Steven Charleston: ‘Fragile Bodies and Anxious Minds’

Steven Charleston, citizen of Choctaw Nation and retired Episcopal bishop.

“I have seen it before, the loving presence that is watching over you, and so I have no fear, for I know from the experience of so many others that you will be safe from harm. In this world of fragile bodies and anxious minds we may feel vulnerable or weak, but the strength that surrounds us knows no limits. What is made of clay will come and go, what we think is forever will soon be forgotten, all drifting away on the winds of change, but one constant thing will remain: the core of a human life, the soul and all it has seen and done, held like a precious jewel, held in the hand of God, brought to the place of quiet seas and still mountains, the place where peace finds its name.”–Steven Charleston

Catholic Sisters Raise Giant Cross on Top of the Pipeline on Palm Sunday

Photo Credit: Kevin Lynn

From our friends at Lancaster Against Pipelines:

“The Adorers of the Blood of Christ held a very memorable Palm Sunday service. One hundred people braved the mud and chilly temps to “Stand With the Sisters” as they prayed, raised a 12-ft cross, and dedicated a heart-shaped meditation labyrinth directly atop the Transco pipeline that was forced on their land against their will. Fittingly, the Order’s official symbol is comprised of a cross and heart.

Yesterday also marked the 93rd anniversary of the founding of the Adorers’ Columbia, Penn., community. Local Lancaster (Pa.)  media published a story on Saturday highlighting that history.

The Palm Sunday service at the Sisters’ outdoor chapel, followed by the dedication event in the pipeline right-of-way, was a powerful tribute to the deep religious convictions of this remarkable community of women, including their profound commitment to the sanctity of Creation.  See the LNP story here.

We continue to be inspired by the Adorers’ bold, public commitment todefend the Earth, curb fossil fuel use, and reduce climate change. The Sisters still await a ruling from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on their religious freedom lawsuit, which challenges the “right” of Williams to install a fracked gas pipeline on their own land in direct violation of their core religious convictions.”

Read more about the Adorers of the Blood of Christ’s battle to defend their land.

Hildegard of Bingen: ‘Our Dangerous State’

“The beloved of the love of God came through the fountain of life to nourish us back to life and to help us in our dangerous state. The Word is the deepest and sweetest love preparing us for repentance.”–St. Hildegard of Bingen (Vision 2:4)


(A 3-minute video on visiting the Hildegard sites in Bingen, Germany.)

Witness Outside White House Remembers My Lai Massacre 50 Years Later

Vigil on the 50th Anniversary of the My Lai Massacre. About 50 people remembered the horrors of 50 years ago in Vietnam. The vigil was organized by the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee. White House. Washington DC March 16, 2018 . © Rick Reinhard 2018 email [email protected]

Here is the poem I read in front of the U.S. White House on 16 March 2018 on the anniversary of the My Lai massacre during the war against Vietnam. (It’s also published in the April 2018 issue of Sojourners magazine.)

An Outline for a Service Acknowledging War Crimes
“Has the United States ever apologized? Or are we too big to apologize?”–Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, helicoptor pilot

The Chaplains Handbook has no prayer or rite,
Nor Book of Common Prayer nor missalette,
For scrutinies that beg forgiveness from

The mutilated dead. We come contrite
For reports of helicopter gunships.
The Chaplains Handbook has no prayer or rite

For bodies observed in a ditch; the undress
Of a girl who covered only her eyes–
A scrutiny that begs her forgiveness–

Noncombatant gang rape, with bayonette.
Old age we robbed from them, our years condemn.
The Chaplains Handbook has no prayer or rite.

We confess to you, brothers and sisters,
Our Agnus Dei mocked your mutilation,
Lacked sufficient scrutiny to beg you.

“Kill anything that moves,” bloodlust, U.S.
Five hundred and four in My Lai, Son My.
The Chaplains Handbook has no prayer or rite
For scrutinies of war crimes. We beg. Forgive.

Old age we robbed from them, our own years condemn.
We confess to you, brothers and sisters,
We will remember them.

Rose Marie Berger, written for the 50th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre (March 16, 2018)

Check out Rock, Paper, Scissors: Tools and Thinking from Christian Anarchists

Rock! Paper! Scissors! is a tri-annual, topic-focused, web-publication exploring the intersections of anarchist politics and Christian faith. Through following the way of Jesus in the shadow of empire, we seek to undermine systems of oppression and creatively explore possibilities for liberation from an anarchist or radical christian perspective.

Says Nekeisha Alayna Alexis: “After a simple creative process that involved suggesting all the ideas we could think of (Soapbox Sermons? Rad Rag? The UnBeliever?), Jesus Radicals co-organizers settled on Rock! Paper! Scissors! as the title of our new web journal. How the name of a decision-making hand game has become the heading for this project needs some explanation. What does this win-or-lose act of play have to do with a toolbox for anarchist + Christian thought? What does it say about our plans to shift from our current, past-its-prime blog format to a periodic collection of ideas, focused on particular topics and brought together by various editors?”

Their first issue, curated by Jesus Radicals organizer and Iconocast host Joanna Shenk, is titled The Movement Makes Us Human  (order Joanna’s awesome book, by the same name, of interviews with Movement elder Vincent Harding).  A call for content for this first issue is being developed and will be posted soon. If you think that you may be suited to curate and edit a future issue of Rock! Paper! Scissors!, please send your pitch for topics to [email protected]

Video: Thoughts & Prayers Makeup Line

For those of you not glued to Facebook, I wanted to post this short satirical video related to the mass murder at the high school in Parkland, Florida. To me, this video carries some of the incisive political commentary of an ancient psalm. Not the praise psalms, but the laments (see Psalm 137), which carry a corrosive bitterness and yet liberatory power.

Video blogger Sailor J. took make-up tutorial to a new level in this video “(Thoughts & Prayers) Makeup Look.

Baltimore Archbishop Wants Nonviolence to Enter the Consciousness of Whole Church

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori wants the principles of nonviolence honed in the American civil rights movement to shape the consciousness of the Catholic Church. To this end Lori released a pastoral letter in February on the  principles of nonviolence. The teaching document addresses the riots three years ago that shook Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray Jr., who died from injuries while in police custody.

The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence: A Pastoral Reflection” was released on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of the season of Lent, a time that focuses on repentance, courage in the face of suffering, and reconciliation.

[To send a comment of support to Archbishop Lori, click here.]

Lori’s pastoral letter includes Dr. King’s principles for nonviolence:

1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
6. Nonviolence believes that justice will ultimately triumph.

Additionally, Lori highlights Dr. King’s actions for social transformation:

1. Information Gathering
2. Education
3. Personal Commitment
4. Negotiations
5. Direct Action
6. Reconciliation

Lori encourages a serious examination for U.S. Catholics of Kingian nonviolence and ties this philosophy to the history of Catholic witness and presence in Baltimore as well as to “Safe Streets,” an current evidence-based, trauma-informed, anti-violence project carried out in partnership with Catholic Charities.

Lori says that he hopes to lift up Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s principles of nonviolence and help them find their way into the consciousness of the church – “the whole church, myself, my brother priests, the leadership of the archdiocese, those involved in ministries.” —Rose Marie Berger

[To send a comment of support to Archbishop Lori, click here.]

My Lai Massacre in Vietnam: 50 Years Later

I was five years old when the people of a set of small villages in the My Lai region of Vietnam were massacred by U.S. soldiers. I don’t remember hearing about it or understanding what it meant until much later. However, I do remember driving with my parents to San Francisco to pick up my cousin who was returning from Vietnam where he served as a medic. He was not the same cousin I remembered from before. He was traumatized.

I am of the era where my older cousins and my high school teachers were veterans of the U.S. war in Vietnam. It colored everything they thought, did, felt. It set them apart from other Americans. In subdued desperation, all around us, the fought for their sanity and to make sense of hell. An impossible task.

Fifty years later, our U.S. wars are removed, sanitized. We don’t do “body counts.” We’ve outlawed frontline reporting. We have drones to kill for us. But the frontline soldiers still come back traumatized — and the killing of the innocent and guilty enemy is no less hellish.

I’m grateful to Ken Sehested for inviting me to submit a poem-prayer to this collection of worship resources produced for the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee to remember and repent what our war looked like on March 16, 1968. I invite you to use them in your personal Lenten reflections and with your community and Veteran’s groups.–Rose Berger

>>Those of us who worked on the My Lai Massacre 50th Anniversary resources share a belief that truth is found in many faith traditions. A list of relevant quotes from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity is included. What we believe we all share in common is the longing and struggle for a world characterized by mercy, in turn mediating the demands of justice and the prerequisites of peace.

Those who planned the sample liturgy are Christians, and we write from our own experience; we do not presume the ability to leap from our context to construct a service incorporating the insights from other spiritual traditions. We recognize that honest interfaith engagement does not include abandoning our own confessional expressions, though it does mean holding such convictions with humility. Among other things, humility requires listening, the most penitential posture when approaching God, who always—always—calls to us from beyond borders and boundaries.

We trust that those who gather with us from other traditions, or of no particular religious affiliation, will participate as fully as vision and conscience allow. Even more, we hope that you may find some useful material in these resources (from which you are free to borrow and edit or adapt as seems appropriate) to develop a “Penitential Opportunity” service appropriate to your own tradition.

Included in addition to the liturgy are several supplemental resources: suggestions for additional music, litanies, and other readings; a meditation on the meaning of penitence, a theme integral to many religious traditions; a brief collection of historical facts to help in understanding the context of the My Lai massacre; a collection of quotes to guide deeper reflection and seasoned conviction; and a testimony from a volunteer in My Lai.

We recognize the pastoral challenge of getting local communities of faith to devote focused attention on an episode of brutality, 50 years past, in a place thousands of miles away, where few U.S. citizens have ventured to visit. This is particularly true in a culture in which communicating God’s promise, purpose, and provision is often confused with a desire to accentuate the positive.

The writing and compiling of these liturgical resources was done in anticipation of the Christian season of Lent, when penitence is a key theme, culminating in Easter’s hopeful promise of a redemptive future. This year the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is April 4, only three days after the church’s buoyant proclamation of death’s coming annulment. We seek prayers from every quarter to assist us in knowing how to seek the Beloved Community he proclaimed, and to live animated by Resurrection’s promise, in the face of the world’s seemingly endless confidence in what theologian Walter Wink called “the myth of redemptive violence.”<<–Ken Sehested, author and editor of prayerandpolitiks.org and coordinator of these worship resources

Ash Wednesday: Howard Thurman on Hatred

Jesus rejected hatred. It was not because he lacked the vitality or the strength. It was not because he lacked the incentive. Jesus rejected hatred because he saw that hatred meant death to the mind, death to the spirit, death to communion with his [Creator]. He affirmed life; hatred was the great denial. To him it was clear

Thou must not make division
Thy mind, heart, soul and strength must ever search
To find the way by which the road
To all [human]’s need of Thee must go.
This is the Highway of the Lord.

Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (p88)

Feb. 3: The Feast of St. Blaise

The-Arrest-And-Miracles-Of-Saint-BlaiseFeast days like today are one of the many reasons I LOVE being Catholic.

Allegretto Nuzi’s 14th century painting “The arrest and miracles of Saint Blaise” illustrates the story of the saint negotiating with the dog to release the poor woman’s only pig, while the storm troopers of Emperor Licinius come to arrest him.

Here’s some of the great story of St. Blaise:

Many Catholics might remember Saint Blaise’s feast day, February 3, because of the Blessing of the Throats that take place on this day. Two candles are blessed, held slightly open, and pressed against the throat as the blessing is said.

Very few facts are known about Saint Blaise. It is believed he was a bishop of Sebastea in Armenia who was martyred under the reign of Licinius in the early fourth century.

The legend of St. Blaise tells us that he was born into a rich and noble family who raised him as a Christian. He became a bishop. Later, a new persecution of Christians began. He received a message from God to go into the hills to escape persecution. Hunters discovered a cave surrounded by wild animals who were sick. Blaise walked among them unafraid, curing them of their illnesses. The hunters recognized Blaise as a Bishop, so they captured him to take him back for trial. On the way back, he talked a wolf into releasing a pig that belonged to a poor woman.

When Blaise was sentenced to be starved to death, the woman, in gratitude, sneaked into the prison with food and candles. Finally, the governor had Blaise killed.

Saint Blase is the patron of physicians, sick cattle, wax- chandlers, woolcombers, and of wild animals because of his care for them and of those with throat maladies. He is invoked against afflictions of the throat (Bentley, Roeder).

As one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, Saint Blase was much venerated throughout Central Europe. In art he is a bishop with a metal comb and a tall candle. He may be shown in many different ways: (1) with crozier (pastoral staff) and two candles (no comb); (2) martyred by being torn with iron combs; (3) in a cave with wild animals; (4) discovered by hunters, a fawn near him (not to be confused with the monk, Saint Giles); (5) blessing the birds in front of a cave; (6) rescuing a poor woman’s pig from a wolf; (6) saving the life of a boy who swallowed a fishbone; or (7) with the city of Dubrovnik in his hand or being carried over the city by angels .