Saturday, December 31, 2011

PRAYER - Fr Ron Rolheiser on Prayer - 4 part series

Dear Reader,

Merry Christmas! Yes, Christmas Eve and Day are past, and today we come to the end of the Octave of Christmas with the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, but we are still in the heart of the Christmas Season as we celebrate, ponder, and contemplate deeper each day into the Mystery of our God who has come among us in the Person of the Divine Son, who is now forever also Jesus Christ, Son of Mary, Jewish man of Nazareth and Galilee, but also our Messiah, our Lord, King of Kings as so beautifully expressed by Haendel in his "Messiah" overture sung so often all over the world at this time of year.

So it is still time to wish you and your family, friends, work and school colleagues, neighbors, and even enemies, a Merry Christmas, and of course a Happy, Healthy, and Holy New Year 2012!

I am pleased to offer you the gift of a link to a wonderful 4-part reflection by Fr Ron Rolheiser, OMI, columnist and speaker, on prayer, which is so essential to our growth in faith and in a living and lively relationship with the Living God through Jesus and in the Holy Spirit.

2011-11-28 | Prayer as Seeking Depth
2011-12-04 | Praying So As Not To Lose Heart
2011-12-11 | Prayer as Seeking God's Guidance
2011-12-18 | Praying So As To See God's Glory Inside Of Humanity

As in all things given or offered to us by Jesus, it is in the actual doing of it that we can and do and will go on experiencing the benefit and the blessing. It is not enough to hear and agree, we must pass into action and practice what we have heard, not being dismayed by our emotional or intellectual impressions of inadequacy, but being content to be poor in the presence of our God, who is infinitely rich and who loves nothing more than to bestow upon us his riches and even his own self, which the Father does in offering us his Son Jesus again and again in his Living and inspired Word and in the Holy Eucharist, the gift of himself as food for our soul, food for the journey....

May you and your loved ones accept to ever dwell in the Love, Peace, and Joy which are the life of the Holy Trinity from all eternity, and into which they are drawing us, if only we continue to humbly give them our consent, as did Mary when she responded "Let it be done to me according to your word!" to the Angel Gabriel's message of proposal from Almighty God....

Fr Gilles

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

America is out of control

So much is being made in the media of the wrangling by American legislators about their need to raise their debt ceiling that it is difficult to avoid making some comments and observations.

It appears that America - the U.S.A., the United States of America - long deemed a great nation has become a nation careening out of control and destined for a crash, a very damaging collision with unchanging realities that seems unavoidable if they continue on their present course.

It could be said that the motto of the USA or of their people is "America is the land of opportunity, the land of freedom for all where anything is possible." In their culture, in their beliefs, in their practices, and in their institutions this has come to be expressed in the avoidance of controls and restraints in order to avoid limiting those freedoms and opportunities.

A corollary belief is that Americans can accomplish anything they set their mind to do; therefore, those who do not succeed fail to succeed because of their own lack of imagination, creativity, will, discipline, or effort. It follows then, according to this generalized line of thinking, that all those who have failed, who are without work, who have lost their homes, who have lost their health, who are down and out or homeless, that is, all those who do not enjoy the full realization of the American Dream, are in that state by their own fault and only by their own fault.

That is why American culture and politics generally consider a country like Canada to be a socialist state, a short step from the Communist or Marxist states. In recent discussions about their Medicare system Americans resisted extending coverage to every citizen in the USA. There continue to be in the USA what are called working poor, those citizens and families that work one, two, even three jobs but are barely able to sustain themselves, cannot afford medical insurance, and are one hospital visit away from losing their home and being on the street.

Representatives of their association told me personally in the Fall of 2004 that there were at that time in the USA 75 million working poor, that's 75,000,000 Americans without medical coverage. I don't fully understand their system, but it seems that those who are actually poor and reliant on government welfare payments are eligible for Medicare support if they are hospitalized, but the working poor earn too much to be eligible for those benefits. The only way working people can have medical coverage is by buying medical insurance.

Not only that, but those on welfare and the working poor generally seem to have to resort to what we could call "B" hospitals - as in "B" movies - hospitals that may still come under the public system or hospitals founded and still managed by what are considered neither public nor private institutions such as the Catholic Church or other Christian churches, where funding may not be as abundant, where there may not be found all the latest in medical technologies and practices, where the best medical practitioners may not normally be found.

Since the privatization of hospitals and medical institutions in the USA the costs have increased well out of reach of ordinary citizens. Medical procedures and any hospitalizations now cost more than what ordinary people earn in a year or more. The costs have been aggravated by unrestrained technological developments and further aggravated by unrestrained exploitation by the legal system.

There seems to exist in the USA what we could call "perfect storm" conditions that came into being when unrestrained exploitation of the legal system by greedy lawyers and legal firms converged with unrestrained increases in investments in advanced medical technologies and unrestrained increases in medical profession salaries - which in turn may have been exacerbated by unrestrained increases in the salaries of athletes and entertainers - and unrestrained exploitation of the public by some medical insurance companies, who in their turn exploited with their money and power the legal system in order to refuse and wear down people who had rightful claims to medical coverage.

I would hope and do believe there are medical insurance companies out there that tend to honor their policies and do compensate claimants and avoid the shameful practices of putting them through the ringer and exploiting them in their pain and vulnerability in order to dissuade them from following through on their claim or in the hope that they may die and in that way put an end to their claim. The perfect storm of which I speak then is the convergence of greed, lack of regard for justice, and the lack of moral restraints in the legal profession and its institutions - both public and private - in the medical profession and medical institutions - both public and private - in government institutions, and finally in citizens themselves.

The sharks are circling out there, and in the USA if you look at someone the wrong way there may be a lawyer out there capable of convincing that person to sue you. If that other is crazy enough, or sufficiently without principle, and has enough money, they could sue you and destroy you by wearing you down in the courts; which seem no longer able to distinguish true justice from frivolous action or unjust exploitation of a system that has lost its ability to recognize or render true justice.

That is a perfect storm, and if you're in the wrong place and the wrong time and a shark bites you, or if you lose your job and have a hard time finding another, or if you or a family member gets sick, has a baby or an accident and is hospitalized, you can find yourself with a debt you can never repay or even find yourself losing your home. A whole new private enterprise has cropped up in infomercials whereby they show you how to buy up the homes of citizens temporarily defaulting on mortgage payments - often because they are out of work or have a medical bill - so there are "fire sales" on peoples' homes in America, the land of opportunity for sharks.

In this article, I contend that the USA is a nation out of control. You will find the link at the title a site that reports the actual philosophy of society and of governance of the "founding fathers" who drafted the Constitution of the United States of America. Their consensus was that only faith in God and moral restraint shown by religious people could control the human flaws and passions and that the constitution was intended for such morally virtuous citizens. The USA as a nation is now out of control because as a nation with its public and government institutions it has distanced itself from the mindset and moral outlook of its founding fathers. As a result America in its government and public institutions and many of its own citizenry is incapable of living out of its own constitution.

Don't get me wrong, there are many wonderful Americans, people of character and virtue, people of faith and responsible for themselves, their families, their neighborhood, and their work. Sadly, the government and public institutions, and much of commerce and industry, and most if not all of their multinational and other large corporations are working against their own citizens.

The founding fathers enshrined in the Constitution document their values with the intention that their descendants would allow themselves to be guided by it to go on living the life of freedom and moral restraint they were setting up for themselves and their families and all the citizens who joined them in the founding of their new nation. The primary good was the welfare of every citizen, to be achieved through their own efforts and with the mutual support they were committed to offer each other as they had done in resisting the British.

That primary good has been replaced over time by the profit principle. It is now unrestrained greed that governs the USA. This has become obvious from the countless reports over the past few decades. As a nation, the USA refuses to admit that people can come into hard times, that it is possible for thrifty and hardworking citizens to get sick, to have accidents, to lose their jobs, and to need public assistance. Such people are considered a drain on public resources and on those who are healthy, wealthy, influential, and successful. They are considered unworthy of help.

That the USA considers itself the land of opportunity in actual fact means that it is a land of opportunity for various species of shark. Those who inherit fortunes or influence, those who by their own effort and also luck achieve positions of fortune and influence, those who are not hindered by moral considerations and have the ability to exploit the system - all of these and others like them - these are those for whom there is opportunity because it doesn't matter how many they trample in their reckless pursuit of success and profit.

At the time of the founding fathers, provisions were made for the state to seize and punish those who showed manifest lack of moral restraint and caused harm to others in their quest for success and profit. However, over time, a complex system of laws and legal practice seen develop a whole culture of legalism that has little or nothing to do with justice or morality. Those who have the influence, the money, and other means and opportunity to exploit even the legal system can, and money appears for the most part able to wear out and crush the ordinary citizen.

Money and influence have all but strangled the legislative and well as the judiciary systems. Lobbyists are known to be able to steer the outcome of legislation as well as legal outcomes, and the government has all but lost its ability to govern, as it represents interests more often than its own citizens. Greed unhindered by moral or other restraints is also in evidence throughout American and around the globe at the hands of American multinational and other large corporations and sadly also smaller private untraded companies.

The profit principle has trumped all other considerations for the most part: the good of the worker, the value of marriage and family, the value of building local neighborhoods and living environments - none of it matters - which is blind greed careening out of control. It is possible to merge new technologies with commerce in the development of living neighborhoods and in the establishment of cottage industry but the citizens must make those choices and support them.

Too often large financial interests establish cut price businesses that drive small businesses to closure because the population supports them and buy there endlessly pursuing discounts, and people just don't seem to realize there are costs. You can save by purchasing at a cut price outlet, but the cost is the loss of local business and in time of your neighborhood, your living environment. America is increasingly becoming a land with devastated inner city cores, sterile suburbs, and rural ghost towns as small businesses crash, victims of large profit driven cut price outlets that have little consideration for their own workforce.

America is beginning to look like the third world, with the gap between rich and poor widening, relentless impoverishment, erosion, and diminishment of the affluent middle class, increasing numbers of wealthy (many of whom have been able to prosper unhindered be consideration for those they in effect exploit), and increasing numbers of the working poor, and in the end, of the helpless poor on welfare or worse, on the street. That's the new class of poor, those who no longer even have a home or address and hence are ineligible for welfare, and find themselves homeless.

Americans who continue to live the kind of life intended by their founding fathers, a life of character and virtue, of faith and morality, are still able to experience the fruits and benefits of such a life, but they must be on their guard against the innumerable sharks out there. They can do their best to influence their government and public institutions for good, but realize they will often experience defeat at the hands of those bodies and individuals governed exclusively by profit. Even they can find themselves out of work, on welfare, or even on the street, if they find themselves in the kinds of conditions that put Job in total misery. This is for them an extreme test of faith, to continue relying on God, trying to help themselves, turning to others for help, and trusting that in the end the Lord will rescue them.

The massive scale of the American economy and the trappings of their government and public institutions has allowed the USA to maintain what has increasingly become a fiction of success, a travesty, an illusion. Their public debt has become so huge that they appear unable to pay it down. Their is no manifest public will to even acknowledge the debt, let alone pay it down. The dominant concern at present seems to be to continue increasing spending and the debt without any consideration for the future. If the government of the USA is not yet financially bankrupt, morally it is. It no longer reflects the character, morality, and virtue of its founding fathers, nor do many American citizens, businesses, corporations, and countless self-interest and lobby groups.

Not until responsibilities receive equal measure with rights will this situation ever change. If America continues on this course, it is only a question of time until they collide with undeniable reality. A nation unconcerned about its weaker and more defenseless citizens is not worthy of its founding fathers.

Only God can help them now, but they must first overcome those adhering to the profit principle who have all but succeeded in banning God from public life and discourse, and return to the character, values, morality, restraint, and faith of the founding fathers.