Share your bread with the hungry

Helping others is getting a bad name in our country. You probably are thinking, “What the hell are you talking about?” But, really have you listened to the discourse on the news? The latest scary news is that if certain politicians are elected we’ll be subject to socialism.

I have to laugh when folks I know start railing about socialism. The roads we drive on are all publicly financed. Most of us have toilets that connect to sewer systems that are publicly financed. Many people fly around the country or the world and the runways and air traffic control itself is publicly financed. Income redistribution is occurring and has occurred for quite some time for the common good.

Media outlets, politicians and others would have you believe that socialism and totalitarian communism are the same thing. They’re not. Many countries including our own have limited forms of socialism that ensure that the most vulnerable are protected. We have Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schools and more that are financed by levying taxes. What’s changed in the past forty years is that the lions share of that burden has fallen on the middle class. The top earners and big business pay little or no taxes while enjoying all of the benefits that I’ve mentioned while the rest of us pick up the tab.

The media and politicians are quick to ask ‘how can we afford X social program?’, but never ask those same questions when starting another military intervention.  Over the weekend I had the chance to help bring some peace and love to our world and it involved self sacrifice and self giving to others and with others. I’ve found that I’m most content when I’m helping others. I’m not sure about others but helping is in my DNA and it elevates my spirit in more ways than one. Yesterday’s first reading at Mass iis one of my favorites and it connects with what I’ve been sharing. Sharing what you have with others is good for me and good for our world. Peace 🙂

Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday. – Isaiah 58: 7-10

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A day to remember

There is not a February 8th that goes by that I don’t remember graduating from the US Navy Hospital Corps School in Great Lakes. With that on my mind earlier today I drove to St. Bonaventure University with a load of groceries in the rear of my car. I was joining a group of Franciscans and other members of the St. Bonaventure University community to assemble food packages to be sent to the Arizona-Mexico border.

On my way to the campus my car started making some scary noises and lights appeared on the console to let me know that something was seriously wrong. I slowed down and drove along the shoulder of the road and arrived at the campus of St. Bonaventure and unloaded my groceries. Br. Joe Kotula, OFM drove me to a local repair shop where mechanics quickly determined that my car needed a new wheel bearing. Joe drove us back to the campus and when we arrived we were joined by dozens of volunteers who took hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars worth of energy bars, meat sticks, and other snacks and placed them in large plastic bags along with a greeting in Spanish and English.  Each note was signed by a volunteer who packed the bags. In all three-hundred-fifty-two plastic bags were filled with snacks and other goodies. They filled 15 shipping boxes and were shipped to Elfrida, AZ. There these care packages will be taken to the US – Mexican border and given to migrants who need some love and care.

This wonderful venture was inspired by Br. Joe who recently returned from three weeks that he spent with the Franciscan Intentional Community in Elfrida who make regular trips to the border to help migrants and recent immigrants on both sides of the border. Before we started packing and after we were through Br. Joe shared his personal journey to the border along with great photographs of the people he met, the conditions he observed and the thirty foot high border wall which is being constructed along our southern border to keep immigrants out. In some places the border wall is topped with concertina wire designed to seriously injure anyone who would attempt to scale and climb over the wall.  Joe’s voice was choked with emotion as he described the experiences he had on both sides of the border and of the horrific plight that these migrants face and the reasons that they are gathering at our border.

As I helped pack bags and worked in assembly line fashion with the dozens of volunteers my eyes filled with tears and I knew that we were truly doing God’s work. Immigration is a serious problem. That’s for sure but there must be a more humane way to deal with it. One of the stories that Br. Joe shared was of an migrant boy who threw stones over the wall and how one of the border guards killed the boy with his weapon. The guard shot through the wall into Mexico and after killing the boy refilled his weapon and shot the dead person some more. What motivates a person to do that? The boy was wrong. He should not have thrown stones over the wall, but does it justify murder in cold blood?

For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever. — Jeremiah 7:5-7

I hope that our efforts with BonaResponds today helped to atone for the way we are currently treating the aliens in our midst.

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Caroline Martha Owens

Caroline was born on this day 18th day of January in 1898. She was the daughter of Welsh immigrants who came to this country seeking a better life. Her mother was from Bangor and her father from the Island of Anglesey. She used to tell me about this when I was a little boy sitting on her lap. She was my grandmother and I can still hear her voice and today I sense her presence even more. She died thirty years ago but her memory lives on with me and and her other grandchildren.

Her father was a share cropper. Neither of her parents spoke English very well. Her dad’s nickname was ‘DickShe.’ He got that moniker because someone who came to the farm looking for him asked my great-grandmother of his whereabouts and she replied, “Dick she’s in the barn.” Her mother was the daughter of a Welsh banker I was told but I don’t know what if any other work she did after coming to America. Caroline was the youngest of seven children. Caroline went to school and made it to the sixth grade. Despite her lack of formal education she read very well up until the time that macular degeneration took away her sight. She married at seventeen and had five children, three of whom lived to adulthood. She used to say rather proudly, “I’ve had all the deadly diseases and five children.” We used to chuckle about how she lumped the children in with the deadly diseases.

She was an accomplished baker and my favorite treat was her fried cakes and filled cookies. I lived with her for four years in my twenties. We had a great time in those years. She lived six years after I married and moved into our own home. She was great grandma to our children. She taught our son how to count in Welsh and say some other Welsh phrases. She taught our daughter some limericks and enjoyed hearing her say, “oh shit.” Happy Birthday Grandma! I love you.

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Blue Cross Arena Hoops Classic

Tonight I’ll be joining my wife, son and grandson at the Roc City Hoops Classic. The matchup features the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. The Bonnies have been hot lately winning 10 of their last eleven games. We are season ticket holders and longtime St. Bonaventure fans. As I look forward to tonight’s game I thought of a night nearly thirty-nine years ago when I accompanied this lovely young lady to our first date which was a St. Bonaventure vs. Duquesne game. Now almost four decades later we’re going to be joining our son and grandson at the game.

It’s a new year and a new decade filled with lots of promise. While the outcome is far from certain there is one thing for sure and that is gratitude for this amazing journey of life. Bonaventure literally means “The Good Journey,” and our lives have certainly been that. The names change from year to year but the men in brown and white still exemplify the spirit of this small Franciscan University on the banks of the Allegany River that continues to draw a crowd at larger venues like Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.

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Finding wholeness and holiness from a cranky and beautiful woman

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have now read three of her books this summer. She’s an incredible author who really speaks to me and my understanding of God and creation. She has forced me out of some of my comfort zones and challenged me to think in new ways. I recommend her to anyone. There will be some who will be put off by her profanity. As Mark Twain proclaimed, “profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” In that spirit Nadia Bolz-Weber’s writing is a call to conversion for those of us more at home with profanity than pious ‘church speak.’

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What we don’t know can hurt us

A friend who is suffering with a bout of poison ivy shared information about the increased prevalence of poison ivy in our environment and the increased toxicity of the plant. This is brought on by increased levels of CO2 in our atmosphere. The increase in CO2 is directly related to climate change. Be sure to read more about it here from The Druids Garden.

Recently our daughter and our grandson had a bout with hand foot and mouth disease. It’s a viral infection common in young children. Our daughter’s experience was more acute and she was unable eat for a number of days as her mouth and throat were affected. There is a relationship between temperature and humidity which makes hand foot and mouth disease more common.

Yesterday we had the pleasure of spending an afternoon and early evening as guests of our son and his family on the shores of Conesus Lake. There was a lot of algae and ‘seaweed’ in the lake that was churned up by the increased number of boaters. I learned that the increase in boaters is due to the rising lake level on nearby Lake Ontario which has made it difficult for boaters to dock and launch their small craft. These recreational boaters are coming to Conesus because they can launch their boats without difficulty.

Most people think of addiction to alcohol or other narcotics. Most people have never thought of our over reliance on fossil fuels which are exacerbating this climate change as addiction. In the late 19th century a famous American politician gave a speech about mankind being crucified on a cross of gold. I wonder how many consider that we are crucifying mankind on a cross of fossil fuels which is raising the water levels of lakes and oceans. It’s harming our environment and increasing the spread of disease. Meanwhile know nothing and do nothing politicians wring their hands and cry that we cannot harm our economy by taking reasonable action to prevent this debacle. The economy will be a moot point when the world becomes uninhabitable. Even the oligarchs who profit from the addiction will lose their livelihoods and lives.

Ignorance is not bliss. We will follow the dinosaurs into extinction. Earth will survive but we won’t.

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Take a deep breath and release

With those words my prostate cancer surgeon released me from life with a catheter. I’m grateful that I’m no longer tethered. I was learning to get along with these extras. They provided the necessary bridge to health after the robotic prostatectomy. The doctor gave me an excellent pathology report too. Only twenty percent of my prostate had cancer cells. I’m not sure what all that means in the long term but I’m very grateful for now.

Yesterday I began the next phase of my journey to health post prostate. Following the cystogram and catheter removal I donned my maximum absorbency underwear. Now, I’m on the same page as grandson. I have a temporary continence problem. I began the prescribed Kegel exercises in earnest as my wife drove us home. Our first stop was lunch at Tim Horton’s. I opened the passenger side door and stepped out into the warm afternoon air and then ‘whoosh.’ Oops, I forgot for a split second that I don’t have bladder control. That was my first epiphany. I smiled and shared the discovery with my wife. I’m reminded of the Saturday Night Live skit ‘Oops I Crapped my Pants.’

Once we got home I went for a walk enjoying my new freedom. The days and weeks ahead will have their challenges as I do the Kegel exercises and retrain my bladder muscles. It’s great to be alive and enjoy the rest of summer.

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