Epiphany Season: ‘Courses Are Set’

Photo by Heidi Thompson (Dec. 2015, Ft. Ross, California)

From the poem “1983” (in Lo & Behold: Household and Threshold on California’s North Coast) by California poet Joanne Kyger

Crossing the Pacific by observing the clues in sea bird behavior,
……the signals of wind drift and current set,
…………and knowing the many hundreds of chants
………………in which star navigation courses are set.

Ken Lavarone: Inside the Canonization of Junipero Serra

Vincent Medina (left) and Andy Galvan, Ohlone at Old Mission Dolores.

Franciscan priest Ken Lavarone is the current pastor of my home church in Sacramento, California. He is also the official “vice postulator” for the canonization of  Spanish Franciscan priest Junipero Serra.

A “vice postulator” is the one that presents the case at the canonization Mass about the person’s life and what makes them worthy of sainthood. Fr. Ken has been intimately involved in the canonization process. One point of contention about Junipero Serra, who founded many of the California missions, has been the detrimental effect that the mission system has on many indigenous communities and the terrible legacies that some aspects of colonialism brought to the native people’s of the West.

So I noted with particular interest that two Ohlone men will be participating in the Mass and that the first scripture reading will be in Chocheyo, the Ohlone language. Both Ohlone men, Andy Gavan and Vincent Medina, are active in maintaining their native traditions and telling the story of Ohlone experiences at the Missions. Both are currently engaged in reclaiming the native experience at Old Mission Dolores (aka Mision San Francisco de Asis)  in San Francisco.

Below is an excerpt from Fr. Ken Lavarone’s note in the bulletin to St. Francis Parish in Sacramento describing his role in the canonization and in the liturgy, which will take place about a mile from my house in Washington, D.C., next week.

by Ken Lavarone, OFM

The Holy Father will arrive in Washington D.C. from Cuba on Tuesday afternoon, September 22. On Wednesday morning he will meet with President Obama and greet the people of the USA in front of the Capitol. There will be a motorcade following this audience. The liturgy [for the canonization of Fr. Junipero Serra] will take place that afternoon at 1:15 pm PST outdoors on the east portico of the Shrine of the Immaculate
Conception against the backdrop of the buildings of the Catholic University of America. At Pope Francis’ request, the entire liturgy will be in Spanish with simulcast translation into English. …

At the beginning of the liturgy, as Vice-Postulator for the Cause of the Canonization of Junipero Serra, I will be proclaiming the biography of Junipero Serra in Spanish. Following this will be prayers and litanies, and the relic of Fray Junipero will be presented in the reliquary that was designed and crafted by a neighbor on F Street [in Sacramento], MariRose Jelicich, with her collaborator, Fr. Ron Schmidt, of the Oakland Diocese.

Andy Galvan, an Ohlone Native American who has promoted the canonization of Fr. Serra for over 25 years, will make the presentation of the reliquary to the Holy Father. This will be a great honor and privilege for Andy. Following the canonization, the reliquary will be presented to the Diocese of Monterey to be situated in a place of honor near the burial site of St. Junipero Serra at Mission San Carlos de Carmelo in Carmel, CA.

During the liturgy, another Ohlone man, Vincent Medina, will proclaim the first reading in Chocheyo (the Ohlone language). This is almost a lost language, but is being revived by the young Ohlone people.
Continue reading “Ken Lavarone: Inside the Canonization of Junipero Serra”

Video: California’s Kumeyaay First Nations on “Life Under the Oaks”

California’s First Peoples were decimated with the arrival of the Spanish missionaries. As the story of Franciscan Spanish missionary Junipero Serra comes into the news, we must also lift up the whole peoples that he was complicit in destroying due to his limited understanding of the gospel at the time. As Christians, it is our responsibility not to condemn our ancestors for their unenlightened actions, but to take responsibility for what they did, ask forgiveness, and repair the harm. This includes making clear to the Vatican that the Papal Bulls of 1452 and 1493 (referred to as the Doctrine of Discovery) must be rescinded.

Read more from the Sisters of Loretto on the Doctrine of Discovery and their papal bull rescission committee.

Read Thomas Reese’s interview with Robert Senkewicz, professor of history at Santa Clara University and an expert on early California history. His most recent book is Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary, with Rose Marie Beebe.

Hocus Scotus: News from the Supremes

Supreme Court ruled that Section 4 of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. This is the formula used to determine which states and localities need preclearance before changing their voting laws.

Watch the video of Mrs. Hamer addressing the Democratic National Convention in 1964 on voting rights, before she was cut off by an “emergency press conference” from President Johnson’s White House aimed at getting her off national television.

By a 5-to-4 vote, the court invalidated the formula — adopted most recently in 2006 — used to determine which states had to get federal approval for changes in their voting laws. The law applied to sixteen jurisdictions (nine states plus parts of seven other states) and required any changes in voting laws or procedures in the covered jurisdictions to be approved in advance by the U.S. Justice Department or a federal court in Washington, D.C. A jurisdiction with a clean record for 10 years was permitted to be excused from the mandate. With this new ruling, citizens can bring their court case of voting irregularities only after the election is completed, rather than raising a flag about discriminatory laws in advance of an election.

Continue reading “Hocus Scotus: News from the Supremes”

Leslie Fields: Obama Honors Cesar Chavez

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

By Leslie Fields, Sierra Club

On October 8, on a gorgeous early autumn day in the oak-dappled foothills of California’s Tehachapi Mountains, President Obama formally designated the César E. Chávez National Monument. The designation is the fourth of Obama’s presidency, but the first-ever national monument dedicated to a Latino.

Below, the president with Helen Chávez at her late husband’s gravesite at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), or La Paz, in the town of Keene, California, site of the new national monument.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“César Chávez was a true labor and environmental champion whose work helped result in the passage of landmark laws that protect our air, water, land, and—most important—people,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. “His work helped link people’s health and the environment, and his fight for environmental justice is one that the Sierra Club remains committed to today.” …

Read the rest of  Monument to a National Treasure by Leslie Fields.

Joseph Ross: The Necessary Truth of Deserts

“The Necessary Truth of Deserts” is a lovely short essay by Joseph Ross about Palm Canyon and Andreas Canyon in Southern California, which the Agua Caliente Band of California’s Cahuilla Indians offer as a place for hiking.

Joe, author of the amazing collection of poems Meeting Bone Man, has a clarion-clear voice for human mystery.

Here’s an excerpt from his essay:

While in the desert, you can see and feel the distinction between necessities and extras. You see your place in the world, our wonderful human smallness. The perspective the desert offers is brutal but real. We are small. We control very little. We are only part of a larger, sometimes cruelly connected web of life. In these things, the desert teaches us lessons nearly impossible to learn elsewhere. The desert’s lessons are inescapable while you are in it.

Interestingly, in the early years of Christianity, when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion, many Christians, certain that official acceptance would dilute the radicality of their faith, fled to the deserts around the Mediterranean where they sought to maintain a more pure form of Christianity. Because the desert allows for few flourishes and extras, the Desert Tradition kept Christianity’s basics alive in its monks and nuns: silence, simplicity, prayer, hospitality, love of neighbor.

There is an inevitability in deserts as well. In Joshua Tree National Park, huge and curious rock formations, which I loved to climb and explore, shot out from the desert floor. These wild rock formations jutted up out of the sand at angles that amazed me as a young boy. You could see too that the desert’s sand, was just a broken version of these huge rock formations. This was not the fine and drifting sand of an ancient desert. These huge rocks were always and slowly becoming the desert’s sand. One could say every stone’s future is a desert. Everything breaks down, including us, into a sort of desert.

I remember also, as a boy, my parents’ book called The Living Desert. I loved the photographs and drawings of terrifying rattlesnakes, elaborate cactus blossoms, the odd plants like yucca and jumping cactus. Clearly this place called the desert is not an easy place to be, but it is a fascinating one. When we see life at its most basic levels, what we truly need becomes far more clear.–Joseph Ross

Read Joe’s lovely essay The Necessary Truth of Deserts.

Si Lo Hizo!: Remembering Richard Chavez

Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Richard Chavez. Keene, California (1980)

The United Farm Workers, one of the great American democracy movements, lost a brother, leader, friend this week. Richard Chavez, brother of Cesar Chavez, died at age 81 in Bakersfield, California.

If you know nothing else about him, remember that he designed the black Aztec eagle on a red field that became a symbol of Chicano and farm worker justice around the world.

In June 2011, Richard Chavez stood on the steps of the California state capitol to encourage those who were fasting for farm workers rights [Watch the video.]

He said: “It’s been almost 50 years ago that I came and marched on these steps for the very same thing that we are here for today. It was an Easter Sunday and Dolores and I marched. We marched to talk to then-Governor Brown–another Governor Brown, the father of this governor. Fasting is nothing new to our movement. We have been fasting for years and years. Continue reading “Si Lo Hizo!: Remembering Richard Chavez”

St. Francis in Sacramento, Calif., on Sept. 26 Event

St. Francis, Sacramento

I’ve been hearing from Catholics in various quarters about how they called attention to and honored the contributions of women in the Catholic church on Sept. 26. Here’s a note that Penny at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Sacramento, CA, sent to her friends and parish staff who attend the noon Mass:

Dear Friends,

I will not be at noon mass this Sunday, 09/26/10. I am abstaining from mass in solidarity with other Catholic women-the women of Ireland, who are stunned by the pervasiveness of the abuse in Ireland; the women who minister in other parishes throughout the world who are not valued and respected as we are at St Francis; the sisters who are investigated because of their implementation of the gospels and loyalty to Christ above rules; and, the women who hear the call to priesthood and are vilified by the hierarchy and equated with sexual abusers.

I have spent significant time in prayer to discern whether i would participate in this symbolic action. My decision to join in solidarity with these women has nothing to do with my respect and appreciation of  … the staff at St Francis. I love each of them for who they are and the gifts they so generously share with us. It is because of the many ways they acknowledge the wisdom and sincerity of the feminine that I feel a strong need to stand strong and straight (because its impossible for me to stand tall) with the oppressed women of the Catholic church.

I will be praying with and for all of you on Sunday. Please remember me in your prayers, also.

Thanks, Penny. I look forward to hearing more reports from the field.

Clarification of Thought: New Gay Marriage Ruling in California

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker (AP Photo)

This week, in the nation’s first federal trial on same-sex marriage, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that California’s Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection (Judge Strikes California’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage, Proposition 8).

Judge Walker’s ruling is very important for further study. I found his legal brief to be extremely cogent. Whether you are “for” or “against” gay marriage, it is worth the read to gain deeper understanding in what the state’s interest is in marriage – and how that interest has changed over time.

If you are involved in faith-based political organizing, I would also highly recommend reading the brief. There were more than 1700 religious organizations allied in support of Proposition 8 and the judge makes very clear that their arguments were insufficient when it came to the law. There is much in the case that’s instructive on what is the proper role of religion in society and what is not. It explores the narrow area where church meets state.

If you want to know why gay people want to get “married,” rather than just getting “domestic partnerships” or “civil unions,” the testimonies of the witnesses are very compelling.

If you think that “loving the sinner and hating sin” has no negative repercussions, then read the section on how religion is a leading indicator in hate crimes against gays and suicide by gays.

Below I’m including a series of excerpts that I found worthy of further study. As many continue to weigh, test, study, and form our consciences on this issue, reading this ruling will aid in what deeper clarification of thought. (You can read the original ruling here or scroll to the very bottom.) Let me know what you think.

Religious Beliefs and the State
“The state’s interest in an enactment must of course be secular in nature. The state does not have an interest in enforcing private moral or religious beliefs without an accompanying secular purpose.” – U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, on unconstitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 (4 August 2010)

State’s Interest in Marriage
“The court posed to proponent’s counsel the assumption that “the state’s interest in marriage is procreative” and inquired how permitting same-sex marriage impairs or adversely affects that interest. [Doc. 228 at 21.] Counsel replied that the inquiry was “not the legally relevant question,” [ID]but when pressed for an answer, counsel replied: “Your honor, my answer is: I don’t know. I don’t know.” [ID at 23.]

Continue reading “Clarification of Thought: New Gay Marriage Ruling in California”

True ‘Family Values’ Means Loving Your Gay Kids, Say Latino Catholics

Migdalia Santiago: "My daughter is lesbian. I learned this when she was 13. I am Catholic."

The Christian Right has maintained a strong anti-gay plank in their “family values” platform. However, many Christians believe that true “family values” are rooted in the family as a model of Christian community.

Christian families are kinship groups where the basics of Christian virtues and life are taught to the young and exemplified by the elders  — including sacrificial love, deep prayer and study, charity and justice  within and beyond the family, and a bottomless well of mercy and forgiveness.

Latinos are known for holding the family at the core of culture and values. The Public Religion Research Institute’s July 21, 2010, report on Religion and Same-Sex Marriage in California indicates how “family values” are defined among Latino Catholics and Protestants in California when it comes to gays,  gay marriage, and justice.

Here’s what the statistics show:

*57% of Latino Catholics would vote for the legalization of same-sex marriage compared to 22% of Latino Protestants

*Latino Catholics “say they trust the parents of gay and lesbian children more than their own clergy as a source of information about homosexuality.”

*According to the Pew Forum, an estimated 31% of California’s population is Catholic. And of that between 40-50% is Latino.

Joe Palacios, adjunct professor of sociology at Georgetown University, reflects on this trend in On Faith:

Family First: Latino Catholics orient their social lives around the family and extended family even in the context of high Latino single-parent households (estimated 33% of all U.S. Latino households; 36% of all Latino Children in California live in single-parent households). Family solidarity is strong and even though children may not follow “traditional family values” as projected by the church and the U.S. society, parents want to keep their children within the family. It is not surprising that Catholics in general and Latino Catholics in particular, as the Public Religion Research study shows, see that parents learn about gay issues from their children. Their moral and ethical judgments are primarily made through this social reality rather than abstract pronouncements from their church leaders.

Catholic Communal versus Protestant Individual Faith: Catholicism is a communal faith that highlights the life cycle process through the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist, confirmation, and marriage. Families experience their moral lives through communal participation in the sacraments, as well as the Latino community’s cultural observances of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Posadas, Dia de los Muertos, etc. Protestant Latinos, on the other hand, have a faith that is individually driven through faith conversion (“accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior”) that often separates a person from the Catholic sacramental life cycle process and the social fabric of the Catholic-based cultural celebrations. Fundamentalist Protestantism sees such Catholic cultural practices as contrary to a pure Christian faith. The study illustrates this communal-individual faith difference by noting that Latino Protestants (37%) lean toward a style of religious social engagement prioritizing “personal morality and faith” over a Catholic (59%) orientation that prioritizes “justice and action.”

Latino Catholic Tolerance versus Protestant Fundamentalist Judgment: Catholics allow complexity and ambiguity in moral decision-making since Catholicism is neither fundamentalist nor literalist regarding the Bible. Rather, Catholics can weigh factors such as the Bible, church teaching, and social reality affecting decision-making. Latino Catholics in the United States live in this social context that allows the free exercise of conscience rather than enforced scriptural fundamentalism or bishops’ and pastors’ exhortations in making decisions regarding homosexuality and gay rights– as is often exercised in Protestant fundamentalist and evangelical denominations and now by increasingly doctrinaire Catholic bishops. Further, as noted in the study, Catholic priests rarely mention homosexuality or gay issues in sermons except when forced to by the bishops as happened during the Prop 8 campaign.

Read Palacios’ whole column here. Read the whole Public Religion Research Institute report with more valuable data on religious views correlated to gay/lesbian issues. Including this:

A significant number of Californians who initially say they  support civil unions but not same-sex marriage say they would support same-sex marriage if the law addresses either of two basic concerns about religious marriages:

*With a religious liberty reassurance that the law would guarantee that no congregation would be forced to conduct same-sex marriages against its beliefs, support for same-sex marriage increases 12 points, from initial support of 42% to a solid majority at 54%.

*With a civil marriage reassurance that the law would only provide for ‘civil marriages like you get at city hall,’ support increases 19 points, from 42% to about 6-in-10 (61%).

Also read Why Would More Latino Catholics Be For Same-Sex Marriage Than Protestants? by Candace Chellew-Hodge

And for an excellent discussion on the Bible and gay marriage, see earlier post The Good Book and Gay Marriage.