Muskrat on Lenten Fridays

3 April 20 | Posted in Animals, Food, U.S. Catholic

Michigan Catholics have a few options for Friday night dinner during Lent:  fish frys, fish sticks, pizza or muskrat.

A long-standing permission allows local Catholics to eat muskrat, a rodent native to the area, “on days of abstinence, including Fridays during Lent.” The custom dates to the region’s missionary history in the 1700s.  Missionary priests realized food was scarce in communities close to the Detroit River, so they did not want to deny settlers an available source of protein. 

The Rev. Tim Laboe, dean of studies at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, grew up in an area of Michigan where muskrat dinners have long been a tradition.  He remembers eating muskrat with his grandfather.  “I don’t know if I enjoy more eating the muskrat or watching people try it for the first time, because it doesn’t look in any way appetizing.”

Laboe, who said he enjoyed muskrat, recalled a quote attributed to the late Bishop Kenneth Povish, the former head of the Lansing Diocese: “Anybody that eats muskrat is doing an act of penance worthy of the greatest of saints.” 

Conscience, Candidates and Discipleship in 2020 Elections

7 March 20 | Posted in Events, Social Justice, Spirituality, U.S. Catholic

In a February 6, 2020 speech at the University of San Diego, Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said “the drive to label a single issue preeminent” in the 2020 election “distorts the call to authentic discipleship in voting rather than advancing it.” Bishop McElroy called both abortion and the environment “core life issues in Catholic teaching.”

“Against the backdrop of these two monumental threats to human life, how can one evaluate the competing claims that either abortion or climate change should be uniquely preeminent in Catholic social teaching regarding the formation of Americans as citizens and believers? Four points should be considered. —There is no mandate in universal Catholic social teaching that gives a categorical priority to either of these issues as uniquely determinative of the common good. —The death toll from abortion is more immediate, but the long-term death toll from unchecked climate change is larger and threatens the very future of humanity. —Both abortion and the environment are core life issues in Catholic teaching. —The designation of either of these issues as the preeminent question in Catholic social teaching at this time in the United States will inevitably be hijacked by partisan forces to propose that Catholics have an overriding duty to vote for candidates that espouse that position.”

Conservation and the Catholic Imagination

“Conservation and the Catholic Imagination” was published by the Center for Humans and Nature in 2010.  It was written by Marybeth Lorbiecki, director of Interfaith Oceans, an effort dedicated to awakening religious people to the need to restore and protect the world’s oceans.  She is also the author of numerous books, including Following St. Francis: John Paul II’s Call for Ecological Action. 

Lorbiecki articulates an ethic that can not only help the environment, but also inspire and renew a new generation of Catholics.

“…. when the service-oriented imagination of Catholics has become engaged in a good cause, an enormous amount of work has gotten done—consider the creation of Catholic hospitals, hospices, schools for the poor, orphanages, and medical clinics that populate communities around the globe. So imagine the tipping point if even a small portion of this populace as a group could get publicly, physically, and passionately engaged in conservation works and activism.” 

“Now more than ever, this Catholic imagination is needed, not only to renew the world through activism, but for its own survival—for the inspiration to renew the Church itself. It needs a groundswell of new directions, new energies, and new ways to show meaningful, inspiring servant leadership in the world. Catholics are an untapped alternative energy source, and they need to be invited to the conservation table to participate not just as humans and fellow planetary citizens—as many are already involved for these reasons—but also specifically as Catholics. Presently, ecological teachings have been perceived as sideline issues rather than as core to whom Catholics are and dream themselves to be.”

Read the entire article here.  I thought it was the best article I have ever read on Catholics and the environment.

 

Catholic Ecology Disconnects

There appears to be a disconnect in the beliefs of Catholics across the ideological spectrum on Care for Creation–all Creation.

Many good Catholics who care for the environment and would protest the killing of baby seals for pelts, agricultural killing of animal “pests,” and insist on humanely raised and harvested food, don’t blink when it comes to abortion on demand.

Many good Catholics who are “Pro-Life,” deeply concerned with promoting the sacredness of life, are indifferent or actively opposed to environmental protection as part of their “Culture of Life” ethos.  Ecological degradation and pollution affect everyone, and it affects the poor disproportionately, especially children.  

Can each group reconsider the logic of their position?

Fr. James Kurzynski, who writes for The Catholic Astronomer, had an excellent blog post on the Catholic disconnect over what the Church teaches about ecology, and what Catholics believe and do.

He noted that despite the clear and unambiguous teaching of the last three popes (St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis), there is a gap between what the Church teaches–and what her members practice–in regard to caring for all creation.

It’s Groundhog Day!

2 February 09 | Posted in Animals, Events, U.S. Catholic

I love animal holidays. Watching all the little kids (and big kids!) bring their hamsters, dogs, kittens, guinea pigs, bunnies, parakeets, and everything else off to church on the Feast of St. Francis is touching and a delight to watch. On one thing the Catholic Church was wise–to acknowledge our deep ties, love, and mystical bonds with our family pets and livestock.

I think of Groundhog Day as another Catholic holiday since it is associated with Candlemas, also celebrated on February 2nd. Its furry, cute and loveable star is Punxsutawney Phil of Pennsylvania.

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, so we can look forward to six more weeks of winter. groundhog-day.jpg

Phil emerged in front of an estimated 13,000 witnesses, many dressed in gold and black to celebrate the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl victory the day before.

His annual ritual takes place on Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill in Punxsutawney, a town of about 6100 residents 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club announced the forecast (more winter) in a short proclamation, in which Phil acknowledged the Steelers’ 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

There is a tradition that a sunny Candlemas Day would lead winter to last for another six weeks. In Germany, the belief that an animal frightened when seeing its shadow on Candlemas became another indicator that winter could last for another six weeks.  The hedge-hog was the German animal of choice for the job.

Germans brought this superstition to America during the 18th century. Americans adopted the groundhog as their weather predictor.

Candlemas marks the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and recognizes the animals’ sensitivity to weather changes. Farmers used to rely on them to help plan spring planting.

Three other groundhogs make predictions on February 2nd: Shubenacadie Sam in Nova Scotia; Wiarton Willie of Wiarton, Ontario, and General Beauregard Lee of Stone Mountain, Georgia.

But this year, the birds may know something the groundhogs don’t.  I saw my first robin on Saturday morning, January 31st.