Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

Living Your Faith as Citizens and Leaders in Politics, Culture, Society and Business

Reflections of a New Year: Msgr. Lew Gaetano

Doing the World the Way it was meant to be done.As we begin this New Year 2012 – the month of January named for the Roman god Janus, provides an image of looking toward the future, yet aware of the past.   Janus has been called the god of new beginnings and transitions, being also the god of “middle ground.”

As we enter 2012, our local, national and global scene seems to be one of polarization.  The divisions are found in politics, economics and in religion – just to name a few.  Many representing each area seem to move to the extreme left or the extreme right – with little room for a center or middle ground.   Economically, the growing gap between the rich and the poor continues to reduce in size the middle class; politically, conservative and liberal labels allow little room for developing  partnerships of conciliation for the common good; religiously, the  fundamentalist and relativist disregard a center meeting point.   Economic crisis after crisis, political gridlock, and religious intolerance continue to create an environment of instability, suspicion, and incredulity within our world community.   For those with religious sensibilities the issues are multiple, particularly those affecting the Roman Catholic Community.   

I have always prided myself in being a centrist – a little left of center – but never seeing myself as either far left or right.  Even that position is rather arbitrary depending on who defines the center point.    I remember many years ago an African bishop commenting on the liturgical changes that were occurring in the western world – namely within our first world countries.  The lines were being drawn concerning communion in the hand, kneeling or not kneeling, ministers of the altar, etc.  His comment was that while these issues are major concerns for us – his concerns in his own country were issues of drought, famine, AIDS, lack of medicine and medical personnel, etc.   It seemed to make our issues – or my issues – rather inconsequential.  From my own experience it is easy to lose the focus and the center of our lives as a community of faith.  What is that center and focus?  Jesus Christ.

I referred a few weeks ago a statement from a theologian commenting that our job as Church is to “do the world the way it was meant to be done.”  From the time I first read that statement it has been playing in my mind and heart.   “Doing the world the way it was meant to be done”, certainly reminds me that the focus on the least and the lost of our world could enable our world to center itself.  Finding our center in Jesus Christ does not negate our need for self-realization, self-fulfillment, and self-actualization; however it does require an emerging self-transcendence – being able to rise above the polarization.  In that transcendence we can discover our reference to God, and even the forgotten Christ – in the voiceless poor, the nameless homeless, the hungry dying.    Encountering Christ – can bring us to a center in 2012, in “doing the world that way it was meant to be done. “  
Msgr. Lew Gaetano

Filed under: Culture, Personal Reflections, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Fight Poverty With Faith @FPWF starts in Youngstown

Today I joined Congressman Tim Ryan, Bonnie Burdman (Jewish Relations Center), State Representative Sean O’Brien, Rev Lewis Macklin (ACTION president), George Garchar (Social Action/Catholic Charities) and others to purchase food for the week based on the average Food Stamp allocation: $31.50.  Come visit our webpage at Catholic Charities on how you can become involved in this process

We all ventured to Save A Lot stores located at the corner of Gypsy and Belmont Avenue Youngstown.  Co-owners John Kawecki and Henry Nemenz, Jr, greeted us, along with local TV cameras/reporters.  Congressman Ryan and Bonnie Burdman served as our local spokespersons discussing the National Week and the FPWF.  The Save-A-Lot co-owners helped us locate foodstuffs, especially sale items that proved cost effective and beneficial.

Here is my purchase:

4 cans of tuna in water:  $2.52

Canned salmon: $2.49

Peanuts: @2.99

1 lb bag of dry black eye peas: $1.79

Tea bags (50): $1.59

Black pepper for seasoning: $1.99

Bread, lite wheat: $1.89

1.5 lbs of bartlett pears: $1.56

1 lb of tomatoes: $1.28

.72 lb of onions: $0.71

2.22 lbs of mustard greens: @2.20

2.71 ibs of turnip greens: $2.68

TOTAL:  $23.69

My plan is to make from the onions, pepper, black eye peas and greens into a recipe called: “sleek”.  I will need 2 tbs of oil ($1.00) and some nutmeg ($1.00).  This will make 9 -11 servings of sleek.  A good source of protein and vegetables.

I will use the tuna and the salmon as the full protein for lunch and dinner meals this week.  I do have some eggs in the house already, so will plan to eat 2 eggs each morning with a side of sleek for breakfast.

I also have to confess:  I have a board meeting on Tuesday evening, so dinner will be free. I have a community event on Thursday evening at a college so dinner will be free; I also have a lunch event that same day and someone paid for lunch already.   I have a private meeting on Friday, so lunch will be free.  I am able to cover 4 meals this week through the generosity of 4 organizations.  THANKS  to St. Elizabeth, First Friday Club of Youngstown, Malone University, and Barb Z.

For a week, 7 days, three meals: 21 meals.

4 are free.

Need to eat on this budget for 17 meals

Hope I am doing the math right.

Any suggestions?

Filed under: Catholic Charities USA, Economic Policy, morals, Personal Reflections, Poverty, Spirituality, Uncategorized

living on foodstamps for a week: can you?

Today started the week of Fighting Poverty with Faith to understand and act to help reduce poverty.  Many persons in the US are involved in this effort by promising to live on a typical food stamp budget per person of $31.50 a week or $1.50 a meal.  Here in Youngstown we will commence together on this process on Monday October 31.   I am beginning to plan menus now.


Any ideas?


thanks Brian

Filed under: Personal Reflections,

Where do some of our economic ideas come from?

There are times while reading newspapers’ opinion columns, and watching 24/7 newscasts, that I become somewhat confused about the best and most moral way to interject politics into the economy, especially during this continued Great Recession. I too wonder what our tax policy should espouse.  I try to imagine the proper role of the government in regulations of markets. Then I realize that there is the rub to all this:  Can we even talk about morals and the economy in the same sentence?  No where do I read or hear on radio or TV any call for a moral review of our economic policies and perspectives.  Add to that, there are few if any commentaries in the current public discourse about how the tenets of our faith traditions, especially Roman Catholicism, can shed light on economic fundamentals and consequences.

Angus Sibley’s “The ‘Poisoned Spring’ of Economic Libertarianism; Menger, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard: A Critique from Catholic Social Teaching of the ‘Austrian School’ of Economics” (Pax Romana/CMICA-USA, 2011) provides such a critique and analysis of our global political economy that led to the Great Recession of 2008/9, and its current aftermath.  Sibley argues that the philosophical-theological perspective of Catholic social theory can and does bring much to the debate about the role of the state and the economy.  His most important contribution, in this reader’s estimation, is his critical review and analysis of the hyper-competitive, outrageous anti-statism and supra-individualistic ideology of the libertarian movement based in the Austrian School of Economics.  Sibley methodologically articulates and deconstructs the philosophical underpinnings of notable economists from the Austrian School, namely, Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich von Hayek.  The author then directly criticizes the failed and disingenuous attempt, he calls it ‘heresy,’ by some Catholic thinkers, like Michael Novak and Robert Sirico, of justifying Austrian libertarianism within Roman Catholic social thought.

This book provides an excellent review of how philosophical assumptions can parade as immutable laws of nature, rejecting any interference from governmental regulations and moralists.   Sibley sheds light on the fundamental assumptions of our current debates in political economy that are rooted in a specific school of economics which “believes” in immutable laws detached from human life.  He offers reflections from the Catholic moral tradition to provide a counter-weight to the assumption that economics is a non-moral activity.  This book is ideal for business ethics, history of ideas, and/or political economy classes.

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Economic Policy, Market Place, morals, Personal Reflections, Politics, Social Doctrine, Social Justice

Reflections by Msgr. Lewis Gaetano, Canton, OH on Corpus Christi

Stewards of Christ’s Presence: the Body of Christ


This weekend we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi (Body and Blood of Christ).   The feast celebrates who we are as a community of disciples and it remains a challenge for us as individuals and as a community, given our culture.  Our culture tends to objectify things around us primarily for their instrumental value – that is how they can be used for our good or pleasure.  My car is an object which is disposable at a certain point; my clothing is disposable at a certain point, either when the clothing wears out or goes out of style.  Unfortunately, this not only happens with material objects, but occurs with people and in our relationships.

People can become mere means to an end or seen as having simple instrumental value.   If someone wants to advance in a job, there are people who can be used in order to step further up the ladder – these persons become an instrument and object or my particular use.  In a marriage, a spouse can fulfill a desire for intimacy or happiness for a period of time – an object or instrument of my fulfillment or need which can then be disposed of when no longer able to fulfill my immediate desires or even long range goals.   The list can go on and on.

Today, we can reflect on St. Augustine who reminds us that “we are what we receive” in the Eucharist.  We celebrate our life as a Eucharistic Community, for we are the Mystical Body of Christ.  It is through our baptism that we are totally immersed into the life of Christ as God’s Beloved, and that immersion is deepened and intensified in the celebration of the Eucharist, continually transforming us into “that which we receive” – the Body of Christ.  In Christ’s Spirit we are brought to life as God’s people, bringing our communal life toward a greater fulfillment.

You will notice that I speak of God’s people and our communal life.   The emphasis is not on the “individualism” that characterizes our culture, but on that which we bring as individuals to the table of the Lord.  We bring our own personalities, our own gifts and talents, however we place them on the altar (represented in the gifts of bread and wine) so that the Lord may take us (unique personalities, gifts and talents) and transform us – allowing us to become a real presence in the world of Christ’s love.   Jesus the human face of God, continues the mission of His Father in the world, through the Mystical Body of Christ – the Church.

The Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, has a human face in you and in me.  We love in the name of Christ, we heal the broken-hearted in the name of Christ, and we forgive in the name of Christ.  All that we do as Church is in the name of Christ.  It is the grace of the Holy Spirit that empowers us to do the work of Christ, not our own power or our own willfulness or our own designs.  It is the love of God, through the grace of Jesus Christ and in the life of the Holy Spirit that we find our true meaning.  We come to the table, knowing that we each have a place at the table – and then we ask the Lord to transform our lives individually and as a community, enabling us to “become what we eat.”

Filed under: morals, Personal Reflections, Spirituality,