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Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day?

Oct. 19, 2014 6 a.m. - Updated: 9:04 a.m.

Lots of talk last week about what to call the October 12 holiday. How did you observe, or not observe, October 12?

We like to romanticize our heroes, their personal characteristics and their accomplishments. However, when we seek historical accuracy, we often make our own discovery: they possessed failings and faults.

So disappointing.

Perhaps it would be more disappointing to our heroes if they knew we often observe their days of honor with trips to the mall seeking “holiday sales” and whining when the mail is not delivered.

Hopefully, our leaders will leave Veterans Day just as it is. That group of brave people deserves their holiday: a day of admiration, gratitude and, yes, parades. 

(S-R archive photo)


Ebola and compassionate care of the dying

Oct. 17, 2014 10:42 p.m. - Updated: 10:50 p.m.

Volunteers continue their poignant and compassionate care of Ebola patients in West Africa.

Dr. Stephen Hatch, an American volunteer with International Medical Corps, cares for Ebola-infected patients in a Liberian hospital. He is part of a four-week rotation. Hatch and nearly two dozen others trained last month in Anniston, Ala. at a former Army base, learning how to safely care for Ebola patients.

While suited up in protective gear, Hatch and other physicians touch Ebola-infected patients and soothe their pain. Without drugs to cure, the caregivers offer fluids, medications to treat symptoms; they offer compassion as they feed patients and clean them. They offer frightened patients the solace of human touch.

Last week Hatch cared for a gravely ill pastor who arrived at the Liberian hospital. The pastor insisted on praying for Dr. Hatch. The man prayed for him again the night before he died.

While we witness West Africa’s crisis from afar, compassionate care continues: Caregivers comfort and grieve as they witness suffering and remarkable courage.

(S-R photo: n this photo taken Thursday Oct. 2, 2014, Promise Cooper, 16, is helped filling a bottle with chlorine solution by Kanyean Molton Farley, a community activist who visits Promise and her two brothers, Emmanuel Junior, 11, right, and Benson, 15, not pictured, on a daily basis at their St. Paul Bridge home in Monrovia, Liberia. The Cooper children are now orphans, having lost their mother, Princess, in July, and their father Emmanuel in August. Their 5-month-old baby brother Success also succumbed to the virus in August. Ruth, their 13-year-old sister is being hospitalized with Ebola. The three never fell sick to the deadly disease.)

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He who conceals his disease cannot expect to be cured

Oct. 15, 2014 7:45 a.m. - Updated: 7:53 a.m.

…is an Ethiopian proverb. Perhaps when one conceals their disease from themselves, they can never begin to get well – find medication, support or change behaviors needed for healing.

Perhaps when one conceals their disease from the community, they are not part of a group who changes perceptions, advocates for cures. Together, we encourage each other, find hope.

In an interview on The Queen Latifah Show, the beautiful actress Rene Russo revealed her lifetime battle with bi-polar disorder. Another lovely face – like actress Catherine Zeta-Jones - now associated with a mental health illness.

Rene Russo's story may encourage others to get medical help, change how people perceive others who live with mental health disorders. And perhaps enough stories will lead to the longed-for cure.

(S-R photo: Lake Pend Oreille) 


Gay conversation

Oct. 13, 2014 9:52 a.m. - Updated: 9:57 a.m.

The bishops have continued their conversation on family issues; they are midway in their two-week meeting. While the doors are closed, seems some minds have opened. A document summarizing their discussions has been released.

“The bishops said gays had ‘gifts and qualities’ to offer and asked rhetorically if the church was ready to provide them a welcoming place, “accepting and valuing their sexual orientation without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony.”


Saturday was National Coming Out Day and our wonderful parish acknowledged the day, encouraging parishioners to wear a parish t-shirt with the parish logo, LGBT on the front and Pope Francis’ quote - “Who am I to judge?” - on the back. A man, his wife –both wearing the shirts -brought the gifts of bread and wine up to the altar.

We are not waiting for a document from Rome to direct our parish life. We are a loving, joyful community with many gifted people worshipping here. All are welcome – we sing it, we pray it, we live it.

(S-R photo: Pope Francis, top center, celebrates  Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014 )


John Denver: At home on country roads

Oct. 12, 2014 8:33 a.m. - Updated: 8:51 a.m.

Singer John Denver died on this day in 1997. He was a folk singer, song writer, humanitarian and activist –advocating for the land and against war.

For many boomers, he was their voice, singing a little bit country, a little bit folk music about issues of the sixties and seventies as he strummed his acoustic guitar.  He sold millions of records.  

Denver married a woman from Minnesota, Annie Martell. The couple lived in my hometown for a few years and John performed at our high school in 1970. Students walked out in protest of proposed cuts in student activities and the teachers who supervised the activities. A student knew John Denver and asked Denver to play in support of our cause. He was not famous at the time; students loved his music and listened for hours.

Denver won an Emmy Award in 1974 for his live concert special “An Evening with John Denver.” He also made it to the big screen in 1977 when he played an everyday, working man in “Oh, God.” (George Burns played God.) Denver’s common-man persona endeared him to many.

John Denver died in a plane crash in 1997; the cause of the crash cited as his inability “to execute safely a switch of fuel tanks in flight.” Many of us remember where we were when we heard of his untimely death, a voice silenced. He was 53 years old.

Seventeen years later his music legacy continues with timeless messages and memories, sweet.

(S-R archive photo:  Tumbleweeds cover a country road in Ordway, Colo)


Ebola and our responsibility

Oct. 10, 2014 10:39 p.m. - Updated: 10:47 p.m.

When I was a student at Gonzaga, I was privileged to spend a year in Florence. We traveled to exotic places – the Holy Land, Greece, Jordan, the USSR, and to romantic destinations, like Venice.

And while we rode those click-clack trains, our brains - still not fully formed – did form opinions. The best lesson learned? We are the same. Human beings around the world weep and laugh and love and seek similar destinies – within different cultures. Years after I returned to the US, a bomb exploded in the Uffizi, a Florence museum. I wept as I watched the news.

A man I know served in the Peace Corps, in Liberia. How his heart must break these days as he observes the Ebola epidemic from afar, ravaging a country he loves.

No matter if we have ridden the click-clack trains of Liberia or not, we are all citizens of the world.  We should  bear witness to our fellow human beings’ suffering - and weep.  

(S-R photo: Emmanuel Junior Cooper sits at his St. Paul Bridge home in Monrovia, Liberia. The Cooper children are now orphans.) 


Pope Francis, the bishops and sex

Oct. 8, 2014 10:30 p.m. - Updated: Oct. 9, 8:07 a.m.

Pope Francis called a meeting in Rome this week seeking conversations among 200 prelates. The topic: how to make Church teachings on family issues relevant for today’s Catholics.   

For openers, the men listened to Ron and Mavis Pirola, a married couple from Australia, talk about sex. Nice ice-breaker for a complicated task.

The couple explained how important sex is to their 57-year marriage; claiming sexual attraction brought them together so long ago.  The couple spoke of marriage as a “sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse.” And while they had read Church documents on family matters, the couple said, “They (documents) seem to be from another planet…and not terribly relevant to our own experiences.”

The Church has spoken on many “family life” topics – abortion, contraception, sex outside of marriage - we know the list; however the Church has seldom proclaimed what many people know: sexual intimacy between two people in a loving, committed relationship offers a glimpse of sacred surrender, awareness of divine presence through our human experience. God is near.

Yes, men, it is true: not all sacramental moments occur in church. Often we experience sacred, sacramental moments in our homes, in our bedrooms.  Really, we do.


Cultural price of illness

Oct. 7, 2014 6 a.m.

We all have our rituals of greeting and departing – a wild embrace, hugs, sweet kisses of I missed you as well as good-bye.

As Ebola spreads throughout West Africa, another casualty of the disease is affection expressed in touching, hugging, kissing each other on the face – cheek to cheek – and simple handshaking.

Perhaps the most challenging restraint is the inability to offer physical comfort to another person when they are ill or in deep despair – or are dying. The precautions mean a mother is limited in her ability to soothe her ill child with rocking or wiping sweat from the child’s face. She faces the risk of contracting the disease herself when she comes in contact with her child.

The death toll from Ebola continues – as hearts continue to break. Each day people must decide between medical precautions and their cultural and emotional expressions of love.

(S-R photo: Children pray during a service at the Bridgeway Baptist Church in the St. Paul Bridge neighborhood of Monrovia, Liberia.)



Zorba Paster in Spokane

Oct. 6, 2014 8:41 a.m.

Zorba Paster, public radio’s baby boomer doc, will visit Spokane on Thursday. Paster’s sensible approach to living life with balance and common sense appeals to many listeners. He will talk about how to live a longer – and enjoyable – life. Paster will also answer questions about your health challenges.

Paster promotes not only healthy eating and getting one’s body moving, he also promotes care of one’s mental, spiritual, social and material needs.

So bring a friend and your questions. An enjoyable conversation awaits.

(S-R photo: The hummus plate at Picabu Bistro on the South Hill)


Blessing our animals

Oct. 4, 2014 2:20 p.m. - Updated: 2:25 p.m.

October 4 is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi – the namesake of our pope.  St. Francis loved animals and was the first to create a nativity story – with real animals.

Many parishioners are invited to bring their beloved critters to church for a special blessing. Our own priest invited our family pets, commenting, “Please leave the horses at home.” Seems someone did bring a horse for a blessing one year. Marched that equine creature right in onto the terrazzo floor.

We love our pets and know they are a blessing. Seems the least we can do is acknowledge their compassionate presence and bless them right back.

(S-R photo: South Ocean Beach at Assateague Island National Seashore near Berlin, Md. )

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