On Solidarity

You probably noticed that there’s been an uptick in the number of posts to this, my so-called “personal blog.” I do hope it’s a trend and not a fad. Of course, that is within my control and is not subject to external factors, much.

For the past few days I’ve been posting “pleas for help” for various people or situations. Homelessness unites two of the pleas, the other is for a friend in need after the death of her husband. One other thing that unites all of them is the notion of “solidarity,” a term from Catholic social teaching that means “we’re in all of this together.”

It is derived from the Biblical doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. As members of the Church, Jesus is the Head, we are the various parts of the Body. When one member suffers, all suffer. When one rejoices, all rejoice. We are not “rugged individualists,” responsible only for ourselves and perhaps a select few others. Our “liberty” and “freedom” isn’t to be used in isolation or to just preserve our own rights. Our actions involving liberty and freedom should be in concert with others, to preserve and enhance it for all.

The early Catholic Church was far more communitarian than it is today. As we see in the Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 2: 44-47

“And then all who believed were together, and they held all things in common.

They were selling their possessions and belongings, and dividing them to all, just as any of them had need.

Also, they continued, daily, to be of one accord in the temple and to break bread among the houses; and they took their meals with exultation and simplicity of heart,

praising God greatly, and holding favor with all the people. And every day, the Lord increased those who were being saved among them.”

via Catholic Public Domain Version of the Sacred Bible.

Many read this and claim the early Church exhibited an early form of “Communism.” No, the word I used above, “communitarian” is the better word. It implies a coming together in community, willingly and without coercion. Coercion being the common method of spreading Socialism and Marxism.

The early Christians form a community of believers, in solidarity with one another, each caring for all.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraphs 1939-1942, explains this idea of “solidarity.”

Human Solidarity

1939 The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of “friendship” or “social charity,” is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood.

An error, “today abundantly widespread, is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity, dictated and imposed both by our common origin and by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful humanity.”

1940 Solidarity is manifested in the first place by the distribution of goods and remuneration for work. It also presupposes the effort for a more just social order where tensions are better able to be reduced and conflicts more readily settled by negotiation.

1941 Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this.

1942 The virtue of solidarity goes beyond material goods. In spreading the spiritual goods of the faith, the Church has promoted, and often opened new paths for, the development of temporal goods as well. and so throughout the centuries has the Lord’s saying been verified: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well”

For two thousand years this sentiment has lived and endured in the soul of the Church, impelling souls then and now to the heroic charity of monastic farmers, liberators of slaves, healers of the sick, and messengers of faith, civilization, and science to all generations and all peoples for the sake of creating the social conditions capable of offering to everyone possible a life worthy of man and of a Christian.

via Catechism of the Catholic Church – Vatican.

Solidarity: the bond of brotherhood and sisterhood amongst people, the idea that your problems and sufferings are mine, too. As mine are yours.

The bond that should eliminate homelessness.

Do I live up to this? Not by a long shot, but I am endeavoring to try.

More Bible stuff:

Sirach 4: 1-10

“Son, you should not cheat the poor out of alms, nor should you avert your eyes from a poor man.

You should not despise the hungry soul, and you should not aggravate a poor man in his need.

You should not afflict the heart of the needy, and you should not delay an offer to someone in anguish.

You should not make requests of one who is greatly troubled, and you should not avert your face from the indigent.

You should not avert your eyes from the needy out of anger. And you should not abandon those who seek help from you, so that they speak curses behind your back.

For the pleadings of him who speaks curses of you, in the bitterness of his soul, will be heeded. For the One who made him will heed him.

Make yourself a friend to the congregation of the poor, and humble your soul before an elder, and humble your head before the great.

Turn your ear without sadness toward the poor, and repay your debt, and respond to him peacefully in meekness.

Free him who suffers injury at the hand of the arrogant, and do not carry animosity in your soul.

In judging, be merciful to the orphan, like a father, and be merciful to their mother, like a husband.”

via Catholic Public Domain Version of the Sacred Bible.

Posted in Economics, Faith and Justice, Homelessness, Solidarity, Works of Mercy | 1 Comment

Help One Dying Veteran Have a Home

The other day I blogged about my wife’s efforts to help the homeless, in Tents for the Homeless. Now I’m exhorting you to consider another Work of Mercy:

Miki Odendahl, a good online friend of mine from whom I’ve learned many things is raising money to enable a man to die with dignity. This is NOT the “die with dignity” euphemism that covers “assisted suicide,” this is an effort to prevent a homeless American veteran from dying alone in a street or in a ditch somewhere…

To quote from the “GoFundMe” campaign: “My name is Miki Odendahl, and I’m the co-director of the Gilbert House Catholic Worker Community in Western Wisconsin. That sounds like something, but really, it’s just me and my best friends, with a phone line and big mouths doing what we can to serve our local area in whatever ways we are able….

… Clarence lost his apartment, whilst he was in the hospital recovering from a shattered knee injury, because his landlord was jacking up the rent. Bad news, because Clarence has been very sick, receiving kidney dialysis 3 days a week at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Since July I’ve been trying to find affordable housing for this homeless U.S. Veteran with little success. I have talked to multiple people in the mayor’s office … I have called every single number on every single housing list I could get my hands on in three counties, I have connected with every appropriate agency and veterans group, and I have talked to every … politician’s office in my district–…-on Clarence’s behalf, and still, here we are 8 months after my husband and I put all of Clarence’s worldly belongings in a storage locker, and he is exhausted and surfing sofas with family and friends who are bending their own rental agreements to keep him out of the cold. The long and the short of it is this:

He’s dying, slowly but surely, and at the end of this month he will have worn out his welcome with all of those who can help him stay close to his hospital and his two young children. ..

...I hear many people talk about dying with dignity. This man served his country with humility and honour, and I want him to be able to live out the remainder of his young days with the dignity due a man of his station. He served or nation without expectation of anything in return, and now I want him to experience the gratitude he deserves.
PLEASE HELP ME TO FIND CLARENCE RICE A FINAL HOME.”

To contribute, please go here: Help One Dying Veteran Have a Home by Miki Odendahl – GoFundMe.

clarence

Posted in Economics, Faith and Justice, Homelessness, Solidarity, Works of Mercy | Leave a comment

Please help a Marine Corp widow

The other day I blogged about my wife’s efforts to help the homeless, in Tents for the Homeless. Today is another day in which I’ll be exhorting you to consider another Work of Mercy

Stephanie Price, Marine widow.

Stephanie and her late husband met on CatholicMatch.com, where I also had met my wife. We continued our friendship with Steph on Facebook, (her husband wasn’t a member.) Our little group of CatholicMatch alumni were devastated with the news of her husband succumbing to PTSD and depression.

To quote from the gofundme campaign: “Stephanie, his beautiful wife who stood by him and tried all she could to get him the help he deserved is now left to pick up the pieces of their family life.

She is the one who has paid it forward for so many. Now this is our opportunity to not only show gratitude for a friend, but to also say thank you for YOUR service, devoted wife of a US Marine who dedicated his life to improving our lives.”

So, for all those who “Support the Troops,” now is your chance to do something. Michael had served in three branches of the US military (Marines, Army, National Guard.)

3576798_fb_1425518222.5883_funds

Posted in Faith and Justice, Personal, Social networking, Solidarity, Works of Mercy | Leave a comment

Tents for the Homeless

After reading this article in the Buffalo News: A lonely, frigid death on Buffalo’s streets, my wife Rose Santuci-Sofranko decided to do something about it.

She created a Group on Facebook to serve as a sort of liaison or go-between for people and companies or organizations who have resources, and those who can use them. The Group is called: “P.O.P.-U.P. T.E.N.T.S. (Protect Our People – Unite Please – To Ensure Necessary Temporary Shelters) and it “is a Western New York State (and beyond) Grassroots effort to match up people who can donate tents for the homeless with those organizations who can distribute them to the homeless…in particularly those, who for whatever reason, cannot or do not make use of homeless shelters…especially in the bitter cold of Winter.”

“UPDATE: We have several agencies willing to give out the tents….BUT…we need help getting donations of tents so these agencies can give them out. Recently a homeless man died while wandering around in sub-zero temperatures in the city of Buffalo….another was interviewed on the news after having his legs amputated due to exposure to the cold…. nobody should have to live…and die…like that. We all need to do something! If you can donate and/or find companies to donate pop-up tents or other supplies…. or….if you are an organization (homeless shelter, church, social service, etc….) and can distribute these tents to the homeless… please post here, so we can match you up with each other to help those in need. Even a pop-up-tent to block the wind, and keep the snow/rain off the homeless may help to save their lives. Thank you in advance for your help! God bless you one and all!”

“Thank you in advance for anything you can do. God bless you all!”

Go here, to support the effort: 4-THE-HOMELESS-POP-UP TENTS. Please and thank you!

We are not taking any money, just putting people who have in touch with people who don’t have. Perhaps you can buy these kinds of tents and contact a homeless shelter or other advocacy organization where you live, or maybe even contact sporting goods stores and see if they can donate. You can be the go between for your area! The Facebook Group my wife started can be the place where you can coordinate efforts, suggest ideas, plan campaigns…

Ronald Hunter, Jr, via Buffalo News.
ronald

Posted in Economics, Faith and Justice, Homelessness, Solidarity, Works of Mercy | 1 Comment

St. Onesimus

There are probably a million times more aspiring writers than there are actual perspiring (working) writers.

The reasons why people want to write but don’t or haven’t is probably an even larger number. I know, my own reasons for not being published until I was 49 are long.

Many times in my reading of articles on writing and chapters in books about the “writing life,” I find that procrastination is a common trait amongst writers. Some go through elaborate rituals before they type the first word.

If we were rational, we’d just give it up after a fashion, recognize that “wanting to be a writer” is an elaborate self-deception that masks a lack of willingness to do other things. We “want to be a writer” because we fantasize about “working from home” and getting paid to daydream.

Anyway, eventually something happens and we either die unpublished or we manage to see something of ours in print. Whichever comes first.

So why is it painful? Why the long, drawn out process from “wanting to write” to actually writing and getting it done?

Is it the raw naked terror of seeing something of ours in print, out there for the world to see… and the world hates it? Bad reviews? Or just that it feels like we’re prostituting our fantasies and when they’re published, they are no longer ours?

Anyway, there’s a point to this post and I’m getting to it right now: February 16th is the Feast Day on the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar of St. Onesimus. Who is he? From my other blog, Sober Catholic:

“In St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon, the Apostle reveals that Onesimus, a slave of Philemon who escaped, possibly with stolen property of his master’s, has been with him for some time and has been of valuable service. Onesimus has also been baptized and as such is now a brother in Christ to Paul and Philemon, as the latter is also a Christian. However Paul is convinced that due to the Christian charity that Philemon has shown in the past, he will take back Onesimus and greet him as a brother, equal in dignity and will not punish Onesimus or re-enslave him.

And so Onesimus is sent back to Philemon by Paul, with this Letter as a sort of greeting and passage.

I’ve always been intrigued by this. Imagine you’re Onesimus. You’ve been a slave. There must have been a reason why you escaped. Was Philemon cruel? Or did you just have an instinctive aversion to being considered property of another? You just saw an opportunity to leave and took it? Anyway, the punishment for escaped slaves was most likely death. Probably painful and not quick if you’re also guilty of theft. And now your new friend, whom you’ve been serving and who has treated you like an equal, a person, is sending you back to your old master. With full confidence that Philemon’s Christianity is all that is standing between you and a painful termination.

Would you want to return?

I didn’t think so. Me neither.”

OK, so you have this tremendous aversion to returning to your former master. You’d rather continue enjoying this new life of freedom. It’s safer. (At least I’m assuming he didn’t want to return to Philemon. Maybe he did with full faith and confidence, but I’m thinking he was at least a little nervous. I’m going with “tremendous aversion” or “a little nervous”, otherwise this post and my other one on Sober Catholic would be rather pointless.) But, your current mentor/friend/advisor/boss is telling you that “This is what you have to do. This is important. It’s your mission and job now to accomplish this thing.”

OK, so you have this tremendous aversion to actually physically writing your novel. Or blog post. You’d rather continue enjoying this life of wannabe writerdom. It’s safer. No bad reviews. No one illegally downloading your ebooks and depriving you of your just income. But your family/friends/Facebook writer buddies/fellow indie authors/annoying conscience are all telling you that “This is what you have to do. This is important. It’s your mission and job now to accomplish this thing.”

Now, I’m not necessarily equating writing with returning to a former owner. But writing, or the desire to, does have an enslavement-like hold on people. It’s hard to overcome. Either way, whether it’s giving up the dream or forging on ahead with creative courage.

Now, as a Catholic I believe in the intercessory power of the Saints in Heaven. That “great cloud of winesses” in Heaven that St. Paul mentions are observing us, and if God permits, can hear our wants and dreams. Since they’re closer to God than we are, we can ask them in a prayerful manner to interced for us. (If you don’t believe in this and think that people should only pray to God for intentions, then don’t bother to ask your friends or family members to “pray for you” next time you’re in a bad way. It’s the same thing.)

So, the next time you are having an aversion to actually doing some writing, just assume it’s hopeless and you can’t overcome it yourself. Just as St. Onesimus had to return to Philemon to rectify the damage done (he did steal something) but only did so at St. Paul’s urging, so too can you get over your feelings of pain or whatever and return to the actual act of writing.

Say a prayer for St. Onesimus’ intercession. Ask him for the courage to face whatever fears about writing you have.

And then get to writing!

Posted in Prayer, Saints, Writing | Comments Off

I see… people in need of intercessory prayers

OK, that’s not quite as pop culture-iconic like the movie line, “I see dead people,” but that’s what I’ve been seeing over these past few years.

What?

All right, here goes: Ever since I relocated to western New York State in 2007 I’ve been seeing people who remind me of persons I’ve known in the past. Could be anyone: old school mates, work colleagues, whomever. At first it would be just in my current parish during Mass. In fact, I blogged about it previously “…This brings up something else, a phenomenon I’ve noticed at my home parish, and nowhere else: Every so often I see people who bear a striking resemblance to someone from my old, hometown parish, either a physical similarity, or “something about them” is reminiscent. Odd. It would be one thing if I experienced this at other parishes, but that has not happened, only where I attend Mass now. (Source: Strange Sightings in Church.

Well, it’s changed. It is no longer just in my home parish, it is happening in a lot of other places and numerous times a day. They are no longer just people “from my old, hometown parish,” but people from throughout my life, its various periods and places lived. And it’s not as if these people were particularly special to me, sometimes I’ve forgotten their names.

Wierd.

So, what to do? I pray for them. There must be a reason I am beset with this “gift.” For some reason, in a mysterious way that the Lord isn’t sharing with me, I have been selected to perform the Spiritual Work of Mercy known as “praying for the living and the dead” on a daily basis.

I already have an interest in death and dying and the afterlife (see my death blog “The Four Last Things – Death. Judgment. Heaven. Hell.” So perhaps this is a more practical application.

This is also applicable for use in a protagonist in a novel that’s on the backburner…

Hmmm… I wonder…

Posted in Me, Solidarity, Spirituality, Works of Mercy, Writing | Comments Off

Lacunae

Sometimes it is within the lacunae of the day, or of one’s life, that you discover meaning.

###

Sometimes I get overly excited about an article that comes across my social media feeds. The one in the attached link at the end is one of them.

Normally when I share something online, I quote some interesting snippets. But not this one, please READ THE WHOLE article.

It would appeal to people highly critical of the “modern world,” and about how things are done and what that’s done to us.

Also, if you grokked “Small is Beautiful,” by E.F. Schumacher, you’ll dig this piece.

Against Productivity

Posted in Distributism, Economics, Outside, Social networking, Spirituality | Comments Off

In the Land of My Exile…

I might be doing it again. Changing the name of this blog. Oh, no. How whacked is that? ;-)

I’ve been thinking, and now is a good time for this before this blog gets really noticed. It’s not as if I publicize it beyond automatic feed distribution to Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Twitter and my other two blogs. I don’t really do anything to make it well known. So for the time being, while it’s “finding its way” as my primary blog to yammer about writing, reading, and whatever else that may cross my mind and possibly motivate a blog post, now is a good period to continue contemplating its title.

I may revisit an old one. The previous title was “In the Land of My Exile I Praise Him,” which was from the Old Testament’s Book of Tobit (13:6). I felt that was fitting. This place (the country I live in on the planet it sits on) is not my permanent home, nor my true home. Heaven is. (Well, “permanent” if I make it there…) “And to “praise Him” is something we believers all should be doing, in our prayers and meditations, in our words and works, in the way we live. We are in “exile” here, just passing through this transient place, on a pilgrimage to where we’re meant to be.

As I mentioned in this post, I, Blog, I rejected “In the Land of My Exile I Praise Him” as being a little pretentious, at least for me. But what if I shortened it…

Now, “In the Land of My Exile…” is still somewhat Biblical, but not overly so (not that being “Biblical” bothers me). But with the ellipsis at the end, it adds an air of mystery. It just hangs there. What exile? What land? Where’s home? What does this mean? Is this just another idiot blowhard pundit pretending to be profound or literary in their self-examinations and introspections, as if anyone really cares?

It also is kinda science-fictiony/fantasyish, which is somewhat along the lines of the fiction I’m slogging through. The current novel I’m working on, as well as another work set in the same place with some of the same characters (see It wants to be a novel, but perhaps later) are more like “contemporary fiction with fantasy elements grafted on.”

I was thinking of “The Blog With No Name,” and have three blogrolls entitled “The Good,” “The Bad,” and “The Ugly.” Or maybe they’d be just groupings of “important” posts. I can also have a picture of me in a wide-brimmed hat for profile picture and favicon. But I quickly dismissed that idea.

So, like I said before, “Don’t come here looking for profound, insightful commentary on current events, Catholic or secular”, but I may take a look about the land of my exile and beyond, see what I see about me and write about it. Could be deep, could be something you’d rather print out and use as birdcage liner or do-it-yourself cat litter.

It’s still “Paul Sofranko’s Blog” regardless of the title. I read somewhere that a writer “has to” have a website/blog to “engage” people and “showcase” their stuff.

So…

  • my primary blog to yammer about writing, reading, and whatever else that may cross my mind and possibly motivate a blog post
  • take a look about the land of my exile and beyond, see what I see about me and write about it.
  • “contemporary fiction with fantasy elements grafted on.”

Hmmm…. a title to encompass all that…

Posted in About this Blog, Blogging, Me, Writing | Comments Off

Five AM should not exist

I awakened at 5AM this morning, a few hours before I normally have to (and on my day off, to boot!) so I can drive a ways past the village to get blood drawn and urine collected for testing. Had to switch to a new doctor for a few resentful reasons that won’t be explicated here. So the bleedin’ and the peein’ was requested at my physical a few weeks ago.

Five ante meridian does not exist on my homeworld. Denizens of my planet need sunlight to awaken, otherwise we are foggy of brain and need mass quantities of coffee later. So foggy was I that I almost opened MS Word instead of LibreOffice to write this post’s draft.

The world looks almost post-apocalyptic that early in the morning, when all is dark and sentients are missing. There are all these buildings standing about, but few humans anywhere. Those that are about, all look, well… as if they have agendas that differ from the norm.

I’m back home after a nap, and as I’m too blurry-brained to be able to do my Morning Prayers (not even the Rosary) all I’ve been capable of is to fly through StumbleUpon sites. I picked my “Fantasy Books” and “Fantasy Art” categories as I’ve reading “The Lord of the Rings” again.

This post is an attempt to get over my typical “blogger’s block;” that feeling that if I haven’t blogged in quite some time, I can’t again, ever. It’s usually cured by forcing myself to write about something, anything, and then the block is broken.

I sincerely wish to blog most every day, across my three blogs (see feed links in the sidebar). But I’ve been saying that since I started blogging in 2007. {{{sigh}}} Perhaps someday.

Off to pray.

Posted in Blogging, Outside, Personal, Prayer | 2 Comments

Writing to discover

In my exploration of the culture of Catholic writing, I’ve been reading Flannery O’Connor.

I find much inspiration in her approach to writing as a Catholic and I’ve discovered two quotes of hers that I can relate to. I think all writers need inspiring quotes from other writers to keep themselves going. ;-)

I have to write to discover what I am doing. Like the old lady, I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it again.

I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.

Both are via QOTD.org.

I’ve discovered what Miss O’Connor talks about stir within me as I write. I sometimes do not know where I am going with the plot until the plot itself takes me there. This may sound odd, but I think other writers will understand this.

While I am writing, stuff from deep within me wells up from its dwelling place and pours forth into the story. It could be something autobiographical, some minor bit from my past brought out for character or plot development, or something I’ve read that is an interest of mine that fills a need for the story.

Like the novel that I’m working in that I mentioned in this post. The original story idea was to explore why something at work might have happened; but the story has borrowed heavily from my beliefs and interests. I had no idea that they’d have to be made manifest in it. This might make more sense if I discussed the particular story details, but I’m not going to for the moment. The story started out as one thing, and as I wondered about this or that, I just drew upon miscellaneous knowledge of mine, and finally they’ve fleshed out the plot to be something greater than the original intent. The original idea is still there and is at the crux of the plot. But the novel is becoming so much more than the original idea.

And I’m loving the fact that as the story is progressing, plotlines are now coalescing into a cohesive whole; there are coming together at an appropriate point to give the novel direction. Rather than a whole bunch of different plots all contained in the same file, they are now giving the novel its identity. Meaning, I think I’m at that point where readers will enter into the “meat” of the plot. All the main characters have been introduced, the plots laid down and now stuff is happening to drive it forward towards its conclusion.

Which I have no idea how it will end, but thats OK. Based upon what Miss O’Connor said up above, the ending is somewhere within me, waiting to be discovered.

To paraphrase Miss O’Connor: I will write the novel to discover what the ending is. I won’t know what the ending is until I see it. (And this next may fall under my belief that “writing is therapy”, and I won’t paraphrase her, but repeat the quote): I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.

Posted in Catholic Writing, Flannery O'Connor, Me, Novel, Writing | Comments Off