Influences of the Religious

“The Anglican Diocese of Guyana is one of eight within the Providence of the West Indies.  Its cathedral is St. George’s Cathedral, Georgetown.  The diocese came into being on August 24, 1842, when William Austin was consecrated the first bishop.”

Wikipedia, July 5, 2017

It was at St. George’s Cathedral I was confirmed by Bishop Alan Knight (1937–1979), who later became Archbishop of the West Indies (1950–1979).  As a teenager what intrigued me most about this process was the time, I had spent studying the Gospels.  Communicants had to present the notes on the Anglican teachings to our priest.  On the day of my confirmation Archbishop Knight arrived for this ceremony at the church.  Gathered were members of families, guests, and other attendees for the Mass.  It was at this service I was initiated with prayers, hymns, laying of hands, and received Holy Communion as a full-fledged member of St. George’s.

After this rite I continued attending Sunday school classes and became a choir boy.  These were commitments that continued through my high school days.  But by the time I was at the Guyana Teachers’ College (GTC) my attendance at St. George’s came to a halt.  I still prayed for God’s guidance, but felt I wasn’t missing anything being absent from church.  However, once I emigrated to the United States to pursue studies on the mass media, I never attended another church in Oregon.

For two years I was engrossed in my studies while at the University of Oregon, Eugene.  Just before graduation as I started dating my wife Mary, I got to know her uncle Father Joe Beno, who was a Catholic priest.  Fr. Joe was a rather interesting religious personality, and became one of my role models.  Fr. Joe graduated from Scappoose High School, worked two years at Bonneville Power Administration, before serving in the U.S. Army in the European Theatre during World War ll.  When he was discharged, he enrolled at the University of Portland where he earned an undergraduate degree.  Having felt the call to a religious life he entered Mt. Angel Seminary, and in 1957 completed his studies at St. Edward’s Seminary.  On May 18, 1957, he was ordained by Archbishop Edward Howard at St. Mary’s Cathedral.  The following day he said his first Mass at St. Wenceslaus Church in Scappoose.  Fr. Joe later served the Archdiocese of Portland either as Assistant Pastor or Pastor in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of St. Joseph’s Salem, St. Mary’s Eugene, St. Michael’s Oakridge, St. Henry’s Dexter, Sacred Heart Medford, and St. Monica’s Coos Bay before retiring in 1993.

Fr. Joe had a passion for traveling, was proud of his Czech heritage, a lifelong learner, and led international pilgrimages.  He loved a party and was gifted with a positive outlook.  One of his favorite sayings even when he was retired at the Blessing House in Tigard, Oregon, was “Everything is beautiful.”  On May 6, 2017, he died peacefully.

Another priest who also made an impact on my life was Fr. Michael Ferguson.  He was an Episcopal priest at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Virginia Beach, where my wife Mary and I attend church.  After 30 years he retired as a Captain from the U.S. Naval Service.  He was married to his wife Carolyn for 57 years, and was previously a priest at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Appomattox, VA.  It wasn’t only Fr. Mike’s sermons that were enlightening, but he was a gifted administrator, who cared for his parishioners.  So, in 2016, when I was admitted to Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach, suffering from a Unitary Tract Infection (UTI), he visited, prayed, and anointed me.  On June 11, 2016, Fr. Mike passed away.  His memorial service was held at Galilee Episcopal Church, Virginia Beach, and his inurnment with military honors was at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church.

Fellow parishioners of the Church of the Holy Apostles have supported and blessed our family.  They did so while serving in their various ministries.  But Mary and I did our part in social ministry, where we shopped for manna, and mailed exam boxes to college students, and provided for the homeless at our church’s shelter in the summer months.  But since early 2019, I no longer consider myself a Christian at Holy Apostles.  I discovered being a religious naturalist to be more akin to my spiritual welfare as described in the monograph, Dfurstane’s Spiritual Beliefs (2020) by Erwin K Thomas.

The Grace in Aging

Kathleen Dowling Singh’s The Grace in Aging is a wakeup call for elders.  It tells them how they could make the best of their lives through mindfulness and meditation.  The author examined many aspects of aging, virtues, and the benefits of seniors that persevere in doing these spiritual goals.

Singh looked at elders’ habits, problems of aging, dying, and death, while exploring the intricacies of what it means to be alive.  At the end of the book there’s a questionnaire that could be answered by readers to find out their views on the aging process.  The author referred to Eastern and Western faith traditions in determining the phases of elderly living.     

Looking at Mindfulness

Christopher André’s Looking at Mindfulness is a primer of twenty-five lessons on mindfulness.  With pictures to supplement the text he explained how people could be more aware of their bodies and their environment and not be like robots.  Advice is given concerning how to turn off and adjust to the multiple stimuli of film, television, radio, and the Internet.  These media were seen as corrupting minds and causing people to be unable to concentrate on what really matters in life.

By breathing and being silent people will become aware of their true selves and savor the precious moments of life.  With stillness and reflection they will be alive in the world.  These practices they should make as part of their daily lives.  Meditational  benefits will give them a sense of purpose, release stress, and help them to live compassionately.

However, these goals have to be persued consistently.  They could start at anytime in one’s life, even if it’s just waking up in the morning, preparing for work, being at your job throughout the day, while at home, or before going to bed at night.  So when people are faced with difficulties like having problems at work, conflicts with their boss, marital quarrels, or are suffering from stress, being mindful could well bring release, and ease the pain.

Mindfulness isn’t a panacea for every situation.  It will only allow an individual to live sensibly  with good and bad experiences.  They will be able to deal with their problems realistically.  With breathing and stillness they will learn to minimize conflicts.  It wasn’t known if they will eventually feel better, but they would understand their challenges.  André wrote that hurtful situations might last only for a time with mindful practice.  The tenets of his teachings are descriptive, easy to follow, and were supported with quotes from pyscho-analysts, and thinkers of religious traditions.          

Aloe Vera God’s Angel

O behold the green aloe with succulent stems

It’s a Godsend

And people see this plant as an angel

Strangers – ordinary folk, gardeners,

And farmers do their part to grow this plant

They are sure to care and nurture it in the right way

And that’s the love they share with nature

Aloe Vera must be watered infrequently to discourage rot

So, its caretakers have to be sure the soil is dry before watering it

The aloe needs six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily

And there must be sandy soil if the plant is grown in-or-outdoors

If the tips of the aloes become brown

It’s a problem with too much watering

This plant even grows well indoors with indirect sunlight

But still growers must check the soil

And remove roots that rot

Aloe Vera is an angel because of its life-generating properties

And it’s a popular ingredient in Indian and South Asian dishes

It can be eaten cooked or raw

But what else is this plant good for?

For centuries it has been used as a tropical skin cream

It’s a laxative that helps with constipation.

The meat inside its leaves is used for treating skin conditions like psoriasis

And aloe creams have a calming effect by reducing itchiness, and inflammation of the skin

“God, thank you for Aloe Vera – the flourishing angelic plant that provides us with many health benefits.”

Amen

Compassionate Living

Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

—Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

An Appeal to the World

The Dalai Lama’s An Appeal to the World was a moving primer of his message for the 21st century. In an interview with television journalist Franz Alt, His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed both the inward and outward paths of peace, war, climate change, materialism, meditation, universal ethics, and neuroscience.  His Holiness discussed six principles: 1) nonviolence—of which he had become a symbol to free Tibet; 2) tolerance—he envisioned no peace unless its among religions; 3) uniqueness of religions; 4) the meaning of religion—the Dalai Lama saw a believer as one who collaborated in preserving the earth; 5) patience—His Holiness was working on this virtue; and 6) death and rebirth—of which he had no clue what was going to happen.

Still the Dalai Lama presented the world with a “childlike faith” in political miracles saying, “One day we will cooperate well with China.” He put his greatest hope on China’s young people, and the 400 million who were Buddhists. His Holiness viewed the 65 years of Chinese Communism as an enormous spiritual void, as compared with 1,300 years of Tibetan Buddhism.

Twelve Steps

Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life was also pertinent for the 21st century. Armstrong used the Golden Rule as the foundation of her discourse on what it meant to live compassionately. She envisioned twelve steps, but thought that such an approach could take a life time. In the introduction to the text readers were introduced to the major faith traditions, and concepts based on compassion.  Later, Armstrong weaved these steps carefully by explaining what people should do to benefit from them. At each step they were presented with a discussion about how to use these teachings. These compassionate goals were carefully calibrated and based on the major religions of the world. Although every goal could stand alone, she was able to integrate each one with an affirmation and explanation.

This book related every topic to contemporary issues. Armstrong recognized all of us have had problems with which we were struggling. She explained how important it was for us to transcend the thinking of ourselves, and that people should reach out to the good aspects of life itself. They should treat others the way they would like to be treated. This dictum must also include our enemies that were suffering like us.

Armstrong’s work was formulated like the Twelve Steps Program for Alcohol Anonymous. Her vision of compassion grew out of her 2008 TED talk on compassion for which she won a $100,000 prize. This achievement led her to focus on the promulgation of the Golden Rule, and compassionate living in the world.