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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.


A series of written meditations and reflections



Sustainable Living Through Appropriate Technology

by Al Fritsch & Paul Gallimore

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Table of Contents: Daily Reflections


May 2006

may calendar daily reflections earth healing

Copyright © 2006 by Al Fritsch


phlox kentucky ky frankfort franklin county

Phlox divaricata, blue phlox,
Dancing Knob Farm, Kentucky
Photos on this page by: Janet Powell


Each year, May greets us full of floral grace and beauty. The winter is now far behind and we are preparing for the fullness of the 2006 growing season. The trees are now being rapidly clothed with greenery, the oaks are finally getting their leaves, and the black locusts have that perfumed signal that the springtime is all around us. Peonies and irises are in the yards; something causes us to sneeze but it's a small inconvenience for such a time of beauty. The lilies of the valley add to the delicateness of this floral month; blackberry blooms abound, and the catalpas are fully flowered as well. It is a glorious sight and we understand why it is a month for weddings and graduations, derbies and garden parties, outdoor cleanups and track and field events. Everyone seems to want to go outdoors and soak in that full-spectrum sunlight. Why not? This is generally a very gentle month, one which we enjoy best in the newly adorned woods and verdant meadows.

Braver souls even jump into the pool earlier and earlier in the month, as global warming makes its mark on the planet. In all the excitement, let's not forget to protect ourselves from the sun, for moderation in all things is a key for the upcoming summer season.







May 1, 2006 May Flowers

This is May Day, and that has a host of meanings from ancient
pagan May Poles to a Christian St. Joseph's Day, from Soviet and
other Communist parades to Western workers' holidays. But this is
also the start of "Herb and Wildflower Week," and so we focus again
on flowers during this entire month of May. On this Earthhealing
website we try to start each month with the wildflowers from Janet
Powell's extensive photo collection. She is to be thanked for
setting the reflections off with rare and delicate beauty, which
many of us so often overlook. Wildflowers speak in a very special
but delicate way about the need to preserve wilderness. The spring
wildflowers are here for a short time, and as the tree foliage
matures in May the flowers on the ground fade away for another
year. We have just a short span of time to see and appreciate them
-- and now is certainly that time.

Expressing various sentiments. We extend our reflection to
the cultivated floral varieties, for they are grown under
controlled conditions and are bred to tolerate shipping over long
distances to supply a growing demand for fresh-cut flowers. These
cultivated varieties of roses, carnations and a host of others
"say it in a special way" as the florists like to remind us. The
flowers are good as gifts for the ill and shut-in, bouquets for the
newly-wed, a corsage for the party host, decorations for the
banquet, prizes for the best ... at the conference, tokens for
departure, adornments at the altar, wreathes on the casket, and on
and on. What we know in the beginning of May is that this
universal symbol of love and affection can also be a highly desired
ornamental in the form of flowerbeds for buildings and grounds.
Flowers are an integral part of Earth healing and so should always
hold a prominent place; they give us a touch of refinement and
civilization that is so utterly needed in a forgetful world.

Inviting the senses. Where strategically located, flowers
drive away pests and increase the economic value of the property.
But utilitarian factors are not the only reason for promoting
flowers. They satisfy several senses at the same time: their
color attracts us as well as bees and other pollinators who add
sound to the floral surroundings; their smell is also attractive,
for we often want to just enjoy the fragrance; they have a special
feeling in their petals and some even taste good (e.g., violets,
certain lilies and nasturtiums) when used to garnish salads.

Calling us home. Some people come from families of flower
lovers. When visiting Germany and France, we find graveyards
filled with planted flowers; during the summer the windows of the
homes are filled with geraniums and other potted plants. That love
crossed the great Atlantic and brought on the flower gardens that
help define home for what it is -- a place to return to and rest.
Flowers are a gentle reminder that our Earth is home; it is worth
taking care of and tending. We need to recognize floral beauty, to
stop and appreciate the fragrance, and just to thank God for such
creatures for even a short span of the year.


            prunus kentucky ky knobs

               Prunus sp. - We are unsure of the species...
          Any guess as to what this is?
E-mail us!





May 2, 2006 Pokeweed Shoots

My campaign to popularize our American "poke" or "pokeweed"
plant (Phytolacca americana) does not meet with enormous success.
I have been intrigued with poke from the time of youth, when we
would paint our arms red with poke berry juice, to later when a
Filipino visitor greatly admired the pokeweed plant we had growing
at the nature center. Maybe we Americans should treasure the
beauty as well, especially since it can easily endure dry summers
with no watering. Certainly, it proves hearty as well as pretty.
But there are more things worth mentioning about pokeweed.

Poke shoots are the main ingredients of "sallat," an
Appalachian delicacy that we eat in springtime and slightly beyond.
When the shoots come up, one can prepare them in the same manner
as asparagus sprouts and cook them with similar seasoning. I like
a cream sauce with some salt, pepper and hot sauce to bring out the
flavor. It is a near thing to asparagus and does not require the
tender loving care that that rather finicky plant requires in
growing. Poke just keeps coming back year after year though it
likes composted soil best, as might be expected. I cut the shoot
well after the red skin appears (most regard that as poisonous).
I simply skin off the red layer and throw out the first boiled
water because, otherwise, the poke is a little bitter. The leaves
are also wonderful and nutritious when cooked, and I use both
leaves and sprouts well into the growing year.

Poke berries which form in large clusters in the autumn are
excellent for aches and pains. Older mountain people boil some of
the red juice (good for dying cloth as well) and feed it to ailing
livestock. One older Appalachian herbalist recommended that the
berries (it only takes about a dozen clusters for a year's supply)
be frozen and one swallowed whole each day. I do this and find
that my family arthritis problems do not haunt me as they do other
members. I have yet to influence others (I don't try to persuade,
for I don't want to pretend to practice medicine), even though I am
willing to share supplies from my deep freeze with all who would
ask. It works for me. The secret is swallowing them whole, for
the seed is supposed to be somewhat toxic when chewed, though I
hear about people who gobble down berries in large amounts and have
never gotten sick. Is it because poke berries are free, that they
are not regarded as being as effective as $100 a bottle pills?

The suspicion is that some people are allergic to poke just as
to peanuts or milk products. That should not brand this beautiful
and useful plant as "poisonous." Though one must caution that the
roots are supposed to be most poisonous (just as are many of the
non- fruity parts of the tomato plant). I would not tinker with
poke roots. You don't have to risk your life to prove or disprove
something about natural plants. All I say is be a little more
respectful of this truly American "weed." And believe me, I have
no arthritis yet. Try them gently until you prove there are no
allergies and then consider doing what I do -- take a frozen berry
once a day with a swallow of grape juice. It's a morning ritual.





May 3, 2006 Iraq War: A Three-Nation Solution?

Two years ago today I wrote on the subject of the Iraq War, and
not much has changed since, except more bloodshed and death. Some
of us (anti-war) folks said "don't" in 2003 and took grief for
opposing that Second Gulf (or Bush) War. But our grief was minor
compared to that of the families of service personnel who endured
the funerals of their loved ones returned in caskets. And what
about the tens of thousands of lamenting "Iraqi," if we can use
that term when nationhood may be in jeopardy? Should Iraq have
been created in the first place? Had the allied powers after the
First World War established a federated state (and included Kuwait,
Syria and Lebanon as well as the Gulf emirates), the picture might
look different today. Maybe! Mix the politics of the region with
the largest oil field in the world and one has a WMD (weapon of
mass destruction) in suicide terrorists bent on creating a new
world. How much did the massive oil reserves fuel this conflict?

Yes, the United States and a few cooperating allies have
stirred a Middle Eastern hornet's nest; we try our hand at match
making (nation-building) for parties who do not want marriage and
where no nation has existed for thousands of years. We are poor
students of history and don't realize that our basic unilateralism
in a globalized world is highly flawed. Add to this our heavy-
handed firepower, planes, and mere presence and the imposition of
a military solution just does not work. Finally, most of our
country is waking up and realizing what a mess this is -- and not
easily solved. It is civil war and we helped start it. Hopefully,
the White House is waking up also and, before we exhaust our
treasury as well as the will to fight, will come to a new outlook
on this horribly complex and dangerous situation.

Amid the chaos should we ask whether a three-nation solution
is feasible? Ethnic cleansing, which is being fostered and
accelerated by sectarian violence, may prove to be a way of
improving safety for many. Perhaps, and only perhaps, if Arab
Sunnis live in the middle area, Kurds in the north, and Shiites in
the south, with territorial allowances for smaller minorities,
things will calm and talks on federation begin. Mixed
neighborhoods plus the oil reserves are a dangerous brew.
Granted, that separate nations may not suit the Sunnis who would
control little or no oil, but even their residents will tire of the
bloodshed and concede to an imperfect solution. If the three
ethnic groups move to enclaves or whole provinces, the better the
chances of reducing violence. Would an American pullout lead to
total civil war or to an ultimate internal accommodation among
these groups? No one knows.

U.S. troop presence does not help the situation; our presence
seems to accelerate rather than reduce the violence. A phased
pullout appears to be the only reasonable solution to a bad
problem. Peace is the ultimate solution, but coming to a peaceful
settlement seems impossible right now. With God all things are
possible -- and healing the Earth demands an atmosphere of peace.





May 4, 2006 Prayer of a Patriot

Lord, Today is our National Prayer Day,
   but You expect that we should pray every day,
   so what makes this really so different?
Is it because we have to pray together at times,
   even when we pray differently, worship
   in our own way, speak in different words?
We may not look east, bow, bend a knee, move our lips,
   stretch out our hands, or fold our hands.
   But at times we need to pray together.

A patriot who loves his land must pray.
   Jesus weeps over Jerusalem; we weep for America.
   If we but knew the things that are to come.
Patriotism means we love and support our country --
   not when right or wrong, but only when right,
   and strive to make it right again.
We are to show the world our love,
   not flaunt our military might and power,
   but be people of a sincere and humble heart.

Perhaps a false manifest destiny of the past
   was our expression of immaturity
   with streaks of goodness intertwined.
We do not want other nations hurt in any way,
   we wish them prosperous futures
   and a higher quality destiny for their people.
For we simply cannot police the world;
   such is the goal of an evil spirit
   and deserves to be understood and denied.

Lord, give us a humble and contrite heart,
   make us a people who can find the right approach,
   to refrain from violence even when attacked.
Teach us to give and not to count the cost,
   to serve a needy world with fewer gifts
   because we took them for ourselves in times past.
Make us mindful of future generations,
   for those who need what we regard as luxury,
   and teach us to use all things in moderation.

Give us the strength to come together,
   not checking if others bow or fold their hands,
   but united with a clean and humble heart,
One not proud or boastful or feeling superior
   or set in a self-righteousness of the past.
   But only give us an open and clean heart.
Help us see what is right and what is wrong,
   to choose the former in a national way,
   and do it now and do it well.





May 5, 2006 Cinco de Mayo

North America is too closely connected, too contiguous to
regard our peoples as nationally distinct. Togetherness is better
served when we can celebrate together -- and all people, rich and
poor, working and retired, young and old, have reasons to
celebrate. If we do so with others, we create the bonds of
fellowship, not division. This day is worthy of continent-wide
celebration for it is very important to the one quarter of the
North American people, the Mexicans. On this 5th of May, Mexicans
celebrate the defeat of the French army at the battle of Puebla in
1862 -- fortunately, years before my granddad entered the French
army. Let's not confuse this important Mexican holiday with their
Independence Day, but it is their rare occasion for celebration,
just as similar days are for the United States and Canada.

In one way, we all have reasons to celebrate our common
livelihood. However, we cannot celebrate legislation that would
criminalize the illegal immigrants; it is simply out of the
question. People by the tens of thousands took to the streets
earlier this spring -- and their honest protests awakened the
Senate portion of our Congress to a more realistic solution to this
rapidly growing continental problem. Mexicans are part of this
continent and they strive for a better life. It is non-criminal to
desire to come for a decent job. A guest worker program, if
properly administered, would seem to be more reasonable than the
legislation laying penalties on those who come. The enticements
(low but steady wages) come from an affluent portion of the
continent and the borders are almost porous. This attraction is
coupled with the grinding poverty and fewer opportunities for the
masses in the continent's south. Ironically, this is the same
dynamic that brought virtually all our non-enslaved ancestors to
our shores in the 17th to 20th centuries. Why fault these folks in
the 21st?

Some will say Mexico is retaking its former territory (Texas,
California, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada) in a non-violent manner
-- of immigrant entry, hard work at menial positions, and a
dependable family orientation that is actually welcomed by many
communities. The rapid increase to one quarter Hispanic in the
total ethnic composition in these states is not to be overlooked.
The birth rate among the Hispanic population exceeds that of the
Anglo population and challenges that of other races as well.
Hispanics see the future as theirs, and that may prove a welcome
relief for a country that needs the dreams of destiny held by all
our ancestors in times past. No doubt things are changing, but
hospitality calls for treating hard-working folks with respect and
decency -- and that means not making life terribly tough on them.

Why celebrate a national feast of one nation over the others?
Here the foreign oppressor was defeated and Mexico received a
certain degree of self-esteem and the American policy of
hemispheric independence was asserted. We all should celebrate it.






May 6, 2006 The Rainbow: God's Covenant with the Earth

God said, 'Here is the sign of the covenant I make between
Myself and you and every living creature with you for all
generations: I set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of
the covenant between Me and Earth.
(Genesis 9:12-13)

Today is Astronomy Day and we should at times turn our eyes to
the heavens for the signs of the Almighty's nightly light show for
all of us to gaze on and admire the heavenly beauty all around us.

Natural phenomenon. We look down at a dewdrop on a sunny
spring morning and we see a sapphire, emerald, ruby or topaz
depending at what angle we look. This is one marvel that shows the
dispersal of light into its various colors. Look at an oil patch
in the sunlight and see the variation as well but again from light.

Observe with a clean heart. The sacred writer begins the
passage in the Genesis 9: 8-15 account by "see." We are to look
out and see God's creation, and when we praise God in the midst of
creation, we and all creation join in praising God. We should give
God praises this spring when we see a rainbow. In all likelihood,
we may be the only spectators praising God for this beautiful and
temporary marvel of varied colors. In May we have the temptation
to attend totally to what is at hand and overlook the goodness of
God's creation.

Noahic Covenant. The covenant between God and us all living
beings is recalled with each rainbow. And do we think about all
these living beings in our midst? This is a planet that is alive,
and that quality of life is very precious whether it be a fetus in
the womb, a coyote pup, or a struggling flower in the crannied
wall. Each has its chance for the precious thing called being
alive -- and we should give these struggling creatures that
precious chance or "space to live." The Earth is alive and God's
covenant is with us human beings and with all the plants and
animals and with mother Earth herself. If we lack respect for any
individual creature, that disrespect becomes contagious and spreads
like a pandemic all over the planet.

Tempted to avoid positive actions. People often tend to run
away from an accident rather than to help. The Earth is presently
hurt by the accident of overuse and harmful misuse of resources.
We are called to be the Good Samaritan, creatures of the Noahic
Covenant, people of the New Covenant. If the Earth is not to be
destroyed by disasters and the failure to halt them, we as people
of the New Covenant must profess faith in the Resurrection and help
through restoration of the Earth to new life. It is wrong to deny
what is happening, excuse ourselves from what needs to be done, or
escape to other allurements. That is yielding to temptation.
Rather, we are to affirm the current state of affairs, accept our
joint responsibilities and enter the fray. Now we become the
rainbow for others to observe, follow and make the desired change.


         violet wood sorrel oxalis violacea

            Violet wood-sorrel, Oxalis violacea ---
        Illuminated by filtered sunlight through an already-dense
        spring canopy cover.
       (Photo taken: May 3, 2006 @ Vernon-Douglas
State Nature Preserve, Hardin Co., KY)

May 7, 2006 I Am the Good Shepherd

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd is one who lays
down his life for his sheep.
(John 10:11)

The fourth Sunday of Easter has for centuries been regarded as
Good Shepherd Sunday. The story is quite familiar to us, even if
we are not familiar with shepherding and how sheep behave. We look
to Jesus as our shepherd for he teaches us to be shepherds or other
christs. This is not an obedience training on how to be good
sheep. Rather, we learn how to serve others through alertness to
their needs (responsibility), caring for others, and freely
accepting our roles to regulate proper controls. This is not a
power play by shepherd over sheep; the Lord shows us how to be good
caregivers, not trainers of sheep. Jesus acts as shepherd with:

1. Responsibility or willingness to do all needed. Hired
hands do not have this sense of concern and care, of willingness to
defend another from all dangers.
2. Calling each by name or a tender, loving care for all
including those that are not of this fold or have been lost.
3. Freedom to do this completely with an absence of force.
Jesus lays down his life for his sheep freely.

Being responsible, health of others. If we were to live under
a dictatorship, we would be faced with being docile and not
rebellious. Being good sheep may possibly have a place in a
totalitarian state, but we are citizens within a democracy. This
democratic spirit is fragile and can be lost, if we overlook our
civic responsibility as democratic citizens: voters, guardians of
the liberties of our people, and responsible for the needs of the
least among us. Responsibility includes adequate food, affordable
housing and a comprehensive health care program for all (especially
the 35 million Americans not covered by health insurance).

Calling each by name. We all are called to become concerned
about the welfare of others. To say "good bye and good luck" to
the rest of the world is not a christian thing to do. As a people
who care, we may not know every name, but we do look at the folks
are who are out there and remember that they are in need more than
we. They are our brothers and sisters and we are shepherds, not
sheep; we lead, not beat them; we serve, not drive them.

Acting freely. Jesus gently invites us and we freely accept
his invitation to participate in the divine plan. Our response is
like his, not threatening, but gentle concern for all. We thus
discover a certain creativity in the manner in which we respond to
the needs around us. Drug problems with their harmful and
addictive effects impact all. As a chemist by training, I can
affirm how dangerous chemicals are -- yet that fear has evaporated
among the general public. Now as Christians we accept our duties
in a free and creative manner. Acting freely and accepting
regulation are not contradictory. Truly shepherding is a challenge
and involves both freedom and freely accepted controls and regulations.




May 8, 2006 Gardening in May

We strive to write one reflection on gardening each month.
This is because gardening is so utterly important a component of
ultimate healing of the Earth, through spiritual regeneration,
health, exercise, care of land, produce generated, community
relations, and witnessing (see gardening category of these
Reflections for related topics). However, just as we change from
month to month, so our gardening style and practice are modified
according to the season.

May is the month we gather in spring greens in their finest
quality (scallions, radishes, lettuce, spinach and other early
varieties along with poke shoots). It is the month of garden salad
and the first of the strawberries as well. So make this the entry
into a most productive gardening year. In May, we also continue to
complete the summer garden with the placement of tomatoes, peppers,
melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, and beans. As the first garden space
is vacated after gathering spring produce, we are able to refill it
with tomatoes, peppers and other later summer plants. This allows
us to continue to harvest but gives the new plants the time to
grow. The spring plants still to be harvested serve as living
mulch until the introduced summer plants produce more of their own
shade cover.

May is the time to add flowers to make this an inviting
garden and one protected from bugs through the use of marigolds and
other flowers that pests avoid. May is the time to finalize the
garden arrangement to add pleasing colors once the flowers start
blooming in full. It is the final time to start summer flowers
from seed, and the opportunity to add purchased plants to beautify
the beds now that the vegetable space is nearly full. Try to
sprinkle the areas with cosmos, for these give a variety of color
and require so little tending and space. The key is detecting them
when they sprout and not remove them with the weeds.

The sowing and planting is ending and now we must also attend
to the tending. The failure of many gardeners starts about this
time. They regard the work as finished because everything is
flourishing by leaps and bounds, but the hotter weather soon to
come may mean that weeds grow along with the good plants. This is
the time to conquer these unwanted plants through mulch and
tilling. We will also need to thin some plants if we have to
economize on space. I am always reluctant to thin to give room for
growth; I just hate to take out healthy plants. One of the best
thinning procedures is to replant in blank places the vegetables
that are too thick. A second procedure is to harvest the beet,
radish or chard tops, and thus harvest and thin at the same time.

Summer will come only too soon. Be on the lookout for the
pesky critters that like to eat the garden produce. Many of the
beetles can be reduced in number and damage by manually removing
them at the first sight. Organic gardeners must get there right at
the beginning of their feeding cycle, for pests can multiply rapidly.






May 9, 2006 Beware of Impulse Buying

One of the Shopping Tips (November 26, 2004) deals with
refraining from impulse buying. However, it is worth repeating
outside of the Christmas shopping season. The problem may be the
persuasiveness of year-round relentless advertising for that "sale
that will not be repeated," that enticing storeroom display, or the
ability of the store clerk to say, "If you buy this one, also
consider buying the associated item." All of these enticements add
to impulse buying, which amounts to a sizeable part of our consumer
expenditures whether large or small. Purchase a car and the
salesperson will present his profit-making accessory lists.

Few of us are immune from some degree of impulse buying -- if
we still have money in our pocket after making an original
purchase. Stores and advertisers know that about half of all
buying is by impulse. "I went to buy a birthday card and look what
I came away with." Those added items are the result of impulsive
buying -- that itch to buy just one more item. Upon reflecting
after a trip to the store let's start asking whether we really
needed the added items. If a tinge of guilt appears, perhaps some
steps need to be taken in order to join the ranks of "Impulse
Buyers Anonymous," a group devoted to thoughtful purchasing. Here
are some simple steps to reduce panic purchasing attacks:

* Get rid of credit cards or at least make all purchases with
cash or check. Impulse and credit cards often go hand-in-hand;

* Construct a listing of short- and long-term needed items
according to the established budget;

* Go less frequently to the store and always with the list in
hand and the determination to find and make the purchase of only
those listed items;

* Review the list immediately before entering the store to
have clearly in mind what you came for, when you see so many other
items on display;

* Take only a little more cash than enough to buy the item;

* Clip and take only coupons of things that are on the
purchase list;

* Ignore the advertisements and enticing displays that don't
pertain to what is budgeted;

* Do not go to the grocery store when hungry. Eat a good
meal and then shop for food;

* Have something constructive to do while standing at the
check-out counter, for the displayed items at this point often
entice the impulsive buyer.




May 10, 2006 Business, Vacation and Camping

This year I need to give a talk at a conference in
Philadelphia in June and so have decided to combine this business
trip with vacation and use a car instead of the faster (but high
fuel-consuming) airlines. I have a companion, a long-time
associate Mark Spencer (creator of the Appalachian Simple Lifestyle
Calendar), who wants to visit relatives on the East Coast. The
money and fuel savings alone of combined trips make an automotive
trip the best means of travel. Also on this extended tour we have
selected to visit the sites of several of the environmental
resource assessments, in which I have not personally participated.
These are deserving of inspection and are within the Maritime
Provinces of Canada. Thus business is mixed with vacation and
allows for more economic use of time and limited resources.

We plan to keep the trip as environmental as possible by
camping out in various places along the way (on all but four of the
evenings). I would never think of taking along a motor camper for
that would be quite worrisome, slow, and a resource wasteful travel
mode. This car and elementary camping trip will possibly add four
new provinces to my list of camping experiences over the years; at
the same time it allows us a chance to see scenic lakes, woodlands,
and cultivated countryside.

The following are some steps that may be helpful for the
reader in preparing their own summer trips -- should they be away
from home:

* Check out the basic itinerary and plan stopovers for the
entire travel time, find travel distances between points, determine
where major construction projects are occurring and plan
alternative routes, and check ferry schedules and costs;

* Budget time and costs for the trip allowing for money rate
differences in Canada and enough time to enjoy camping sites;

* Make sure passports are current;

* Anticipate and inspect proper camping gear (backpacks,
tents, sleeping bags, inflatable mattresses, flashlights, rain
gear, food and utensils, clothes line, boots, matches in a
waterproof container, and possibly a camper stove);

* Include a basic box of food that is easily preserved and
could come in handy when not near a grocery or restaurant. Don't
make this too heavy for that adds weight to the car;

* Take along a camera, daybook, and recording materials;

* Get an automobile inspection before traveling;

* And make sure others know about your itinerary in case of
unexpected emergencies.






May 11, 2006 A Planned or Unplanned Day

We live in a world of time budgets and plans -- planned work,
travel, retreats, vacations (see yesterday's reflection). Those of
us who think our lives are fleeting and time is precious, accept
the term "compulsive planners." We set aside days for yearly
planning, put some of our best time into the monthly, weekly or
even daily planning that makes our lives ordered. Others seem to
trip through life never planning anything more than a few events a
year, and could say little or nothing about what will happen next
week or tomorrow -- if all goes well. In fact, on rare occasions
I envy the non-planner for not being regimented and restricted. I
envy having free (unplanned) time all the time as the retiree with
nothing to do or the totally carefree person.

This reflection is not connected to vacation planning but to
a comment the other day by someone who says he wakes up each day
and says, "What will I do today?" I find the question strange
because that is never a problem for compulsive planners who design
yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily plans in advance -- each
becoming somewhat more refined with the degree of immediacy. I do
not know the unplanned experience for we ran a dairy when young --
and every morning and evening involved cow milking periods. In
fact, if we have fairly full agendas in our lives, the hourly plans
of the day are necessities and can be decided the evening before
and in preparation for the day itself.

So planning comes naturally. There is one catch: we must
allow that plans can change, even abruptly, as when the car stops
running, or the road accident stops traffic, or the electricity
goes off in a storm. Unplanned events! Things can go awry,
accidents happen, someone needs unexpected help. The question for
the planner and not so much for the non-planner is how do we fit
the unexpected in and still carry out weekly or monthly plans?
However, plans are not idols to adore, only human constructs to
help us accomplish goals. Illness can change "the best laid plans
of mice and men." Some may ask -- do you program in your own
demise or is this even considered? Yes, possible death tomorrow
must be considered. The key to an unstressed planner is the
ability to cope with the unplanned event.

Stress is the possible price of planning, which is to relieve
day-by-day stress. Stress happens, but we must be able to deal
with the unplanned events and even thank God for them. Ultimately
we are not in control of our own lives; God is the Creator and
Author of life, and our planning can become an idol, a way to make
ourselves godlike in some fashion. We plan and do the best we can,
but we must leave it ultimately to God and even smile when our
imperfect human preparedness comes unraveled. I regard planning
as trying to make the best of the gift of life and to do so fully
with all we have. When life does not go to plan, it proves bigger
than what we in our feeble ways are. But to do the best we can
means we have to plan and plan wisely and well. Now the challenge
is to convince the non-planners. Good luck.






May 12, 2006 Nurses as Model Caregivers

Florence Nightingale, a world famous nurse, was born 186 years
ago today; she became the model for all modern caregivers; she was
able to smile during the most trying of times -- a Crimean War.
I come from a family that has about as many caregivers as farmers:
four aunts were nurses along with six first cousins as nurses and
two others as medical doctors; and quite a number are emerging in
the next generation as well. What strikes me in knowing these and
others of the thousands of caregivers out there helping the sick is
how cheerful they are at all times even when very tired and
depressed; and they are able to raise the spirits of their ill
charges no matter how trying their own life is at times. Nurses
and other caregivers work long hours and under conditions that
would try many people. They often earn good salaries and deserve
to; they find responsibilities demanding and the emergencies
draining; they speak out about questionable medications in order to
champion the health of their patients.

Nurses have many general characteristics that should be
regarded by all budding Earth healers. For one thing, they must be
proficient and practical within the healing process, not expecting
the impossible; one cannot become a lone ranger in health care for
it takes teamwork. The Earth caregiver must also stay happy even
when conditions seem quite dire all around; they must keep an
"even keel," to use maritime language; they must smile, even if the
planet itself becomes a cancer ward. Health of the Earth is the
caregiver's goal and it is not some simple remedy or practice.
Thus when something goes wrong, the team must understand the
situation and make the proper adjustments of medication and
service; so Earth healers work together with environmental experts.

I hold the highest regard for the nursing profession. They
have helped all of us, and I am confident that when the time comes
they will help again. Young people and others should be encouraged
to become medical caregivers and fill the many vacancies that are
now opening. However, we sometimes ask why a wealthy United States
must search throughout the world and among poorer nations with
their own health needs, to fill the nursing ranks in our country.
Far better to encourage our own young and second-career folks to
take up this noble profession. Without sufficient medical nurses
our health needs will go unaddressed; without all of us becoming
Earth healers the planetary crisis will get worse.

What we outsiders detect with these medical caregivers is that
they do not possess a heady idealism and find a hundred things
other people should launch. If and when highly successful, medical
nurses are very practical people who easily relate and seldom
appear remote and aloft, but realize the limitations of those under
their own care. They know that sick people can do only so much,
and must be rather than do at their time in life. After a while,
caregivers receive care by osmosis in return and learn through the
suffering of others what they are to do and be. We are all called
to be Earth caregivers; let's hope we are, and act accordingly.



                 blackberry swallowtail red river gorge kentucky

               Blackberry blooms
               Red River Gorge, Wolfe County, Kentucky
               (Photo taken: May 9, 2006)


May 13, 2006 Spring Litter Cleanup

This is "National River Cleanup Week," as discussed on this
date last year in our reflections. Here we expand our focus beyond
the rivers to our littered landscape. Surprisingly with the
massive environmental problem of litter, trash, garbage and
throwaways, none of these four (not mutually exclusive) has been
treated in our host of reflections. Why? We don't like to reflect
on this habit of tossing things about our countryside. We are
embarrassed even to talk about it. We want to believe it doesn't
happen in our sophisticated culture. But it not only happens, it
cuts the tourist sightseeing potential of many parts of our
incredibly beautiful Appalachian countryside. It depresses our
economy and costs jobs. Residents have a habit of littering,
depositing garbage when others are not looking, or just not
thinking -- even though there is a hefty $500 fine for littering.

The second reason for avoiding this issue is that we think
that others, who either pollute or need to repay society through
work-release or required community service, should be the ones
charged with cleaning up the spoiled landscape. Bringing
volunteers into the region to clean up someone else's messiness
seems so demeaning. Does it mean we are unable to make and keep
things tidy, and show our faultiness in both everyday practices and
enforcement of regulations? Our region is dysfunctional and we are
partly to blame, and we must face up to the situation.

One answer is quite reasonable. Let's clean up a little each
day and begin today. The problem involves more than rivers and
includes our roadsides, our parks, our playgrounds, our own yards.
Just reach down and pick up a little when out on a walk or run. If
need be, take a garbage bag along. I would never have said this a
while back, but now I see that the cleanup starts with us. If it
generates a little anger, we may be influenced to report a culprit;
we may help tighten law enforcement; we may challenge others who
toss the soft drink can out the window. If others see us pick up,
they may do the same and get just as incensed that we allow the
throwaway culture to continue.

I may have said in the past, pick up the discarded fast food
(McDonalds) containers and dump them under the golden arches. But
that isn't wise, for now you have become a litterer and could even
be subject to the $500 fine. Don't toss it a second time.
Certainly putting a deposit tax on all containers (10 cents a
bottle) would curb the amount of littering. And hopefully that
will someday become more universal. But the answer includes
corporate responsibility along with the individual behavior of our
people. Corporations must take back throwaways for recycling; all
must have greater respect for the environment. Dysfunctional lives
lead to disarray in living conditions and this extends out to the
neighborhood. Trashed neighborhoods lead to breakdown in community
pride and respect -- and so the litter continues. It is a
widespread and deeply penetrating problem. A little cleanup is our
way of starting -- but it is a social and economic problem.






May 14, 2006 The Vine Bearing Much Fruit

Whoever remain in me and I in them will bear much fruit.
(John 15: 1-8)

Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are to be connected
so that we can bear much fruit. Many of us are not familiar with
vine-growing as in Jesus's time. In his land, vines were
everywhere; and the grapes and vine were a symbol of Israel at the
time of Jesus just as the maple leaf is a symbol for Canada today.

The vine is something that connects fruit with root. We
realize how quickly things wilt when we detach the vine from the
plant for it needs constant moisture. The amount of water taken up
by plants is astounding, and this water source is lost when
disconnected. We are part of the vine that produces much fruit
when close to Christ. At times, we need to be pruned and thus the
two prunings of the grape-growing year: the first in winter to get
rid of the dead wood and will allow the vine to flourish; the
second, in summer, before the fruit is fully mature so that all the
energy will go into the fruit. We are pruned by the same divine
instrument and yet through suffering and sacrifice we become more
Christlike. We need to rid ourselves of dead wood and also focus
on the production of the fruit as the harvest approaches.

Analogy of plants to the relationship between of Christ and us
* Plants need moisture, which is the principal point. We are
in need of on-going grace and a connectedness to Christ.
* They also need minerals and nutrients. We need to be
nourished by the sacraments.
* They must be kept erect away from the storms and wind. We
need protection from the temptations of the world.
* They are found in community with other fruit bearers. We
are also to bear fruit as part of the community of believers.
* They are able to produce seed for future sowing. We help
create the future through the good words we do here and now.
* They are beautiful to behold. So is the community of
believers in a world of massive disbelief.

We are part of the total community, the vineyard of the Lord.
The long history of our Church is one of connectedness. The marks
of one, holy, catholic and apostolic mean we are connected. We are
only three or four persons away from our Pope. I know someone who
knows someone, who knows the Pope, Christ's visible representative.
At confirmation I'm touched by someone touched by another and
another in the Apostles to Christ in an unbroken line. We are
connected in space (all over the world) and in time (for 2,000
years). Our connectedness is both spatial and temporal.

In May we emphasize being connected to the Lord and, on this
Mother's Day, with Mary his mother. Mary realizes that she bears
much fruit, for the Lord is fruit of her womb. As part of the
divine Family, we are expected to bear fruit, for God has done
great things for us as well. We must remain connected in grace.




May 15, 2006 Problem Lawns and Fruit/Nut Trees

We have spoken of planting fruit trees separately or intermixed
with other garden plants to reduce lawn size (5/27/04), of
introducing edible landscaping (6/10/04), substituting wildscape
where possible (5/10/04), and using non-polluting lawn care
products (5/12/05). Some lawns are so overcome with crab grass or
other invasive plants that they are simply green patches of problem
weeds. Many owners would say they cannot easily convert this to
wildscape (it takes too much tilling), nor do they have time or
personal energy to turn these areas into productive vegetable
patches (for the same reason). What can they do for a problem lawn
using limited human resources?

One solution may be to introduce trees, tilling the ground
immediately around the fruit or nut tree, but leaving the rest for
the time being as lawn. In this way the lawn problem areas become
the understory of a productive fruit overstory. With time and
energy one may remove the crabgrass by expanding concentric
circles around each tree and putting mulch in those freed circles
while keeping the invasive "weed" grass from infringing on the
fruit tree's immediate space. It takes some care to control exotics
and expand the free circles around each tree -- but it is easier
than tackling the entire lawn at one time.

Select fruit and nut trees that are well suited to one's
microclimate, soil conditions, and the condition of the surface
land. Often that is a matter of trial and error, but consider
observing what grows best in the neighborhood. The neighbor's
experience may help in the proper tree selection. This is the
practice I am currently using on the parish land next to my
residence; I have planted apple, peach, apricot, cherry, pear,
mulberry and chestnut trees. Only about one-tenth of this
extensive landscape is in productive vegetable garden and I cannot
handle any more. Ravenna has enough garden space for all its
residents so the land need not be leased to others. Our lawn here
is definitely green but not exquisite. The trees are young but
will grow and more and more grassy exotics must be removed to make
the circles wider for the fruit and nut trees. That can be done
over time we hope.

A common problem. Believe me, other lawnholders suffer from
similar lawn care problems; many of these lawn-owning residents
would prefer to hide them because neighbor pressure would say to
convert the lawn to more uniform and acceptable grasses. But the
easier approach for the propertyholder is to acknowledge and
contain the weed pest problem and work to the degree possible,
given time and energy, to replace with edible landscape. But we
hope and pray the trees will continue to survive as have non-fruit
trees (sycamore, elm, ash, redbud, wild cherry, and willow) over
the past 75 years on our church property. We can't change the
exotic grass problem without major outlays of money and time, but
the area can gradually become a more edible landscape.


    apple blossom pink

   Spring apple blossoms, Rockcastle County backyard.



May 16, 2006 National Bike to Work Day

This is National Bike to Work Day, a good time to reflect on
all the non-renewable fuel energy it takes for commuters who drive
or even take public transportation. I will never forget the single
morning experience I had in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, going out
into the busy street and finding it almost silent except for the
swish of hundreds of bikers going to work at rather rapid speed.
Here was a bicycle economy and it was working. I presumed they all
liked it and got some fresh air and exercise in the practice.

Biking is not meant for everyone, all the time, or in every
place. Not everyone can have that option, especially those who
cannot negotiate the bike in heavy traffic or over longer
distances. Biking takes skill and alertness, perhaps more than
some of us have in some part of life. Cyclists, when preparing for
the day and concentrating on biking, may lose the precious time
otherwise given to organizing thoughts for the workday. The
weather may also make biking quite uncomfortable and even
hazardous. And not the least, many commuters live great distances
from work, and the routes may either not permit bikes or may prove
dangerous even with colored jackets and helmets.

I work at home and consider this the greatest energy saving.
But only a minority of us have that option. If the second best
thing is to bike to work over a reasonable distance on relatively
safe routes, then make this a special day. Over thirty years ago
I biked to work in Washington, DC; however, I had a spill on a
bike on a gravel walkway as I cut across the Capitol grounds and
also very nearly got hit by a bus on Independence Avenue. Finally
the bike was stolen, and I returned to riding the bus or walking.

The assumption in designating this particular day to bike is
that there are options: to bike instead of drive a car. Be
careful, if it is the first time you use the biking option.
Remember, the drivers out there are running late to work and have
other things on their mind. In our Appalachian region with heavily
congested roads and narrow shoulders to the pavement, it is not
always advisable to bike to work. Where it is possible, think of
using the bike as much as possible and not for one day. Where it
is not safe, don't even do it today, for you do not have to be
martyred for this cause of bike lanes. Don't laugh; a member of
our staff persons at ASPI had a habit of biking and was killed on
a Monday morning when someone had to get to work fast.

When no provisions are made for bike lanes, our auto culture
makes little room for bikes. Simply flaunting that culture for one
day may be unwise. Wiser still is working for an Amsterdam
experience in all of America. Wouldn't cities be better places if
most people went to school and work on bikes? Tell that to
previously biking Chinese who are buying cars at a rate of 12
million vehicles a year. American biking to work is counter-
cultural. If you can't do it, at least work for more bike lanes.







May 17, 2006 Treat Chemicals with Respect

Chemicals are full of mystery, quite complex and interesting
in their structure and activity, and often unknown as to their
toxicity and other side effects. The chemical's reactivity in the
presence of certain human body conditions such as the acidic media
of the stomach, can trigger certain allergies or act along with a
mixture of other chemicals to produce unexpected results. Coroners
tell us that strong drugs taken in combination often kill while the
addict is sleeping, and it is often difficult even to determine the
precise cause of death without involved testing.

Chemicals are not easily or completely known: it takes
sophisticated equipment to detect them, isolate them, and determine
their structure; they are often unpredictable in toxicity; they
may have synergistic effects leading to even more severe toxicity
when in the presence of other chemicals; they may be simply not
thoroughly researched as to acute side effects or dangers due to
long-term exposure. When popularized and commercially relevant,
they may do harm to workers in their synthetic processing, as well
as in their use at home or in water treatment plants; they may
remain around for lack of natural detoxification potential; and
they may not be disposed of easily because of inertness to natural
decomposition -- and thus the need for complete containment (nearly
impossible) or incineration or other disposal procedures.

Consumer attitudes towards chemicals have changed for the
worse. Two decades ago people avoided chemicals when possible.
Now consumers think that if chemicals have good effects, these
chemicals are always good in any amount. For instance,
hexachlorophene is a good anti-bacterial cleanser but can cause
brain damage in high concentrations. Also chemicals that are
essential to the body (even some vitamins) in small amounts may be
toxic in higher doses. This lax attitude makes users fear less, for
familiarity breeds contempt. The steep rise in the number of
deaths from drug overdoses in Appalachia and in other rural and
urban areas of America has left most of us bewildered. What can we
do to stop this needless loss of life?

In our neighboring county social workers estimate that one
quarter of the people have a drug problem. When I tell this to
others they ask whether it is really true. My stock answer is, "No
it is probably not true. I think the figure may be closer to 90%."
The reason is that most of our population has a drug problem
because they have been exposed to and enticed by such a variety:
cheap over the counter drugs by the thousands, easy dispensed
medicines, chemical additives in many foods, and the presence of so
many chemicals in the home environment (cleaning supplies, paints
and solvents, polishes, and on and on). We need to: cease
advertising medicines, which is totally without merit; remove
chemical additives from foods; make over-the-counter drugs less
accessible; caution about the dangers of over-dosing; improve drug
treatment programs, and make drug precursors (chemicals used to
make drugs like meth) less accessible to the general public.





May 18, 2006 Mother Goose & Museum Day

It has been a long time since I have heard "Humpty-Dumpty,"
"Little Boy Blue," "Jack and Jill," and "Peter Piper picked a peck
of pickled peppers" (or some two dozen other of 75 nursery rhymes
listed on the Internet under the "Mother Goose" heading). Most of
us who were educated in American schools remember the Mother Goose
rhymes -- ancient memories still imbedded in our aging craniums.
"Baa, baa black sheep have you any wool?" These ancient rhymes
seem so innocent yet have political and other cultural significance
that goes far back in history. One disputed theory is that one
rhyme goes back as far as the Black Death in the 14th century (the
first line on facial condition of victim, the second on flowers to
protect against the plague, the third on cremation of victims and
the last on death). What a rhyme! The first verse of the American
version first written from the oral tradition in the 1880s goes --

Ring around the Rosies
Pocket full of posies
Ashes, ashes,
They all fall down.

Others have positive messages, such as broken social
relationships cannot always be put back together easily much like
Humpty-Dumpty. We find that we apply the moral proverbs almost
instinctively, or at least without noticing what we are doing.
Thus pre-schoolers and kindergartners are becoming acquainted with
the same verses we learned decades ago -- as an example of
authentic oral history being passed down.

And what do museums have to do with Mother Goose Day? Plenty,
for some of our more ingrained memories are of those first museum
visits. I remember one to the Bluelicks Battlefield (called the
last battle of the Revolutionary War because it was fought after
the Peace Treaty was negotiated but before the treaty was known in
the Midwest); the museum had a battlefield scene that is as vivid
to me today as when first seen at about age five or six. The
earliest museum experiences have often been the most long-lasting
for youth and that learning experience is part of the same store of
early knowledge that will be useful throughout life as Mother Goose
rhymes. Museums are places of early learning just as are pre-
school rhymes.

What is noticeable is the importance of early education and
available pre-school facilities for social maturation and learning.
Children need these, and public education, hard strapped to find
funds for K-12 education, must extend its insights to pre-
schoolers. One group that is pressing for more of such facilities
is working mothers. Not all kids have the luxury of home schooling
or the generous grandmother who educates while she watches her
charges. Pre-school is an area of positive assistance to the poor
while educating a new generation that will learn the nursery rhymes
and see the sights at the local museum. Make this a meaningful






May 19, 2006 North American Community

At the time this essay was first conceived, Presidents George
Bush and Vincente Fox of Mexico and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen
Harper were touring a Mayan pyramid near Cancun. Their educational
touring together is good for international relations and should not
be faulted. However, a more serious issue should be raised in the
light of Europe's movement towards the European Union (EU) and
Africa's fumbling towards some sort of unified action as a
continent-wide vision. The union of Mexico, Canada and the United
States, which may be the best for us all, could occur more easily
if there were less fencing on the U.S./Mexican border.

A broader vision. First of all, we are a community even with
outstanding national differences. Poverty rates are three times as
high in Mexico in the United States, but we do have poverty here
and in Canada. By tackling continental poverty problems we may
become more aware of global ones. Through affluence we can become
too insensitive to the needs of our neighbors; through closer
union we can appreciate the struggles of Mexican families seeking
to live a higher quality of life. The three countries share much
in common already -- land masses, sizeable minorities from the
neighboring lands, security concerns, terrorist threats,
interchange of populations on a regular basis, a common Christian
heritage, the need for interaction on natural disaster issues, and
enormous trade (half of Canada's is with the United States and a
$52 billion trade deficit exists between the United States and
Mexico along with American dollars being the second highest source
of income in Mexico.

Cultural riches and diversity. North America has welcomed
many cultures over the past five centuries, and the native American
population, for better or worse, has always proved hospitable to
the newcomers -- who have not always proved the best guests. We
are economically and culturally becoming more united and learning
from Canada how to make bilingualism work for mutual benefits.
Bilingualism for both Mexico and the United States would be a good
thing for the sake of immediate communications and for the better
understanding of diverse cultures.

A future good. Some North Americans complain that the Mexican
undocumented laborers have replaced them through a willingness to
accept lower pay scales in profit-seeking business. Thus their
presence has the effect of driving down wages when the cost of
living is actually climbing. That complaint may have validity but
one must admit that some safety netting is in place for those
displaced until they find another job. The economy has been
sufficiently robust for some years so that more North American jobs
are being created, but unemployment remains about the same.
Furthermore, more jobs need to be created in order that the
continental infrastructure (roads, parks, schools, etc.) can be
restored. Work on the infrastructure would require millions of new
jobs and absorb the unemployment in our three countries. All of
North America deserves to benefit from expanded labor opportunities.







May 20, 2006 Coyotes, City Slinkers and Country Callers

On a clear night in virtually every state except Hawaii you
may listen and hear the howl of the coyote, Canis latrans (barking
dog) or, if the animals are closer, the high-pitched yips that they
customarily make. Lewis and Clark called them prairie wolves. The
coyote is North American to the core, is a crafty cousin to our
familiar dog, has a keen sense of vision, smell and hearing, and is
capable of living in a wide variety of places (mountain elevations,
deserts, prairies and even Central Park in New York). Within our
lifetimes the opportunistic western coyotes have come east crossing
the Mississippi, and they now inhabit all of continental North
America except the very far north of Canada. They move rapidly, do
not hibernate, operate singly or in packs, night and/or day, and
live on a wide variety of foods.

Coyotes have a quite flexible lifestyle; they have discovered
the advantages of living near human settlements and accessible food
supplies, handily filling the environmental niche left by the
demise of the gray wolf and the scarcity of foxes in many places.
Coyotes feast singly on and can control populations of mice,
rabbits, ground squirrels and even reptiles; in packs they prefer
a diet of plentiful eastern deer. However, their tastes are quite
broad -- from carrion to fruits, berries and vegetable matter. In
packs, they can attack larger livestock from ponies to calves and
even sickly cattle and horses. In suburban and increasingly city
areas coyotes look for outdoor pet food and even small cats (a
favorite) and pups (large dogs can fight them off). Generally,
the coyote is shy and stays at a distance from human beings. My
friends, Phil and Mary Stern, have a pack of coyotes, which stay
near their residence and act as watchdogs when they are away. They
await their return and then slip back into the woods.

Coyotes generally avoid people, but attempts to feed them may
endear them to a place. However their coming too close could
result in bites demanding painful rabies shots. Reports show about
160 attacks on people especially in California in the last three
decades. Generally sheep and cattle farmers out West regard
coyotes as a notorious pest and hunt them down throughout the year,
since they are non-game wildlife with no specific hunting periods
and a bounty in some states. Coyotes are America's most hunted
animal. The government trapped, shot and poisoned over a million
of them in the 1900s. Still their population continues to climb
and their range expands from ocean to ocean -- and many
environmentally minded folks regard them as good natural wildlife
control agents.

Coyotes are certainly here to stay. They can breed with their
wolf and dog cousins forming the "coywolf" and "coydoy," and even
over time have the capability of forming a hybridized new species.
They have found their biological niche and are using their crafty
skills to survive. Give a welcome to the haunting howl of the
American coyote. Resources: Christine Dell'Amore, "City
Slinkers," Smithsonian, March, 2006, pp. 36-38.






May 21, 2006 Friends and Associates of Jesus

As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the
(John 17:18)

We are all called to be friends of the Lord in all that we do,
and that involves our being sent into the world. We are not sent
as slaves or blind followers but as friends and associates. While
we must go in a manner of service and humility, we are not servile
in the manner in which we are sent. Our mission requires some
creativity on our part. We have unique assignments according to
our personalities; we won't act exactly as Jesus acted because we
are different. So we are who we are being sent into a different
time and a different place. This means that we are to be aware of
specificity as to community, time and place -- the WE, the Now, and
the HERE.

Ministry of presentation. Just as the Lord becomes incarnate
and one among us, so the people Jesus chooses for his disciples are
made present to others in much the same manner that Jesus acts. We
may not have the power to miraculously heal or have the powerful
magnetism of Jesus, but we are other christs to the world around
us. Jesus prays for us and is concerned about those who are his
disciples. I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but
to protect them from the evil one
(17:15). Our mission will meet
with hardships, but that is part of the battle of good and evil.
We represent God's presence in our being present as people divinely

Ministry of ecumenism -- the WE. Jesus, within his priestly
prayer, moves from praying for the disciples present at the Last
Supper to praying for the larger company including all of us. I
pray not only for these, but for those who through their words will
believe in me
(17:20). Jesus' hope is that we will all be one in
our love, just as the Father and Son are one. This oneness among
persons is the divine desire -- a unity that imitates the Trinity
itself. Oneness is what allows for common and shared belief, for
mutual encouragement, for profound celebration, and for being
active witnesses for others who crave some form of unity as well.

Future generations -- the HERE and the NOW. Jesus does not
just pray for the one who undergoes the trauma of his own suffering
and death on Good Friday, but for the future Good Fridays and all
the followers who would some day also undergo that trauma in their
own lives. That is why it is a prayer that transcends space and
time and continues each time we have a Mass. This is a memorial
and a making anew of the event of that first Last Supper. Taken
together with the totality of his passion, death and resurrection,
the prayer extends in space and time to us here and now. We are at
Calvary; we are on Good Friday. While we are sensitive to our
space and time, we are also aware of all space and time. The event
is one and yet it is special and unique. That is part of the
Paschal Mysteries in which we participate.





May 22, 2006 Maritime Day Revisited

On this date two years ago we reflected on the nature of our
oceans, a commons of which we need to know more and a fragile
environment we need to protect. In 2004 we made the modest
proposal that the cost of this protection be paid by a small
freight fee paid by every ship that plies the oceans and that this
international fund be shared by all nations. That fund could be
administered at seaports by the nations served by the oceans and
perhaps we could add through the auspices of the United Nations.
Since this brief span of two years, other aspects of maritime
commerce have taken the headlines.

Security. First, fierce objection to a Dubai company
handling shipping at six United States ports (including New York
and Philadelphia) was raised by politicians and others. As of this
writing the company is attempting to find an American firm to take
over the handling of shipping at these six centers. It is becoming
increasingly clear since that 2004 essay that security at ports is
a matter of deepest concern. How will all the containers be
inspected and guaranteed not to have weapons of mass destruction or
toxic materials aboard? With the sheer volume of cargo coming to
the many ports of our country one can certainly see that this is a
legitimate worry.

Rising oceans. A second matter of increasing concern since
the first essay is the fact that global warming could be melting
both polar icecaps or at least their edges at a far faster rate
than anticipated in earlier studies. Here, as we have discussed
elsewhere, the worry is about eroding coastlines and entire Pacific
island nations that face inundation through rising ocean levels in
the coming decades. Global warming rates are regarded now as
increasing faster than anticipated and thus ocean effects on shore
property would be major issues in places like low-lying Florida.

Tsunami detection. Since these two short years ago, our
planet has experienced a severe tsunami that killed an estimated
200,000 people. An extensive early warning system could have
alerted many coastline people to the massive waves that were
coming. Such a global warning system was not in place in December,
2004, but is now being designed and will have increasing effect in
future times, we hope. The technology is in place so this could
happen provided all the participating nations set up the
communications systems.

Ocean temperatures. The most problematic of the four major
new concerns is whether warming ocean temperatures will have a
dramatic effect on the spawning of severe hurricanes in the pattern
as experienced in 2005, the most severe recorded hurricane season.
Climatologists have predicted a correlation between ocean
temperatures and climate effects. Will temperatures affect the
rate and direction of the Gulf Current and dramatically affect
Europe's climate? The answers to these questions are not yet known
and we hope our fears will prove false -- but will they be?





May 23, 2006 The Web of Life

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the
curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live.

(Deut. 30:19)

The web of life has been used as a scientific and ecological
term (especially related to spiders and their importance) and a
moral or theological term. These are not disconnected for the
physical reality that is explained in scientific terms is
reinforced by the moral reality of respect for the delicate nature
of this web of life. The delicate nature of this web of living
things is well understood by scientists who know that damage to one
part of the eco-system may profoundly affect another. Melting
polar regions affect the habitat of polar bears and seals; an
invasive species may crowd out a less aggressive native one; a
forest-dwelling, red-cockaded woodpecker is dependent on the health
of that forest. Webs are connections, and the interweaving of
different forms of precious life, all dependent on just the right
conditions to survive, is the subject matter of ecology books.

The theological significance is even more complex. The web of
all life is based on the dignity of the creature before the Creator
and the respect that follows from our gratitude for the gift of
life. All living creatures have dignity or a special worth
bestowed by the Creator; all exist through the gift of life, but
only human beings can freely and willingly express thanks or
gratitude for that gift -- and that makes human life all the more
precious. That freedom to do good or evil is at the heart of our
human person. All life, especially human life, belongs to God;
whoever among us attacks human life attacks God's very self. Thus
the web of life needs affirmation and a degree of human protection.

We express this gratitude through both words and respectful
deeds towards fellow human beings and all living creatures. We
know we should not kill, but we also must, in choosing life,
realize the entire complex of interwoven rights and duties required
to manifest that respect. We may defend ourselves against an
unjust aggressor. But that does not mean we are to kill another
who has made some mistake in our society, for the power over human
life does not belong to us. And for the sake of preserving and
protecting this web of all living things, we extend the prohibition
of killing to include the elderly, infirm, mentally incapacitated,
the unborn, and all threatened and endangered plant and animal
species. All are precious before God, the author of life; all
have a right to dignified living and protection. Many of us eat
plants and animal products and some will argue that a prohibition
should extend to all animals (refrain from eating meat).

In essence, the web of life is a scientific reality though
complex and still not fully understood; it is also a theological
reality and calls for us to respect the life of all beings. The
two points of view consider the web of life in somewhat similar
ways, though our recognition of the connections is slow in coming.






May 24, 2006 Consolation

Words of support
  refresh the parched soul
    like cool, bubbling water
       from a hillside spring.

They are all the more welcome
  when unexpected, and arriving
     just when I'm down and out,
        and have nowhere to turn.

They awaken within me
  a sense of renewed hope
     that I'll speak consoling words
        to refresh another.

May 25, 2006 Proclaiming the Good News

Go out to the whole world: proclaim the Good News to all
(Mark 16:16)

Part of the mystery of the Ascension is that Christ leaves us
and ascends. What we forget is that we are called to leave our own
self-possessed surroundings and to take the message of the Risen
Lord to others. However, this going out does not necessarily mean
we have to put on hiking boots and go to distant lands. We can
simply go to others around us whom we have ignored or forgotten
about in the past. Interestingly enough, Jesus tells the disciples
to go not just to other people but to the "whole world" and "all
creation." But our going out is first to our neighbors and
especially to those who know we are attempting to share with them.
So often we tend to share the Good News with those most receptive
and willing to welcome and communicate about this happy event.
They are the most kindred spirits.

Good News consists in the rising of the Lord, and this
exaltation extends to all people and to all creation, but the
mystery is only known in the most elementary manner to those of us
who believe in the Resurrection and see with eyes of faith.
Believers see but this is not a self-satisfaction but rather allows
for a going out to others and to proclaim the Good News. Those who
can hear are the first recipients of the message and are invited to
rise to the occasion. Why are we impelled to go out to them? It
is not just because they ought to hear, but that we ought to find
some of the exaltation in other peoples and among all of creation.
We go out to communicate Good News and learn in the process that we
find it as well as give it -- for the renewal of creation is way
beyond us and extends to the reaches of the universe. We are not
only givers of the Good News but receivers as well; it is a two-
way street and we are the first to perceive it. We speak and when
the other is receptive and they in turn speak we must be open to

Mary, Full of grace. In this month of May it is fitting to
return to the Virgin Mary and reflect upon the way she receives the
Good News and passes it on. Mary is told the word from the Angel
Gabriel; she has complete openness to the spoken word and the
Incarnate Word. She responds with a "yes" and immediately realizes
the vast privilege that God has given to her. She is first to
receive the Good News in the person of Christ and is immediately
willing to hasten and share this as Good News with her cousin
Elizabeth. She is exalted and recognizes what God has done for
her. Being full of grace means her full recognition of the
greatness of what God has done for us. She is called blessed in so
doing. We, in turn, like Elizabeth at the visitation, receive the
Word and are most willing to share it and proclaim it to others.
We too go out to all by making known what God has done for us.





May 26, 2006 Interreligious Cooperation and the Environment

Religious groups hold a key to expanding environmental
consciousness in this critical time of air and water pollution in
many parts of the planet, as well as endangered species, spread of
exotic and invasive species, and the prospects of global warming.
Most religions share some common traits: respect for life and all
of God's creation, the need to be morally responsible individuals,
the dignity of people who suffer from environmental degradation,
and the hope that things will get better through mutual
cooperation. Undoubtedly this list is not exhaustive and the
designating of these will allow for still more dialogue and common

However, designating the basic elements of interreligious
cooperation can be quite difficult for some of us. I speak from
the experience of being the first head of the "North American
Conference on Christianity and the Environment." It is certainly
not on my Curriculum Vitae for a good reason-- it had its good
moments but the infighting was extremely draining. Never again for
me! It was not so much differences in the basic elements of
religious understanding over the environment that brought friction;
rather, it was working together with certain strong personalities
with their own agendas as to where the group ought to be heading.
I always chuckle when I hear that two religious groups have come
together on environmental principles. Of course, why not? They
ought to agree, if they are valid religious aspirations. That's
not the problem. Now let them work together among themselves with
these principles. Workers, funds, offices, turf and other
considerations crop up suddenly -- and even the environment gets
left behind in the immediate concerns.

So far it sounds pessimistic, but it need not be. Past
experience taught us much, namely, we should focus attention on the
environmental movement's total interaction, not on religious groups
per se. Environmental cooperation can best be achieved by both
religious bodies working within a broader framework including
secular organizations and interests. Thus a religious group can
make a religious contribution without clashing with others over
cultural (and religious) differences and without attempting to pull
one side over to certain interpretations held by strong
personalities. So often religious environmentalists are idealistic
and come with an agenda that may have practical barriers to
implementation. Clashes are more likely to occur among solely
religious groups than in a broader secular and religious coalition.

What is the future of interreligious cooperation? Groups that
can cooperate in working on drought or other natural disaster
issues in conjunction with the United Nations and other relief
organizations have a bright future. And that is even brighter when
global warming and other such environmental issues are seen as
social justice issues. As for some individuals from different
religious denominations sitting around talking about areas of
possible cooperation -- well there are more important things to do.





May 27, 2006 Global Warming and Prudence

This is the late Rachel Carson's 99th birthday and she is
highly regarded as a scientist who spoke out publicly and prudently
on the need to protect our environment. Her warnings about damages
to wildlife by continuing the use of certain pesticides are now
taken seriously by governmental agencies and private citizens. She
did not live long enough to experience the recent trends towards
global warming, but it is certain she would have taken the
discussion seriously, because she loved the planet Earth and
realized how fragile it is.

A persons acts who is capable of exercising sound judgment in
practical matters acts prudently. A scientist acts prudently when
data suggest that something serious could happen if practical
matters are not changed. All of us as citizens need to use
prudence in our everyday actions. If someone is driving at 90
miles an hour (on a lonely highway) and the car begins to shake,
then it is imprudent to continue at this speed. We realize the
vehicle cannot continue for fear of an accident, although absolute
scientific evidence to the contrary is not immediately forthcoming.
Prudence does not mean "prove to me that it is dangerous. Besides,
I enjoy high speeds." Prudence says "slow down."

The practice of adding larger amounts of carbon dioxide,
methane and several other emissions to our atmosphere is associated
with the greenhouse effect or global warming trends as affirmed by
a great majority of the scientific community. NASA confirms that
2005 was the warmest year in the last hundred years and that four
of the other warmest were 1998, 2002, 2003. and 2004. Glaciers are
melting and calving at ever increasing rates. Four cubic miles of
Greenland ice that reflected 90 percent of the sun's radiation back
into space have each year become water with very small reflective
ability. The oceans rise in temperature with possible but not
proven climatic effects such as changing the flow of the currents
and possibly triggering severe storm systems. Prudence dictates
that climate change be taken seriously by the human community. We
note the absence of contrary information and the general scientific
community consensus that the expert climatologists are not
alarmists. In fact, often they risk much to speak on these issues.

Some express doubt about this scientific evidence, just as
fast drivers may say continue until the speeding auto falls apart.
We can regard such an attitude as reckless. To assert that
absolute proof that the car will fall apart is lacking is
horrifyingly imprudent and most recognize it -- but not all. The
lack of world community consensus that global warming is a problem
and that this fragile planet may not be able to sustain such
actions leading to global warming is similar. We can't wait for
unanimity in order to act. When our national policy or the lack of
a policy ignores the warning of knowledgeable experts, the faulty
reasoning is self-evident. Even if the ones raising the alarm have
some facts wrong, we must take the existing evidence seriously.
The environment is warming; shouldn't we warm up the alarm?





May 28, 2006 Good News to All Creation

Go out to the whole world: proclaim the Good News to all
(Mark 16:16)

We continue the reflection of May 25th and go a step further,
that is taking the Good News to all creation. Missionary workers
awoke to a paradigm shift after Vatican II: the ones going to the
rest of the world with something to offer, were not the complete
possessors of the treasure of truth, only of the initial Good News;
even the receivers of their message have things to offer. However,
both the primary giver and the receivers are at the mercy of God,
having only gifts already given to share with others. The initial
proclamation is that Christ has risen, and this gives rise to
conversation, a sharing of otherwise hidden gifts as our eyes of
faith are opened. The attitude of a primary giver as a holder of
a treasure to be dispensed is now changed; the giver is also the
receiver and thus, in humility, must be open to give and to receive
in conversation. Conversation means not doing all the talking. We
need to be good listeners, not sole dispensers of gifts. We share
Good News -- giving and receiving simultaneously.

We learn to be good listeners through obedience in our own
suffering with the Lord. We are humbled with the Lord so that we
are not distracted by worldly allurements, which make us forget our
mission. With the poor we learn to be transparent, to share at the
heart, and to strive to converse with them. The poor realize that
God alone satisfies and is the Giver of all good gifts. Thus "to
proclaim" means we have to be humbled enough to proclaim -- and all
creation hears in its own way, because of the triggering that we
perform in our opening to them. We publicly proclaim that all
already share in God's good gifts and that is Good News.

Exaltation comes to all who suffer and enter into the Paschal
Mystery. All creation moans in suffering and is obedient to God's
call. Through its suffering, creation is more able to share. We
believers in the Resurrection can proclaim what we have received
and are impelled through it to discover the rich gifts in others as
well. Within the Paschal Mystery all creation constitutes part of
the Good News and believers are the heralds; in heralding, we
surpass John the Baptist because we know that we are announcing the
presence of the Risen Lord among us. John was not so privileged.

Through modern means of communication we can go out more
easily to all the world. Within an atmosphere of openness we can
receive as well as give, inviting from others a profound sense of
sharing. By listening and welcoming what others have to give and
share, we proclaim the primary message of Good News, namely that
the other party is of worth. By opening ourselves to all creatures
to learn what they have to offer as creature teachers, we establish
their own worth; by thus being so moved, we see their value and
redouble our efforts to protect and broadcast their reason for
existence. We proclaim that all creation is part of the Good News
-- that the Risen Lord is present in our midst.





May 29, 2006 Decoration Day

When I was very young before the Second World War, on a Sunday
close to Memorial Day, our parish had a special afternoon called
Decoration Day. At these times we brought home-grown flowers by
the buckets along with our lunches; we decorated three generations
of graves and then ate lunch with other relatives on the grassy
undeveloped hillside beyond the cemetery grotto; on a full stomach
we half-listened to a sermon on a pulpit with bad outdoor
acoustics. I think this whole event was a throwback to days when
it took so much time to get to Old St. Patrick's Cemetery from the
surrounding countryside by horse and buggy. It made the visit,
along with putting the flowers on the graves, an all-day affair.
But few are left to tell the history of what transpired, for we
seniors now live at the tail end of that tradition. Cars can bring
anyone from the far reaches of the county in minutes, and
decorating graves can be accomplished quite quickly.

The gatherings at cemeteries have decreased in popularity in
recent years but they had a good aspect worth remembering. The
"family" included both the living and those who had passed on, and
the decoration reminded all that the memories of the past are still
sacred to us today. We show this through flowers and memorials.
In more traditional parts of Europe the decoration and tending of
flowers at grave sites is a signal the memory is still fresh; when
unattended, the grave is considered abandoned and the site is dug
up, bones placed in an "ossuary" near or in the church, the grave
reused, and life goes on. Many circumvent these traditions by
cremation and buying the ashes or disposing of them in a dignified
manner. But for such scatterers there remains no sacred place for
decorating unless other provisions are made.

Decorating is something all of us who are still living can do
for those who have died. I wonder if other animals decorate in at
least an elementary manner. Our decoration shows a memory beyond
the time of death, an appreciation of life, and even a belief that
life will continue after death. It is a sign of the resurrection
of the body, for we respect the remains of loved ones. We strive
to demonstrate, at least as long as we are able, our regard for the
loved ones who went before us and are worthy of honor. Their
memories are sacred to us just as are the liturgical celebrations
in which we remember that the Lord will come again. Love and
respect are given with memory and flowers, both of which will last
only a length of time and then pass on.

These decorations show a world that some do care and find it
necessary to say it over again: there is more life to come, more to
the lives of those who went before us, more to the beauty of the
world around. We give up some of our precious time to decorate
graves because we owe so much to those who went before us. We look
back to those who made us who we are, both our relatives and those
who sacrificed for us in different ways. Memorial Day reminds us
to express our gratitude for others, especially servicemen and
women, who have done much for us and for our entire nation.






May 30, 2006 Joan of Arc Day

Before one says my French background makes me favor persons
from that good land, I must hasten to say my bias is with young
women saints -- Felicity, Perpetua, Agnes, Agatha, Odile, Therese,
and even middle aged Catherine of Siena (only two French) who
showed fantastic courage amid massive opposition. It must have
been hard enough to be women who made a unique mark in their male
dominated worlds, but with the grace of God each of these succeeded
in her own way. We know much about several of these and
surprisingly enough about my favorite of the day -- Joan of Arc
(1412-31), who should not be confused with Joan of Aza who died
about 1190 and was the mother of St. Dominic.

Joan of Arc is a patron saint of France and is most likely the
best known of the younger saints just mentioned due to stories,
movies and books on her heroic life. She was the daughter of
farming peasants and was born at Domremy in Champagne. Her
interesting but very short public life included visions telling her
to rise and help save the French cause in the Hundred Years War and
to intervene in a local civil war. She led the soldiers into
battle with a banner bearing the words "Jesus, Mary" and helped
save Orleans, thus her title "Maid of Orleans." She engaged in
other successful struggles and stood at the side of the king when
crowned at Reims. But in that short two years of public life this
humble illiterate teenager was betrayed and sold to the English who
accused her of witchcraft and tried her on false charges -- for
which she had no professional theological defense.

Joan was condemned on these trumped up charges to die at the
stake on May 30, 1431, in the marketplace in Rouen before a company
of English soldiers (not another woman present). As the flames
leaped up around her, Joan kept her gaze on the crucifix and cried
out, "Jesu, Jesu." They tell us each soldier remembered her last
words until the day of his death. A member of the English royal
court said, "We are lost. We have burned a saint." Some twenty
years after her death, the family asked that the case be reopened.
The documentation was presented, and she was declared innocent in
1456 and canonized in 1920.

Courageous people stir us; we are blessed to have the Joans of
this world. They deserve special attention because they live in a
male-dominated culture, and yet for a brief period they break
through that cloudy situation and show the basic heroism of all
people young or old, male or female. Our world needs Joan as well
as others who overcome immense obstacles and yet remain faithful
until the bitter end, even with sacrificing theirs lives for the
fervent cause that they both understand and intuit. Reading Joan's
life still leaves two strong impressions: a deep uneasiness at
those who betrayed, tricked and belittled her cause during her
trials and moments of glory; and her own self confidence and
bravery (unequalled by any of the multitude of brave male warriors
through the centuries). God has a way of raising the powerless to
high places and Joan followed the Virgin Mary in doing just that.





May 31, 2006 Amnesty International

Each month we feature a public interest group that is working
to heal the Earth in its own way. We have tried to show the
connection between social justice issues and the environment, for
there is one single web of life that is threatened when parts are
damaged. Part of the web deals with people who are prisoners of
conscience and others threatened with torture or death.
Unfortunately, the situations are quite numerous throughout the
world and especially in places of authoritarian rule and in those
that are reacting to threats of terrorism.

"Amnesty International" does not take a stand on issues of
political ideology but does on the following: that prisoners of
conscience be set free immediately and unconditionally; that
political prisoners receive a fair trail within a reasonable time;
that all forms of torture and ill-treatment stop at once; that the
death penalty be abolished in all cases; that death squads, which
carry out extrajudicial executions, be disbanded; and that
"disappearances," a form of state kidnapping, cease. Truly, this
is a heavy agenda.

Amnesty International does something other public interest
groups are quite reluctant to attempt: they tell how they are
faced with a serious financial crisis from the sheer number of
requests for assistance and the enormity of the conditions in which
the victims have to try to endure. Thus the urgency is extended to
the organization attempting to assist them. They offer a quarterly
magazine to members called Amnesty International with stories that
trigger outrage, shock, or heart break and provide satisfaction by
reporting on how success can and does occur in certain cases.
Their outstanding record in an age when governments are quite
sensitive to international criticism inspires the group to continue
its difficult mission.

Do consider supporting this very worthy member of the
Earthhealing network. You may find more information on Amnesty
International, USA at --
Address: 5 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10001
(212) 807-8400


Copyright © 2007 Earth Healing, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Janet Powell, Developer
Mary Davis, Editor

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