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.

Cynthia McKinney, Presidential Candidate

3 October 08 | Posted in Government, Social Justice, U.S. Catholic

Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party’s 2008 presidential nominee. She was not invited to participate in any debates, and outside NCR, has received little press coverage about her platform and campaign. cynthia-mckinney.jpg

A former Congresswoman, she served as a Democrat in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2003, representing Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District. She left the Democratic Party in 2007 and became a Green.

McKinney identifies herself as Catholic and attended Catholic grade schools and high school.

“The environment is just one part of the Green Party’s focus,” McKinney said. “The party’s Ten Key Values include both ecology and social justice. We recognize that communities of color suffer the most from environmental degration. For example, waste treatment facilities or toxic chemical dumps sited near poorer neighborhoods cause both high asthma rates and and lead poisoning incidents to rise there.”

“The environmental and the social issues interrelate,” she said. “We can’t save people and not save the planet, or the reverse.”

McKinney defended herself from the accusation of being an election “spoiler,” and that a vote for McKinney will be a vote for McCain. “The only wasted vote is one that doesn’t reflect your values or conscience,” she said. 

“To say I should not run because I can’t prove I will win denies voters any real choice outside the parties funded and controlled by the corporations and the media that promote them.”

Fr. Theodore Hesburgh on Evolution

30 September 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, U.S. Catholic

Father Theodore Hesburgh, 91, the president of Notre Dame  from 1952-1987, was known for his work on many of the biggest social issues of the day: equal rights, the ethical application of scientific advances, justice and academic freedom. thesburgh.jpg

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Fr. Hesburgh answered a question on evolution:

WSJ: You wrote that you and the popes you represented at the IAEA had deep appreciation of the sciences. Now, a m0vement, supported by some Catholics, is fighting the teaching of evolution.

Fr. Hesburgh: I have no problem at all with evolution. I think God can create in any way he wants. If he wants to create through an evolutionary process, it wouldn’t happen without him, because he has to put beings there in the first place. But it could be a very simple kind of life, and it could evolve, as I think it did, through various, different, more-complicated organisms until eventually you get to a point where there is a human being. That requires at least one act of God, to create an immortal soul. Evolution can’t create a spiritual and immortal moral soul.

I’m not afraid of science, because the more I learn from science, the more I know about God and his creation.

The Green Priest

26 September 08 | Posted in Lifestyle, Stewardship, U.S. Catholic

Fr. Tom Lisowski is becoming known as the “green priest” in Springfield, Massachusetts. He tools around town on his electric bike.

“The increasing gas prices were a factor,” said Lisowski, but most important was the issue of stewardship. “It’s all about doing the best I can, any way I can, to promote the kingdom of God on earth. I try to do positive, life-giving things.” bike-priests.jpg

His desire to be a good steward goes beyond his e-bike.

“I have a 55-gallon water drum that collects water from my rain spouts.  I use this to hand-water my garden,” he said.

On a 100 x 150 foot city lot, Fr. Lisowski has an 8 x 20 foot garden. In it he grows tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, asparagus, okra, summer squash and zucchini. “I harvest enough for me to eat with plenty left over to share with my neighbors and friends.”

Fr. Lisowski said by scooting around the city on his e-bike he also finds he is doing a little evangelizing.

“There’s a mailman I pass at least twice a day and each time he sees me he gives me the thumbs up and a ‘God bless you,'” Lisowski said.  “People love to see a priest right there on the streets and it provides for a lot of opportunity for hand waving and talking.”

He added he does his own cooking, shopping, laundry and yard work. “I try to live the life that reflects the lives of the people I serve. I think it brings some substance to my work and my homilies,” he said.

We need more priests like Fr. Lisowski. 

Father, I’m sending you a cheer and a hand-wave from here. Keep up the good work.

Catholics on Climate Change

The Catholic Committee on Appalachia is distributing a 10-minute DVD for religious education classes, “Climate Change: Our Faith Response.”

A statement issued by the committee says the DVD presents “the irrefutable science behind global warming, how it will affect the poor and humanity’s moral responsibility to act.”

The committee is composed of the bishops, members of religious communities and lay leadership in the 27 Catholic dioceses in the Appalachian region.

“We hope (the DVD) raises awareness about creation as a precious gift from God and how climate change will particularly affect the poor and vulnerable,” said Fr. John Rausch, the committee’s director. rausch_tour.jpg

“Unless we change our wasteful lifestyles, we’ll reject God’s gift and the poor will be the first to suffer,” he said.