View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Not a prayer

My first thought when I read about the complaint against the nearby Town of Greece (NY)because the Town Board meeting began with a prayer was that God was getting back at Greece what it had been doing to take over the public access channel. (I know, I’ll probably earn a complaint from someone for that.)

My second thought was, wait a minute, why is this Suburb of Brighton resident getting the ACLU after westside Greece? (Dang Eastsider!).

After a moment of prayerful (ahem) thought, I had to concede she had a point – if Greece does indeed only feature Christian prayers.

It is apparently one of only four towns in Monroe County where they have prayers to begin their meetings, and Gates (my town) is the only one with a moment of silence.

The pieces in the Gates Chili Post about Nancy Braiman’s crusade include explanations from Greece officials that they rotate the prayers among clergy from Greece churches, but that there are no synagogues and mosques in Greece so they can’t have representatives of those faiths.

Hmm. I bet they could find representatives of the Jewish and Muslim faiths if they tried. Oh, and Hindus, Wiccans, Baha’is, Santerians, Shintoists, Jains. Sikhs, Yankee fans (devil worshippers!), and others.

They could even get an agnostic to lead them in a moment of confusion.

Here in Gates, we take kind of a middle position with our moment of silence (referred to as a “silent prayer”). As Supervisor Esposito notes, no one is forced to take part in it.

Makes sense. It might be a reasonable compromise if Greece does not go for the all-inclusive approach.

Besides, I suspect in some towns – with and without official prayers - the people at the meetings are already doing some heavy duty praying as they listen to their town leaders in action.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Corn

George had a corn.

It was on the little toe of his left foot.

It wasn't a big one, but it did occasionally hurt if he bumped it. And it didn't look nice. He studied it sometimes when getting dressed. He hoped his wife didn't notice it.

He was sometimes troubled by sciatica, arthritis in his hands, a tooth that kept flaring up, but for some reason the corn kept most of his attention.

Maybe it was the stories he'd heard as a boy from his dad about a corn that was always bothering him.

He talked about the corn with some friends. Dick told a horror story of an uncle who had a corn that got so big he had to have surgery. And Don warned that corns can spread to other toes, your hands, even your face, or maybe to internal organs and bones. He advised George to get rid of it immediately, no matter what it took.

Joe pointed out that a corn is usually just a callus and not something to worry about for most people. He said if George was concerned he should just check with his doctor.

George ignored Joe. The other's horror stories had grabbed his attention.

Besides, he didn't like doctors. Didn't trust them. Bunch of know-it-alls, like Joe and his wife Valerie.

George studied the corn that night. Was it bigger?

The next day he went to the drug store and got some medicines. He tried several over the next few days. He kept studying the corn. Sometimes he'd even take his shoes off at work when no one was watching.

The corn was not getting smaller. It looked like it was getting bigger. He was sure of it.

The medicines were not working fast enough.

Don had suggested cutting it off.

George decided that was the only solution.

The corn was hard to see. It took several attempts, and some blood, but he got it.

Over the next few days, he watched as the cut got red and infected. Soon the entire toe was red.

He limped into his doctor's office. He made up a story about cutting the toe on nail that was sticking up. He was too embarrassed to tell the truth.

The doctor was alarmed. The infection was spreading rapidly. He prescribed antiobiotics.

George took the antibiotics. He reacted negatively to them. He developed a fever. The infection continued to spread.

About a week later, George was lying awake in bed in agony. His wife was concerned. She called an ambulance. He was rushed to the hospital.

The infection had spread into his foot. Doctors debated possible treatments. They said the situation was serious. If the infection continued to spread, it could mean amputation, and the possible threat of death.

As George lay in the bed, he wondered for a moment what he had done to deserve this. Could he have done things better? Maybe Joe had been right.

Or maybe that was just the fever talking.

Yes, the fever.

He was certain of one thing: It was the corn's fault.

The above story is fiction.

Any comparisons of the corn to Saddam Hussein and Iraq is purely coincidental.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Modern math

From A Secular Franciscan Life -

Teaching Math In 1960

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In 1970

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In 1980

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

Teaching Math In 1990

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math In 2000

A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.)

Teaching Math In 2006

Un ranchero vende una carretera de madera para $100. El cuesto de la produccion era $80. Cuantos tortillas se puede comprar?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

With charity toward all

Given the consistently negative, critical and uncharitable personal comments by some others about folks in the church they don't like - with my own bishop, Bishop Clark, and diocesan officials being frequent targets - I thought I'd cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1933 This same duty extends to those who think or act differently from us. the teaching of Christ goes so far as to require the forgiveness of offenses. He extends the commandment of love, which is that of the New Law, to all enemies.39 Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is incompatible with hatred of one's enemy as a person, but not with hatred of the evil that he does as an enemy.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Thank you, Dr. King

When we bought our house in Gates in 1994, we got a surprise.

The deed said that the house could not be sold to African Americans.

Our lawyer pointed out that a number of older deeds did contain provisions like that, but that civil rights laws and court rulings had long since voided such restrictions.

But it still remains in the original deed, a reminder of a darker time in our history.

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for bringing some light into our darkness. He fought - through nonviolence - to overcome racism and to promote social justice for people of all races in this country. He was jailed, his life and family threatened, he was dogged by the FBI, and ultimately he sacrificed his life in the name of that fight.

He deserves to be honored.

So do all the other people in this country who have fought to overcome prejudice.

We have made progress.

Jesse Jackson made serious runs for the Democratic Party nomination back in 2004 and 2008, and one of the leading contenders for the 2008 Democratic Party nomination in 2008 - at least in this early phase of the race - is Barack Obama, and his race is never cited.

In 1960, John Kennedy was opposed by some folks in his quest for the presidency just because he was Catholic. Now the only times Catholic politicians face opposition because of their religion is when fellow Catholics protest because the politicians go against church teachings on issues like abortion.

I remember in 1984 even some long-time Democrats refused to vote for the Mondale-Ferraro ticket because of they could not accept the idea of a woman president or vice president. Now we have two women - Nancy Pelosi and Condoleezza Rice - in direct line for the presidency under the succession rules, and Hilary Clinton is a leading candidate for the 2008 Democratic Party nomination (opponents hold other issues against her, not her gender).

We are not perfect. Racism still exists. There are still social inequities. There are still class and economic divides.

Indeed, there is now a prejudice against Muslims, or anyone "tainted" by the Muslim label (some right-wing folks are trying to swift boat Obama, for example, by saying that although he is outspoken about his Christian beliefs and is a regular churchgoer, he, gasp, attended a Muslim school for a short time as a child and that his father - who deserted the family when Obama was 2 - may have been Muslim.)

Still, we are better off now than we were when King challenged us to make his dream a reality.

I am grateful for that.

Thank you, Dr. King.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Iraq conflict is not a just war

At a secular blog I take part in, the issue of Iraq and just war came up. Someone asked what just war is. This is what I responded:

Just war is a theological/ethical idea.

Basically, what it says is that if all other reasonable means have been tried, and if the resulting good is greater than the resulting harm, and if proportionate means are used, and if it is fought only until the specific goal is achieved, then a war might be just.

Phew. That's a lot to swallow.

Try this.

It is wrong to cut off a person's hand. But if that hand has gangrene, there is no way to stop its spread, and the person's life is in real danger, then cuttting it off is justified. The good - saving the person's life - outweighs the bad - the person losing a hand.

But cutting off the entire arm would be wrong - unless there is no other way. Cutting off a leg just to be sure would be wrong. and so on.

When it comes to killing, a police officer just shootng a person is wrong. But if there is an immediate danger to other lives, and there is no other way to stop the person from seriously hurting or killing others, then the officer is justified in shooting.

But if he shoots the person 30 times when he didn't have to, or tortures the person, etc, then it would be wrong.

As for war, if all means have been tried to end a serious problem, or if a nation is attacked, then war can be justified. (When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, for example.)

But the war must be fought with a clear goal, and the resulting harm must not be greater than the harm that might have been occurred if we had not fought.

The first Gulf War could be considered just. Iraq invaded a country and refused to leave despite international demands and appeals, so a coalition invaded and drove Iraq out, then stopped. The goal - freeing an invaded country - had been achieved.

I think most ethicists and theologians would agree that this current conflict in Iraq does not meet the cirteria for a just war.

And there are folks who say war is never justified, but that's another discussion.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Deacon update

I met with the canon lawyer.

His initial reaction was that it did not sound too bad, but that he needed to do some more research and to consult with another canon lawyer.

And I have to write up a summary of the events.

There is hope.

Amazing how stupid decisions can come back to bite us.

Thanks for all the prayers, by the way.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

St. Juliana of Mt. Cornillon

I have my new saint for the year thanks to Moneybags: St. Juliana of Mt. Cornillon.

After a year with a familiar saint with whom I have many connections _ St. Joseph - my initial reaction was WHO?

Ah, but then I looked her up.

St. Juliana is also known as Juliana of Cornillon and Juliana of Liege. She was born in what is now Belgium in 1192 and died in 1258. Her Feast Day is April 6.

She received visions from Christ, who pointed out that there was no feast in honour of the Blessed Sacrament. Based on this, she promoted the addition of what became the feast of Corpus Christi.

After her death, the feastday of Corpus Christi was accepted by the Church. Pope Urban IV commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the office of the feastday. Aquinas's composition included such hymns as "Lauda Sion", the "Pange Lingua", the "O Salutaris", and the "Tantum Ergo."

Pope John Paul II cited her in his Letter on the 750th Anniversary of the Feast of Corpus Christi

Hmm. I think I have an interesting year of study ahead!

Diaconate - A meeting

Well, I meet Monday with the canon lawyer to begin the process of determining if I have an impediment that will keep me out of the diaconate program, or one that might at least need some heavy work.

Please pray for me - not necessarily that it simply will go away (though, if that is God's will, great!), but rather, that I will have the humility and wisdom to accept what God sends my way.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Another twist

Interesting conversation with the wife about the diaconate.

It began with a phone call from the head of the social ministry committee at church.

My wife and I had both been active with the committee until my mother got sick. We left to focus on family.

The social ministry committee basically died. That happens with half of the active committee members leave!

So he called today asking if he could meet with us – today – to talk about us getting back involved now that the family situation has cleared up.

I told him we had plans, but I arranged to meet with him after Mass Sunday.

My wife was not enthusiastic when I asked if she wanted to be part of it.

In her current job – working with veterans helping them to find work and get into support/treatment programs – she does a lot of social ministry already. She said she was burnt out on social ministry, and did not want to rejoin the committee.

To be honest, neither did I. I am meeting with him out of politeness.

We went out to take care of some business, and on the way home stopped for coffee. We talked about social ministry, then the diaconate.

She said that if the diaconate was what I really wanted to do, she would support me. But she said she’d rather see me involved in creative efforts – writing, performing and theater. One of my dreams has been to get a church theater group together, and she said she'd rather see me in something like that. She thought I'd be happier doing things like that rather than being a deacon.


Happy New Year

A New Year.

This year, I resolved to make no new resolutions.

I haven't kept the ones I made before.

So I'll just keep working on them.