Erenlai - 按日期過濾項目: 週四, 13 九月 2007
If someone suddenly turns against you, what do you do? It might be expected or unexpected. It might be malicious or unintended. You might be the target of the attack or just something that you cherish. Perhaps you feel shock or surprise. Maybe anger or distress. You might let it go. You might fight it. You might forgive or take revenge. You might forget it or forever hold a grudge. It will all depend on your character, your feelings toward the perpetrator, and the motives for which it was done.

A man with a fiery temperament might attack back. A timid man might hide. A calm man sure of himself might just ignore the whole thing if it is not very important or confront the detractor with facts and rebuttal. Civilized men without ulterior motives would come together to discover the real facts and correct any misunderstandings.

I do not see myself as holding a grudge or maintaining a feud. I would never fight a duel to the death because my honor was questioned or someone else’s honor had been offended by me. To me that would be murder and unjustified. It would never seriously cross my mind to wish my enemies consigned to hell, rather that they come to their senses and change. I would never condemn to torture or death anyone who disagreed with me or denied my faith or had different religious beliefs. If we both are sincere and faithful to what we believe, we will both someday be friends and neighbors in heaven.

Why am I thinking this way about these things? Because I was just reading about the history of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteen century, when vast numbers of Roman Catholics abandoned their allegiance to the Church in Rome and went over to the reformers. I am not surprised or disturbed by this. What I do find difficult is the violent animosity and cruel oppression instigated by the leaders on both sides.

There were many factors behind this event. For some it was reaction against some abuses and scandals of churchmen; for others it was some new appealing interpretations of scripture and tradition. But I believe that for the most part for most of the people, what they believed was not founded upon their own reasoning and investigation of the truth, but simply a matter of what they were told to believe. Their faith was handed to them by their parents or other teachers. When someone else with authority, their parents, churchmen or rulers told them to worship differently, they did. Few of the ordinary poorly educated people had any personal religious convictions not based solely on what they were told. If those they trusted or depended upon said something, who were they to question or contradict it. There were no heretics among the rank and file of all those pulled one way or another in the conflicts of church and political leaders. There were only bewildered and confused subjects doing what they were told.

To all Christians in those religiously intolerant days non-christians were heathens, worshippers of false gods and followers of demons. All pagans were wrong, but it was only from ignorance and superstition not malice. To those, however, actively involved in the Protestant-Catholic conflicts, the crime was far worse. Each side of the Protestant-Catholic conflict accused the other side of heresy, in their minds a serious sin against God by refusing to accept or attempting to change divine revelation. Each side accused the other of deviating from the truth by denying or rejecting what God had expressly taught in scripture and tradition. So serious a sin was this considered to be at that time, that both sides of the conflict sometimes resorted to capital punishment of persons condemned as heretics.

In this age of ecumenism, most Catholics and Protestants no longer accuse each other of being sinful heretics, but refer to one another as separated brethren, fellow believers with a few unresolved issues standing in the way of unity. It is hard for us to imagine the ferocious animosity and cruel violence of those turbulent times. To say nothing of the devastating wars waged and the executions of heretics on both sides, even the most basic Christian charity seems to have been thrown out the window when it came to describing one another. Here are some choice examples taken from the book Saint Peter Canisius by James Brodrick, S.J. (London: Geoffrey Chapman. 1963)

… in March, 1545, Luther issued his famous pastoral “Against the Papacy of Rome founded by the Devil”, telling “the villainous knaves and cursed dregs of the devil at Rome, together with His Hellishness the Pope of Sodomites, to go to hell forever,” and expressing a desire “to curse them so that thunder and lightning would strike them, the plague, syphilis, epilepsy, scurvy, leprosy, carbuncles and all manner of diseases attack them.” p. 88

Melanchthon’s official reply to the Cologne clergy, alias, “the papal rabble, the bastard breed whose dirty, lascivious, infamous lives are before the eyes of the whole world,” bore a preface by Luther describing the rabble, etc. as “not men but the incarnate devils who deride God in his heaven.” p. 49

In contrast, see the kind words of Blessed Peter Faber:
On the feast of St. Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary, I felt great devotion and a desire to keep certain persons in mind that I may pray for them, regardless of their failings. These were the Pope, the Emperor, Francis I, Henry VIII, Luther, the Grand Turk, Bucer, and Philip Melanchthon. I felt in my soul that these men were being sternly judged in many quarters, and from this feeling there arose within me a certain devout compassion proceeding from the Good Spirit. p. 33

First, it is assuredly wrong to meet non-Catholics in a temper of asperity or to treat them with discourtesy, for this is nothing else than the reverse of Christ’s example in as much as it is to break the bruised reed and quench the smoking flax. p. 828

In the first place it is necessary that anyone who desires to be serviceable to heretics of the present age should hold them in great affection and love them very truly, putting out of his heart all thoughts and feelings that tend to their discredit. The next thing he must do to win their good-will and love by friendly intercourse and converse on matters about which there is no difference between us, taking care to avoid all controversial subjects that lead to bickering and recrimination. The things that unite us should be the first ground of our approach, not the things that keep us apart. p. 35

It is good and proper for you to hold on firmly to what you sincerely believe. It is just as good and proper for others to hold on firmly to what they sincerely believe, even if it is not what you believe. If your beliefs are incompatible with theirs, then either you or both of you are in for a big surprise when God finally reveals all. In the meantime, we should respect each other as fellow travelers toward the same destination, though by different paths.

It isn’t good to consider that those who believe differently are bad. It is not what we believe that makes us good, but how we live according to what we believe.

Strictly speaking there are no people who ever consider themselves as heretics. If they are sincerely convinced that they are right, that it is their understanding of scripture and revelation that is correct, so it is only those who think differently and not themselves who are the real heretics. Anyone who sincerely changes religious affiliation or belief is not in his mind embracing heresy but fleeing from heresy by repudiating what they now believe to be erroneous.

Had Martin Luther and the other reformers at that time been men of different temperament, their disgust and hatred of the scandalous sins and abuses that they saw around them in the church (unfortunately, there were many scandals to be ashamed of) might have in a spirit of charity turned to disciplinary action to bring sinners back into line, but instead they allowed their disgust and hatred of the sins to grow into disgust and hatred of the sinners and initiated violent crusades to utterly destroy all they stood for.

In these present times of ours in which there are still areas of religious strife and enmity between Christians and Moslems and Hindus and Jews, it is my earnest hope and prayer that the fiery Martin Luthers of our day be moderated and overruled by the Peter Fabers.

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A friend is someone you can always count on to support you in time of trouble. A friend is someone with whom you are not afraid to share your darkest secrets. A friend is someone you would not hesitate to sacrifice your self for to protect from harm. A friend is someone you enjoy being with because you think alike and have fun together. A friend is someone you can always count on to come to your aid when you’re in a pinch. A friend is someone you are not afraid to share your money or your goods with because you know they will be used carefully and returned in due time. A friend is someone who will always come running when you need him or her. A friend is a companion you enjoy being with. A friend is someone who is not afraid to tell you to your face what you are doing wrong.

Sometimes the most unlikely people become friends. Their backgrounds are different, their interests are not the same, but they seem to like and trust each other and complement one another. Sometimes acquaintances become friends by association: they don’t know anyone else, there is no one else to play with, one of them needs protection and the other needs someone to protect, or circumstances just pulled them together and no new circumstance has happened yet to pull them apart. A friendship built only on gratitude or personal need or one that is not equally reciprocated is on shaky ground.

Not all our acquaintances are friends. Some people we just don’t like, others we just can’t get along with, some disgust or repel us, some there is no reason or opportunity to associate with. Not everyone we don’t like or try to avoid is an enemy. We generally reserve that term for those who wish us harm or are standing in the way of our goals deliberately obstructing us.

An enemy is someone who hates you or wants you dead or transpires to defraud you of what is rightfully yours. An enemy is someone you hate or fear because you believe he or she is a threat to your life or livelihood. An enemy is someone who refuses to come to your aid in time or need. An enemy is anyone who is the enemy of a dear friend. An enemy is someone who insulted you or embarrassed you in front of others. An enemy is anyone you want to overcome or destroy.

It sometimes happens that circumstances change, events intervene that turn friends into enemies or former enemies into friends. There are several sure ways of alienating and losing a friend. Fall in love and run away with your friend’s fiancée before the wedding or seduce her to run away with you after the wedding. Divulge your friend’s deepest secret to his or her enemy or someone sure to be offended by it or get him in trouble. Help your friend to reach the top and then take it for yourself tossing him or her out on his or her ear. Refuse to help when urgently needed. Betray him to his enemy or creditor. Appropriate for yourself what he or she depends upon. Throw in the towel with his or her worst enemy.

The first step of turning an enemy into a friend is to begin treating him or her as a friend. Then the rest is up to him or her to reciprocate.

Some people have trouble making friends. Some people have trouble keeping their friends. Some friends stay close through thick and thin. Some friends stick through the thick and run from the thin.

Having a dear good friend is a blessing that we must cherish and preserve.

Photo: C.P.


週四, 13 九月 2007 23:38

Water for All!

Yes, we were back at dear old Yangjuan village during the summer of 2007… That was the seventh year in a row that volunteers from Chengdu, Taiwan, France and the United States were gathering there. The months preceding the trip were somehow hectic due to the constant changes in the preparation of the projects. But finally, everything went very well…

Since the moment we have started to implement small scale hydraulic projects in Yangjuan we had been relying on volunteers from the French organization “Hydraulic without borders”. One of the volunteers managed the digging of a communal well (summer 2004) and the bringing down of water from a stream in the hills to 20 households in one part of the village (summer 2005), He was not available this summer. That is the reason why we started to look for an aborigine volunteer from Taiwan. And this proved to be the right move: Mr Yun has been indeed the very person to manage the work we did this summer 2007:capturing a spring in the mountains to bring water to 30 households in the “5th brigade” of the village.

For the hydraulic projects my concerns were many. It seemed to me that from the spring to the water tank above the village most of the pipe could not be buried in the ground. In theory, that would require better and more expensive material. We found out that the ideal material was not available in Xichang and, if available, that the installation would require electricity. Finally we had to rely only on the material available in the closest place to Yangjuan. The experience of Mr. Yun was such that he got immediately a good comprehension of the nature of the soil and after one morning of work the source was already captured. Work was not finished yet as the pipe (about 1500 m long) had to be buried in the ground or hanged along a cliff in the last stretch to the water tank. The building of the water tank took also another two to three days. The last days, when we were installing the pipes and the faucets in the village, invitation was made for all the “workers” with the killing and eating of a young pig and the coming of the water in the households was celebrated with abundance of beer! Mr. Yun could give precious advice to maintain the system, and, before we left, a “maintenance manager” was elected by the villagers.

The other project consisted in building two greenhouses for cultivation of vegetables. For the realization of the project we asked for help from the Agriculture technical University of Pingdong. The President was very helpful in introducing a professor who in turn introduced two students who were very fit for the job and very good in training the people to new ways of growing vegetables.

The so called “hydraulic project” comes from our very first stays in Yangjuan. Two nurses conducted a health survey and it appeared that the quality of the water could be greatly improved since all the water consumed comes from the river polluted by dejections from animals (pigs, sheep and horses). For sure, the people say that in their place there are no illness related to the quality of the water. Which to some extend is true compared with the situation in other places in Liangshan area. Still, hygiene had to be improved. The digging of a well in 2004 has been beneficial to the people. This summer again, I was told that people like very much to drink water from that well. This project has not been a perfect success, as during autumn and winter the well runs dry. But it was a good example anyway since afterwards at least two families dug a well in their courtyard. From this experience we know that July and August are not the ideal time for that activity: during that period the level of underground water is rather high and then keep lowering till March. A timid initiative by the people from the 3rd brigade the following year obliged us to change our minds (we were prepared to dig another well), and so we brought instead water from the mountains to their houses. Though the distribution network is very simple and made of cheap material it has been a very good surprise for me to see how well it has been maintained and somehow improved. What happened in 2005 was an encouragement, showing the willingness of the people to be more active in taking care of their living conditions.

It was not a surprise that at the end of my stay in 2005 villagers from the 5th brigade came to ask for the same thing for them. I went to see the spring that could be capture to meet their needs, but as the volunteer from “Hydraulic without borders” was already back to France I was not very sure of the feasibility of the project. Summer 2006 we had not “hydraulic project” (the French civil engineering professor was in Haiti) I went again to inspect the site of the water spring in the mountains. In March, taking occasion of a trip to Nanjing, I went again to Yangjuan mainly to test the willingness of the villagers to realize the project, knowing that it needed more manpower.

The implementation of our project this summer has been a success in the sense that the participation of the villagers was very good. The first meeting we had before starting the work was held in one of the offices of the school, the head of the village was there and my old friend the secretary of the Party was also present (he is one of the beneficiaries of the water adduction project in 2005). The fact that one of the villagers has been elected as maintenance officer is also a very good thing.

Is concern for the quality of water growing in Yangjuan? I received two requests in July, one coming for the people from the 5th brigade asking for a well, the other one from the principal of the school. During the winter period the bottom of the well that supplies water to the school is filled with a whitish muddy deposit. During this period the pipe bringing water to the tank above the school is placed in the river. I am not a specialist but I think that the well of the school just needs a serious maintenance during the dry season (i.e. in February or March).

It is difficult to give an evaluation on the other project, the construction of two greenhouses for cultivation of vegetables. It was not possible to find a common land. The owner of the plot of land where the two structures were built and where the first beds of greens were sown was getting along very well with one of the two Taiwanese students and hopefully will benefit from this improvement on his farm land. We can hope that the greenhouses will be a good example for other villagers.

Since 2000 we have been witnessing many changes in Yangjuan. A lot of people went outside to work in places like Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and even abroad. There is no sign so far that the village will be abandoned in a few years. Making life easier for example with a better access to water may slow down the process or at least ease the burden of the “grand parents” left there to take care of the farm and the grandchildren.






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