Making a Meaningful Difference in Students’ Lives, Often without Even Knowing about It

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Subject: Hey Rev!; Sent By: The Student Shall Remain Anonymous; On:Mar 03/18/16 2:05 PM; To: Timothy Lent tlent@mail.immaculata.edu

The following email to me was unsolicited:

Rev! I hope that you’re doing well! I haven’t seen you around campus lately, so I just wanted to check in and make sure you’re still alive. I’m graduating in May, and I suppose with that, I’ve come to reflect on my past years at IU. I was thinking of what classes and information that I would take with me in my future endeavors, and I think the class that had the most impact on me was your Christian Ethics class. I may not be a Theology major or minor, but I feel that I learned the most applicable and life-changing material in your class. Truthfully, I think I learned more from who you are as a person than the information that was taught.

I wanted to thank you for caring for your students. This may seem mundane, but the way that you genuinely cared for us made a huge impact on my life. I’ll always remember when you would tell us that “It’s okay to not be okay”. There is so much truth in that statement! For you to simply ask how we as your students were doing, made the class that much more of an impact for me.

I’m actually interning at a high school for my senior internship, and I’m loving it. As I learn more about my students, I keep thinking of all that I learned in your class. I remember your transparency with your students, and your honesty about the struggles you’ve gone through in your life. To know that a professor, a Reverend, and a PhD can be that authentic with his students shows a lot about who you are. I think if nothing else, God has given you the gift of transparency-not everyone can be honest, open, and relate to so many. I hope that as I move forward in my education and my life, I can be as caring as you were for us!

I don’t know where you’re at in life, Rev- if you’re even at IU anymore, but I hope that wherever you are, God is using you to change the lives of others. If I’ve learned anything in working in this school, it’s that sometimes we go into our vocation and try to save everyone. That doesn’t always happen-and it’s easy to focus on that, but if we impact the life of ONE person we interact with-we have truly won. I know you’ve impacted my life and the lives of others-and I hope you keep on doing that!

I hope you keep on keeping on, Rev! In the words of Viktor Frankl, “What is to give light must endure burning”. I hope you’re not “burning” too much, but I know you’ve given light to others!

——-

Immaculata University | 2016 IU

Minute Meditation on the Value of the Capacity to Feel

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I hurt; therefore, I am. I fear; therefore, I am. I weep; therefore, I am. I care; therefore, I am. My feelings, not merely my brain, make me a human person. To remove the capacity to feel for oneself and others is to put a human being on the level of a rock or stone, which neither feels pain nor cares about others.

Emotionally, then, it is better to hurt, even to weep, than to not feel anything. Trees, soil and rocks have no fear of rejection, but humans do. It is a fear worth having. It is also evidence of being alive to the world of other persons. It is better, too, to risk being rejected than to live in isolation, being locked in the “solitary confinement” of oneself.

I feel; therefore, I am. I am alive to myself and I know it. But woe to the person who feels nothing at all. It is the tragic, psychical condition of being dead and not even knowing it. He or she desperately needs an “internal resurrection,” a coming alive to himself or herself and the world of other persons. Breath, O Breath, O Spirit of Life, into that person, bringing him or her back to life!

The Sad Legacy of Learning to Hate

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El Paso, Texas

What would motivate two young men, within the span of 15 hours, from two different States — in El Paso, Texas, and near Dayton, Ohio — to commit senseless acts of mass murder? How could those men have such blatant disregard for killing so many innocent people? Surely, the young men did not come into the world, they were not born, as murderers. How, then, did they develop into killers? They were taught to hate! As a result of many years of indoctrination in hatred, the men committed “hate crimes.”

Hatred is both taught, which is the explicit method of transmitting hate, and caught, which is the implicit method of transmitting hate through a person’s attitudes and actions. Terry Anderson, a former journalist and hostage in Lebanon for almost seven years (16 March 1985 to 4 December 1991), reflecting on hatred, racism and bigotry, says,

“To teach a child to hate is probably the biggest sin anyone can commit, because you not only destroy that child’s life but you destroy so many other lives, as that child grows and spreads hatred.”1

What is it that drives a human being to terrorize and murder others because of their religion, race, nationality, sexuality, and political affiliations? Hate! It begins, regrettably, early in life, while a person is most impressionable.

As a young man or woman grows up with constantly being taught to hate others, he or she becomes blinded by that vice. Hate, then, is intellectually, morally and psychologically “poisonous” to a person, destroying his or her inner life. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rightly observes,

“[H]ate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”2

How can ever-increasing incidents of hate-crimes and mass murder in America be curtailed, if not eliminated? Teach children, adolescents, young men and women to respect others, regardless of their race, religion, lifestyle and ideology. In doing that, young people will be inculcated, educated, in the greatest of all moral virtues, namely, love. In the words of Nelson Mandela,

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”3

Undoubtedly, Mandela would agree with psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s message: “The salvation of man is through love and in love.”4 Therefore, teach young people to love others, which involves, among other things, respecting differences between human beings and tolerating genuine diversity. Teach young men and women that love is a strength, not a weakness. Teach them that love is more powerful than hate, for hate, at the most, can destroy human lives. But love, at its best, can save the world from its inhumanity. To paraphrase Dr. King, only love can gradually replace the “poisonous” effects of hate from the human heart.

Endnotes

1. Terry Anderson, in David Aikman, “Great Souls: Elie Wiesel,” Program Six, Vision Video, Worcester, PA., 1999.

2. Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 2010), p. 48.

3. Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela(New York, N.Y.: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), p. 622.

4. Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 3rd ed. (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1984), p. 49.

The Nazi Euthanasia Movement: Moral Lessons for Health Care Workers

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Brigadier General Telford Taylor, Chief of Counsel, during the Doctors Trial, which was held in Nuremberg, Germany, from December 9, 1946, to August 20, 1947. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Introduction

Adolf Hitler and the Nazis had aspirations for creating a perfect human race. They accepted a quality of human life philosophy. They wanted to rid the human gene pool of defects. How they went about doing that, however, resulted in one of the most horrible accounts of evil in the history of humankind.

Life Not Worthy of Living

In “Medical Science under Dictatorship,” in the New England Journal of Medicine (14 July 1949), Leo Alexander, American Medical Science Consultant to the Nuremberg War Crimes Trails, explains the early origins of the Nazi euthanasia movement, saying,

“It started with the acceptance of the attitude … that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived.”

In the Nazi quality of human life philosophy leading up and in World War II, there was no room for human beings with defects. For many Nazi physicians and nurses, there were actually human beings whose lives are not worthy to be lived. They should be killed to relieve others, especially the State, of the financial burdens of keeping them alive. As a result, the Nazis made euthanasia into a “scientific” and systematic form of killing countless human beings.

Elimination of the Weak and Sickly

With a quality of life philosophy, a human being’s “usefulness is usually defined in terms of functioning for the benefit of society,” says Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning (Simon and Schuster, 1984). Under the Nazi regime, anyone who could not contribute to society or was not in some way useful to others was a candidate for death. So, at Hitler’s order, the mentally ill, those with various developmental disabilities, the elderly in State homes and those with physical or facial deformities were exterminated.

In his book Night (Hill and Wang, 2006), Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel recalled the process of “selection” in the concentration camps. It was based on a quality of life philosophy. In other words, the inmates were lined up before a Nazi officer. If they looked well, they would remain alive; however, if they looked weak and sickly, they would be sent to the crematorium or gas chamber to be killed.

Dehumanization Leading to Destruction

In Existentialism with or without God (Alba House, 1974), philosopher Francis Lescoe notes that Hitler and the Nazis viewed other humans beings as things or objects, denying their inalienable right to live as persons. However, by depersonalizing other human beings, the Nazis also depersonalized themselves. Their behavior was not only sub-human but also below the behavior of animals, for even they do not design systematic methods of killing millions of their own kind.

Words are powerful! By using them correctly, they can promote life; by misusing them, they can lead to death. If someone were to say, “Chronically or terminally ill persons have lives devoid of value,” that would be dehumanizing. It would also be dehumanizing to say, “Sick persons do not have meaningful lives.” Such examples are called “verbicide.” In other words, after human beings are dehumanized in word, then it is only a matter of time before can be dehumanized in deed. Verbicide, killing with words, can lead to homicide and even genocide.

 

Minute Meditation: A Unique You, in a Unique Moment, with Unique Opportunities to Fulfill

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I was giving a lecture at a university in the greater Philadelphia area on personalism, specifically, the uniqueness of the human person, when one of my students interrupted me, saying, “Someone can easily replace me at my job, because that person can do what I do.” I stopped, thought a minute about what the student said and replied, ‘Someone else may be able to do what you do, but no one else can be you doing it.’

As a unique person, you are the only you, and you live in a unique moment, one that can never be repeated. That is why what you do in that moment cannot be done by anyone else in the future, because the moment in which you do it cannot be retrieved, even by the person who may replace what you do.

Your moment, that is, the moment in which you act or do something, is gone forever. It is yours and yours alone, even if it is shared by someone else, because he or she simply cannot be you in that moment. Therefore, the moment in which you work is reserved for you alone, so that it might give meaning to your life.

What Makes Life Really Meaningful?

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What makes life really meaningful? Another house? Maybe three or more houses? Perhaps a mansion or two? What about a new relationship, another man or woman? How about more money, even being rich? What about more pleasure, such as a better sex-life? Maybe that is it! How about possessing more things, such as cars, clothing, furniture and jewelry? Maybe having more possessions than others? What about being famous, highly esteemed by the masses?

All the pursuits I have mentioned have already been tried and found wanting by countless men and women, since the beginning of human civilization. For example, thousands of years ago, a rich person, a king of Israel (probably not King Solomon) wrote the following about his experience to find meaning to life:

“I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem a as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11, NIV).

In other words, after all of the king’s achievements, his successful undertakings, after he had everything he could possibly want, he asked himself, in effect,

“Is that it? Is that all there is to life? Is there not more to life than that?”

All his pursuits to find meaning to life were not what he thought they would be. They left him feeling dissatisfied, even disappointed. For the king, then, the meaning of life is not found in material things, as nice as they may be, as comfortable as they may make a person’s life. Rather, meaning is found in the human and spiritual values of faith, hope and love; it is discovered in serving others and, especially, in the realm of religion. As the king concludes,

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, NIV).

Why Mother Teresa is Both Liked and Disliked in America

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Mother Teresa

Why She is Liked: Her Humanitarianism

Mother Teresa is both liked and disliked in America. She is admired, because of her humanitarian works, such as caring for the poor and homeless, the sick and dying.

She and her religious sisters, “the Missionaries of Charity,”  literally went through Calcutta, rescuing babies and children from the streets, providing them with food and shelter. She also took dying elderly men and women – who had been thrown into the streets and whose bodies were covered with worms – into her shelter. Then she would remove the worms from their bodies, bathing them, lavishing them with loving care and, finally, allowing them to die with “true dignity.”

Her humanitarianism did not stop there, because she also cared for men and women who were dying of AIDS. Therefore, one can easily see why she was liked, if not loved, by many Americans and, in fact, people throughout the world. By her good works, “the corporal works of mercy,” she demonstrated that she was “pro-life.”

Why She is Disliked: Her Opposition to Abortion

Mother Teresa, one of the most compassionate human beings of the 20th century, was, strangely enough, attacked for her criticism of America, specifically, abortion. For example, in 1994, she wrote a letter (“Amicus Brief”) to the United States Supreme Court, both praising and criticizing America. She praised the United States, noting that

“Yours is the one great nation in all of history that was founded on the precept of equal rights and respect for all humankind, for the poorest and weakest of us as well as the richest and strongest….”

She also criticized America, particularly, the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, saying,

“Yet there has been one infinitely tragic and destructive departure from those American ideals in recent memory. It was this Court’s own decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) to exclude the unborn child from the human family. You ruled that a mother, in consultation with her doctor, has broad discretion, guaranteed against infringement by the United States Constitution, to choose to destroy her unborn child.”

Teresa, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, could have been “politically correct” and remained silent about her beliefs on abortion. She could have chosen to have been known, primarily, by historians and future generation as one of the most prominent humanitarians in the 20th century. But if the little nun from Albania did that, she would not been known for another outstanding trait, which was courage. For example, at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., she said to an audience, which included President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who did not agree with her views on abortion,

“I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”

Why She is Loved: Her Holy Life 

Mother Teresa, then, was not “politically correct.” Indeed, in body, she was a small and frail. But in spirit, she had tremendous strength. That was why she spoke from her deeply held moral convictions. Agree with her or not, like her or not, she is to be admired for speaking out against abortion. In doing so, she was willing to risk criticism for her “stand” on the issue rather than remain silent. That, quite simply, is called “moral courage.”

She was a powerful woman, perhaps more powerful than most men today. However, she used her power lovingly and justly in helping others. She made a positive or meaningful difference in the world; one which shall probably last for centuries to come. For those reasons, she was saintly, that is, a deeply holy person. Her life speaks for itself. It is a sermon to be read and emulated by all men and women of good-will.

Minute Meditation: What Do You Want to Do with Your Life?

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Life: A Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What do you want to do with your life?

Since we  humans do not live forever in this world, since time limits how long we have to live, “our time-limited selves” cannot handle the seemingly endless possibilities of what we might do with our lives. There is so much we could do but not enough time in which to do it. While we are thinking about what we could do or might do, time is ticking away, inexorably moving us to the end of our lives. So we must choose what we want to do with our lives, because we cannot do everything  conceivable.

There is another way of looking at the problem of a finite life with infinite possibilities, which is this: If human beings lived forever in time, in this world, they could put off doing many things indefinitely, because there would always be another day in which to do them. However, since we do not live forever in world, that is all the more reason to act with a sense of urgency, to discover what we want to do and then do it. In the words of Viktor Frankl, “Only under the urge and pressure of life’s transience does it make sense to use the passing time.”

Source: Viktor E. Frankl, Psychotherapy and Existentialism: Selected Papers on Logotherapy (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1967), p. 88.

A Prayer for People-Helpers (Nurses, Physicians, Priests, Ministers, Rabbis, Imams, Counselors, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Social Workers, Etc.)

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People-Helping Professions

Comfort us, Lord, in our suffering,
so that we may be a source of comfort to those who are suffering.
Strengthen us, Lord, in our weakness,
so that we may a source of strength to the weak.
Calm, Lord, our anxious thoughts,
so that we might be a calming presence to those who are anxious.
Heal, Lord, our emotional wounds,
so that we might be a source of healing for others.
Amen.

Everyone Has Faith

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We humans live by faith every day. There is no absolute, 100% certainty in living. It is impossible to live without faith. Living without faith is no more possible than living without air. Thus, we all believe, because we cannot prove everything that we think or say.

Acts of Faith

When we drive our vehicles to and from work, that is an act of faith, because we cannot prove, with absolute certainty, that we will make it to our respective destinations. That, however, does not stop most people from driving a car. When we board a plane, we do not have absolute proof that it will reach its destination. But that does not stop people from flying. In fact, 12 hours from now, we do not have 100% certainty that we will be alive. But that does not stop people from living.

Religious and Non-Religious Kinds of Faith

In an attempt to get around the proposition “Everyone has faith,” one of my students said, “Dr. Lent, I don’t believe in anything.” I said to him, “You do, indeed, believe, even if that means you ‘don’t believe in anything,’ for your statement itself is still a belief.” Similarly, the statements “I don’t believe in God” and “I believe in God” are statements of faith, for one can neither absolutely disprove nor prove God’s existence.

If a person does not believe in God, then that person usually believes in himself or herself or “humanity.” But those commitments are still acts of faith. Even if a person has religious faith, he or she cannot rationally prove every belief about God. To prove every belief is, in effect, to reduce faith to reason and, thus, not really have faith at all. Therefore, everyone has faith.