UP Catholic 03 18 2016 E Edition Page 4

O f all Gods gifts to us the imagination seems to be the one to which we give the least attention. Perhaps there is a tendency to think that what we imagine is not real and therefore of little value. In some instances this may be true. To the child who has an imaginary friend, however, the friend is very real someone to talk to, to play with, to feel less alone. And this is good. The world of literature comes from creative imaginations. So do many scientific advances. Think for a moment of Jules Vernes Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or the Buck Rogers stories. In the realm of prayer the imagina- tion is a great asset. Key to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is imaginative prayer, also known as composition of place. Here a person enters into the scene of scripture being used for prayer. For example, a person praying about the occasion of Jesus and the disciples in a boat during a storm one can get right into the boat! See the fear on the disciples faces in contrast to the calm of Jesus, feel the spray on your face, hear the shouts and cries of the disciples. What are you feeling? How fear- ful are you? What comes over you when Jesus tells the waves to calm down? Think of when Jesus has told you to calm down. Is he telling you to calm down now? Com- pare this situation to some crisis in your life today. St. Ignatius liked to join the Holy Family some eve- nings for dinner. If you were also there what might Mary, Joesph and Jesus tell you about the days events? What would you tell them about your day? In imagination you can be with Jesus at any time, in any place. This is real. Our faith tells us that Jesus is with us (He said that he would be with us for all days) and by using our imagination we become aware of this presence. We do not need to be limited to only portions of the Gospel. We can fill in some of the spaces where the scripture is silent. You might go for an evening walk with Jesus - be aware of the breeze, the clouds, the wild flow- ers, the critters that skitter across your path or the bird songs. You dont need to talk or say words to Jesus, nor does Jesus need words for you (though you may sense him telling you something). Its enough to be present to each other (isnt this true of human friendship/love)? Imagination can be a useful tool for lifes situations. Perhaps you have a difficult meeting to attend or prob- lem to be solved. With your imagination you can enter some scenarios and think of what you might hear or say. Such an exercise may help you to avoid hurtful words or stupid suggestions. Who knows? I am a fan of popular songs. A song that comes to me in prayer often, especially during this time of Lent, asks Do you know just how much I love you? Do you know just how much I care? If there was some other way to prove that I love you, I swear I dont know how. Youll never know if you don't know now? As I gaze at the crucifix or a picture of Jesus I let these words go through my mind and heart. When we are serious about having an intimate, person- al relationship with Jesus, use of the imagination can be a very powerful aid. During these days of the end of Lent may I encourage you to give it try. A blessed Easter to you. 4 March 18, 2016 THE U.P. CATHOLIC COMMENTARY www.upcatholic.org Practicing mercy is in the state budget T his Year of Mercy is an opportunity to re- lect on the teachings of Jesus, emphasiz- ing the importance of serving others with compassion. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says to his disciples, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. His teaching has wide implications, as each person has a role to play in caring for one another. State budget discussions be- fan in February when Governor Rick Snyder presented rec- ommendations for Fiscal Year 2017 (October 2016-September 2017). Legislators now face the difficult responsibility of determining where the states limited resources should go. They also have the responsibil- ity to be good stewards of these resources, protecting citizens against unnecessary spending and debt. At the same time, state government has an obligation to the least of these, providing basic levels of funding to help those most in need. As lawmakers examine vari- ous spending proposals, Catholic social teaching can offer helpful reflections. Give drink to the thirsty. Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si that access to safe drinking water is a basic and universal human right. In certain areas of Flint, however, lead contamination in the water has hindered this access. State and local fovernment are working to help those exposed to lead, now and in the future. Budget recommen- dations call for millions more for bottled water and water testing, initiatives for children with high blood lead levels, the replacement of lead service lines, and the inspection and replacement of plumbing fixtures in Michigan schools. It is critical that all people and all schools, public and non-public, are included in these solutions. At the same time, individuals and organizations have mobilized during the crisis. Locally, agencies such as Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties and the St. Luke New Life Center are serving as distribution sites for bottled water and assistance. This multi-faceted approach is critical to meeting Flints immediate needs. Clothe the naked. Policies such as the Chil- drens Clothing Allowance, alongside the work carried out by non-profits and individuals, help low-income families in Michigan. The clothing allowance ensures students have warm and well-fitting clothing for the school year, especially during the states harsh winter months. In the upcoming budget, Governor Snyder has proposed increasing the amount provided per child for this policy and expanding eligibility to 25,000 more children. Accompany those in difficult situations. For several years, lawmakers have supported the Pregnancy and Parenting Support Program. This program provides pregnant women with alter- natives to abortion such as counseling, parent- ing classes, adoption information, and material support like formula, diapers, and clothing. This policy focuses on the vulnerable and should be preserved. Other budget programs also seek to empower those who are struggling, such as the Tuition Grant and Tuition Incentive Programs for low-income students. Careful attention will also be paid to the Detroit public school district, as the districts $500 million debt diverts funding away from kids in the classroom. Serve the poor and heal the sick. The Healthy Kids Dental program has served low-income chil- dren for many years. This year, lawmakers will consider expanding the program so children in all 83 Michigan counties have access to dental care. Other budget areas also provide greater health care access for individuals in need, including the Healthy Michigan program. Since April 2014, over 600,000 people have qualified for access. During this budget season, lawmakers face tough decisions about funding programs as well as responsibly managing the states resources. Michigan Catholic Conference believes and advo- cates for necessary programs that impact human life, the most vulnerable, and the common good. As citizens, we must also recognize our own responsibility. The Church teaches that issues can be addressed at the appropriate level of society, not just by state government. Let us all work to see what more we can do for the least of these, during budget season and throughout this Year of Mercy. The Word from Lansing is a regular column for Catholic news outlets and is written by Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) President and CEO Paul A. Long. Michigan Catholic Con- ference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state. THE WORD FROM LANSING Paul A. Long The great gift of the imagination REFLECTIONS FROM NORTHSTAR Regis Walling

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