Rose Marie Berger, 52
Washington D.C., Senior associate editor at Sojourners magazine
Marching in Washington D.C. with Sojourners, Swamp Revolt, and members of the U.S. faith community
What is your faith background and what role did it play in your decision to join the march?
I am a Roman Catholic lay woman. My faith has motivated me to stand in solidarity with those who have been targeted by President Trump and his administration. Pope Francis said that the “life of a Christian ought to be courageous.” He warned Christians not to be “parked Christians,” who have found the church lot and then just safely stay there waiting for the end. I’m trying to be a courageous Catholic.
What is it about Trump that concerns you the most?
My neighbors in Washington D.C. who are immigrants tell me they are very afraid. They are harassed in the grocery store, in the taxi, on the bus. Our churches are organizing in immigrant communities in anticipation of increased ICE raids and the repeal of the DACA/DAPA executive action. I’m very concerned about what will happen to police accountability, training, and oversight under a new director of the Department of Justice. And I don’t want my nieces and nephews to learn behavior from a president who insults, bullies, harasses, and is vindictive.
While Catholic women have honored Mary Magdalene as the “apostle to the apostles” for generations, Pope Francis elevated her in the Roman calendar of saints in early June.
Today, July 22, 2016, marks the first official “Feast day” of Saint Mary Magdalene in the Roman Catholic calendar.
Today, Catholic women are gathering in Krakow, Poland, at the house where John Paul II lived when he was cardinal to lift up the call for ordination of Catholic women to the priesthood.
According to the international Women’s Ordination Conference:
“Mary Magdalene’s official recognition as an apostle, chosen by Jesus, affirms women’s rightful capacity to act “in persona Christi,” and restores her, often maligned, legacy as someone instrumental to our faith and equal to her male counterparts.
Claims of male clerical superiority based on a physical resemblance to Jesus have never convinced nor served the wider Church.
WOW calls on the Church to rid itself of the sin of sexism and model unconditional equality by opening up all ministries to Catholic women who have the talent and vocation to serve their communities as St. Mary Magdalene did.
WOW also celebrates its 20th anniversary in July and will hold their annual gathering in Krakow ahead of Pope Francis’ visit for World Youth Day. During the past 20 years of campaigning, WOW has worked to challenge all remaining arguments against women’s ordination. The official recognition of Mary Magdalene’s role makes an exclusively male leadership model impossible to uphold and strengthens the case for gender justice.
We are calling on Pope Francis to recognize that a “discipleship of equals” and renewed church will only be possible when women are accepted as equals and are able to participate alongside men.”
I’m in Rome this week for the first Catholic conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace. Here’s a first installment about my adventures. (If you want to skip down to the bottom you’ll find links to the pope’s letter to the gathering and Cardinal Turkson’s address to the gathering.)
Arrived in Rome on Sunday morning and to the Church Village center about 1p. Last night a few of us went to St. Peter’s for Mass. It was overwhelming to be there and see the stunning artwork inside, listen to the choir, hear the Mass in Italian, and give thanks with the homily that the great strength of the church is love. (Now, we just need to live that out!) Marie Dennis (co-president of Pax Christi International) and I walked through the Jubilee Doors opened by Pope Francis for this year of focusing on Mercy. Apparently, walking through this door also conveys “indulgences” (which I don’t think the Church believes in anymore). So whatever indulgences I gained (is there an app tracker for that?) I immediately spent in a small act of ecclesial disobedience. In attending communion I held out my hands to receive the host from the priest (as is the custom in the U.S. and accepted worldwide practice I believe for at least 40 years). He refused to offer me the host in my hands. After some “exchange” (ahem) that caused the usher to come forward and indicate I should hurry up, I accepted the host on the tongue. This seemed preferable to having the host become the object of a tug-of-war, especially since I’m here for a conference on nonviolence. However, the entire exchange serves as parable for me. At the Catholics highest point of sacrifice and peace, we are still fighting over rules and power. I’m as guilty of that as he is. After receiving the host, I said “peace be with you” to the priest. May God bless his soul. And mine too.–Rose Marie Berger
Pope Francis’ letter to Conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace:
The basic premise is that the ultimate and most deeply worthy goal of human beings and of the human community is the abolition of war. In this vein, we recall that the only explicit condemnation issued by the Second Vatican Council was against war, although the Council recognized that, since war has not been eradicated from the human condition, “governments cannot be denied the right to legitimate defence once every means of peaceful settlement has been exhausted.”
Another cornerstone is to recognize that “conflict cannot be ignored or concealed. It has to be faced.” Of course, the purpose is not to remain trapped within a framework of conflict, thus losing our overall perspective and our sense of the profound unity of reality. Rather, we must accept and tackle conflict so as to resolve it and transform it into a link in that new process which “peacemakers” initiate.
Cardinal Turkson’s opening address to Conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace:
Peace in society cannot be understood as pacification or the mere absence of violence resulting from the domination of one part of society over others. Nor does true peace act as a pretext for justifying a social structure which silences or appeases the poor, so that the more affluent can placidly support their lifestyle while others have to make do as they can. Demands involving the distribution of wealth, concern for the poor and human rights cannot be suppressed under the guise of creating a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority. The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges. When these values are threatened, a prophetic voice must be raised. (§218)
The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, apologized to Catholics on behalf of priests during the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu City in January 2016.
“Brothers and sisters, our parishioners, forgive us, your lost shepherds, and beg God to show us his mercy … Before you come to us, your pastors and priests and bishops, to confess your sins and seek pardon, brothers and sisters, Catholic laity, please give us your pardon and forgiveness, too, for our sins against you. [And he went on to list]:
Forgive us for homily abuse, or the practice of delivering long, winding, repetitious, irrelevant, unprepared homilies during the Mass. Forgive us for our long homilies and rushed liturgies. All sin is pride. Forgive us for allowing the glitter of gold to dim the glow of the sacred host. Forgive us for getting stuck in dusty, dogmatic formulas, and snuffing out the spirit of renewal. Forgive us for using un-Christlike means to spread the Gospel of love and mercy. Forgive us for our stingy encouragement and hasty prejudices. Forgive us for allowing the Church to age and playing deaf to the joy of the youth and the children. Forgive us for the delivering hindrances instead of being helpful. Pride, it’s the root of all sins.”
“All across the world, plants and flowers, trees and flags, mementoes and framed photographs stand on quiet graves to mark that communion of life that one generation feels with another. Our souls stretch always forward, yes, but our hearts stretch always back. The chain of life never breaks, the shape of soul never strains beyond what formed us, what filled us with life in the first place.
We are bound to one another, each generation a link in the chain, each generation a standard for one to come. The people over whose graves we weep are not simply people we have known or who, though strangers, have had the decency to disappear from an earth already overcrowded. No, we cry tears of loss only for those whose lives touched our own and made them better. We cry both for parents and for politicians, for friends and for public figures, for anyone who has lived out “the communion of saints,” the Eucharist of humankind, the Christening of life and made it real in our own time, in our own neighborhoods, in our own world. We weep for those whose faith has formed our own.
When we visit the graves and say the memorial prayers and tell the family stories over the bodies of the dead, we tell of the Christ we saw in them. We remember how it looked in them. We know in them what it is like to be driven by the consuming power of God, to be totally oriented toward God. The communion of saints stands before us, stark witness to the holiness of God, reminding us always to leave behind us for those yet to come a searing memory of the same.”–Joan Chittister, OSB
An excerpt from In Search of Belief by Joan Chittister
Betty Thompson at Solidarity with Sisters sent this roundup about Catholic women and equality in the church sparked by this week at the Synod on the Family in Rome:
10/7/15 – Church-history expert Phyllis Zagano applies current and historical insight to Archbishop Durocher’s call for ordination of women deacons.
10/7/15 – Theologian Mary E. Hunt on “Synod system stacked against women,” with bonus brief canon law lesson.
44 women from around the world speak to the Synod on Family in a new book, Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Voices to the Table. Many perspectives, e.g., Italian historian Lucetta Scaraffia (an appointed non-voting auditor at the Synod) says the absence of women in Church decision-making is like “breathing with only one lung.” Order through publisher Paulist Press, Amazon, etc. NCR reviews book as “compelling, expansive, diverse.” One of the authors is Rhonda Miska, who led us in song at our 2014 Spiritual Leadership conference.
Visitation Sisters in Minneapolis open their doors to welcome neighbors into their contemplative way of life. Part of Global Sisters Report’s 6-part series on contemplative religious life.
Want an evening of spiritual refreshment with people nationwide? By phone or in person, be part of the monthly hour of communal contemplation on Mon., Oct. 12, 7:30pm, with the Women’s Alliance for Theology and Ethics (Silver Spring, MD). For me, it’s like that drink of fresh spring water that Sister Janet Mock described at the LCWR Assembly in August.
Theologian Mary E. Hunt, in Baltimore Sun Op-Ed on Pope Francis’ USA visit, sees “disconnect between the pope’s rhetoric about equality and the…virtually all male-led [institution]…. To be a decision-maker in Catholicism requires ordination.” Also calls for strong Papal action on sex abuse, and an end to the “gay charade” in the Church.
Reflecting on Pope Francis’ visit, St. Joseph Sister Christine Schenk asks “Why wasn’t a woman invited to preside at a papal prayer service? …Our common prayer needs to mirror the whole church, not just those gifted with a Y chromosome.”
Powerful Carmelite and Ignatian insight into “Christ Consciousness: Part 1” in video (57:22) with Carmelite Sister Constance Fitzgerald and Jesuit Father Brian McDermott, part of Baltimore Carmel’s day of recollection for its 225th anniversary.
Note from Rose: I’ve issued a challenge for Catholic women to purchase 5 copies of the book Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Gifts to the Table and give them to 5 pastors of Catholic parishes. (The first run of this book from Paulist Press sold out almost immediately. So you may have to pre-order it on Amazon.)
The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September (and all the other related gatherings that have been pushed to the periphery, such as the global Women’s Ordination Conference)and the Synod on the Family in Rome in October (participants in which 99.75 percent are men) present opportunities for a more diverse image of what it means to be a Catholic family (large C or small).
Megan McKenna, Catholic spiritual writer and peace and justice advocate, has a great reflection based on John 21 (the “breakfast with Jesus” scene on the banks of the Galilee) on how important it is for the global Catholic family to come first to the table of Christ–as sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, children and parents, partners and singles–in a spirit of kinship and communion before launching into any conversations about “the definition of family,” who is in and who is out in marriage, and the education and raising of children. Jesus was notoriously non-conformist in who he identified as “family.”
Read an excerpt here:
This is how Eucharist is to be celebrated—drawing everyone back into intimacy, all forgiven with a shared meal, awkward though it might be among them. Jesus’ words—Children, come and have your breakfast—welcome back into my company—welcome home to my heart. We are one; we are in communion because of My love, My life, death and resurrection. Come and eat. …
This is how the Synod on the Family should begin—with a proclamation of the Good News to the Poor—with God’s simple invitation repeated again to everyone—come and eat; break bread with me; let me feed you. The opening prayer should be a greeting of welcome—a place to stand after Resurrection, as Jesus’ stands with all of us, no matter how we have behaved. Did the disciples deserve Eucharist and being drawn back into intimacy with Jesus?
…What if we admitted that we need a theology of marriage based on the mystery of the Trinity, where the third party is God, marrying the two persons. [even now the sacrament can be celebrated without a priest—the couple marrying one another in the presence of God, and having it witnessed later by a representative of the Church]. What if this sacrament—of two married in the presence of and with the Trinity speaks of communion and universal family and incorporation as one for all people, revealing the mystery of our God as community? …–Megan McKenna (Read more here.)
Download the whole article and read more about Megan McKenna here.
Catholic peace prophet Jerry Berrigan died last week at home in Syracuse, NY. His brother Dan Berrigan is now the last of the six Berrigan brothers that called America to account for its soul. Among them they raised generations peace prophets. Below are excerpts from Jerry’s obituary and a recent profile of him. Thank God for the Berrigans — and all their relations!
Jerry Berrigan, a Catholic peace activist who, like his better known brothers Philip and Daniel, was arrested frequently for protesting the Vietnam War and other conflicts, died on July 26, at his home in Syracuse. He was 95.
His death was confirmed by his daughter Carla Berrigan Pittarelli.
Mr. Berrigan was a quieter counterpart to his brothers, the former Josephite priest Philip and the Jesuit priest and author Daniel. The two of them became international antiwar figures after they participated in the burning of Selective Service draft records in Catonsville, Md., on May 17, 1968. The trial of the Catonsville Nine, as they were known, helped galvanize protesters across the country.
Though he was not among the Catonsville Nine, Mr. Berrigan joined his brothers in other protests, against nuclear proliferation, both wars in Iraq and other causes. He, Daniel and 58 others were arrested in 1973 for disrupting a White House tour by kneeling in prayer on the last day of United States bombing in Cambodia, and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for pouring blood on the floor of the Pentagon in 1979. …
And from the profile:
Jerry Berrigan can offer plenty of first-hand stories about giants.
Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the legendary Catholic Worker movement, was a friend. Day believed in “a revolution of the heart,” in the idea of hospitality and community for those who have the least.
When Day visited Jerry and his wife Carol in Syracuse, she spent a night at their home in the Valley.
Just over 50 years ago, Jerry traveled to Selma for the great march for voting rights, part of a contingent led by the Rev. Charles Brady of Syracuse. By sheer chance, they had an opportunity to meet Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
That was three years before King was shot to death by an assassin. Berrigan said his overwhelming reaction – in a place where he witnessed the essence of raw hatred – was a sense of just how willing King was to put himself at ultimate risk, for a higher cause.
Decades earlier, as a young American soldier during World War II, Jerry had served Mass for Padre Pio in Sicily. Pio was revered among Catholics for bearing the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, and he’d later be canonized as a Catholic saint.
You know the saints not by their works but by their dreams. Terry Messman’s wonderful article on Jim and Shelley Douglass and the great movement of White Train activists and Catholic communitarians gives you a glimpse at not only the fruits of their lives of faith but of the dreams that inspire.
I first visited Jim and Shelley at the Ground Zero community near Seattle in 1984. Barbara Bennett (of blessed memory) and I were driving from Davis, Calif., to Seattle to catch the Inside Passage car ferry to Haines, Alaska, then on to Anchorage. We spent the night at the Ground Zero community’s tracks house outside the perimeter of the Bangor nuclear submarine base on the Hood Canal. I remember watching the sunset turn the gun-metal grey sub hangers a deep, disturbing red.
I’ve had the honor of knowing Jim and Shelley since then and being a guest and hosting them as guests in the tradition of Christian hospitality. They are mentors, saints, prophets, and friends. (Learn more about Jim Douglass’ books and witness and Shelley Douglass’ witness and ministry at Mary’s House.)
Thank you to Terry Messman for this exceptional article on one portion of their lives:
Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker, has been a lifelong source of inspiration for James and Shelley Douglass, both in their nonviolent resistance to war and nuclear weapons, and also in their solidarity with poor and homeless people.
Day devoted her life to the works of mercy for the poorest of the poor, and often quoted Fyodor Dostoevsky on the high cost of living out the ideal of love in the real world. “As Dostoevsky said: ‘Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams.’”
The same warning might be given to those who try to live out the ideal of nonviolence in action, since love and nonviolence are essentially one and the same. (One of Mohandas Gandhi’s descriptions of nonviolent resistance is “love-force.”)
Although it may be heartening to read about nonviolence in the lives of Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Dorothy Day, it is a more “harsh and dreadful” proposition to engage in actual resistance to a nuclear submarine capable of destroying hundreds of cities, and protected by the most powerful government in the world.
Instead of nonviolence in dreams, one faces nonviolence in handcuffs and jail cells, nonviolence sailing in the path of massive submarines, nonviolence on the tracks blockading “the train out of hell.”
By the early 1980s, Jim and Shelley Douglass and the members of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action had created a highly visible campaign of resistance to the Trident nuclear submarine based at Bangor Naval Base near Seattle. …
Read Blockading the ‘White Train of Death’ by Terry Messman