Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Perceptions


I was taking part in a discussion about Catholic school experiences. My fellow discussers were telling "horror" stories and generally mocking their experiences. I was pointing out all the positive experiences and effects my 12 years of Catholic schooling had given me.

It hit me that our differing perceptions were in their own ways true, but that our "truths" were formed by what we chose to remember.

As I put it elsewhere: One thing I've learned is that how we perceive something depends in large part on how we choose to perceive it.

I thought of St. Francis and lepers.

When he was young, he abhorred lepers, as did many people in his society. They were ugly, deformed, diseased. They had open wounds. They were missing body parts. They were believed to be highly contagious. There were often dirty and smelled. They were treated as outcasts, as vile sinners.

But when he learned to look with the eyes of faith, he saw Christ in them. They were beautiful. They were to be loved.

The lepers had not changed. Francis did.

In the same way, saints over the years perceived the beauty in others the world often regarded negatively. Mother Teresa. Catherine Doherty. Dorothy Day. Father Damian. Peter Claver.

I think of so many good people today who run homeless shelters, health clinics, hospices, who work with the physically and mentally and spiritually ill.

These holy people are not blind. They see the sicknesses, the deformities, the sins. But they choose to focus on what is good and beautiful.

They choose to focus on Jesus in others.

I pray that I might find the strength to choose to see what they see.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gospel haiku


On twitter, I encountered Matt Gutting, who writes what he calls "Gospel haiku." The haiku are like so many of the other subject haiku  - carku, catku, Red Neck haiku, etc. - they are not true haiku in the classic sense, but that does not mean they are not poetry.

Some of Gutting's efforts -

John told off Herod;
His wife had the Baptist killed.
Such courage, in me?

Five foolish virgins,
Buying oil, missed the Bridegroom:
Are my flasks empty?

"You must be prepared:
He will come, unexpected."
Help me stay awake!  

He also writes Hobbit Haiku and Summa Haiku.

Inspired by his Gospel Haiku, I've started trying my hand:

Doers of the word
and not only hearers is
what we're called to be

(based on today's readings)

Peter joins the Lord
walking upon the water
gets sinking feeling

Let's see if I can keep this up. Heck, I've written more than 200 slug haiku!

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Avoid bottled water (A concern for Franciscans and all people of faith)


I submitted the following for our Fraternity newsletter -

Pope Francis has called us all to respect the environment. He even set aside September 1 as “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.”
As Franciscans, we have a special concern for all of creation.

One of the simple, practical ways to help protect creation is to stop buying and using bottled water.
There are many reasons to avoid bottled water.

First, the bottles are produced from petroleum. The production and transportation of bottled water consumes millions of gallons of oil annually. In addition, it has been estimated that it takes 2,000 times the energy to produce bottled water than it does to produce a comparable amount of tap water.
Although many of us try to recycle, the truth is that not everyone can do so or does, and not all those bottles can be recycled anyway. As a result, billions of pounds of plastic bottles are added to landfills each year.

Depending on the quality of the bottles, many plastic bottles leech chemicals into the water they contain. Those chemicals have been linked to all sorts of disorders, including cancer, diabetes, weight gain, and infertility. Plus, government regulations that cover municipal water do not cover bottled water. Tests of bottled water have sometimes shown that bottled water actually contains more pollutants than does municipal water.
Bottled water is sometimes just tap municipal water that may have – though not always - gone through an extra step of filtering,  but then is sold for many times the actual cost of the water.  For us in Rochester, this seems especially unnecessary as our tap water has been judged as among the best in the country.

Some of that bottled water comes from companies based in drought regions – such as California – thus helping to add to the droughts.  In some places, the companies throw their economic weight around to make sure they get more of the water to sell, depleting the supply for the local residents.
What can we do?

If concerned about water quality, buy a water filter for your tap, or buy one of those pitchers that can filter. It’s actually cheaper than buying bottled water. Use a recyclable container for carrying your water; just fill it from your tap or filter unit.
This is just one way we can cherish Sister Water and to show our concern for the rest of creation that St. Francis so loved.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bias at the "Democrat and Chronicle"?



There have been complaints about the coverage - or lack thereof - in local media of the protests at Planned Parenthood August 22. In particular, people have complained about the lack of coverage by our local daily newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle.
 
When the newspaper was contacted, one person reported that he was told since the newspaper covered another protest at Planned Parenthood in July, there was no need to cover the more recent protest. 
 
Never mind that there have been a number of developments and revelations in the Planned Parenthood story since those July protests, or that the protests were organized by different groups and targeted different Planned Parenthood offices.
 
Never mind that the newspaper again and again covers repeated rallies/protests/marches focused on other issues.
 
This latest incident reminded me of the situation of the annual Good Friday Stations of the Cross for Life. The event has a consistent ethic of life focus, and so it addresses a number of life issues – economic justice, euthanasia, prisons, the death penalty, etc. But admittedly it does have a clear emphasis on abortion. It draws 150-200 participants every year.
 
 
When the newspaper has been contacted, spokespeople have given a number of reasons why the event was not cover THAT year. One of their most common claims was that they were not notified in time, but a number of march organizers and supporters pointed to numerous e-mails, notices, etc. well before the event.


The other main reason given is that there are a variety of marches on that day, and so coverage is rotated to be fair.

It is true that there other marches. There have been several large – comparable in size to the Life one – ecumenical marches in the City of Rochester, smaller ecumenical marches in a local suburb, several parish organized Stations, and an economic justice march organized by several social/economic justice inclined Catholic groups. I have no objection to their getting coverage, by the way; all are worthy efforts.

I decided to use the newspaper’s own online database to check frequency of coverage of the various Stations/marches on that day. I counted as coverage articles about an event, mention of an event in an article covering activities that day, or standalone photos.

If the newspaper’s claim is true, there should be an equitable distribution of coverage.

Between 2001 and 2015, the large city-based ecumenical marches (100 - 300 participants) got covered six times.

The smallest of the marches, the Catholic economic justice one, typically with 20-25 participants, got covered 4 times – consecutively no less (2002-05).

The suburban ecumenical march got covered twice, with 60 and 150 participants respectively.

The city Catholic parishes’ marches (no numbers given, but small size implied) got covered twice.

And the Life march, with, remember, 150-200 participants every year, got covered once – a single sentence in a broader article about one of the city ecumenical marches.

Rotating coverage? Fair coverage?
 
Unless I missed any articles/photos, the evidence counters such claims.

In fact, it suggests an anti-prolife bias.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, August 22, 2015

No Fraternity Office


Our Fraternity Council met yesterday, and per my desire, I was not nominated for any office in the Fraternity, other than Council.

In asking if I'd reconsider for Vice Minister, a couple of people said it did not involve a lot of work, but I noted that work was not the reason I did not want to serve in that or any other office. Indeed, I pointed out that I had volunteered to read ahead and prepare study questions for the new formation book we will be using this year.

Later, the Good Looking One asked why I did not want to be in a Fraternity office.

Several reasons.

First, I am not very Franciscan, at least not in comparison with many others in the Fraternity. I tend to be argumentative, confrontational, sarcastic, resentful, and so on - all sorts of internal violence. I am also incredibly impatient - and that sometimes comes across in my words and actions toward other people in the Fraternity. I need to get my own house in order before I become an example or model for others.

Second, my spiritual life is largely surface and inconsistent. I go through the motions, but I haven't advanced much beyond externals. And beneath that surface is a lazy, sinful nature.

Third, my ego would like an office.

Fourthly, I am not a people person, especially in comparison with many of the good folks in the Fraternity. There are times when I don't even like to be around people - I have avoided places or activities simply because there are a lot of people.

Those are my four main reasons.

A more twisted reason for not wanting to be Vice Minister was when I was on the Library Board I was elected Vice President, then the President died mid year and I was suddenly the President. I served out his term, got reelected, and hated it the entire time. I don't want to take the chance of anything happening to our current and likely to be reelected Minister, who is not in the best of health!

I am content to be useful - to unlock and open doors, to help people into the building for meetings, to run errands, to provide music. As I had joked, if one of the offices was Porter or Doorkeeper, I'd be willing to serve in that position.

All this means is a reprieve for three years. Maybe I'll be better prepared or more spiritually mature at the time of the next election.

Pax et bonum

Friday, August 21, 2015

So, what's wrong with this blog


I was thinking about  that competition for Catholic blogs. This blog wouldn't have a chance even if nominated, so I'm not bent out of shape over that.

But it got me thinking about the nature of this bog.

Or lack thereof.

Beyond the infrequency of posts, I think that's one of the problems with this blog - it has no
"nature," no character, no consistency. Sometimes it's a diary. Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes it deals with issues. Sometimes it's political.

The blogs that make it have a clear focus, a clear voice. This blog does not.

My old blog was closer to having that character. It was not the most popular blog - but it did generate discussion and debate, and drew five times more visitors. I stopped that blog because I was afraid that it would cause problems at work - and started this one with greater anonymity (so the visitor drop made sense!). But that older blog also had a more sarcastic, combative edge, and as a Franciscan I was trying to get away from that.

I just haven't found my Franciscan voice yet.

Sort of parallels my writing inconsistency - I'm a poet. No, I'm a playwright. No, I should write fiction. What about horror? Oooo, mysteries.

So maybe my problem is partly due to me not knowing who I really am.

Hey, you're 60. Figure it out!

And here we have one of my diary type posts.

Sigh.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

More on the Fraternity (Added content)


Well, I got the call. A message on the machine.

I've been suggested for either Secretary or Vice Minister in the upcoming elections. I don't know if I'm still suggested for Council - only those offices were mentioned.

Still mulling.

Secretary? Given my disorganized ways?

Vice Minister? Knowing the Minister will likely be up for her second term, and thus given the two-term limit would mean there's a good chance I'd be up for Minister in three years?

Sigh.

I did not call back. We have a Council meeting Friday.

Still mulling.

Later ...

Got an e-mail after the call. Part of it read:

"Have you been thinking about the other nominations?
Vice minister, treasurer,secretary,
Counseled ."


I responded:

"My basic attitude has not changed.
 
There are better people for each of the offices than I - especially when it comes to our current Secretary and Vice Minister. There are people within the Fraternity who have the practical skills and the spiritual depth.
 
My preference would be to hold no office - unless we could come up with a "Porter" or "Doorkeeper" position!
 
That said, I will abide by whatever the Spirit and the Fraternity decide."

To which she gave a response that sounded like maybe they wouldn't nominate me - or just have me as the required second candidate put up to make the election of the main candidate legit.

Hey - maybe it worked! 

Pax et bonum