Refinery Healing Walks Around the San Francisco Bay

Indigenous activists from Idle No More San Francisco (SF) have been working with 350.org to stand up to Big Oil for years. These brave warriors live near 5 oil refineries in what is known as the “refinery corridor.” This corridor includes California’s largest refinery, owned by Chevron. A 2012 explosion put this refinery on the map, sending 15,000 people to the hospital with respiratory problems.

In response, Idle No More SF organized 16 “healing walks” over the last four years. These healing walks have brought to life a beautiful vision of different communities coming together to pray for clean air, clean water, and clean soil for all who live alongside these refineries. Many of the communities near the refineries are people of of color, poor people, and Indigenous Peoples. These communities experience high rates of respiratory problems, cancer and other health conditions due to the extreme air pollution the refineries create.

350.org has proudly partnered with Idle No More SF in organizing and supporting past healing walks. In the months ahead Idle No More SF will be joining with 350.org and other partner organizations to begin work to stop new tar sands fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Together, we are also organizing to make sure that CA Governor Brown’s 2018 Climate Summit lives up to its promises to communities in the refinery corridor.

Thank you for supporting Idle No More SF and 350.org’s ongoing work to shut down these refineries and keep fossil fuels in the ground in the name of public health and a safe climate for all.–350.org

Arundhati Roy: Fiction, Prayer, and the Ministry of Utmost Happiness

New Delhi: Social activist Arundhati Roy gestures during a news conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI Photo by Kamal Kishore.

“[Fiction] is a way of seeing. A way of thinking, it is a prayer, it is a song.”–Arundhati Roy, interview in The Hindu

“You know, Anjum, who was Aftab, or the book in general, is—you know, she’s not a signifier. This is not a sort of social history of the trans community. I mean, she’s a character, like many other characters in the book, very unique, very much herself. And when she’s born in the walled city and grows up, and then when she—she actually moves out of her home to a place close by called Khwabgah, which in Urdu means “the House of Dreams,” where she lives with a community of other people, none of whom is like herself. You know, even inside the Khwabgah, though there are many trans women, people who are—Anjum, for example, she’s a hermaphrodite, but there are others who are men, who are Muslim and don’t believe in having surgery, some who do. There are Hindus. There are Sunnis. There are Shias. So, they themselves are a very diverse community. But they look at the world and call it duniya, which means “the world” in Urdu, which is something else. But they have a history of being sort of inside and outside the community, which sort of predates the kind of Western, liberal, rights-based discourse, though, even in the story, as it modernizes, you know, there is that feudal story overlapping with the new, modern language and so on.

But actually, Anjum, though she does have this incendiary border of gender running through her—all the characters have a border, which is, for example, one of the—she moves into the graveyard, and she builds—eventually, she builds a guest house, called Jannat, which is the Paradise guest house. And one of the people who becomes a very close comrade of hers is a young man who was—who is a Dalit, who has watched Hindu mobs beat his father to death, as is happening every day now with Muslims and Dalits, because he was transporting a carcass of a dead cow, and so he’s beaten to death by people who call themselves cow protectors. And he converts to Islam, and so—and calls himself Saddam Hussein, because he’s very impressed by this video he sees of Saddam’s execution and the disdain he shows for his executioners. So Saddam has this border of caste and religious conversion—incendiary in India—running through him. The other major character is a woman called Tilottama from the south, and she is also a person of indeterminate origins as far as India is concerned. There’s Musa, who is now a Kashmiri, fighting, with the national border running through him.

So, it’s not conceptual. I mean, what happens is that India is a society of such minute divisions, such institutionalized hierarchies, where caste is a mesh that presses people down and holds them down in a grid. And so, all these stories somehow are about people who just don’t fit into that grid and who eventually create a little community, and a kind of solidarity emerges, which is a solidarity of the heart. You know, it’s not a solidarity of memorandi or academic discourse, but a solidarity which is human, which is based on unorthodox kinds of love—not even sexual love or anything, it’s just based on humanness.”–Arundhati Roy on her novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, from Democracy Now.

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..

Rose Berger’s Thanksgiving Table Prayer

(Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
(Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

We’ll have about 13 joining us today for Thanksgiving dinner. I hope you will join us in spirit by sharing our Thanksgiving Table Prayer wherever you are.

Thanksgiving Table Prayer
by Rose Marie Berger

Blessed art thou, Lord our God, Creator of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

Open our hearts to peace and healing between all people.
Open our hearts to provide for and protect all the children of the earth.
Open our hearts to respect for the earth and all the gifts of the earth.
Crowd our open hearts with gratitude as we celebrate this feast of Thanksgiving.

We pause now and, silently or aloud, offer our thanks for Your great generosity. [Allow for silent reflection or short spoken prayers.]

We thank you for the gifts of one another–especially for the gifts of love and affection that are freely shared among us and with the creatures of the earth.

We thank you for all who are present at this our feast as well as for all those who have labored in love to bring this dinner to our table.

May You, our God, bless this Thanksgiving feast and all of us who share it. May it nourish our bodies and strengthen our souls that we may serve the “least of these” in the days to come. Amen.

Abbot Phillip: Not Hermits, But Communal Creatures

Abbot Phillip
Abbot Phillip

Abbot Phillip writes a weekly notebook from Christ in the Desert monastery in New Mexico. Here’s an excerpt from his recent offering:

More and more I see that an authentic human life has to be centered in this relationship of each person with God. This personal relationship with God always expresses itself in relationships with other people. Even hermits are not so apart from the human condition that their relationship is with God alone. Instead, in our Christian tradition, we always expect hermits to be praying for the world, for the Church and for other people.

Most of us are not hermits. Instead, we live in communities. We live in families or we live in religious communities. And families and religious communities live in a larger society as well. We are all connected in various ways. Often we think that the deepest connections are of our choosing. On the other hand, it is God Himself who has chosen us and who has given us our being, our bodies, our families of origin and who even now is working within us in the depths of our being.

Jesus almost presume that ti be human is to live in community. In every society there are people, both women and men, who live apart by choice—but most of them are not hermits. They are people who for one reason or another don’t have a bond to another person or to family in which they live.

Does it make any difference? At most levels, not much. No matter whether we live with others or not, we are still called to love everyone and to seek the face of this God who loves us. For me, it is very easy to forget about God and to live just trying to avoid difficulties in my life and in the life of others.

Spending time with God often feels to me like wasting time doing nothing. That is my challenge. Others have other challenges. Even the most active and extroverted person needs to take time along with God now and then. When I do take time with God, it is a very positive experience. I don’t know why I avoid it so much. Don’t think that I avoid God completely. Even on a normal day, without focusing on spending time with God, I probably spend about four hours in community prayer and another hour in lectio or private prayer.

What do I mean by spending time with God? For me, that indicates putting aside the other things that I do, such as correspondence, arranging schedules, being touch with brothers and sisters all over the world, checking on the business affairs of the community.

When I spend time with God, I have to put all of that aside and ignore if anything else is going to happen. Often I go into a room where no one will look for me and sit with the readings for the Mass that day—not trying to accomplish anything with the readings, but just being with God and with His Word. Sometimes I just sit an pray the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. Sometimes I seek to be aware of God’s presence without words. Sometimes such times of being with God are really easy. Other times, it is like doing exercise that I do not like!

The challenge for me is simply to do this, whether I feel like it or not. For me, it is like a commitment to be with the Lord, whether I feel His presence or not, whether I feel a drawing to His presence or not. It goes along with my commitment to be present at the common life in my community.–Abbot Phillip, Christ in the Desert Benedictine monastery

Ready Abbot Philip’s full reflection.

Calling on Christ’s Redeeming Power

a-diary-of-private-prayer-640x470

“Let the redeeming power that has flowed from his sufferings through so many generations now flow into my soul.”–John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer

I’ve been going to bed early and getting up early. After the election of Mr. Trump to the presidency, I’ve been feeling spiritually tangy–meaning there’s an acidic taste of grave danger accompanied by the sweetness of stepping into the Way of Christ. I’ve felt a need for more sleep and more prayer.

Years ago an Australian friend recommended keeping at my bedside John Baillie’s classic devotional A Diary of Private Prayer. I love this little book.

The phrase from evening prayer on November 16 was the one above:

“Let the redeeming power that has flowed from his sufferings through so many generations now flow into my soul.”

I need that redeeming power. Maybe you do too.

A Litany for All Saints Day

Below is a litany that is especially suited to Ember Days in November, All Saints’ Day or Reformation Day, or Day of the Dead memorial at the end of October.

Liturgical Notes. This litany works best when read responsively. It can be divided in to multiple parts. Each part can begin with the leader saying, “We call to mind the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in faith…” and concluding the section with the “Grant us…” triplet.

This is not an exhaustive list. It’s made to be adapted. It contains some saints recognized by the church and many holy men and women of God who have served the cause of the gospel or the spirit of liberation through the ages. Not all of them are Christian, though all are Christ-like. We encourage each community to add the names of those known locally who have inspired us to live a Godly life in the service of others.

Many of the names listed here will not be familiar to the congregation. We invite you to use the month of November to tell the stories of those who are part of our Great Cloud of Witnesses (Hebrews 12:1), including remembering those who have died who personally have influenced us. This litany can also easily be set to a plain chant or other simple musical refrain. Find an easily printable version here.—Rose Marie Berger

All Saints Day: A Litany of the Great Cloud of Witnesses

by Rose Marie Berger

We call to mind the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in faith…

Our parents of earth and life, Adam and Eve…Pray for us.
Mothers Sarah and Hagar, and Father Abraham…Pray for us.
Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel…Pray for us.
Puah and Shiprah…Pray for us.
Miriam, Moses, and Aaron…Pray for us.
Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz…Pray for us.
Daughters of Jeptha…Pray for us.
Daughters of Lot…Pray for us.
Dinah and Tamar…Pray for us.
Bathsheba, Uriah, and David…Pray for us.
Women of Midian…Pray for us.
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and all Hebrew prophets…Pray for us.
Judith, Deborah, and Jael…Pray for us.

The Forerunner, John the Baptist…Pray for us.
Holy Mary, Mother of God…Pray for us.
Joseph, Elizabeth and Zachariah…Pray for us.
Mary of Magdala and Peter…Pray for us.
Andrew and James…Pray for us.
Mathew, Mark, and Luke…Pray for us.
John the Beloved Disciple…Pray for us.
Paul and Barnabas…Pray for us.
Anna, Dorcas, and Lydia…Pray for us.
Priscilla and Phoebe…Pray for us.
John the Revelator…Pray for us.
Stephen, the first martyr…Pray for us.
Perpetua and Felicity…Pray for us.

Amma Sarra, Amma Syncletica, Amma Theodora…Pray for us.
Abba Poemen, Abba Anthony, Abba Macarius…Pray for us.
Mary of Egypt and Elizabeth the Wonderworker…Pray for us.
Matrona of Perge and Theodora of Thessalonike…Pray for us.
Basil, Athanasius, Gregory, and John…Pray for us.
Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome…Pray for us.
Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Sienna, and Thérèse of Lisieux…Pray for us.
Isadore and Maria…Pray for us.
Benedict and Scholastica…Pray for us.
Cosmas and Damian…Pray for us.
Dominic and Diego, Clare and Francis…Pray for us.
John Calvin and John Knox…Pray for us.
Martin Luther and Menno Simons…Pray for us.
John and Charles Wesley and Sarah Gwynne…Pray for us.
All you holy men and women, saints of God…Pray for us.

Grant us your wisdom…Hear our prayer.
Grant us your patience…Hear our prayer.
Grant us your courage…Hear our prayer.

We call to mind the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in faith…

Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego…Pray for us.
Juana Inés de la Cruz and Bartolome de las Casas…Pray for us.
Hannah More and William Wilberforce…Pray for us.
Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Tubman…Pray for us.
Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, and Ignatius Sancho…Pray for us.
Sojourner Truth and Joseph Cinquez…Pray for us.
Angela Grimke and Sarah Grimke…Pray for us.
Antoinette Brown and Olympia Brown…Pray for us.
Peter Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky…Pray for us.
Mohandas Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar …Pray for us.
Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin…Pray for us.
Tagashi Nagai and the Martyrs of Nagasaki and Hiroshima…Pray for us.
Agnes Le Thi Thanh and the Martyrs of Vietnam…Pray for us.
Mother Jones and the Martyrs of the Coal Mines…Pray for us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, and Martin Neimoeller…Pray for us.
Maria Skobtsova and Ilya Fondaminsky…Pray for us.
Etty Hillesum, Franz Jaegerstaetter, and Victor Frankel…Pray for us.

Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer…Pray for us.
Abraham Joshua Heschel and Sylvia Straus…Pray for us.
Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King…Pray for us.
Caesar Chavez, Helen Fabela, and the Martyrs of the Fields…Pray for us.
Mahalia Jackson, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane…Pray for us.
Oscar Romero and the Martyrs of El Salvador…Pray for us.
Elizabeth O’Connor and Flannery O’Connor…Pray for us.
Evelyn Underhill, Caryll Houselander, and Henry Nouwen…Pray for us.
William Stringfellow and Anthony Townes…Pray for us.
Howard Thurman and Sue Bailey Thurman…Pray for us.
Denise Levertov and Jane Kenyon….Pray for us.
Penny Lernoux, Jean Sindab, and Ginny Earnest…Pray for us.
Rosemarie Freeney Harding and Vincent Gordon Harding…Pray for us.
Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Miriam Carey, and all
#BlackLivesMatter Martyrs … Pray for us.
Dale Aukerman, Philip Berrigan, and Ladon Sheats…Pray for us.
Tom Fox and the Martyrs of Iraq…Pray for us.
Verna Dozier and Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann…Pray for us.

[Invite the congregation to call aloud the names of the dead they want to remember.]

All you holy men and women, saints of God…Pray for us.
Grant us your wisdom…Hear our prayer.
Grant us your patience…Hear our prayer.
Grant us your courage…Hear our prayer.
Amen.

Rose Marie Berger, author of Who Killed Donte Manning?, is an associate editor at Sojourners magazine, a Catholic peace activist, and poet. She blogs at www.rosemarieberger.com.

A Prayer for World Climate Change Meetings

People form a human chain to show solidarity for climate change after the cancellation of a planned climate march ahead of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris
The Climate Caretakers Prayer

Creator God,

We thank you for an opportunity to come together as a global community to address such an important issue that is affecting so many people worldwide.

Please be with our leaders from around the globe. Give them wisdom as they seek a universal agreement on climate change. Give them minds and hearts that are open to the cries of those suffering the most from our harmful actions. Guide them to listen to the voices of all and come to a consensus on how to move forward in a manner that will benefit not the most powerful among us, but the most vulnerable.

Please grant us wisdom, as well, as we seek to be lights in our home communities. Keep us from fruitless arguments, and provide us with words of encouragement and edification as we seek to engage positively with those around us on the issue of climate change. Let our words and actions become one, stemming from our love for your creation and your people. Make us instruments for your peace.

Amen.

Abbot Philip: The Practice of Lectio Divina

"The Road to Christ in the Desert, I" by Bob Baker
“The Road to Christ in the Desert, I” by Bob Baker

It’s been a busy spring for me and postings here have been less regular, but you are constantly in my heart where ever you are!–Rose

Reflections from Christ in the Desert monastery’s Abbot Philip on the practice of Lectio Divina:

I have been reading the Gospel of Matthew for my lectio. Lectio is part of the monastic way of life. It is a slow and prayerful reading of the Scriptures. In our Benedictine tradition, this practice of the slow and prayerful reading of the Scriptures is fundamental. The purpose is to know the Scriptures profoundly and this can take place only over a long period of time. This type of knowledge of the Scriptures is focused on encounter with the Word and no on some form of academic knowledge. It requires a daily commitment on the part of the monk. At Christ in the Desert we have a small booklet that we call our Customary.

It sets down for the monks some of the things that we do and sometimes how to do them. Regarding Lectio, the Customary tells us that a monk must strive to spend at least a half hour each day in silent prayer and at least one hour each day in this practice of prayerful reading with a focus on Scripture.All of us who have been monks for a number of years know that it is easy to avoid praying and to avoid reading Scripture. It sounds so easy at first. Continue reading “Abbot Philip: The Practice of Lectio Divina”