May is the Month to Amplify Active Nonviolence in the U.S. Catholic Church

Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan

Catholics and others around the U.S. have an opportunity in May to write to their local Catholic bishop to encourage them to teach and preach on active gospel nonviolence. This is part of the global outreach offered by the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative to support the Catholic Church in re-centering Gospel nonviolence in Catholic life and faith.

Social concerns committees, diocesan social justice directors, youth groups, and individuals can host letter-writing events in May at churches, coffee hours, prayer groups, and other key gatherings.

Write the bishop of your diocese in May. (And you don’t have to be Catholic to join in. See bottom of post.)

Instruments of Reconciliation: A National Campaign to Amplify Active Nonviolence in the U.S. Catholic Church

See here for more details, sample letter, and to report your action.

Three suggested dates below in the month of May have been chosen in the United States to ask Catholics and other concerned Christians to share their hope for greater teaching and commitment to active nonviolence with their local bishop and invite him to affirm active nonviolence as the “nucleus of the Christian revolution” by:

1: Sharing and speaking about Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message broadly within their diocese, seminaries, and other ministries

2: Concretely committing to an initiative to scale-up practices of active nonviolence within his diocese.

As Pope Benedict wrote, “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behavior but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution.’”

We want to support our Bishops in their efforts, like Pope Francis, who pledged the assistance of the church in “every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence.”

Some dioceses – such as the Archdiocese of Chicago – are already experimenting with a commitment to a culture of nonviolence and practical steps to greater active nonviolence to address tensions and crime within the diocese. Pope Francis wrote them a letter of encouragement.

May 3 is the anniversary of The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response (1983), the Bishop’s pastoral letter.
May 8 is the birthday for Daniel Berrigan (b. 1921) and Sophie Scholl (b. 1921).
May 20 is the Feast of Austrian conscientious objector and martyr Franz Jagerstatter who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

See here for more details, sample letter, and to report your action.

Please share.

What if I’m not Catholic and I want to participate? Thank you! The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative welcomes support from all people of good conscience who want to see greater teaching from the Catholic Church on effective and active Gospel nonviolence.

You do not need to be Catholic to ask you local Catholic bishop for greater teaching on this. Search for your Catholic diocese’s web site to find the address of the local Catholic bishop.

Pope Francis’ American Chess Game

Pope Francis greets people after celebrating Mass at St. Anne's Parish within VaticanPope Francis has the heart of a Franciscan, the head of a Jesuit, and the body of a Little Brother of Jesus. American Catholics have been wondering when the Francis Effect would begin to impact the American chess board – specifically the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. That happened over the weekend.

In “the most shocking major move the American hierarchy has seen since the turn of the millennium,” Francis appointed the moderate to progressive archbishop of Spokane, Blase Cupich, to the third most powerful diocese in the U.S.: Chicago.

At the same time, Francis ecclesiastically exiled the infamous “I won’t serve communion to John Kerry” Cardinal Raymond Burke by not promoting him and giving him a commission in outer darkness (otherwise known as the ceremonial head of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta).

“[Pope Francis’]simple lifestyle coupled with his compassionate outreach to people is contrasted to his stern admonitions to priests and bishops chastising their sense of privilege and calling these shepherds to “smell like sheep”, indicating his desire for the hierarchy to engage closely with the people. His pastoral style appears contradictory because it is full of demonstrable compassion with almost militaristic acts of cleaning out the Vatican Bank and stabilizing the dysfunctional Curia, removing prelates who disagree with him. Of particular note is the news release of his actions on Cardinal Burke and the appointment of Abp. Blase Cupich to the Chicago See.” –from American Catholic Council newsletter (Sept. 22, 2014)

Read more about Cardinal Raymond Burke here.
Read more about Archbishop Blase Cupich here.

Lynne Hybels: Dangerous Women Creed

Lynne in blue dress in Congo.

Lynne Hybels, co-founder of the evangelical mega-church Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, has branched beyond Willow Creek to become a leading Christian voice for women around the world. While proofing her regular column for Sojourners, I found this prayer below.

How wonderful if we read this aloud in our churches! (And since some still cling to the notion that “man” should be interpreted universally, then I think we could do the same for “woman” and interpret it universally.)

Dangerous Women Creed
by Lynne Hybels

Dear God, please make us dangerous women.
May we be women who acknowledge our power to change, and grow,
and be radically alive for God.
May we be healers of wounds and righters of wrongs.
May we weep with those who weep and speak for those who cannot
speak for themselves.
May we cherish children, embrace the elderly, and empower the poor.
May we pray deeply and teach wisely.
May we be strong and gentle leaders.
May we sing songs of joy and talk down fear.
May we never hesitate to let passion push us, conviction compel us,
and righteous anger energize us.
May we strike fear into all that is unjust and evil in the world.
May we dismantle abusive systems and silence lies with truth.
May we shine like stars in a darkened generation.
May we overflow with goodness in the name of God and by the power of Jesus.
And in that name and by that power, may we change the world.
Dear God, please make us dangerous women. Amen.

Obama at Notre Dame: Read it Yourself

6a010535dbab09970c01156e53958a970c-320wi1I’m posting the full transcript of Barack Obama’s excellent speech yesterday at Notre Dame.

This is the level of adult discourse that I’ve come to expect from Obama. It’s rich, deep, wide, and deals with things that are true. This speech models a quality of discourse that seeks and makes for “a more perfect union.”

Transcript: Obama’s Notre Dame speech
May 17, 2009

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, congratulations, Class of 2009. (Applause.) Congratulations to all the parents, the cousins — (applause) — the aunts, the uncles — all the people who helped to bring you to the point that you are here today. Thank you so much to Father Jenkins for that extraordinary introduction, even though you said what I want to say much more elegantly. (Laughter.) You are doing an extraordinary job as president of this extraordinary institution. (Applause.) Your continued and courageous — and contagious — commitment to honest, thoughtful dialogue is an inspiration to us all. (Applause.)

Good afternoon. To Father Hesburgh, to Notre Dame trustees, to faculty, to family: I am honored to be here today. (Applause.) And I am grateful to all of you for allowing me to be a part of your graduation.

And I also want to thank you for the honorary degree that I received. I know it has not been without controversy. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but these honorary degrees are apparently pretty hard to come by. (Laughter.) So far I’m only 1 for 2 as President. (Laughter and applause.) Father Hesburgh is 150 for 150. (Laughter and applause.) I guess that’s better. (Laughter.) So, Father Ted, after the ceremony, maybe you can give me some pointers to boost my average.

I also want to congratulate the Class of 2009 for all your accomplishments. And since this is Notre Dame —

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Abortion is murder! Stop killing children!

AUDIENCE: Booo!

THE PRESIDENT: That’s all right. And since —

AUDIENCE: We are ND! We are ND!

AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

THE PRESIDENT: We’re fine, everybody. We’re following Brennan’s adage that we don’t do things easily. (Laughter.) We’re not going to shy away from things that are uncomfortable sometimes. (Applause.)

Continue reading “Obama at Notre Dame: Read it Yourself”

Linda Pastan’s ‘The Happiest Day’

I heard Linda Pastan read her poetry at the AWP conference last week in Chicago. She’s a favorite of mine. She was speaking on the panel called “Women of a Certain Age” with Janet Burroway, Alicia Ostriker, Hilda Raz, and Rosellen Brown. Here’s one of Pastan’s poems from her collection Heroes in Disguise.

The Happiest Day

awp-2009-015It was early May, I think
a moment of lilac or dogwood
when so many promises are made
it hardly matters if a few are broken.
My mother and father still hovered
in the background, part of the scenery
like the houses I had grown up in,
and if they would be torn down later
that was something I knew
but didn’t believe. Our children were asleep
or playing, the youngest as new
as the new smell of the lilacs,
and how could I have guessed
their roots were shallow
and would be easily transplanted.
I didn’t even guess that I was happy.
The small irritations that are like salt
on melon were what I dwelt on,
though in truth they simply
made the fruit taste sweeter.
So we sat on the porch
in the cool morning, sipping
hot coffee. Behind the news of the day–
strikes and small wars, a fire somewhere–
I could see the top of your dark head
and thought not of public conflagrations
but of how it would feel on my bare shoulder.
If someone could stop the camera then…
if someone could only stop the camera
and ask me: are you happy?
perhaps I would have noticed
how the morning shone in the reflected
color of lilac. Yes, I might have said
and offered a steaming cup of coffee.

–Linda Pastan

Revoking Blagojevich’s Poetic License?

I have to say that I admire Rod Blagojevich’s steadfastness as a patron of the arts. His deft use of poetry in all things political is a shining example of how a strong liberal arts education can serve one well in positions of responsibility and leadership.

blago-orig

Following his impeachment this week by the Illinois House of Representatives (114-1), Governor  Blagojevich concluded his near-messianic final press conference with another flash of poetic insight. (Last year he recited the opening lines of “If” by that manly Colonialist curmudgeon Rudyard Kipling, who also, by way of reminder wrote “The White Man’s Burden,” which Blagojevich did not even need to recite aloud.) Blagojevich ended his stint this week as Illinois governor with lines from Alfred Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” concluding:

And though we are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Comparing himself to the epic hero Ulysses is not out of character for the governor. (In fact, he had is own Greek chorus standing at his side.) And attempting to sell a senate seat, shaking down children’s hospitals, gagging a newspaper’s editorial board must indeed have felt like waging a war against the gods of fate. It makes sense that former Gov. Blagojevich concluded with the end of Tennyson’s poem. The beginning of it might have cut a little too close to home:

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an agèd wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I like Jon Stewart’s idea of a Senior Poetry Advisor. I think President Obama should appoint one. There’s definitely a poem out there for every political occasion and no one wants to make a poetical faux paux on their first–or last–day of political office.

Midnight at the Lincoln Memorial

The only word that comes to mind is “magical.” After watching the early election returns with friends and observing a hushed moment of unbelieving silence at 10 p.m. when ABC called the election for Barack Obama, I did what has been in the back of my mind to do since Obama got the nomination. I drove through town to the Lincoln Memorial, parked my car illegally, and walked through the quiet grove to the great wide marble steps of that monument.

There were three or four other people there and a few security guards. It was misting. The steps were wet and slick. The guards were chatting among themselves and listening on their walkie-talkies to their compatriots guarding the White House where the “real action” was. (Apparently, about 2000 people gathered in Lafayette Park.)

I walked up to the foot of that massive statue of Abraham Lincoln. The words of the Gettysburg Address are carved along the walls. In his speech Lincoln reminds those standing in that muddy Pennsylvania field where so many died that “we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

Dr. King preached from here to a crowd of 300,000 marching on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Marian Anderson sang from here when the the Daughters of the American Revolution denied her entrance to Constitution Hall on Easter Sunday 1939.

By 11:45 p.m. there were about 50 people beginning to gather together on the steps. There was a quiet peace broken by occasional fire works from across the city and celebratory horns honking on streets below. Barack Obama was slated to give his acceptance speech at midnight. Everyone was fiddling with Iphones and other gadgets tracking the news and trying to figure out how to get a radio signal. Finally, a guy from London pulled a real radio out of his coat pocket and set it down on the steps. As Obama made his way into Grant Park in Chicago, our radio savior pumped up the volume.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

I have to say that the small gathering broke into tears.

When Obama quoted Lincoln, there was a nod of recognition. “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And then in a rhetorical sweep that seemed to heal 40 years of painful history, he echoed Dr. King.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

The increasingly damp crowd shared a good laugh when Obama said:

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

As Obama’s victory speech came to an end, our tiny community clapped and hollered and whooped and did a little dance there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Strangers hugged each other, held each other, cried on each others shoulders. The Europeans in the crowd said how proud they were to be there and share this moment with America.

It was a magical moment.

I drove back through the streets of D.C. People were everywhere. Horns were honking in celebration. People were dancing on streetcorners and waving Obama signs. Dupont Circle was mobbed with revelers cheering and laughing. In front of the Ethiopian restaurant on 18th street, there was a crowd of men singing the “Ole Ole Ole” soccer song and waving signs. At the corner of 18th and Columbia, a guy was playing a guitar and dancing.

Before leaving the Lincoln Memorial, I walked to the steps where Dr. King preached on August 28, 1963, when I was two and a half months old. There’s a small engraving in the marble to mark the spot. One hundred years after Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, King said:

This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. … But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

At about 1 a.m. I parked the car in the alley behind my house. The city was still ariot with joy. I figured it was time to dry off and get a good night’s sleep. … but my face was hurting from all the smiling.

Welcome world, to America’s “invigorating autumn.”.