Richard Rohr: Antidote To ‘The Dirty Rotten System’?

Police flank Dorothy Day, seated at a farm workers picket line in Lamont, California, in 1973.

“We are all complicit in and benefitting from what Dorothy Day called ‘the dirty rotten system.’ That’s not condemning anybody; it’s condemning everybody because we are all complicit and enjoying the fruits of domination and injustice. (Where were your shirts and underwear made?) Usually the only way to be really non-complicit in the system is to choose to live a very simple life. That’s the only way out of the system!

Thus most of the great wisdom teachers like Gandhi, Saints Francis and Clare, Simone Weil, Dorothy Day, Jesus and Buddha—lived voluntarily simple lives. That’s almost the only way to stop bending the knee before the system. This is a truly transfigured life in cultures which are always based on climbing, consumption, and competition (1 John 2:15-17).

Once we idealize social climbing, domination of others, status symbols, power, prestige and possessions, we are part of a never ending game that is almost impossible to escape. It has its own inner logic that is self-maintaining, self-perpetuating, and self-congratulating as well as elitist and exclusionary. It will never create a just or happy world, yet most Christians never call it into question. Jesus came to free us from this lie which will never make us happy anyway, because it’s never enough, and we never completely win.”–Richard Rohr, ofm

Adapted from Spiral of Violence by Richard Rohr

Jesus of the Billboard: Catholic Sisters Launch Midwest Campaign

Pro-immigrant billboard campaign in Iowa

As Iowa considers taking up anti-American laws targeting immigrants modeled after Arizona, Catholic sisters in throughout the Midwest are leading a public education campaign about what Jesus says about the situation.

“Rooted in the Gospel and the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare,” say the Franciscan sisters of Dubuque, “we publically proclaim that immigrants have God-given rights to be treated with respect and dignity, to work and to access services that satisfy their basic needs. Basic human rights, the right to life and to migrate in search of the means to sustain life, are conferred not by citizen ship but by person hood. We support comprehensive immigration reform that will respect these right.”

Read more below:

Iowa Billboards Show Sisters Support for Immigration Reform

Catholic Sisters Launch ‘Welcoming Communities’ For Immigration Reform

Ten Communities of Catholic Sisters Launch Immigration Campaign

Mural at Christ in the Desert Monastery

The mural above is found in the refectory at Christ in the Desert Benedictine monastery near Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Rubilev's Trinity

Based on Rubilev’s famous Trinity icon, it depicts the Sarah and Abraham welcoming the three angel guests at the Oak of Mamre.

“The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day”–Genesis 18:1

In the center of the Christ in the Desert mural is a large scale version of the Rubilev’s icon of the Trinity, represented by three angels, seated at table.

To the viewer’s right is Sarah and to the viewer’s left is Abraham. Behind Abraham is St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Juan Diego, Mary, and the Burning Bush.

Behind Sarah is St. Scholastica, St. Clare, Blessed Kateri Tekatwitha, St. John the Baptist, and an “Agnus Dei” representation.

California activist-theologian reflects on “Abraham under the ‘teaching oak’” saying:

The real plot of the Bible is about the liberation of both humanity and nature from our folly. God’s voice does not come through the centre of civil power but from an imperial defector in Moses, through a burning bush and from a dissident prophet Elijah in the wilderness. These ancient traditions portray a God who needs to be encountered through nature. The Bible also offers numerous peons to creation as a mirror of the creator’s glory. There is a lot of talk these days about our need to rediscover enchantment in nature. Let us take Abraham’s first encounter
with God which occurred under the oak tree of Moreh, an “oracle giver” which taps into an apparently universal tradition of the Tree of Life. Then God appears to Abraham as certain strangers under the oaks of Mamre; and later in Judges, the warrior Gideon is given courage by an angel under the oak at Ophrah.

At Christ in the Desert monastery the electricity and water-pumping at the monastery is solar-powered, as sunshine is plentiful throughout the year.

The mural art reflects a tradition now set in the context of the Chama Canyon wilderness in northwestern New Mexico, but the monks whose quiet cenobitic lives are shaped daily by the art also vitalize the mural through their own daily desert encounters with angels, trees, rivers, saints, bread, wine, work, and surprise.

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.