Monday, September 19, 2011

Be Still, and know that I am God (ps 46:10)

      A few weeks ago after celebrating Mass at St. Peter the Fisherman in Eagle River, WI I was stopped by someone who politely asked why the Mass there didn't move along more.  I asked the person what they meant and the response was that after the readings instead of the next reader or leader of the responsorial psalm got up there was a pause.  Likewise, this individual felt, that too much time was spent waiting after communion.  I explained that these pauses are called for by the Church in its directives for celebrating Mass so that we could briefly meditate on the readings or on what just happened while receiving Communion.  The person politely thanked me, shrugged the shoulders and walked away without, I think, really understanding why there should be silence there.

      I mention this incident because I believe that this response to silence reflects a deeper issue in our culture. We like to think of ourselves, among other things, as living in the age of communication, and in many ways we are.  The TV and radio blare out opinions on every political and religious issue.  We can listen to any kind of music that we like.  Cell phones and computers put us in instant contact with the whole world, and any of us who want can express our opinion on whatever.  I am part of this.  I'm writing this blog and have have one of those fancy phones that does everything.  But we pay a price for this.

      What is that price?  For one we are constantly bombarded by noise.  At baseball games loud music and events on the jumbotron scoreboard keep one occupied between innings, and many folks have to have something electronic attached to their ear at all times  Likewise we are living at such a fast pace which is necessary in a way to keep up with all that we are bombarded with.  Finally we have lost the ability to listen, to truly listen to one another and to God.

      A big part of the solution to all this is to engage in a discipline of silence, to take the time to be still, to quiet ourselves, to take a deep breath and contemplate all that is going on around us--the good the bad, and the ugly.  We need this in our personal relationships, in our political debate and discourse and above all in our relationship with God.  When people question why silence is part of good worship something is amiss.

    So, some suggestions.  Take time every day, even if you start with only 5 minutes, just to be quiet.  Don't even think of it yet as prayer.  Just be still.   Secondly take time regularly to listen to your spouse, or a close friend or relative if you're not married.  By listen I don't mean being quiet to formulate your response in an argument, but try to really get inside the mind and heart of the other.  Do likewise for the people with whom you disagree theologically and politically.  And yes, take time, as the psalmist says, to be still and to know that God is God (Ps 46:10)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tenth Anniversay of 9/11

 I was preparing some thoughts to post on the tenth anniversary of the tragic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.  I could not think of anything better than the joint statement of the seven United States Franciscan Provinces and the English province, so I invite you, dear blog readers, to click on the site below:.  I welcome your responses.

Franciscan Provinces of US--statement on Tenth Anniversary of 9/11

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Labor Day

    This weekend we celebrate the third and final summertime holiday--labor day.  On Memorial Day we remembered our deceased veterans.  On July 4 we celebrated our freedom, and on Labor Day we honor workers.  But what are we as Catholics to make of this day when the unemployment rate is so high and our political leaders seem unable or unwilling to address the problem in an effective way.

  The teaching of our Church basically says that we are all workers.  To be human is in some way to be a worker. From Pope Leo XIII in the 1890's right  up to Pope John Paul II this teaching has been reiterated in various ways.   Also through work we humans share in the ongoing process of creation by producing goods and services that enhance the quality of life on earth  and which provide a means of living to all.

   The problem, of course, is that greed and self-interest, get in the way.  Some goods and services do not enhance, but rather hinder, the quality of human life, and sometimes workers labor under unjust conditions.  This writer thinks that the previous two sentences sum up the heart of today's problem, the blame for which can be cast at the feet of members of both of  our political parties.  I do not wish to promote or decry any one political leader in this blog, but I do believe that Christian  concern for what is right, and not mere politics calls for me to point out some of the problems, as I see them, on this Labor Day. 
   It was the greed of many banks and Wall St. firms, as well as the policies of our government and the high cost of the wars we have been waging that led to the economic downturn,  and foreclosure crisis which is behind the high unemployment rate The last administration began it and this one has not been able to lead a return to prosperity, though we often forget the forces other than government are also responsible.

   The unwillingness of both political parties to bend, compromise and try to work together is also deplorable and adds to the problem.

   I have been working in Wisconsin this summer and decry strongly what Governor Scott Walker did when he took away collective bargaining rights from state workers.  Now I will grant that some of the unions had demands that were unreasonable, but that's why negotiations get held.  Our Church clearly teaches that workers have a right to organize and that employers are bound to negotiate in good faith.   What folks on all sides forget is the Catholic principle of keeping the common good in mind.  If we did this we wouldn't have the 'my way or the highway" mentality that permeates so much of our political debate.

   So, as we celebrate Labor Day and grill our burgers, brats and hot dogs, I believe that Catholic and Christian concern calls all of us to work together so that all are employed at honorable work, and that all receive just compensation for their labor.



Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly