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Weekly essays from Al Fritsch, SJ to focus on ways to heal our wounded Earth


January 2024


Coping with Weather Extremes


Be aware. As I was writing this essay Hurricane Lee was coming across the Atlantic Ocean and at one point it was listed as a category 5 hurricane. Climate change issues and their frequency are becoming very important and quite evident to most of us, but not all. Some are simply unaware or uninterested about major weather events occurring around them, yet understanding where the storms are and where they're going can make severe weather much less stressful.


A second point is advance preparation - thinking about where you will take shelter, making sure you have several ways to get weather warnings and information, and having a plan for you and your family – can help reduce your fear and stress levels when storms are in the area. You should always keep a stock of basic items in your car and an evacuation plan to reach safety. This could include items such as candles, matches in a waterproof container, a first aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, at least a several-day supply of non-perishable food, a knife, a hand-crank or battery-operated radio and an extra set of clothes, appropriate to the weather.


Other items such as important papers and medicines should be ready so that within less than five minutes you can grab them and go, and that should apply to everyone in a family. This is a big challenge, especially when you have young ones, but it is critical to plan ahead. Of course it would be nice to also have water and a potty and several other items not absolutely needed for the start, but at least having enough gasoline to drive away is important. I lived for 18 years near the Bluegrass Army Depot (the largest depot of military chemical weapons in the world), and to mitigate fear the government would yearly send us an evacuation route in case of emergency. Some kind of preparation is very important.


Being willing to help others when these episodes occur is also important. If something would have happened in those 18 years I would have had to slip by the old folk's home and help them as best I could, because they would be in great need of getting their people to higher ground or get them completely out of the area. We have to be psychologically prepared for such events and understand that their frequency is increasing because of climate change. There were 40 category 5 hurricanes in the last century and yet 1/5th of them occurred in the last seven years. We have to do the best we can and also be willing to help others do the same.


Be prepared in advance. If in a hurricane zone, plan potential evacuation routes ahead of hurricane season, and if in danger of winter storms, think about what supplies you'd need on hand if you were to be snowed in for days without power. Formulate a strategy of staying in contact should your area lose power, internet or cellular service. And last of all, strive to be as positive as possible about the conditions that we are in today. Let's pray to God that we can be helped and trust in the Lord to see us through.

Sacrifice for Others


Sacrifice is a rite in which we offer something to the Lord in order to create, maintain, or restore the correct relationship to the sacred order. The fatted calf or the first fruits - these were examples in the Old Testament which show sacrifice in the full sense. In the New Testament, Christ asked each of his apostles (and us) to do what he did, and therefore work with and for other people. But it's deeper than just service, and that is to give not only from our excess, but also from our own most basic resources when it is needed by others. So the need for sacrifice comes at different times and at different levels.


We all know that in extraordinary circumstances sacrifice may be required. For example, if a shark approaches someone in the water, we hope the lifeguard would go in and rescue them. In that case there's a risk, but also an action someone is willing to do for the sake of another, all coming in an unexpected instant. A spontaneous action is one kind, but examples of self-sacrifice are all around us. A mother or father gives up their career to stay home and take care of family. Teachers give their time and energy, and many caregivers give so much of themselves to others. Children may sacrifice their own wants and desires to take care of their aging parents later in life. Sacrifices may be asked of all of us at different times.


Soldiers are asked to lay down their lives for country; veterans certainly know what it means to sacrifice. It's easy to forget that sometimes sacrifice is doing something for another even at a high cost. Sacrifices can be both positive and in some cases negative. Let's take the case of someone who wants to profit from their land, even though it would damage it's fertility by doing so. Sacrificing fertility for gain may seem good, but perhaps not as good as protecting the land. So in that sense it is negative, something where sacrifice was not necessary in the first place. Someone's health or safety may be at risk in some instances where more thought would suggest caution, as with emergencies or when we have to respond instantly.


Sacrifice is so common in family life that we often don't even notice it. Sacrifice can be active, as in doing something against your own inclination in order to please someone you love, or passive, not doing something that you'd like to do. It may seem costly at times, but sacrifice is a gift with many rewards. In relationships, mutual love grows as we serve and sacrifice for each other. Still, sacrifices are hard to specify because they are unique to all person and their circumstances. Christ says that what you do to the least my brothers, you also do to me, and giving the necessities and essentials of life to others requires sacrifice. Are we aware of all the times and places where we need to do something for others? That question has no easy answer, but it's one we should ask ourselves. In many ways we are called to be sacrificial people.


In conclusion, we should pray for awareness of the sacrifices asked of us, and be willing and have the courage to answer and respond. We also can ask and encourage others to do the same when we see sacrifices required in their lives. We may be the ones who trigger them to do it. We can be thankful for the opportunity to do something for another person, even though it challenges us in a very special way. We must open ourselves to the mystery of sacrifice.

Controversy: Right or Wrong


Many people are involved in controversy today; our social media is filled with strongly polarized opinions and high emotions. Several people have asked me why I'm not involved in some of the major controversies today, such as gender issues or same-sex marriage and others. We focus mainly on ecology, but that doesn't mean we are uninvolved as far as controversy goes. In fact, there are several controversies I'm deeply involved in and that includes fossil fuels and moving as fast as we can to a renewable energy economy. And this is, of course, controversial. It's just that we don't get involved in every issue that comes along.


Some people will say "I'd like to know what your opinion is on this issue." I respond, "Well, it's nice to think about, but I don't have a deep opinion on some of those things and it simply takes a lot to get involved." We accept the fact that in this world some controversies will involve us, and we put as much into them as we are able. This takes our talent, our energy, and our personal dedication to get involved, but sometimes we have to do it. This is a part of Earthhealing, and we try to increase awareness of important issues - to criticize ideas, not individuals. But even controversies change, over time.


An example I often use is that of smoking. In the 1980s it was considered that individuals had the right to smoke or not, and only in the 1990s did it become evident that a second party was involved, that is, the non-smoker in the vicinity of the smoke. In this case personal rights became more nuanced and changed the very discussion. The controversy was allowed to open up and develop over a period of time. We learned from the conflict.


There are those who would differ with our approach to ecological issues. One, whom I've talked to and argued with for over 25 years, is very authoritarian in his approach. It's of interest that even though we've differed on many issues, we never once got mad at each other. We attacked the ideas and not each other, and we can laugh about things now. This means that the attitude we take in relation to controversy is very important. We have to be fair with others and non-threatening in our approach. We must proceed deliberately and be clear, and we must listen respectfully, without interrupting the other party.


We must commit to learning, not debating, and avoid blame, speculation, and inflammatory language. We shouldn't dwell on controversy or take opposing views personally, but steer conversation to higher ground. And pray for the ability to say the right thing and say it in such a way that helps others to understand. We can encourage others to do the same thing and approach controversy within a framework of common good for everyone. There's so much controversy out there, too much really, and seeking common ground with those who have opposing views can lift us all up eventually. We have to know where we stand. We have to know the issue. We must present ourselves in some fashion that others can profit from, and do so in such a way that the issue itself becomes more clarified over time. Controversy never stands alone.

Vibrations - Helpful or Harmful


Earthquakes occur at all times; in fact, most are small ones. Almost every day we have some examples of these and in rare cases, very large ones such as the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Morocco earlier this year, killing thousands of people. An understanding of vibrations and waves is essential to understanding our physical world, and much of what we see and hear is only possible because of them. A vibration is a periodic wiggle in time, and a periodic wiggle in both space and time is a wave, extending from one place to another. There's actually a wave from the Big Bang, nearly 14 billion years ago that continues on through time.


And so vibrations are natural and present in our world. People also create vibrations and in this congested world we are able, because of the mechanisms that we have made, to amplify these very vibrations. We spoke about rest, silence and noise in a previous essay, but this goes way beyond that to the extreme that there really is no complete rest or cessation of vibration. We have to live with what is present in a congested world, including traffic and jackhammers and other unpleasant sounds around us. All creation vibrates.


In my early life I was baptized in St. Patrick's Church in Maysville, which had the largest bell in Kentucky. They tried to ring it a few times and decided it would ruin the limestone foundation of the church itself, and so they had to tone it down. Later, I visited a monastery in Crestone Colorado with a bell constantly ringing to announce their services. I noticed that the walls and beams had cracks in them, and therefore told them that this bell you're ringing is too loud and the vibration is actually damaging the structure itself. We need to realize that vibrations are both natural and also human made, and human made ones need moderation and sensitivity to the time, place and resources.


We don't scream and yell in a closed room and therefore ruin our ears, but try to make a song that people will like and still be moderate in its approach. Recently, after two nights of earth-shaking dancing at Taylor Swift's "Eras" tour concert in Seattle, enthusiastic fans caused seismic activity equivalent of a 2.3 magnitude earthquake, according to seismologist Jackie Caplan-Auerbach. So earthquakes can be made by human beings, beyond even bells or rowdy fans to such activities as fracking in sensitive soils. We must be careful and realize that the world is delicate and that we can create our own vibrations.


We also create minor vibrations that we don't think about too often, and that is when we talk to God. This time the talk is not loud, it's not a thunder clap or a huge sea roaring around us, but as it was said to Ezekiel after a wind, an earthquake and a fire, it came in a whisper requiring us to listen closely. For God to talk to each of us we have to listen to all of nature and its vibrations. In Isaiah it's said that the mountains will burst into song and the trees clap their hands. There is a special truth to this - they have a vibrational celebration of their own, which as human beings tuned in to the creation we can celebrate.


In conclusion, we have to face the fact that we will continue to have earthquakes and tornadoes and sounds that come roaring in from the ocean. These are to be expected and we should be positive and listen and hear, and concentrate and feel, realizing that in a world with magnificent ups, we must also learn to cope with its downs. In our vibrational world we can add to and create the positive, and accept that this makes us who we are; and so we live.

Earthhealing, Inc.

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