Tuesday, 22 October 2019

History will judge us

In 2019 Canadians voted overwhelmingly for profits and economic growth over the sustainability of the environment, in defiance of the evidence of science and climate change, and the marching of our children. History and our grandchildren will judge us.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Elections and the Spirit of Egotism or the Spirit of Sacrifice

Originally posted on the blog for St. Vincent de Paul Newmarket

Jesus told the pharisees: “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow, red sky in the morning means bad weather today.’ You are good at reading the signs of the weather in the sky, but you can’t read the obvious signs of the times!” (Matthew 16:2-3)

Bl. Frederick Ozanam beautifully illustrated what it means to  read the signs of the times in this following extract from a letter  that he wrote to a friend in 1838. Listen to these words bearing in mind that the 2nd French Revolution occurred in 1830 and the 3rd revolt happened in 1848, the same year that the Communist Manifesto was published.

Barricades at Rue Soufflot on 24 June 1848 - Vernet
The question which divides people in our day is no longer a question of political forms, it is a social question—that of deciding whether the spirit of egotism or the spirit of sacrifice is to carry the day; whether society is to be a huge traffic for the benefit of the strongest, or the consecration of each for the benefit of all, and above all for the protection of the weak. There are many who already have too much, and who wish to possess still more; there are a greater number who have not enough, and who want to seize it if it is not given to them. Between these two classes of people a struggle is imminent, and it threatens to be terrible—on one side the power of gold, on the other the power of despair. It is between these two opposing armies that we must precipitate ourselves.

Talking to us about this quotation at our recent "Recharge the Batteries" event, Fr Roy commented that this letter was prophetic. Indeed it was, coming ten years before the "third" revolution and the publication of the Communist Manifesto.

Blessed Ozanam saw Christ in the poor and the weak, but he did not see them through rose-tinted eye glasses. He saw very clearly that the same spirit of egotism that was evident in the rich and powerful aristocracy as well as the middle class bourgeoisie, was also powerfully at work in the desperation of the impoverished working classes. As he saw it, the only thing that could possibly make a difference would be if Catholics and other Christians of France in his time could set aside their own spirit of egotism and replace it with a spirit of sacrifice in faithfulness to the teachings and call of Jesus Christ, "Come, follow me."

We are at a time when overwhelming and increasing numbers of environmental scientists are telling us that our planet is fast approaching a tipping point. In his encyclical, Laudato Si', Pope Francis tells us, "There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded." (LS #25)

Blessed Ozanam's words are no less prophetic and applicable to our times today where political parties in campaigns for the coming election are appealing to our spirit of egotism to persuade us to vote for them - some more so than others, and most offering no more than lip service to the environmental crisis as merely one issue among many others. Between the opposing powers of gold and despair, Ozanam says we have to 'precipitate' ourselves. I do not know the original French word and do not even speak French, but this use of 'precipitate' in the English translation suggests urgently throwing oneself headlong into a situation without taking sufficient time to consider the consequences, much like a parent might rush into a burning house to rescue a child.

As Vincentians, which spirit do we want to drive us? The spirit of egotism or that of sacrifice? I must confess that I feel nervous and ambivalent about 'precipitating' myself into the gap between the rich and powerful on the one hand, and the poor and desperate on the other. Perhaps that is the difference between saints and the rest of us, but let us take inspiration from our founder and model, nevertheless. The very existence of our Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a direct consequence of precipitous action that Frederick Ozanam took in 1833. The same question posed by Blessed Ozanam in 1838 faces us as Christians and Vincentians going into voting booths in 2019: that of deciding whether the spirit of egotism or the spirit of sacrifice is to carry the day, for the benefit of the strongest, or for the benefit of all, and above all for the protection of the weak?

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Our Adventures in Portugal: Cake by the Ocean

Adventures of Mark, Luisa and their kids, newly arrived in Portugal for a year.

Our Adventures in Portugal: Cake by the Ocean: My kids have never experienced the ocean before now. Day 1: at the end of a long travel day... Jonty - after running in excitedly, ...

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Is climate change the most important life issue today?

"Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis." - Greta Thunberg

At election time, which issues should we focus on when marking an 'X' on our ballot? Eons ago Bill Clinton's presidential campaign famously said, "It's about the economy, Stupid." In 2016 Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Catholic Knights of Columbus, said that abortion is not “just another political issue" but "is in reality a legal regime that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths. What political issue could possibly outweigh this human devastation?" As a result a large number of Roman Catholics voted for Donald Trump who had declared himself against abortion. Again, there are many people today who have voiced the opinion that immigration and migrants make up the issue of the day.

Daniel P. Horan, a Franciscan friar and assistant professor of systematic theology and spirituality at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago writes:
What good is it to prevent abortions or save the elderly from euthanasia or ensure the elimination of capital punishment if there is no air to breathe, water to drink, land to farm, plants or animals to eat, or habitats free from flooding, hurricanes, wildfires, tornados, earthquakes or some of the other devastating weather phenomena? I'm not suggesting that we ignore those discrete life issues; they demand prayer and action, too. However, there is a uniquely dire valence to what is happening to our planet and a very limited window to do anything to save the very possibility of life on this planet at all.

I highly recommend that you read the full piece here: Climate change is the most important life issue today