Posts tagged: suffering

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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Say It Isn’t So!

By , January 30, 2014 5:31 am

Oxfam is a very fine organization based in England that attempts to alleviate the suffering of the poorest people scattered around the world. Last week on the eve of the Economic Forum, which was to meet in Davos, Switzerland, the timing was good because the forum is a gathering spot for world political, academic and business leaders. Its website states, they “shape global, regional and industry agendas.”

Oxfam certainly gave them something to think about when they reported and documented that the richest 85 people on the planet own half the world’s wealth. In announcing the study, Oxfam said that what it sees as the growing wealth gap undermines democracy. “The past quarter of a century has seen wealth become ever more concentrated in the hands of fewer people. The wealth of the 1 percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half.” Oxfam also stated that 210 people joined the ranks of billionaires just last year, bringing around 1,400 people who hold that status.

I certainly hope that those attending that meeting in Switzerland took that report very seriously. Throughout human history, wealth has moved around many times in many ways, but when it gets too lopsided it produces explosions and the explosions are hard on everyone including the wealthy. Let’s pray for a serene and just future.

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Thanksgiving Requires Pain and Suffering

By , November 22, 2013 5:07 am

Everybody is getting ready for one of the most popular holidays of the year- the great American feast of offering thanks to the God we love and worship. The pictures in the store are delightful, although I’ve never a seen a turkey that looks exactly like everyone else seems to be enjoying. I love turkey! But why do they always have to serve carrots? Everyone is in a good mood. Families are gathered joyfully. Collectively, we do indeed thank God for all of His gifts.

Nevertheless, I want to come at this great day from a different direction. Yes, we are thankful, but those who are most thankful and who’s hearts are filled with joy are those who are putting suffering, pain, trevail behind them. Perhaps you heard the doctor say, “I think are you full remission!” or your lawyer say, “we have won the case- your DNA has set you free”; or your wife exclaims, “the company just called and said they need you- come back on Monday,” and with that sentence comes closure to 3 or 4 years of unemployment.

Those are the people for whom thanksgiving is extradinarily real, explosive and joyful. The sky was dark, the road was rough, and sometimes adequate support is not present.

I hope that YOU are in a joyful and thankful mood. I also hope that you are not coming out of a dark chapter. Whatever the case, I wish you a joyful and blessed celebration for the feast of Thanksgiving.

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Who Does Not Experience Brokenness?

By , October 26, 2013 5:59 am

Pharisee and Tax Collector

October 27th, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The collage of texts for this particular Sunday, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, has been pulled together by the editors of the Lectionary in order to give us great encouragement. Maybe they thought that gray skies and falling leaves were signs of our approaching end and death that would get some of us down and so our spirits should be lifted by God’s holy word. There is also the fact that at any given moment many of our brothers and sisters are facing real difficulties from pain and suffering from sickness, embarrassment from financial or legal problems, misunderstandings that occur between friends and relatives, etc., etc.

So the Church asks us to look again at today’s Responsorial Psalm. Today’s text states,

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit He saves.”
And in the Book of Sirach we read that the Lord,
“hears the cry of the oppressed. He is not deaf to the wail of the orphan nor of the widow when she pours out her complaint.”

Then Sirach uses wonderful poetry when he says,

“The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds and it does not rest until it reaches its goal.”

I wonder if Sirach knew how fast light traveled? He must have had at least a rough idea. It is a beautiful symbol that our prayers shoot through the skies and towards God. That being true, we should all certainly pray more often.

While we are talking about trouble and pain, take a glance at Paul’s note to his young co-worker, Timothy. Paul is in chains, he is locked up in prison and on his way to execution. Grim though those circumstances were, Paul’s faith gave him calmness, confidence and even enthusiasm.

“I am already poured out like a libation. The time of my dissolution is near…from now on a merited crown awaits me. The Lord will award it to me.”

Finally, today’s Gospel picks up a message from our Lord that he has proclaimed time after time, that external acts of religious practice are not what saves us but rather what is in our hearts brings salvation. How deep is our faith and how humbly do we stand before the presence of God? Today’s Gospel brings us the old story of the Pharisee and a tax collector. Now in the society of that time the Pharisees were the cream of the crop. They did everything right and the Pharisee lists them right here for us. The tax collector, who is the absolute bottom of the barrel, does not brag about his good deeds but simply prays that God will forgive him. The tax collector is humbled and with eyes downcast murmurs silently, “Oh God be merciful to me a sinner.” Listen to the response of Jesus. “THIS MAN WENT HOME FROM THE TEMPLE JUSTIFIED BUT THE OTHER DID NOT.”

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The Catholic Campaign for Human Development – Under Attack Again!

By , July 25, 2013 5:05 am

I don’t know as to whether or not it is the case that they never seem to stop or because their attacks go on for so long it looks like there is no interval. I am, of course, referring to the right-wing Catholics bitter opposition to one of the best things that the American bishops have ever done together and that is that they established and have operated for more than 40 years the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
The 1960’s were very difficult years for the United States. The Vietnamese War was raging, the central part of many American cities were facing riots and burnings. All of this was due to the fact that that the impoverished cities of the core cities, mostly black but also some Hispanics, had no way to get the attention of the American nation that they were suffering and suffering terribly. When flames ripped up the heart of Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Chicago and other cities began to become more clearly aware that the central cities were suffering and that something had to be done. Many Protestant churches and other concerned organizations came forward with programs and projects to help the poor of our urban centers. The Roman Catholic response was slow but finally it came.
As urban riots continued for several summers, the bishops at last chose to set up a permanent national effort to use the resources of the Church in cooperation with other groups struggling for a more just society to develop programs in the inner-cities that would assist the poor and the marginalized to lift themselves out of poverty.
But regretfully, the problems were so intractable that many of the other well-meaning entities soon dropped out of the picture and their programs were shut down. However, the American Bishops continued with determination to do the best they could to make a difference in the lives of the poverty stricken and discouraged citizens in those awful neighborhoods. It is 40 years later and the bishops are still there…still trying to make a difference!
During its lifetime, the Campaign (CCHD) has raised tens of millions of dollars and has done its very best, and effectively in my opinion, to place those dollars in the hands of people to develop self-help programs to help lift themselves out of poverty. Far right critics, who are not famous for doing effective work in the slums, examine every program funded, study the names and membership of all boards and related boards, and when they find a gnat on the scene they jump upon it with great enthusiasm and once again chant, “The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is an evil force that should not be continued.” But the bishops plow on!
God bless Pope Francis, now happily reigning. He speaks every day and one of his principal themes is his concern for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. The pope calls the Church to “work at the periphery and at the margins, especially for the poor.” He says that a church that does not do so is “sick.” Pope Francis has even said that it is better to go the margins and make mistakes than to become self absorbed. Well, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development certainly works on the margins and is willing to take risks as it encourages people’s upward struggles.
We have a pope, thanks be to God, who understands where the Church should be. May God continue to bless the bishops for their long-term commitment to the goals that Pope Francis has placed before us.

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Guatemala- Land of Eternal Spring

By , July 18, 2013 4:02 am

Trial of the Dictator

Land of Eternal Spring! Yes, that is how the Guatemalan government advertises itself to potential tourists and it is that. So beautiful, the weather is so perfect, its lakes and volcanoes so attractive. However, I have seen it through the last forty years as a land of unnecessary pain, suffering and injustice. That suffering began a special way in 1954 when the United Fruit Company was threatened about the election of President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, a leftist. Although he had been chosen of a peaceful and legitimate election, the Company felt that he had to go and the CIA saw to his downfall. That coup unleashed a period of tragic, bloody warfare and conflict that would last for almost half a century.
I had a high school classmate, Father Bill Woods, who went to Guatemala as a Maryknoll Missioner and did magnificent work. I also got to know a diocesan priest from Oklahoma. His name was Father Stanley Rother. Both were murdered in that long going war. Guatemala had a cruel government through most of these years but the worst was that of a cruel general named Ephrain Rios Montt. I was very happy to see last month that a Guatemalan court had sentenced Rios Montt to life in prison after convicting him of the heinous crime of genocide. The country’s Supreme Court has intervened and asked that the trial begin again. Regretfully, it is not yet a clear victory on behalf of the oppressed peasants of that sad country but the country is moving in the right direction. During this sad period we saw that the United States of America, born in freedom, supported cruel dictatorships.
What was true of Guatemala was true also of Salvador and Honduras. In Salvador following the assassination of Archbishop Romero, I went with a group from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to show support for the Salvadoran hierarchy. We interviewed 20 people in-depth during a one week visit in November of 1980. However, by spring of the following year, four of the 20 had been murdered. It was certainly a tough time. Things are better now but they are a long way from clean and open democracy.

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Celebrating Springtime

By , March 2, 2013 4:35 am

March 3rd, Third Sunday of Lent
All three of today’s scripture texts touch on the idea of suffering, human suffering, a subject that nearly everyone knows a great deal about because life on this planet is difficult. Every one of us has our faults and our weaknesses and, of course, God who created us knows all about them. Despite our weaknesses and sinfulness, we always have to remind ourselves that God still loves us. He loves us despite those weaknesses. Or maybe he loves us because of them?
One of the purposes of the holy season of Lent is to cause us to meditate on our failures and faults and to use our intelligence, our will, our faith, our determination to improve our life and, in so improving it, to deepen and strengthen our relationship with God.
We are almost in the middle of Lent. Let’s endeavor to ask ourselves honestly are we taking it seriously? Am I making any progress? Are our good intentions disappearing with the ashes that marked us at the beginning of Lent?
During this holy season, our minds should be on two tracks. One is efforts at our own spiritual renewal and the other in joyful appreciation of the beauty of spring. This beautiful weather is a symbolic reminder of the brightness and joy that comes from our awareness of God’s love for us.

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By , November 15, 2012 4:22 am

I am old enough to have seen a lot of natural disasters occur in the United States and across the world. At a time that pain and suffering are generated humans suffer terribly and it is a sad and tragic situation. The greater the tragedy the more the sadness. SANDY and its aftermath is beyond comprehension in terms of its suffering. The storm itself was horrible but the next day we began to realize that thousands and thousands of people were trapped in high rise apartments with no electricity. That meant no heat, no cooking, no elevators. It usually meant non-functioning toilet facilities, to say nothing of the danger of those darkened stairways, and immediately began several days of frightening, cold isolation in the dark.

As I write this, we do not yet know what the death toll will be from these terrible circumstances. We do know that the mayors and governors are making extraordinary efforts to deal with the issues. The immediate problem is to get food, clothing and shelter to all those who are suffering. It is a tremendous task but we are well underway. Down the road, we will not be able to avoid the consequences of the extraordinary economic destructiveness. People living in San Bernadino will pay a price for SANDY. We don’t know what that price is yet but the bill will come!

SANDY is a tragic, agonizing disaster for the North East and for the whole country. I would not be so silly as to make much mention of the fact that at least some minimum of good will come from it. However, as an optimist I would like to mention a couple of benefits. They are nothing in terms of the total damage but ought at least to be taken into consideration in our downward spiral.

The immediate efforts at recovery to SANDY’S devastation is a tremendous tribute to the organizational ability of the American economic and political system. What was done immediately and will be done in the immediate future is astonishing and we can thank God that we have the capacity to do this.

The spirit of service, love, cooperation and unity that marked the area of the country that took the hardest hit was a magnificent tribute to the American values that we all share. A corollary response is also being generated around the rest of the country and maybe even the world. Finally, because we are busy little imitators of the beavers and the ants, rebuilding is already underway. When that rebuilding is complete, the North Eastern United States will be a finer area in which to live and work than it was before SANDY came ashore on October 29th.

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To Err is Definitely Human…

By , July 6, 2012 4:59 am

Forgiveness is one of the countless gifts given by God to the human condition. Life is difficult. Mistakes are made. Errors committed. Sinfulness happens. And much of this happens at home, with our families and the ones we love the most.
Forgiveness is the gift that allows us to get past these hurdles.
Let’s keep it simple, and If we want advice in this area, take it from Jesus, who said Forgive, forgive, forgive.”

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In Memory Of…Our Memories

By , July 5, 2012 5:43 am

Dementia can mean many things, but mainly refers to loss of memory. Do you ever think about the fact that you never hear kids in their twenties complaining about their memory? The reason is easy- their’s works! But get around a group of people in their later decades, and you’ll find a non-stop bemoaning of memory loss, or at least memory weakening. The difference between the two groups is that as long as this gift is working, we take it for granted. Once it ceases to work perfectly, we immediately begin to pay the price.

Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you said Wednesday…

And most of all, where are the car keys?

Memory is an awesome gift that enables us to function day by day with minimum tension and fewer mistakes.        
 Let’s try to remember to thank God for it, and pray for those suffering from memory loss as well as all those who care for them!

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