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First Monday in Advent

“Advent is a season of silence and rest with God. Take time to focus and examine your conscience. What is the shape of your emptiness? How are you still connected to God’s abiding beauty? This Advent, how will you fulfill the work of giving Christ life?”Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic

“When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.'” Matthew 8: 5-6

Advent is a time of ambiguity. It invites us to embrace conflicting images. Not to harmonize them into one, but to simply let our soul be tempered and strengthened by the fire this conflict creates.

In the story of the centurion asking Jesus to heal his servant, we have the warrior and the weak. Our imagination expects several things.

First, since Jesus has just healed a leper, one of the least of these, maybe he’s tired and doesn’t need to heal again.

Second, Jesus isn’t a collaborator with the Romans. Why would he even speak with a centurion—storm trooper of the state?

Third, we expect the mighty centurion to ask for something for himself or one of his family—not to act with compassion for a servant.

Finally, we don’t expect the Roman commander to become an occasion for Jesus to be amazed, saying, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.”

Today, pay attention to your response to ambiguity.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s Ad…..vent.

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


shoes“Two black shoes belonging to Pope Francis have joined thousands of other pairs at an installation in Paris on Sunday, as part of a global campaign ahead of the UN climate summit in the French capital next week.

The installation is one of more than 2,300 events taking place in countries around the world as part of the Global Climate March, on the eve of the Paris summit. It was arranged by the worldwide citizen’s network Avaaz, after police cancelled a planned demonstration citing security concerns.

In cities across the globe hundreds of thousands of people have already taken to the streets to urge their leaders to commit to 100% clean energy sources by the year 2050.” From Vatican Radio (29 Nov 2015)

Read more here.


Dorothy Day (Photo by Vivian Cherry)

This week (November 29) marked the 35th anniversary of Dorothy Day’s death. My life continues to be shaped by the path she forged with her life and that of the Catholic Worker movement. I’m sure she was shocked when Pope Francis spoke her name on the floor of the U.S. Congress during his visit!

I’m grateful to Robert Ellsberg for his release of Day’s selected letters. Below is an excerpt from a letter she wrote to WWII conscientious objector and sociologist Gordon Zahn. It seems as fresh today as when she wrote it in the autumn of 1968.

“As a convert, I never expected much from the bishops. In all history popes and bishops and father abbots seem to have been blind and power loving and greedy. I never expected leadership from them. It is the saints that keep appearing all through history who keep things going. What I do expect is the bread of life and down thru the ages there is that continuity. Living where we do there certainly is no intellectual acceptance of the Church, only blind faith. I mean among the poor.

The gospel is hard. Loving your enemies, and the worst are of our own household, is hard.”–Dorothy Day in letter to Gordon Zahn

All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg


First Sunday of Advent

“There is great virtue in practicing patience in small things until the habit of Advent returns to us.” Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic

“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.”—Romans 13:11

Gathered around the Advent wreath, the youngest child asks: Why do we light this candle? The elder answers: 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.

Advent is about knowing what time it is. Though we try to stay spiritually awake, we are human. We fall asleep. We are lulled into the addictive habits and patterns of the world. We begin to act and think and live like unbelievers—like those whose vision is not shaped by God.

There are basic question that every human will eventually ask. Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? These are the essential questions of the human spirit. They are the questions that launch the quest into the nature of our mystery. Advent is a time specifically set aside in the liturgical year to accompany those questions.

It will require us to walk in dark places, sometimes without even a flicker of light. We will listen to prophets railing about the end of time—exploding our known and familiar world, our moral and cognitive self-understanding—until we are blown back to our essential elements. Advent will reduce us to atoms, bits of stardust. “We are only syllables of the Perfect Word,” says Caryll Houselander. We will be uncreated. We will be made feminine, until our nothingness becomes a nest.

On the first Sunday of Advent we must get ready to get ready. The alarm clock is about to go off. We are about to be roughly roused. We will be shaken to the very depths, so that we may wake up to the truth of ourselves. For this, we must prepare. God invites us on a journey. We are only lacking one piece of information. We have no idea where we are going.

What do you need to do to prepare?

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..


header_1600s_point2_0038920__HRyan Herring over at The Ghetto Monk has a great post on responding to the refugee crisis in Europe. (See graphic above for our own Thanksgiving story of refugees arriving on these shores fleeing violent persecution.)

In this highly charged atmosphere of desperate refugees, mass murder in Paris, and demagoguery in the U.S. political discourse, it is even more important for people of peace and people of faith and people of hope to stay the course. Here’s an excerpt from Ryan’s piece:

Just days after a series of terrorist attacks in Paris, France left 129 people dead and over 350 others injured, Syrian refugees have once again become a topic for debate. It is believed that some of the terrorists gained access to Europe by using refugee status after a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the suicide bombers from the attacks. However, Serbian police recently arrested a man carrying a Syrian passport with the exact same details as the documents found on the bomber in Paris and officials are almost certain now that both were forged in Turkey.

While the media both here and abroad have used this information to stoke the flames of Islamophobia, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has urged political leaders to continue to take in those fleeing from conflict. At the G20 summit in Turkey Juncker said, “Those who organized these attacks and those that perpetrated them are exactly those that the refugees are fleeing and not the opposite.”–Ryan Herring

Read Ryan’s whole post here.


As we celebrate the final defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline, I’ll repost some of the spiritual power that led to this day.

[Originally published Feb. 4, 2014]

Rose speaking with media at anti-Keystone XL rally in front of White House on February 3, 2014. (Linda Swanson)

Rose speaking with media at anti-Keystone XL rally in front of White House on February 3, 2014. (Linda Swanson)

“As Christians we are required to place the poor at the center of our social and political life. The awful reality we face is that climate change kills and displaces poor Americans and the poor around the world FIRST.

What the recent State Department report has made more clear is that tar sands oil to be carried in the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada is a huge carbon polluter. The State Department did better incorporate climate impacts into this version, but they don’t acknowledge that the amount is significant, or that it takes our country down the wrong energy path.

Sojourners particularly works with evangelical Christians, who know that, as Psalm 24 says, The earth is the Lord’s, and we are to be careful stewards of God’s earth and the ‘least of these’ who would be harmed by this pipeline’s pollution.”–Rose Marie Berger


berger_NPC_Keystone_June 2013small

As we celebrate the final defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline, I’ll repost some of the spiritual power that led to this day.


[Originally published on June 20, 2013]

I shared the stage today with religious leaders, environmental leaders, and financier Tom Steyer at the “Stop Keystone” press conference to kickoff a social-media campaign aimed at President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

At the end Ron Stief actually poured out tarsands sludge collected in Mayflower, Ark. It stinks and it sticks!

Above, left to right, Andrew Nazdin (former Obama staffer), Judy Alba (National Nurses Union), myself at the podium, Tom Steyer (NextGeneration), and Van Jones (Rebuild the Dream and Green For All).

In the line up of speakers I was asked to follow Rev. Lennox Yearwood (HipHop Caucus), the hip hop high priest of Jesus and justice. Yikes. But I just said that his preaching had done a fine job of converting the stand from a podium to a pulpit. (smile). Below are my remarks:

stief_tarsands (2)

My name is Rose Marie Berger. I’ve spent more than 25 years with Sojourners here in Washington, D.C., a Christian organization whose mission is to proclaim the biblical call to social justice. I stand here today as a Catholic who works primarily with evangelicals. I stand here today as a woman of faith who believes in the wonder-working power of God.

Little did I know that the summers I spent traveling between Magnolia, Ark, and Denison, Texas, along Highway 82 would become a flashpoint in my adult life for fighting tar sands extraction and its distribution through the Keystone XL pipeline.

[click to continue…]


Rev. Mari Castallanos protesting Keystone XL pipeline.

As we celebrate the final defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline, I’ll repost some of the spiritual power that led to this day.


[Originally published on Jan. 18, 2012]

Press statement from Sojourners on Obama Administration Rejection of Keystone XL Pipeline

Christian and Other Faith Leaders Praise Administration’s Decision to Put Creation over Narrow Corporate Interests

Washington DC, January 18 – Christian and other faith leaders today welcomed the news that the Obama administration has rejected the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The controversial project, which would have run for 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, would have been a backward step in the administration’s professed commitment to investing in clean and renewable energy sources.

During August 2011, over 1,200 peaceful protestors were arrested as part of a sustained campaign to demonstrate against the pipeline project. In November 2011, Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis, along with other Sojourners staff members and 15,000 members of the public, encircled the White House to urge President Obama to stop the project.

Sojourners welcomed the president’s decision in November to postpone the permitting of the pipeline until an environmental impact report was completed. While this new decision is a clear step forward, TransCanada has the opportunity to reapply for the permit along a different route and leaders have pledged to remain vigilant and watch the issue closely.

Rose Marie Berger, a Sojourners associate editor and organizer for the Tar Sands religious witness, said:

“President Obama campaigned as a man who understood the crisis of global warming. He told us that he understood that climate change kills the poor first, as we’ve seen recently with the typhoon in the Philippines. Today he’s demonstrated that he can actually take substantive steps in leading America to meet that challenge. He pushed back on “too big to fail” oil and energy companies. He pushed back on foolish partisan bullying. He stood up as the leader that many elected him to be.

“The fight doesn’t end here – because abusive corporations don’t stop just because their permit was denied—but today we know that our president can also be our leader. We look forward to a future of job production that any American will be proud to be involved in—jobs in an industry that is producing clean energy and protects rather than poisons God’s good earth.”

Dr. James E. Hansen, Head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and Adjunct Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, said:

“A slowdown in exploitation of the tar sands would be welcome news, but we have not yet made governments understand and communicate to the public that we cannot burn the unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands and tar shale, without destroying the future well-being of young people and other species on the planet.

The climate science is crystal clear. Yet governments continue to resist the implications. We must collect a gradually rising fee on carbon emissions from fossil fuel companies and distribute the money, 100 percent, to the public. That will stimulate the economy, innovation, energy efficiency, and clean energies, creating far more jobs than the meager number associated with pipelines and coal mines, while moving us to a clean energy future.”

Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, speaking on behalf of the Franciscan Action Network, said:

“We applaud the administration for standing up to the narrow corporate big oil interests and doing the right thing for America. This is a moral victory that advances the cause of justice, respect for life, and the common good of God’s creation. As followers of St. Francis of Assisi, we call on all people of good will to work even harder in advocating for government policies that would protect our environment, the poor and the future generations and, at the same time, invest in creating hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs.”

Kathy McNeely, Interim Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, said:

“It’s a moral outage that the XL Pipeline decision – so important to the U.S.’s heartland as we know it — is caught up in a political battle. We will continue to work with other faith based groups and redouble our efforts to protect God’s creation from the threat of unsustainable resource extraction and pipeline spills.”

Joanna Hanes-Lahr, Activist and Grandmother, said:

“On behalf of my 7 1/2 grandchildren, I salute our President for his understanding of what is at stake in developing tar sands: unleashing unpredictable climate change/ game over. We who got arrested to call attention to the risk did understand but felt the power of the oil industry and just could not let this go unchallenged.”

# # #

Sojourners’ mission is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world. Visit www.sojo.netand www.GodsPolitics.com.


As we celebrate the final defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline, I’ll repost some of the spiritual power that led to this day.


[Originally published Feb. 8, 2014]

After the State Department released its newest report on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline last Friday, I joined one of the more than 270 protest demonstrations around the country on the following Monday.

In D.C. those of us trying to protect the U.S. from the dangers of the pipeline met in front of the White House to remind President Obama that dirty fuels are not in the American interest.

I was surprised to be approached by Eddie Becker for an interview. He’ makes what he calls “instant documentaries,” mostly for his own entertainment and education. He’s got a number of interesting short interviews on You Tube.

Religious Activist Protests XL Pipeline


Rose Berger: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

As we celebrate the final defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline, I’ll repost some of the spiritual power that led to this day.
[Originally published Oct. 9. 2013]

Keystone protest @ Environmental Resources Management headquarters, D.C.

Photo by Jay Mullin. Used with permission.

I had fun this summer with a great group of folks who came to be known as the ERM 54 (explanation below). After getting arrested, three court appearances, peeing in a cup, negotiating the D.C. community court system, and promising not to get arrested again before Valentine’s Day, I’m ready for the autumn to begin. But that’s not to say that the summer wasn’t fun!

Here’s an excerpt from my most recent column in Sojourners:

OFFICER MARIO normally worked for Homeland Security. On this Friday night he’d been seconded to the Washington, D.C. Metro police, who had their hands full. Not only did they have the usual “drunk and disorderlies,” but now 54 people who looked like card-carrying members of the AARP were filling up their holding cells. Officer Mario, of retirement age himself, was feeling fortunate. He’d been assigned to the women’s side.

“Ladies, ladies, ladies!” Mario said, sauntering in with a mischievous smile. “This must be my lucky night.”

The evening before, we’d all been at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church running role plays on how to “flash mob” the corporate headquarters of Environmental Resources Management (ERM), the firm hired by the U.S. State Department to provide an environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL pipeline. To the disbelief and concern of climate scientists, ERM claimed that TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline would not significantly contribute to climate change. ERM was suspected of “misleading disclosures” regarding conflict of interest and material gain from the pipeline’s completion.

Our white-haired mob of mostly grandparents converged on ERM headquarters at noon to shine a light on such shady dealings. While six silver foxes blocked the elevators by chaining their arms together inside a PVC pipe, I watched two D.C. police lift Steve, age 70, and toss him into the crowd behind me. I knew this nonviolent civil disobedience wasn’t going as planned.

For the next hour the police threatened us with felony charges, and we chanted complicated ditties on Big Oil, Mother Earth, and the merits of transparency in a democracy. Then they slipped plastic cuffs over our wrists and charged us with “unlawful entry.” …

Read the whole essay here (Sojourners, November 2013, “Unlawful Entry”).