Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

"Our Lady of Louisiana" by Rick Delanty
“Our Lady of Louisiana” by Rick Delanty

“Christ has lived each one of our lives. He has faced all our fears, suffered all our griefs, overcome all our temptations, labored in all our labors, loved in all our loves, and died in all our deaths. Through Jesus, God knows our hidden selves, and still God delights to be one with us.”—Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic

“The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain, their tongues are parched with thirst. I, the LORD, will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open up rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the broad valleys; I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water.”Isaiah 41: 17-18

It was a cool, dry day with a breeze when I walked through the market that surrounds the Cathedral of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Everything related to Guadalupana was for sale. T-shirts, bumper stickers, ash trays, rosaries, plastic roses, 3-D posters with eyes that followed you as you passed by. I passed under an allee of riotous red, pink, and orange bougainvillea into the Cathedral plaza and finally into the church itself. Downstairs is the painting of the Virgin that appeared to Cuatitloatzin (Juan Diego), a Nahuat Indian in 1531.

To view the painting you must stand on a moving walkway that takes you past the painting. That day several viejitas were riding the walkway on their knees, then returning to the front and riding it again. My friend told me that I had to prepare my heart before passing before the painting. She translated the message engraved on the marble wall. Among other things, it said that one must not approach the Virgin of Guadalupe with a list of demands. On the contrary, one must approach her with an open heart and a clear mind so that one can hear and fully receive the message of the Holy Spirit.

“That light, does it rise from the earth or fall from the sky?” writes Eduardo Galeano in his reflections on Cuatitloatzin and the Virgin of Guadalupe. “Is it a lightning bug or a bright star. It doesn’t want to leave the slopes of Tepeyac and in the dead of night persists, shining on the stones and entangling itself in the branches. Hallucinating, inspired, the naked Indian Juan Diego sees it: The light of lights opens up for him, breaks into golden and ruby pieces, and in its glowing heart appears that most luminous of Mexican women, she who says to him in Nahuatl language: ‘I am the mother of God.’”

What healing of the feminine do you need in your life?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Ad…vent.

With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print..

Second Tuesday in Advent

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.—Isaiah 35:1-2

Isaiah is weaving a vision that indicts the military might of the kings of Tyre, Babylon, Egypt, Edom. In earlier chapters, Isaiah gives a sharp-tongued eulogy on the death of that clear-cutting king Nebuchadnezzar: “The pines themselves and the cedars of Lebanon exult over you. Since you have been laid low, they say, no man comes to fell us” (14:8).

What are these songs that the earth sings? What is the role of singing amongst those who are oppressed? In slavery and servitude the world over singing is a sign of lament and resistance. So if earth is singing for joy then these must be “resistance songs.”

As theologian Ched Myers says, “Empire has always been at war with nature.” “Resource wars” are nothing new. But when empires are brought low, as Isaiah predicts will occur when God’s word is fulfilled, then the very earth will sing its victory song over the oppressor.

Do you live an honorable life with regards to the earth? Will your Christmas gifts celebrate creation?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Ad…..vent.

With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print.

December 10 in Advent

“We are only syllables of the Perfect Word.”Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”Matthew 11:19

merton1Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk from the Abbey of Gethsemene in Kentucky, died on this day in 1968. In his life, he worked for peace and prayed and argued for an end to war. “Instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and women and love God above all,” he wrote in Seeds of Contemplation. “Instead of hating the people you think are warmakers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war.”

Merton was ostensibly electrocuted by a faulty wire on a fan in his room where he was attending an international meeting with Eastern and Western contemplatives in Bangkok. (For more on the mystery surrounding Merton’s death, read The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton: An Investigation by Hugh Turley and David Martin, 2018.) His body was shipped home on a military transport plane alongside the bodies of soldiers who died in Vietnam. Merton would have appreciated their common lot.

One man who knew Merton described him as a “merry monk,” like in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. He recalled Merton’s bright, inquisitive eyes, filled with humor…more like a “chip monk” one person told me. Though he was a cloistered contemplative, and at times tried to be a hermit, Merton kept up a lively letter writing exchange with atheists, artists, communists, bohemians, women, poets, Buddhists, and radicals. In Merton’s life, “wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Christmas Eve is less than two weeks away. Who will sit at your Christmas table?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Ad…..vent.

With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print..

Second Sunday in Advent

“The law of growth is rest. We must be content in winter to wait patiently through the bleak season in which we experience nothing of the sweetness of the Divine Presence, believing that these seasons when we feel most empty are most filled with a still small Christ-life growing within us.”Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”Romans 15:4

Youngest Child: What does the second candle mean?

Oldest Person: We light the first Advent candle to remind us of the promise of the prophets that a Messiah would come, bringing peace with justice and love to the world. We light the second candle to remind us, and God, that we are still waiting for the Messiah, patiently and actively like a farmer waiting for the sprouting seed.

“There is great virtue in practicing patience in small things,” writes the 20th century English mystic Caryll Houselander, “until the habit of Advent returns to us.” The disciplines of Advent are ones that teach us to do small things greatly, to do few things but do them well, to love in particular, rather than in general. This habit of small “successes” generates creativity, a sense of well being, a generosity of spirit rooted in satisfaction. It generates hope.

The Greek word for hope is elpis. In the Greek pantheon of spirits Elpis was the female personification of hope. When Pandora opened the jar given to her by Zeus, the spirits of disorder flew free into the world. Elpis remained in the jar, thus preventing humans from suicidal despair. Hope is depicted as a young woman carrying lilies in her arms.

Christians engaged in social transformation often get discouraged. We are acutely aware of the evils of the world. Sometimes we despair. Sometimes we allow our anger at injustice to be the source of energy in our lives. Sometimes we actually create despair and depression in our lives when we only fight losing battles. It is mandatory that we yoke ourselves to disciplines that generate hope.

Walking on the streets of a Las Vegas suburb, I met an 8-year-old boy out riding his bike. The bike was a clunker and the boy was wearing hand-me-downs. I asked him, “How’s it going?” “Great!” he replied. “I’m in my ninth week of having fun!” I laughed and laughed. Then I took out my date book to mark out my own nine weeks of fun.

Having fun is not the same as having hope, but they are related. Dipping in the deep refreshing pool of joy and contentment is one reminder that the world and everything in it—good and bad—belongs to God. It is our work to live in “day-tight compartments”—receiving our daily bread, doing good, offering hospitality, choosing compassion and forgiveness, serving the “least of these,” singing, praying, and, when night comes, giving our bodies and souls over to sleep.

What habits do you have that generate hope?

Ad……vent. A d v e n t (slowly breathe in on the “Ad” part and out on the “vent” part)…There! You prayed today. Keep it up!

With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print..

First Friday in Advent – December 8: ‘Women are desirous of serving in the Church as fully participating members’

On 8 December, 1854, Pope Pius IX announced that the Blessed Virgin Mary “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.”

I don’t know exactly what Pope Pius meant by this, but for me it means that Mary was whole and integral unto herself from the moment she was a twinkle in her parents’ eyes and that through this she reminds the Church that all women are capable of serving in all ministries in the church through the merits of Jesus and the example of his mother Mary.

When Pope John Paul II visited the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, in 1979, he was welcomed by LCWR president Sr. Theresa Kane (see video) in which she called the church to recognize women as “fully participating members.”

The most relevant part of her speech was:

“As I share this privileged moment with you, Your Holiness, I urge you to be mindful of the intense suffering and pain which is part of the life of many women in these United States. I call upon you to listen with compassion and to hear the call of women who comprise half of humankind.

As women we have heard the powerful messages of our Church addressing the dignity and reverence for all persons. As women we have pondered upon these words. Our contemplation leads us to state that the Church in its struggle to be faithful to its call for reverence and dignity for all persons must respond by providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries of our Church.

I urge you, Your Holiness, to be open to and respond to the voices coming from the women of this country who are desirous of serving in and through the Church as fully participating members.”

It is worth noting that Sr. Kane’s speech received thunderous applause. And “when she finished speaking,” newspapers report, “the gray-haired nun moved to the altar of the magnificent National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and knelt before the pope. He gently touched her head.” Such is the agonizing and beautiful paradox and mystery of Catholicism.

December 7: Advent and Pearl Harbor

“Ask not, doubt not. You have, My Heart, already chosen the joy of Advent. As a force against the great uncertainty, bravely tell yourself, ‘It is the Advent of the great God’” —Karl Rahner

“What is your opinion? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will the shepherd not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?“—Matthew 18: 12

200px-MitsuoFuchidaIn the United States yesterday, December 7, is remembered as “Pearl Harbor Day.” Early on a Sunday morning in 1941 the Japanese military attacked a U.S. naval base on Oahu, Hawaii, killing 2,403 Americans. There were about 100 Japanese killed. The Japanese squadron leader was Mitsuo Fuchida.

“We hate, and are hated in return, and then we hate more, and we have all seen where that can lead,” said Fuchida years later. But, he said, “We love, and we are likely to be loved in return, which begins the cycle of love.”

In the late 1940s, Fuchida heard some Japanese POWs returning from U.S. detainee camps, talking about an American teenager who visited them. She brought them soap, toothpaste, and asked what else she could do for them. The prisoners didn’t trust her. Finally they asked why she had been so kind to them, her enemies. She told them that her parents had been Christian missionaries in Japan and the Philippines.

They had been murdered, beheaded, by Japanese soldiers who thought they were spies. The girl’s life began to be consumed by hate for the Japanese, until she was able to reconnect with what her parents had taught: Love of enemies and forgiveness. She gave “aid and comfort” to the enemy to honor her parents and because she was a Christian.

Mitsuo Fuchida was deeply moved by this story. Eventually, Fuchida became a Christian out of a need to heal the hate in his own life. “I have participated in the cycle of hate for much of my life,” said Fuchida. “For the rest of my life I want to begin the cycle of love as often and in as many places as possible.”

Fuchida traveled extensively in the United States. Every time a Pearl Harbor survivor approached him Fuchida bowed slightly and said “Gomenasai” [I’m sorry], then reached out and took their hand.

To whom do you need to apologize before the Christ Child arrives?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Ad…..vent.

With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print..

Jeannine Hill Fletcher: ‘No Nuke is a Good Nuke’ A defense of Catholic nonviolence

Jeannine Hill Fletcher (photo credit: Fordham University)

Editor’s note: Seven Catholics entered the Trident nuclear submarine base in Kings Bay Georgia on April 4, 2017, to demonstrate their religious beliefs that nuclear weapons should be dismantled and abolished. The Kings Bay Plowshares co-defendants are in court this week bringing a Religious Freedom Restoration Act case against the military base.

The co-defendants called as an expert witness, Jeannine Hill Fletcher, a Fordham University theology professor, who reviewed Catholic social teachings from writings of Popes and the 2nd Vatican Council. After referring to Pacem in Terris and Gaudium et Spes which condemn the use of nuclear weapons, she pointed to Pope Francis’ statement in 2017 that “The threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.” Dr. Hill Fletcher’s press statement is below..–Rose Marie Berger

Press Statement Prepared by Jeannine Hill Fletcher

On April 4, 2017, The Kings Bay Plowshares undertook a sacramental action to sound the prophetic call that is at the heart of the Christian Gospel: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31; Matthew 22:36-40; Luke 10:27). They placed themselves in Christ’s greatest directive of love: “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13)

After years of prayer and discernment, listening deeply to the call of conscience and the prophetic call of the Gospel, these courageous Catholics set forth to make sacred what had been profaned. As Catholics, we take seriously the message of the Bible that the earth and all its creatures are God’s (Psalm 24:1). But the chain-link fence of the Kings Bay Trident Naval Base stands as a visible sign that some among humanity claim that they can determine the future and fate of the earth and all its creatures. In prophetic and sacramental witness, the Kings Bay Plowshares cut through the false security of the chain-link fence to make present for all who have eyes to see, the false security of nuclear weapons. For it is God alone who has the power to give life and to take it away; and it is at the heart of the Catholic faith that God alone is our security. The Kings Bay Plowshares were compelled by their faith to undertake a sacramental action that would consecrate what had been desecrated, by the sprinkling of blood and the prophetic reminder of the heart of the Gospel, spray-painting the prophetic message: Love Thy Neighbor.

For this prophetic action, the Kings Bay Plowshares are being prosecuted for breaking the law. But, Doctor of the Church, Saint Thomas Aquinas made a crucial distinction between a just and an unjust law, on the basis of its origin and its end. A just law has as its end human good and “the law does not exceed the power of the lawgiver” (Summa Theologica, Part II, Question 96, Article 4). An unjust law, does not have as its end human good, and has been created by someone in such a way “that goes beyond the power committed to him.” A just law, aligned with the natural law of God, makes a demand on our human conscience. An unjust law, requires of our conscience that it not be followed. In Aquinas’s words, “Laws may be unjust through being opposed to the Divine good: such are the laws of tyrants inducing to idolatry, or to anything else contrary to the Divine law: and laws of this kind must nowise be observed, because, as stated in Acts 5:29, ‘we ought to obey God rather than man.’” Catholic Social Teaching maintains this distinction between just and unjust laws, as well as the role of conscience in determining the righteousness of law. In the words of Pope John XXIII in Pacem et Terris (1963): “laws and decrees passed in contravention of the moral order, and hence of the divine will, can have no binding force in conscience, since “it is right to obey God rather than men’.”

In accordance with the teaching of Jesus found in the New Testament, the Catholic Christian tradition places one law above all others: you shall love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The maintenance of nuclear warheads is in direct violation of this law.

Catholic Social Teaching has named nuclear weapons such as those housed at Kings Bay Naval Base as “offenses against humanity and the common good” (Holy See, “Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition” (2014). The documents of Vatican II named the use of any weapons “aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population” as “a crime against God and [humanity]” that “merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.” (Gaudium et Spes, #80) In the words of Pope Francis “The threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned.” The principles of Catholic Social Teaching demand Catholics denounce unjust laws which compromise the dignity of each human person, destroy the common good, fail in our stewardship of the earth, global solidarity and the promotion of peace. Catholic Social Teaching has denounced nuclear weapons as contrary to the principles of the faith.

In his message on nuclear disarmament, Pope Francis lifted up the words of Pope John XXIII that the process of disarmament must be thoroughgoing and complete, and it must reach into our very souls. Standing in solidarity with humanity, the Kings Bay Plowshares attempted to reach the very souls of fellow Catholics and Christians that we must “wake up” to the threat to humanity and the affront to God that is our nuclear weapons arsenal through the sacramental action of sprinkling blood and inscribing the words “Love One Another.”

The defendants were motivated by deeply held religious beliefs and have acted in accordance with Catholic Social Teaching and the prophetic call of the Christian tradition.–Jeannine Hill Fletcher

Learn more here: https://www.kingsbayplowshares7.org/

In Chains for Christ and Creation (Philippians 1)

An Anglican priest and her parishioner are among more than 200 anti-pipeline activists arrested in Burnaby this year, but on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, they became the first found guilty of civil contempt of court in the ongoing Trans Mountain pipeline saga.

On May 25, Laurel Dykstra and Lini Hutchings chained themselves to a tree on the property of Trans Mountain’s Burnaby Mountain tank farm with bicycle U-locks around their necks. Dykstra said they did so as an act of prayer and to protest the pipeline company’s clearing of trees on the southwest corner of its property. Read more.

Top 5 Nonviolent Civil Resistance Documentary Films Available for Free

Five critically acclaimed documentary films on nonviolent civil resistance are now available for free. Originally available only on DVD or videocassette, and shown in hundreds of screenings in across 25 countries, the films can now be viewed freely, worldwide. And are available in English as well as translated into more than 20 languages.

The films are:
A Force More Powerful: The Emmy-nominated documentary exploring civil resistance campaigns in India, the United States, South Africa, Poland, Denmark, and Chile.

 

Bringing Down a Dictator:  The award-winning documentary chronicling the student-led Otpor! Movement that led to the ouster of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic.

 

Orange Revolution: 
The acclaimed documentary recounting 17 days of nonviolent civil resistance by the people of Ukraine against their chronically corrupt government.

 

Confronting the Truth: 
A documentary examining the dynamics and mechanics of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in the aftermath of conflicts in South Africa, Peru, East Timor, and Morocco.

 

Egypt: Revolution Interrupted?:
 A documentary recounting the 2011 Egyptian revolution, and its aftermath in the years that followed.

 

 

All of the films are available for free streaming on the “ICNC Films” page at the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict.

Video: Heading for Extinction and What to Do About It (Gail Bradbrook)

Gail Bradbrook, UK scientist and co-founder of Rising Up/Extinction Rebellion, gives a clear-eyed update on where we are in the process of climate collapse and what is required of people of good faith now.

This 57-minute video covers two main things: The ecological crisis – the latest science on what risks there are and our current trajectory which includes the possibility of abrupt (ie near-term dramatic climate change) and human extinction. And second, understanding our emotional response and about getting to an appropriate responses. Her goal is to tell the truth and ask us all to act accordingly and consistently with the information, including our understanding of what actually enables change to happen in the world.

Bradbrook concludes with organizing strategy for strategic nonviolent social disruption to apply pressure on governments and institutions for substantive change.

I wonder if this tactic meets the scale of the disaster? Gandhi strategist Pietro Ameglio in Mexico says we must build a “permanent firmness” or “grounded defense” in nonviolent obstructive or constructive actions that “are implemented in proportion with the level of violence and impunity we were up against.” This is what leads to the next phase in the history of social movements in nonviolent civil resistance: non-cooperation and civil disobedience. When there is such a high level of violence, impunity, and state complicity, if other scales of greater moral and material radicalization are not activated, the pressure of mass mobilizations and public dialogue with authorities are not sufficient, because they allow the government margins for dissembling.”

Bradbrook mentions Jem Bendell’s work on “Deep Adaptation.” Bendell writes: I hope the deep adaptation agenda of resilience, relinquishment and restoration can be a useful framework for community dialogue in the face of climate change. Resilience asks us “how do we keep what we really want to keep?” Relinquishment asks us “what do we need to let go of in order to not make matters worse?” Restoration asks us “what can we bring back to help us with the coming difficulties and tragedies?”

The key question I’m wrestling with now: What does Deep Adaptation/metanoia look like in our Discipleship communities?

Key Resources:

What Lies Beneath: The Understatement of Existential Climate Risk by DAVID SPRATT & IAN DUNLOP with foreword by HANS JOACHIM SCHELLNHUBER (adviser to Pope Francis on climate collapse) — updated August 2018

Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy by Jem Bendell (July 2018)