Peace, Social Issues

Lessons for Earth 50 years after the first Moon landing

by Tony Magliano

If you were at least 10-years-old on July 20, 1969, you will surely remember that your eyes were glued to a black and white television set watching what no eyes had ever seen before.

You will remember, as I do, the excitement of seeing on screen animation of a lunar module steadily descending toward a first ever human moon landing, together with voices from Mission Control in Houston communicating with the lunar module crew, and all topped off with narration from the legendary American newscaster Walter Cronkite .

But what viewers around the world didn’t know was that lunar module astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were in trouble. As they approached the moon’s surfaced they discovered that they were off course from their preprogrammed landing site and headed toward a field of boulders and craters. Commander Armstrong took over the controls and flew the lunar module – named “Eagle” – manually in search for an open level spot.

With fuel diminishing quickly Armstrong sited his spot. The descent engine was then fired up, but it kicked up so much lunar dust that visibility became extremely poor. Armstrong had to use a few boulders piercing through the dust cloud to estimate the distance from the moon’s surface.

Shortly after Mission Control’s warning that they had just 30 seconds of fuel remaining, Neil Armstrong calmly uttered these famous words: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Wow!

But the excitement didn’t stop there. Read on at Space.com.

Space and space exploration is fascinating; especially since it easily helps us to see our awesome God reflected in his awesome creation!

And so, while I am hopeful that humankind will seriously pursue travel out into the cosmos, I am hoping far more importantly that all of us will urgently commit ourselves first to cleaning up and protecting our common home – planet Earth!…

Click here to read the entire article.

Refugee Stories

Pope critical of “meanness” toward migrants and refugees

by Tony Magliano

“The signs of meanness we see around us heighten our fear of ‘the other,’ the unknown, the marginalised, the foreigner,” and thus many migrants seeking a better life end up as recipients of this meanness, said Pope Francis in his recently released 2019 World Day of Migrants and Refugees message.

The Holy Father warned that when we allow fears and doubts to “condition our way of thinking and acting to the point of making us intolerant, closed and perhaps even – racist” – there is a serious problem. For “in this way, fear deprives us of the desire and the ability to encounter the other, the person different from myself; it deprives me of an opportunity to encounter the Lord.”

This wonderful idea of actually encountering the Lord, and all others, is one of Pope Francis’ major themes. He is trying to inspire us to build not personal walls, nor national walls, but instead a “culture of encounter.”

There are many lies that have been spread about migrants and refugees; lies that they are murderers, rapists and criminals of all sorts. But numerous studies point to the contrary.

The vast majority are good decent human beings who pay taxes while enjoying virtually no benefits. And they are working at jobs most citizens will not do – like the back-breaking work of picking our vegetables and fruits, washing dishes and landscaping. Furthermore, they add fresh vitality to our towns, cities and parishes. They need us and we need them! This is what Pope Francis’ “culture of encounter” is all about…

Click here to read the whole story.

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* Photo from https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/11/16/eu-steps-address-refugee-crisis
Nuclear Disarmament, Peace

The best kept secret of the Catholic Church

by Tony Magliano

The Catholic Church has a very big secret. It is so powerful, challenging and relevant, that if every bishop, priest, religious and layperson was committed to communicating and implementing this secret, it would turn society upside-down and literally transform the world!

However, revealing its contents, and urging the full application of its message, would surely cause great controversy. The church’s leaders would come under attack from both conservatives and liberals. They would be characterized as naïve and acting outside the acceptable bounds of church leadership.

Therefore, most church leaders have opted to tread lightly, sadly guaranteeing that “Catholic social teaching” will remain our best-kept secret.

The best-kept secret is that the Catholic Church is deeply blessed with over 125 years of outstanding social justice and peace documents authored by popes, Vatican Council II, world synods of bishops and national conferences of bishops. Sadly, they attract more dust than readers.

Because Catholic social teaching’s foundational tenets of love, justice and peace boldly challenge governments, corporations and societies, as well as rich and powerful individuals to fairly share their wealth and power with the everyone – especially the poor, the vulnerable and mother earth – and because these teachings insist that war preparation and war-making must give way to peacemaking, Catholic social teaching is to put it mildly: a tough sell.

We need to put the effort into learning the wisdom of Catholic social teaching and selflessly, courageously put it into practice in our personal, political, economic and societal lives. It needs to be put above the status quo of ourselves, our nations, our corporations and our culture.

Like the Gospel, Catholic social teaching is countercultural. And, therefore, we must get out of our comfort zones and be countercultural as well!

But sadly, because Catholic social teaching is so challenging, the path of least resistance is most often used. For example, from time to time a passing reference is made to it in a homily, but such token efforts are too weak and too infrequent to make much difference for the unborn, poor and war-torn of our world. And our faith is all the weaker for it.

Catholic social teaching has at its core a set of principles designed to help guide us in applying the liberating message of the Gospel to the social, economic, and political problems facing modern humanity.

These principles are:

  • The protection of all human life and the promotion of human dignity
  • The call to participate in family and community life
  • The promotion of human rights and responsibilities
  • The preferential option for the poor and vulnerable
  • The safeguarding of workers’ dignity and rights
  • The building of global solidarity and the common good
  • The care for God’s creation
  • The universal destination of goods
  • The call to become peacemakers.

Among the most important documents of Catholic social teaching are the Second Vatican Council’s “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” (see: https://bit.ly/WyDi4S), St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclicals “On Social Concerns” (see: https://bit.ly/1WJB2EX) and “The Gospel of Life” (see: https://bit.ly/1AHf2fZ), and Pope Francis’ encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home (see: https://bit.ly/1Gi1BTu).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services offer an excellent video introductory overview of Catholic social teaching (see: https://www.crs.org/resource-center/CST-101).

Catholic social teaching could become a tremendously effective tool for building a just and peaceful world, if we would regularly read it, pray with it, teach it, preach it, and live it!

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Nuclear Disarmament, Peace

NATO military alliance incompatible with Gospel nonviolence

by Tony Magliano

As foreign ministers of the 29 member nations of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), gathered in Washington, D.C. on April 3-4 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of this largest military alliance in the world, nonviolent peace activists across the U.S. and from around the world also gathered in Washington to proclaim: “No to NATO – Yes to Peace.”

For six days anti-war proponents participated in  justice and peace workshops, rallies, an anti-NATO conference, an end to war concert and a disarmament counter summit (see: https://worldbeyondwar.org/notonato/).

The kickoff event was a 20 block peace march starting at Lafayette Square (across the street from the White House). Along with members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Washington, D.C. community, I helped carry a banner saying “No to NATO, No to Nukes” (see video: https://bit.ly/2WLIeCi).

But what’s so wrong about NATO? A lot!

According to David Swanson, director of World Beyond War – a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace (see:       https://worldbeyondwar.org/) – NATO members place more value on Russia as an enemy. Anonymous U.S. military officials describe the current cold war as driven by massive profits from weapons sales (see: http://davidswanson.org/united-states-wants-war-with-russia/). NATO now accounts for about three-quarters of military spending and weapons dealing on the globe.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, NATO promised Russia that it would absolutely not expand eastward. Breaking its promise, NATO added the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungry, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Albania and Croatia.

While it is important to note that Russia is also immorally making massive profits from arms sales and is also very militarized, nonetheless, if we are honest, it is understandable that Russia sees NATO – now on its very border – as a dangerous threat.

And with both the U.S. and Russia having hundreds of nuclear weapons aimed at each other, and on hair-trigger/launch on warning alert, we are playing an extremely dangerous game of Russian roulette.

To counter all this madness, level-headed, kind-hearted citizens should urge government leaders to appropriate much less money for NATO related operations with the pressing goal of completely dissolving the military alliance – just as the Warsaw Pact was dissolved. And to transfer these massive military dollars toward insuring that all human beings receive their basic God-given rights of life, nutritious food, clean water, improved sanitation, comprehensive health care, quality education, decent housing and a livable wage earned in a safe working environment.

Not only would this conversion provide all people with the necessary means to live, and to live with dignity, but unlike military violence which destroys, insuring universal human rights would also foster lasting world peace.

And most importantly as Christians, we must not to be swayed by the violent ways of the world, but rather by the ways that build up the Kingdom of God – love, justice and peace.

Let’s not forget the stern warning of the nonviolent Jesus: “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

During his 1979 visit to the Irish people who were suffering from the violence of the “Troubles,” St. Pope John Paul II prophetically declared “that violence is evil, that violence is unacceptable as a solution to problems, that violence is unworthy of man. Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Peace, Peace Spirituality

Reflections on Pope Francis’s 2019 World Day of Peace message

by Tony Magliano

As the saying goes, “Politics and religion don’t mix.” Although this cliché is espoused by many, you will not hear it from Pope Francis.

On the contrary, the leader of the Catholic Church firmly teaches that our Gospel-based faith has a wealth of wisdom to offer the often corrupt world of politics. And that it is our duty to strive to infuse that wisdom into the body politic.

As exhibit “A,” consider the Holy Father’s Jan. 1 World Day of Peace message – appropriately titled “Good politics is at the service of peace.”

Peace “is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence,” the pope writes. “Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.”

This is so true. As one of many sad examples, consider how often political officials allow and even authorize the oppression of minority groups like the Rohingya in Myanmar, and now in Bangladesh (see: https://bbc.in/2KPgZ7Q, https://bit.ly/2RPcE4a).

And consider that many political leaders in governments throughout the world, including democracies, largely ignore the marginalized poor – in effect exiling them to the fringes of society, and even leaving millions of them to die every year (see: https://borgenproject.org/15-world-hunger-statistics/).

Among the “political vices” the pope cites are “xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.” All of which bring to mind recent dire environmental warnings from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (see: https://on.natgeo.com/2C4uv2j), the National Climate Assessment (see: https://bit.ly/2DFvfvO), and the often cold-hearted political response to suffering migrants (see: https://bbc.in/2yZnCMD).

Here the pontiff’s words are equally strong, “Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable. Rather, there is a need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background.”

Pope Francis then challenges the immoral tragedy of war and fear. He says, “Peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear.” And adds that the proliferation of arms is “contrary to morality and the search for true peace” (see: https://bit.ly/2BqRelc).

And he condemns “forms of nationalism that call into question the fraternity of which our globalized world has such great need.”

In the world – political and otherwise – where self-centered egos often dominate, Pope Francis calls our attention to the humble corrective teaching of Jesus: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Francis then challengingly calls us to be creative peacemakers: “Today more than ever, our societies need ‘artisans of peace’ who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and happiness of the human family.”

And to that Pope Francis encouragingly adds, “Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home.” With open hearts and minds to God, let each of us ask ourself: What is my stone? And how can I best use it to build our common home?

And then consider a New Year’s resolution worth keeping:  Read “Good politics is at the service of peace” and prayerfully strive to put it into practice (see: https://bit.ly/2CmIobS).

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Advent, Peace, Peace Spirituality

A Christmas gift from the heavens

by Tony Magliano

Fifty years ago on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24, 1968) the crew of Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit and began circling the moon – the first time in history for humans to visit another world (see: https://bit.ly/2EkLJda).

That evening the crew’s astronauts Bill Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman transmitted a live television broadcast including spectacular pictures of the moon just 60 miles below them, and of the Earth – a quarter of a million miles away.

In a most fitting conclusion to the broadcast, the astronauts shared a biblical reading of the first 10 verses of the creation account in the book of Genesis.

Anders started by inspiringly saying “We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send you: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

Immediately after reading from Genesis, Borman said, “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

But in 1968, the good Earth, and countless good people on it, were suffering from various evils. The bloody Vietnam War, the brutal Soviet crushing of the Prague uprising, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and race riots throughout the U.S. were among the critical ills sickening our good Earth.

But humanity’s first manned step toward the heavenly bodies gave 1968, and all of us living on the good Earth that year, an astronomical boost. And the famous “Earthrise,” photographically captured by Anders, offered humanity a fresh heavenly perspective of how we might better view our earthly home.

Give yourself a wonderful Christmas gift. Click onto the following NASA link and meditate on the awesome “Earthrise” photo. And then with an open mind and heart prayerfully listen to Apollo 8’s Christmas Eve 1968 message (see: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/history/features/apollo_8.html).

Anders said that despite all the training and preparation for an exploration of the moon, the astronauts ended up discovering the Earth.

Creator God, open our eyes, ears, minds, hearts and souls to discover afresh this planet we all share in common. Help us to discover its magnificent beauty and gentle fragility. And move us to cherish it as faithful stewards. Help us to discover with justice, compassion and love each human being on it – especially the poor and vulnerable. And help us to discover your way – the only way – to bring heavenly peace upon our Earth home.

On Christmas Day, with a view of the distant Earth from above the moon, Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman offered this deeply inspiring prayer. Let’s pray it together: “Give us, O God, the vision which can see thy love in the world in spite of human failure. Give us the faith to trust the goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness. Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts, and show us what each one of us can do to set forth the coming of the day of universal peace. Amen.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.