws that clasp themselves in a prayer-like position.  However, prey could be fooled.  The praying mantis is generally the color of the foliage and will remain motionless and camouflaged until prey approach and in lightning speed grasp the unfortunate insect (and larger prey as well) with two grasping spiked forelegs.  They are quite choosy and only eat what they themselves have caught; however, they can be cannibalistic with male mates who cannot escape in time.  Again, praying mantises are excellent deworming agents.  In fact, in chemical-free patches of productive vegetable gardens these creatures are prized and introduced; they flourish and they target pests of many varieties.  Why do the physical work of deworming, if a friendly associate in the insect world will do a better job?  Early in life I realized the benefit of having numbers of these unusually observant and odd-looking friends around.

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to maintain the world around us in sustainable ways that are least burdensome and most enjoyable.














Oberlin Summer - Mint
Field of mint plants in wetland.
(*photo credit)

July 21, 2021  Enjoying Mint: A Summer Beverage of Choice

          Virtually all types of mint are easy to grow and harder to stop growing all about our greenspace.  My herb garden has six types: spearmint, peppermint, apple mint, pineapple mint, Kentucky mint and highly prolific chocolate mint.  Also, I grow bee balm that is a member of the mint family.  I trust others who tell me each mint has a distinct and pleasant taste (I've lost my ability to taste), whether as hot or cold beverages.  They are far easier to grow than tea or coffee and can prove to be a true money-saver for those who prefer mint drinks to popular commercial beverages.  Furthermore, mints can soothe nerves rather than be a stimulant, and they are not known to be addictive.

        Mints enter into preferences of backyard gardening over commercial and even farmers' markets: they are truly locally produced as organic with personal control over growing conditions; homegrown mint is certainly lower in price than imported coffee or tea, and can save a surprising portion of a food budget.  Mint drinks can be tasty and yet lack caffeine that many find worrisome.  Cold mint drinks are excellent summer substitutes for sugared soft drinks, with their tendency to produce added weight.  One must note that Kentucky's official drink is the "mint julep," made with a dash of bourbon -- a summer special.  Go easy on that one!

        There are many varieties of mint and some when started can become hard to control, for they tend to move out from the original planted source.  When planting, chose your space and wall it off so the mint will not spread to undesired areas of the yard.  Metal guards several inches below the surface will serve to keep mints in place, though some seem to be able to freely escape.  During the springtime and into summer mint will acquire its potency and then flower and turn to seed.  Consider harvesting in late June or July by cutting the stalks and stripping the leaves that are air dried (without pulpy stalks) away from direct sunlight, and perhaps complete the process with a solar or standard food dryer.  Package the dried leaves so as to retain flavor.  Virtually any part of this country is what the Spanish called the San Francisco area, "yerba buena."

          Mints are most often associated with cold and hot drinks. However, "mints" are those flavorful after dinner treats; mints are found in popular chewing gum and in delightful chocolate and other candies and in snacks and deserts of a wide variety --puddings, cheese cake, pies, and cookies.  Cooks like to have the mint patch close at hand for making salads with fresh sprigs and leaves; they are also good for adding flavor to soups and stews and to various meat and fish dishes.  Some like to add mint to baking products such as cornbread, rolls and biscuits.  Others prefer to freshen the table by including mint as a decoration along with flowers.  And there are medicinal benefits as well.

          Prayer: Lord, you give us all good gifts including mints. Help us discover and use them well.












Prickly pear cactus, Opuntia humifusa, native Kentucky species
*photo credit)

July 22, 2021  Realizing Earthhealing as Democratic, Not Elitist

        We look at improving our Earthhealing skills in a number of ways; we remember, especially after the pandemic, that healing Earth has taken secondary attention to staying safe from individual health threats.  To improve and regain public awareness it's important to see that Earthhealing actually enhances our democratic values and civic activities which include public health security.  First we should review our non-democratic tendencies ("elitism") and reaffirm our joint participation in renewing our wounded Earth.

          A variety of American elitist approaches can weaken or erode our democracy; four are listed here:

         * Privileged or religiously driven elites call for using up resources for they will be gone anyway, as though privileges of elite control surpass use by poorer folks who do not appreciate resources as much as current "enlightened" users.

          * Intellectual elites hold that their rational insight will make the world better, if others would only see this and abide by it -- truly wishful and mistaken thinking.

        * Autocratic elites, whether Western or Chinese-type capitalists, regard their edicts and controls as sufficient to correct the damage done in our broken world.  The presumed experts are in charge and merely pressing their points would allow the parsing of proper resource use to the multitudes.

          Media elites choose stories and outcomes in ways that are quite subtle and involve exclusive clubs, popular events, publicity of superstars, importance of CVs, recognition of selected authorities, and unconscious biases against certain people.

        Earthhealers must guard against succumbing to control mechanisms.  Democratic process is fragile and must be constantly guarded and improved; in order to do this our three basic principles for action must be operative:

        * All creation is affected by damage to our planet; our purview is the entirety of creatures from plants to animals and their interrelated habitats and migration routes.

        * No suffering or effort is ultimately lost, for all leads to gain; democratic work and offered suffering done on all levels, even that of the most humble, can lead to healing and renewing.

        * All must participate because democratic process is open and dynamic; growth and development demands interaction by a variety of cultures and ways of thinking and doing.  Voices of all citizens deserve to be heard and incorporated into global collaboration.

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to be ever vigilant of the needs and contributions of all people, and invite all to be Earthhealers.









Power of Prayer

        Throughout this set of daily reflections we have treated many forms of power (e.g., word, deed, solar, wind, hydro, etc.).  However, paradoxically we have never specifically treated the power of prayer.  In this quest for empowerment during crises we discover the need for divine assistance.  Jesus spent time in prayer to the Father amid his busy ministry; his example must not be forgotten, but rather imitated by all believers in empowerment.  We can grow in the power of prayer through two affirmations: God's guaranteed response to earnest prayer, and our faithfulness in the power of that prayer.

Anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name.  (John 16:23)

        Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him.                                                            (Matthew 7:7-8)

        Divine response.  Prayers are always answered, though at first we may not fully appreciate some of those responses.  Where needs are greatest, a believer is confident that the Lord hears our petitions, and all the while we are to be willing to engage in the other forms of prayer: praise, thanksgiving and forgiveness.

        I tell you solemnly, if anyone say to this mountain, 'Get up and throw yourself into the sea,' with no hesitation in his heart but believing in what he says will happen, it will be done for him.
(Mark 11:23); also (Luke 17:6; Matthew 22:21)

        Faith by one praying.  We seem to forget that Christ on many occasions spoke of greatness of faith of some, or smallness of the faith of others.  He called for each of us to pray sincerely, with a deep confidence in being heard by the Lord and in receiving a promised outcome.  Let's begin and remain positive; our efforts are far greater than moving mountains into the sea; people of good will realize the crises, take responsibility to address them, bring about needed change, and seek all areas of assistance.  Yes, we need a success and must firmly believe it is possible.

        Collaborative success.  If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it (John 14:14).  The Lord is at our side and the mutual struggle takes more than single individual efforts; we need to work with the Lord with full confidence in final success.  Through sincere prayer with its promised outcome, we can firmly feel confident that the goal of an equitable and renewable economy is not only favorable, but possible.  We cannot say inevitable, since the powers of darkness will also be at work, and throughout human history they have been partly successful in a short-term.  Let's grasp the insight that our prayers have power, if we truly believe.  Furthermore, the Lord will strengthen our collective faith in the power of prayer -- that ultimate spiritual empowerment.


The Big Lie

        In this year 2021, a major falsehood has been foisted on the American public.  If and when such deceptions do immense damage, it is necessary to publicly denounce and do all that is possible to expose it.  Such is the case of "The Big Lie," a deliberate effort of continued repetition by Ex-President Donald Trump that the 2020 election was stolen from him.  Unanimously, all forty state and federal courts in which he brought charges immediately dismissed them.  Some seven million more voted for his opponent, President Biden, and every state verified the proper voting procedures -- and this was formally documented by the Electoral College vote for Biden as President. 

        Still, The Big Lie persists well into 2021 and is repeated over and over.  On the January 6th official counting day, an aroused crowd of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building, leaving five dead and a hundred injured; still the formal count continued to completion.  The simple fact that The Big Lie is firmly repeated time and again by its author, and that millions of his followers have come to believe it, places a moral imperative on all citizens and defenders of democracy.  A lie repeated often and firmly enough will find believers among trusted followers of the party spreading the falsehood; this has happened repeatedly for the last eight months.  The Big Lie repeated with conviction has caught the attention of millions who voted for Trump and has been quietly accepted by the mechanism of a major political party.

        The Big Lie must be exposed for what it is; it causes grave damage to the integrity of the American voting system and weakens our democratic principle; each and every one has a right to vote and have that vote be counted.  The Big Lie is to be denounced as unbecoming and doing grave damage to trust in the federal electoral system that has been in effect for over two hundred years.  The reason greater numbers of partisans have not distanced themselves from this falsehood is most likely due to fear for their own political life and possibly physical safety.  Lest we forget, The Big Lie proponents includes those angered by the story of thievery; they are armed and ready to join forces if need be -- a potential for severe civil strife.

        I encourage all who are citizens and defenders of our threatened democracy to speak out; perform your duty and support honesty in politics and moral truth.  We can no longer remain silent when more and more people are deceived by the consistent promulgation of The Big Lie.  Here, a moral imperative rests also with the Church to make herself visible in rejecting falsehood in a clear fashion.  We must not allow a repeat of Germany in the 1930s.  In truth, Trump is no Hitler and is too old to make a big difference, though some of his henchmen could create civil strife that could damage internal peace.  It is time for all to speak up. 

Al Fritsch, SJ









A very, very small mushroom, species unknown.
*photo credit)

July 23, 2021  Affirming True Democratic Process through Solidarity 

        This is a continuation of yesterday's reflection that Earthhealing must be preserved as truly democratic.  A corollary to the aspect of participation is that the vast majority of the world's poor must lead the way -- a reckoning coming from the Magnificat chant that princes will be brought low and the lowly raised up -- a truly democratic "revolution."  Is this to occur by miraculous means?  The realization will occur most likely beyond my lifetime, and so I will not venture when or in what manner.

        Our approach is that Earthhealing moves in the direction of changing wills more than a mere rational insight for overcoming the ignorance of the multitudes.  The focus is on the basic cause of materialistic greed and desire for abundant material possessions; the motivation of materialism within affluent groups involves the intent to become super-wealthy.  On the other hand, a more humbling Christian approach calls for realizing our addictive tendencies and to be solidarity with all the poor in order to see, speak, and act in meaningful healing ways.  We must accept our addictiveness and need for a Higher Power to move forward.

        This admission must be made by all people because we are either party to the addiction or tolerant of its impact on our neighbors.  By admitting to be poor before the presence of God allows us to accept our powerlessness and then be open to the merciful gift of empowerment wherein true healing may occur.  The fact remains that some people are farther on the road to recovery than others, and some of these are notably ex-addicts -- not the power elite or the intellectuals, or the wealthy. 

        Our admission to being poor opens ourselves to solidarity with all people and to accepting the constant need for Divine Grace.  The heart of the quest is that of coming to be like the multitude and not to stand out apart from them and seek to have a competitive advantage over them.  Democratic grassroots occur when we all accept the addictive nature of the consumer culture and how much it has affected fashioned a popular not ion of being beholding to a capitalistic economic system. 

        Radical renewal is quite practical: the disparity of wealth must be abandoned through fair taxes; the poor of the world must be given access to essential services; and ways found to confront and abandon wasteful consumer practices.  A true spiritual revolution must be promoted with urgency, and most likely the discomfort and dissatisfaction of the poor multitudes will lead the way.  We can hardly expect that the contented and wealthy will take the initial step.  We must become poor and work together through a global collaboration effort. 

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to be true revolutionaries, not looking for power or fame or fortune, but for the improved empowerment of the poor, a satisfaction in being poor, and a way to give all people on this planet a higher quality of life.












Soybean Field
(*photo by: United Soybean Board)

July 24, 2021    Recognizing Soybeans as a Green Food Crop

        One of the ways to share food resources in a hungry world is to grow the more intensive crops that take less space and pack more protein and nutrients per amount of limited arable land.  Thus, while many livestock-producing operations take extensive land resources for pasture, hay, and feed crops, others, where flora are the major portion of a diet for hungry people, are more effective according to amount of land resource used. 

          Comparison with peanuts -- On January 19, 2021 we reflected on the role of peanuts as ecologically green food; so also is the humble soybean that has been used for five thousand years in Asia as a principal food crop.  While soybeans are comparable to peanuts for culinary versatility (tofu, tempeh, and miso), in nutritional content of protein, calories, fiber, and supplements, and for the leguminous nature of both crops (adding nitrogen to the soil), it has the added advantage of being less allergic than peanuts.  Soybeans are regarded as safe, highly nutritious, and rich in fiber; this is the only plant derived food that contains all the essential amino acids like meat, and it also contains the phospholipid lecithin.

         Animal product substitute -- Soy milk looks like and tastes close enough to ordinary cow's milk, and is directed to those with lactose intolerance.  However, soy milk lacks the calcium of the animal product though that can be supplemented by greens (collards or kale) or other foods.  The product takes far less effort to preserve; and it can be contrasted to animal requirements -- for maintaining animals (living space, methane emissions, feed, water, medications, and waste disposal).  One can see why soybeans can become a prime choice in a land-short world.

          An American crop -- The U. S. is the world leader in soybean production (one-third of world production or four billion bushels annually), followed by Brazil with almost equal amounts and then Argentina (one-fifth of total production); China, India and other nations produce smaller amounts.  About half of the American production is exported as unprocessed beans, especially to China and other Asian nations. 

        High production does not mean that soybeans have popularity in American foods as does peanut-containing candy bars and snack foods.  However, we do expect to see more soy products.  Roasted soybeans can have the same snack value as peanuts and many other components of trail mixes; they do not require cooking when on hikes and exploratory expeditions.  Furthermore, soybeans are not as enticing to wild bears as are peanuts.  However, large intake of soy products could affect people with impaired thyroid function and could reduce testosterone levels in men, and also some people with kidney disease.  Moderation in all things even with soy products.

Prayer: Lord, guide us to conserve land resources, to eat good foods, and to share soybean products with a hungry world.











Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema atrorubens.
*photo credit)

July 25, 2021          Multiplying the Loaves

        Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving them as much as they wanted.                           (John 6:11)

        Every time we reflect upon the great feats of Jesus' two grand multiplications of the loaves, we are able to draw ever deeper insights, some held of old and some uniquely fresh.  Far better are just a few expressed insights both old and new: 

          Sensitivity -- Jesus notes the assembled crowd and is aware of their need to be fed.  It is profoundly Christian to see people in need and to initiate a process of fulfilling those needs;
          Doubt -- The disciples have no idea how such a group can be fed in any meaningful manner.  All too often we doubt that the destitute of the world can be served through the limited means at our disposal, but we must have faith that it can be done;
          Generosity -- The youth is willing to share the little that he has for the greater good, a prime example of radical sharing;
          Organization -- Making the people be seated (in Matthew's Gospel in formal groups for proper distribution) gives rise to how distribution must be available to all, but recipients may be required to undergo some structuring;
          Gratitude -- Feeding in all forms ought to occur within an atmosphere of thanks to the Supplier of all good gifts.  We ought to begin our meals with thanks for having food to fill our needs;
          Plentitude -- The people who seek nourishment are filled and still have plenty left over.  The resources of the Earth are sufficient for all to have a plentiful supply, if we have the will to distribute these resources properly;
          Wants and needs -- A very minimum in any redistribution scheme is to satisfy basic essentials to all people, but it also implies that beyond are qualities-of-life needs that must be addressed.
          Conservation -- Jesus may have multiplied loaves, but that does not mean surplus is to be wasted, and especially food.  Too often, when we have enough, we become insensitive to future needs, and thus see excess as of less worth.  A filled belly still must think ahead to future needs;
          Failure in spiritual understanding -- The people are filled with material things, but often fail to understand the deeper spiritual message.  This is the aspect of materialism that keeps people unaware of looking beyond their belly and individual and often selfish needs and wants;
          Escape -- Jesus would have none of the glamour and forceful adulation of the crowd, and he simply removed himself from the scene so that the stage would not become politicized; and
          Looking ahead -- The multiplication prefigures the need of a people for spiritual nourishment in order to be strengthened for the many tasks ahead in renewing our troubled Earth.

          Prayer: Lord, teach us ever deeper insights in our reflections on these magnificent events in your public life.












Watering system, home-brewed
*photo credit)

July 26, 2021     Rethinking Competitive Games and Playing to Win

        How deeply do we reflect on the need to compete and win in entertainment, rather than to enjoy something socially with partners?   I have actually discovered that the most enjoyable games were those where competition was not the prime focus, only letting all be part of a win-win situation.  Maybe I always felt sorry either being a loser or creating one though my limited skills.  Competition is stressful, so why play for such "success."  Is this to keep the Capitalistic dogma reaffirmed in everyone?  Do the games make one think that this is serious activity when the real game is saving our Earth from dramatic climate change; the successful outcome is still truly in doubt, but the playing is a serious activity worthy of our collective efforts. 

          Why play to win?  When folks regard winning as proving the righteousness or excellence of some system or institution or nation, I find this revolting.  No wonder much of the world is in a greedy and self-absorbing situation, for people play to win for very wrong reasons.  If people come together to sincerely praise a good game and players, that is praiseworthy.  If the contest is waged for imperfect objectives, we ought to be deeply suspect no matter how large the cheering audiences.  This is not togetherness but rather reaffirmation of a capitalistic system promoting such events.  Is it to make $$$ within the commercial athletic industry?

          Play real games.  Merely disdaining local, national or global competitive sports reminds us once again of the vast game of haves and have-nots.  The game is weighed in favor of the haves and their security forces, unfair tax systems, and disregard for the other party.  Things are right now stacked against the have-nots -- but not forever.  The poor will rise to win but not to compete, to cheer but not ridicule others; and to champion and not to overlook those in dire need.  Playing is important, and winning is a byproduct of good play, not the ultimate goal on which all depends.

          Play to win big ones.  It is all in what you are playing for or cheering for -- and that makes a difference.  In some countries pitched battles occur over soccer matches (though it is milder than actual warfare).  In some places parents pounce on umpires and referees and maybe it is a little better than not being interested in offspring’s' performances, but hardly.  In counting numbers of Olympic gold medals per nation one finds a nationalism that is somewhat hollow and tends to create hostility instead of friendship.  

          Change the rules to one of collaboration.  Nation against nation or city against city has an immature charm that captivates many sports spectators.  However, playing the game of saving our planet in the treat of climate change could yield far greater feelings of wellbeing if we prove successful -- it's win-win! 

          Prayer: Lord, teach us the art of playing to win with others in a way that all benefit equally in the activity.












Countless droplets of dew, jewels from the Earth
*photo credit)

July 27, 2021  Contrasting America's Attitudes about Wealth

        Jesus spoke forthrightly about those who are wealthy and how hard it is for them to be saved.  How many camels are thin enough to pass through the eye of a needle?  Certainly the affluent differ from him in the concept of wealth and boldly admit their striving to reach a higher level of it.  Isn't it envy to desire what the wealthy have?  Do some who question the wealthy have this envy or rather a social sense of justice for all?  Some see virtue in seeking to be wealth; they continue playing the lottery for instant wealth.  On the other hand, many Christians strive to avoid greed and regard the influence of the retainers of wealth as truly anti-democratic.  Those involved in social justice say that super wealth is wrong and that retention of such financial resources by a few (whether earned or not) is needing liberation; the wealth belongs to the commons for redistribution for those who are needy.

          Social justice demands virtue.  Here is where many of the revolutionaries of the past have gone awry.  The unmerciful are either spiteful and want the destruction of the wealthy (French revolutionaries of the 1790s); or they are secretly desiring the same forms of control now exercised by the privileged, but to do so in the "name" of people, nation or another tag.  Mercy and honesty in working together could allow a habit of doing justice as a community with some enforcement mechanisms to allow for public order.  We need an orderly redistribution of wealth.

          Prosperity Christianity, a handmaid of the capitalistic state, calls for accumulation in a "legal" way so that the property belongs to the wealth-acquiring person (primarily the chief minister ) who is regarded as virtuous in obeying the law and using his or her wits and powers to manipulate money in a supposed charitable fashion.  For such "Christians," success is tied into their hidden greed, and others who envy them are sinners.

          Social justice Christianity says that wealth itself retained and controlled as such is not a virtue, but is a resource that must be shared as part of the commons, especially with the destitute.  No one can possess wealth at his or her own discretion, especially when the wealth resources are needed to meet needs such as adequate food, potable water, and proper housing.  Since one to two billion people fit these categories of need, it is unjust to retain (rather than merely acquire) superabundant wealth; it must be shared.  Taking FOR the commons is a virtue; failing to do so is a vice.

        Which side are you on?  The suspicion is that many readers would prefer not to make a choice as to how to share, for there seems to be much at stake: to decide against prosperity Christianity may distance us from mega-church leaders and others.  However, saving the rich, whose camels can't pass through the eye of the needle, is a matter of concern and duty. 

          Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to stand for social justice in times when few have much, and many, many more have so little. 












Fruit from a volunteer squash from her compost pile
  (photo by Sally Ramsdell)

July 28, 2021   Chanting in Harmony as Cosmic Resonance

        I doubt whether at the end of the 20th century I would have written this reflection, or even considered this issue.  But in this post-pandemic era it is now apparent that chanting is a continuation of the resonance from the first Big Bang, and thus allows us to be in tune with grand cosmic sounds.  Chanting, like speaking in tongues, or caroling, or campfire sing-alongs, is part of affirmative sounds that breaks silence space with something worthwhile -- when the loneliness of silence needs to be broken.

        Chanting has a place in Church liturgy and should be done more frequently.  It is not that I am a good chanter wanting an opportunity to excel.  Rather, I am a modest songster from a talented family that never really invited my use of limited talents, and yet I became blessed for a decade past with a music director at one of my churches who encouraged the celebrant's chanting contributions; she gave me courage and the congregation showed a modest appreciation.  Our churches have opportunities to have chanting response at various optional parts of our Liturgy -- and this gives such events a more sacred atmosphere.

        Chanting is defined as a simple liturgical song (psalms, canticles, or proper prayers) in which a string of syllables or words is sung to each tone.  The quality of a chanter's voice and efforts gives special meaning and formality to the occasion and allows for all to participate in the response and intensify the solemnity.  Chants such as Gregorian Chant have held a special place in the formal prayers of the Church, but have been reduced in importance during the reforms following Vatican II.  Well performed chants by monastic groups are highly valued, and their produced records sell in substantial numbers; in some cases, enough sales of records allow for furnishing essential community needs. 

        Good chanting is valued; moderate chanting leads to prayerful environments; imperfect chanting can even be distracting.  Now efforts are being made to return chants during Masses to their proper role and duration, and this can counter some of the informality that crept into the Liturgy in the 20th century.  In a broader outlook, liturgical chanting is healing for a troubled planet.  To chant is to enter into the vibrations of a planet in the process of being healed; the soothing tonality of chanting, when done in a satisfactory manner, can be fitting communication with God.  Our growth in trust assists us to recognize our imperfections and to seek to address them with an open heart.  We discover that our chanting is an opening to the eternal; we enter into the resonance of the Trinitarian Mystery -- eternal resonance.  Chanting is an infant's whimpering for mother's milk, a humming in tune with the residual vibrations of cosmic origins, an admission of wanting to overcome our collective imperfections in our journey of faith, and a longing to enter into Divine Presence.

          Prayer: Lord, usher our chanting into a cosmic striving to resonate in divine harmony.











Spiders' webs,discovered on morning stroll.
*photo credit)

July 29, 2021   Existing Nightmare: Nuclear Powerplants

        Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania (March 28, 1978), Chernobyl in the Ukraine (April 26, 1986), and Fukushima, Japan (March 11, 2011) all have one thing in common; they involved nuclear powerplant accidents, though of different degrees of seriousness.  At Fukushima, the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused extensive damage and radiation escape at three reactors of a nuclear powerplant complex.  This occurred near the Pacific shore affected by the terrible earthquake that killed 30,000 people and destroyed entire towns. 

        Contrary to assurances by industry and government, nuclear power applications are not always and forever safe -- and not all accidents can be completely avoided.  In the 1970s I served on the board of directors of one of the first anti-nuke groups, the DC-based National Intervenors directed by the late Irene Dickinson.  Note that many other anti-nuke activist groups of great service followed after.  We wanted a halt to nuclear powerplant construction, and eventually got it for three decades because of inherent lack of safety.  Even today, with so-called safer designs we hear the words of optimists, "Nuclear plants can be kept safe only by constantly worrying about their dangers."

        The original dream was that nuclear power (that blatant sign of America's guilt for the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) would be used as the peacetime atom; it was supposed to furnish nuclear energy for electricity that would be too cheap to monitor.  That was the first dream to go bad -- and increased worries, regulations, and safeguards increased the cost.  On the other hand, wind generation as part of the future energy mix is far cheaper, takes far less construction time, and is infinitely safer.  Yet the nuclear lobby keeps that dream alive long after the number of power plants has capped at about four hundred, and total numbers are now in decline.  Further, the operable nuclear capacity is also declining, especially in Western Europe.  Many of the 1960s vintage power plants have reached the end of their projected and extended life times -- and final disposal of American nuclear wastes from commercial operations is undecided -- and that is a nightmare.

        The nuclear dreamers contrast their operations with fossil fuel-emission problems and global-warming expectations; they add that new plant designs call for smaller, more compact, lower-priced and safer power plants.  However, the arguments have not received a widespread following, mainly because construction time for nuclear powerplants involves years in contrast to months for solar and wind operations -- and nuclear facilities costs run into billions.  Wind and solar applications are recognized as safer and far lower in cost.  Will the phoenix be able to rise again?

          Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to show the tie-in with the nightmare of nuclear-weapons proliferation and this continuation of nuclear-power generation throughout the world.





July 30-August 1, 2021   Ignatian Year and Continuous Conversion

          On May 20th, we Jesuits realized that it was exactly 500 years since the time our founder, Ignatius of Loyola, while soldiering in France, had his leg shattered by a cannonball.  This was the dramatic start of his enormous change of life.  While convalescing, Ignatius read any books available, which included the lives of the saints.  This led to his conversion and change of attitudes about medieval knighthood to that of becoming a soldier for Christ.  This was the launching of his expansive pilgrimage that took him on a trip to the Holy Land, to developing his Spiritual Exercise, and his settling down to academic training and religious community formation. 

          Perhaps this event of 500 years ago can trigger each of his followers and friends to think carefully about our ways of life and the continuous call to deeper conversion facing each of us at this critical time in history.  Ignatius' conversion was certainly dramatic, whereas ours may be less so, but still important in this time and place.  As our Jesuit General Arturo Sosa says, we should seek a deeper relationship with God and renew our commitment to bringing justice, peace and compassion to our world. 

          Let's expand these reflections during this "Ignatian Year" to include our readers.  Recognizing our unique conversion event and experiences is needed for all, and especially to those who are aware of the responsibility to take on a deeper role in establishing social justice today.  We all have an opportunity to see this pandemic as an awakening call; we are reminded again that our problems are multiple and complex and involve curbing climate change at the global level, as well as reuniting a divided country in which we find ourselves.  We have the added difficult task of welcoming the displaced and giving them proper homesteads; furthermore, we must help redistribute the growing concentrated wealth of the world so that those suffering food, water and lodging insecurity might find comfort and a better quality of life. 

          Why celebrate a conversion?  We may accept that it is pleasing to celebrate the anniversary of a famous conversion event and regard it as worthwhile.  But is this enough?  The celebration called for here is a reminder that each of us have been called in a special way by the Lord, but it is not enough as a single event; we are immersed in a sea of materialism and distraction; it is hard to hear the Lord continuously calling us to an ongoing pilgrimage.  Ignatius' healing months were part of his journey in faith, but in fact it took years to complete his spiritual conversion -- and to some degree was never finished during his lifetime.  We can see here a calling that we have to deeper improvement and purification of our intentions in life -- and that this takes time, for it is more than an event; it is an ongoing process.

          Prayer:  Lord, teach us to celebrate notable events and see how these influence our ongoing pilgrimage in life.




A late July storm.
(*photo credit)

July 30, 2021  Enduring Increased Frequency of Weather Extremes

        What do we do as threatening weather approaches?  Too often we continue what we are doing.  Though the chance of being struck by lightning is greater than winning the large jackpot, I do stay away from being under trees in a lightning storm -- and am prepared should the nearby chemical weapons depot be hit by an earthquake. Others act differently under extremes as is evident by those going under trees in a thunderstorm or playing outdoors in the rainstorm.

          Short term -- Be Prepared.  Depending on where located, we ought to consider the possibility of weather extremities that could strike with greater frequency due to climate change.  It is wise to make remote preparations for necessary supplies, immediate shelter, and evacuation routes.  I live downwind from the Bluegrass Army Depot; though chances of mishap are low, still evacuation routes and plans sent each year for us who reside in Estill County are salutary and worth keeping in a prominent place.  That was especially true a decade ago when severe tornadoes were reported with a 10 (high certainty) rating of a strike within 50 miles.  When some tornadoes were reported in the Army Depot area, it did make some of us concerned -- especially since where the strikes occurred in two sides of our county caused massive destruction (East Bernstadt and West Liberty) and dozens of deaths.

          Medium term -- Be prudent.  Besides shelter and evacuation, longer-term types of extremities may mean being prepared for flood or droughts to our locales.  Generally, these are extremes with enough forewarning.  July is prone to thunderstorms, and so keeping sensitive digital records at another place than the immediate site of computer access is very wise.  A friend lost his PhD draft dissertation during a thunderstorm.  I keep duplicate copies at a distant location just in case the magnetized effects of an immediate or nearby lightning strike were to occur unexpectedly.  This is a matter of concern in Appalachia.

          Long term -- Be responsible.  Scientists show that extreme weather conditions have occurred with greater frequency over the past decade.  Physical research, statistical analysis, and computer simulations have reported in the journal Nature Climate Change that extreme rainfall and heat waves occur due to global warming.  Furthermore, these scientists from Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Research find that such phenomena occur in all parts of the globe.  They report that severe floods, heat waves, and other phenomena in normally temperate climates are occurring with greater severity and frequently; in fact, during the last five summers we have experienced the hottest temperatures since weather was recorded in the 1880s.  Certainly the actual events are unpredictable but worth noting as increasingly probable.

          Prayer: Lord, help us live through current conditions with a good spirit, be prepared for what could come tomorrow, be prudent about the immediate future, and be aware of extreme events.









Setting sun, Land Between the Lakes, KY.
(*photo credit)

July 31, 2021    Earthhealing Has Ignatian Roots

        The Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola is an opportune time to consider the debt we owe to that saintly organizer for some of the Earthhealing principles we strive to apply.  A companion reflection was on July 31, 2019 "Consider Ignatian Principles and the Environment."  At that time we touched on various aspects: discerning good and bad movements of the spirits; showing gratitude for gifts of Earth; focusing on the Ignatian "Principle and Foundation" that Ignatius laid down at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises; reflecting on the "Three Degrees of Humility" (being for the poor, being with the poor, and finally opting for being poor); and becoming a Christian activist.

        Let us extend the activistic mode to include the spiritual warrior in Ignatius, a late medieval soldier who gave up his sword to battle in serving Christ.  This follows from the two preceding reflections this month (July 22 and July 23) on democratic process.  Though Ignatius' political views were closer to the Hispanic models of his time, still his Spiritual Exercises were meant for a broad spectrum of believers, and thus a democratic germ was starting to flourish.  The encouragement of people to be active comes in the total giving of ourselves to the Lord in the final meditations of these exercises, when we recommit ourselves to take of Christ's work in an act of loving service.  We seek to obey the Divine Will in all things for better or worse. 

        If we are willing to become poor with the Lord then we can muster the trust and courage needed to envision the titanic struggle between good and evil found in this world today.  The conflict of the "Two Kingdoms" (of God and Satan) is the battle in which we are engaged between diabolic materialism and a new messianic system.  In that age to come all people receive the essential resources needed for a quality of life and still do so while protecting our planet through fair and proper processes of acquiring, use, distributing, and disposing.  In order to prepare for this eco-spiritual revolution (renewable economy), we need to know our weaknesses and social addictions, acknowledge them, surrender to a Higher Power, and relate closely with the Lord. 

        The environmental struggle in which we are presently engaged can find support in the manner of proceeding through the Spiritual Exercises.  This is a tool for use in the coming decades as we seek to do two major goals: curtail climate change and its destructive effects; and redistribute the wealth of the world to those in desperate need.  We begin by seeing the grandeur of all creation; we see victims who suffer with the crucified Christ; and we direct our Christ-empowered actions to saving our wounded Earth.  This threefold vision of creation, redemption, and resurrection is part of the mysticism of Ignatius of Loyola, a mysticism akin to our Earthhealing process. 

         Prayer: Lord, teach us to carry the Ignatian vision into a world needing transformation, and to do so with urgent speed.

Copyright © 2021 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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