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

How can Religion be a force for Peace…Assisi 2011



VATICAN CITY, 27 OCT 2011 (VIS) – Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the historic meeting for peace in the Italian town of Assisi, called by Blessed John Paul II. For the occasion, Benedict XVI has made a pilgrimage to the city of St. Francis, accompanied by representatives of other religions and by non-believers, for a Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world under the theme: “Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace”.


  The Pontiff and the members of the various delegations left the Vatican by train at8 a.m. today, reaching Assisi at 9.45 a.m. where they were greeted by the civil and religious authorities in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. As the ceremony unfolded inside the basilica, the large numbers of faithful present were able to follow events on giant screens set up in the square outside.


  Following a greeting from Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, a video was screened in commemoration of the 1986 meeting. Then, one after the other, the representatives of the various religions rose to speak: His Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople; Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, Primate of the Anglican Communion; Archbishop Norvan Zakarian, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of France; Rev. Olav Fyske Tveit, secretary general of the World Council of Churches; Rabbi David Rosen, representative of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel; Wande Abimbola, spokesperson for the Yoruba faith; Acharya Shri Shrivatsa Goswami, representative for Hinduism; Ja-Seung, president of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism; Kyai Haji Hasyom Muzadi, secretary general of the International Conference of Islamic Schools, and Julia Kristeva, representing non-believers.


  The Holy Father then rose to make his address, extracts of which are given below:


  “Twenty-five years have passed since Blessed Pope John Paul II first invited representatives of the world’s religions to Assisi to pray for peace. What has happened in the meantime? What is the state of play with regard to peace today?


  “At that time the great threat to world peace came from the division of the earth into two mutually opposed blocs. A conspicuous symbol of this division was the Berlin Wall. … In 1989, three years after Assisi, the wall came down, without bloodshed. … In addition to economic and political factors, the deepest reason for the event is a spiritual one: behind material might there were no longer any spiritual convictions. … For this victory of freedom, which was also, above all, a victory of peace, we give thanks. What is more, this was not merely, nor even primarily, about the freedom to believe, although it did include this. To that extent we may in some way link all this to our prayer for peace.


  “But what happened next? Unfortunately, we cannot say that freedom and peace have characterised the situation ever since. … Violence as such is potentially ever present and it is a characteristic feature of our world. Freedom is a great good. But the world of freedom has proved to be largely directionless, and not a few have misinterpreted freedom as somehow including freedom for violence. Discord has taken on new and frightening guises, and the struggle for freedom must engage us all in a new way”.


  “In broad strokes, we may distinguish two types of the new forms of violence, which are the very antithesis of each other in terms of their motivation and manifest a number of differences in detail. Firstly there is terrorism, for which in place of a great war there are targeted attacks intended to strike the opponent destructively at key points, with no regard for the lives of innocent human beings, who are cruelly killed or wounded in the process. In the eyes of the perpetrators, the overriding goal of damage to the enemy justifies any form of cruelty. Everything that had been commonly recognised and sanctioned in international law as the limit of violence is overruled. We know that terrorism is often religiously motivated and that the specifically religious character of the attacks is proposed as a justification for the reckless cruelty. … In this case, religion does not serve peace, but is used as justification for violence”.


  “The fact that, in the case we are considering here, religion really does motivate violence should be profoundly disturbing to us as religious persons. In a way that is more subtle but no less cruel, we also see religion as the cause of violence when force is used by the defenders of one religion against others. The religious delegates who were assembled in Assisi in 1986 wanted to say, and we now repeat it emphatically and firmly: this is not the true nature of religion. It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction”.


  “As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith. We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature. The God in whom we Christians believe is the Creator and Father of all, and from Him all people are brothers and sisters and form one single family. For us the Cross of Christ is the sign of the God Who put ‘suffering-with’ (compassion) and ‘loving-with’ in place of force. … It is the task of all who bear responsibility for the Christian faith to purify the religion of Christians again and again from its very heart, so that it truly serves as an instrument of God’s peace in the world, despite the fallibility of humans.


  “If one basic type of violence today is religiously motivated and thus confronts religions with the question as to their true nature and obliges all of us to undergo purification, a second complex type of violence is motivated in precisely the opposite way: as a result of God’s absence, His denial and the loss of humanity which goes hand in hand with it. The enemies of religion – as we said earlier – see in religion one of the principal sources of violence in the history of humanity and thus they demand that it disappear. But the denial of God has led to much cruelty and to a degree of violence that knows no bounds, which only becomes possible when man no longer recognises any criterion or any judge above himself, now having only himself to take as a criterion. The horrors of the concentration camps reveal with utter clarity the consequences of God’s absence.


  “Yet I do not intend to speak further here about State-imposed atheism, but rather about the decline of man, which is accompanied by a change in the spiritual climate that occurs imperceptibly and hence is all the more dangerous. The worship of mammon, possessions and power is proving to be a counter-religion, in which it is no longer man who counts but only personal advantage. The desire for happiness degenerates, for example, into an unbridled, inhuman craving, such as appears in the different forms of drug dependency. … Force comes to be taken for granted and in parts of the world it threatens to destroy our young people. Because force is taken for granted, peace is destroyed and man destroys himself in this peace vacuum”.


  “In addition to the two phenomena of religion and anti-religion, a further basic orientation is found in the growing world of agnosticism: people to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God. Such people do not simply assert: ‘There is no God’. They suffer from His absence and yet are inwardly making their way towards Him, inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness. They are ‘pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace’. They ask questions of both sides. They take away from militant atheists the false certainty. … But they also challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if He belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others.


  “These people are seeking the truth, they are seeking the true God, Whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practised. Their inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God. So all their struggling and questioning is in part an appeal to believers to purify their faith, so that God, the true God, becomes accessible. Therefore I have consciously invited delegates of this third group to our meeting in Assisi, which does not simply bring together representatives of religious institutions. Rather it is a case of being together on a journey towards truth, a case of taking a decisive stand for human dignity and a case of common engagement for peace against every form of destructive force. Finally I would like to assure you that the Catholic Church will not let up in her fight against violence, in her commitment for peace in the world. We are animated by the common desire to be ‘pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace'”.


  Following the meeting in the basilica, Benedict XVI and the delegations made their way to the convent of Porziuncola. A frugal lunch was followed by a period of silence for individual refection and prayer before the participants moved on to the Basilica of St. Francis for the concluding ceremonies of the Day.

PV-ITALY/                                                                                        VIS 20111027 (1610)

Filed under: Culture, morals, Social Justice, Spirituality

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,

Easter and new ways of living….

Lent has been a time to question our priorities and our worldview.  As a Christian, I am challenged to review the way I see the world.  Do I see the world as Jesus would have seen it?  Do I show compassion, love and mercy to those who disagree with me or irritate me?  Do I use my money for just causes or do I even think about it?

As we end this season of Lent, our work of prayer, almsgiving and fasting are not over, but transformed.

As we approach the Easter season, consider your spending habits.  Where do you purchase your teas, coffees and chocolates?  Where do you purchase your on-line gifts?

I encourage you to consider as part of your Easter reflection to visit Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade section.

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Fair Trade, Personal Reflections, Spirituality, Uncategorized