Just before beginning this bulletin article, I finished working on my personal friar budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year for our province. Like many of you, each friar is asked to seriously consider what his proposed income will be and what he anticipates his expenses will be for that time period. Of course, the hoped for result of this process is that in the end he will be able to project not only a balanced budget but actually a positive result so that these additional monies may be used toward various important financial needs of the province. Does that always happen? No, since many of the friars, including most of us here at St. Peter’s, are involved in ministries that do not come with big salaries. We are very dependent upon Divine Providence and the good will of our many generous benefactors.
When anyone makes a budget, it should reflect a set of values that form the basis for the figures that appear in the budget proposal. For example, if a family greatly values taking a long vacation each year, then they will have to be realistic on how much money they will put in that line item. If such a vacation would involve airplane travel, renting a car, staying in a hotel, and eating all or most of their meals away in restaurants, the total amount would vary significantly from another family deciding to use their family car for travel, camping outdoors in a tent, cooking their own meals, etc. The choice is theirs, but it represents a value to be implemented.
The same is true with a state or federal budget. The actual figures presented should represent the values underlying it. It just so happens that the Trump Administration recently released its proposals for the 2019 budget, and I think each of us should carefully look at what has been proposed to see if it reflects what we think our nation’s priorities should be and then either affirm or challenge what we find there before writing to our legislators in the near future. Let me highlight a few of the implications of this proposed budget without going into all the details.
It increases the national debt. The $7.1 trillion added to the deficit over the next decade assumes an ambitious rate of growth of at least 3 percent each year. If the economy is less strong, that number could get much higher. It is possible that the national debt could grow to $30 trillion in a decade. The 2019 budget is about $300 billion larger than last year and comes on top of the $1.5 trillion tax cut that will decrease government revenue.
The budget would cut $1.7 trillion to Medicare and other entitlements. The Medicare program would be cut by $266 billion over the next decade, although promises were made not to touch it. It would also cut $214 billion from food stamps over the next decade by eliminating cash payments in favor of “American grown food” packages given directly to recipients. In other words, recipients would not have a choice of what they receive. Currently about 42 million Americans receive food stamps.
$716 billion will go to national security. This proposed budget gives a huge increase to the Pentagon in order to address what it stated as a necessity to compete with military powers such as Russia and China. The budget calls for 25,900 new jobs, 10 new naval ships and three new combat planes. It also would increase spending on missile defense to fight nuclear threats from North Korea. Right now the United States spends more on the military than the next eight largest spending nations combined.
Amtrak funding is cut in half. This 2019 budget would cut federal contributions to the national train service from $1.495 billion to $738 million in one year. This obviously would demand that many train routes that now service smaller cities would no longer exist.
The EPA would be slashed. The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would be cut by about 34 percent, or 2.8 billion. Some regulatory duties would be given to state officials and most of the money would be for voluntary “compliance assistance,” programs that would specifically assist the oil and chemical industries.
The opioid epidemic gets priority. The budget dedicates nearly $17 billion to combat the opioid crisis which killed more than 42,000 Americans in 2016. The money would be split between programs that combat and treat opioid abuse and addiction programs that help detain drug traffickers. An additional $100 million would go toward public-private partnership with pharmaceutical companies to develop prevention and treatment for addiction and overdose reversal.
Immigration reform: The budget proposes an additional $25 billion for border security over two years, of which $18 billion would go toward a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Additional spending will fund more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, border patrol, and more beds for detained immigrants.
Health and safety concerns: The proposal slashes the budget of nearly every federal oversight agency. The Department of Agriculture is cut by 16 percent, the Department of Education by 10.5 percent, the Department of Health and Human Services by 21 percent, the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 18.3 percent, the Department of the Interior by 16 percent, the Department of Labor by 21 percent and the Department of Transportation by 19 percent, in addition to the already noted EPA cuts. Such cuts mean less money, for example, to guarantee food is uncontaminated, workers are safe, and the environments we live in are inhabitable.
A few other tidbits: There are deep cuts to some domestic spending programs. Last year’s budget proposed eliminating 62 federal programs, recommendations Congress ignored. However, they have reappeared in the proposed budget, e.g., community development block grants, after-school programs, public broadcasting, etc. The proposed budget also contains a $200 billion infrastructure spending program, which supposedly will be matched with private and public funds to provide a $1.5 trillion investment.
Obviously there are needs of all kinds, but the Congress must look at what has been proposed, evaluate what they think is both necessary and feasible, and then make its decisions on both individual programs and the overall effect for the good of the country. Budgets have far-reaching implications that have political and ethical considerations. They determine the kind of atmosphere and opportunities we hope all Americans cannot just dream about but also attain. Now is the time for all of us to contact our Senators and Representatives in order to make our priorities known and the reasons for those priorities. As Catholics, let’s bring the values of the Gospel to bear on these decisions.
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
The Ten Commandments are at the heart of the covenant Moses made with God for the Israelites. Today Jews and Christians understand them to be central to their relationship with God and the foundation of the moral life. That covenant relationship with God carries obligations—the point of today’s readings.
The First Reading takes place on a sacred mountain in the Sinai wilderness. Having brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, now, on the mountain, God speaks to Moses, making a covenant with the people, declaring that he is their God and they are his people. Then God outlines what they must do in order to keep the covenant with him. Today we know these obligations as the Ten Commandments.
The Gospel story also takes place on a sacred mountain, a traditional place of encounter with God (Jerusalem, God’s holy mountain). Just before Passover Jesus enters the Jerusalem Temple, driving out the money changers and those who sell animals for sacrifice. Many readers assume these people were doing something terrible; actually, they were doing only what was necessary for the operation of the Temple. Jesus’ action drew attention to another way his understanding of his obligation to his Father would upend religious life. Notice that the author takes a verse from Psalm 69—“Zeal for your house has consumed me”—and changes the verb tense so that it now reads, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Indeed, it will. What was once as part of a lament psalm now has become a prophecy about Jesus’ death, and Jesus’ words about raising up “this temple” extend that prophecy.
For Your Reflection: If you consider the Ten Commandments as our response to God’s love, would your perspective on them change? What signs of life in Christ do you see around you? How might your zeal for the Church increase?
WHAT SHOULD I DO FOR LENT?
Words of Pope Francis
- Get rid of the lazy addiction to evil: “Lent is a powerful season, a turning point that can foster change and conversion in each of us. We all need to improve, to change for the better. Lent helps us and thus we leave behind old habits and the lazy addiction to the evil that deceives and ensnares us.” (General Audience, March 5, 2014.)
- Do something that hurts: “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.” (Lenten Message, 2014).
- Don’t remain indifferent: “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year, during Lent, we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience. God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation.” (Lenten Message, 2015).
- Pray: Make our hearts like yours: “During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us ask the Lord: Make our hearts like yours. In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.” (Lenten Message, 2015).
This Saturday, March 10, 2018, three Franciscan Friars—Casey Cole, Dat Hoang and Ed Tverdek—will be ordained deacons by Most Reverend Fernand Cheri, O.F.M., Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans, here at St. Peter’s. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. and is open to the public. Br. Dat and Br. Ed have been living at St. Peter’s while continuing their studies at Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park. Br. Casey is living at Blessed Giles Friary in Hyde Park while finishing his studies as well at C.T.U. Br. Dat and Br. Ed will serve as deacons at St. Peter’s until they receive their next assignments, which probably will go into effect c. July 1, 2018. We congratulate these three friars and promise them our prayers as they begin their deaconate ministry in preparation for ordination to the priesthood later.
SECOND COLLECTION THIS WEEKEND
The countries of Central and Eastern Europe have faced many years of hardship. They have been oppressed by czars, radical communism, horrendous crimes against humanity, and revolutionary, civil and world wars. Under communism, organized religion was opposed in favor of atheism to overthrow the power of the Russian Orthodox Church. Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991, Central and Eastern European countries have been working to rebuild political structures, social welfare, and their economies.
The USCCB Subcommittee on the Church in Central and Eastern Europe funds projects in 28 countries to build the pastoral capacity of the Church and to rebuild and restore the faith in these countries. The funds collected in the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe are used to support seminaries, youth ministry, social service programs, pastoral centers, church construction and renovation, and Catholic communications projects.
For more information, please go to www.usccb.org/ccee. We ask that you be as generous as possible since the need is great and the local resources few. By contributing to this collection, we can truly identify with our brothers and sisters in that part of the world and show our solidarity with them so that the Church may give a powerful witness of the Gospel to all people of good will.
LENTEN COMMUNAL PENANCE SERVICE
The first of our Lenten Penance Services will be held this Friday, March 9, at 12:15. It will consist of hymns, Scripture, brief homily, examination of conscience, individual face-to-face confession, and a closing prayer. There will be c. ten confessors, so the entire service should be no longer than 45-50 minutes. Please note that there will be no Mass on this day at 12:15.
DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
We remind you that Daylight Saving Time goes into effect this year at 2:00 A.M. on next Sunday, March 11. Be sure to set your clock ahead one hour before you go to bed on Saturday so that you will be able to arrive on time for Sunday Mass. All too often we hear people asking us something like, “Father, when did you change the Mass times?” The answer: “We didn’t change the Mass times; the government changed the time throughout the United States.” I happen to be a fan of the longer hours of daylight in the evening, so I welcome the change.
A CHUCKLE FOR LENT
Patient: “I’m having a problem with my eyes. I see something from far, but then when I get there, there’s nothing. It’s gone.”
Doctor: “It’s a new disease. It’s called ASRD Syndrome.”
Doctor: “It stands for ‘Annual Salary Revision Deficiency’ Syndrome.”