FTDO: A Message of Peace

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The Heap presents a special edition of “From The Desk Of” since I really don’t have the chance to write from work anymore. It has gotten extremely busy these days, especially now that it is the end of the year! So I’ll tell the tale from the comfort of home!

I have stories upon stories to tell thanks to the vast array of interesting people my job allows me to help through the county’s patient assistance program. But this ONE story really touched me. I mean, it absolutely makes you appreciate the circumstances I was born into, how fate had it that I was born as an American during a relatively peaceful time, and how one of my patients was born into extreme poverty in what can be considered a third world country. He grew up during a time of political unrest and ultimately bloody revolution. He lives to tell of the atrocities he has experienced.

A lot of my older patients have a hard time understanding the general process of the program we run, and what exactly is needed. Now factor in that he can only speak and understand Spanish, and confusion reaches a whole new level. Both he and his wife are recent immigrants to the US mainland, so despite their age, they are not eligible for the mainstream government programs. Fortunately, they became citizens and are eligible for these other programs directly from the manufacturers of their medication.

Now let’s pause here and think about this. How bad must things be for someone to leave their country at an old age for a land where you don’t know the language and you have absolutely nothing. You are leaving poverty for poverty essentially, and I dare say that living in an impoverished state here in the US might even be worse than that of Cuba. Obviously, it’s not a question of quality of life. While poverty is not the ideal situation to find yourself in, the US has a rich history of community service and outreach programs. Americans are typically very generous.

The problem is that poverty and dependence on the government has such a negative stigma here (and in particular these days as fiscal policy is scrutinized seemingly every hour!). The situation MUST be dire to leave a place where EVERYONE is poor to a place where not only will you be poor, but you might even be looked down upon due to stereotypic generalization. (This is a rant for another day)

My patient takes a medication called Abilify. It helps with depression, but often causes “spaceyness” and forgetfulness. We’ve faced the same problem with the Abilify program for months. They require a state Medicaid denial letter in order to receive beyond the initial shipment of the medication. So of course, we have the task of calling to remind patients that this must be done in 90 days. Needless to say, there are a good number of patients who just don’t cooperate or don’t understand.

Our patient was one that didn’t understand. So he and his wife came to the office to see what could be done. His wife’s medications were simple enough, and we haven’t really had any problems with any of her applications. But for the patient, there were still some medications pending. To make a long story short, I offered to do the Medicaid application for him online.

So we went back to my office, and we just began to talk. My patient preaches a message of world peace. It’s on the top of his prayer list, as he told me. He grew up before and during the Cuba Revolution. He was deemed as a “government asset” and was assigned clerical tasks instead of being forced to be a laborer. Unfortunately, he lost favor with one of his commanding officers and he was forced to join the military, and was given the task of digging graves as well as digging up graves in search of precious metals. It was a period of extreme fear. He would come to work one day only to learn of the government executing a coworker.

He made it through, and somehow was allowed to immigrate into the US with his wife. He was able to bring his daughter and granddaughter over, and they are all able to get by together. They were lucky, and they know it.

This all happened maybe a month or so ago. What compelled me to write about this was that he called me today to with me a Merry Christmas! And again to stress the importance of peace among countries of the world. I was very touched by this.

How can we get to a state of peace here in this world where differences are grounds for war? Is it an attainable goal? It it plausible to even depend on God / religion as a cornerstone for developing peace among peoples? Especially with the issue of “God(s)” being the very issue that many go to war for?

Can society ever become “colorblind”? This is where John Lennon’s “Imagine” makes perfect sense. All possible categories of difference would theoretically have to be eliminated. Anyone have thoughts on this issue? Does religion have to be part of a solution, or would it further hinder the process? Why does the human race place figurative values on a human life according to category?

This Christmas, spread a message of Peace, Joy, and Love.

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The End of Civilization

My mom had this video mailed to her by one of her coworkers, and as usual, she forwards all of that lovely chain mail to me. Luckily, this time it was a hilarious clip. I have never seen this before! The face at the end is priceless. I guess this is appropriate today, since California upheld the ban on same sex marriage.

Enjoy!

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A Fellow Reflection

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Oh the Grotto… I can’t believe it’s been a year since I said my final goodbye at the candlelight ceremony.

In light of the events occurring on campus, fellow Dillonite Dan Tostado has written about tonight’s ceremony and how Fr. Jenkins was received by a majority of the student body.

And our hearts forever…
There’s a buzz in my room. This is true. Everyday, I hear through my closed window, the buzz of a plane flying overhead. This plane is flying low, and toting a huge banner of a graphic image of an aborted baby. I am aware, perhaps hyperactively, of the amount of social divide that this decision has been to invite Obama to speak at Notre Dame.

A re-cap for all those unaware (those who know can skip this paragraph.) On campus, there’s been the biggest amount of protesting and counter-protesting, discerning the subject of whether President Obama can or should come to speak at the ND commencement ceremony. On the corner of Notre Dame Ave, there’s the sign-holders protesting to the cars. There’s hundreds of passionate letters written to the ND newspaper. There’s alumni who denounce the school and have severed ties with Notre Dame because of this. There’s a crazy pro-life protester named Randall Terry who puts on a bloody Obama mask and chases children, who has given us such quotes as “This place will be a circus” and “Hate is good”. There’s been pressure on our University President, Father John Jenkins, to step down for inviting Obama to speak.

So, as I sang for the Senior week last visit to the Grotto, I got to see the reaction of the senior class towards our University President Jenkins. Every year the senior class gets to award some important figure with the “Fellows Award”, and this year they awarded it to Father Jenkins. When he got up to speak to the class, they applauded. The class of 2009 applauded Father Jenkins for a solid 60 seconds. That was one of the most significant things I’ve witnessed on campus. Here, crammed in the Basilica, are all the holy-rollers who attend Mass and are most likely to be anti-Jenkins and anti-Obama. Yet, they validate Jenkins in such a deeply meaningful way.

This night, though I am not a senior, was so powerful to witness. I can see why people love Notre Dame, why they bend over backwards as alumni to stick up for and support Notre Dame. Notre Dame is truly something greater than just a top 20 university, or any old Catholic university. What I saw tonight was integrity of the senior class to support both their Presidents, in a chaotic time of recession, unnecessary panic that gripped ND when (now) two students contracted swine flu, in a new era that ushers in a bright young President who happens to be black. The world is on fire right now, and the ND class of 2009 chose to stand up for what they believe.

The night ended in the grotto, with what’s probably become my favorite song, the Notre Dame alma mater.

And our hearts forever
Love thee Notre Dame

So now we know how the graduating seniors feel at least. Thanks for writing a wonderful reflection. And congrats and good luck this weekend!
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A Letter From Fr. Jenkins

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Here is a copy of the letter that Father Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, sent out to the Graduating Class of 2009 addressing the “controversial” invitation to Obama as Commencement speaker and the bestowing of an honorary degree.

May 11, 2009

 Dear Members of the Notre Dame Graduating Class of 2009:

 
This Sunday, as you receive your degrees at Commencement, your joy – and that of your families – will be shared by the faculty, staff, and administration of the University. We have had the privilege of laboring with each of you to inquire and discover, to teach and to learn, and we will send you off with affectionate and fond hopes for the future.
For those of you who are undergraduates, I feel a special kinship. You arrived in your dorm rooms as I arrived in the President’s Office. You have learned much; I may have learned more. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to learn with you, come to know you, and to serve you during our time together at Notre Dame.

 
During your years here we have endeavored to train you in the various disciplines and urged you to ask the larger questions – discussing not only the technical and practical but also the ethical and spiritual dimensions of pressing issues. I have been proud of you as you’ve grappled with intellectual, political, and spiritual questions. But I have never been more proud than I have been watching the way you’ve conducted yourselves over the past several weeks.

 
The decision to invite President Obama to Notre Dame to receive an honorary degree and deliver the Commencement address has triggered debate. In many cases, the debate has grown heated, even between people who agree completely on Church teaching regarding the sanctity of human life, who agree completely that we should work for change – and differ only on how we should work for change.

 
Yet, there has been an extra dimension to your debate. You have discussed this issue with each other while being observed, interviewed, and evaluated by people who are interested in this story. You engaged each other with passion, intelligence and respect. And I saw no sign that your differences led to division. You inspire me. We need the wider society to be more like you; it is good that we are sending you into that world on Sunday.

 
I am saddened that many friends of Notre Dame have suggested that our invitation to President Obama indicates ambiguity in our position on matters of Catholic teaching. The University and I are unequivocally committed to the sanctity of human life and to its protection from conception to natural death.

 
Notre Dame has a long custom of conferring honorary degrees on the President of the United States. It has never been a political statement or an endorsement of policy. It is the University’s expression of respect for the leader of the nation and the Office of the President. In the Catholic tradition, our first allegiance is to God in Christ, yet we are called to respect, participate in, and contribute to the wider society. As St. Peter wrote (I Pt. 2:17), we should honor the leader who upholds the secular order.
At the same time, and born of the same duty, a Catholic university has a special obligation not just to honor the leader but to engage the culture. Carrying out this role of the Catholic university has never been easy or without controversy. When I was an undergraduate at Notre Dame, Fr. Hesburgh spoke of the Catholic university as being both a lighthouse and a crossroads. As a lighthouse, we strive to stand apart and be different, illuminating issues with the moral and spiritual wisdom of the Catholic tradition. Yet, we must also be a crossroads through which pass people of many different perspectives, backgrounds, faiths, and cultures. At this crossroads, we must be a place where people of good will are received with charity, are able to speak, be heard, and engage in responsible and reasoned dialogue.

 
The President’s visit to Notre Dame can help lead to broader engagement on issues of importance to the country and of deep significance to Catholics. Ultimately, I hope that the conversations and the good will that come from this day will contribute to closer relations between Catholics and public officials who make decisions on matters of human life and human dignity.

 
There is much to admire and celebrate in the life and work of President Obama. His views and policies on immigration, expanding health care, alleviating poverty, and building peace through diplomacy have a deep resonance with Catholic social teaching. As the first African-American holder of this office, he has accelerated our country’s progress in overcoming the painful legacy of slavery and segregation. He is a remarkable figure in American history, and I look forward to welcoming him to Notre Dame.
As President Obama is our principal speaker, there will no doubt be much attention on your Commencement. Remember, though, that this day is your day. My fervent prayer is that May 17 will be a joyous day for you and your family. You are the ones we celebrate and applaud. Congratulations, and may God bless you.
In Notre Dame,

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
President

Couldn’t have been stated any better. Well done. The letter appeals to the true meaning of our namesake, Catholic as “universal.”

I’m not going to get into any political/moral shenanigans here right now. I’m much too heavy for a soap box anyways. However, The Heap’s position is that regardless of political, religious or moral affiliation, it is an honor to have The President of the United States as speaker. As many media sources have already pointed out, there have been many past speakers that have not had beliefs 100% in line with those of the Catholic Church. Controversy is not new to Notre Dame Commencement. And perhaps the degree of protest and dismay isn’t either. I have a good feeling that media coverage has probably made this a bigger deal than it really is.

I know abortion is a big deal. I know the artificial development of human cells is an issue. It would be insensitive and even reckless to passively address the issue. But the topic is for another time and another place.

The time and place of May 17th  on the greatest of all campuses in the land will provide a national stage for accomplishment. THAT is what should be at the forefront. But I guess it is appropriate that demonstrations will be occuring. The real world is at hand. This is what has been handed to us. While I don’t agree with some of the extreme opinions that will probably be voiced, I would also be glad to see that we can live in a country where an opinion can be had, so long as it doesn’t violate personal space and regulations.

I recently read that 50 or so students are planning on boycotting the ceremony by instead having a prayer service. More power to you.

On the other hand, you bet I would be at Commencement after working my tail off for 4 years, and paying enough to by a house for my education, no matter who the speaker was. It’s a moment I worked for- for myself but most importantly, for my parents.

My advice to all in attendence is to listen. Perhaps you don’t agree with President Obama on ANYTHING. You might think his policies are only going to further debilitate our country. You may not like his manner, or uncanny humor, but his call to our generation for change is clear. What he has accomplished, as a devoted family man, and an outspoken social advocate for the improvement of quality of life alone is worth lauding.

I can only hope that he can top the address to Arizona State last night, because that was spectacular. Even if the speech echoes of the same themes, the message will be just as powerful, and perhaps even more meaningful to a university which has historically changed the world.

Just Listen.

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From The Desk Of… “Religious Anachronisms”

Blasphemy? Possibly. Hilarious? Absolutely.

While I consider myself a dedicated believer, these pictures make me laugh to no end.

raptor

I can’t come up with words to describe this picture… It’s too funny- in particular the names of the suggested colors… (courtesy of Chris Moody)

dino-ark

I believe a 200 cubit gun is hidden somewhere in Genesis. (Courtesy of The BEattitude)

And lastly…

Be thankful you weren't Moses during a holiday season. Concubines are so hard to buy for.

Applicable from Abraham, the patriarch himself all the way until… well until the Bible said to stop having more than one wife! Hallmark would have made a killing on Solomon. (Courtesy of The BEattitude).

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser