Scripture, Canada and the health care debate

The U.S. bishops' health care Web site, www.usccb.org/healthcare. (CNS photo)

The U.S. bishops' health care Web site, http://www.usccb.org/healthcare. (CNS photo)

Health care reform in the United States has gone from heated debate to raging firestorm over the past couple of months. The smoke is drifting north of the border into our sister nation, Canada. During the discussions about what universal health care in the U.S. might look like, many have held up the Canadian system for praise as a good model or ridicule as a bad one. Either way, there always has been a lot of  back and forth across the U.S.-Canadian border for medical treatments and medicines. Some are easier to get here or cheaper there, depending upon the one’s illness, insurance and personal needs or desires.

Many viewers of Salt + Light Television, Canada’s largest Catholic media operation, and an excellent one, and readers of The Catholic Register, a national Catholic Canadian newspaper based in Toronto, have wondered how Americans might view the “socialized medicine” available in Canada and if Canadian Catholics might help inform the U.S. debate in a helpful way.

Basilian Father Tom Rosica, a Scripture scholar, theologian and seminary professor, who happens to be president of Salt + Light, penned this piece on the health care debate in this week’s Catholic Register. In it, he reflects on the responsibility of all Christians to care for those in need, as well as for unborn children and the elderly.

Sometimes it helps to see how Catholics in other lands, especially our closest neighbor, see our important struggle and reflect upon their own decision to provide universal health care to their citizens.

(Father Rosica, also based in Toronto, was recently named by Pope Benedict XVI a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.)

Fair Trade Month promotes human dignity

Nicaraguan women sort coffee beans on a conveyor belt under Catholic Relief Services' fair trade project. (Courtesy of Catholic Relief Services)

Nicaraguan women sort coffee beans on a conveyor belt under Catholic Relief Services' fair trade project. (Courtesy of Catholic Relief Services)

October is Fair Trade Month.

It’s a month set aside to stress the importance of human dignity in the production of goods and services while promoting the diversity of products available from around the world.

“Fair Trade Month is a way to respond to the call of our faith to respect the dignity of people in other countries,” Jill Rauh, outreach coordinator in the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service.

Fair trade allows workers to receive a fair wage for their labor, she said.

“When we support fair trade we are allowing our purchasing power to support people who have been paid a fair wage,” Rauh said. “We’re supporting local communities.”

The campaign to promote fairly traded goods truly is a grass-roots effort. There are no big advertising budgets and no glossy ads to influence people to support farmers, artists and craft makers in developing countries.

Instead, parishes and local justice organizations promote fair trade through small craft fairs and by setting up information tables at conferences and other gatherings. Such events showcase the unique talents of local people.

Catholic Relief Services offers a host of resources on fairly traded products. Other online resources include the aptly named Fair Trade Month site and Fair Trade Towns USA.

Tanzanian girls glad to go to school

A new book, “Emusoi” — to be published this October — tells the story of six  Masai girls in Tanzania who had the opportunity — rare in their culture — to get an education. The girls were taught at the Maryknoll-sponsored Emusoi Center. 

Last year,  CNS ran a story about this center — founded and run by Maryknoll Sister Mary Vertucci — that educates Masai girls whose culture often has them married at age 14. According to Sister Mary, only 11 Masai women out of the 1 million living in Tanzania have a university degree.

“Emusoi” means discovery and awareness in Maa, the Masai language. More information about the center can be found here.

Loyola graduates remember Katrina

The 2009 class of Loyola University New Orleans recently paid their respects to other colleges — 637 to be exact.  That’s the number of colleges that took in Loyola students immediately after Hurricane Katrina forced the university to suspend classes for a semester in 2005. In honor of these schools, the class commissioned a local artist to design a sculpture that incorporates the names of each of the “Katrina colleges.” The sculpture, located on the campus grounds, is a metal bench in the spiral shape of a hurricane.

A synod for the Middle East

UPDATE: Additional info in our story.

VATICAN CITY — Vatican sources are saying that Pope Benedict XVI will convene a Synod of Bishops for the Middle East to be held in October of 2010, to address the trials and tribulations of the Christian population in the region.

Jordanians and pilgrims celebrate as Pope Benedict XVI visits the Melkite Cathedral of St. George in Amman, Jordan, earlier this year. Pope Benedict was making a week-long pastoral visit to the Holy Land, which has seen a major exodus of Christians for years. (CNS/Greg Tarczynski)

Jordanians and pilgrims celebrate as Pope Benedict XVI visits the Melkite Cathedral of St. George in Amman, Jordan, earlier this year. Pope Benedict was making a week-long pastoral visit to the Holy Land, which has seen a major exodus of Christians for years. (CNS/Greg Tarczynski)

Patriarchs and other representatives from Eastern churches were arriving in Rome Friday, and the pope was to meet with them Saturday morning to discuss the initiative, the sources said. An announcement was expected in coming days.

Pope Benedict has spoken frequently about the pressures faced by Christian and Catholic minorities in the Middle East, particularly in the Holy Land and in Iraq. The synod would provide an opportunity for a much-needed strategizing  session at the level of the universal church, one source said.

Late in the day, the Vatican press office released the names of the patriarchs and other representatives meeting tomorrow with the pope. They include the Chaldean patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad; Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem; the Lebanon-based Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre P. Sfeir; and representatives of the Ukrainian, Syro-Malabar, Coptic, Melkite, Syrian, Armenian, Romanian and Syro-Malankar rites.

Catholic reporter blogs about wedding plans

Those who closely follow the lives of Catholic journalists might want to keep tabs on Amy Rewolinski, a reporter at the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. The reporter, who is getting married next October,  is keeping readers up-to-date with wedding plans in her blog.

Time to call on some saints in the health care debate

The debate over health care reform in the U.S. has gone from robust to absolutely wild and wooly, not to mention uncivil — Rep. Joe “You lie!” Wilson — and downright dangerous — the tragic killing of anti-abortion protestor James Pouillon last week in Michigan.  Perhaps it’s time to call on the intercession of some saints to help bring a little grace to the debate and perhaps some resolution.

Since antiquity, Christians have prayed to holy men and women to ask their intercession with God for life’s ailments. Through the centuries, just about every sickness has been associated with a special patron. For example, headache sufferers can call on St. Therese of Avila. People with cancer have a special friend in St. Peregrine. St. Frances de Sales intercedes for the deaf. The mentally ill can count on St. Dymphna. Alcoholics share both Sts. John of God and Monica. St. Lucy helps folks with eye diseases. Our Lady of Lourdes is always good for bodily ills of every stripe.

Health care providers have patrons too. Anesthesiologists and anesthetists pray to St. Rene Goupil. St. Apollonia takes care of dentists and presumably dental assistants. Radiologists find an intecessor in St. Michael the Archangel. Surgeons have a trio: Sts. Luke (a healer himself, tradition holds), Cosmas and Damien. Nurses have a pantheon in Sts. Raphael the Archangel, Agatha, Camillus de Lellis and John of God. Pharmicists have choices depending on whether they work in hospitals — St. Gemma Galgani — or in your neighborhood drug store — St. James the Elder.

A quick check of Our Sunday Visitor’s eternally useful Catholic Almanac or St. Anthony Messenger Press’ searchable patron saints can turn up dozens of other examples.

Of course, all saints pretty much work, depending on one’s personal piety and practice. Saints are generous like that.

Perhaps a good one for this particular debate might be St. Sharbel, the Lebanese Maronite monk and hermit. It might seem an odd choice, but when saints perform miracles, it’s not for mere mortals to figure out why.  In Lebanon and across the world, St. Sharbel is celebrated on the 22nd of every month. This is because on Jan. 22, 1993, a Lebanese woman, Nohad El Shami, who had suffered a paralyzing stroke, prayed for his intercession. She was miraculously healed. The saint, who never ventured far from his boyhood village, was said to have works many miracles throughout his life.

You can read about this wonderful saint in the recent issue of One magazine, published by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. In “A Saint Without Borders,” reporter Marilyn Raschka and photographer Sarah Hunter tell the story of St. Sharbel and his miracles in a small Lebanese village where he is buried. You can also see a multimedia presentation by both journalists about St. Sharbel.

Since the 22nd is coming up next week, and we’ll have a 22nd in all the months ahead during the health care debate, St. Sharbel might just be the saint to pray and ask his intercession. We could use a miracle or two right about now. Congress and President Obama want to have a comprehensive health care bill completed by the end of the year. St. Sharbel’s feast day is Dec. 24. Health care reform would make a great Christmas gift for the nation. I think he could do it.

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