by Rich Pozdol, IVC alumnus
As we celebrated the most incredible birth in the history of the world during the Christmas season, I reflected back to this past summer. It was a quiet, warm afternoon when I decided to visit the Lake County, Indiana County Fair. I had not been for a number of years, and I always enjoyed the experience.
One of the things I always checked out was the produce pavilion. I wanted to see the champion squash for the year. It weighed in at 922 lbs. I know how hard it is to grow a decent-sized tomato. How do you get something to grow that large?
Another thing I always enjoyed was visiting the cow barn. As I stood admiring the champion cow, a young girl of 15 or 16 years of age gushed out loud, “Isn’t she beautiful!” I had to agree. I had not thought of cows as especially beautiful, but this particular cow was a beautiful specimen. As we admired the cow, I noticed a small crowd gathered at the other end of the barn and walked over to see what was going on. I asked someone what was happening and was told that a cow was about to give birth. I had never seen a calf being born, so I decided to stay and watch.
What I immediately noticed was how gentle the vet, his young son, and another assistant were to the cow. They petted the cow as she struggled to deliver. “Good girl”, “you can do it”, “everything is going to be fine.” I doubt that the cow understood, but the soothing words seemed to calm her. The water bag was protruding but had not yet broken. The vet told us that over 90% of cows delivered on their own, but he was there if she needed help. He said he was going to wait another half hour before he intervened. The half hour passed with no action. He then manually broke the water bag. A young woman standing next to me said, “now we’ll see some action.” “How so?” I asked. “Oh, I know. I have assisted dozens of cows deliver their babies,” she responded. I thought to myself, “I am truly a city boy. At my advanced age, this is my first birth of a calf.”
Still no action. Finally, the vet asked his son to bring some chains. The calf’s nose was now protruding, along with the front legs…just enough to attach the chains. The best and his son gently pulled. After several minutes, the calf was out. A new life had entered the world, reaffirming in my mind the existence of God.
Within minutes, the newborn was struggling to its feet. The mother was up and licking her newborn. The vet said that the cow would be a good mother and that everything looked fine. The vet then started to sprinkle salt from a Morton’s salt box on the baby calf. He explained that he did this in order to make the cow thirsty so that she would drink more water. She was dehydrated after the birth, and he wanted to make sure she was quickly rehydrated.
Birth is such an amazing thing. The joy radiating from the small crowd of parents and children was palpable.
“Pied Beauty” (1877)
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.
-Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ
The Practice of Ritual
by Mark Avery, IVC Volunteer
The practice of ritual has been of assistance to me through life and relationship transitions.
For hundreds of years, ritual has not only helped us make sense of the world and where we fit into it, but has expanded our awareness and connected us to the great mystery of life. The very word “ritual”, means to “fit together.” Every ritual conveys an act in which we literally join the metaphysical with the physical. It is a means of calling spirit into our material lives.
We all long to a time when the lighting of candles signified a real desire to illuminate – to bring virtue, healing, and deeper meaning into our lives and our homes. We hunger for both community and communion,the feelings found in the conscious practice of rituals. Let us consider bringing back their ancient power, translated for our modern times.
- Ritual is one of the greatest spiritual technologies of the 21st century
- Rituals anchor us and give us a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves
- Rituals have great influence over our minds
Here are four rituals that can bring you energy and meaning in the New Year:
Review the year. Acknowledge accomplishments, see where you parted from your mission, evaluate what worked and what didn’t. What needs to be changed? Any new opportunities come to light? What did you learn? What challenged you? How did you grow stronger?
Out with the old. Clear out the old things that clutter up your life. If you get something new, give something away.
Welcome good luck and prosperity. Think of the qualities that you want to bring into your life in 2020. Perhaps joy, clarity, good health, a peaceful heart. Identify an item(s) in your home that represents your qualities and keep them in your mindfulness for 48 hours. And, if appropriate, then consider giving the items away to a charity or someone who could use them.
Focus on the first 12 days. Wise women and men have taught that the first 12 days of the year represent the entire year. (January 1 for January, January 2 for February, etc.) By practicing loving kindness, openness, and generosity while giving thoughtful attention to the significance of each of these 12 days, you will consecrate and revere the entire coming year!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
ABUNDANT AND CHOICE BLESSINGS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY!
How Do We Read and Hear and See the News?
by Don Gimbel, IVC Volunteer
I recently met with my reflector, Fr. Mark Henninger, and we got on the subject of “How, or with what lenses, do we view the news as we listen to the radio, watch TV, read newspapers or magazines, or surf the internet?” We decided to each think about and come up with suggestions. These are my thoughts
When looking at events and actions of individuals, local, state, and national governments, and other groups and organizations in the domestic political realm, consider the following:
- Look through God’s eyes. Does it build or block God’s kingdom on earth (as in the Our Father)?*
- Who is helped? Who is hurt?*
- How does it affect the poor and marginalized?
- Does it help or harm individuals, groups or society as a whole?
- Will it lead to greater good or bad?
- Does it serve or detract from the common good?*
- What virtues or vices are on display, if any?
- Does it foster peace and fraternity or dissension and conflict?
- Are we our brothers’ keeper?
- What Gospel values are advanced, ignored or gone against?
- What is realistically possible?
- Should this lead to any action on my part?*
Looking at events and actions in the international realm:
- Are we our brothers’ keeper in the international realm and if so, to what extent?
- All of the above from the domestic realm.
*If you have limited time, I suggest focusing on these questions.
When we see people who are hurt and suffering, whether it be from natural disaster, accident, sickness, disease or sin by another person, group of people or nations, consider the following:
- Pray that they know God’s love, that God sends people to alleviate their suffering, and to the human extent possible, that action be taken so that it not happen again to anyone.
- Should this lead to any action on my part?
See the archives for more reflections.