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Monday
Aug122013

Is this the Swan Song of the Bobolink?

Do you know what a Bobolink is? Well, we might want to memorize this bird song and admire its beauty. The song of the Bobolink may not be heard much longer in the land and our children’s children may see and hear it only through the Internet.  According to an Ontario government report, the Bobolink is an “area-sensitive grassland species.” It requires “relatively large patches of suitable field habitats” and the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005, suggests, says Environment Canada, that: “The loss of grassland habitat has had serious consequences for grassland species of birds. Birds such as the Upland Sandpiper, the Bobolink, and the Loggerhead Shrike have declined since the early 1980s.” The Bobolink is in trouble.

It’s time for confession. For most of my life I have lived in a rural area and commuted to the city for work. Smugly, I have been alternately angered and saddened by the way that the city continues to sprawl out into the farmland yet I have chosen to put the connection between Bobolinks and houses out of my mind as I drove by those fields of houses. Now, from disappearing open grasslands to nests in local hayfields, the Bobolink is struggling to survive, and must compete with farmers who also need that first spring cutting of hay for their own survival strategy. Who do we save?

In British Columbia, the fate of Fish Lake is in the balance. A mining firm wants to drain it to gain access to the minerals underneath, a potential economic boon to the financially desperate area. Others see the draining of the lake as a tragic and futile mistake which will destroy an environmental jewel that took millions of years to create. It has emotional, spiritual, ecological and physical meaning which is hard to put into dollar terms. What do we do? What is the right decision?

There may be a new approach that gets us out of the either/or dilemma.  New insights about how we measure the cost of biodiversity may prove helpful. “We can begin to quantify just how expensive the degradation of nature really is” says Richard Anderson, Business Reporter for BBC News. We can put an economic value on the loss of grassland habitat and the Bobolink, for example, or the collapse of the bee colonies. We can begin to talk about a new system of accounting that considers natural capital and human needs. This way of describing the cost benefits of natural resources would be essential data for discussions which looked for shared values and common ground between opposing ideas about how to view and use our resources.

John Helliwell, a co-director with the Social Interactions, Identity and Well-Being Program at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research has been exploring the areas that involve natural values and sustainable human values, looking for the collaborations that can keep us, our children and our children’s children connected, living in ways that contribute to everyone’s well being. This means keeping the dialogue and disagreements flowing until there is resolution and not imposing solutions too soon. If we don’t find a new approach, one that takes us beyond “I’m right” and “You’re wrong,” it won’t just be the Bobolink that’s singing her last song. The bill for the Bobolink has come due. Who’s going to pay?

Monday
Aug122013

St. Joseph's Hospitality Centre Feeds Those In Need

Our Bartlett pear trees this year provided a bountiful harvest that was far too many for us to eat. It was a shame to throw them away: Ella and I decided to give them to those who may not have had the opportunity to be able to afford them at the local food markets.

I called Bill Payne who has been the co-ordinator of the St. Joseph’s Hospitality Centre, in London East. “It is a “soup kitchen” that is sponsored by the Sisters of St Joseph providing meals and friendship to the many who are economically and socially disadvantaged.”

We were just in time for a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs, toast, fruit, steamy cups of hot chocolate and fresh fruit. There was an eclectic group of dinners made up of seniors, middle aged and infants who patiently waited to be served. There were no long line ups with everyone seated being treated as special invited guests.

Bill sat down in the dining room with me and gave a brief explanation along with a history of the Center. The primary funding and guidance comes from the Sisters of St Joseph who have embraced the project for 28 years. 120 volunteers graciously give of their time to prepare and feed 300 patrons a day Monday to Friday. One can have breakfast from 9.30-11am for fifty cents and a full nutritious lunch (12-2.) costs $1.00. Meals can be prepaid monthly for only $25.00 which covers 44 visits.

Bill emphasized that no one is turned away at the door because of the lack of funds. The patrons are welcome to take home bags of fruit and bread to help tide them over until their next meal.

Lunch to-day was a delicious array of roast beef sandwiches/potatoes, vegetables fruit and my favourite desert, chocolate cake, washed down with steamy cups of tea and coffee.

Everyone regardless of faith is welcome to come and break bread with their fellow Londoners. It is a time to socialize and get out of the cold and to enjoy the warmth of the Center. There are no mandatory prayers to give thanks.

I had the chance to interview and get to know a few of the guests. Sam was a clean shaven nicely dressed middle aged man from Montreal who had fallen on hard times; he recently lost his job in retail sales.

Liz was a very slim 23 old women who had only a paper thin vest to help ward off the cold morning. She told me that: “she lives in the Salvation Army, Centre of Hope Shelter and comes to St Joseph’s only when she is hungry.” She has lived on her own since the age of thirteen after escaping from abusive group/foster homes. She was very proud that she is now attending Wheable Secondary School in the evenings. She is working on receiving her high school diploma that can help her find a good paying job. Liz wants to be independent, with the opportunity to have her two young children returned to her.

Rita, who is a senior citizen, uses her meagre Canadian Government pension that helps her prepay her breakfasts and lunches. “She enjoys coming every day to meet with her new found friends and take home a loaf of bread to help supplement her supper.”

Every one of the guests that I had the chance to chat with told me of the sense of warmth and acceptance they were afforded when they came to dine.

St Joseph’s is nurtured by the sense of commitment and giving by the 120 volunteers who graciously give of their time to help.

Elizabeth has volunteered every Friday for the past 18 months after retiring from a career in nursing at the London Health Science Center. She felt: “it was her time to give back to the community and pay it forward.” She thoroughly loves connecting with the guests and volunteers. “Simply amazing” were her words to describe the generosity of Londoners.

Emily who is a fourth year student of King’s University College is enrolled in Social Justice/French studies, on her way to law school. She had just finished her first morning serving breakfast to the guests. Emily hopes other university/college students will take the time to learn of the good works at the centre and volunteer their time.

There is a beautiful message in the hand out expressing the philosophy of the Centre written by Joe Barth,

“When we dream alone,
 It is only a dream,
When we dream together,
It can become a reality”

Len Lesser
from The Len Lesser Report

Monday
Aug122013

A Saint for our Times

Why yet another book on Hildegard of Bingen, especially by Matthew Fox who has written, lectured, and conducted workshops about her for over 25 years?

Perhaps timing is part of the story. Hildegard is a ‘come lately’ to the saints and doctors of the Catholic church being canonized in October 2012. Wryly Fox wonders if the Church knew what it was in for when admitting this strong, challenging mystic to the proclaimed saints/doctors of the church. 

This book honours a remarkably gifted woman: writer, poet, painter, musician, outspoken critic of the errors of the Church, spiritual leader and holy mystic. Further, as Fox presents Hildegard to us, he develops his belief that just as she shook the world of the 12th century, she can stir up that of the 21st.

Fox links Hildegard to Mary Oliver in terms of a Cosmic Christ; to Howard Thurman in believing in a God of life and Light; and to Einstein in her belief in the ‘marriage of science and spirituality. The context of Hildegard, that of the Rhineland mystics, speaks to the mysticism of our age while comparisons with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes link her with Wisdom, Creativity and the Holy Spirit…not to mention the Divine Feminine. Throughout, Fox presents her posing questions and stating positions that resonate with us now.

Hildegard of Bingen comes to life in this book especially if you are meeting her for the first time.  As Fox says in his subtitle, we can “unleash her power for the 21st century”.

 

Monday
Aug122013

Wacky Weather's Wake-Up Warning

We’ve all witnessed the spring and summer temperature highs and lows this year, with weather swings up and down in quick succession from below seasonal to above seasonal. News of global flooding occurs more frequently, dramatically touching us recently in Calgary and Toronto. Weather events give credence and prompt personal wondering and perhaps worrying about the impending impact of climate change.

Daily newscasts alert us to the on-going phenomenon of unusual weather patterns. “Global weather patterns seem to get stranger and stranger with each passing year. Almost every day now, the news is telling us about some bizarre weather event that hasn’t happened ‘in 100 years’ going on in some area of the globe.” Michael Snyder American Dream June 5, 2013

A thought provoking article, entitled Food shortage looms for entire world, by the world published independent journalist Gwynne Dwer appeared in the Saturday, June 20, 2013 issue of the London Free Press in its comment section. In his article, Gwynne Dwer’s asserts, in a reader friendly manner, how extreme weather threatens the world’s food supply.

One of the best definitions of food security is provided by The Food and Agricultural Organization. The FAO is a specialized UN organization whose mission is to defeat hunger defines food security.                                                                                             
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, [social] and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. (FAO, 1996). The term “Social” was added to the 1996 definition in 2002.

 

Tuesday
Apr232013

Pray As You Go

Pray-as-you-go is a daily prayer session, designed for use on portable MP3 players, to help you pray whilst travelling to and from work, study, etc.

A new prayer session is produced every day.  It is not a 'Thought for the Day', a sermon or a bible-study, but rather a framework for your own prayer.

Lasting between ten and thirteen minutes, it combines music, scripture and some questions for reflection.  The aim is to help you to:

  • become more aware of God's presence in your life
  • listen to and reflect on God's word
  • grow in your relationship with God.

It is produced by Jesuit Media Initiatives, with material written by a number of British Jesuits and other experts in the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola.

Although the content is different every day, it keeps to the same basic format.  

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