Tuesday, March 30, 2010

DSC_9178

At the Black Madonna Shrine.

Gasoline Money






I would like to drive further afield to bring you quality photos of churches.

Every penny helps!

The River des Peres at Dusk

THE RIVER des Peres — la Rivière des Pères, meaning River (or Creek) of the Fathers, is not known for being beautiful, but the recent Greenway project is an attempt to beautify the lower stretch of this stream which here flows through south Saint Louis.

River des Peres Greenway, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - the River des Peres

All of these photos were taken just after sunset.

The lower part of the stream is basically a drainage canal, with concrete bottom and riprap sides, and a sanitary sewer runs in tunnels underneath.

River des Peres Greenway, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Morganford Bridge detail

As this is only a utilitarian drainage channel, there was seen to be little need to make this prominent landmark beautiful. It is “only” a sewer, some say, but that is not true.

We often use the word “only” when we what to dismiss something as being beneath a certain dignity, this is most clear when we apply that word to persons, and it is often a sign of injustice: “she is only a stay-at-home mom”, “he is only a [insert racial slur here]”.

That a drainage canal ought to be good at draining water is more important than it being beautiful does not mean that it ought not be beautiful. Psychologically, we are attracted to beautiful things more than good things, and to insist that we must accept utilitarianism is contrary to the needs of the human person.

The modern (but not the original) notion of form follows function essentially states that goodness or fittingness will automatically produce beauty; while this may be true for a supremely good designer, most of us aren't quite so good, and so we ought to explicitly design-in beauty when we make things.

The two automotive parkways that parallel the stream — Germania Street and Des Peres Parkway — were specifically designed to be beautiful parks, as was the custom when these were constructed in the 1930s. The recent beautification here is intended for pedestrians and bicyclists who travel on paths closer to the stream.

River des Peres Greenway, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - monumental fence

Recent rusticated fence, made of native limestone.

River des Peres Greenway, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - large pedestrian bridge

Pedestrian bridge crosses the river just upstream from the Morganford Road bridge.

River des Peres Greenway, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - small pedestrian bridge

An expensive, but decorative, foot bridge crosses a small tributary of the River des Peres. An older mind-set encourages us to build things that will last centuries, but this is only effective in the long run if we can encourage and depend on stability in society. Short-term thinking makes permanent construction unthinkable, but this leads to instability in society.

River des Peres Greenway, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - large tree

This is a very large, and perhaps ancient tree. Many more trees have been planted here lately, as can be seen in the photo.

Nature is inherently beautiful, and the works of man are often ugly.  But man's works are beautiful when they are made in harmony with nature. We do have a moral obligation to build in harmony with nature: but mainstream and elite opinions on nature are problematic. Neither should we see nature as a totally exploitable resource, nor as a wilderness where man must be excluded.

River des Peres Greenway, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - trees over compost pile

River des Peres Greenway, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - trail

A winding, well-lit, path.  Even though you can't tell from these photos, there were very many pedestrians and bicyclists at that time — I had to wait until they were out of the camera's sight to avoid blurring.

River des Peres Greenway, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - neighborhood

Many people live within sight distance of the stream, which ought to make its beautification a priority. Too often, beautification is seen as somebody else's job, or the job of the government. Certainly planting flowers or trees is something that could be done by an individual or small local group, done in cooperation with the property owner.

River des Peres Greenway, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - large pedestrian bridge 2

Another view of the large pedestrian bridge.

River des Peres Greenway, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - river with graffiti

Dusk descends on the river. The sky actually was that shade of blue, although on my computer monitor it seems to be a bit brighter than reality.

River des Peres Greenway, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Morganford Bridge

For an historical overview of the arguments for transforming the River des Peres from a natural stream to a drainage channel, click here to see a report from the year 1916.

Click for a map of this area.

On the current scandal

TWO ARTICLES:

Setting the record straight in the case of abusive Milwaukee priest Father Lawrence Murphy, Then-presiding judge for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee gives first-person account of church trial: “The fact that I presided over this trial and have never once been contacted by any news organization for comment speaks for itself.”

Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland.

Do not be misled.  Some of the harshest critics of Pope Benedict and Holy Mother Church desire to legitimize and normalize the very behavior being denounced. Such is usually the case when hypocrisy is alleged.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Manresa Center

A PHOTO OF the Manresa Center of Saint Louis University:

Manresa Center, Saint Louis University, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

At one time a large private residence, then a Catholic school, later a friary, this building is now a conference center and retreat house.  A large chapel is adjacent and merits further investigation.

Manresa is the Spanish city where Saint Ignatius of Loyola laid down his sword and instead took up the Cross of Christ.

Holy Week Begins

HOW, MAY I ASK, is your Lent going? Only one week left...

Mine has been terrible, with lots of obstacles, disappointments, worries, and it seems all so rather.... penitential.  Ah yes, of course; that's the point of Lent.

The end of the liturgical year calls to mind the end of times, and our ultimate destination.  But as we approach the middle of the yearly cycle, we recall our own life and how we live it. This is put into the historical context of the betrayal and suffering of Our Lord, and how our sins are the cause of this suffering.

I decided on Dionysus the Areopagite's On the Divine Names as my spiritual reading this Lent, perhaps somewhat on a whim. Certainly this volume is not typically found on the standard lists of Lenten reading. But its high and lofty approach to mystical theology is quite refreshing in relation to the reductionistic and egotistical approach so often found in our contemporary world.

Dionysus makes the striking claim that evil has no essence or being. There is no supreme or pure evil. Rather, evil is the deprivation of good, and only good has essence and being. As a physical example, consider heat; there is no such thing as 'cold' for it is merely the deprivation of warmth. Heat itself is found in the motion of the particles that make up a physical object, and so there is no corresponding principle of cold in and of itself, there is only less or more heat.  Likewise there is only less or more good, and we call the less-good 'evil'.  Unfortunately people often choose the lesser good, which is evil, over the greater good, and place lesser things over greater things, which is idolatry.

If evil were to fully corrupt something good completely, then the good thing, and the evil itself would both disappear into nothingness. You can make a donut hole so large that the entire donut disappears — and so the donut hole also disappears. For example, disease is a deprivation of health in a body, and health is good for it leads to a lively flourishing life. If disease fully deprives a body of health, then the body is dead and the disease itself loses existence. Evil, if allowed to fully extend its influence, ceases to exist. Evil is contingent on, and requires good to even exist. Only a living human being can be murdered, and only a good reputation can be destroyed by malice. And so evil and sin can be recognized by its destruction of order and being, and by its preference for lesser things over greater.

Dionysus' approach to the problem of evil is that what happens works out for the good only inasmuch as we are united with the Supreme Good, or God. As evil has no being or essence, things that are very evil are as far from being and existence as is possible, and therefore far from God — cast out in to the outer darkness — and are as close to annihilation as possible. As we believe that our souls were created good, and are immortal, then the ultimate evil that can occur to us is Hell, which is permanent and as far from God as possible, and this is a place that we choose to go when we do not choose to be united with God.

A brief summary of this can be found in Aquinas; note that his article shows objections first — which he disagrees with — and then states his own opinion after 'On the contrary'.

Many reform and dissenting theologians think that God's commandments are arbitrary rules in the realm of so-called positive law, which leads to a dangerous discounting of the possibility of sin as well as a defective model for human law.  Rather, Dionysius shows us that sin is cosmic and harms all of creation; it is an evil tendency that unmakes creation and causes a divorce in the relationships within ourselves, among our fellow humans, with nature, and with God. And so, we can see how this causes God Incarnate to suffer.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Late Winter Photos

DAFFODYLS, the first I've seen this season, were in bloom on Saturday, and so the season of winter is over. Here are some nature photos I've taken over the last few weeks, showing the bleak Missouri landscape of late winter.

Frozen swamp, at Gravois Creek Conservation Area, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA

A frozen swamp, just before sunrise, at the Gravois Creek Conservation Area in south Saint Louis County. We had a warm period, common here in winter, with lots of rainfall; then came a hard freeze. The ground this morning was hard and frost-covered, making for an easy hike along normally muddy terrain.

Deciduous forests, such as this one, only cover at most a third of the United States, a small part of Canada, most of the colder parts of Europe, a small part of Asia, and is very rare elsewhere. I often have to remind myself that what is commonplace for me is exotic for many of my visitors here.

The word ‘deciduous’ derives from the Latin adjective deciduus, which according to the Lewis and Short dictionary means ‘falling down or off’. During autumn, deciduous trees loose their leaves, and the landscape becomes a dreary mostly undifferentiated brown color.

Gravois Creek, at Gravois Creek Conservation Area, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - 7

Gravois Creek at sunrise.

Like many river courses in the midwestern United States, this creek was named by the French. According to the Glossary of Mississippi Valley French 1673-1850, gravois means ‘gravel’ (although in modern French this translates to ‘plaster rubble’). Indeed the bottom of this stream, like most streams in the Ozarks, is covered in gravel made up mostly of hard, resilient chert, a form of microcrystaline quartz, stained a light reddish-brown or tan color.

Gravois Creek, at Gravois Creek Conservation Area, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - 1

Frost formed on the ground during the night. This frost can sort-of be seen here on the dead grasses of last year's growth, on the opposite creek bank.

The creek itself has a green color due to algae growing in it. This stream has a good base flow, being fed by springs, and I've never seen it run dry.

Gravois Creek, at Gravois Creek Conservation Area, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - 3

Soon after dawn, wild turkeys fly down from their roosts in the trees, and call each other so that they can flock together. Hearing turkeys when I took this photo — they were very loud — I moved closer to investigate.

Wild turkeys, at Gravois Creek Conservation Area, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA

Wild turkeys, near the location of the last photo. This is a very tight crop of a photo, and low quality. I need one of these for better wildlife photos.

Gravois Creek, at Gravois Creek Conservation Area, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - 5

The sun has risen, the frigid air is warming, and the frost is melting.

Grant's Trail, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA

This conservation area is only accessible via the Grant's Trail bicycle path.

Beaver-knawed tree trunk, at Gravois Creek Conservation Area, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA

A small tree, perhaps felled by a beaver? They are common hereabouts, as is another aquatic mammal, the muskrat.

Deer tracks at Gravois Creek Conservation Area, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA

Whitetail deer tracks, preserved in the frozen mud. These animals are very common in this area, but they can be hard to see, since their coloring blends with the browns of tree bark, fallen leaves, and dirt.

Eroded stream bank 3 in Fishpot Creek, at Vance Trails Park, in Valley Park, Missouri, USA

An eroded stream bank along Fishpot Creek, at Vance Trails Park, in Valley Park, Missouri. This photo was taken near the mouth of the stream, where it discharges into the Meramec River. Click here for a photo taken nearby.

Forest, at Engelmann Woods Natural Area, in Saint Albans, Missouri, USA

This is the Engelmann Woods Natural Area, in northeastern Franklin County near Saint Albans, Missouri. Named after the German physician and botanist George Engelmann, who settled in Saint Louis, this area contains a rare old-growth forest.

Forest and rock, at Engelmann Woods Natural Area, in Saint Albans, Missouri, USA

The advantage of winter nature walks is that normally unseen vistas, blocked by vegetation, become visible.  And there are no nuisance insects or poisonous reptiles.

Cedar, at Engelmann Woods Natural Area, in Saint Albans, Missouri, USA

A very old cedar tree.

Root, at Engelmann Woods Natural Area, in Saint Albans, Missouri, USA

Tree roots and leaves, along with mosses that survive green throughout the winter.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

La Tavola di San Giuseppe

Altar of Saint Joseph at the school cafeteria of Saint Ambrose Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

La tavola di San Giuseppe è una antica usanza dalla Sicilia. E 'iniziato in onore di Dio e l'intercessione di San Giuseppe per porre fine una carestia. Oggi, questa grande festa si svolge in ringraziamento per i favori concessi.

Santa Messa in lingua italiana è stata celebrata, dopo questo pasto.

Ho preso questa fotografia presso la chiesa di Sant'Ambrogio, a Saint Louis, Missouri.

(Si prega di consultare i commenti per una traduzione in inglese.)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fallen tree in Fishpot Creek, at Vance Trails Park, in Valley Park, Missouri, USA

Fallen tree in Fishpot Creek, at Vance Trails Park, in Valley Park, Missouri.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Earn Your Happy Ending

I MUST ADMIT that I have a great fondness for reading about fiction, ever since (on a whim) I purchased an old copy of the book Plot (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Ansen Dibell. I've read it several times. Since then, I've been fascinated by the process of developing plots and characterizations, which I suppose is an extension of my long fascination with words, grammar, and writing in general.

Please note that I have a fondness for reading about fiction; I hardly ever actually read fiction, having lost interest in that since I was in my early teens. The fiction I  have read in the past decade tends towards epic themes and great moral struggles. I do watch the occasional film, and extremely rarely, television.

A young correspondent shared a link to the website TV Tropes, which is
...a catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction. We dip into the cauldron of story, whistle up a hearty spoonful and splosh it in front of you to devour to your heart's content.

Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations....
I was quickly fascinated. This website is definitely non-scholarly, and is often crude, poorly categorized, and obscure, filled with jargon; but there is a lot of good stuff in it. I've spent hours clicking around on that website, and was particularly taken by the entry Sliding Scale Of Idealism Versus Cynicism, which asks the question
What best defeats evil? A bullet between the eyes, or The Power Of Friendship?
The article continues:
  • In a heavily idealistic series, Humans Are Good. The starry-eyed pacifist will be able to settle wars, get people to understand each other, or destroy the Big Bad in a glowing ball of goodness entirely by accident. The cynic, on the other hand, is often depicted as a primitive who would just make matters worse, or a Knight Templar General Ripper advocating Nuke Em All as a solution to every problem without even stopping to ask any questions at all or even considering that there might be a better way to handle things.
  • In a heavily cynical series, Humans Are Bastards. The starry-eyed pacifist is cannon fodder at best, someone who needs protection from the people who know how the world really works, or at worst a naive fool who puts everyone else in danger through his/her reckless naïveté, or who is actively working for the bad guys under the deluded impression that they're doing the right thing and working for peace. The cynic, on the other hand, is the person who knows how the world works, the smart, street-savvy tough guy who knows that the only way to solve some problems is to beat them into submission.
This entry in TV Tropes reminded me of something that has troubled me since my youth. A political leader once praised the idealism of youth. Upon hearing this, I thought that was a good statement, however, he praised the idealism of youth, not the idealism of adults. I was shocked at the logical consequences of this.

So idealism is something that is, or ought to be abandoned upon growing up? And so the politician himself, being an adult, is not idealistic? And if he is a cynic, then in fact is he cynically using his youthful idealistic followers? If these youth knew that they were being cynically used, then wouldn't they realize that the politician is in fact their enemy?

A virtue, like courage or justice, is good for everyone, no matter their age, and so idealism and cynicism are not virtues, but rather opposite vices on the scale of morality, with true virtue being somewhere in between.

The idealist denies the phenomena of Original Sin and the existence of evil in the world, and indeed modern idealist philosophies were specifically created by rejecting the Christian world view. These theories assume that people, at their core, are morally good, despite the evidence. But there is, in fact, evil in the world.

The cynic assumes that humans are not only morally evil, but are ontologically worthless, having no goodness in their being, so why not kill your enemies? However, every cynic that has ever lived, had in fact survived his mother's womb and was for a time an infant, unable to help himself. There is, in fact, goodness in the world.

Vices come in opposite pairs, and a person without virtue will often switch from one vice to another. Consider a soldier without the virtue of courage: he is cowardly hiding while his city is under attack from merciless invaders, and due to his inaction, his friends and neighbors are being killed.  The soldier then has a change of heart: he leaves his hiding place, and openly charges the enemy, and is quickly and pointlessly killed. He goes from the vice of being a coward to the vice of being foolhardy. A soldier with the virtue of courage would hide when needed, and attack when needed, but always prudently, and always with the aim of selflessly protecting his friends and neighbors.

Likewise with idealism and cynicism. We ought to expect that an idealist will become a cynic, and even that a cynic would imprudently abandon caution and embrace idealism. An idealist is likely to become cynical when assaulted with reality, and this happens far too often when people embrace easy religions and ideologies. Vices generally are unstable due to their nature and we ought to expect such flips, while holding the middle ground of virtue takes hard work, but it reinforces other virtues.

TV Tropes recognizes that truth lies in the middle. Despite the vast range of opinion found there, there is typically a sense of morality and of good versus bad art. How ought a writer structure a screenplay? Which tropes are excellent, and which are best avoided? According to the website, the solution to the cynicism/idealism problem is called Earn Your Happy Ending:
...Humans may act like bastards and the world may seem like it's half empty, but that doesn't mean that that the worst villain is beyond redemption, or that things can't be improved with hard work or even The Power Of Love. The forces of Good may have to go through Hell, but in the end they will Earn Their Happy Ending. May overlap with a Bittersweet Ending...
The best works of fiction overwhelmingly choose this trope; perhaps because it is true. It is noted that it is difficult to write this this kind of happy ending effectively, but we should not be surprised, because life is difficult and takes hard work, even when writing fiction.

Many modern notions about fiction implicitly follows Coleridge, assuming “...that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith...” But this is not true, and it puts the burden of fiction upon the reader rather than the writer, rejecting the moral truth that to whom much is given much is required.

An alternative theory of fiction, developed by J.R.R. Tolkien and his friends, is subcreation, where we craft fiction according to how we ourselves are made, and that good fiction is “rather an artistic retelling of great truth in a form that is both symbolic and realistic”. Readers will accept or reject a work partially depending on how true it is, even if the truth is a higher truth.

And the higher truth is that we have to earn our happy ending — by hard work and by cooperating with grace. This is what the Christian life teaches us, especially during Lent.

Health Care - an Alternative

VERY MANY commentators have written about the noxious aspects of the health care reform now before the United States Congress. The claimed noble purpose of providing affordable healthcare to all is to be gained only by a Satanic bargain that promotes the Culture of Death, while usurping power from all other levels of society.

But I do not care to criticize without offering an alternative. Too many have made an art of criticism, attacking the principles of others while keeping their own principles hidden.

Politics in the U.S. today is overwhelmingly dominated by two opposed, yet similar, false philosophies. Libertarianism, while correctly recognizing personal responsibility and private ownership of property, nevertheless grants individuals the right to destroy the livelihood of others via economic activity. Socialism correctly recognizes that government is a necessary component of society, yet seeks totalitarian power over human life. These philosophies are noxious and must be rooted out.

Here are some general principles:
  • Economic activity is primarily directed to the support of families, be they extended or nuclear, and particularly to the support of dependents such as children, the sick, homemakers, and the elderly. It is not the purpose of economic activity to accumulate wealth, nor is it an instrument of social justice as an end. But wealth is not to be despised, and social justice is a means whereby the goal of supporting families is ensured. Families are covenential relationships bound by blood, marriage, and adoption that exist despite legal definitions, and are recognized most certainly by the duty of care given to dependents.
  • Professional health care provides real benefits and liabilities to health. It should not be an instrument of social control, nor should it be a power relationship of the health-care provider versus the patient.
  • A rejection of nominalism. How health care today is regulated depends on the name given to services or goods rendered. Goods that are called ‘pharmaceuticals’ are very tightly regulated, while those that are called ‘nutritional supplements’ are not, even if they may be chemically identical. Likewise, some medical professions are highly regulated where others are not.
  • Health care should, out of charity, be given to all, despite wealth or poverty, whether citizen or stranger, without regard to creed or cult.
  • Power should be kept local as possible. Medical decision-makers ought to be friends and neighbors of their patients, and should not be an anonymous and unapproachable bureaucrat far away. Likewise, funding ought to be kept as local as possible, with a primary (although not only) system of cash or barter payment for service at the time rendered.
  • Both individual and corporate responsibility. Each individual professional ought to be held responsible for his failings; too often incompetents are shifted around in the process of ‘passing the trash’ so that their wrongdoings remain hidden. Likewise, corporate bodies of professionals must to take collective responsibility of ensuring a just order of their profession as well as fulfilling their duties to all others.
  • Free association. Medical professionals should be free to join associations of their choosing, and not be compelled by force of law.
  • Self-regulation and cooperation with authority. No medical professional operates in a vacuum, but depends on his fellow professionals. All medical associations are chartered by the various levels of government, but each association fulfills its duties according to its own means and internal regulation. Likewise, governments ought to be extremely generous in recognizing and approving charters, yet keep the public good in mind, since these associations have independent existence outside of the realm of government, yet exist largely to serve the common good. Finally, government lobbying is done on the appropriate association level, with great care taken to avoid power struggles. The opposite errors of Corporatism (government control of associations) and friendly ‘bought’ politicians (who seek the private interests of the associations over the common good) must be avoided at all costs.
  • Medical malpractice lawsuits mainly enrich lawyers and has led to an overly defensive, and very expensive, style of health care, which has led us to our current situation. Fraternal correction is the preferable means to regulating the professions, and medical associations ought to make this a priority. As these associations are charted by the various levels of government, it is the authorities' duty to ensure the associations fulfill this responsibility. Medical associations also provide mutual insurance for both legal and medical claims.
  • A good society is a harmonious society. While the threat of force is appropriate against wrong-doers, any system that attempts to force people to do good is bound to fail and is destined to tyranny. A harmonious society is marked by order, stability, and predicability, and which absorbs catastrophe in a graceful manner. Change is not for its own sake, but for the better.
  • Private ownership of the means to healthcare. Individual health professionals ought to personally own the tools and facilities needed to provide his services, as he knows best what he needs.
  • Non-profit ownership of hospitals. The owners of hospitals ought not to seek economic advantage over their weak and desperate patients. Lately, for-profit ownership of hospitals has led to numerous closures, as well as extremely unpleasant work environments and bureaucratic control. Ownership by medical associations and social and religious groups has proven fruitful in the past and are superior to both government-owned hospitals and those operated for profit.
  • Relentlessly pro-life philosophy. Trust in a medical system breaks down if the patient knows that a professional may either heal or kill him, or subject him to hazardous experimentation.
  • Distinctiveness of professions. By their rights and duties, each profession ought to be clearly distinguished from another for the sake of the patient and for the solidarity of each profession. This ought to be symbolized by distinctiveness in dress between professions and ranks within a profession. This ought to reduce confusion and the fog that often surrounds contemporary health care.
Both Libertarianism and Socialism have aspects that make them appear to be compatible with Catholic social teachings, yet both are ultimately based on the principle of non serviam — ‘I will not serve’ — and therefore are Satanic and must be rejected by Catholics of good conscience. Rather, let's consider a rational and loving alternative.

The two basic principles of Catholic Social Justice (the concept of social justice comes from Holy Mother Church) are subsidiarity and solidarity: control is local and people work together.

Consider this model for implementation of health care reform:
  • Health care professionals generally operate as owner-operators of their own businesses. Each physician, duly educated and accredited, owns his own practice and owns his own means of doing his work, and regulates his own hours of operation and business practices.
  • The organization of work for health care professionals is directed towards the end of allowing one worker the ability of completely supporting his or her family.
  • Each patient and each physician can agree to enter into, or exit a relationship, based on their own needs and desires. The price paid generally will be on a sliding scale, where better off patients pay more than the poor.
  • Health care professionals freely join various local associations of similar professionals: each city may have one or more physician associations, nursing associations, and so forth. But each professional also has the duty to belong to one of the associations. Each professional, duly accredited, has equal say in how their particular association is operated. One association may be Catholic, another secular, and so forth.
  • Each heath care association is responsible for ensuring the well-being of its members and their families.
  • These associations are recognized by the local government. All regulation, oversight, and disciplinary actions upon medical professionals is done solely at the level of these professional associations. Government enters into contracts only with these associations.
  • These local medical associations, as a whole, have both the right and the duty to provide healthcare to all in the community without exception.  All persons within a region has the right to health care from these associations, and they in turn have the responsibility to pay any debts owed to the best of their ability.
  • It is up to the local medical associations to decide how to provide medical care to the indigent; this care is the responsibility of the association as a whole, which will define its own policies (in coordination with government) on how to care for those who do not have the ability to pay.
  • Liability for medical malpractice will first be arbitrated within the local association and each member of the association will be subject to association discipline; only when this is exhausted can the dispute be taken to the civil courts.
  • Medical insurance will be issued or coordinated by the local medical associations, with primary insurance coverage being handled by the association itself. Pay-for-service ought to be used typically, especially in lucrative practices.
  • A three-tier system within each profession is assumed.  Apprentices gain practical knowledge at the side of a Master; Journeymen have to 'pay their dues' by doing undesirable work for modest pay (yet have the right to future reward), while Masters will be able to reap the reward of lucrative medical practices. Labor practices will be regulated within each association, and all members will be bound to these practices.
  • Medical schools are tightly integrated with the labor practices of these local associations: apprentices may spend half their time on the job, the other half in classes, for example. Journeymen may be required to be in residence in the medical schools part of the time. Masters may be required to teach or make the rounds at the medical schools part time.
  • Hospitals are largely privately and locally owned, some may be owned by municipalities, and are non-profit; all revenue goes towards professionals who work there or is used for upkeep, maintenance, and expansion. They may be owned by the various medical associations, by religious orders, or charities.
  • Public health measures, like vaccination and quarantine, is the responsibility of local medical associations in harmony with local government. The local associations will determine if local conditions require particular public health measures or not.
  • Charitable giving to this endeavor is strongly encouraged, and the local organization of the institutions ensures donors that their gifts will be used both wisely and verifiably.
  • The entire medical enterprise will be self-funded; tax funding will be required only in cases of extreme urgency, such as war or disaster.
  • Local medical associations will freely organize into larger bodies which will coordinate with higher levels of government. However, the assumption is that most decisions — and funding — will take place at the lowest local association level.
The main problem with this system is that the type of care given will vary — often greatly — between localities.  The quality of the interaction between government and the professions will also vary greatly. But the advantage is that organization will always be much closer to meeting local needs.  This organization is closer to individual patients, individual health care professionals, and local elected officials, who will have a real, day-to-day influence on how the health care system operates.

I humbly offer this alternative. Thank you.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Feast of Saint Joseph

Black Madonna Shrine, near Eureka, Missouri, USA - statue of Saint Joseph in grotto

Statue of Saint Joseph, at the Black Madonna Shrine.
I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and commended myself earnestly to him; and I found that this my father and lord delivered me both from this trouble and also from other and greater troubles concerning my honor and the loss of my soul, and that he gave me greater blessings than I could ask of him. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favours which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul.

— Autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila.

Photos of Saint Patrick of Armagh

I LAST VISITED Saint Patrick's Church in Armagh back in 2006. I revisited yesterday, on the occasion of the Feast of Saint Patrick.

Saint Patrick Roman Catholic Mission, in Armagh, Missouri, USA - exterior

This is a finely-made stone church, constructed around the time of the American Civil War.

Saint Patrick Roman Catholic Mission, in Armagh, Missouri, USA - nave

The church closed as a parish in 1925, but it retains mission status, and has occasional Masses and an annual picnic. The church has no heating, cooling, or electricity. It is lit by oil lamps. During Mass that day, I could see my breath due to the chill which seemed appropriately penitential; Father mentioned that the weather that day was just what you would find in Ireland.

Saint Patrick Roman Catholic Mission, in Armagh, Missouri, USA - statue of Saint Patrick

Statue of Saint Patrick.

Saint Patrick Roman Catholic Mission, in Armagh, Missouri, USA - rectory and cemetery

For more information and photos of the church, see my old posting here.

For details of that day's Mass, see Tina's posting here.

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

TODAY IS THE FEAST of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 315—386), Bishop and Doctor of the Church, who is known for a series of lectures given to catechumens during Lent, preparing them for Baptism — and later during the Easter Season about the mysteries of the Sacraments.

His catechetical lectures are here.

Saint Cyril speaks much of the heresies, and the heresy of Arianism was very active in his day; although he was on the orthodox side, his views — at the time of these lectures — were semi-Arian, but this was before the development of the Nicene Creed, which he accepted.

These lectures were of utmost importance in shaping the Church in the era following the Second Vatican Council. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) was explicitly modeled after these lectures, and it is from these that Communion in the hand is justified (although this practice is not seen anywhere else).

Despite problems, the parts I've read of the lectures are clear, delightful, and very rich in Catholic doctrine and practice. Saint Cyril presents his material clearly and logically.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Saint Patrick

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in Springfield, Illinois, USA - statue of Saint Patrick 2.jpg

Shrine of Saint Patrick at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in Springfield, Illinois, photo taken in 2007.
Could I have come to Ireland without thought of God, merely in my own interest? Who was it made me come? For here “I am a prisoner of the Spirit” so that I may not see any of my family. Can it be out of the kindness of my heart that I carry out such a labor of mercy on a people who once captured me when they wrecked my father's house and carried off his servants? For by descent I was a freeman, born of a decurion father; yet I have sold this nobility of mine, I am not ashamed, nor do I regret that it might have meant some advantage to others. In short, I am a slave in Christ to this faraway people for the indescribable glory of “everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Photos of Saint Agatha Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri

HERE ARE PHOTOS of Saint Agatha Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri. Long the home of the Indult Latin Mass, and now of the Polish language apostolate in the Archdiocese, this church is located in south Saint Louis, about three road miles southwest of the Old Cathedral.

Saint Agatha Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - exterior at night

This present church dates from the end of the 19th century. Sometimes considered to be a part of the Soulard neighborhood, this church has a very small natural parish, the church being cut off from significant residential areas by an Interstate highway and by industrialization. So, like many urban parishes in Saint Louis, this beautiful and historic church has a special apostolate.

In 1983, the late Msgr. Bernard E. Granich was named pastor of Saint Agatha, and was granted permission by Archbishop May to celebrate the Mass in Latin here according to liturgical books preceding the Second Vatican Council. Initially, this Mass was offered on first Saturdays, and after Pope John Paul II promulgated his motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta, every Sunday. Until 2005, the church was under the pastorate of Father James Rodis, assisted by the late Father Xavier Albert.

In 2005, after a controversy which led to an interdict against the former Saint Stanislaus Kostka parish, Archbishop Burke transferred the Polish language apostolate to Saint Agatha. Masses and the sacraments are now offered here in both English and Polish. According to the parish website:
Parafia Św. Agaty została założona po to, by służyć duchowym potrzebom polskich emigrantów zamieszkujących okolice St. Louis. Parafia podlega bezpośrednio Arcybiskupowi St. Louis oraz Papieżowi. Żyjąc w amerykańskim społeczeństwie staramy się podtrzymywać i pielęgnować naszą bogatą tradycje. Poprzez wstawiennictwo Matki Boskiej Częstochowskiej, Królowej Polski oraz Św. Agaty, patronki naszej parafii, staramy się wypełnić powierzone nam przez Jezusa powołanie do życia w wierze katolickiej, miłości, sprawiedliwości i pokoju.
This photo was taken with a series of long exposure times, and trails of stars can be seen in the sky.  In preparation for the Stations of the Cross devotion, the church's lights were on inside, offering us an unusual view of the stained glass windows at night.

Saint Agatha Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - nave

This is a spacious church. According to a history of the Soulard neighborhood:
The German Catholic Church of St. Agatha was organized in 1871 by Rev. J. A. Stroomberger when he found about one hundred families in the area willing to subscribe a total of $5,000 towards the erection of a church. A lot at the northwest corner of Eighth and Utah Streets was purchased and the church was dedicated on July 14, 1872 by Bishop Ryan. The two story brick structure had a school on its first floor with an auditorium seating 450 persons on the second floor. The cornerstone of the present church was laid in 1885 and in 1899 the transept, sacristy and sanctuary were added to the structure. A nuns' residence was built in 1892 and a new school and hall was completed in 1908.
Saint Agatha Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - sanctuary

An early comprehensive history of Saint Agatha's, in German, can be read here.

Saint Agatha Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - altar and reredoes detail

Detail of the altar and reredoes.  Above the tabernacle of Our Lord is a painting of Saint Agatha (died A.D. 251), virgin and Roman martyr, with the instruments of her martyrdom. This altar, I was told, was made by a parishioner who attended the Indult Latin Mass that was formerly celebrated here.

Saint Agatha Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Mary's altar

Mary's altar, with the Polish flag and photos of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Saint Agatha Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Saint Agatha Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - stained glass window of Pentecost

Stained glass window of Pentecost.
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

— Acts 2
Saint Agatha Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - exterior archway at night

Archway joins the church to the rectory; stairs lead down to the church hall, where Lenten fish fries are presently being held. The sign reads Coffee Bar and Library Polonia, in both English and Polish. I've been here twice this Lent.

Saint Agatha Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - exterior of school at night

The former school, now for sale. The loss of the Catholic school system is a great tragedy of the day, which not only harms Catholic children, but also society at large, as education is increasingly centrally controlled without alternative. I was told that the parish also had a girls' school, which was destroyed by construction of Interstate 55.

Saint Agatha Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - neigborhood at night with Anheuser-Busch brewery

Some neighboring houses with the Anheuser-Busch brewery in the background.

View of Interstate 55, behind Saint Agatha Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - at night with Lemp Mansion

Behind the church is Interstate 55. In the background is the Lemp Mansion, now a restaurant.

Saint Agatha Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - sign

Address:
3239 South 9th Street
St Louis, Missouri 63118