Catechesis on Bees and Blessing Honey

There is a great post at The New Liturgical Movement on an Eastern Tradition of honey blessing. It speaks about the sacramentality of creation and the integration between the spiritual and natural in Christianity that comes about in the Incarnation. I have spoken about this before here and here.  The pictures are beautiful:

And here its worth mentioning an address by Pope Pius XII on Bees, on November 27th, 1948, made by Pius XII to beekeepers on the lessons of bees for mankind. The full address can be seen here and the introduction is an excellent summary of bees in literature, Scripture and the Church’s tradition. Below the last words of the Pope to beekeepers:

As for you, beloved sons, who while bending over your beehives perform with all care the most varied and delicate work for your bees, let your spirits rise in mystic flight to experience the kindness of God, to taste the sweetness of His word and His law (Ps. 18:11; 118: 103), to contemplate the divine light symbolized by the burning flame of the candle, product of the mother bee, as the Church sings in her admirable liturgy of Holy Saturday: <Alitur enim liquantibus ceris, quas in substantiam pretiosae hujus lampadis apis mater eduxit>. (For it is nourished by the melting wax, which the mother bee produced for the substance of this precious light.)

Politics and Faith

CNA has a great article summarizing Archbishop Gomez’s call to incorporate faith into politics. The current political climate and the hish stakes for believers concerning freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, only serve to illustrate how important it is to hold a position in “unity of life” in which the faith shapes “how we live and act,” and forms the “decisions we make in public life and who we vote for.”  Below a section from the article:

Archbishop Gomez referred to Jesus’ statement that one should “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Because Catholics live in the world, we are called to work for the common good of society, to obey just laws, and to respect society and government—that is what we render unto Caesar, he said.

What we render unto God is faith, which means that “we can’t forget about the Church’s teachings and the demands of God’s law when we are engaged in our public life.”

“The most important thing is to form our consciences. We have to make sure our participation and our contributions always reflect the moral and religious values that we find in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.

Yesterday, Pope Benedict gave an address to Italian politicians and spoke about their responsabilities. He emphasized above all the importance of politics to protect the human person and the family.

The authentic progress of human society cannot forgo policies aimed at protecting and promoting marriage, and the community that derives therefrom. Adopting such policies is the duty not only of States but of the International Community as a whole, in order to reverse the tendency towards the growing isolation of the person, which is a source of suffering and atrophy for both individuals and for society….The commitment to respecting life in all its phases from conception to natural death – and the consequent rejection of procured abortion, euthanasia and any form of eugenics – is, in fact, interwoven with respecting marriage as an indissoluble union between a man and a woman and, in its turn, as the foundation for the community of family life.

To conclude on a different reflection, one can also consider the importance with which political responsibilities are taken. And while in the USA for example the political climate may be  hostile and belligerent  , it is good to have something to fight for. I recently was made aware of a very different political scenario in Brazil, where Caesar is more of a clown, in fact, he may be one. Here are some images of actual candidates running for the Municipal House in Sergipe, in the northeast of Brazil. Politicians dress up like Batman to Bin Laden, in order to be  remembered and then elected. Pathetic, but this is another side of politics, where Caesar doesn’t seem worth his due. The full article in portuguese is here. 

Energy Justice and Creatio

Senator Tim Wirth speaks at the Energy Justice Conference

Last week the CEES hosted another Energy Justice CONFERENCE in Boulder, Colorado. The key participants included Dr. Kandeh Yumkellah, Director General of UNIDO and Senator Tim Wirth, as well as Dr. Lakshman Guruswamy and Dr. Christian Brugger among others. Jose Ambrozic participated in one of the panels representing Creatio, along withs Jason Prapas who collaborated on a project with Creatio in Peru this summer installing cookstoves. The conference was also attended by Mr. Tebaldo Vinciguerra, a member of the Vatican Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Below some of the highlights of the conference:

Conference participants. From left to right: Mr. Michael Taylor, Mrs. Mary Taylor and Mr. Tebaldo Vinciguerra.

1. Dr. Yumkella gave a positive speech, and highlighted that among the many criticisms of the Rio +20 world meeting in 2012, the greatest accomplishment concerned energy and energy justice. Amon all countries there was a 50 billion dollar pledge to support energy justice initiatives, and this set the tone to where much of the approach to environmental concerns is going now. Yumkellah emphasized how the scare tactics and alarmism of environmentalists has not worked, and a narrative that will bring about change and environmental improvement must reconcile and consider economic interests as well. That’s why energy justice is climbing up on the agenda of priority issues. Much environmental and economic good can be gained by giving energy access to poor people, and doing it in the cleanest way possible. A case where money-making and environmentally clean initiatives have a potential to work together.

From left to right: Lakshman Guruswamy, Charles Wilkinson, Christian Brugger, Jose Ambrozic

2. The other speaker of note was Senator Tim Wirth, who mostly talked about climate change and the need to take action. He also made a clear reference to population as a serious factor which contributes to climate change  and that the USA should continue to fund programmes that give family planning opportunities “for people around the world who want family planning and can’t get it”. We regretted the fact that the USA had dropped its support on this issue. I have discussed the substance of this position herehere and here.  Finally he spoke about the importance of women.

3. The best speaker of the entire conference, that is, the one who offered the most substance, was Dr. Christian Brugger. He spoke about the moral and philosophical foundations of ‘energy justice’ from the perspective of natural law. He invoked four main principles relevant to the issue “Autonomy, authority, solidarity and fairness”, and explained how complex energy justice is since energy means many different things in different contexts; it is above all about what energy can proportion to people’s wellbeing. While authority and autonomy imply that the responsibility to acquire energy lies on the individual and their government, solidarity and fairness are not directive but suggest that social duties go beyond oneself to the entire human family. And these duties grow in a globalized context as well. Finally he concluded on the need of purifying one’s intentions to include all of humanity, including the unborn.

4. On the technical side,  Stephen Kastsaros gave a great presentation on environmental and appropriate technologies through the work of Nokero. Jason Prapas also shared his work with cookstoves. Jason collaborated with Cariats Ayaviri and Creatio in Peru for the last 2 summers to improve the living conditions in remote villages.

Mr. Jose Ambrozic, Dr. Lakshman Guruswamy and Mr. Tebaldo Vinciguerra

The Cedar of Lebanon – Peace and Reconciliation

Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI delivered an address on peace, and used the cedar tree as a metaphor for communicating his key ideas. He opened the address by saying this to Lebanon’s president:

With you, I have just planted a cedar of Lebanon, the symbol of your beautiful country. In looking at this sapling, and thinking of the care which it will need in order to grow and stretch forth its majestic branches, I think of this country and its future, the Lebanese people and their hopes, and all the people of this region which seems to endure interminable birth pangs. I have asked God to bless you, to bless Lebanon and all who dwell in these lands which saw the birth of great religions and noble cultures. Why did God choose these lands? Why is their life so turbulent? God chose these lands, I think, to be an example, to bear witness before the world that every man and woman has the possibility of concretely realizing his or her longing for peace and reconciliation!

The cedar tree thus becomes not only a metaphor for Lebanon as a country but for building peace in general. The Pope emphasized how unity is essential for peace, and true unity lies in a correct vision of the human person rooted in God.

The wealth of any country is found primarily in its inhabitants. The country’s future depends on them, individually and collectively, as does its capacity to work for peace. A commitment to peace is possible only in a unified society. Unity, on the other hand, is not the same as uniformity. Social cohesion requires unstinting respect for the dignity of each person and the responsible participation of all in contributing the best of their talents and abilities. The energy needed to build and consolidate peace also demands that we constantly return to the wellsprings of our humanity. Our human dignity is inseparable from the sacredness of life as the gift of the Creator. In God’s plan, each person is unique and irreplaceable. A person comes into this world in a family, which is the first locus of humanization, and above all the first school of peace. To build peace, we need to look to the family, supporting it and facilitating its task, and in this way promoting an overall culture of life. The effectiveness of our commitment to peace depends on our understanding of human life. If we want peace, let us defend life! This approach leads us to reject not only war and terrorism, but every assault on innocent human life, on men and women as creatures willed by God. Wherever the truth of human nature is ignored or denied, it becomes impossible to respect that grammar which is the natural law inscribed in the human heart (cf. Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 3). The grandeur and the raison d’être of each person are found in God alone. The unconditional acknowledgement of the dignity of every human being, of each one of us, and of the sacredness of human life, is linked to the responsibility which we all have before God. We must combine our efforts, then, to develop a sound vision of man, respectful of the unity and integrity of the human person. Without this, it is impossible to build true peace.

This anthropological emphasis in turn leads to the fundamental moral questions about humanity. In the end the view we have of a human person will reflect our moral convictions, and in pluralistic contexts it is very challenging to come to consensus, let alone right answers. The emphasis on the dignity of life reminds us of Mother Teresa’s severe warning about limited views of human life, and immediately remind us that the call for peace in the MIddle East becomes pertinent to the West as well, given the challenges of pluralism and diverse, widespread and mistaken anthropological perspectives. These views in turn have a bearing on the environment since the underlying diagnosis of the Church is that the environmental crisis is a moral crisis. The environmental degradation is one of the negative consequences among many, that spring from a ruptured and imbalanced human heart and society. The allusions to these consequences were made clear in the moral dimension, as well as in the need for religious freedom:

While more evident in countries which are experiencing armed conflict – those wars so full of futility and horror – there are assaults on the integrity and the lives of individuals taking place in other countries too. Unemployment, poverty, corruption, a variety of addictions, exploitation, different forms of trafficking, and terrorism not only cause unacceptable suffering to their victims but also a great impoverishment of human potential. We run the risk of being enslaved by an economic and financial mindset which would subordinate “being” to “having”! The destruction of a single human life is a loss for humanity as a whole…A pluralistic society can only exist on the basis of mutual respect, the desire to know the other, and continuous dialogue….It cannot be forgotten that religious freedom is the basic right on which many other rights depend. The freedom to profess and practise one’s religion without danger to life and liberty must be possible to everyone. The loss or attenuation of this freedom deprives the person of his or her sacred right to a spiritually integrated life. What nowadays passes for tolerance does not eliminate cases of discrimination, and at times it even reinforces them. Without openness to transcendence, which makes it possible to find answers to their deepest questions about the meaning of life and morally upright conduct, men and women become incapable of acting justly and working for peace.

Finally, the Pope called for two main directions of peace building. First, recovering the true anthropology by seeking human values and interior longings common to all. And second by education, based on a correct anthropology. Without this inner harmony of many, the environment will continue to suffer the consequences of rupture.

In order to make possible a future of peace for coming generations, our first task is to educate for peace in order to build a culture of peace. Education, whether it takes place in the family or at school, must be primarily an education in those spiritual values which give the wisdom and traditions of each culture their ultimate meaning and power. The human spirit has an innate yearning for beauty, goodness and truth. This is a reflection of the divine, God’s mark on each person!…