Monday, October 26, 2015

Just Thoughts: Pope Francis' Encyclical--on Healing the Earth (on Laudato Si')

Here is the J"ust Thoughts" piece I composed for next Sunday's bulletin (for November 1, 2015). Many ideas for this came from last night's Laudato Si' study group at St. Mary's, in Painesville, Ohio.

Just Thoughts: Pope Francis’ Call for Healing in the Encyclical Laudato Si’

A study group has now met twice at St. Mary’s contemplating Pope Francis’s great encyclical Laudato Si’.  This group will meet once more, on Sunday, November 1, at 3 PM in the Father Hanzo Center, focusing on Chapters 5 and 6. The encyclical is available to read at this website: Everyone is welcome to come to the study group!

There are certain themes heavily stressed in the encyclical: the responsibility of human beings to take care of the earth and its environment; the biblical and theological basis for this responsibility; the heavy price the poor pay for our ecological recklessness; the dignity of work and the right that all humans have to meaningful and fairly compensated jobs. Many of these themes are not new to Catholic social doctrine. They go back at least to the encyclical Rerum Novarum that Pope Leo XIII wrote in 1891.

There are, however, some new themes addressed by the Holy Father concerning the most modern forms of technology. He doesn’t see them as in themselves evil, as long as they are controlled and put to work for human beings. Here, in poetic language, he states his hopes:

“We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community. Or when technology is directed primarily to resolving people’s concrete problems, truly helping them live with more dignity and less suffering. Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it. An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?” (Par. 112).

The Pope doesn’t exactly say it, but maybe we can think of this “mist seeping gently beneath a closed door” as the action of the Holy Spirit.

Once we understand the nature of these problems addressed in Laudato Si’, with a solid biblical and theological footing, we can begin the urgent work of healing our Earth and all who live there.

* * *

Last week’s “Just Thoughts” had a minor error. If you want to see the petition of the Lake/Geauga Diocesan Social Action Commission calling for gun safety measures, go to this address:

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Poem for Linda Ronstadt, Silenced by Parkinsons Disease

For Linda Ronstadt: Beautiful Brown Eyes

Los ojos marrones y mas bonitos,
and the voice of an angel,
so beautiful, so beautiful,
now silenced by Parkinsons--

Lo siento, Mi Vida,
so sorry, my love, so sad
to see the end of your musical career,
your songs a sweet gift to the world.

You in your silence
can rest assured:
the great art, the beauty, you created
still stirs the hearts of so many listeners.

[Bob Coughlin / October 2015]

Near the Peak of Fall Color in Northeast Ohio

For various reasons, Northeast Ohio is one of the most beautiful places in the world for fall color. This is especially true a little south of the lake, in Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, and Ashtabula Counties. These areas have wonderful forests of sugar maple, beech, red maple, tulip poplar, black gum (tupelo), sassafras, hickory, etc. These trees give you yellows, oranges, reds, and all sort of combinations and intermediate shades. I guess the colors are a product of our tree species, soils, and weather. Below are some photos from this morning and the past week.

Red maple, with pin oak in the background (my yard, Chardon)

Blueberry bush (my yard, Chardon)

Some sort of hickory (Penitentiary Glenn)

American beech (Penitentiary Glenn)

Sugar maple

Black gum/tupelo

Sugar maple
Sugar maple in my front yard

Trees behind my house in Hambden/Chardon

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Prayer of the Faithful/Petitions for Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ellen McHugh wrote these beautiful petitions for St. Mary's Church in Painesville, Ohio, for the October 25th masses:

Prayer of the Faithful for October 25, 2015
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Celebrant:  As we celebrate our coming together for the Eucharist, let us, dear sisters and brothers, approach the one God to voice all our needs.

·         That we may be inspired by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who invites us all “to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.”  We pray to the Lord. 

·         For a deeper sense of gratitude for the beautiful mystery celebrated today; we pray especially for our priests here at St. Mary: Father Steve, Father John, and Father Chris, who make Jesus present for us through the grace and gift of ordination.  We pray to the Lord.

·         For a greater awareness of the richness of every vocation to love Christ; we pray that more men and women will respond to Our Lord’s invitation to follow Him as priests, deacons and in the consecrated life.  We pray to the Lord.

·         That we may all be inspired by today’s Gospel; that the healing of Bartimaeus, who many sought to silence, may serve to inspire us in our daily lives to see Jesus fully and to respond to His mercy with faith, hope, and gratitude.  We pray to the Lord.
·         That as a people of faith we stand witness to the destructive power of gun violence. Never let our prayers serve as an excuse for inaction; motivate and empower us as individuals and as a nation to address our culture of gun violence with laws that serve to prevent violence and promote life.  We pray to the Lord.
·         Protect and defend those living with mental illness from exploitation, addictions and abuse.
Empower us to speak up for those who do not have a voice; guide us that we may unite to provide for and protect the poor, the homeless and those who suffer in mind, body and spirit.  We pray to the Lord.

·         And for those for whom this Mass is offered [name them].  We pray to the Lord

·         Let us pause now and silently offer to the Father our own particular intentions [allow for     silence. . .].  We pray to the Lord.

Celebrant:  Father, we believe that you will hear and respond to our sincere prayers, asked in the name of your Son, and in the power of your Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Just Thoughts--A Call for Common-Sense Gun Safety Measures

[Krista Zivkovich wrote this "Just Thoughts" column; it will appear in the October 25th bulletin of St. Mary's in Painesville, Ohio.]

Just Thoughts:

Faith Communities Calling for Common-Sense Gun Safety Measures

Our Catholic Bishops have long called on Congress to pass basic laws that would almost certainly cut down on the amount of gun violence in our country. The life of each  person God has created is precious to Him, and as individuals living in community with each other, we have a duty to respect the dignity and value of each life and to do what is within our power to protect the lives of His beloved people.

Many people have said, and rightly so, that laws alone will not prevent the kind of mass shootings to which our country is becoming all too accustomed.  However, many reasonable people agree that some common-sense measures will help to curb this plague of gun violence.

As you have probably heard or read often, the United States has more incidences of gun violence than any other developed country in the world. Following the December 2012 killing of 27 first graders and teachers in their classroom in Newtown, Connecticut, many Americans believed that Congress would act to pass basic gun safety measures.  In June another mass killing took place in Charleston, SC as members of AME Emanuel church gathered to pray and study Scripture in their church. Gun violence resulting in multiple deaths continued this summer around the country in a movie theater, an Army recruiting station and on live television. Gun violence touched our own parish family and last month took the life of a 5 year old Cleveland child while he played in his yard.

The Catholic Bishops have sent statements and letters to Congress urging them to pass gun safety measures. But has each of us made that same demand of our elected representatives?   Let us, members of the St. Mary faith community, join our voices together and call for changes in the gun safety laws. The Lake/Geauga Diocesan Social Action Commission has written a petition calling for the same 4 gun safety measures called for by the U.S. Bishops.  This weekend after each Mass, the petition will be available to sign in the Good Shepherd entrance. The petitions will be forwarded to our representatives in Congress and in Columbus.

The petition can also be found on the Catholic Charities website: Link to the petition. Or cut and past this address into your browser:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Moving Day--A Poem for My Friends

Kathy and her husband are moving. Here's a poem for them.

Laying On of Hands (Preparing for Moving Day)

As you prepare for Moving Day
You are forced to lay your hands

            On everything you own . . .

And even if you fight hard
To keep your mind silent,
All you can think about is
The history of this item or that
And all the things and people
Who have passed in and out of your life:

            So many gifts, yet
            So many gone.

And even though you’ve tried to live in the here and now,
You wonder what this move will mean,
What changes it augurs,
For good or for ill.

All the ghosts, all the hands,
All the stories,

How will all this end?

[Bob Coughlin / October 13, 2015]

Just Thoughts: Mary, the Undoer of Knots

Just Thoughts: Mary, the Undoer of Knots

As Pope Francis processed in his Popemobile to the altar in Philadelphia on September 27th, he asked his driver to stop at a beautiful art installation/shrine right next to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. This shrine looked a bit like a ship, festooned with little white strips of cloth--100,000 of them! On each strip of cloth was written a petition, problem, sorrow, or concern. Nearby this beautiful work of art was a portrait of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, untying knots. This image is beloved of Pope Francis, who thinks of Mary as our great intercessor, undoing the knots (problems, sorrows) in our lives, and laying them in front of the Lord.

St. Mary parishioners who were there were struck by the thousands of petitions, how each life is confronted with challenges and sorrows. They were also struck by this kindly Pope, who visited the shrine, met with the nun who is the force behind the shrine, and gave his blessing and added his own prayers.

A week after this visit to Philadelphia, where Pope Francis was greeted by up to 800,000 people, we celebrated the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Our Pope took the name of St. Francis, the very first Pope to do so. He tries to live with the simplicity and directness of Francis, and like the great saint, Pope Francis lays his burden at the feet of Mary--our great intercessor, the solver of problems, undoer of knots.

Part of the Art Installation/Shrine--Mary, the Undoer of Knots

Examples of the petitions festooning this art installation

My own petition, for the Karpos Ministry to the Homeless, in Painesville, Ohio

Monday, October 5, 2015

Just Thoughts: Stop the Murders!

Just Thoughts: We Must Act to End This Violence

The world was stunned these past days by the cold-blooded murder of nine people (eight students and their 67-year-old teacher) at Umpquah Community College in Roseburg, Oregon and the wounding of about ten others. The killer brought six guns to the college, five handguns and a semiautomatic rifle, and had seven more guns back at his apartment. Reports say that these guns were purchased legally. This past month in the city of Cleveland, three little children, including a six-month-old baby, were killed in crossfire from gang shootings. And who can forget that three years ago in Chardon, three students were murdered and three wounded in their high school cafeteria. The sorrow is almost unbearable.

The world weeps for these students and these babies--and wonders how this could happen in the richest, most privileged country in the world. Some politicians have said what amounts to “stuff happens” or “there’s nothing we can do about it.” But that is clearly false because murders like this almost never happen in most of the world’s developed countries.

The environment in which such murders can happen is the result of poor social and political and legal structures. We can make laws and rules and procedures that both allow us our constitutional rights yet make this level of violence and murder far less likely.

Surely a problem like this calls out for action on many fronts: scholars and experts must come up with good sociological and psychological analyses; we need to better understand the biological factors behind violence. We must enact laws and procedures that make such violence much less possible. That last point is our responsibility: we are the voters; we have to elect leaders who will act and not continually roadblock progress on this front.

We have great models in the power of nonviolence. Mahatma Gandhi taught us the effectiveness of truth-force without the use of violence. Martin Luther King used nonviolent techniques in America in the fight for civil rights. And of course Jesus is the great teacher in the rejection of violence to achieve justice.

Failing to act can be nothing but a sin. We must start right away. A good beginning would be to teach our children to reject violence to achieve one’s goals. We are the hands and feet of the Lord. We need to pray to the Lord--and then get busy with our hands and feet and mind, creating a more peaceful world.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Petitions/Prayer of the Faithful for October 4, 2015

Ellen McHugh's Petitions for Sunday, October 4, 2015:

 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Celebrant:  As we celebrate our coming together for the Eucharist, let us, dear sisters and brothers,

approach the one God to voice all our needs.

 That state and community leaders may be inspired by the Holy Spirit to uphold programs

that acknowledge the value of family and offer support to families in difficulty.  We pray to

the Lord.  

 For all married couples, for an understanding that love means acting for the good of the

other and receiving the other as a gift of infinite value.  We pray to the Lord.

 That parents would be given the wisdom to treat each child as a unique gift from God and

foster justice within the family.  We pray to the Lord.

 For those experiencing brokenness in family life through divorce, separation, or death, that

they find strength in Jesus who overcame the broken-ness of our world through his

suffering.  We pray to the Lord.

 That St. Paul’s words today inspire us, knowing that in our own suffering we are not alone,

that Jesus who made himself “lower than the angels,” suffering death on the cross, is our

refuge and our salvation.  We pray to the Lord.

 And for those for whom this Mass is offered [name them].  We pray to the Lord

 Let us pause now and silently offer to the Father our own particular intentions [allow for    

silence. . .].  We pray to the Lord.

Celebrant:  Father, we believe that you will hear and respond to our sincere prayers, asked in the

name of your Son, and in the power of your Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

[Ellen wrote these before the Roseburg, Oregon massacre and I'm sure she would include a petition related to that tragedy.]

New Poem about the Roseburg, Oregon Murders--and the Murders of Three Little Children in Cleveland

Murder is as American . . .

as apple pie, and as

common. Just yesterday almost 20 were shot
at a community college in Oregon,
leaving at least 10 dead

leaving behind uncountable broken families,
broken friends, broken hearts.

And hardly noticed, a five-month-old
murdered in a hail of cross fire
in the killing fields of Cleveland.

In America murder is everywhere,
outside a small city in Oregon,
in bucolic Chardon, in the rustfields of Cleveland,

and too often
in our own suicidal, homicidal hearts.

This is the bed we made, O America,
now we sleep in this bloody bed.
This is our choice:

Don’t tell me there’s nothing to be done!

[Bob Coughlin / October 2, 2015]