“The reasons for moving made sense – closeness to family and new work, but my heart had not consented.”
(5 minute video)
I’m so grateful for the moments I’ve spent with Maria Teresa Gaston and her son, Martin (former Sojourners intern). And so proud that Maria Teresa participated in the Catholic Women Preach video series.–Rose
FIRST READING: 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12
PSALM: Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130
SECOND READING: Rom 8:28-30
GOSPEL: Mt 13:44-52
Maria Teresa is an organizational psychologist and ICA certified ToP facilitator specializing in facilitation of collaborative discernment and decision-making. She received a BA in theology from Marquette University, an MA in Hispanic/Latinx theology and ministry through Barry University, and an MA/PhD in industrial/organizational psychology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Maria Teresa served for many years in social ministry in Immokalee, Florida and at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. She and her spouse, John Witchger, have three sons Felipe, Martin, and Luke and two grandchildren, Micaela and Theo. Maria Teresa lives in Durham, North Carolina where she directs Foundations of Christian Leadership, a formation program for Christian social innovators through Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School.
E. Ethelbert Miller, D.C.’s poet-troubadour, worked with composer Richard J. Clark to produce this stunning rendition of Miller’s poem “I Am the Land,” a tribute to Salvadoran martyr and archbishop Oscar Romero.
I offer it here as a Christmas blessing to you all in these days.
Catholic African theologian (and former Sojourners intern) Nontando Hadebe gives a 6-minute sermon on the fourth Sunday of Advent at Catholic Women Preach. She examines the readings through the lens of the African proverb “If you will go fast, go alone. If you will go far, go with others.”
Todd Wynward, author of Rewilding the Way, speaks a Christian interpretation of what has happened in Standing Rock in the last weeks.
Using Isaiah 62:1-4, Todd interprets the good news that came with the government’s overturning of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and joins in the Lord’s delight of the people, energy, and all who have opposed the DAPL.
Lazarus and the Rich Man Hamlet, North Carolina (Luke 16:19-31)
That man dressed fine as Sunday every day
of the week. Owned Imperial Food Products
poultry processors. Had a plant right here
in town. Every morning, early, the workers
would line up at the front gates–mostly women,
mostly black folk, some with joints froze up from
working those machines, some with emphysema
from working the pantyhose factory
down the road, but all wanting their babies
to eat half as good as what sat on that
rich man’s table every evening ’round supper time.
Well, he got to worrying that some folks
might start stealing his chicken parts,
so he took to locking up the factory
doors once the morning shift was in place. The
time came when a hydraulic line blew on
one of the deep-fat fryers and black smoke
filled up the room, followed by grease fire. None of
the state-of-the-art, automatic, carbon
dioxide sprinklers ever came on. Most
folks died at the south end of the building
near the walk-in freezer. They had headed
for the exit, but it was locked. Then they
were drawn on by the gulps of cool air. Some
died down at the loading dock. Piled up on
each other trying to get through the small
hole between the wall and the truck blocking
the platform. There was Mary Alice Whit.
She was dead. There was Peggy Fairley. She
was dead. There was Lillian Mary Wall,
who’d only worked chicken a few months. She
was dead. And Margaret Banks. When
they brought her out, you could already
tell she was dead. All in all, there were 25
who died that day. The Hamlet police lieutenant
said you couldn’t tell whether the bodies
were white or black on account of the smoke; but the
angels, who pay no mind to color, came
and carried every single one of them
up into the arms of Abraham.
Now, all of this happened the day after
Labor Day. And even though Imperial
didn’t allow no organizing in its
plants, the North Carolina Textile Workers
Union still sent dresses (and suits for the
men) to use as burying clothes. At the
First Baptist Church the mourners cried out “Lord,
Lord,” maybe because in the confusion
they had missed the angels. They cried out “Slavery
time’s been over! How much longer is it
going on?” To which there was just no good
answer. What all happened to the rich man
was never much covered in the newspapers,
but the actual truth is
his story’s been told before.
—Rose Marie Berger
On September 3, 1991, a fire swept through the Imperial Food Products plant in Hamlet, North Carolina. Twenty-five workers were killed and 55 injured, trapped behind locked fire doors. In 11 years of operation, the plant had never received a safety inspection. Investigators believe a safety inspection might have prevented the disaster. Emmett J. Roe, the owner of Imperial Food; his son, Brad Roe, Imperial’s operations manager; and plant manager James N. Hair were indicted in March 1992 on 25 counts each of involuntary manslaughter. Emmett Roe had personally ordered the doors to be locked from the outside. He received a prison sentence of 19 years and 11 months, less than a year for each person he killed. Roe became eligible for parole in March 1994, and was released just under four years into his sentence.
(Lazarus and the Rich Man by Rose Marie Berger first appeared in Sojourners magazine, August-September 1992)
The Vietnamese community at St. Boniface in San Francisco celebrates Mary, Mother of God, with a 30-minute sequence of liturgical dance, music, and prayer.
The clip above is the 4-minute finale in which the littlest children provide a jazzy conclusion.
Pope Francis has a lot to say about “popular devotions,” like what we see in this video. Popular devotions are those para-liturgical acts of piety performed by those who some deem as “poor” or “less educated” or not the “dominant culture.”
Pope Francis writes: “I think of the steadfast faith for those mothers tending their sick children who, though perhaps barely familiar with the articles of the creed, cling to a rosary; or of all the hope poured into a candle lighted in a humble home with prayer for help from Mary, or in the gaze of tender love directed to Christ crucified.”
The Vietnamese community at St. Boniface reminds me that piety is embodied in joy.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! In 2008, just before the historic U.S. elections, I was in Ireland. The Irish were crazy for “Barack O’Bama,” including the craze that developed around this song by Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys. (To read more about that Irish drive through Obama’s ancestral home in County Offaly, go here.) So enjoy the original 2008 video of “There’s No One as Irish as Barack O’Bama.” There have been lots of variations since this one.
And here’s a little history on why everyone should be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day:
St. Patrick’s Day had occasionally been a forum for social protest prior to the famine, but strong emotions aroused by the effects of starvation and mass emigration, together with the crystallization of nationalist sentiment, engendered a situation where 17 March became a regular focus for claims about a separatist Irish identity. On St Patrick’s Day, 1846, two ships, the Thatis and the Borneo, harbored in Limerick, illegally hoisted the green flag of Ireland in ‘honor of the national festival.’ The flags were quickly removed on orders of the British war steamer, the Pinto, but not before ‘the feelings of the multittude’ watching and cheering the flag from the harbour wall, ‘were desperately excited.’ This demonstration, while illegal, was ultimately an unimportant affair but it did demonstrate how nationalist feelings could find a voice on 17 March.
During the 1850s, the expression of such sentiments become far more vocal, and, for the British authorities in Ireland, increasingly threatening. This related, largely, to the vexed issue of land ownership in Ireland. In the wake of the famine, the Tenant Right Movement emerged to champion the cause of the tenant and to campaign against high rents, insecure tenure of land and summary eviction. The movement held its key public meetings on St. Patrick’s Day: it was an occasion on which many people were granted a holiday by their employers in honor of the day’s religious significance, so were free to attend. On St Patrick’s Day in 1859 the Tenant Right Movement staged mass meetings in Donhill, County Tipperary and Castlecomber, County Kilkenny, which attracted crowds of some 30,000 and 20,000 people respectively.”– Mike Cronin and Daryl Adair (from The Wearing of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day)
“We don’t take ashes on because we want to be marked as holy. We want to remind one another that we are a community of sinners,” said Rose Berger, senior associate editor of Sojourners magazine. “We want to remind ourselves how to return to our true calling.”