October 14th, Twenty-eighth Year in Ordinary Time
I want to touch for a second time on last Sunday’s Gospel. It was an excerpt from my beloved Saint Mark. In telling us of Jesus’ commitment to the sacredness of marriage, Mark reminds us that two people being married are “no longer two but one flesh and therefore let no man separate what God has joined.”
Mark then describes a scene where parents are bringing their children to Jesus that he might touch them and bless them. But the disciples interfered and scolded the parents. This caused Jesus to become indignant and said with force and vigor, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them!”
Remember last week when John came running to Jesus complaining that a man in the neighborhood was expelling demons and John tried to stop the man “because he was not of our company.” It is a documented fact of Church history that its bureaucrats have often had a natural tendency to make things more difficult than did Jesus himself. It was ever thus! We see it time and time again. Think of the old Eucharistic fast. Think of the hoops that young couples must jump through in preparing for marriage and the requirement to be registered before one can receive some of the sacraments.
Let’s turn back to Jesus. Last week when John wanted Jesus to stop the man who was expelling demons in his name, Jesus cut him off. When the disciples don’t want our Lord bothered by “the kids” the same thing happens. He let the apostles know that he, Jesus of Nazareth, is here for all humanity, for all times, in all places, in all situations. The Church must constantly struggle to resist bureaucratic red tape and complicating the situation.
Onward through the fog.
Share on Facebook
Do you remember what it was like to be a little kid? I do and it was wonderful. In those endless years before kindergarten, we are as free and can be. Once we hit school, life became burdensome in the extreme, loaded with responsibilities and schedules. But at least we had the afternoon and the weekends. And oh, the summertime – the good, ole summertime! After breakfast, we headed out the front door in bare feet that soon toughened up so that we didn’t need shoes at all. We would report in for lunch and then, of course, be back inside in time for the children’s radio programs around 5:00 p.m. What a life and it was yours, oh blessed child.
Is that the situation today? I hope that it is. This society is so concerned about productivity and achievement that things have become much more difficult. The schools pile on homework that requires a good portion of the evening hours. Social goals call for extraordinary extra activity, whether it be for sports, dance, music or whatever. These are all wonderful things and in some ways make us better persons, but I feel that playing is an important part of growing up. What about after we are grown? I think that it is also important that we be able to play in our middle and later years, to laugh, to spend endless hours talking to our friends. Incidentally, I don’t consider watching television a very playful activity except maybe with a lot of friends during the World Series. Television demands passivity and real play requires activity both of our bodies, our minds and our hearts.
“Hello, Mrs. Brady. Can George come out and play?”
Share on Facebook
Have you ever noticed how popular the word “casa” is among Catholic people who are striving to lessen the pain that they find around them in our battered society? Casa Esperanza, Casa Marienalla, Casa this and Casa that. I think that it might be that the word sounds so peaceful and welcoming and these special programs need to generate that image as they reach out to people in trouble.
One of my favorite casas is Casa Esperanza de los Ninos in Houston and it is in the process of celebrating 30 years of extraordinarily effective work – awesome work, in fact! Thirty years ago, back in 1982, Kathy Foster, a young woman working in a halfway house for emotionally disturbed mothers and their children, was painfully aware that more and more children were finding themselves completely abandoned. Maybe there was only one parent and death entered the scene. Maybe it was the local police or the Immigration Naturalization Service that would separate a single parent from a child. Kathy saw the problem and decided to do something about it. Gathering a few dedicated friends with limited resources, she secured the use of one four-bedroom house and opened the doors of Casa Esperanza de los Ninos. Then the miracle began to unfold.
Kathy opened a development center in 1985, an in-house medical clinic in 1986, admitted the first child with HIV/AIDS in 1987, made the first adoption in 1988, placed its 100th adoption in the year 2000 and in 2008 opened a new “Casa” neighborhood – seven large homes in one location. I cannot do justice to the extraordinary accomplishments that Kathy and her co-workers achieved. However, it is well to point out that the Casa was featured on the NBC Today Show last year and that Kathy was inducted in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. If anyone ever deserved that honor, she did. Casa now operates ten separate homes and in each of them the children are cared for in a loving, secure family manner. A great number of lives have been changed because of one woman’s vision and generosity. Congratulations to Casa and thank you, Kathy.
Last year’s budget for Casa Esperanza de los Ninos is nearly $6 million!
Share on Facebook
During Governor Rick Perry’s brief dip into the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, he touted time after time the great advantage that Texans, especially Texas businesses, enjoy because of our state’s very low tax rate. On this point, the governor was certainly correct. Texas’ taxes are relatively low when compared to our other large industrial states. However, those low taxes carry a very heavy price with them in another area of life.
In this wealthy State of Texas, more than 25% of our children live in poverty! Thirty-nine percent of Texas mothers receive no or very late prenatal care. 1.2 million Texas children have no form of health insurance while 96% of those same children are U.S. citizens. The same is true at the other end of the age spectrum.
Texas is very wealthy. If it were an independent nation, it would enjoy the 11th largest economy in the world. However, this rich state in a cold and calculated manner refuses to fulfill its responsibility to its children and to the elderly. These facts are not really something to brag about! Right?
Share on Facebook
The other day I talked about solving a problem that many of us have about what Christmas gift to buy for whom, and how easily we could all eliminate that minor problem from our lives by simply giving either a financial gift or giving some of our time for a special type of program or ministry that helps people in need. God knows that there are enough needs and thankfully, we do have many wonderful ministries that are trying to lessen the pain that we see all around us.
My favorite is St. Louise House, an extraordinary program put together by a handful of volunteers from St. Austin’s Parish, doing social action work in the parish, especially on the street. These people became consioucs of the presence in our midst of a sizable number of homeless women who are caring fro their own children. HOMELESS WOMEN WITH CHILDREN! These courageous people decided to do something about ten years ago, and today they operate two 24-unit apartment houses, providing apartments for women that they find on the street in desperate straits.
The St. Louise House volunteers do not simply provide a roof. They endeavor to sensititze the mother to the possibilities that are ahead in her own life and what had to be done to improve their children’s chances of success. Upon entering the apartment, these challenged mothers find everything that they need inside of it- from pictures on the wall, to dishes and bed linens. When they eventually are ready to move out, they are able to take all of these belongings with them for their next home.
This magnificent work is an example of what people can acocomplish when they put together vision, generosity and hard work. May God bless all of them!
The director of St. Louise House is Sharon Bieser, and the address and telephone number are:
2026 Guadalupe Street, Austin, TX 78705. (512)302-0027
Can you help her with this extraordinary work?
Share on Facebook
A few years back, I was invited to visit a house on a small hilltop in deep East Austin. Many Austinites would be surprised to know that there is a hilltop in that part of the city but there is one and it is a very important place.
Several years ago, Casa Marianelli, which has for 25 years been running a hostel for newly arrived male immigrants, expanded and opened a second house for women on the hill that I am talking about. Posada Esperanza was a place where women and children could come, get their feet on the ground, get settled and gradually be able to take care of themselves. The work was wonderful and soon a second house was added next door making it a “house on the hill.”
Next week, yet a third house will open. It will be called Casa Gloria. These three houses dominate the hill and it is really a beautiful sight. The three of them face each other and form a tiny neighborhood with extraordinarily generous volunteers taking care of women and children who are extremely vulnerable.
All of these houses are run by volunteers united by their faith and generosity. They operate without a strong umbrella organization and that they continue to do so year in and year out is a virtual miracle. May God bless them for it.
Each of these houses has a beautiful story behind it. It shows that God continues to work among us in mysterious ways. Casa Gloria was donated by one lady who is honoring her wonderful mother by naming the house after her. May God continue to bless the donor and may her mother be always remembered.
Share on Facebook
Recently, Anita Perry, speaking in behalf of her husband, she revealed that she heard God’s voice telling her to urge her husband, the Governor of Texas, to run for the presidency of the United States of America. She relayed this message to her husband but he was somewhat hesitant. Finally, however, he did enter the fray. Mrs. Perry then expressed her sadness that her husband had been “brutalized” by other contenders for the same office. She seemed somewhat surprised and disappointed. I am surprised that she was surprised. Attention for the top political office in the world does not necessarily gather a club of first communicants.
Only God and Mrs. Perry know the facts of that conversation but if it occurs again, I would hope that God would urge the governor to be more concerned about the health of the poor children in Texas. That Texas has the highest percentage of un-insured children is a cold, objective fact.
Come on governor – listen up!
Share on Facebook
Well, it has finally happened. Bishop Robert Finn, of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and the diocese itself have been indicted by a county grand jury on a charge of failure to report suspected child abuse in the case of a priest who had been accused of taking lewd photographs of young girls.
This is a terrible event and bitterly saddening for those who suffer with the Church during this long, extended agony. Great progress and cooperation with civil authorities has been present in the vast majority of the dioceses since the bishops developed their own mode of operation in 2002. The fact is that there have been shocking, really shocking failures. Two years ago, Cardinal Francis George in Chicago was discovered to have kept a priest predator in active service in a situation where he could do terrible harm. Last year, the Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia stated that there were no priests working in the archdiocese who were charged or suspected of improper conduct with minors. Local authorities released a list of 37 names against whom credible charges had been made. Cardinal Justin Rigali resigned shortly thereafter. There are about 1,000 priests in the archdiocese.
Now comes Bishop Finn ten years after Dallas.
The indictment states that the bishop and the diocese had reason to suspect that the priest might subject a child to abuse. Hundreds of pornographic photographs of children had been discovered on the priest’s laptop. Indicting a bishop is a humiliating event, but the fact is that throughout all of these agonizing years the first reaction of most Church leaders has been trying to cover problems up, to operate under secrecy. In their naivety, they were attempting to avoid scandal but, in acting so imprudently and unjustly, they have generated an agonizing amount of scandal. Let’s pray that the end is in sight.
Share on Facebook
Last month, on Valentine’s Day did you either give or receive a box of chocolates? If you did, there was a regrettable chance that the box of wonderful candy was tainted by the labor of enslaved children.
Few Americans knew anything about the problem of child labor on cocoa farms of the Ivory Coast until after 2001 when the media exposed the scandalous conditions under which most U.S. chocolate is made. Children, as young as 11 and 12 year’s old are forced into slave labor and must work 12 or 13 hours a day under truly brutal conditions. After the exposé, Senator Tom Harkin (Democrat of Iowa) introduced a bill to require U.S. chocolate companies by force of law to certify that their products are slave free. Fearing regulation, the chocolate industry quickly announced a four year plan to clean up its supply chain without legislation.
I am happy to report that many of the companies supplying the American market did clean their work up and now produce their chocolate clearly indicating that they are fair trade certified. One major company that continues to benefit from a very clear form of child labor is the Hershey company. They argue that they do not own the plantations. They simply buy the material from the growers. However, the fact is they, like the other companies that made the switch to fair trade, could easily pressure the growers to stop child slavery.
We all love chocolate but is it worth the agony and suffering of 12 year old kids?
Share on Facebook
It is budget time again. Budgets – budgets – budgets! In school districts, the states and at the national level, there is a scramble to try and produce realistic budgets with almost all of these economic and political entities finding themselves sorely strapped and being forced to cut back on services of every kind and at every level. Most of the time these discussions are carried on in terms of dollars. We have enough dollars for this. We don’t have enough dollars for that. This has to be cut back! This has to be eliminated!
One line item that seldom experiences dramatic cuts is the criminal justice system. The philosophy, “let’s get tougher on crime,” has been in place for more than a quarter of a century and today more than one percent of our population is involved with that system. That’s approximately two million people.
Alex Mikulich, Ph.D., with the Southern Jesuits of Loyola University, is endeavoring to inform all of us about the terrible, devastating human cost under our system of incarceration since incarceration often exacerbates the already dismal economic prospects of family members. Today, 54% of inmates are parents with minor children, ages one to 17, including 120,000 mothers, 1.1 million fathers. Two-thirds of these children’s parents were incarcerated for non-violent offenses.
Research shows that children of incarcerated parents are at a high risk of being incarcerated themselves. Children with fathers who have been incarcerated are significantly more likely than other children to be expelled, to experience aggression, hyperactivity, depression, withdrawal and to be suspended from school, thus continuing the terrible cycle of crime, incarceration and broken families. The maladies in the prison system are really one of the worst evils in our society, but as a people, we are hesitant to address it realistically.
In God’s name, can’t we do better? How long will we be blind to the destructiveness of the present system?
Share on Facebook