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by Fay Ocampo

by Fay Ocampo

Pope Francis today called for prayers for families and offered this beautiful one as an example:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
In you we contemplate
The splendor of true love,
We turn to you with confidence.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
Make our families, also,
Places of communion and cenacles of prayer,
Authentic schools of the Gospel,
And little domestic Churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth
May our families never more experience
Violence, isolation, and division:
May anyone who was wounded or scandalized
Rapidly experience consolation and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
May the upcoming Synod of Bishops
Re-awaken in all an awareness
Of the sacred character and inviolability of the family,
Its beauty in the project of God.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Hear and answer our prayer. Amen.

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Richard Rohr: Paradox Times Three

portraits-richard-rohrA few weeks ago, Franciscan Richard Rohr stopped by the Sojourners offices. It’s been several years since I’ve seen him and it was great to reconnect. He spent some quality time with our Sojourners’ pastor, Juba, a rescued pound pup with an incredibly joyous disposition.

Richard spoke with us about the nature of a contemplative life and laying down dualistic thinking, the binary mind. This is something that didn’t really make sense to me when I was younger, but now I’m beginning to glimpse a way into it.

Below is an excerpt adapted from Richard Rohr’s “Prophets Then, Prophets Now” (CD, MP3 download) and “Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer” (p 178).

A paradox is something that initially looks like a contradiction, but if you go deeper with it and hold it longer or at a different level, it isn’t necessarily so. Holding out for a reconciling third, a tertium quid, allows a very different perspective and gives a different pair of eyes beyond mere either/or. You’d think Christians would have been prepared for this. Notice that Jesus in many classic icons is usually holding up two fingers as if to say, “I hold this seeming contradiction together in my one body!” Jesus is the living paradox, which, frankly, confounds and disturbs most of us. Normally humans identify with only one side of any seeming contradiction (“dualistic thinking” being the norm among humans). For Jesus to be totally human would logically cancel out the possibility that he is also totally divine. And for us to be grungy human beings would cancel out that we are children of God. Only the mystical, or non-dual mind, can reconcile such a creative tension.

That’s why Jesus is our icon of transformation! That’s why we say we are saved “in him.” We have to put together what Jesus put together. The same reconciliation has to take place in my soul. I have to know that I am a son of earth and a son of heaven. You have to know that you are a daughter of God and a daughter of earth at the same time, and they don’t cancel one another out.

All of creation has a cruciform pattern of loss and renewal, death and resurrection, letting go and becoming more. It is a “coincidence of opposites” (St. Bonaventure), a collision of cross-purposes waiting for resolution–in us. We are all filled with contradictions needing to be reconciled. The price we pay for holding together these opposites is always some form of crucifixion. Jesus himself was crucified between a good thief and a bad thief, hanging between heaven and earth, holding on to both his humanity and his divinity, a male body with a feminine soul. Yet he rejected neither side of these forces, but suffered them all, and “reconciled all things in himself” (Ephesians 2:10).–Richard Rohr, OFM

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I wrote earlier about The Photo Not Taken as I sped through Moneygall, Ireland, birthplace of Barack Obama’s great-great-great grandfather a few days before the historic 2008 U.S. elections.

What do you know? Canon Stephen Neill, Anglican priest in the diocese of Limerick, Killaloe who blogs at Paddy Anglican, sent me the photo that I missed!

Sign outside Moneygall, Ireland. Thanks Stephen!

Sign outside Moneygall, Ireland. Thanks Stephen!

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theophanyToday I was researching the creation care teachings that will likely undergird Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on climate change. I found this epiphany reflection by Orthodox Father John Breck.

The deep wisdom in the Eastern church reminds us of the distinctives that Christians bring to our relationship with God’s creation. We do not recognize the earth as a god in herself. We do not believe that the earth is more holy or more perfect than humans. We do believe that both earth and human communities are “fallen” or “in the far country” (as Meiser Eckhart puts it). Our human call to fidelity with creation is so much more than that of caretaker or steward or even pastor or priest. We are family (creaturely together) striving to find our way home.–Rose

Here’s an excerpt from Breck’s reflection on theophany (when God becomes visible) and water:

“… There is another aspect of Theophany that also needs to be stressed, today perhaps more than ever before. This is a motif that appears very clearly in icons of the feast but goes unmentioned in the Gospels. Its earliest formulation seems to be that of St Ignatius of Antioch, who died as a martyr in Rome between 110 and 117 AD. In his letter to the Ephesians (ch. 18), Ignatius makes a statement notoriously difficult to translate: “Our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to the plan (oikonomian) of God from the seed of David [cf. Rom 1:3] and [by] the Holy Spirit; he was born and was baptized so that by the passion (tô pathei) he might purify the water.”

Without going into the difficulties presented by the language of this verse, we can note its basic theme. It is the same as depicted in icons and liturgical hymns of the Theophany feast. Christ descends into the waters of the Jordan not only to submit himself to the hands of John and to lay the foundation for the sacramental act of baptism. He also goes down into the Jordan in order to purify or sanctify those waters, and in so doing he symbolically (really, through this sign-act) sanctifies all of creation.

Theophany celebrates the baptismal renewal of God’s people, members of the Body of Christ. But it also provides the perspective we are to assume with regard to the entire created world. Stated otherwise, it provides the foundation for a genuinely Christian “ecology.”

Elizabeth Theokritoff has written a book entitled, Living in God’s Creation, with the subtitle “The Ecological Vision of Orthodox Christianity.” The author points out that our relation to the created world is less that of “steward” than it is of priest. We are called not only to preserve and care for the created order. Our vocation relative to the world we live in, both natural and human, is to make of it an offering to God, with the ongoing supplication that he bless, restore and make fruitful this planet over which he has granted us dominion. That dominion implies responsibility and respect toward all living things. But it means, too, that we recognize the “fallenness” of creation and its need for restoration, even redemption (Rom 8:18-23). …”–Father John Breck, Sanctify the Waters (Epiphany 2015)

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(30 minutes) President Obama delivers remarks from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, marking the 50th anniversary of the marches from Selma to Montgomery. Rumor has it that Obama wrote most of this speech himself. We glimpse the best of Obama and the best of the American story. (Read the transcript here.)

Who was Edmund Pettus? See here. Learn why this bridge in Selma is part of a long contest of wills in America.

The president quotes Langston Hughes, Emerson, and Walt Whitman, so I’ve included the sources for those quotes below:

“We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.” From the 1926 essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” by Langston Hughes

“Not gold but only men can make / A people great and strong;/ Men who for truth and honor’s sake / Stand fast and suffer long.” From the poem “A Nation’s Strength” by William Ralph Emerson (not Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” From Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” From Song of Myself by Walt Whitman

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monks3Lenten reflections from Benedictine Abbot Philip in New Mexico:

…[I]n Lent we can become focused almost exclusively on sin rather than on virtue. We are struggling to overcome our sinfulness and yet that does not mean to focus on sin. Rather it should mean to focus on living for God and that means to focus on virtue. It is also good to remember that the least offensive of the capital sins is lust, excessive sexual appetites. Often Christians tend to think of such sexual appetites and the worst of the sins. Instead, the worst of the capital sins is pride. From the least to the greatest of these sins, the order would be: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Lots of us have different orders in our own minds, but this would be the classical order. The corresponding virtues are chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, forgiveness, kindness and humility.

For us monks, humility is often pointed out to us by Saint Benedict in his Rule for Monks. Saint Benedict has a very long chapter on the degrees of humility. Many people today do not take the time to read that chapter well because some of the ways in which Saint Benedict expresses himself go against our modern sensibilities. For instance, Saint Benedict tells us that we must not only think of ourselves as worse than others but believe it in the depths of our hearts. For many people today, who already have low self-esteem, this can be a fatal recipe. It was C. S. Lewis who stated in one of his books that the problem today for many people is not pride but lack of self-esteem.This does not call us to abandon humility, however, but to understand it more profoundly so that we do not confuse humility with a lack of self-esteem. Instead of trying to reinvent humility, we must simply rediscover its reality so that we can live it more completely in our lives. [click to continue…]

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Video: Malcolm X’s Final Years

Much has been made of the life of Malcolm X, but what of the legacy he left behind? During this year of the 50th year anniversary of his death, The Global African host Bill Fletcher explores these issues with Dayvon Love, public policy director of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS) and Angel Elliott and Anton Woronczuk, producer and lead researcher of the new film X: Malcolm’s Final Years.

Jim Douglass, author of JFK and the Unspeakable, says,

“Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were both executed by what Dr. King described, at the height of the Vietnam War, as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.”[2] While our government waged a criminal war in Southeast Asia, in which the poor, largely people of color, of the United States fought the poor of Vietnam on behalf of a military-industrial complex, our two greatest prophets resisted that systemic, racist evil with their whole lives. Malcolm and Martin came to see the entire Cold War as a scam, in which a corporate, racist power dominated as much of the world as it could by lying about both itself and its ideological enemy. Our prophets of change, Malcolm and Martin, were then spied on and undermined by government agencies in ways that led, step by step, to their murders” [The Converging Martyrdom of Martin and Malcolm by James Douglass].

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supermancrossThanks to our kinfolk over at Radical Discipleship blog for running the amazing biblical commentary by Ched Myers on the Mark gospel readings this Lent.

Ched Myers writes:

The midpoint of Mark’s narrative poses two questions, aimed both at the disciples in, and the readers of, the story:

“Do you not yet understand?” (Mk 8:21).

“Who do you say that I am?” (8:29a).

The latter provokes what I call the “confessional crisis” (8:30-33), which this Sunday’s reading inexplicably jumps into the middle of (we get the whole text on the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Sept 13th). This is followed by Jesus’ second call to discipleship (8:34ff), deepening the journey begun in 1:16-20.

These difficult episodes together represent the fulcrum upon which the whole gospel balances. Mark’s thesis is most clearly revealed here: Discipleship is not about theological orthodoxy but about the Way of the cross. It would seem that our churches do “not yet understand” this!

We pick up the thread in the first of three “portents,” in which Jesus speaks of his impending arrest, trial and execution by the authorities (8:31; see 9:31 and 10:33f). This “reality check” has been provoked by Peter’s identification of Jesus as “Messiah” (8:29). To our chagrin, it is immediately silenced by Jesus (8:30), as if Peter were just another demon trying to “name” Jesus (see 1:25; 3:12)! Then, with the phrase “Jesus began to teach them that it was necessary that the Human One must suffer,” the story departs in a new and troubling direction (8:31).

By “necessity” Mark means that those who pursue Jubilary justice will inevitably clash with the Powers. Jesus is serving notice that he will not enter Jerusalem as a triumphant military leader, but instead be executed by the authorities. This subverts the expected “Messianic script,” replacing it with what we might call a “prophetic script.” At key points in the second half of the gospel Mark will appeal to this script: John followed it, so will Jesus (9:12f), and so must faithful disciples (13:9-13).

Read the full commentary here.

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NEWS: @SojoImmigration Webinar Tomorrow

postTomorrow, Sojourners is hosting a webinar on the current state of immigration reform. Sojourners’ immigration organizer Ivone Guillen has arranged the event. It will be moderated by the most awesome Lisa Sharon Harper and will include a variety of expert partners in the immigration field.

This is your chance to get caught up on the current state of play of immigration implementation and legislation — especially the ripple effect of potential Department of Homeland Security defunding. If you haven’t registered yet please use this link to sign-up: Click here to sign up for our FREE February webinar.

Date: February 25, 2015 Webinar
Time: 3:00 p.m. EST
Call In number:  (712) 775-7031
Meeting ID: 857-814-852

*Access to the visual portion of the webinar will be sent out on the morning of the event to those who sign up. *

Feel free to retweet @SojoImmigration as that will be the main handle at play for this event.

If you are looking for a quick refresher, please see recent blog articles for more in-depth explanations of relevant issues which will be discussed during the webinar:

DHS Funding: http://www.sojo.net/blogs/2015/02/10/homeland-security-funding-latest-gop-bargaining-chip-immigration-debate

26 State Lawsuit:  http://www.sojo.net/blogs/2015/02/19/ruling-26-state-immigration-lawsuit-3-things-you-need-know

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Philip Metres and the ‘Sand Opera’

612-i2IefLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_One gift that holds a place of honor in my office is a signed copy of the long poem “abu ghraib arias” by Phil Metres. The chapbook’s cover is made of Combat Paper, veterans’ uniforms pulped into paper. It is a precious candle lit against such an enormous darkness.

Phil sent a note recently about his newest collection, Sand Opera, and to highlight a conversation between him and poet Fady Joudah in the LA Review of Books. He said:

A month ago, the poet Fady Joudah and I carried on a dialogue over email. The occasion was the publication of Sand Opera, but along the way we discuss quite a bit — including love and politics, Elaine Scarry and the theology of torture, the Oliver Stone Syndrome and American Sniper, empire, the Iraqs I carry, 9/11, Standard Operating Procedures, black sites, docupoetics, trance states, recursion, poems about children, the vital vulnerability of the human body, the openness of ears, the sound of listening, the War Story and its exclusions, the Umbra poets and the Black Arts Movement, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, RAWI (the Radius of Arab American Writers), and the state of Arab American literature.

We hope that this can be the start of a new conversation about the state of poetry, American life, and the role of Arab-American literature in our ongoing cultural and political debate about U.S. foreign and domestic policy regarding the Arab world. We welcome further conversation. More to come.

See an excerpt of their conversation below:

PHILIP METRES is the author and translator of a number of books, including Sand Opera (Alice James 2015), I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky (forthcoming 2015), Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Poetic Texts of Lev Rubinstein (Ugly Duckling Presse 2014), A Concordance of Leaves (chapbook, Diode 2013), abu ghraib arias (chapbook, Flying Guillotine 2011), To See the Earth (Cleveland State 2008), and Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront (University of Iowa 2007). His work has appeared in Best American Poetry and has garnered two NEA fellowships, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, five Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Beatrice Hawley Award, two Arab American Book Awards, the Cleveland Arts Prize, the Anne Halley Prize, the PEN/Heim Translation grant, and the Creative Workforce Fellowship. He is professor of English at John Carroll University in Cleveland. Were it not for Ellis Island translation, his last name would be Abourjaili.

FADY JOUDAH: Sand Opera is ultimately a book about love, its loss and recapture, and the struggle in between. Many will completely misread it as another political book of poems, in that reductive, ready-made sense of “political” which is reserved for certain themes but mostly for certain ethnicities. So part of that misreading is due to the book’s subject matter or its Abu Ghraib arias, and also because it is written by an Arab American.

PHILIP METRES: I love the fact that you read Sand Opera as a book about love. The longer I worked on the book, the more I felt compelled to move past the dark forces that instigated its beginnings, forces that threatened to overwhelm it and me. Love, as much as I can understand it, thrives in an atmosphere of care for the self and other — the self of the other and the other of the self — through openness, listening, and dialogue. Because the book was born in the post-9/11 era, it necessarily confronts the dark side of oppression, silencing, and torture. Torture, as Elaine Scarry has explored so powerfully in The Body in Pain, is the diametrical opposite of love, the radical decreation of the other for political ends. The recent release of the so-called “Torture Report,” and the torrent of responses (both expressions of condemnation and defensive justifications) has felt like a traumatic repetition for me. Didn’t we deal with this during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the “Enhanced Interrogation” debate? Even now, the political conversation seems to skip over the fact that torture contravenes international law and is a profoundly immoral act, and moves so quickly to debate its merits — whether any good “intelligence” may have been gleaned from it. Why is that the writers who have gained the widest platforms were veterans of the war, some of whom participated directly in interrogation — for example, Eric Fair’s courageous mea culpa December 2014 Letter to the Editor in The New York Times — while Arab voices, like Iraqi writer Sinan Antoon’s, are so hard to find and so marginalized? …

Read the whole interview.

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