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Weekly Pause &  Ponder

In order to “opt” for the poor, one must be “non-poor.”  In other words, one must be in a privileged position to choose a stance of solidarity; after all, one cannot “opt” for what one already is.  In this sense, the option for the poor, as originally understood, is an opportunity for engaged compassion of the economically and socially privileged with the economically and socially marginalized.

For Earth’s Sake: Toward A Compassionate Ecology  by Stephen Bede Scharper, p. 156.


Water ...for profit?  

Recently, I found myself disturbed by a 46 second commercial by Nestlé. What prompted my unease was the skillful combination, might I say manipulation, of visuals and messaging.  The first image that greets us is the Nestlé Pure Life logo which stands out as it is centred on a white background. The scene shifts to a close-up of a blue-eyed girl that immediately transforms to a side view of the same young girl enjoying a drink of Nestlé bottled water. Simultaneously, we see the words and hear voiced, “THIS IS WHERE EVERYTHING STARTS”. Next our attention is captured by the young girl diving into a water-filled magical world.  The messaging continues, “THE FUTURE IS BUILT EVERY DAY”, “THERE ARE NO LIMITS”, followed by “EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE”. The last lines make the exaggerated claim, “A future of possibilities starts by drinking pure quality water now”.  The video ends as it begins centred on the company’s logo which becomes the featured product, Nestlé Pure Life surrounded with the parting message - “pure life begins now”. I was left feeling cheated as childhood images of innocence, trips to magical lands, skipping rocks and blowing bubbles aligned and had been co-opted by product messaging.

The disturbing pitch is the product of ‘bottled’ water…when we know what bottles are doing to the very same future they are selling us. Our commitment at the Sisters of St. Joseph to be a Blue Community and that access to free   potable water is a human right and the ever growing importance of protecting our water made this commercial - and "water for profit",  all the more disturbing.  I invite you to view the commercial here and offer your comments.

Here are some compelling articles and a deeper look at the "water industry":


For more information about the Sisters of St. Joseph's Blue Community please visit, https://bluecommunitiesnow.wixsite.com/water/blog/water-as-a-human-right

Take action to protect Ontario's water

When you no longer drink disposable bottled water you save money, live healthier, and join in the movement for global sustainability.  And yes, water is PURE LIFE what it doesn’t need is to come in a bottle, or with a label… - Sr. Nancy Wales, csj.


Weekly Pause &  Ponder

To pass the test before us, we humans must demonstrate the intelligence and moral maturity to liberate ourselves from the addictions of empire and to use our gifts wisely in the service of the whole.

Ancestral Grace: Meeting God in Our Human Story by Diarmuid O’Murchu.



The growing social media craze, the “Selfie”, piqued my interest. My search of “selfies” yielded a staggering 961,000,000 google entries. In fact,  I discovered that Oxford Dictionaries selected, “Selfie”, as its “2013 International Word of the Year” because the frequency of the word’s use had increased 17,000 percent over the previous 12 months.[i]


I presume, like most of us, we believe photographic self-portraits to have made their debut in our lifetime. My first experience of taking a picture of myself came in my earlier life after I acquired a camera with a delay timer during the 60’s. However, taking pictures of oneself was routinely employed in the early 1800’s as inventors used themselves as their most available model.

The first ever “Selfie” is attributed to Robert Cornelius. The Guardian newspaper notes:

The image in question was taken in 1839 by an amateur chemist and photography enthusiast from Philadelphia named Robert Cornelius. Setting up his camera at the back of the family store in Philadelphia, Cornelius took the image by removing the lens cap and then running into frame where he sat for a minute before covering up the lens again. On the back of the image he wrote, “The first light Picture ever taken 1839.”[ii]

For most of us, the selfie fad is harmless. However, negative results have occurred for a growing number of selfie enthusiasts whose pursuit of the dramatic shot have resulted in lethal consequences.[iii] For example, James Crowlett died after his selfie with a shark. How foolish is that? In the same vein, recent studies have examined the negative effects on mood and behavior of selfie-taking. [iv]

Meanwhile, my own curiosity about the phenomenon of “selfies” leaves me with deeper wonderings about the pluses and minuses of such emphasis on self...   - Sr. Nancy Wales, csj

[i] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/19/selfie-australian-slang-term-named-international-word-of-the-year

[ii]  https://publicdomainreview.org/.../robert-cornelius-self-portrait-the-first-ever-selfie-18...

[iii] https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/dangerous-selfies/

[iv] https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/.../research-looks-at-selfies-and-their-impact-on-...




Are We Our  Faces?

National Geographic Magazine is known for their stunning photography. Most often they wow us, opening vistas to fascinating, unfamiliar places and informative articles. Then there is the recent September issue, startling, yet disturbingly captivating. On the cover, clutching a pink bouquet held together by a pink ribbon is the photo of a young woman – without a face.  No, she is not faceless in the way we might describe a person who has no character. On the contrary, she has incredible character and courage which sustained her while she underwent the countless surgeries of a face transplant.  After endless surgeries to save her life and heal her face, blown off when she pulled the trigger to end her life, she endured endless surgeries which gave her a new face.

At first, I found it nearly impossible to look at the photo of the young woman with the mangled face.  After reading the first couple of paragraphs of her heart wrenching story, though, I kept glancing at that same photo and the many others taken prior to the transplant and those of her, with her ‘new’ face.  The more I read and pondered this tragic story, the more I admired Katie Stubblefield, her caring parents, her incredibly talented team of surgeons and the woman who had donated her face.  During a 16-hour operation the surgeons meticulously removed the face of the donor. Then, during a 15-hour surgery, they replaced Katie’s face with the donor’s face.

This “story of trauma, identity, resilience, devotion and amazing medical miracles”* prompted me to think about how many people desire a ‘new’ face and will spend enormous amounts not only of money but of time and energy to have a more ‘beautiful’ face.  The most common ways of achieving such beauty, though very painful and expensive, include plastic surgeries of varying kinds, face lifts, collagen or Botox injections and costly make up.  After losing her face Katie calls her reconstructed face Shrek. “I felt like other people would look at me and think I looked like a Cyclops or a freak,”*  she used to say. Her new face, in a way, is like a mask she donned so she would no longer look like a Cyclops. 

Not all of us change our physical faces but more common to us are the masks we wear, in the hope of appearing to be something other than we are. While reading Katie’s story I kept wondering whether we, who don invisible masks to hide our perceived blemishes, both the outer and inner, do so to make ourselves more acceptable to ourselves and others.  When we peer in the mirror, what do we see? Do we even see who we really are?  If man and woman are created in the image and likeness of God, what reason do we have to mask that image? (Genesis 1:27) When we scrutinize our own faces for wrinkles and flaws, we tend to not only fail to notice what a marvel our face is, but what a marvel hides behind that face.  So, what do we see the moment we look in a mirror?  Myself, you will undoubtedly respond. My self. “Our faces are the outer image we attach to our inner sense of self, who we are and where we fit in the world.”*

In some cultures, faces are veiled and hidden while others draw attention to faces with piercings or tattoos.  Are we our faces? Are we, or do we hide behind a mask, afraid to even really look at ourselves, to discover the true beauty within?  There is an old adage that beauty is only skin deep and has no relation to goodness or essential quality. It has been said that, our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. If that is so, why are so many of us hiding?  It can be challenging to live up to our full potential.  As Brazilian novelist, Paulo Coelho, points out, “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything.  Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” 

For most of us, “un-becoming” to become our most authentic self, will not entail Katie’s traumatic transformation but will be, uniquely transformative.

We all wear masks,

And the time comes

when we cannot remove them

without removing some of our own skin.

   - André Berthiaume


Guest Blogger, Sr. Magdalena Vogt, cps

*Quotes/excerpts taken from the September issue of National Geographic Magazine


Just yesterday, Canada’s first face transplant was performed in Montreal, as featured in the National Post.


Copyright 2013. Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.