Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Catholic teaching affects all parts of life

Given the current debates concerning the minimum wage laws, it's good to know that the Church has teachings on such things --- and not newfangled ones either. Here's what Pope Leo XIII taught about just wages, back near the turn of the last century, in his encyclical "Rerum novarum":

44. To this kind of argument a fair-minded man will not easily or entirely assent; it is not complete, for there are important considerations which it leaves out of account altogether. To labor is to exert oneself for the sake of procuring what is necessary for the various purposes of life, and chief of all for self-preservation. "In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread." Hence, a man's labor necessarily bears two notes or characters. First of all, it is personal, inasmuch as the force which acts is bound up with the personality and is the exclusive property of him who acts, and, further, was given to him for his advantage. Secondly, man's labor is necessary; for without the result of labor a man cannot live, and self-preservation is a law of nature, which it is wrong to disobey. Now, were we to consider labor merely in so far as it is personal, doubtless it would be within the workman's right to accept any rate of wages whatsoever; for in the same way as he is free to work or not, so is he free to accept a small wage or even none at all. But our conclusion must be very different if, together with the personal element in a man's work, we consider the fact that work is also necessary for him to live: these two aspects of his work are separable in thought, but not in reality. The preservation of life is the bounden duty of one and all, and to be wanting therein is a crime. It necessarily follows that each one has a natural right to procure what is required in order to live, and the poor can procure that in no other way than by what they can earn through their work.

45. Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.

Postscript: for the curious who'd like to try to figure out how they'd make it:
the current USA minimum wage for above-the-table work is $5.15 per hour. Presuming that one manages to get enough jobs to average 40 hours a week for a full year, this is annual gross income of $10,712.00, or $892.67 per month. If the new law passes, once it is in full effect, the minimum wage will be $7.25 per hour, under the same very optimistic presumptions $15,080.00 annually, $1256.67 monthly. Remember, most of these jobs do not have health insurance, pensions, sick leave, or other frills, and actually getting 40 hours a week is questionable. Could you make it?


Monday, January 29, 2007

Isn't it convenient

that crooks are so stupid sometimes?

I got an unexpected package today. Turns out some no-goodnik decided to use my credit card number --- how the culprit got it I don't know, I never let others handle the card, and never throw out an unshredded bill or receipt --- to order stuff. However, it got sent to me instead. And I called my financial institution and cancelled my card and reported the fraud before culprit could charge more than this one thing.

Now, of course, I have to get this box of stuff to the UPS Store to return to sender, because they want their merchandise back before they uncharge my credit account..... but I have a really good friend of decades with a car, so that's going to be taken care of.

Now, let's hope this dumb thief doesn't have any smarter and sneakier companions.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Blog Enhancements

Two changes here:

First, I've enabled pop-up window comments for a trial; if they don't make trouble in the next week or two, I'll keep them that way.

Second, above you will see a new yellow box, which will take you directly to Universalis, the site for praying the Liturgy of the Hours. It's set to go to the USA calendar that's used here in Milwaukee, but once you are there, you can navigate to the calendar appropriate to where you live. And, it will keep time in UTC. That's only 6 hours off from Milwaukee time, and I couldn't figure out how to tweak the calendar and the clock both at the same time.

Have fun with the new features!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Shouldn't every parish

Over at Amy's blog, one of her comment strings went off on a little tangent. There was mention of a parish down in Chicago, which has a ministry (called the Armorbearers) of men who pray and fast for the ministry of the pastor, and make themselves available to personally assist as necessary. And the commentariat was writing as though this was evil, or at least powerful strange.

But I say: would that every pastor and every bishop has a team of prayer warriors to support his ministry! Would that every minister who needed to go on a pastoral call where things are dangerous or where tongues would wag had companions to accompany him and bear witness to the truth. Every parish needs its armorbearers.


An update on the last post: still waiting for the pharmacist to get his mail. However, my tests came back, and we now know what is causing the extreme pain --- and it's treatable in the long term. Namely, my uric acid level is sky-high, and I have gout. It's been a long hard week, but the pain is beginning to subside on its own, I'm only at grit-teeth level now instead of weep-and-scream. Things are looking up.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Call me collateral damage

in the war on drugs.

I've commiserated with others about it. I've bespoken my congressperson and state rep about it. But I've never been a victim of it myself, until now.

The screaming and bouncing-off-the-ceiling foot pain is back. My doctor electronically transmitted a prescription for a medication for pain to my pharmacy, so I would be able to function --- with the pain level reduced from 8 or 9 on the scale to 4, I can hobble from chair to bathroom without screaming and involuntary weeping, and I can sleep at night, too.

However, thanks to the War on Drugs, the pharmacist isn't allowed to issue the pills; not until the paper copy of the prescription arrives in the mail. Whenever that is. Of course, says the pharmacist, you can go to the doctor's office, try to get a paper copy yourself, and bring it back to us. But, I did without any pain control on Thursday and wept and screamed all day, so I could take my last precious pill to not scream on the van to the pharmacy, and it was already wearing off. If I was healthy and painfree enough to wander all over town carrying sheets of paper around to make bureaucrats happy, I wouldn't need the oxycod/apap pills and my doctor would not have prescribed the danged things, either.

I do hope the sheet of paper arrives in todays mail. Then I can have the pills first thing Sunday morning, if they let someone else pick them up for me (they did back in October, but who knows now?) If that sheet of paper doesn't arrive today, I'm in for a long horrid weekend, since nobody will get mail on Monday.

I type and weep. In five minutes I have to go get breakfast out of the oven, which means I have to stand up and walk and scream. You know. offering up is less difficult when one can still function.

And, the real twist to all this? Actual sick people in pain who have legitimate prescriptions for medically necessary medicines aren't allowed to access them, but the folk who want various pills for non-medical purposes without prescriptions don't seem to have any trouble finding and obtaining some. This weekend, I'm sorely tempted to wish that I knew the local illegal black-market dealer........


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

More around The Collar

A few months ago, I posted a (glowing,excellent) review of a new book, The Collar, about how good Catholic guys are formed into priests. Today, I found this interview at Godspy with the author, Jonathan Englert. Enjoy!

Monday, January 08, 2007

There are angels everywhere

from Bob Waldrop, on the Catholic Social Justice and Peace Discussion listserv this morning:

The Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, AD 2007

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.

Today at the offertory at Epiphany of the Lord parish in Oklahoma City, my choir sang these words from Handel’s Messiah. These words illuminate the mystery of Epiphany, the unveiling of the glory of God. The visit of the Magi. The descent of the Holy Spirit and the voice of God at the Baptism of the Lord. The miracle at Cana. The healing of the blind, the lame, and those possessed with demons. The Transfiguration.

Great stories, immortal, sacred, told from one generation to another. Though we "see through a glass darkly", every so often the glory of the Lord shines so bright that it breaks through the fog and confusion and illuminates all who behold it.

"And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. The angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

The narratives we hear at Mass are not all that has been or will be said about this glory.

"Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the LORD shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples, but upon you the LORD shines and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about, they all gather and come to you. Your sons come from afar and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. " [From Isaiah 60, the First Reading of Epiphany.]

Darkness surely covers the earth in our time. There can be no doubt of that. These days of the death and destruction are not easy to behold or experience. But it is as Gandalf said to Frodo, who wished that he lived in another time. "So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

The shepherds saw the glory of Lord, and they "came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the baby laying in a manger." And when they had seen it, what did they do? "They made known abroad the saying which was told to them concerning this child. All they that heard it wondered at those things which were told to them by the shepherds." As well they might -- why did God gave this manifestation of his glory to poor shepherds? Why didn’t he tell the High Priest and the king? Or someone with wealth and credibility?

Well, actually, he did tell some with wealth, but they were
foreigners. Maybe they had the proper visa, maybe they didn’t. Even so, the Magi saw the glory of the Lord shining as a star in the sky. They followed that glory, and brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Simeon and Anna recognized the holy Child instantly when brought to the Temple – "A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel."

It’s easy to become somewhat complacent about these stories. They happened a very long time ago. We don’t think this kind of thing happens anymore. Indeed, angels flying through the sky would hardly fit into the modern world. Someone might shoot at them with anti-aircraft missiles. NORAD would certainly sound the alert if squadrons of angels came flying over the borders. In reality, few would admit to seeing something as extraordinary as an angel in full flight, singing "Gloria in excelsis Deo!"

Well, actually, I have a confession to make. I see these angels all the time, and yes, they are in full flight and singing "Gloria in excelsis Deo!" and no, I am not on drugs nor am I drunk. I see them on our Catholic Worker delivery days, when they show up and in an amazing burst of celestial energy, prepare hundreds of bags of groceries to share with the poor. And then they fly them out the door and deliver them personally. Of course, they are disguised as people and they are driving cars, but they don’t fool me.

Curiously, they chant the Nicene Creed when they do this. At least it seems that way. The words seem to come alive or something. . . "He came down from heaven, by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures. . . He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end."

So it comes to pass that I see angels shining with the Glory of God everywhere I go. Random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. Works of mercy, justice and peace. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, comforting the afflicted and yes, also afflicting the comfortable. Making injustice visible, protecting the poor and the powerless, speaking truth to power – celebrating life, goodness, beauty, virtue, and joy – practicing peace, non-violence, servant leadership, harmony, community, voluntary cooperation, and the proper stewardship of God’s creation. They pray without ceasing and do what they can to ensure fair distribution, subsidiarity, economic opportunity, justice, and food security for everyone everywhere.

Yes, the world is dark and the news is grim. Turn on any television set and you can see the work of demons on a hundred channels, in technicolor and stereo surround sound. It was just as dark 2,000 years ago, but even so the shepherds went and told all what they had seen and heard. The shepherds found hope in the Epiphany of the Lord that came to them so long ago, a light so bright that it illumines us today, 2000 years and more later, and continues to manifest the glory of God in the lives of men and women across the planet.

"And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing that star, and on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage."

In this year of grace two thousand and seven, let us be shepherds and Magi, Simeon and Anna, Mary and Joseph for all who cross our paths. Let us announce in word and deed that the Messiah indeed has come, and his glory shines for all to see. Let us help those who are blind to this glory to open their eyes so they can see, and open their ears so they can hear, the angelic vision unveiled for all. Where there is darkness, we will bring the glory of the Lord, and all flesh shall indeed see it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Make Sunday Mass one's Resolution

Not that I've comprehended why a believer would miss Sunday Mass voluntarily, but we all know that a lot of our brothers and sisters in the Church do, especially in these latter days when the threat of damnation doesn't work to put rears on pews anymore.

This is what our archbishop +Timothy proposes in this week's Herald of Hope column, which can be found at this link now, and at this link after next Thursday. He recites lots of the to-me-noncomprehensible reasons, and rebuts them nicely. But he never got to the two reasons that sometimes restrict me to listening to his wise teaching and to the devout worship of my fellow parishioners on the radio.....

"There's snow/ice/subzero wind chill/dangerously high heat index, so it isn't safe for me to try to get to church by myself; I dare not get my wheelchair stuck/fall down/be frostbit/get hyperthermic...." and "It costs $6.50 (sub your local transit or paratransit fare here) to go to church, and I don't have $6.50 this week."

For these, the best answer is a bit of Works of Mercy, or, "We'll get by with a little help from our friends". Please, if you live by elders or people with disabilities or medically fragile people, don't dawdle about clearing your sidewalk and alley. Maybe even volunteer to clear theirs while you are at it. Remember that cars can drive over ice and slush that walkers and wheelchairs can't safely navigate. Think of it as an offering to God.

And, look out for your fellow parishioners. In every parish I've ever been in all my life, there have been "assigned seats", people sit in the same places, next to the same other folk, every Sunday. Maybe there are some of the seasonally missing from your pew who are also in your neighborhood; if you drive to church, maybe you can give one of them a ride with you, safer than daring the weather in the dangerous seasons.

Unfortunately, a lot of the genteel or elderly poor are determinedly independent and trying to pass middle-class, so they are not likely to volunteer the information that they aren't in church because they paid the mortgage/rent, the electric and gas, the pharmacy, and so on.....and ran out of money. (It took me a long time to get over that; I was raised in a poor-passing-middle-class family and was trained from childhood what not to ever let others know.) But when you ask where someone's been and they trust you enough to say "had to wait till payday", know that a book or two of the appropriate transit or paratransit tickets are a fine gift and can be a true godsend.

So then, it will be more fulfilled that all the believers will be gathered together on one place.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The 100th Catholic Carnival

[yes, there's really been that many already!] is ready to be visited at Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering.