Interlocking Virtues

By , October 29, 2010 8:51 pm

We would all like to be considered virtuous but we all know that each of us has serious limitations.  A virtue is simply a facility of doing good things…good actions.  A person who never speaks ill of another is credited with the virtue of charity.  A person who puts up with a neighbor or family member who is by nature very irritating is credited with the virtue of patience.  While we can describe these objectively as different qualities, the fact is that in most of us they are interlocking realities.  A person who is patient is usually kind.  The person who is kind must, of necessity, be patient.

Let’s think about these two virtues for a second.  They are certainly appreciated by everyone as we share life together.  It is wonderful to work with and deal with a person who is consistently kind.  That is a blessing to us because of our own weaknesses that we also deal with people who are patient with us.  We look for these virtues in the lives of people around us because our own actions generate a justifiable impatience and challenge the natural kindness of the people with whom we are sharing life.  When we prepare for the Sacrament of Penance, we should not examine ourselves simply in terms of sin but much more importantly in terms of virtue.  Reconciliation is a sacrament to help us to grow forward in holiness, to walk evermore closely with our Divine Lord in his journey towards Calvary.  That means that we need to really work, really practice in achieving a more virtuous life.  In my opinion, the key word here is practice and opportunities for it is very much available to us.

The average person has had an opportunity a half dozen times to practice both virtue and patience before lunchtime.  A large number of the people on the freeway are crazy.  The people in our carpool talk too much or won’t talk at all when we want to discuss yesterday’s game.  When we feel the temptation towards unkindness or impatience, we need to grasp the reality that is taking place there and strengthen ourselves to do the right thing.  Okay – we didn’t do too well this morning but we will have plenty of time before dinner is over tonight.  Let’s try together.

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24 New Cardinals …and 2 Americans Make the Cut!

By , October 28, 2010 12:36 am

Pope Benedict XVI has just appointed 24 new Cardinals.  The pundits will analyze the list in a number of different ways.  Ten of these new Cardinals are Italians.  Does that reflect a resurgence of Italian influence?  Of these 24 appointments 11 of them already had Vatican posts which sorely limits the opportunity to represent other parts of the world in proportion to their numbers.

The Third World, however, has not been neglected.  Zambia, Ecuador, the Congo, and Sri Lanka received Cardinals.  Being appointed a Cardinal doesn’t change a bishop’s life very much.  They almost always already have a major administrative responsibility, such as a Vatican post or a large archdiocese.  What is important about the task is, of course, the well known fact that they are the ones who will elect the successor of Benedict XVI.

The new Americans are Bishop Donald Wuerl and Archbishop Raymond Burke. May God bless them all.

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As a Nation, We Need to Get Off the Bottle!

By , October 27, 2010 4:57 am

In our fast-moving, technical and rather dangerous world, we have gotten used to receiving warnings from various directions with considerable frequency.  The ozone layers are disappearing!  The ice caps at both poles are disintegrating and with that will come flooding of our coastlines!  Newspapers are doomed, dying!  Books are passé!  Everyone needs to grab a Kindle!

Now comes a new warning that I personally take very seriously and I hope that millions of other Americans will do as well.  This warning is that the abuse of bottled water is presenting us with a new but very real threat.  Americans are now spending more than $12 billion a year.  Their main motivations is that they think bottled water is safer than tap water.  This erroneous concept is fostered by large corporate entities that are in the process of buying up the water resources of the country.  The federal government carefully regulates tap water for the whole country.  That is not true for bottled water.  The government requires more rigorous and frequent safety testing of the municipal drinking water than is the case for bottled water.  While some scientists are arguing that the plastic bottles are dangerous to a person’s health over a long period of time, a more immediate threat is to the environment with billions and billions of bottles ending up first in the garbage can, then in the city dump with many of them making their way into the rivers and lakes of our nation.

We are being sold a bill of goods by the forces that want to buy up our cities water supplies.   Let’s stay with the tap!

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Middle East Bishops Protest Roman Imperialism at their Synod

By , October 26, 2010 4:47 am

Two weeks ago, the bishops of six different Eastern Churches from the Middle East gathered for a Synod.  Bishops of the Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Maronite, Melkite and Syrian Churches were present and sometimes sparks flew!  The bishops expressed the fear that unless certain reforms were instituted in relationship to themselves and the Vatican, which is the head of the Latin Church, there was danger that they themselves would grow ever smaller and possibly cease to exist.

Throughout the century, the popes have expressed strong desire that these ancient churches, which date back to the 1st and 2nd centuries, be maintained with their special history, culture, liturgy and overall identity.  Each of these churches is lead by a patriarch appointed by and in communion with the Bishop of Rome, but their administrative jurisdiction is limited to the small areas where they have been geographically located over the centuries.  With today’s modern economy, members of each of these faith communities are scattered across the world and while they frequently have local parishes of their own, the authority of their patriarch back home is limited to liturgical issues.  In all other respects, members of these ancient traditions are subject to the authority of the Latin Church.  These ancient churches want greater independence from the Vatican and stronger ties to their own patriarchs.

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Let’s hear it for those who built the country!

By , October 25, 2010 6:34 am

This is my brother, Frank. We buried him last month at the ripe young age of 82.

Our nation is now several centuries old, and we’ve gone from a continent of forests and beavers to a land of skyscrapers and freeways. It did not happen over night. It happened because countless men and women exercised their education, skill and sweat to bring about what we now call the United States of America.

My brother, Frank, was one of those people. He got into construction when he came out of high school, and stayed at it until he retired. In the 50s and 60s, Frank worked mostly on downtown high rises, and towards the end he had to go farther afield, ultimately finding himself in northern Canada, Greenland and Iceland. Like so many other Americans of that time, he was risking his life to make America safe. He was going up four to six hundred feet on towers that were only about eight foot square.  He admitted that they gave a little in the wind. I always thought that my brother was very brave, and was willing to do whatever was necessary to support his wife and seven children. (Good Catholic, right?) Brave though he was, he was still human, and after his retirement he stepped off a simple curb and broke his hip.

To me Frank is symbolic of the men and women who have expended so much in order to build our nation into what it is today. Gratitude is called for. Being grateful for the gifts that we receive from others has the potential to enrich our lives.

Let’s indeed be grateful!

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October 24th, 30th Sunday of the Church Year

By , October 23, 2010 3:02 am

Today’s Gospel excerpt is another one of those texts in which our Lord speaks very unfavorably of those of us who suffer from pride, pomposity and a feeling that we are all together all too good!  In this case, the contrast is between a Pharisee, an important church leader, and a tax collector.  Tax collectors were the bottom of the social ladder.  They were despised because they were consistently crooked in the way that they collected the taxes and also they were considered traitors because they were working for the Roman Empire.  So tax collectors were the lowest of the low.

When our Lord puts the two of them in contrast – the pompous church leader and the bottom rung of society.  It is the pompous church leader who comes off short.  This theme appears repeatedly in our Lord’s teachings and those of us who are active in churches and in leadership positions in churches must take this one to heart.  What we do in our work is important for the faithful and they look upon us with great respect.  Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that we earn that respect but that we are receiving it because we are doing God’s work and God’s work must be done with humility and generosity.

Onward to Jerusalem.

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Latin Catholics are not the only Catholics around!

By , October 22, 2010 2:29 am

There are somewhere between 60 and 65 million Americans who are Roman Catholics.  In my opinion, the vast majority of them think that their church is THE church.  They seldom think of themselves as the Latin Church.  This would have been true even when Latin was the language used in the sacramental life of the Church.  I think most Catholics would be surprised to know that there are six other historic Catholic churches that originally developed in the Middle East in the 1st and 2nd century but now have members all over the world.  Those other churches are the Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Maronite, Melkite and the Syrian Catholic churches.

Catholics in these churches live in a difficult part of this planet, namely the Middle East.  They struggle to live their faith in an overwhelmingly Muslim world and they are frequently treated as second-class citizens if not cruelly oppressed.

The bishops in these ancient Catholic communities have just concluded meeting together to discuss their common problems and to work out a better relationship with Big Brother, the Latin Church.  You will hear more on that in the next couple of days.

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Congratulations to the Haitian Bishops

By , October 21, 2010 2:09 am

It has been a terrible year for Haiti and a terrible year for the Church in Haiti.  Worldwide response to Haiti’s immediate needs was inspiring, especially in the area of food and healthcare.  Now, however, that battered country enters into the longer and more difficult period of reconstruction.  We can all be proud of the bishops of Haiti who have submitted to bishops and church leaders around the world a rather detailed plan for a broad-based program for church reconstruction. The bishops whose resources are so pathetically limited are counting heavily on church partners in North America and Europe.  Their program is entitled, “The Program for the Reconstruction of the Church in Haiti.”  The churches have approximately $330 million in Catholic donations with American Catholics giving almost half of that amount.  Everyone involved is committed to moving forward in the reconstruction as fast as possible.

Everything is needed.  Churches, rectories, seminaries, hospitals, convents and maybe even a new Cathedral will be on the drawing boards.  Availability of these millions of dollars from their co-religionists will enable those in charge to hire large numbers of local people, which will partially alleviate the short-term problem of joblessness.  Not only were churches, schools and homes destroyed but many businesses as well.

Recovery is going to be long and difficult.  The Haitian people are committed to bringing it about.  The rest of us around the world must not forget Haiti now.  Each one of us in our own lives should resolve to an ongoing contribution towards the people of Haiti.  The address and phone number of Catholic Relief Services is 228 W. Lexington St. Baltimore, Maryland 21201-3413 | 888-277-7575.

” We may stumble, but we will not fall!” (Haitian saying)

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The Census Brings Us Bad/Sad News

By , October 20, 2010 1:01 pm

Is anyone surprised?  Now that the ten-year census has been completed, we are able to go over it and study and analyze all of the information buried within it.  There are a lot of numbers about the sizes of cities, the number of automobile traffic, petroleum production, increased energy from wind, etc., etc.  That is all interesting and much of it is needed but for me the sad thing coming out of the census was the report that the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record as young adults and children in particular struggled to stay afloat in the recession.

We brag about our over all economy and we should.  Bragging tends to be about its accomplishments in the area of productivity and not the fairness of its system of distribution.

How about this for a fact?  The top earning 20% of Americans, those making more than $100,000 each year, received 49.4% of all income generated in the U.S.  Compare that with the 3.4% of all American income earned by those below the poverty line.  Last year the poverty level was set at about $22,000 for a family of four.  The U.S. has the greatest disparately among Western industrialized nations between the upper and lower levels.  These figures tell us a lot but unless you have real empathy for the suffering going on in this country we can’t grasp what it means in terms of lost houses, inadequate education, inadequate diet and overall suffering.  Let’s pray that the United States can develop a sense of unity so that the wealthiest are concerned about the most vulnerable.  Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have given us a wonderful example not only in committing and sharing their own massive fortunes to the needs of the country at large, but urging other wealthy Americans to do the same.  Their generosity gives hope in an otherwise bleak situation.

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The Credit Card Companies are Ever So Thoughtful!

By , October 19, 2010 4:58 am

Yesterday, I opened a thick envelope from Citibank.  It was the wrong time of the month for my monthly report so I was curious.  What will I find in here?  How beautiful.  Three checks with my name and address printed in the upper left hand corner and a warm and supportive note telling me that if I have any financial problems- if I need money- if I wanted to take a vacation, all I needed to do was sign one of these checks.  They are interest free because they want me to enjoy my vacation.

Citibank is so desirous of making my life easier that if I use one of these checks, it will be interest free until September 1, 2011.  After that, it moves immediately to 29.99%!!  The trick is, of course, that people who have to borrow money often are not able to repay it in an agreed upon period of time at which point they start paying merely 29.99%.  God bless the credit card companies.  They do so want to help us.

I don’t as yet know all the implications of the new legislation on credit cards but I do know that all these companies used to send these out to 18-year-old kids and frequently ensnaring them into a financial situation from which it is extremely difficult to be extricated.  I do hope that they are more restricted now.

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