Poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: Art v. Climate Tyranny

Twenty-six year old poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, from the Marshall Islands, addressed the Opening Ceremony of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit last year. She performed this video poem entitled “Dear Matafele Peinem,” written to her daughter. The poem received a standing ovation. Kathy is also a teacher, journalist and founder of the environmental NGO, Jo-jikum.

Art is the only thing that can stand in the way of tyranny.

Twelve Pacific Climate Warriors walked from Assisi to Rome last week and are praying in St. Peter’s Square. The Peoples’ Pilgrimage will then continue their walk to Paris in time for the UN climate talks.

Franciscans on Moral Discernment in an Election Season

In the middle of this crazy election season, I’ve appreciated the thoughtful leadership of the Franciscans in how to approach difficult decisions.

The Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Directorate is presenting short pieces to help introduce particularly Franciscan and Catholic approaches to the decision-making process. Here’s an excerpt from their first installment. I urge you to read the whole article:

In the election sphere today, there is often an attempt to link our Catholic faith squarely with one political party. Although most religious leaders assert that our faith is not adequately represented or served by the platform of any particular political group, some, overtly or tacitly, strain to demonstrate how one party is the only morally acceptable choice. Such effort is wasted. The world is a morally complex and ambiguous place, especially when it comes to political decisions.

Taking a wider view as Catholics inspired by the Franciscan path of following Jesus, how can we approach the elections? Is there a political party or candidate for whom it would be morally unacceptable to vote? Does our faith compel us to pull a particular lever in the ballot box? If not, is it all just relativism?

The problem is not the clarity of our moral foundations; these are clear. The challenge comes from the complexity of our globalized world, the pluralistic society that is our nation, and the limitations of our fallen, yet still blessed, human condition. While our faith tradition offers us principles by which to live in a complex world, they don’t translate into a litmus test for choosing between candidates. Rather, our faith invites us to engage in moral reasoning—weighing the pressing issues of our day in the light of our tradition. While this is a process that often yields no categorical answers, it does provide us a method of discernment to guide us through troubling ambiguity as we make our decisions.

Our Franciscan tradition offers us a framework of five interconnected parameters that can guide our discernment: care for creation, consistent ethic of life, preferential option for the poor, peacemaking and the common good. …

Read the rest of “Franciscans are not ‘party animals'” (Part 1).

Catholic Cardinal Discusses Competition in a ‘Climate-Constrained Environment’

Cardinal Peter Turkson
On October 27, Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, identified climate change as a critical challenge in the modern world in his welcome to world religious leaders at the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World held in Assisi, Italy.

The Assisi event celebrated and reiterated Pope John Paul II’s 1991 convening for world peace in St. Francis’ hometown.

“We come from different religious traditions and from various parts of the world to renew and strengthen a quest for the truth that each of us, out of our own tradition, is ceaselessly committed to. We come also to bear witness to the great power of religion for good, and to renew a common commitment to building peace, to reconciling those in conflict and to bringing man back into harmony with creation.

The twenty-five years of our joint effort for peace have richly displayed our sense of brotherhood and solidarity in the service of our world and the human family. But the years have also been fraught with challenges to the sense of man and history. We have entered a century in which ideologies would reduce the sense of human person, and distort the relationships with nature. The strong resource competition among peoples in a climate-constrained environment threatens to dissolve the fabric of human society and devastate the very order of creation which Francis of Assisi praised in his Canticle of the Sun. The beautiful song bespeaks an awakening to the universe to be seen not only as a collection of things to be worked and consumed but also as a “community of life” to be entered into profoundly, humbly and creatively.”–Roman Catholic Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

Read Cardinal Turkson’s complete presentation.

October 4: Francis of Assisi

October 4 is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, il poverello, the poor one, whose voice in the newly emerging mercantile class of the 13th century warned of the greed and corruption and destitution that would come when the world was run more on profit for the rich than it was on a prophetic commitment to the poor. And he was right.

But Francis was known for more than protests.

Francis loved animals, too. He was a walking apostle for ecology and the protection of woodlands, which, having been destroyed for parking lots and housing estates, leave animals who once lived in caves and forests to spill over into our largest cities. He talked to the animals. He understood them. He knew their place in creation.

No doubt about it. In a world where species after species is disappearing under the rubric of “progress,” where animals are being used for research on materials and cosmetics, where the boundaries between forests and cities are fast disappearing, where bears show up in shopping districts of major cities and crocodiles show up on people’s front lawns, we need St. Francis now.

It is also becoming clear that Francis knew what we are only now discovering.

Continue reading “October 4: Francis of Assisi”

Francis of Assisi: Obama’s Saint?

tablet-orig1The Franciscan Catholic religious order is celebrating its 800th birthday this year. I grew up around the fantastic women and men who are members of the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity and the Order of Friars Minor on the West Coast.

The spirits of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare have had a profound influence on my faith, ministry, and vision of and for the world.

Check out the current issue of The Tablet, a U.K.-based Catholic magazine, which has a great article by literary critic Philip Hoare examines the influence of Francis on arts and culture–not to mention, President Obama. Here’s an excerpt:

Francis’ message of poverty was a potent antidote to an age obsessed with material advancement at the cost of both human lives and earthly resources. This was nowhere more noticeable than in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland”, published a year after Ruskin’s visit to Assisi. It dwelt upon the fate of five German Franciscan nuns fleeing anti-Catholic laws and who drowned together as their ship sank in a storm off Harwich, the sisters holding hands as their leader called out, “O Christ, come quickly!” In his exquisite verse, Hopkins elided the nuns’ fate with their founder’s, “With the gnarls of the nails in thee, niche of the lance/his/ Lovescape crucified.” In Hopkins’ words, St Francis’ stigmatic body became a landscape of Christ’s love.

Throughout the twentieth century, Francis remained an inspiration to artists and dramatists. In 1922, Laurence Housman, brother of A.E. Housman and a socialist and pacifist, wrote a series of playlets based on the life of St Francis. In 1950, Roberto Rossellini directed the beautifully shot Francesco, giullare di Dio (Francis, God’s Jester). By the 1960s, Francis was recast as a radical, the Che Guevara of the faith. Franco Zeffirelli portrayed him in his 1972 film Brother Sun, Sister Moon, as a proto-hippie in soft focus – complete with a poster displaying the naked saint and a soundtrack by Donovan. In 1989, a tougher Francis was played by the New York-born Catholic Mickey Rourke, in Francesco, a film by Liliana Cavani based on a novel by Hermann Hesse.

Yet even as a new generation embraced Francis’ proto-ecological message, welcoming his recognition as patron saint of the environment, Francis’ words were being invoked to herald an era of materialism. When Margaret Thatcher entered Downing Street on 4 May 1979, she intoned the saint’s prayer: “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.” Recently, critics of Barack Obama’s tax plans have also quoted Francis at the president: “It is not lawful to take the things of others to give to the poor.” More optimistically, Francis’ embrace of change may be seen in the ambitions of the new leader – who, as a boy, attended the St Francis of Assisi school in Jakarta.

Read the whole article here.