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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 2008

Copyright © 2008 by Al Fritsch

Daily Reflections Earth Healing print reflection

Yellow trout lily, Erythronium americanum
Woodford County, KY

  May's lengthening days bring flowers, from the floral garlands of May Day, to the decorated cemeteries on Memorial weekend. It's the time of the "Run for the Roses" on Derby Day, Mother's Day bouquets, prom queens and fresh flowers for home and office. May speaks of freshness and pleasant scents and vivid beauty; it is the interlude before summer's heat melts spring's tender colors away. May is beauty for its own sake, the color, shape and smell of garden herbs and vegetables and flowers all adding pleasure in the beholder's eyes, nostrils, taste buds and fingers working the garden soil. Beauty renders this land a sacred place, a garden where people can come as craftpersons, artists, and companions of the plants. Herbs and flowers blend together in May: garlic, blooming comfrey and peas, sprouting radishes and Chinese cabbage, and green punctuated with purple hairy vetch cover crops. May reaffirms nature's growing record with its spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, red-stemmed beet greens, spreading cabbages, broccoli, kohlrabi and blooming chives. It is the season of unique tastes -- uncontaminated, sun-ripened strawberries and rhubarb pie, sour cherries (if you beat the birds), ox-eyed daisies, iris, blackberry blossoms, peonies, poppies, rocket larkspur, of sweet-scented black locust flowers, and Kentucky coffee trees ablaze.


Unidentified mushrooms, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
*photo credit)

May 1, 2008 Joseph the Worker

May Day has a long history, much of which we do not appreciate
if we did not grow up with English May poles and with military/
worker celebrations. In the Soviet era, this was a day
demonstrating the military power of the USSR. But traditions tend
to fade, though this is still a "workers" day in some countries.
However, there is further remembrance on the first of May, and that
is of St. Joseph the worker, a Christian response to Communism.
Here those of us with Joseph in our name find comfort. The
biblical Old Testament Joseph, with his coat of many colors, stands
out as a forgiving figure; the New Testament Joseph was tried in
many ways and yet remained true to his calling in journeys to
Bethlehem, then to Egypt, and then back again to Nazareth -- an
honest working man who raises his family through all sorts of

Yes, Joseph is more than a carpenter -- and that is not said
with disrespect for that noble profession. Joseph is the just one,
a worker-turned-protector of the entire human family -- the Church.
He is the patron of those who make their living by their sweat and
labor and who give a wholehearted response to his special calling.
He is not known to have left a single recorded word, but he remains
very prominent in rearing the child Jesus through faithfulness and
kindness -- and then he drops from sight with only the memory, "Was
this not the son of Joseph and do we not know his family?"
Joseph's humble life is a target for those who disbelieve Jesus,
for how could a Messiah come from such a simple household?

Joseph is thrust into a pivotal position in the coming and
revelation of the Messiah, yet he is a tradesman from hill country
without degrees or wealth or fame of any sort. He works in obscure
Nazareth, even though his roots were the House of David. Nobility
in many ways but without special privilege! He buys turtle doves,
the sacrificial gift of poor folks, when he and Mary present Christ
in the Temple. He takes the family faithfully each year to the
Temple for the festivals. He is the breadwinner and has to make a
living in a challenging land and trying times. Wood is scarce, and
so carpentry involves making buildings, furniture, doors, and a
multitude of items by skillful and conservative use of materials.

Prayer: A Gardener's Ode to Joy. O God, fill our eyes and
hearts with the beauty that flowers give when intertwined with
growing produce. Let the sheer delight of edible and flowering
plants uplift us above the everyday world, scarred by human-made
ugliness and uniformity. While we cannot repair all wounds, we
still can beautify a small part of our harmed environment. Give us
insight into what this scarred planet can become. Let today's
local delights be wordless praise to You and inspire us to raise an
ever-swelling chorus to You. Touch and cultivate the gardens of
our hearts; fill them with grandeur; and allow them to grow in an
eternal love that will last forever. Let this year's gardening be
the foreshadowing of eternal delight. Joyfully, joyfully, we exult
You in the glorious month of May.



Chickory, Cichorium intybus, North American invasive exotic species
*photo credit)

May 2, 2008 What Are Weeds?

Weeds are unwanted plants, which have a way of getting in the
face of the farmer, gardener and lawn tender. Some "weeds" are
actually classified as wildflowers (creeping or tall buttercup,
morning glory, sorrel, jimsonweed, wild geranium, sow thistle,
violets, trumpet creeper, yarrow) and some are wild edibles
(dandelion, lambs-quarters, wild garlic, poke, wild mustard, mint,
and chickweed). A third category includes vegetables that can
become persistent with time (oyster plant or salsify, purslane,
Jerusalem artichokes). Much depends on whether we let plants stay
and exert some degree of control over their proliferation.

The weeds just mentioned can be controlled by cutting back
through harvesting either as flowers or as edible plants. Also
they can be reduced by chopping out and turned into mulch. Some
weeds need special attention because they can spread toxins from
their roots which inhibit the growth of other desired cultivars
(e.g., shepherd's purse). Quite often the more edible weeds are
best at this time of the year when used as spring greens either raw
or cooked -- and they will soon become tough to eat. The glory of
these types of edible plant-weeds is that they generally have
deeper root systems than do the introduced vegetable and herb
cultivars, and thus need less cultivation and little if any
watering during dry times. They can activate minerals from the
subsoil that are beneficial. Many of us give special attention to
supplementing our spring cooking with available "weeds."

Barbara Pleasant in The Gardener's Weed Book: Earth-Safe
, Storey Publishing (1996) lists a number of practical tips
for managing your weeds, with some explanation for each suggestion:

* Make your garden the right size for you;
* Don't weed where you walk (instead grow clovers and
other beneficial plants);
* Mark your rows;
* Use transplants;
* Seed heavily;
* Delay planting until later in spring;
* Look for competitive varieties --
large seeds that sprout quickly,
large leaves,
towering heights,
early maturing,
high yielding varieties;
* Control weeds early and consistently;
* Pull when wet; cultivate when dry; and
* Get them before they seed.

Prayer: Lord, teach us to live with the weeds around us, to
use them as best we can, and to be patient and tolerate of those we
cannot part with too easily. Let us accept that there are
unwanted things in our lives and let them be the challenges that we
face creatively and with a certain patience.


Prickly Poppy, Argemone polyanthemos
*photo credit)

May 3, 2008 More Thoughts on the Iraq War

The war is now sixty-one and a half months old and what more
has it accomplished than what those of us who spoke against it in
March 2003 predicted? So a change of Iraqi ruler has occurred but
the replacement has not yet been fully accomplished. The stated
reason for going to war five years ago was really covering the true
reason -- access to one of the world's largest petroleum reserves.
And how much was a Bush personal vendetta involved in the hidden
decisions to go to war? Today this conflict has become the third
longest American war and will become second in due time (only the
Revolutionary War and the Vietnam conflict were longer.

Looking back we find no quick victory (a major reason that
many of us gave for not entering in the first place in the winter
of 2003). Over four thousand American young folks have come back
in coffins -- and how many more? The people of Iraq have suffered
far too much: a hundred thousand have died; two million have fled
abroad; another two and a half million are internally displaced;
and most of the rest of the population lives in relative
insecurity. Electric power, basic waste collection, and even fuel
itself are in short supply. The mounting costs have not matched
the early estimates of tens of billions of dollars. They now
exceed a half trillion dollars -- and mounting towards the trillion

"Just War Theory" makes any notion of first strike abhorrent.
As it proved itself to be, the Iraq War cause (weapons of mass
destruction) was simply not there except perhaps in the minds of
the few pushing for war. Complicating the situation was the fact
that the majority of federal legislators were stampeded into
relegating war-making powers to the executive branch. It showed
the power of media propaganda when bent on changing minds and
policy. The failure to convince those who should have known better
reveals the power of persuasion in a democratic society.
War-making powers were conceded to our President, contrary to our
Constitution and prudence.

Adding to the mistakes of those early days was the failure of
the number one super-power to honor the wishes of other nations in
the United Nations. The Iraqi dictator was captured and executed,
but what else has happened? The focus has been turned away from
global terrorist threats to the "cleansing" of Iraq -- if that is
even a correct term. All the while the lack of adequate attention
to Afghanistan has resulted in a growth in the power of the Taliban
instead of its weakening this terrorist threat. The question is
raised: how do we get out of this quagmire -- or is it quicksand?
We who opposed the war from the start raised that question early.
Are we now saddled with the very problem that made some of us so
opposed to action in 2002-03? There never was an exit strategy and
that was part of problem; it seemed intentional then -- and now.

Prayer: Lord teach us the horrors of war and help us to work
towards peace in this troubled world even after mistakes are made.


Smalltown Sunset. Versailles, KY
*photo credit)

May 4, 2008 A Case Against Idle Speculation

Why are you... standing here looking at the Sky?
(Acts 1:11)

We keep looking to the heavens, and wonder, "Why did he leave
us alone?" He could have moved about and walked the Earth showing
everyone that a 2000-year-old was resurrected, alive and well.
However, with spiritual maturity we realize that this would not
have elicited faith but a fearful sense of someone who is quite
quaint walking among us. God wants more from us than fright or
fearful dread of things to come; God wants us to freely move to
love. Christ comes among us; he teaches, and he suffers, dies and
rises for us; he blesses us and ascends beyond our sight. And the
Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost to inspire others to be other
christs. Jesus is ahead of us in time, and we are invited to
follow and to make this journey of faith -- not of fear -- one of
helping to bring others forward with us.

We need to prepare for Christ's coming. There was a
California adobe-maker at the Franciscan mission of San Luis Rey
near Oceanside; he appeared overjoyed that we showed a great
interest in his skill at repeating the ancient adobe-making art.
Unfortunately, we never returned to record his skills, and in some
way the painstaking experience he acquired was lost. We ought to
see that the work of preparing our Earth involves the contribution
of many people with experience and that this experience is of
value. We prepare for Christ to come again; the total Easter event
enters our individual lives and allows us to prepare for "A New
Heaven and a New Earth."

Jesus does not leave us alone; he is sacramentally present;
he shines forth from every creature; he is with us when we pray.
But we would like a still closer connection and thus his departure
has been bittersweet. As spiritual novices we hate to see him go,
and yet he must so that the Spirit may come and be here. We are to
carry on his work, empowered by the Spirit to carry on the
unfinished preparation for his final coming. We believers, like
the Apostles before us, are often slow learners. At the moment of
the Ascension, the disciples ask whether the Messiah is going to be
the anticipated political leader. It takes a Pentecost to clarify
their minds to see that "Messiah" means something more, a suffering
servant role. "Go out to the whole world and baptize them in the
Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." We are
becoming evangelical in that servant role. Jesus is soon coming
but we help bring on this Day of the Lord. This is not an
anticipated time of foreboding; rather, this is a time to prepare
for his coming and to put our heart and soul into the task -- not
idly speculating or looking about for someone else to do something.

Prayer: Lord, keep us from standing idly by; help us to act
responsibly in preparing for your coming in glory. We gradually
realize that You have given us a mission, but we are reluctant to
take on the important role given to us. Give us courage.

Forest, unbroken
*photo credit)

May 5, 2008 Defend the Roadless Forest

According to the 1996 United Nations Environmental Program
survey, this planet's land surface has forty million square
kilometers of forest of which about 7.5% occurs in the United
States. While much of this American forest land is privately
owned, still the U.S. Forest Service watches over 770,000 square
kilometers, or about a quarter of the American forest area. The
founder of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, said at its
creation in 1905 that federal forests are intended to provide the
"greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time." His
basic message was well-founded, but at times the forest logging
practices have not matched the quest for longevity. One cannot
allow the privileged few or the most influential to cut timber,
mine, or graze cattle and call it "for the greatest number."
Unfortunately, the so-called wise-users regard commercial resource
extraction as "proper" land use. But is it? Is not the potential
of sight-seeing by tourists of far greater economic value than the
extraction of timber? Better yet is viewing forests from
photographs or making movies and engaging in virtual tours of the

Environmentalists have consistently pointed out over the past
few decades that protected areas, which are free from ecologically
disruptive uses, are necessary ingredients in a long-term
biodiversity strategy. Some of our national forests contain unique
but fragile areas such as wild and scenic rivers, cliffs and
exquisite rock formations, habitats for migratory birds, and whole
sections of land that are still roadless. However one of the most
contentious struggles in recent years has been whether these
pristine areas (23 million hectares of forest lands) are to be cut
through by an extended forest road system for so-called fire
protection and unspoken resource exploitation.

A new conservation program implemented a few years ago is now
threatened. That program during its preparation received 1.6
million comments, more than any other Federal rule-making on forest
issues. It required a ban on further road construction in the
national forests and greater restrictions on timber harvest in the
roadless forested areas. However, the wise-users have taken
exception, and thrown their weight around, calling the new
restrictions a "federal land lockup." On the other hand,
protective restrictions, if put into effect before the forests are
totally parcelled and broken apart, have the effect of saving vast
bio-reserves for the future. Such conditions are strictly within
the original philosophical purview of Pinchot. Each of us ought to
monitor our nearest national forest. Let's devote time each year
to knowing the forest better and to appreciating the wildlife they
contain. Where open to visitors, hike in all seasons and
especially appreciate the autumn colors.

Prayer: Creator of the forests of this world, help us to see
the value of the gift You have given to us; help us to keep the
stretches of wooded areas pristine and to value them in themselves.


Sandhill Cranes, Grus canadensis
*photo credit)

May 6, 2008 Twelve Ways to Save Energy

Today with gasoline and all fuel prices rising rapidly we
ought to reconsider ways to cut energy use:

* Curb driving and share rides;

* Drive smaller cars and more energy efficient vehicles;

* Reduce space use. Next to the vehicle size, the residence
or work place is a major determinant of energy use. More heating
and cooling space requires more energy use so let us minimize our
so-called space needs;

* Use compact fluorescent and other energy-saving bulbs
instead of incandescent bulbs for lighting, especially in areas
where lights are left on, such as exit lighting or night lighting
areas. Merely turning them on and off may not pay if fluorescents
will be used frequently. Timer switches do pay;

* Insulate more for it always pays;

* Plant trees; these are excellent for windbreaks and shade;

* Comfort zones are worth establishing. Know what temperature
is comfortable for occupants, and then extend that five degrees
lower in winter and five higher in summer. Consider a thermostat.

* Wash and dry conservatively. If you must use a dish washer,
rinse dishes with cold water before use, make sure the machine is
full and allow to air dry. Wash clothes with warm or cold water
and soak heavily soiled clothing before washing; wait for a full
load before washing; dry clothes outdoors when weather permits; if
using a clothes dryer, keep lint screen and outside vent clean and
dry clothes in consecutive batches to economize energy;

* Cook with less energy. Boiling potatoes in larger batches
saves energy; turn off the oven a little before completion and
allow residual energy to finish the job; consider a solar oven --
a real energy saver; and shift to cold dishes in summer;

* Vent air naturally. Employ fans in place of air
conditioning, especially for airing out on cooler summer mornings;

* Turn down hot water temperature. Use a booster for dish
washing and keep any hot water tank well insulated. Think and act
solar, especially with a hot water heater; and

* Buy energy efficient electric appliances. Avoid unneeded
items which consume electricity, i.e., can openers; read energy
efficiency information when buying new appliances; avoid pilot
lights; and realize microwave and pressure cooker energy savings.

Prayer: Lord, help us to live simply so others can simply live.





Paperwhites from the spring garden

*photo credit)

May 7, 2008 Floral Gardens

Isn't it possible to have a highly productive garden
interspersed and accentuated by the beauty of cosmos and begonias
and marigolds? Note that flowers selected for domestic gardens
need not be entirely of a native variety, but can also include
naturalized or traditional flowers, which, if allowed to grow and
flourish, will not be invasive. Some species, such as jonquils or
tiger lilies, will continue flowering in a homestead site long
after the buildings have disappeared. However, these are not
problematic invasive species; they bloom at a given season and
then die back, allowing pastureland to yield normal vegetation
throughout the growing season.

Adding flowers to vegetable-producing plots may have more than
an aesthetic purpose. Some beautiful flowers or their leaves can
be eaten in salad (nasturtium or certain lilies); others are
natural pest retardant agents (marigold); and still others are
attractants of harmful insects (evening primroses attract Japanese
beetles and the beetles can be easily collected from the plants).
Many colorful flowers attract hummingbirds or butterflies, which
also add beauty and a sense of restfulness to the total garden
plant/animal community. Some people use the summer garden as a
place for storing and invigorating indoor houseplants, and then
return them indoors when frost arrives.

Successful flower gardening requires some care in selecting
varieties, sowing and planting, weeding, and in collecting seed or
transplanting bulbs. A small additional space may be required for
such flowers, and these can easily be intermingled among a wide
variety of vegetables and herbs. The scent of certain herbs, such
as basil or the mints, enhances the total garden environment. In
rare cases, such as with daffodils, the toxic bulb may be mistaken
for members of the onion family; do not grow these flowers where
there could be mistaken identity.

If wildscape and floral/vegetable gardens exist side by side,
it is always difficult to answer requests for cutting wildflowers.
Such bouquet gatherings may distract from the total beauty of the
landscape. We are generally less reluctant to cut cultivated
flowers than wildflowers for decorating homes, worship space and
special events. A general principle is only harvest wildflowers
where they are invasive or naturalized (ox-eyed daisies, Queen
Anne's lace or wild chicory). Good ecology includes incorporating
beauty into our damaged environment through landscaping,
architecture, visual arts and performing arts. Flowers help heal
us, brighten our lives, and stimulate our creativity. We need
decoration, color, and floral scents. (Reference: Ecological
, Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan [Island Press, 1995]).

Prayer: God allow us to see the beauty of creation in the
flowers that bloom for awhile and then pass on. Let their passing
moment remind us of our limited time to flourish; encourage us to
bask, while flourishing, in the mystery of your creative beauty.




Wild legume

*photo credit)

May 8, 2008 Peace Poles

How good, how delightful it is for all to live together like
brothers ...and sisters
(Psalm 133:1)

I remember the bright sunny May eighth, 1945, clearly. It
began as a crisp clear morning and the school bus got about a mile
from home and had engine trouble. Mr. Lurdy, the driver, was under
the bus and the kids were milling around on the country road when
we heard the Maysville whistles four miles away blowing wildly --
V-E Day; Victory in Europe. Since we knew classes would be
cancelled, we persuaded the good-natured driver (once the engine
was running again) to retrace the route and take us back home. He
did, for he too rejoiced, with a son serving in the European
Theater of the War. And so my siblings and I raced into the
distant field to tell Daddy and the hired man, Ed Thompson, that
the war was half over -- at least over in Europe.

Peace-making is a public act. Peace is always desired,
especially when we are immersed in conflict as is now the case in
Iraq. Each of the world's peaceable peoples -- those fond of or
promoting peace in some fashion -- needs to become publicly
committed to ensure that peace is established and endures. A
public and evident symbol may assist in confirming our commitment.
In recent years, some individuals and groups have installed or
displayed peace poles, signs or medals or some other identification
in places where people can easily observe them. Earlier tribes and
groups had their peace flags and markings, showing neighbors that
they were not warring but welcoming others into their territory.

The recently popular "peace pole" is just such a peace
marking; it is usually a wooden shaft in much the shape of the
Washington Monument, with four sides each speaking of peace in
different languages. It is the sign of the universal yearning of
the human heart. This peace pole can be installed with a special
occasion or ceremony, thus making it a more fitting commitment on
the part of the installing individual or group. Let others see and
imitate the example. Often a peace blessing is printed on the pole
that points upward to the Almighty and to the need for a unity of
scattered peoples with the One Creator of all peace. Little things
go a long way when it comes to enhancing our commitment. We must
strive to re-establish peace by redoubling our efforts to speak up
for our brothers and sisters throughout the world. While Americans
are engaged in a so-called war against terror we must declare our
commitment to peace. We must make this inner peace radiate out and
embrace the rest of the world. Maybe a peace pole is a beginning -
- prominent, wiped clean, polished and decorated with flowers. But
peace is not automatic; it takes an effort, and this is shown by
verbal commitments, actions and confrontation. Yes, we also must
confront our military/industrial complex that tempts us to be all
the more warlike.

Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of peace; where there is
hatred, let me sow love; where there is discord, peace.


Huron tansy, Tanacetum huronense, threatened plant of
Michigan coastal dunes (State listed)

*photo credit)

May 9, 2008 Endangered Species

As we prepare for Endangered Species Day this weekend we
should realize that no one knows with precision exactly when and if
a species goes to extinction. However, some definitive extinctions
have occurred such as that of the passenger pigeon in the
Cincinnati zoo in 1915. Even the estimates of extinction rates
vary wildly. Some species are pronounced gone forever and suddenly
an individual crops up in the recesses of a forested area.
However, expert opinions do converge on the fact that we are in a
period of steep decline of both plant and animal species,
ironically at a time when we know more about protecting and
preserving endangered species. How do we control the insatiable
appetite for forest products in areas of greatest plant diversity -
- the tropical forest? How do we keep human intruders and
pollution away from the planet's spectacular coral reefs, which are
virtually all in danger, according to the opinion of marine
biologists? How do we preserve bird habitats and resting places of
migratory birds which are in steep decline, according to the counts
of the bird watchers?

We are all aware of the movement to curb the use of animal
parts, e.g., eagle feathers, elephant ivory, tiger parts, and furs
from many threatened small mammals. We know that global protective
regulations do work, and that poaching of elephants has been
drastically reduced due to regulatory measures in parts of Africa.
Whales, the largest of Earth's creatures and really warm-blooded
mammals, are threatened as species. These vegetarian animals are
generally gentle and playful among themselves and with human
beings; they travel in pods (herds) along traditional migratory
routes at speeds of about 6 knots (or twice as fast as human beings
normally walk) and can go for bursts at up to 15-20 knots. The
largest, the blue whale, weighs 200 tons and is larger than 30
mature elephants. But many people have not been kind to these
creatures. Modern hunting techniques with sonar, long-range
harpoons and factory ships have changed the adventure of Moby Dick
into first-class barbaric slaughter for industrial oils, animal
feed, fertilizer, perfume and shampoo ingredients. Most of the ten
species of great whales have been reduced to the point of
extinction, even with global whaling bans and restrictions by the
International Whaling Commission.

Most Americans do not have direct contact with exotic mammals
whether elephants or whales but we do know that, large or small,
many of these species are threatened or endangered. The message
needs to be publicized, especially when threats to species are
occurring near development of green space and forested areas, and
the use of motorized recreational vehicles. Help in a bird
counting project. Advocate for endangered species through letter
writing, talks, and articles. Consider joining the Endangered
Species Coalition <www.stopextinction.org>.

Prayer: God, You created all that inhabit this planet. Help
us to be their protectors as part of our compassion and mission.




A candle in the dark

*photo credit)

May 10, 2008 Pentecost: the Flame of the Spirit

And something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of
(Acts 2:3)

Tomorrow is Pentecost, one of the three great Christian
feasts. Really this is the turning point after our celebration of
Christ's coming, birth, presentation, journey of faith, suffering,
death and resurrection. Often candles, new fire and lamps are
paramount in the symbols we use in that portion of the year. Now
we enter the second half of the church year and focus on our own
journey of faith, on our being other christs who bring light to a
darkened world. The flames and tongues of fire are now becoming
prominent along with the enlightenment we are to bring to others.

The tongues of fire rest on each, inspiring each in his or her
own way. Each of us is inflamed but not in exactly the same way as
the next person. The Spirit works with each of us according to our
unique personality and gifts. Each of our personal fires has its
own intensity, color, consistency and warmth depending on how we
shine in the firmament of the inspired. We radiate the immense
variation in divine light, for that is part of divine mystery.

Light Prayer

God, Creator of light,
  Your presence broke the bonds of darkness,
  A quantum, which struck as spark,
  Proceeded to photosensitize the world.

A burning bush, a leading star,
  A fiery sword
  You gave
  To lead the sinful world.

To him, Light of the world, a burning Word
  Whose illumination is the first of Faith
  Whose death sparked a darkened world
  With a heavenly splendor.

You are the resurrection and the life.

O Spirit who touched the Apostles
  With the pentecostal tongue,
  Photosynthesize us to become a lighthouse
  to the wayward, to the material world.

Consume us in the fire of charity,
  O God, three in one,
  Help us to consume the world
  With Your eternal blazing fire.





My mother's collection of trinkets for a daughter

*photo credit)

May 11, 2008 Mother's Day: Love from Love

"I will make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)

I once met a person who was asked to lead us around a woman's
monastery during our environmental resource assessment of the
property. He had been an orphan and had lived on the grounds since
the age of four. He was about eighty and yet he mentioned three
times during the course of the six-hour work tour that his mother
had abandoned him. Love spurned left a deep wound after all his
many years. On Mother's Day, we can all be thankful for mothers who
nurture, feed, and care for their children with love -- and pray
that all do. A world cannot long endure without a mother's love.
Love is all we have that is permanent.

We see the setting as the Last Supper when Jesus speaks of
glorification. We come to our last moments of mortal life and our
love is the only thing we will carry with us, for we are naked on
leaving as naked on coming into this world. We take to the throne
of the Most High our love for God and others, a love that in its
start is a pure gift from God. That love is ever made new when we
carry the love of God through the person of Jesus with us on our
journey of faith. How well do we transform that love into our own?
We strive to love God with our whole heart and soul and mind and
strength and yet we need God's help to actualize our own loving
acts. God within us is loving, a dynamo of fire, and the more we
share in that love the more we become aware of the God within.

We reflect on that love which can shine through the dark clouds
of hatred. At Auschwitz a half century ago, Father Maximilian
Kolbe (to whom Pope John Paul II said he owed his own vocation)
volunteered to die in place of another prisoner. At forty-seven
Maximilian gave all as a volunteer to replace a married man with
family. The Pope, at Maximilian's canonization in 1982, said,
"Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for
his friends." St. Maximilian took Jesus at his word and lived and
loved according to the prompting and the situation that called for
love to replace hate. The man he replaced in the concentration
camp was present at his canonization along with his family.

The second great commandment is to love our neighbor as
ourselves (Leviticus 19:18). Most people love themselves but
rather than using ourselves as gauges, we look for loving models to
imitate. We are to love as God has loved us in Christ. Most of us
can find our own Mother's love as a model of unselfish love.
Expressing this love is a measure of how God's love is growing
within us. One way to express love today is to remember all
mothers of the world. If our mother has left us an "orphan" and
passed on to the Lord, let's turn attention to other mothers,
especially those striving to raise their children properly.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for giving us the gift of a mother's
love that serves as a model of what we need to extend to the world.



An old, almost forgotten cemetery

*photo credit)

May 12. 2008 Green Cemeteries

Many American cemeteries are green with lawn grass and trees,
but some older ones have become so congested that they are now a
forest of marble and granite monuments. A few family plots are
neglected and in a sorry state because near relatives have died
out. Others were never kept well in the first place. The upcoming
Memorial Day allows us to review our "own" cemetery situation.
Visiting cemeteries and bringing children to them to gently
acquaint them with the natural process of passing on of friends and
loved one is a good and salutary act. Leaving living or even
plastic bouquets shows thoughtfulness, and adds color to the place.
Some, during this season or nearer All Soul's Day in November, have
family reunions in cemeteries, but that tradition is dying out.
However, our mobile culture tends to overlook cemetery space.

Once on an early Saturday morning I was ejected for jogging in
the Arlington National Cemetery, a section of my favorite
Washington, DC weekend running route. I argued a little with the
guard and said that I suspected that John Kennedy and most of those
buried there would smile and approve of joggers in this solemn
area. Why so somber about a place of rest? Jogging is certainly
different from boozing or lovemaking in the graveyard, or stripping
coal from around or under Appalachian cemeteries. Consider
engaging in recreation among the cemetery trees (even edible fruit
and nut varieties) and flowers, even carrying on community
gardening in less congested cemetery areas.

Community cleanup days just before the Memorial Day weekend or
on the weekend are perfect times for respecting the dead and
showing that love extends from the community through the years.
Urge cleaning crews to remove the brambles and brush, straighten up
the stones, add better fencing, and install gates, especially for
small cemeteries without guards, so they can be closed when not
used for burials or visits. Protection is certainly a desired
ingredient -- and cemetery managers and park officials could work
together so cemeteries could become good parks.

The greening process could go beyond annual clean-ups and
include opening the place to greenspace advocates, walking and
jogging paths, a host of various trees planted at key locations,
picnic areas in unused space, even proper restroom areas and
potable water sources. Cemetery caretakers can testify to how much
time it takes to mow and weed-eat around raised gravestones so low
lying grave markers are preferred. Abandoned portions of
cemeteries could be turned into wildscape and devoted to growing
spurges and other perennials. Make cemeteries into sacred space.
Privacy barriers of shrubs and evergreens would be established to
delineate areas with meditation benches, appropriate memorials and
statues where custom allows. Attract birds as well. Make the
cemetery friendly and used to a moderate degree by everyone.

Prayer: Lord teach us to use our space well and to make it so
that many most can enjoy it -- even space where loved ones rest.




The birth cabin of Abraham Lincoln

*photo by Mark Spencer)

May 13, 2008 Space Tourism

When this issue was first considered a few years back, a rich
American named Dennis Tito had given the Russian space agency
twenty million dollars for a ride to the new space laboratory being
built in outer space. He called himself the "first space tourist,"
but that has been contested. On December 2, 1990, Toyohiro
Akiyama, a reporter for the Japanese television station TBS
traveled on the same type of Soyuz rocket as Tito, and docked with
Mir -- at a cost of millions of dollars. In 1991, Helen Sharman
also traveled to Mir. However, it was not just the Russians who
commercialized the space program. In 1985, NASA launched Senator
Jake Garn aboard the space shuttle Discovery. And then there was
Senator John Glenn's second ride in his senior role. Space travel
has takers, only taxpayers are reluctant to be the givers.

Space agencies are now thinking commercial, and it will only
be time before the rich and famous play space shuttling -- most at
hidden taxpayer expense. Just such high-roller tourists were
riding in another type of vehicle, an American submarine, when it
accidentally struck and sank a small Japanese fishing expedition
near Hawaii and killed nine including some young students. The
Russians want to commercialize the space program as do other
nations, but is this really a good idea? Space tourism is
inherently costly and risky. Furthermore it is like all travel in
the beginning; it is a "journey" (with difficulties associated)
rather than a trip taken with ease. The "journey" in Columbus's
voyages and the Lewis and Clark expedition and other such discovery
ventures involved the risk to human safety and the possibility that
disaster could occur -- as did happen in travels that had no
return, such as Amelia Earhart's air flight around the world in the
1930s and the first trans-Australian trek in 1861. Space is that
last frontier, since most of the areas of this planet have been
trampled upon. All travelers play the odds.

Space travel is different: all travelers live on artificial
life support systems; all need multi-million dollar send-offs at
immense public expense; and all must have technical backup from
programs and agencies that cost the taxpayers billions of dollars.
Why should a few people be subsidized at the expense of the
taxpayer and why should the various international agencies allow
this distracting commercial tourism? Research exploration is one
thing; pure pleasure tours are another. Allowing space tourists
to enter the picture contaminates research efforts, is inherently
costly beyond immediate estimates, and distracts from the purposes
of the program. Priorities must always come first, and giving an
African child with little educational opportunity good schooling
may not make good sound bites, but is a far better investment of
limited global funds than space tourism? Space tourists are
privileged; they don't pay their way; they merely get in the way.
Let's be realistic about limited global funds.

Prayer: Lord, keep us looking down to Earth for the
priorities that need to be addressed in our troubled world.






Tahquamenon Falls

*photo credit)

May 14, 2008 Managing the Information Overload

Information comes to us from many sources: television, radio,
newspapers, periodicals, e-mail messages, phone calls, billboard
advertisements, private conversation, Internet chat lines, sermons,
lectures, adult education courses, textbooks, flyers, historic
signs, public service announcements, soapbox orators and on and on.
How can we cope with this deluge of information, some invited and
some thrust upon us unwillingly? The bombardment is like going in
haste through an immense World's Fair with little time for silence
and reflection. The following are a few ways of coping with this
information overload:

* Select information outlets wisely -- Often we allow the
bombardment because we have no criteria for selection. We end up
hearing a variety of sources with much repeated and little new
information given in depth. We can become addicted to certain news
media and think we must see them at particular times of day or
night and sometimes with ever greater frequency;

* Close off ads -- This is easier said than done, for many
advertisements strike us when we are least expecting them. Making
a deliberate effort to curb ads and placing the phone on a no call
list are most helpful practices;

* Select periodicals and books -- There are many quality
periodicals that give in-depth reporting that goes beyond general
sound-bites and news briefs. Our desire for such longer term
sources of knowledge gets us out of the habit of wanting to be
wired for immediate news at all times -- and the stress that goes
with this constant barrage of information;

* Use the internet carefully -- Avoid chat rooms; curb unwanted
e-mails, especially the junk that can be stopped through aggressive
action. Here again we can become addicted. Limiting ourselves in
content and time is most helpful to prevent info overload;

* Reduce calling -- We sometimes mix social needs with
information excuses. Do we really need to keep up with every
happening at the instant it occurs? Being wired may be a safety
measure but it also consumes valuable time; and

* Establish reflection time -- Finally, put aside time for
reflection during the day or night and at select periods during the
year, when all forms of information are curbed and silence reigns
supreme. Besides we actually need time to process all the
information we have received. That processing takes time that
ought to be planned wisely.

Prayer: Word of God, become our constant source of what is
important in our lives. Help us to avoid the frivolous, the rumor,
the gossip, the unimportant and to concentrate on the important
things of life. Give us a discerning mind so that we can avoid
what will clutter our minds and prove to be a major distraction.










Monarch, Danaus plexippus, on black-eyed susan, Rudbeckia hirta

*photo credit)

May 15, 2008 Alternative Justice Approaches

Several facts emerge in regard to our current American prison
practices: the cost of incarceration is quite high; America
incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than does any
other industrialized nation (one percent of U.S. residents); the
prisons are overcrowded and not totally effective when it comes to
corrective programs; and many prisoners especially non-violent
offenders should simply not be in prison and could benefit from
lower-cost alternative justice approaches. A host of alternatives
have been suggested in recent years and all need careful
evaluation. Some of these include:

* Half-way houses and treatment centers for non-violent drug
offenders. Imprisoning many prisoners with drug problems is
equivalent to the outmoded debtors' prisons of previous ages and
are simply not workable nor beneficial to the drug victims;

* Work-release programs where non-violent offenders can work
off their sentencing through community projects and service work
without the need to house the prisoner as such. Sentences can be
served in very meaningful ways. Often, the work situation is paid
for by the non-profit sector, which benefits from the free labor of
the otherwise prisoners;

* Work camps much in the model of the 1930s conservation
camps, where ex-prisoners assist in rebuilding the infrastructure
of recreational parks, summer camps, research facilities, museums,
historic sites, retreat centers, playgrounds, bike and hiking
trails, housing projects for lower income people, national and
state reforestation projects, damaged environmental areas, and
urban blighted areas;

* Monitored home care for those who cannot work due to illness
or age and are not regarded as violent. The ex-prisoner would be
required to wear GPS devices that can tell exactly where they are
at a given time. The monitoring from central command places would
still be far cheaper than incarcerating such mild prisoners, who
are elderly or infirm and who would otherwise require expensive
prison care facilities;

* Early release programs for non-violent, non-drug offenses
with monitoring in the above manner and still with stringent
reporting procedures. Most minimum security prisoners could fit
into this category; and

* Modification of sentencing guidelines to allow for
exceptions so that some sentences could be reduced to community
service and monitoring.

Prayer: Lord, teach us that to liberate prisoners is
extending your mercy to all the human family. Help us to become a
forgiving people bent on giving to prisoners the best possibilities
of rehabilitation -- thus testifying for renewal of life for all.





Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium. Invasive species in eastern U.S.,
commonly used in landscaping

*photo credit)

May 16, 2008 Ornamentals, Lawns and Gardens

There's nothing wrong with having plants for beauty's sake.
That is why people promote wildlife landscapes, which include
ornamentals like holly that can be used for bird nesting and
feeding areas and that may include wildscape with its hundred
possible types of flowers. However, much of the ornamental
monocultural lawn that covers urban America is not necessarily
beautiful and consumes human and fuel resources to manicure and
keep trim.

In addition to their homestead flower plots, my peasant Uncle
Peter and Aunt Alberta always added a row of gladiolus to their
otherwise quite productive and practical vegetable garden. They
were simple farming folks in the Kentucky hills, who used horses to
operate farm machinery and lived very simple lives. However, they
deliberately added beauty down the middle of their half-acre
garden, giving color and life to what otherwise looked like any
farm field or garden. When a youngster, I couldn't understand the
reason for all of these flowers, and the added attention these two
farmer/gardeners gave to them. Now I do. All I have to do is look
about the countryside and see the attention to monocultural lawns,
and I understand the need to combine flowers with landscape.

Art is found in galleries, museums and places of distinction
but also in ordinary places. Through creative imagination and
efforts paintings and sculpture come alive; similarly, a garden
with flowers interspersed is a living art piece, demanding the
skills of designer, gardener and artist all in one. The landscape
is a canvas on which the aesthetically-minded painter develops his
or her picture of changing color and contrast. The ever-changing
landscape becomes a stained glass window with the sun playing off
at different angles at different times of the day. The plant
selection, arrangement and vegetative growth are the medium of art,
becoming part of good composition through proper design and
anticipated time of blooming. Birds, butterflies and other human
beings are attracted to this vegetative art form. A vast variation
in expression is part of the power of that attraction, which is
accentuated by color, fragrances and touch. The fruit, berries,
vegetables, and herbs are aromatic and tasteful and pleasant to
behold and hold.

All of our senses are called forth and we discover new sacred
space where our hearts and minds are turned to the Mysteries of the
Creator. We need not regard the ornamental as the exotic or the
pricey; it is part of everyone, and all are invited to Mystery in
a variety of ways. We can become the creators of sacred space and
can enjoy it in sights (flowers), sounds (birds and bees), smells
(fragrances), tastes (edibles present), and touches (the many
plants present of different texture).

Prayer: Lord, teach us to be artists of our environment and
to become all the more creative in doing so; help us inspire others
to be vegetative artists as well.





Moon through trees

*photo credit)

May 17, 2008 Apocalypse and the Oil Crash

While in the midst of escalating gas prices due to expanding
global fuel appetites, falling dollar value and uncertain oil
sources, should we be tempted to apocalyptic ways of thinking about
oil? Some of us energy-conscious folks vacillate about whether
the world is holding steady or is in a free fall, with us
experiencing a nice breeze on the way down. When the mockingbird
sings outside and the pleasant May breezes blow, things seem okay,
but are they? We may be tempted to say that we hope our eco-minded
cohorts quickly undertake gardening, use efficient light bulbs and
drive fuel-conserving vehicles.

Bruce Thomson tells a story about the global decline in oil
discoveries, which peaked in 1962 (Spring 2001 Auto-Free Times,
"The Oil Crisis and You" pp. 24-27). The number of discoveries
form a sine curve now receding to 1920 levels and going down, down.
He goes on to say that evidence from the oil industry shows that
oil extraction from wells will be physically unable to meet global
demand by the year 2010. Curbs will then occur on transportation
and industrial machinery, which are not geared to run on
alternative fuels. The crux are the airliners unable to operate
without the high octane fuel that they are accustomed to. Is this
why airlines have been cutting back on flights in recent months?

The media speaks of oil limits dealing with sources, extracting
procedures and access to cheaper fuel. While some oil reserves are
yet to be discovered, much of the earth's more easily accessed oil
sources are known -- at least this is on the word of experts. Some
say there are 210 billion barrels left to be discovered, and 1,000
billion left to be extracted. There are a half million wells in
the world, but in the United States 80% of oil wells produce less
than three barrels a day. Pessimists say that alternative
replacements for oil's 40% of total current energy supply are
grossly inadequate and cannot be easily substituted. Natural gas's
20% of the global energy supply is not suited for existing jet
aircraft, ships, vehicles and equipment. Hydropower's 3% of our
supply is not suitable for aircraft; nor is polluting coal which
constitutes one quarter of our fuel supply. Very promising wind,
solar, and hydrogen are not yet major players, though the first two
are certainly coming on fast. Actually hydrogen is more an energy
"carrier" than a supplier, because it seems that obtaining the gas
takes more energy than the gas provides. Biofuels derived from
corn is really a scam (see our Special Issues). Shale oil, tar
sand, and coalbed methane would require huge investments to process
them properly -- even if they were environmentally suitable. Add
to this the fact that 4% of the energy budget is used to grow food
and 10-13% to put it on our plates.

Prayer: Lord, show us the weakness in an apocalyptic argument.
People can change and establish justice to and with others and our
planet Earth. Open our hearts to alternatives that are socially
and environmentally acceptable. Give us the courage to change our
way of sharing resources with others, especially the poor.








Purple passionflower, Passiflora incarnata

*photo credit)

May 18, 2008 Celebrate Trinity and Community

It takes two to make a pair but three to make a community. The
Trinity is the primary community that all creatures are drawn to

Creation springs from a community of love -- and all creation
has exhibited community in the most elementary fashion ever since
the beginning words, "Let us make...". The Spirit hovers over the
waters; the Wisdom of God takes on a more personal character. All
comes about in the visible spoken word of creation and all is good.
The movement of the universe is from oneness, and back to unity.
The vestiges of the Creator show plainly in the world to those with
eyes to see God's ever-present love. The pods and flocks and herds
and schools all point to the very communal characteristics of our
world, the manner in which some socialize with others of their
kind, and how this is built into the pattern of interdependent
endeavors. The communities of termites and ants say something
profound about the cooperative structure of nature; in the same
way the arrangements of atoms constituting a molecule show the
nature of the Creator in a very elementary manner.

Human beings have emerged as a trumpet blast of creative power
and freedom. From a theological perspective, we know human beings
do not always actualize the fullness of their calling for they
sometimes miss the mark, but, for better or worse, they act freely.
Human wrong-doing divides person from person and community from
community. Wars and conflicts arise, but all the while human
suffering points to a more global human family. Individuals and
families strive to overcome the barriers and to cooperate and look
after weaker members. The core family itself has a special
commitment to purpose and, hopefully, to loving relationships.
This familial striving for community also manifests the beckoning
of the Holy Spirit at work, the presence of the Lamb of God who
walks the journey with us, who shows the immensity of love, the
effects of hate, and the profundity of sacrifice out of love.

All of us struggle to attain some sign of grouping, bonding,
interconnecting in the ways that will allow a community to form.
All of us, whether the human village in the same locality, a
research team, a committed and intentional grouping, or the
participants in an occasional festival or homecoming, are drawn
together and seek to assist each other. This power of attracting
to others is God's work in the world -- the coming together at
Pentecost, after the dispersal of Babel. Where that family and
community love is stronger, the imitation becomes more visible, and
God shines out to all in human visibility. "See how they love one
another." The Church as loving community now stands as a
foreshadowing or sign of what the world is striving to become -- a
community in the image of the Trinity.

Prayer: O Holy Trinity, on this great feast, make us more
community-minded, looking to You as model of what the world is to





Roscommon Pines Old Growth Forest

*photo credit)

May 19, 2008 Old-Growth Forests

Mary Davis, a colleague and co-author on many projects, has
devoted a considerable part of a very busy life of environmental
writing and advocacy to the Eastern Old-Growth Forest. She has
documented where the forest is located, the state of the quality of
the stands, changes occurring, and ways to preserve and make the
value of this threatened national treasure known to the rest of the
country and world. The old-growth forest was here already many
years before we were born, and its demise before we die would tell
more about our disrespect for Earth than virtually anything else.

The 500-Year Forest Foundation says that old-growth forests, in
addition to all the values we list for forests in general, enhance
carbon sequestration (accumulation of carbon in forests instead of
in the atmosphere where it leads to greenhouse effects and climate
warming). These older more pristine forests tell us much about the
moderation of our earth through trees. After the advent of trees
370 million years ago the trees helped reduce the carbon dioxide
levels in the atmosphere from 10% to 1% some 50 million years
later. Animal life thrives, and excess carbon is stored in the
ground as coal and oil, much of which has been released through
combustion in recent centuries. Old growth forests also improve
soil stability, water flow, and diversity of flora and fauna,
enhance management opportunities and increase property values.

Mark Harmon of Oregon State University states that replacement
of older forests by younger ones will result in a net release of
carbon into the atmosphere (in an article April, 2001, Journal of
). Other scholars say that forests do not really store a
significant amount of carbon relative to the amount being lost
until they approach maturity (150 plus-year-old trees). Then it is
permanently stored in soil in the long-term storage of dead logs
and snags. On the other hand, new-growth forests reduce the
transfer of carbon to the permanent store of carbon in the soil
organic matter and do not serve in the same manner as old growth.

Old-growth forests are a biological patrimony to be respected
and held sacred. The very large amount of carbon stored in live
wood, coarse woody debris and in the soil in old forests, far
surpasses the young forests, which have small amounts of such
storage. Even old forests which have been disturbed by fire, high
winds, and insect infestation can still accumulate carbon even
after some logging. However, the case is not closed, and more
research must be done to show how much this accumulation is. Old-
growth forests are treasures which enhance the Earth's biological
equilibrium, and their destruction could have drastic effects.
Thus we should strive to continue the presence of the few tracts of
old growth forest in our world. Check Mary Davis' forest old-
growth website <PrimalNature.org>.

Prayer: Lord, teach us to value the living heritage that is
all around us and to see the value that it gives our planet. If we
respect forest old-growth, we may regain respect for all elders.




Pinson mounds (Middle Woodland Period). Pinson, TN

*photo credit)

May 20, 2008 Mulching Time

We await another long hot summer and we look for ways to endure
the heat that is surely coming. Thus this is mulching season,
nature's best way of conserving precious water when the hotter days
increase evaporation and wilt plants. Many gardeners swear by
mulch, that soft (the Germanic derivative) covering of loose
materials, which conserves much needed moisture during the hot
summer months, allows air to get to roots, moderates the
temperatures, which are susceptible to our temperate climate ups
and downs, chokes out the weeds that tend to crowd around
vegetables, and provides a covering for the earthworms which work
the soil. Mulching advocates will leave the mulch on all year and
even interplant in it the next year. They will testify that nature
works from the top down, and thus the mulch should not be turned
over but, rather, added to after the plants die down each year.

I came to mulching late because we did not do this at my home
except for the strawberries. We did put some straw laden with
manure on certain wintering crops such as rhubarb and horseradish,
but never during the actual growing season for the ordinary
vegetables. Perhaps it was the size of such a project, while we
had so much other farm work to do, that kept us from mulching. Now
I have been converted, and use dry leaves for the fall crops so
that they will last late into the season, and in May and June I
mulch the melon, squash, cucumber, and tomato crops. In fact, we
have tried green mulch with hairy vetch for tomatoes as a way to
control weeds and give nitrogen to the plants as well.

Mulch materials (natural and artificial) may be of many types
and include straw, hay, grass cuttings, rotting leaves, shredded
newsprint, and even plastic sheet and foam materials. Even when
dying back, the vegetative mulch can be composted into the soil.
Organic materials will eventually compost, whereas black plastic
users have the sun-ravished plastic residue to contend with when
the growing season is over. Certainly, black plastic can stimulate
crop growth in spring, but could burn the root system and plants
when the sun gets into the late 90s in mid-summer. I intend to
stay with only natural mulches, which allow air and moisture to
enter and leave. When one uncovers the natural mulch, one finds an
environment that is cool and moist, thus keeping some of the sub-
surface moisture from escaping and allowing it to be used by the
growing plants. The nearby bare ground is quite dry and hot, and
a place where persistent weeds, which can weather the hot sun, seem
to thrive even with little moisture. Let's put weeding behind us
and give more attention to making the vegetables thrive in mulch
especially as the oncoming summer approaches.

Prayer: Lord, teach us to be gentle in everything we do, to
anticipate where needs will occur, and to make the effort to
provide for the more fragile things of life. Let us become
protective people giving the mulch needed for growth and survival.






The PRIDE program, mural in Livingston, KY

*photo credit)

May 21, 2008 Twelve Ways to Save Water

One -- Install dry composting toilets. Since this is the way
to save half of the domestic water consumption in a place,
appropriate technology conservationists will rank them the number
one choice. These devices save money, are easily maintained, do
not require potable or high quality water for flushing, and are
free of odor or unpleasantness of any fashion when properly
constructed. A major domestic waste source (sewage) is eliminated,
and potable water, which is often turned into sewage and then
returned to potability, does not have to become a problem or
embarrassment to environmentally-conscious people.

Two -- Save rainwater. Rainwater is ideal to store for the
non-rainy day. The storage systems are relatively low-cost, can be
easily maintained when properly built, and are a source of high-
quality water, which surpasses chlorinated water for promoting
plant growth. Infrequent showers during droughts augment the
cistern supply. Rainwater can also be caught for use in the heat-
retaining tanks in greenhouses. For potable cistern water, install
a simple water purifying system.

Three -- Apply targeted irrigation techniques. Agriculture is
America's number one use of water, and those states with higher
irrigation such as Idaho rank first in per capita consumption.
Sizeable water amounts are required in dry times for gardening. A
triage (three-part priority according to beneficial care) system of
watering can be initiated in dry times: saving the most sensitive
(young plants, greens and those ready to bear); giving moderate
additional water to hearty longer-lived plants; and allowing a
portion of plants (such as okra, onions and Jerusalem artichokes)
to go unwatered in hope they weather the period. In small gardens,
water by hand or hose in the evenings at twilight or very early in
the morning, so the plants can have maximum moisture before
evaporation. Apply water at the roots, not over the foliage. Some
gardeners insert pipes beside tomato plants and others bury gallon
milk jugs with pinholes in the corners. The jugs are placed
equidistant from two or four peppers, tomatoes or squash hills.

Four -- Install low-flow devices. Such commercially available
and federally mandated devices are needed for existing flush
toilets and household water faucets. Granted, users of the low-
flush commode have been somewhat discontented as to their
effectiveness. Appropriate technologists prefer compost toilets
and recognize that the low-flusher has a number of standard
plumbing problems. Low-flow shower devices deliver less water in
a mist or spray-like manner over a wider washable surface area.

Five -- Reuse graywater. The term "graywater" is contrasted
with sewage or "black" water, and refers to water from kitchen and
bathroom sinks. These systems can be installed at low-cost, are
durable, are easily maintained, and can produce showcase
flowerbeds. Conservation- conscious homemakers use sewer-destined
water to wash cars.

Six -- Recirculate water used in fountains.

Seven -- Modify individual hand washing/teeth cleaning
practices. Individuals use quite different amounts of water for
brushing teeth or washing hands. Using large amounts of water at
one washing gets utensils and containers less clean than three
smaller amounts in sequence. Sinks in public facilities that only
deliver a set amount of water for a short time, are far more water
conserving than sinks with manually-operated faucets.

Eight -- Wash heavier loads rather than multiple lighter ones.
Many people use the clothes washer and dryer at short intervals,
and that is in part due to the limited number of certain items
(socks, towels, etc.). Buy a larger supply of frequently used
clothing and articles and wash them less frequently. To switch
from frequent washing to washing only when a full load accumulates
can often lead to saving half of the wash water at only the
inconvenience of having dirty clothes stored longer. Besides, this
approach can require far less time and save energy and money when
using a commercial laundromat.

Nine -- Practice lawn water conservation. This is another
practice that has immense potential for saving water. A person who
washes off sidewalk debris with a strong spray stream from a garden
hose is accomplishing a task that could easily be done by a broom.
Xeroscape lawn growing methods which emphasize native plants lead
to sizeable water savings over time. Native plants are preferable
to dried out non-native lawn coverings. Wildscapes using native
plants may result in additional water savings.

Ten -- Take military showers. "Wet down, soap down and rinse
off" is an old adage, which is soon forgotten in times of
apparently plentiful water supply. Decide between a cleansing
shower and a long-term shower/massage, which wastes water, namely,
a difference between a five-minute and a twenty-minute shower, or
a three gallon and a twenty-gallon shower. Reduce shower time by
lathering hair before beginning.

Eleven -- Fixing leaking plumbing hardly needs to be emphasized
to conservation conscious people, because most do not hesitate to
have a leaky faucet repaired. However, we often ignore slow leaks.
A faucet may drip only drip one or two drops per second, but could
lead to accumulated wastes of 20+ gallons of water a day, and
deplete a thousand-gallon storage tank in two months.

Twelve -- Use dehumidifier water. For people in very dry
areas, this may seem a small conservation measure, but it adds up
in humid areas and in summer, even when there is dry weather
outdoors. Homemakers find that dehumidifiers and air conditioners
can collect water that can be used for plants or watering pets.

Prayer: Lord, teach us who are saved through the gift of
water to learn to save the gift of water.







Lake Huron

*photo credit)

May 22, 2008 Our Oceans and Seas: The Last Frontiers

National Maritime Day is the perfect time for all of us, even
those of us living far from the ocean, to think about the four-
fifths of the Earth's surface, the vast oceans, which comprise the
last frontier. First we should know and appreciate this commons of
all people, not just those who live with oceanic coastlines, but
all nations and groups. Second, we should regard the precious
heritage of the oceans as worthy of special protection through
proper safeguards and regulations. Lastly, the resources of the
oceans if properly regulated could benefit all, especially the
poorer nations of the world.

The ocean floors are only now being mapped. Most of us are
unaware of the mountains and valleys on that floor, or the ocean
currents and how they moderate the weather of the globe. We are
often ignorant of the immense resources found in the floor space
beneath the oceans such as minerals, natural gas and oil reserves.
We are just starting to see how much we depend on the oceans for
recycling excess carbon dioxide and how limited are the fisheries
in these vast bodies of water.

In the battles over the "United Nations Convention on the Law
of the Seas" three decades ago, it was the United States who led
the fight to keep out international laws governing the oceans.
Much of this opposition is motivated by business interests who do
not want international agencies to dictate how the oceans are to be
exploited; some focus on potential petroleum and natural gas
reserves; others see the potential for gathering manganese from
the floor of the ocean as wealth just there for the picking; still
others desire ocean seaweed cultivation as a potential food source
for the world's hungry; and finally some talk about the potential
for ocean thermal and wind farm power generation. Should the
United Nations not protect oceans from factory fishing operations,
which can easily deplete global fish resources?

The oceans are a precious commons, which could benefit all
people. Shipping takes much of the world's commerce at least part
way over the oceans -- and thus all benefit. Should not a modest
tax on all ocean freight be imposed and extended to all major
vessels? How about registering all ocean-going vessels through an
international agency -- not by small-nation "regulatory" havens?
The fees collected could help support a Global Maritime Corps, an
international ocean police force that would protect the ocean and
sea lanes and the straits that become bottlenecks and havens for
pirates, something one would never have suspected in the twenty-
first century. This force could check working and environmental
conditions of shipping, fine those engaged in illegal dumping, and
inspect the sea worthiness of all shipping.

Prayer: Lord, help us see the vast oceans as worthy of our
special protection and a commons we need to protect for the benefit
of all especially the world's powerless. Give us as a people the
fortitude to prevent the exploitation of the vast ocean commons.







A cyber-meeting in the online virtual world of "Second Life" --
A realtime vigil organized by librarians at Virginia Tech in memory
of lives lost in the 2007 shooting. (Click here for information on nonprofit uses
of Second Life

*image credit)


May 23, 2008 Meetings, Meetings

When will an institution die? Some say in the middle of an
unjustified meeting. One thing that gets trying as we get older
and realize that our patience is wearing thin -- is the "grand
meeting." It is true that some folks more than others like this
form of socializing and make believe work. Furthermore, our worse
side can come out when meetings go too long or are too frequent.
Meetings tax us with preparation, the logistics of getting there
and on time, the actual event and all the after effects when we may
want to leave and get some rest. Quite often we endure a meeting
and think of other ways that the same effect could have been
obtained without the travel and time spent. To often the
interpersonal dynamics of a proposed meeting are highly stressful.
However, more often the meeting is not necessary. Some basic
questions are worth asking:

Justification? Amazingly, quite often a meeting occurs
because it is a periodic repeat of something that was helpful in
the past and thus is thought to be repeatable. Identify compulsive
meeting-goers and make sure they can justify the efforts being made
to organize and bring about some meeting.

Other ways of doing interactive business -- Can the meeting
be reduced to one-to-one situations where business can be carried
out and the results passed on to others through rapid
communication? Will a well thought out letter or even several
quick emails suffice? What about conference calls in place of
meetings? What about videotaped conference events? Does the
travel cost in money and natural resources call for alternatives?

Other people to represent our cause -- Since some people are
better at meetings than others, is it not better to let them
represent us rather than everyone having to go?

Select the type and ground rules -- What about refusing to
co-sponsor non-participative conferences, that is, those where a
selected group of people are expected to be speakers and most of
the rest the listeners? How about allowing all to have a voice in
some smaller breakout working groups?

Physical and mental condition of the meeting-goer -- Are we
able to attend and give this meeting our full attention? Many
mistakes are made when people are not fully fit to attend and this
proves burdensome to all who go. It is far better to recognize
that one is unable to attend with full attention and thus find a
way to avoid the meeting

Awareness -- Will the meeting succeed in what is intended?
Honesty would stop half the meetings of the world.

Prayer: Lord, save us from the purgatory of the meeting that
should never occur, that lasts too long, that brings out the worst
in people, and that is too poorly conducted.







A makeshift computer workstation in a national forest campsite

*photo credit)

May 24, 2008 All Tourism Needs to be Ecological

Tourism has become a major business in this world, amounting to
over a trillion dollars a year, though this does not mean the money
is evenly distributed in all regions. While this is a form of
service industry where people who perform the services may have a
one-to-one relationship with others, still negative aspects of
irresponsible tourism exist: the tourists are most often the
wealthier portion of populations with over-expectations; the volume
of tourism in certain places can exceed carrying capacity of the
eco-system; it takes precious fuel resources for tourists to reach
destinations; the tourist dollar goes disproportionately to
corporate motels, travel agencies and carriers; lack of regulation
of tourist activities in host countries is often at the expense of
the environment through accelerated littering and harvesting of
wild plants; and attitudes of tourists may generate resentment
among residents of tourist areas.

Much of the tourism, which is supposed to be ecologically
conscious (ecotourism), involves resource-expensive air travel and
going in large numbers to exotic places and fragile areas thus
essentially "trashing" the places. We need to look at green
parameters for all tourism, not just areas that some regard as
"green" and environmentally friendly. The following are some
general rules for tourism:

* Stay close to home for most of the tourist activities,
traveling longer distances only rarely in life;

* Establish the carrying capacity of given fragile areas and
insist that these limits be honored and that facilities be
available for servicing tourists who do come. Develop all tourist
destinations within ecological assessment parameters that honor
greenspace, wildlife habitat, forested areas, and fragile
wilderness areas. When areas are too fragile, no intrusive human
activity should be allowed;

* Locally controlled tourist establishments should be favored;

* Only green recreational activities should be allowed to all
tourists (see March 31, 2008);

* Tourist educational materials must be made available
explaining the immense treasure of the region's flora and fauna as
well as cultural and geological highlights;

* Tourist guides need to be trained on ecological matters or
at least know where environmental resources are available; and

* Efforts should be made to restore damaged areas by the use
of trail associations, voluntary organizations, or tourist industry
licenses and fees.

Prayer: Lord, teach us to walk gently on this fragile planet.





Spirobolid Millipede, Narceus americanus

*photo credit)

May 25, 2008 Corpus Christi

The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there
are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share
in this one loaf.
(I Cor. 10:17)

On this feast of Corpus Christi we commemorate the sacramental
presence of the Lord in our midst. Truly we have consecrated bread
and wine, which were made by human hands. All too often we
undervalue the works of our own hands in favor of those works
springing from our head. But today our hands have a special place
along with those of people who through hard work and craft produce
the works of their hands for the benefit of all. We are all
contributing members of the mystical Body of Christ -- and this
requires cooperating hands as well as heads and hearts.

The Passover of the Lord and the protection given to the
wandering people of Israel are ingrained in our collective memory.
God takes care of the people of faith. God feeds the people with
manna and provides water in that vast and terrible desert. That
journey of faith is history (Deuteronomy 8) and foreshadows our own
journey of faith, and the need to trust in God to give us
nourishment in times of need. Thus we gather and eat together, but
we cannot go and do so when some of our brothers' and sisters'
people have overabundance and others are starving or without the
basics of life. We are called to share radically and to do so in
remembrance of the goodness of the Lord.

We are part of the body of Christ. Just as from Adam's side
came forth Eve, mother of the living; so from the side of the
dying Christ comes forth blood and water and this is the
sacramental sign of Eucharist and Baptism, our spiritual life
springing from his wounded side. We are part of the mystical Body
of Christ, the living body bringing forth the Word to all the
world. However, we know that the act of being participants in the
Body takes faith. What if we do not think we can make any unique
offering because we have little or nothing to offer? Faith in the
Body of Christ is believing that he is present, that we are present
with him, and that we can extend his body throughout the world.

Do we thank God for gifts given? The sin of over-affluence is
a gross insensitivity, ignoring that these are gifts of God and
should be treated as such. Gifts are not meant to be hoarded but
to be shared in a radical way. Abundance of gifts should open the
door to ample sharing with a wider world in need. Through word we
announce the gifts that are given; through action we help in the
distribution. Thus faith involves seeing a gift as such as well as
the possible benefits resulting from sharing this gift with those
who are in need. We show gratitude in extending the body of
Christ, and this we do both through word and deed.

Very bread, Good Shepherd, tend us; Jesu, of your love
befriend us; you refresh us, you defend us; your eternal goodness
send us, in the land of life to see. Sequence of Corpus Christi





Daniel and Rebecca Boone's Grave,
Frankfort (KY) Cemetery

*photo credit)

May 26, 2008 Visit Cemeteries

Memorial Day is more than a day of the Indianapolis auto races.
Today we remember those who have sacrificed their lives for their
country. We direct memorial events to our service people, but also
we turn attention to all the departed who have sacrificed for us in
some way. Gratitude is show by a visit to a neighboring cemetery.

Knowing that it is good to do -- The memorial visit is so
symbolically rich that we and others benefit even if we have no
immediate connections with the cemetery visited.

Resolving to remember -- Maybe we cannot travel to the family
cemetery today, but at least this is a good day to resolve to visit
it when time permits. The visit planned will prove to be more
enlightening and pleasant than is often anticipated, and that is
because the visit brings back such wonderful memories of the loved
ones whose remains are resting there.

Offering comforting words -- Quite often when visiting a
cemetery we have an opportunity to say a pleasant word to others
who are visiting even when striving not to be intrusive. Just an
exchanged smile or nod, a few words or a pleasant exchange could
make a difference by lifting the sadness of the unacquainted

Fulfilling promises -- Sometime near Memorial Day I strive to
place a bunch of daisies at the grave of my maternal grandmother.
She said if the relatives did no more than place a few daisies she
would be satisfied. I have bestowed this personal duty on a
younger cousin to carry on when I'm gone. Many Europeans consider
grave care as a major family obligation, though it has gone out of
fashion with many Americans. In parts of Europe, when a grave
ceases to be decorated, it may be declared abandoned and may be
reused and the bones placed in a special ossuary.

Respecting family roots -- Our roots go way back in our
history. It has taken a lot of sweat and worry and care to bring
us to where we are. We show our appreciation for those efforts
when we revisit a grave site and say a prayer for the repose of the
soul of the noble ancestor or friend buried there.

Accepting our own mortality -- No matter what you say, a visit
to a cemetery is a moment for reflection. Someday it will be my
turn for such a visit. For the very young this seems so remote
that it is hardly worth an added thought, but as we advance in age
the reality becomes more apparent with each personal new ache and
pain. Such cemetery visits are bittersweet but something that is
part of life. Learning to cope with death can become a family

Prayer: Lord teach us to remember sacred moments and people
in our lives. Help us to remember your sacrifice as well as that
of all who gave up their lives so that we might have a better
world. Let us appreciate the self-sacrifice of others.





Three Lakes: Whitmarsh, Brown, and Walker

*photo credit)

May 27, 2008 Eight Reasons for Reducing Lawns

Finicky neighbors will give you what appear at first to be good
reasons for mowing the lawn now. They include community tidiness
and well being, neighborhood rules and expectations, and the
effects of neighbors exercising together (though a riding mower is
hardly meant for physical exertion). At least, the opportunity for
full spectrum sunlight and fresh air makes the practice of mowing
beneficial. However, these lawn promoters dismiss or overlook some
good reasons why one ought to consider cutting back on lawn size:

One -- A "meadow" of uncut wildflowers and plants may be more
beautiful, and it takes far less attention and care once started.
True, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder;

Two -- The wildscape that is created from the lawn can be an
attracting haven and protective zone for wildlife and birds. The
manicured lawn, that symbol of old English aristocracy and wealth,
is replaced by a "wildscape," a symbol of a better understanding of
the Earth and its resources, as well as good land stewardship;

Three -- Grass lawns may take up to 18-20 gallons of water per
square foot per year -- if the local government even allows water
to be used on lawns in dry times. This periodic soaking is a
significant urban water use, which is not really necessary except
for exotic grasses that find it hard to flourish in a particular
climate and soil. Native plants used for ground cover take far
less water and are deep-rooted and hearty throughout dry summers;

Four -- One-seventh of the herbicides and pesticides in the
United States are used on domestic lawns, and sometimes these must
be applied with protective suits and respiratory masks. And this
says volumes about poisons being present where kids play, for
dangerous lawn chemical are stored in easily accessible places;

Five -- What is your lawn maintenance time worth? Why must
someone engage in hot weather in such a silly exercise as riding a
lawn mower? Millions of other things are more worthwhile;

Six -- Eliminating a lawn creates extra space for herbal plots,
flowerbeds, vegetable growing, compost bins, recreational areas,
private zones for rest and relaxation, bird feeders, and water
fountains and pools;

Seven -- Trees can be planted in place of lawn to shade the
yard and thus lower the temperature of grounds and house in summer
and to act as windbreaks for retention of heat in winter; and

Eight -- Caring for the freed lawn space causes far less noise
and air pollution than does the lawn, which requires "convenient"
motorized devices (lawn mowers and leaf blowers) to keep it
conventional and uniform.

Prayer: Lord, help us to use our greenspace well.





Sweet pea, Lathyrus sp.

*photo credit)

May 28, 2008 Destroy Chemical Weapons

Students of the First World War learn about stories of gassed
soldiers and gruesome tales of men gasping for breath in the
trenches on the Western Front. The many survivors with permanent
scars lived out their lives in pain and suffering. The cruelty of
chemical weapons has led to efforts to restrict and ban their use,
by nations during the last ninety years. However, chemical weapons
were manufactured by the United States through the first half of
the twentieth century, and thus our country has accumulated a vast
array of projectiles at various sites, some of which remain today.
Through treaty obligations the weapons were to be completely
eliminated by 2012 but that deadline is going to be missed.

I live fifteen miles downwind from one of the largest caches
of stored chemical weapons in the United States at the Bluegrass
Army Depot near Richmond, Kentucky. This site is within fifty
miles of a third of a million people and has been a major concern
for the past few decades. We are dutifully sent elaborate
calendars with evacuation routes and plans just in case something
terrible happens before or during the disposal process. Original
proposals to transport the aging weapons to another less populated
site were declared fraught with accident possibilities.
Incineration of the weapons was also considered but many voiced
concern about the safety of this process. Safer chemical methods
have been proposed and are now being brought to actuality.
However, with any method what does safety or super safety mean?
Some 99%+ safety is not enough; the method of disposal must
approach and come up to 100% -- and that is very difficult to
achieve. Although far behind schedule for disposal, the delays and
studies may prove beneficial -- we hope.

Ongoing inaction in disposal is not in the public interest,
for the risk continues to rise as weapons age and leaks are
possible. Recent containment methods require inserting each
leaking projectile into a larger-size leak-proof container -- but
this is no permanent solution. Any disposal method devised is
subject to human error even though some are safer and some less
costly. The dangers are before us and so escape routes should be
clearly marked and the nearby residents well aware that mishaps can
happen even in the disposal operation. The Environmental Impact
Statements for each disposal method give the public a general
knowledge of the reliability of the method selected for disposal of
the weapons. Citizens have a right to know what could possibly
happen in the disposal process, what end products will or could be
produced, and whether there will be side effects from escaping
materials. They also must know when the disposal process is
initiated, how well it operates, and whether any possible glitches
result, which may affect human health and safety. We must not
consider ourselves cursed by the presence of these weapons.

Prayer: Lord, protect us and those who are disposing of
chemical weapons. Help us rid the world of such devices.









Ruellia strepens

*photo credit)

May 29, 2008 Coal: Mountaintop Removal

And the mountains are brought low.

The cheap fuel that comes from our coal seams makes the cheap
electricity that we use -- but do we pay all the costs or are we
escaping from the environment-bearing hidden costs of broken
communities and ruined landscape? Hidden costs also apply to the
air pollution (particulates, mercury and heavy metals, sulfur
oxides, and carbon dioxide) that results from non-state-of-the-art
powerplants using that cheap coal.

Let's look first at the fuel extraction process. Deep mining
has required many workers, and more popular surface mining
operations use far fewer miners and more earth-moving machinery.
The landscape pays dearly; mountain tops are cut away in southern
West Virginia and parts of Kentucky and Virginia. Slice off the
mountain top and get to the exposed layers one after another.
Thousands of acres have been stripped of forested vegetation and
their topsoil pushed into the valleys while the coal was being
removed seam by seam. The quote from the prophets to fill the
valley for a new road has a happy ring, but this mining feat does
not. The filling of a thousand miles of streambeds leads to level
playing fields for whom? The players have moved out. Once-scenic
communities have been wiped out in such land-moving operations.

The mountains and their beauty, the land that formed the lives
and was the site of hamlets and berry patches and fishing places
and cemeteries, are gone. The land itself minus the coal is still
here, but not in the form we recognize and with the vegetative
cover that made it what it was in the past. People forget that
land is more than just a geographic location; its condition is
essential to a culture. By destroying the mountains, protective
cover, wildlife habitats and general landscape, one destroys the
will of a community to continue to exist. The happy marriage of
mountains and people has been shattered. No wonder, so many are
packing up and moving out. They leave when nothing remains but
often-disturbed cemeteries and a landscape they cannot recognize.

Efforts to stop mountaintop removal and its cheap tactic of
peeling off the layers of overburden to get at the rich seams of
coal have failed. Cheap coal can only be replaced ultimately by
safe and plentiful renewable energy sources. Mining regulations
never anticipated such gigantic operations, and the companies say
they will return the land not "to its proximate contour" as
required by law, but to something new: showcase prison sites, off-
road vehicle trails, etc. The valleys are filled, which means the
streams are eliminated and the water runoff is unpredictable. The
wildlife habitat is essentially destroyed and the protective cover
of trees is no more; the fragile understory cover is wiped away.
A culture is swept away and little remains. Bring on renewables!

Prayer: Lord teach us to be honest and tell the story of what
is happening to all in the name of cheap energy.







Kalm's St. Johnswort, Hypericum kalmianum

*photo credit)

May 30, 2008 Radical Peace and the Sacred Heart

My own peace I give you... (John 14:27a)

Today we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the
immense love that God gives us in the gift of the Prince of Peace.
The love of the Christ-gift motivates us, stirs us to respond and
leads us to also become peace-makers to others. Being overwhelmed
today by a bloody Iraq conflict and a so-called war on terrorism
disturbs that inner peace of a people through external acts of
violence. Are we tempted to return violence with further violence
or do we move to extend a peaceful hand to neighbors? Is it even
possible to talk about peace when taxpayers support the largest
military/industrial complex the world has ever known. We say
"peace," but we act as though war is inevitable and ever waging.
Let us search our hearts and find the discontinuity in what we
profess to believe and what we actually do as Americans.

If the heart of Christ is the source of peace, and if we as
loving members of the body of Christ constitute that heart in the
world around us, then we are moved to render that inner peace to
all the world. The present external conditions disturb us and move
us to deeper inner searching. A radical sense of peacemaking comes
from a radical sense of love. When we seek to imitate Jesus, the
source of peace, we are reminded of his command to love as he loves
-- and that is a big order. Current conflicts involve brothers and
sisters on every side; these folks need our love and care even
when in their desperation they sometimes exude threats and rage.

Love is shown in a million ways and so peacemaking is to be
expressed in many ways as well. Love is that gift from God that
must be freely received and welcomed. Likewise the peace within
when we allow that love to penetrate is also God's gift. But we
cannot contain or enclose it to the exclusion of others. The love
of God radiates peace and that is what Jesus tells us in his
farewell address (John 14). The commandment is to love as he has
loved us. The peace that radically springs from that love is the
all consuming fire of Jesus love. It is contagious; it passes
from one to another. We have a role to play; in showing gratitude
for this love we discover inner peace that becomes the foundation
for peacemaking. Then peace is not something we fashion in our own
unique way and through our separate efforts; rather peace is what
is already within breaking forth as we open ourselves to the
unfolding mystery of divine life.

If our homes are to be loving and peaceful, it is important
that we have pictures of the Sacred Heart (depicting the personal
love of God for us) enthroned in them. Obtain a Sacred Heart
picture and have this enthroned in your home. Jesus promised to
St. Margaret Mary that whoever places this picture in a prominent
place and honors it will have a peaceful home.

Prayer: Sacred Heart teach us to love with all our hearts and
in doing so to be peacemakers in this troubled world.






A mighty ant on the tip of a yucca blossom

*photo credit)


May 31, 2008 Visitation: The Magnificat

A number of us regard Mary's prayer at the Visitation as one of
the most revolutionary prayers in all of Scripture, and its
importance is recognized by its recitation each evening in the
official prayer of the Church.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord... The entire
being of Mary and of each of us and all creation manifests God's
majesty. We, along with her, give full assent -- a magnificat or
letting it be.

... and my spirit exalts in God my Savior; This is the
ultimate saving deed of the God who saves all of us in our troubled
and unworthy conditions.

... because God has looked on this lowly handmaid. Mary
recognizes her own station before God and yet knows she has a very
unique task to perform. We need to see the balance between our
lowliness and our exalted calling to assist others.

Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me
Mary is blessed, and recognizes God's blessing on her
and that this blessing is regarded by others in calling her
blessed. In realizing blessings to Mary we discover blessings to

... for the Almighty has done great things for me. This
applies to each of us as well. We can respond in freely spoken
word and freely performed deed. Mary's humility consists in the
greatness of God's gifts, not in what she has done, but in what God
has done for her. The more we recognize divine gifts given to us,
the more we are open to doing great things, and to seeing that God
has already done great things for, in, and through us.

Holy is God's name,.... All in God-fearing reverence shout
"holy," and the exaltation is also an openness to extend the glory
of that name.

Your mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear you.
And this mercy applies in all times and across the breadth of

You have shown the power of your arm,... Here is the first part
of the spiritual revolution, for God's is a spiritual power, not
measured in military muscle or corporate might, but in the realms
of the spirit.

You have routed the proud of heart. Victory will come with the
humble and not those who are proud.

You have pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the
. Mary is able to turn the tables on this world's order in
the assent to and then the birth of Christ. She nurtures him to be
who he is to become. Hers is a whispered wish, a telling of fact,
a song of praise of the God who does all and is in all. It is far
greater than the American Revolutionary War -- "The World turned
upside down," when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in 1781.

The hungry you have filled with good things, the rich sent
empty away.
Those in destitution are to be enabled to receive
sufficient amounts of the bare essentials needed for life. This
applies to all people seeking God's favor and especially to all of
threatened creation.

You have come to the help of Israel your servant, mindful of
your mercy
-- Mary comes to the help of her kinswoman Elizabeth
and extends the mercy of God in the good deed extended
instantaneously to her cousin. As a young lady she goes many miles
to aid that daughter of Israel who is to bring forth John the
Baptist. To aid one person is to aid the total people.

According to the promise made to our ancestors -- of your mercy
to Abraham and Sarah and their descendants forever.
We participate
in the covenant of God's love. We may say the "Hail Mary" many
times, but do we understand the power of these words? Be there,
Mary, at the hour of our death. Be with us in our historical
moment of faith, our moment of greatest need. Become our promise
and our fulfillment. Your Magnificat is a promise this will happen.


Copyright © 2008 Earth Healing, Inc.  All rights reserved.

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

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