Gratitude is a lifestyle choice

{mosimage}“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18

Thanksgiving has come and gone once again, but I’m still in a thankful frame of mind, for a couple of reasons. First, my American friends and relatives are gearing up for their Thanksgiving celebration this month. Second, I like the warm, fuzzy feelings of gratitude and its by-product, generosity, that Thanksgiving inspires, and I’ve been contemplating how to perpetuate them.

    A tale of two elections

    {mosimage}If there is such a thing as election envy, and the degree of fascination Canadians have with Sen. Barack Obama suggests there may be an element of wistfulness if not outright envy, the difference between this fall’s Canadian election and the U.S. presidential race would surely provoke it.  

    It’s not just that the stakes are higher; being prime minister is a somewhat less exalted and demanding role than U.S. president. It is as if the response to higher stakes seems to be an elevated discourse, an appreciation that politicians shouldn’t just be about tactical considerations but should also be concerned with fundamental values. It also encompasses a notion that political decisions might actually touch on issues of who we are as well as what we might do this fiscal quarter.

      Moral leadership

      {mosimage}It’s probable that a majority of Canadians felt deflated by the Oct. 14 election. Nobody really won, even though the Conservatives emerged with a slightly larger minority. Instead, we lacked real leadership — the kind that people truly want to follow instead of just tolerate.

      The resignation of Liberal Leader Stephane Dion reminds us of what real leadership requires, mainly because his own deficiencies revealed the missing ingredients. It’s true that Dion showed intelligence, integrity, boldness and creativity (in his poorly understood GreenShift). And by stepping down, he displayed a rare selflessness. But he failed at an essential task of leadership: getting others to follow.

        We are all exiles

        {mosimage}The appearance of a new Ron Hansen novel is always the occasion for careful scrutiny and delicious pleasure. He is the finest contemporary Catholic fiction writer in the United States, in my view (sorry Anne Rice), and his latest — Exiles — is one of his finest.

        The author of several novels of inventive power and historical elasticity (Hitler’s Niece, Mariette in Ecstasy and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Hansen delights in mixing historical fact with possibility, religious feeling with erotic need, saintly endeavour with the cold winds of reason.

          Let's learn from this 'teachable moment'

          For all the damage it’s doing, the crisis shaking the foundations of the world’s financial system has spawned at least one booming industry: economic punditry.

          If you haven’t been camped out in Algonquin Park for the last two months, you are surely familiar with what I’m talking about: the endless parade of experts before the cameras of cable TV news networks, each with learned opinions about what’s gone wrong with the world and what’s to be done about it. Finger-pointing abounds. Some blame consumers, chronically addicted to the cheap, easy credit of the last several years. Others confidently blame “predatory” lenders, or absent-minded regulators, or the profligacy of public-sector spending by governments living far beyond their means.

            A Catholic monarchy?

            {mosimage}One of the last vestiges of official anti-Catholicism in the world is the British Crown. Yet most Canadians are probably unaware that the Queen of England (or King) — Canada’s head of state — is prohibited by law from being Roman Catholic or marrying a Roman Catholic.

              Blinded by science

              {mosimage}The cheapest shot against scientists, who rail loudly and at length against religious believers, is that they are scientific fundamentalists. It’s a cheap shot simply because science is supposed to be open, inquiring, rational and devoted to truth wherever it is to be found.

              So when scientists set out to act like fundamentalists and do so in the manner of the Inquisition, the first reaction has to be disbelief. The second has to be a sober look at the growing phenomenon of scientific fundamentalism.

                Market idolatry

                {mosimage}The international financial crisis is no longer just about Wall Street — if it ever was. Today, increasingly, it is about Main Street and its residents, about people who are losing homes, jobs, pensions and savings.

                In a way, the international economic system is a kind of Tower of Babel, built on its own internal logic, but a logic that essentially created a house of cards. It was built on an ever-expanding consumption of goods; when the production of wealth could not keep up with the need to feed mass consumption, developed nations simply turned to debt. When that tower of debt began to crumble as some of its weaker bricks gave way, the whole edifice began to tumble.

                  Christian persecution stains India

                  The worsening persecution of Indian Christians by fundamentalist Hindus is a black mark on India’s modernizing democracy and a violation of Hinduism’s basic principle of tolerance for other religions.

                  Western Christians should stand in solidarity with our Indian brothers and sisters who are being murdered, mutilated and driven from their homes, whose houses are being burned and whose churches are being desecrated and destroyed. In this Canadian election season, we should exact a promise from our prospective members of Parliament that they will urge the next government to encourage Delhi to beef up its current, woefully ineffective campaign to halt the violence.

                    Vote anyway

                    {mosimage}The federal election campaign has been anything but inspiring for Canadians. Most of what passes for debate has been name-calling, accusations of lying and trivial arguments over whose commercials were the most unfair.

                      Creation groans

                      {mosimage}In this federal election campaign, Canada’s Catholic bishops are calling upon all Catholics to consider environmental questions when they vote. In its recent pastoral letter on ecology, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops says, “We hope our elected representatives will remember first of all the heritage we are leaving our children when making important decisions. Because we love our children, what environment, what society do we wish to bequeath to them?”