We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


With Jesus about to take his last supper with his beloved community, we have the opportunity to reflect on the grace of fasting as a means of nonviolent protest.

Consider the film Hunger for a meditation.
In 1981, amidst an embittered conflict between Northern Ireland and Britain, imprisoned volunteers of the Irish Republican Army dramatized their right to POW status by a hunger-strike. For many it would become a strike unto death. In fact, Bobby Sands accounted for the possibility by arranging with his comrades to start two weeks ahead.

Bobby Sands wrote a secret diary during the first seventeen days of the strike which he kept on his body. The excerpts that follow highlight the humiliation he experienced from guards during those opening days.

Thursday, the 12th day of the strike
"I have poems in my mind, mediocre no doubt, poems of hunger strike and MacSwiney, and everything that this hunger-strike has stirred up in my heart and in my mind, but the weariness is slowly creeping in, and my heart is willing but my body wants to be lazy, so I have decided to mass all my energy and thoughts into consolidating my resistance.

"That is most important. Nothing else seems to matter except that lingering constant reminding thought, 'Never give up'. No matter how bad, how black, how painful, how heart-breaking, 'Never give up', 'Never despair', 'Never lose hope'. Let them bastards laugh at you all they want, let them grin and jibe, allow them to persist in their humiliation, brutality, deprivations, vindictiveness, petty harassments, let them laugh now, because all of that is no longer important or worth a response."

Day 16

"I've noticed the orderlies are substituting slices of bread for bits of cake, etcetera -- stealing the sweet things (which are rare anyway) for themselves. I don't know whether it's a case of 'How low can you get?' or 'Well, could you blame them?' But they take their choice and fill of the food always, so it's the former.

"They left my supper in tonight when the priest (Fr Murphy) was in. There were two bites out of the small doughy bun. I ask you!"

Here he depicts the pettiness of prison guards; a part of him inclines to see them as men on the dole, yet his anger pushes such sentiment aside. In these excerpts we see little of the revolutionary rhetoric that gave him great inspiration in his other writings, smuggled out from the prison and published by Republican supporters. We see a man who despises others, yet allows no one to take from him his capacity to create out of bleak circumstances. The diary itself accomplishes this. He knew that the British would need their "pound of flesh" and he inspired a generation by his acceptance of a mission no one could ask of him.

Not all of us so steadily enter into such commitments. Sands had already participated in a prior hunger-strike. In fact, he and other leaders abandoned negotiations seeing that their previous attempts had only been circuses. Four years of imprisonment and organization work before that, including a prior patch of imprisonment--all steeled Sands' will. Though turning 27 years old on his ninth day of hunger, the fast signified nearly eight years of dedication to the cause of Northern Ireland's sovereign liberty.

We might consider a fast ourselves. For instance, on April 3-5 Presybeterians fasted to discern ways to resolve the world food crisis. Something similar could make for a prayer intention during these days of the Holy Triduum.

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