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Your Pinch of Salt can Help Season the World

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Last week, as I listened to a eulogist pay tribute to a longtime religious woman during a Memorial Mass, I was moved to explore my own value and effectiveness as a Christian.

Arleen Kisiel, O.P. (a Dominican Sister of Peace), described the late Sr. Rosemarie Robinson as “the salt of the earth” — what a legacy!

Salt of the earth is something that we, as Christians, aspire to be (based on the phrase derived from the Bible, where Jesus tells his followers, during The Sermon on the Mount, that “Ye are the salt of the earth”).

In ancient times, salt was not only used as a seasoning for food, but as a preservative, a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a commodity for exchange (or payment). Salt was valuable (and still is today).

While salt can have negative connotations, salt of the earth is coined in reference to the value of salt. Valued workers are said to be “worth their salt” and the word salary has the root sal, or salt.

To be salt of the earth is to be of high value and importance. As salt of the earth, we are called (or challenged, if you prefer) to be a positive, purifying influence in the world. That begs us to ask ourselves: Are we influencing the world or is the world influencing us?

Then, there is the question that follows the declaration that “Ye are the salt of the earth” in the biblical scripture: “but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot…”.

Salt can become tasteless when contaminated by other minerals. As salt, our challenge is to not become contaminated – to not allow our basic, fundamental goodness to be corrupted; to not sit in silence when we should be speaking out; to not idly stand by when we should be taking action or advocating; to not be disqualified from service because we have lost our zest.

If we lose our saltiness, we lose our value and usefulness. We lose our effectiveness as a positive influence in the world.

Salt is a necessity of life and I think most of us would agree that food tastes better with a little salt. It doesn’t take much. In fact, recipes often call for a pinch of salt.

A pinch of salt can make a big difference in taste, just like a pinch of our salt can do much to reduce bitterness, chaos, and darkness and bring peace to the world.

The way we live, the things we say, the attitudes we entertain, the lifestyle we adopt produce positive or negative results. Our goal is to be a positive influence – valuable salt – in our own little corner of the world.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.” (Matthew 5:13, The Message)

Posted in Associate Blog, News

The Power of Small and Big Kindnesses

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

The other day someone posted an Advent calendar of Small Kindnesses on Facebook, suggesting it as a possible Advent daily project until Christmas. I appreciate things like this that can help me be intentional about doing kind acts. And you never know just how powerful a small kindness can be in the life of another. To download this Advent calendar, click here.

On Nov. 16 CBS ran a story by Steve Hartman about John Metzler who still keeps the letter written by a girl in the sixth grade over 45 years ago. He was a 23-year-old Army helicopter sniper in the Vietnam War, and didn’t know the girl.

The letter arrived on Christmas Day 1970 and it simply read in part, “Dear Serviceman, I want to give my sincere thanks for going over to war to fight for us. The class hopes you will be able to come home.” – Donna Caye. That simple letter, John said, got him through the Vietnam War.

Because he had such deadly job in such a thankless war, that little girl’s note mattered. Obviously, it could have gone to any soldier. But John took it very personally. “Fact is I think it means more today than it did when I got it,” John said. It’s because she said thank you.

It was just a small kindness, but with power beyond that small girl’s imagination.

I personally have mixed feelings about expressing my gratitude to persons who have or are serving in foreign wars. On the one hand I AM deeply grateful to anyone willing to risk his/her life to defend our country and keep all of us safe—even though I’m not really clear against what we are being defended or kept safe.

On the other hand, I am deeply troubled that our national and international leaders keep choosing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of countless men and women in ‘forever’ wars that they and we know cannot be won–like Vietnam and Afghanistan. It makes me wonder: do we really need to be defended or kept safe from ‘forces’ that require sacrificing our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in wars that leaders perpetuate rather than have to admit failure and put an end to it?

Buckminster Fuller, an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor and futurist, wrote: “It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary. War is obsolete. It is a matter of converting the high technology from weaponry to livingry.”

What if, instead of training and sending people to war, a portion of our defense budget were diverted to train them instead for this work of conversion? It would certainly be a big kindness for humanity, with power to transform all life on Earth in ways beyond our current imagination!

Posted in Associate Blog, News

DO WHAT YOU CAN TO STOP DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Aisha Fraser
and Tamara O’Neal were murdered within three days of each other.

One was a devoted
Emergency Room Physician in Chicago.

One was a
dedicated Elementary School Teacher near Cleveland, Ohio.

Both were described
as being committed to helping and serving others.

Both of their deaths
were attributed to what some call “the silent epidemic” — domestic-violence.

“Silent”
because many of us are unaware of it, until it touches us personally. I urge
you to not wait until it becomes personal but to be proactive. Now is the time
to speak up and take action.

According to
the Violence Policy Center, three women in the United States are murdered every
day by a current or former romantic partner and when men murder women, 93
percent are killed by someone they know. (Aisha’s alleged killer is her
ex-husband. Tamara’s alleged murderer is her ex-fiance)

Statistics on
the National Domestic Violence Hotline website show that more than 12 million
women and men are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate
partner annually in the United States and that:

  • 1
    in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United
    States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner
    in their lifetime.
  • More
    than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States
    have experienced various forms of domestic violence in their lifetime.
  • Women
    ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate
    partner violence.
  • Most
    female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the
    same offender, including 77% of females ages 18 to 24, 76% of females ages 25
    to 34, and 81% of females ages 35 to 49.

Does that alarm
you? If it doesn’t, it should.

Combing through
those statistics and many more (including the fact that five million children
are exposed to domestic violence every year), I was reminded that Domestic
Violence is an insidious problem deeply rooted in our culture. (Aisha’s
daughters, ages 8 and 11, witnessed the brutal beating of their mother four
years ago by their father and were again traumatized when witnessing her murder
at the hands of the same alleged perpetrator).

I am incensed
and I want to see a system put into place that protects those who need to be
protected.

October was
Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s
theme was #1Thing, accompanied by a challenge for each person to do just “one
thing” to end Domestic Violence. It is clear to me that we need to continue
doing our part each day.

If you don’t
know what to do, I suggest beginning by raising your awareness – the hotline’s
website (www.thehotline.org)
is a great place to start.

Here are some
other suggestions: know the warning signs; don’t ignore the warning signs;
listen without judgement, if someone confides in you; keep the numbers to a
nearby shelter and National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) in your
phone; be available to help someone in need; assist a local shelter or domestic
violence organization; advocate for victims of domestic violence.

Family and
friends of Aisha and Tamara will gather on Friday for visitation, continue to
pray for them (and add a special prayer for Audrey and Ava, Aisha’s daughters).

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Inspired and Empowered by God’s Spirit

More
than 3,000 delegates, including lay women and men, religious sisters and brothers,
deacons, priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals of the United States gathered
in Grapevine, Texas, September 20-23, 2018 for the National V Encuentro.
Together they examined the evolving role of the Hispanic/Latino Catholics in
the U.S. In his closing Mass homily the USCCB vice president, Archbishop Jose
Gomes of Los Angeles, said: “The Lord
calls each of us to hear his voice. Take your place in the history of salvation
and do your part.”
   (info from the Northeast Ohio Catholic,
Nov.Dec.2018)

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

These
words, though addressed to those at the September gathering in Texas, equally
apply to all persons of faith. Recently people across the USA awakened to their
role in guiding our democracy, came out and voiced their concerns through the
power of a single vote.  As each of us
listens and follows the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in our life, no matter
how big/small the action, we help build the Kindom of Christ.

Carol Lemelin, OPA, recently wrote:

How did it happen that Paul of Tarsus, a relentless persecutor of the followers of Christ, became His greatest advocate? We know about his being knocked off his horse and blinded. We know he went at Christ’s command to the city. We knowthat Ananias was directed by God to go to Paul. He went even though Paul waspractically a murderer in the eyes of the New People.  From there it makesa great story. Can you imagine the reaction when the disciples inJerusalem heard that the notorious Saul of Tarsus wanted to be aChristian?  After the initial shock woreoff, the efforts of Paul to enlighten his people to the coming of the Messiahhad a powerful effect on the Apostles. It undoubtedly took quite a whilebut eventually they came to see that his grasp of the true meaning of the lifeof Jesus was nothing short of extraordinary. There is only one answer tohow this was even possible and that is the Holy Spirit was at work. 

From that time on it has been
the Holy Spirit who speaks to us. The trick is to learn to understand and
listen carefully. That is not impossible. Despite the enormity of
God, God is as close as your next heartbeat. The prophets all learned to hear
and understand that the voice of God comes from within. There is a knowing that comes with the voice of
God.  It is not limited to prophets or evangelists. It is for
you and me as well. This is not spooky or weird, but as real as you
are. Again, however, you and I must get in touch with that Spirit before
we can hope to understand what God wants from us.  

Thomas Moore, Catherine of
Sienna, Dominic, Martin de Porres, Isaac Jogues and Oscar Romero, are just a
few of the millions who have heard and acted on the voice of the Spirit because
they learned to listen and to follow. Pope Francis says we have to leave
room for the Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of
our lives in our every decision. 

Most of us may
never be required to do deeds of magnitude, but it is not for us to determine
what is or is not important to God.  

Let our aim each day be to listen for God’s guidance and do God’s will.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Remember, Honor, Celebrate Veterans with Gratitude

As I approached an elevator this weekend, I encountered a
man wearing U.S. Army dress blues (adorned with medals, badges, patches,
stripes and a silver oak leaf insignia).

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

He greeted me with “Good Morning. How are you today?”

I responded “I am well, thank you. How are you?

He replied that he, too, was well.

As we got on the elevator, I commented (in question form)
“You must be on your way to a Veteran’s Day service or celebration?”

He replied that he had traveled to Ohio from Norfolk (VA) to
be part of an appreciation breakfast hosted by an alumni chapter of Phi Beta
Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

We shared small talk about Norfolk; and as we got off the
elevator, we exchanged well wishes for the day. I added “Thank you for serving!”

He responded, with a smile, “Thank you for your support!”

That interchange got me thinking about what it means to
support our military veterans and active servicemen and servicewomen. I started
considering a number of ways to show support – donating to causes that help
veterans and troops; volunteering to give veterans a ride to medical
appointments; visiting VA hospitals and facilities that serve our wounded
soldiers; sponsoring a companion dog for veterans with PTSD; sending care
packages and letters; helping homeless veterans; volunteering with
organizations that serve our military personnel and their families; listening
to their stories and sharing them; advocating for the fulfillment of our
nation’s promises to our veterans, etc.

The list of ways to help is not limited to those listed
above. But perhaps the easiest way to support our veterans and active military
personnel is with a “Thank You” that is heartfelt and sincere. That simple act
of gratitude is something that we all can extend to show appreciation for
everything they have faced and sacrificed. It is something that can brighten
the day of a veteran or military person.

I trust that the smile on Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Hall’s
face as he said “Thank you for your support!” was an indication that my “thank
you” had brightened his day.

Posted in Associate Blog, News