Posts tagged: death

It Is Not That Simple

By , March 18, 2014 5:20 am

The evening news and the morning papers are all trumpeting the tension and danger surrounding the Crimean situation vis-a-vis Russia and the Ukraine. Western Europe and the United States are solidly united in their opposition to what is seen from the perspective of the West as a territorial grab by Russia. But is it all that simple?

Despite the intimidating presence of Russian soldiers, I think it is overwhelmingly obvious that the majority of Crimeans would rather live as Russians than be an uneasy minority in the much larger Ukraine.

This is a time for calmness and prayer. I am not a historian but I have read my share of the history of the West and, like anybody else who has done the same, I am very conscious that wars frequently begin either by accident or by serious misjudgment on the part of one party or the other. The First World War is an example of the former and the invasion of Iraq certainly documents the latter.

This battered world needs peace. In my lifetime the amount of suffering, agony, destruction, oppression, death and every other source of pain has been simply unimaginable. We really have no idea how many people actually died due to the Second World War. Most people say somewhere between 40 to 50 million humans lost their lives between September 1939 and May of 1945. In the Iraq War more than five thousand wonderful young Americans lost their lives; twenty thousand were wounded. The Iraqis themselves lost tens of thousands more. Tragedy builds on tragedy.

Leaders in every country have got to continue to strive and work to come up with a better way to run this battered planet. Together let us pray for peace.

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Testing Our Faith

By , March 15, 2014 5:15 am

March 16th, Second Sunday of Lent

The ashes either fell or were washed from our foreheads ten days ago. As we move farther along in this holy season, we must make every effort to hold on to what the ashes symbolized because it is that symbol which makes Lent both meaningful and necessary.

In a very short period of time, all of us will depart this planet. It is the role of the Church to constantly remind all of us to live life in preparation for that reality. Thinking of death is realistic but not dreary. We believe that our departure, regardless of the process involved, opens the door to an eternal life of joy.

Most people find that the first reading today is grim and evil, at least in its concept. To understand its meaning fully, we have to remember the culture being written about, as the author of the Book of Genesis is telling of Abraham’s complete and obedience. The culture, tragically enough, utilized the offering of other human beings, even children, to the deity being worshipped. Yahweh’s challenge to Abraham was a test of his faith and Abraham responded properly. He was totally obedient to God even though what he thought that he being ordered to do was the worst possible thing that could be demanded of him. Yahweh, however, knowing of Abraham’s awesome and complete faith, intervened and Isaac would live to carry on God’s saving plan for the human family.

If you switch over to today’s Gospel, you see a thinly veiled comparison between these two events. Abraham was committed to doing Yahweh’s bidding, even though he did not understand it. Jesus’ three close friends, Peter, James and John, knew something wonderful was coming but, at the time of their vision on top of the mountain, they did not understand it either. Jesus simply told them let’s go down and join the others, but don’t tell anybody about this. There is plenty of time for all of us to understand…and then after the Resurrection they would!………….You and I do understand!! God loves us. He has come to us. He has redeemed us and our response is to walk in the footsteps of the Risen Lord. At times it can be a challenge but the good use of Lent makes it much easier.

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The Sad Story of Philip Seymour Hoffman

By , February 14, 2014 5:04 am

Every one of us who follows the media with some consistency knows that Philip Seymour Hoffman died a tragic death. A wealthy, Academy Award-winning man of great talent, he had many years to live. His life was cut short not by an assassin’s bullet or a destructive form of cancer, but by his own choice to begin to utilize the awesomely destructive drug that we call heroin.

I really have nothing to say about this. The media has rolled over all of us with far more details than we would really care to read or watch. I do think, however, that such an unnecessary, tragic, highly publicized death would grab the attention of many people and help them to realize that drugs in general, and heroin in particular, are not toys to be played with but explosives that when self-detonated destroy not just the life of the user but that person’s beloved family and friends.

There are international aspects of the drug crisis that are undermining so much of the life in this country. Cartels in Mexico have developed an industry in securing and delivering dangerous drugs for the ever expanding market north of the Rio Grande. A new complication is the fact that for various reasons there is a surge in heroin production in Afghanistan, and it is much cheaper and more easily secured than was the case in the recent past.

For decades, our government has wrung its hands in frustration while spending billions of dollars in opposition to this evil, and continues to face and admit to the reality of defeat. We are not overcoming the drug trade in our nation. It is threatening to overcome us.

And what is the role of the Church in all of this? While the Church cannot compete with the resources of the U.S. government, it certainly has the moral power that could make a difference in thousands of individual families, and hopefully through those families reach a large portion of an American society that feeds itself on drugs due to selfishness, loneliness, meaninglessness. The Church has the answer to these needs but the Church, like the government, is proving itself to be woefully ineffective.

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Death on the Missions!

By , February 13, 2014 4:24 am

The Pontifical Mission Society of the Holy See, based in the Vatican, puts out an information service on the work of the various missionary communities from across the world. Its publication Fides is an excellent source of information regarding missionary activities around the world. The following is lifted from that report.

In 2013, 22 pastoral care workers were killed worldwide, almost double the number who were killed the year before. For the fifth consecutive year, Latin America had the highest number of such deaths. In 2013, 19 priests, one religious sister and two lay persons were killed. Of these, in the Americas 15 priests were killed (seven in Colombia; four in Mexico; one each in Brazil, Venezuela, Panama and Haiti). In Africa, one priest was killed in Tanzania, and one religious sister and one lay pastoral care worker were killed in Madagascar and Nigeria respectively. In Asia one priest in India and one in Syria were killed, and in the Philippines one lay pastoral worker was killed. In Europe a priest was killed in Italy. Most of the pastoral care workers in 2013 were killed during robbery attempts. The status of a number of others is still undetermined. In Syria, the fates of Orthodox nuns abducted from the monastery of Santa Tecla, the Italian Jesuit Paul Dall’Oglio and the two metropolitan Bishops of Aleppo – the Greek Orthodox Boulos al-Yazigi and the Syrian Orthodox Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim – remain unknown.

I am embarrassed to say that I probably do not pray enough for the safety of these heroic men and women. We should all be more concerned and grateful.

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Help the Rich Man?

By , September 28, 2013 5:25 am

Photo by Gustave Doré

September 29th, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
At last the summer is coming to an end and we are still traveling. We are walking with Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem and death. The days may be cooler now but the message from God that comes to us through the Church is continuing the tough challenge of last week. We are to live just lives. It is the gifts that we receive and one that is fair, generous and loving. Good old Amos thunders, “Woe to the complacent in Zion lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches. They eat lambs taken from the flock and calves from the stall but they are not faithful!” Amos warns them that these luxury loving idolaters will be the first to go into exile and their happy times will be over.

The scene in the Gospel contains the same theme but more directly Jesus describes a rich man who has fantastic wealth and ignores the needs of the poor. While the rich man is nameless, the poor man is given that dignity by our Lord himself. His name is Lazarus. He is very sick. He has leprosy but he is destitute and from afar he sees the inordinate luxury of the rich man.

Oops! Suddenly the scene changes. Lazarus is dead and the rich man is gone as well but he is in a difficult place and suffering for his selfishness, for his greed, for his indifference to the needs of the poor. The rich man cries out for help from father Abraham. When the wealthy man finds out that there is no crossing over into the better world of Lazarus he shows his good side and begs that Abraham would send a message to his father’s house and warn his five brothers so that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes that the rich man made. Then he is turned down and Abraham reminds the rich man and all of us that while we are struggling here on earth it is very important that we live good lives because evil and sinfulness cannot be undone in the next life. It has to be done here.

Let’s all listen to the voice of Abraham.

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Heavens Above! The Canonization Process

By , August 27, 2013 5:31 am

What does it mean when the Roman Catholic Church declares one of its deceased members to be a saint? The Church has no direct knowledge about specific individuals in life after death. While Michelangelo painted many famous people into hell on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, his brilliant artistry is, however, not an act of the Church.
On the other hand, however, the Church has throughout its history spotlighted certain men and women who have displayed extraordinary holiness, moral goodness and faithful commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ.
When the Church does this through a formal process, it will declare this or that person to be especially worthy of imitation and call that person a saint.
In the first thousand years, the process was very informal and came about simply by the continued veneration and respect of the faithful. When that veneration spread far and wide and perdured for decades, the people themselves gave the title “saint “ and it has held on lo these many centuries.
Gradually, however, the Church in Rome wanted a more formal and objective process and it established a special Congregation in the Vatican to receive from churches across the world the suggestion that this or that person, known to be extraordinarily holy, ought to be considered for sainthood. Rules and processes were set up and individuals would be appointed to collect information, more accurately to investigate that person’s life. Slowly the custom developed that a miracle or two must be observed in answer to petitions to the one being studied. This would strengthen the belief that the person was actually sharing the beatific vision. Regretfully, this process requires work and expense and this is the sad reason why we have so many priests and nuns declared saints and so few, comparatively speaking, lay people. Religious orders, would of course feel very blessed in having one of their members canonized and when they identify a possible candidate from among their members they are in a position to advance the process more easily. Mr. Slavinski, who lives down the street from you and who you know to be an awesomely holy person, is not in a position to do that.
I wonder if we should go back to the earlier system. In a sense it has already returned because most of us consider John XXIII and Mother Teresa saints. Who is to say that we are wrong?
While you were reading this blog, countless numbers of holy people have by-passed the system and have gone straight to their destiny; eternal union with God.

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Papal Social Teaching Expands As The World Changes

By , May 14, 2013 4:31 am

Industrial Revolution

The purpose of the Church is to reach out and draw all of its members to communion with God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Church does this by presenting age after age the message of Jesus and also joins us with Jesus through our sacramental life. In carrying out this mission, it tries to convey to the entire world a message based on truth and love, a message that has tremendous implications for justice and fairness. These virtues are affected by the economic system present at any given moment.
For most of the last 2,000 years virtually the entire world’s economy was based on agriculture. That changed with the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century bringing tremendous change to human life, including a vast increase in wealth and prosperity. But not everyone shared equally in these new developments. In the late 19th century, Pope Leo XIII saw that the Industrial Revolution and its later developments were inflicting tremendous pain and suffering on the poor workers in the urban centers of Europe and North America. He wrote his famous encyclical, Rerum Novarum which laid out a structure of responsibilities reminding employers of their responsibilities to be fair and just with their workers, and that those workers had the right to organize in order to defend their economic interests. In those days, that economy was mostly one of shops and small plants where workers and employers were often in face to face situations.
By the 1930’s, the world of the small plant by an individual or family gave way as nationwide industries developed and thus Pope Pius XI wrote the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno which built on the work of Leo XIII and dealt now with problems related to nation-wide economies.
After World War II with the decolonization of the people of Africa, the possibility of a one world economy expanded tremendously and as a result in 1963 that magnificent pope John XXIII wrote a document that had tremendous impact in the Church and on the world entitled Pacem in Terris, Peace on Earth. It dealt with this new worldwide economy many years before any of us were routinely referring to the reality of an integrated world economy. The document came out in 1963 and made a powerful impression on Church leaders all over world. Fifty years have passed since the encyclicals issued and in the next couple of days I will give you my opinion of the affect that it has had in this painful and agonizing half century.

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Death – Death – Death

By , February 18, 2013 4:52 am

All of us find ourselves bombarded by the news. It is available now 24 hours a day, seven days a week in many different formats. There is a lot to choose from but I have long held that the top of the line in news programs is public television’s late afternoon program, “The News Hour” which appears Monday through Friday and the best is Friday because on that day Mark Shields, the liberal commentator, and David Brooks, a conservative, discuss the issues in a way that is regretfully rare today. They do it intelligently, calmly, politely, each showing great respect to the opinions of the other.
Mark Shields startled many of his listeners two weeks ago with the amazing statement that there have been 1,384,000 fire arms related deaths in the United States since the night that Robert Kennedy was killed. If that wasn’t bad enough, he went on to say that total civilian deaths from guns in our country exceeds that all the wars in our country’s history from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, World War I, World War II in those 45 years. The first reaction of many listeners was wide-spread denial. We know that the Civil War took more than a half a million lives and World War II almost as many. There was so much denial that went to work and their research justified Shields comments. In the United States history 1.2 million Americans died in wartime and nearly 1.4 million Americans died by fire arms outside the context of war during these 45 years.
The gun right lobby continues to spike terror into the hearts of political candidates in borderline election victories. Sooner or later, America must deal with this awesomely destructive reality.

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The Fire and the Seamstresses

By , December 28, 2012 4:18 am

All thoughtful Americans and citizens across the world were horrified a few weeks ago by that tragic fire in the clothing factory over in Bangladesh. There were no fire exits, no escape plans and hundreds of the employees died in agony and unnecessarily. Those clothes – blouses, shirts, socks, etc. – were being manufactured by near slave labor to be marketed in the United States of America. First the fire, then the sense of shock and now silence. We have heard nothing from the national and international associations of clothing manufacturers. Since their needs and their demand for low wages is at least an indirect cause of the tragedy, shouldn’t they be leading the efforts to make sure that this type of tragedy is avoided in the future? To date, they have been quiet – very, very quiet.
Tragedies like that used to occur in the 19th century in the United States, England and other European countries and mistakes can still occur and tragically kill innocent workers; for example, the explosion of the oil well in the Gulf operated by British Petroleum. However, happily, the developed world began to recognize the need for supervision and regulation, and the number of such tragedies has been greatly lessened. Nevertheless, there is a group in this country that is constantly howling and complaining about regulation. Regulation does increase the cost of production but nothing compared to the cost and damage that can be done by producers and manufacturers if they are not being supervised within proper limits. We would frequently find ourselves in serious trouble and pain if the various supervisory entities were suppressed or eliminated. You would be afraid to go into a drug store if it were not for the Center for Disease Control.

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Construction Workers – Not A Fun Job!

By , October 18, 2012 4:18 am

The union movement has grown steadily weaker over the last thirty years. This bad development has been assisted along the way by corporate hostility and by an indifferent media. In my opinion, all of us should be more appreciative of the sacrifices made for the common good by construction workers. Everyone has heard about the electrician or the plumber who is highly paid when their wages are figured by the hour, but the real test of how good his income is would be a question of how much he worked in the course of the year. Construction is a painfully on and off situation as jobs begin and end quickly, and they do not do that neatly one right after the other.

• Nearly 45% of construction workers live below the poverty line.
• One in five construction workers has experienced wage theft in Austin, Texas.
• 76% of construction workers do not have health insurance.
• Every 2.5 days a construction worker dies on the job in Texas.

There were 141 construction deaths in Texas. The next largest was California at 58. Why the difference?

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