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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

A poetic reflection on the new year... always imagine, always hope. Blessed 2011 to all!

"Imagine the Angels of Bread"
by Martín Espada

This is the year that squatters evict landlords,
gazing like admirals from the rail
of the roofdeck
or levitating hands in praise
of steam in the shower;

this is the year
that shawled refugees deport judges
who stare at the floor
and their swollen feet
as files are stamped
with their destination;

this is the year that police revolvers,
stove-hot, blister the fingers
of raging cops,
and nightsticks splinter
in their palms;

this is the year
that darkskinned men
lynched a century ago
return to sip coffee quietly
with the apologizing descendants
of their executioners.
This is the year that those
who swim the border's undertow
and shiver in boxcars
are greeted with trumpets and drums
at the first railroad crossing
on the other side;

this is the year that the hands
pulling tomatoes from the vine
uproot the deed to the earth that sprouts the vine,
the hands canning tomatoes
are named in the will
that owns the bedlam of the cannery;

this is the year that the eyes
stinging from the poison that purifies toilets
awaken at last to the sight
of a rooster-loud hillside,
pilgrimage of immigrant birth;

this is the year that cockroaches
become extinct, that no doctor
finds a roach embedded
in the ear of an infant;

this is the year that the food stamps
of adolescent mothers
are auctioned like gold doubloons,
and no coin is given to buy machetes
for the next bouquet of severed heads
in coffee plantation country.
If the abolition of slave-manacles
began as a vision of hands without manacles,
then this is the year;

if the shutdown of extermination camps
began as imagination of a land
without barbed wire or the crematorium,
then this is the year;

if every rebellion begins with the idea
that conquerors on horseback
are not many-legged gods, that they too drown
if plunged in the river,
then this is the year.
So may every humiliated mouth,
teeth like desecrated headstones,
fill with the angels of bread.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oh, Judge

[I need you Lord.]

Judge, don’t you see that God’s arms extend to us and this unjust system has constrained us with our backs toward the earth, blinding us with human selfishness? Why don’t we turn to look at the real, to turn to turn?






can we not see

Can we not feel the love of God!! It is just a dim reflection, please, about-face, here in this courtroom. Behold I tell you that I have left behind al—my homeland, my home. (But I have no home; I could not prove my residence.) I have risked my reputation, my health, and I have but two hundred dollars…no more food stamps…

But I have bemusement: a healthy body, a loving family, and white privilege; a US citizenship, a male sex, a sense of diction, and either insane courage or a maniacal faith. And in this last, I have good company.

For I love God with so much hope in all I see about me, in you, in this emporium of legislative proceeding: all of it just a reflection of the divine love that is God’s for us. [And what is God’s justice in us? It is the longing of the longest night of the year, the yearning for daybreak that envies the moon.]

My frustration, my fury too, is but a pale remote quiver in the roar that shall be God’s vengeance.

So I look at you with pity, my poor Stephen, my poor country_men, myself. We are but failures to live out the ideal, for we cannot adequately represent ourselves. We are hamstrung by incapable representatives, deceased forbearers who fought here and died a martyrs death so that we might know more poetic ends.

We are a sliver from the beam of truth.

Yet every fiber in us is of the same source. And so our conscience in us identifies all that we came from and that which is our true authority.

Will I ever say in this courtroom reasons sufficient to walk away satisfied? Could I tell you a story so compelling to melt your heart, oh neighbor, oh community member, I dare say, my own...

Is rock imperturbable? I cannot grasp the depth of pain my tortured friends have felt. I cannot bear return to El Salvador or Guatemala and say that I have lived a life of solidarity. I can (not) hardly claim that I am a human being... See how I falter with doubt,

but God and not me will carry out the miracle.

Lord, this I pray, that I might not be so fool hardy, so self-aggrandizing [to take myself so seriously!] that it is I who will do justice where none before me have succeeded. I must let go with the hope grounded in what I believe is good and right and true of the legal court.

I know that you, judge, have listened to me. We have become united in thought. God has let my words come to mind and to yours and in this our union has trespassed whatever legality. Whatever judgment that will ensue, you will resume to your rightful role, and I to mine. I will once again take up the international law of self defense until you determine enough is enough. Then you will object and warn me to desist. I will continue, and then I may be denied a further opportunity to speak.

Yet with God as my witness, I will have done right by my conscience in speaking to you as a human being, whom I care for, whom I have directed my words to in a symbolic way. For I know that my words are recorded and will be archived, and that a worldwide audience could choose to find in them some reflection of God’s infinity, in how the words transcend the confines of these walls. Thus, I will not bear the satisfaction myself except

in the hope I will have….

I will not rest my case until I rest in God!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Global Day of Listening

Dear Friends,

As we enter our tenth year of occupation of Afghanistan, our friends over at Voices for Creative Nonviolence have teamed up with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV) to hear what ordinary Afghans want in this seemingly endless war. The AYPV are from Bamiyan, a central province of Afghanistan, and are reaching out to the world to say that violence is not the only option for Afghanistan. Please consider supporting the AYPV by participating in the Global Day of Listening on December 18th and 19th. This live-streaming, international connection between people from all over the planet will allow everyone to listen to stories told by Afghan people about what it is like living in Afghanistan. Please visit http://www.thepeoplesjourney.org/ to join the call.

Please also consider signing the AYPV's petition "We Want You Out", written to the leaders of Afghanistan and the occupying forces.

Thank you

Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent in Disguise: A voice cries out in Fort Benning

Contemplating the scriptures on the 2nd Sunday of Advent, I can’t help but imagine the smirks on the faces of the Pharisee spies as they swaggered up to John the Baptist doing his thing in the River Jordan. John was connecting with countless spiritual seekers living under the yoke of empire, immersing themselves in repentance, a revival of their individual and collective faith. Pharisees are not seekers, they are know-it-all doctrinaires, and they knew that John’s ministry was a threat to theirs… a threat worth investigating.

You attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, or so the saying goes. But the Baptist (incidentally, a connoisseur of both [wild] honey and flies—or locusts, at least) has no welcome for the well-dressed spectators at the back of the crowd. Instead, he offers them a prophetic rebuke with two startling images in the present tense:

· “the axe lies at the root of the trees” (Matt. 3:10)

This image is more familiar when echoed by Jesus later in Matthew’s gospel, “You will recognize them by their fruit.” (Matt. 7:20). John’s not talking about pruning the unproductive trees for the next season—he’s swinging for the root.

· “his winnowing fan is in his hand” (Matt. 3:12)

After the harvest, it’s necessary to separate out the edible wheat from the rest of the grain husk, the chaff. This can be accomplished by winnowing—tossing a mixture of wheat and chaff in the air so the lighter chaff will blow away, but the wheat will land back in its container. The son/daughter of man wields the fan that blows away the waste leaving only the fruit.

In other words, this Pharisaic reconnaissance is a waste of time. This audience is fed up with sanctimonious charades, with religious elites masquerading around under the guise of infallibility. They’re no longer fooled by wolves in sheep’s clothing. This crowd yearns for authenticity, wholeness, and peace—a time when “the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb” (Isaiah 11:6a).

The season of Advent is no time to hide undercover. It’s too late for false pretenses and superficial disguises. “Not by appearances shall (s)he judge, nor by hearsay shall (s)he decide, but (s)he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted” (Isaiah 11:3-4).

It is with this profound spirit of solidarity that thousands gather year after year at the gates of the School of the Americas (hiding under the wooly disguise of WHINSEC), and chanting “no más, no more” as a rallying cry. Singing together in one voice to end the institutionalized absurdity of teaching terrorism disguised as democracy, “through the barrel of a gun,” in the words of Fr. Roy Bourgeois.

Those gathered outside the gates are seeking a new way of expressing their faith in non-violence, a way of extravagant simplicity which includes drum circles, stilt-walkers, and all-you-can-share vegan buffets. Those huddled inside the gates are defending abstract boundaries and ideologies, brandishing their chain link, razor wire, and handcuffs while their proudest alumni march in uniformed costumes throughout the halls of power in Latin America.

Why should we be surprised by undercover cops in the midst of such a crowd? Nothing but Pharisees, attracted by the inspirational curiosity of a movement that threatens the security of their easy answers—their fragile right versus wrong, good guys and bad guys. Is it possible to envision that “the leopard shall lie down with the kid” (Isaiah 11:6b) in an empire that aims to perpetuate Guantánomo? Can we, as a society, begin to unmask those hiding behind the joysticks of drones as they prowl the Middle East, shrouded in desert clouds? Who invented the curriculum for this democracy?

And yet, as the days get shorter, in this Advent season of authenticity apart from appearances, we find ourselves looking for a bright star to follow in the dark night sky. The star doesn’t lead us out on a limb of consumer society, not to the far left or the far right, but back to the roots of the Jesse tree. Here, from the stump, “a shoot shall sprout… a bud shall blossom” (Isaiah 11:1) as a sign of revival, repentance, metamorphosis. Breathing into the core of the humus, what we have seen before in our human vulnerability, the Divine makes a home in our feeding trough, in the frailty of a movement worth infiltrating.


Come Emmanuel, God with US,

Savior betrayed by an undercover disciple,

Heir to a Kingdom beyond the dreams of empire,

Lead us to repentance through authenticity,

Lead us to vulnerability through courage,

Lead us to freedom through peace.

Infiltrate us with your mercy, so that we may climb and topple

The barriers of intimidation that shield our borders,

And unite one family, one people, one Church, one voice:

“Ya basta! Somos América!”

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Insider Language That Non-Catholics, Non-Jesuits, Non-Activists Won’t Understand

We understand one another to the degree we show forbearance. With a friend one can think aloud; yet with an intimate a sole gesture can suffice. If interested in some of the compelling reasons for which I crossed the line, as well as some disclosure of the post-partum, then click here. What follows comes from a letter written to peers in 2008. Although I again discerned not to cross the line that year, it illustrates the intention forming in my conscience.

* * *

My step to cross the line at the School of Americas / WHINSEC marks the passage of counter-intuitive thinking. I go in hope of personal discovery, a search for meaning and sincerity, so that my understanding of God may be authenticated.

Either you will say, “Oh, how gross,” and you will dislike the whole idea, or you may conceal this and ask me “Is that the true calling of your zeal?” And either you will dislike the whole idea, or praise the end but find distaste in the means: saying, “How nice, but why so ornate?” Thus, the practical will surmise it all a misadventure and proof of an erring judgment; the acute analyst will observe that we should have had better foresight—approached the issue pragmatically—schemed for advantage with the renovation of the legislature or else asked with exasperation, “Why now?” Though thirty-odd votes cast against the bill to close the school no longer have authority nor their appendage philosophies represented, the school remains open. That’s why now.

The counter-intuition of faith leads me forward. I too ask the questions, and would spurn the radical subjectivity of my being made in the image and likeness of God. I do not [would not] go in doubt, but in gratitude for the gift of faith, a faith that I plead to be strengthened and made worthy, purified and made truthful. How else but amidst the “examination hall of the poor” may I test my faith in God’s liberation? I believe that Jesus’ teachings of mercy are to gain, yet also to be staked out; they teach me to trust instincts of love and to immunize the hateful, to adhere to authority of conscience. In conscience entitled to me as a baptized follower I now go to seek its formation: to reconcile myself defenselessly before my brethren’s so called justice. Should all that Christ died for be for naught, and that I do nothing for my brothers persecuted, for law bids me to mind my own storefront? If so, then there is no forgiveness for anyone who has fallen even once, and I would have Jesus be crucified all over again (Letter to the Hebrews). [full excerpt here]

Authors note: To these words the context of two years made more acute my awareness of God’s call. I laugh at the wordy seriousness and see in them the plain fear. My intention has now taken meaning that except for the signature of integrity, I could never have guessed with such satisfaction: finally, I am becoming a Christian.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Plowshare Mentors

Join me in God's time to the trial of our plowshares, Anne, Bix, Steve, and Susan. There's is testimony for our times.
I have come here seeking guidance from these, our Mentors. They point a way to the paradise that would be ours should we choose to transcend our acceptance of this perfect solution, the so-called nuclear deterrence. In the meaning of the real, these mentors instruct us that such threat power is not a deterrence but a concentrated detour into nonexistence. If by their bodies the salvage is but a symbolic witness, still in advent hope I wait to be made clean with the soap that's made of them. From the myth of redemptive violence, wash me, O Lord, and I shall be white as snow.

To follow and learn from their prophetic imagination go to http://disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/

Monday, December 6, 2010

“You can't claim you're for peace if you're not willing to disturb it.” –Bill Maher

I cannot claim I am for peace if I am not willing to disturb it. My humanity is clouded and restricted by the systems of injustice in which I participate. My faith is dispensable in the privilege that I hold close. My love is confounded by my fear.

This November I traveled to Columbus, Georgia to call for the closure of the School of the Americas now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. I joined a community of people, thousands of people, outside the gates of Fort Benning in Columbus. I traveled there as a student, to join other students, as a Catholic, to join other faith-filled people, as a United States resident, to join my fellow citizens, as a human, to come together in community. I gathered with that community to withdraw my consent from the practices of the School of the Americas (SOA). As a student, a Catholic, a citizen, and a human, I cannot deny what I have learned in the classroom, in church, from our government and in my heart.

This was not my first journey to Columbus. In the fall of 2006, I was introduced to the SOA. When my friend first mentioned the school, I had never heard of it, never knew the history of the massacres, and knew nothing of the annual vigil in Columbus. What I did have was a desire to learn. My friend invited me to travel with my high school to the vigil; I was eager to learn more. I began to read about the history of the school. I read about the village of El Mozote. On December 11, 1981 in El Salvador, over 700 people were massacred in the village of El Mozote. Over 700 people. No, my sixteen-year-old mind thought, no that could not be. Over 700 people? Women and children? Marta Lilian Claros was only three years old, her father, Domingo Claros, only twenty-nine, when they were both murdered. It then became clear that, yes, Marta was only three years old, and no, El Mozote was not a special case. No, this destruction was in fact systemic. This systemic destruction protects the economic and political power in Latin America, and thus U.S. interests in Latin America, by targeting human rights defenders and their communities. And the source of that system? Our U.S. tax dollars.

In the massacre at El Mozote, ten of the twelve soldiers of the Atlacatl Battalion responsible for the murders were cited as graduates of the School of the Americas. That school is on our soil. That U.S. Army training school has trained over 60,000 soldiers from Latin America with funding from our tax dollars. However, I did not understand my complicity until I arrived at the gates outside Fort Benning, where the School of the Americas is located. On the Sunday of my first weekend at the vigil, which has been sponsored by an organization called SOA Watch every year since 1990, I listened to the names of those families, those children, parents and grandparents killed by the graduates of the SOA. Throughout the solemn funeral procession, I listened to those names for over two hours. We marched with crosses and held the names of those victims in our hearts and resurrected their lives with our voices. With each name called, my mind expanded, my heart opened and my complicity sank deeper.

After that first experience at the vigil, each year I have continued to make the journey to the gates of Fort Benning. And each year, my experience has evolved. I traveled first with my high school, then with Veterans for Peace the following year, then with my fellow students at Loyola University Chicago. Each year I have been challenged in a new way. My community has evolved, as well as the faith and love in my heart.

This year, yet again, I was challenged in a new way. In the twentieth year of the vigil, I had to ask myself, how would our voices be heard? Were our refrains becoming comfortable? Was our presence becoming routine? I was invited to consider my participation in the vigil. Would I march in the solemn funeral procession on Sunday? Or would I risk arrest and participate in the opportunity for direct action on Saturday? These were not easy questions. There were not easy answers.

Not only was this the twentieth year of the vigil, but this November it was also undergoing a significant restructuring. Each time I have traveled to Columbus, the events of the weekend have been co-hosted by SOA Watch and the Ignatian Solidarity Network. The two have worked together to gather the masses from Jesuit institutions as well as communities of faith outside of the Jesuit tradition. Personally, my participation in the vigil has been greatly influenced by the Jesuit tradition. The opportunity to gather for mass at the Ignatian Family Teach-In in Columbus connected my faith with social justice. That connection resonated with me for the first time in Georgia, with the Ignatian family. Yet this year, the Ignatian Family Teach-In had moved to Washington D.C. and chose to focus on legislative action to close the SOA. So I too moved to Washington D.C., I too engaged in legislative action. I dialogued with legislative staff about the School of the Americas and immigration reform. I walked away feeling competent and grateful for a new perspective. I now knew more about what it meant to work within the political system. Yet I also walked away with many questions. The legislative staff told me that, while their legislator firmly believed in these issues and shared our passion for reformation, the current “political climate” simply would not allow for the change we sought. Therefore I left Washington D.C. with a new challenge, a new question, how do I contribute to that “political climate”?

The logistics were all set out for me. The vigil would take place for the twentieth year, outside the gates of Fort Benning. The number of people gathered may be significantly less than in years past due to restructuring. The solemn funeral procession would take place on Sunday morning. There would be an opportunity for direct action on Saturday, with the opportunity to risk arrest and partake in civil disobedience. Within all of these details I asked myself, what was in my heart? Where was my faith? Where was God calling me? The questions of the proper “political climate” followed me on my journey as well. How can I live in a “political climate” that allows for injustice to continue? How can I depend upon politicians who don’t have the courage to speak out during an unfavorable “political climate”? And again, how do I contribute to that “political climate”?

I have wrestled for a while with the call to civil disobedience. I have had to confront great fears related to risking arrest. I have had to redefine many deep seeded understandings of what it means to follow rules and do the right thing. Yet, I have also struggled deeply with my consent to injustice. The suffering caused by the policies, positions and power that I hold as a U.S. citizen overwhelms me. I cannot sit forever in my fears and also live with inaction. Traveling to the vigil this year, I was called to confront those fears. When I felt most vulnerable and alone, I turned to my community of friends, family and fellow activists for support. I found strength in that community. I realized that I was not acting alone, but acting with the solidarity of those closest to me. And so I decided to raise my voice to affect that “political climate” in a different way.

I chose to nonviolently disrupt the system that keeps us within our permitted protest area every year, and with it keeps our collective voice and message within a permitted area, a safe distance from the media and the general population. I have utilized opportunities for legislative action. Yet the school has not been closed, in fact, the bill calling for its closure has not yet moved beyond the House of Representatives. For twenty years the movement to close the SOA has gathered at the vigil and for much longer, graduates of the school have perpetrated massacres and assassinations against the innocent civilians in their own countries. So this year, I chose to risk arrest and help hold a banner that read, “Stop: This is the End of the Road for the SOA”, while blocking traffic on Victory Dr., a highway in Columbus near Fort Benning and the location of the annual vigil. I chose to confront my fears in community with fellow activists and friends. I chose to trust in God, and act on my faith knowing that the consequences would not be convenient.

And they were not convenient. I was arrested and held in the Muscogee County jail overnight. Soon after my arrest, I was joined by a group of activists and journalists that had been unlawfully arrested by the police. These individuals had not participated in civil disobedience, but were picked up on the way back to their cars or while taking photos of the event. I received four charges, two city charges and two state charges. I was fined for each of the city charges and my state charges are pending; I was released on bond. In court, an undercover cop testified against me and detailed my involvement in the civil disobedience because she had infiltrated our nonviolent direct action. In retelling these stories, it sounds surreal. But in the cold of the cellblock and the chaos of the court proceedings, which found all but one of those arrested guilty, I felt and now remember how real it is.

In the words of Daniel Berrigan I have found great challenge and great comfort, “…it is unheard of that good men and women should suffer injustice or families be sundered or good repute be lost-because of this we cry peace and cry peace, and there is no peace. I am challenged to reclaim what is means to be a good woman, and accept the sacrifices and fears that accompany standing for justice. My fears of civil disobedience were not soothed in jail. I was even more afraid when at the mercy of the judge than I was in preparation. However, in that moment, standing in his courtroom, I believe the two of us shared our fear. It was clear that the police in Columbus as well as the judge in the Muscogee County courtroom wanted to send a message through us. They sent a warning to the movement to close the School of the Americas, that we must not step out of line; we must not take our voices and our message outside of the permitted area.

In that warning I felt their fear. I learned that our voices hold power, the power to challenge the systems that perpetuate injustice and violence. The School of the Americas is just one element of the systemic injustices perpetuated by our U.S. military and government power. I felt the power of those systems, in the holding cell, the cellblock, the courtroom; and I was afraid. Then I remembered that I was not acting alone, we had the support of a strong community and a steadfast movement. The police and the government also know our power, our voice, our spirit; and in the warning they sent, they exposed their fear of any challenge to the power of their systems. And from that fear we allowed barriers to be built between us. I withdrew, stayed quiet, looked down. The guards and the judge looked past me, stayed distant, didn’t listen. Our systems, our power, our fear, we shared. And these barriers are as impermeable as we allow them to be. If we fear each other, we sacrifice the strength in our love. That love, however, is more powerful than that fear, much more powerful than our barriers. At the School of the Americas vigil this year, I found hope, knowing that we did not act with fear, but with God, in community, we acted with love.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Transparency in Prayer and Works

“No longer will your Teacher hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher.” Isaiah 30: 23

“At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity” Mt. 9: 36

I. In Prayer

Today’s readings remind us of the value of transparency. We long for clarity, simplicity, precision and intelligibility in our world. Advent especially invites us to value transparency and to have hope in the coming of Christ, when all mystery will become clear. The Church asks us to give thanks for the transparency of God; to do so, I only have to look around at my Kairos community because as Christians, I’m proud that we take our standards into the world to announce love. In action we move to denounce the evil and to clear the threshing floor of all the fallen chaff.

II. Interpolation

Tilth (n.) The degree of fineness of soil particles in the topmost soil layer.

“Rake the surface to create a fine tilth” Regina says, reading from Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. “Why?” I ask, butting into the conversation. “For it to be able to breath for the water to go down, for seeds to be able to germinate.”

III. In Works

Meet Ryan Gallagher, here, a young Scot writing to heaven come about the best thing to hit the internet: Wikileaks. Inboxes around the globe are stuffed full of crappy second and third hand political commentary, but not this week.

On Wednesday, Wikileaks let loose 251,287 documents from US embassies—but if you’ve had inclinations to make time—let me tell you Cinderella, times up. Already two attempts failed to close Wikileaks, but now Amazon and Paypal have dropped it—even US military would prevent troops from access. [At this writing my computer can’t find the server at wikileaks.org.] McCarthyism anyone?

Gallagher: “And an idea is precisely what Wikileaks has become. It is no longer simply a website – it is a pure expression of democratic ideals, a philosophy realised [sic] by the force of technology. The powerful may condemn and attempt to repress Wikileaks and all it represents, but the situation has long since spun far from their control. Facilitated by the internet, a new battleground has been established.”

I’m touched that he quotes one of the heroes subsumed by the iconic Dr. King. “You can kill a man but you can't kill an idea,’ as the civil rights activist Medgar Evers once said.” The irony here of course is that Mr. Evers died in a terrorist bombing.

The Ides of March

Is it treason to release the government documents? Now seriously, have we forgotten our context? The better question is whether the Obama Administration has met its promise to bring transparency to Government (see memo). Contrary to the impression given by the President, Andrew Malcolm reported in the LA Times: “An Associated Press examination of 17 major agencies' handling of FOIA requests found denials 466,872 times, an increase of nearly 50% from the 2008 fiscal year under Bush.”

One could argue that the failure to process FOIA requests is due to stalling by federal agencies. Malcolm showed this could be the case: “a study out March 15 [2010] by George Washington University's National Security Archive finds less than one-third of the 90 federal agencies that process such FOIA requests have made significant changes in their procedures since Obama's 2009 memo.”

In case we needed a wake up this Advent, Gallagher was right to portray the attempt to suppress Wikileaks as a civil rights issue. At our disposal, the internet allows us to better perceive the stakes, interests and decision-making process at work in Government. Unfortunately, Wikileaks exists for a reason, to disclose; it must reveal what has been hidden in secret.

While we give thanks for Wikileaks, I won’t accept it as good enough. We deserve better than disclosure; the Church teaches us to know what we deserve. We want transparency!

Malcolm, Andrew. “A little secret about Obama's transparency” 21 March 2010. http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/21/nation/la-na-ticket21-2010mar21

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Kairos, Dec 2nd, 30th Anniversary of the death of the Four Church Women: Maura, Ita, Dorothy, Jean

Tonight at Kairos what would inspire a conversation about the joy of resistance, a communal dance around the meanings of joy v. happiness, and personal reflections of the weekend protest of the School of Americas, all began with the silly suggestion that, in fact, life is meaningful. In practice, we must order our experience if we hope to inspire meaning.

As an experiment, try to reconstruct for yourself a strand of meaning through the quotes that follow. I used them all in this order, yet the meaning is all yours to make. Enjoy!

Aristotle: Physics

Edmund Husserl: The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness

“Observe that noses were made to wear spectacles; and so we have spectacles. Legs were visibly instituted to be breeched, and we have breeches. Stones were formed to be quarried and to build castles; and my Lord has a very noble castle; the Greatest Baron in the province should have the best house; and as pigs were made to be eaten, we eat pork all year round; consequently, those who have asserted all is well talk nonsense; they ought to have said that all is for the best.”

Voltaire, Candide, Ch. 1

A lady of honor may be raped once, but it strengthens her virtue.

Voltaire, Candide, Ch. 2

Isaiah 26:1-6

On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:

“A strong city have we;

He sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.

Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just,

One that keeps faith.

A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;

In peace, for its trust in you.”

“Trust in the Lord forever!

For the Lord is an eternal Rock.

He humbles those in high places,

And the lofty city he brings down;

He tumbles it to the ground,

Levels it with dust.

It is trampled underfoot by the needy,

By the footsteps of the poor.”

Matthew 7:21, 24-27

“Jesus said to his disciples: Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them

will be like a wise man

who built his house on rock.”

“Why am I going there now? Am I capable of that? Is that serious? It is not serious at all. It’s simply a fantasy to amuse myself, a plaything! Yes, maybe it’s a plaything.” Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Ch. 1

Excerpt from paper delivered at Loyola University in late fall, 2008

Prisoners of Conscience

Each year protesters enter the base. Generally speaking, they are a small and insignificant number. Secondly, it is undemocratic. Frida Berrigan, who is currently researching Guantanamo in part of a nonviolent campaign, writes: “We write letters, we make phone calls, we change habits and what we buy, and sometimes we march.” She shows that nonviolence duly respects the law, while these protesters illegally trespass onto military reservation property. Doing so denigrates an otherwise peaceful movement. Third, Pope Leo writes, “no man may hope for eternal reward unless he follow in the bloodstained footprints of his Savior” (RN 18). Obviously this is figurative in meaning. There are many effective ways of influencing government and pressing decision makers who control WHINSEC, but going to prison is not one of them.

John XXIII writes: “There can be no peace between mankind unless each one builds up within himself the order wished by God” (PT 165). For my part, I believe the action symbolizes the very foundation of religious practice. The prisoner of conscience (POC) prepares consciously for her act of nonviolent civil disobedience. This process involves gathering of information, prayer, community support, and purification. In other words, only with peace in the person can the action be a sign of peace. Pope John taught that the very basis of honoring God, in private and public forum was derived from the “sincere dictates of his own conscience” (PT 14). Accordingly, the purposefulness of the POC arrives from within. No one can decide for her; this is the first basis. And secondly, the act must come “from a consciousness of [her] obligation” (PT 34). Her grasp of the duty as her own responsibility is the litmus test for the action’s sincerity. She could never be self-justified, even if her authority was “intrinsically related with the authority of God.” Her sense of authority must come from sharing in God’s authority (PT 49). So while she is endowed with reason, the “master of [her] own acts,” she will seem to interpret literally Pope Leo’s use of 2 Tim 2:12[1]. Thus, she will adopt as literal the injunction of St. Paul to suffer with Christ as a way to be with him more fully in this world and to reign with him in the next.

In response, when a small number has significance, as the disciples did, it is not because of their own power. With their faith they understood what their eyes could not, and so a Church was made[2]. Likewise, though it would be misunderstood as disorder since he entered the base in disguise, Fr. Bourgeois’ action brought visibility to the SOA[3]. Secondly, “We do whatever we can,” Frida Berrigan said sarcastically, “to avoid actually putting our bodies in harms way.” She shows that true disorderly conduct is when we let fear deter us from heeding our conscience. St. Augustine said, “God commands the soul; the soul commands the body; and there is nothing more orderly than this.” Though it seems undemocratic to some, our nation’s founders framed the constitution not on the basis of consent but of the opposite, dissent. It is a common saying in the peace movement that breaking the law shows the highest respect for the law. Fittingly, Pope John wrote: “As authority rests chiefly in its moral force,” whatever law is immoral may dutifully be challenged. He cites Acts 5:20, “God has more right to be obeyed than men” (PT 50). Third, the literary interpretation of following Jesus reflects what we all know John Donne said so well[4], that faith exacts a heavy toll. If only we could be justified without risk to ourselves, but what difference would that make? None, for as Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without demand.”

“I did not bow down to you [judge]. I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity.” Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Ch. 24

[1] “If we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us.” 2 Tim 2:12

[2] “Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds”-Albert Einstein

[3] In his 1984 action he disguised himself as a ranking officer using clothes bought at a local surplus store and entered the base like a wolf in sheep’s clothing

[4] “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” –John Donne

Monday, November 29, 2010

Opening Prayer for Advent

“In 1993, a cache of 152 papyrus scrolls was found in a room adjacent to the church. They had been carbonized in the fire and that is what preserved them.”

--Inscription of findings in Byzantine church at ancient Petra in modern day Jordan

Throughout the season of Advent,

In the fires of worldly concern,

It will be our communion that preserves hope in the world.

By human bonds of love

That heal,

Will we resist the entanglements

That destroy.

Pathways do exist

In the trails made by saints,

So that even though we appear to wander in deserts,

We trust God leads us

To the everlasting oasis. Amen.

For reflection:

As the Kin_dom nears, what areas of our lives do we yearn to stand "first" in line?

Even in our thirst for justice, where is the Eden we have wandered from and to revisit that place, how can we abnegate our place in line?

We let others drink from our own wells. How will we let God refill them during this season of Advent?

The full reflection is posted here: http://guesthood.blogspot.com/2010/11/advent-and-petra.html

Friday, November 26, 2010

Undoing Violence Against Women

Thursday, besides being a turkey day, was also the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which was adopted by the UN in 1999.

What are practical actions we can take as a community to eliminate violence against women?

We can watch our assumptions. Years ago I read Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson (see essay). Teresa, a Jesuit volunteer from Ohio, had thrust the book in my hands with her usual vivacity and bubbled about its sensuousness. It was a test of our relationship, in a way, since she had just come out to me with ambivalence, both declaring her attraction to me and at the same time, her bisexuality. She wanted me to read the book and tell her whether I thought the narrator was a man or woman.

We can safeguard our tongues. A housemate of Teresa’s, I’ll call her Victoria, spoke up one night about the violence of words—it was the title of her college thesis. That night we talked of medical labels and cuss words and of the abuser’s heinous “You deserve this.” Having a wake up is troublesome; it surfaces to the conscious mind those buried burns; I recalled the fresh wound I received in an exit interview: “You don’t have professional dispositions.” Those words annihilated a piece of my truth.

Looking back, I wonder, did it cause me to know, by experience, a fraction of the age old suppression of women in a patriarchic workplace?

Fortunately, Victoria’s exposure of the radical subjectivity of the spoken word indirectly revealed the truth of nonviolent communication. Since words reflect values, prejudice, and they harbor the collective unconscious, deliberate exercise of words that reflect my values can create the world I long for. As Jesus says in Today’s Gospel (Lk 21:29-33): “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” We can preserve the Holiest of Holies while revealing eternal meaning in today’s vernacular…And inclusive language dawns little by little, little comfort that it is.

What are other practical actions to eliminate violence against women?

We can vigil outside planned parenthood. A woman I once dated lost her faith in the Church because of this kind of action becoming so militant on her campus. At St. Louis University the vigils against abortion were ubiquitous and until her best friend became pregnant, they seemed benign. Her friend wanted to keep the baby, but had grown fearful of her boyfriend. Muslim, he and his family were adamant that the baby was theirs by inalienable right. I don’t know whether vigils seemed to lack compassion, but as the nightmare unfolded my friend lost her faith.

We can adopt. Isaac is my mother’s Godson. Growing up it amazed me to see mom in the role of godmother. Since Isaac is black, her affection for him helped open my boyish eyes to our brotherhood. His mother Theresa practices medicine in Seattle; a doctor who assists with births, she found a vocation in child rearing as well. The nine siblings Isaac has are African-American, Caucasian and Asian, constituting a family that expands the imagination. But the best symbols of Teresa’s acting to eliminate the violence against women were the birthday parties! Often that big house on the lake crowded up with community; it lifted off the foundations and ran wild in the yard and of course it went swimming.

We can urge better legislation. The 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) opened the threshold to allow women who sought citizenship to leave abusive husbands, whose citizenship was a vise of codependency, enabling these women to independently further their application. Now we can go further with the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA). In both the 110th and 111th Congresses it has been introduced but not brought to a vote. See amnestyusa.org

When it comes to role models we can cultivate a spirituality led by Juana Ines de la Cruz, Joan of Arc, St. Hildegaard, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Gertrude the Great and Sojourner Truth. Robert Ellsberg recounts Truth’s response to an angry heckler who said “Old woman, I don’t care any more for your talk than I do for the bite of a flea,” to which Truth replied, “The Lord willing, I’ll keep you scratching.”

Lydia Wylie-Kellerman stood throughout the Eucharistic prayer at every Sunday Mass. While the congregation kneeled, she raised the question. I had permission from my Jesuit superior to attend a discussion on the witness...with the caveat that I could not talk.

In keeping that silence I felt the struggle of so many religious who have been silenced. No, this is not so passive a silence as it seems friends. More difficult is the dialogue from one human heart to another than from the heart of a mortal to the Sacred heart of Jesus. Indeed, the activity of silence cloaked in piety also perpetrates institutional violence.

Afterwards, Lydia spoke gentle as ever with me. “There’s no excuse” was all she said. And then, in the cross hairs of her emerald and sky eyes she made me see myself.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ave Maria

As I sat on the ground, leaning against a fence and listening to an announcement telling me not to go past that fence, small white beads slipped through my fingers.

The beads passed by and the repeating, lulling background music of "Hail Mary..." centered and deepened my prayer. Holding Her, I entered more fully into the sanctuary inside myself where God dwells.

Everything rose to the surface. Pain. the Pain of why we gathered, why I was sitting at that fence. The Pain behind that fence. Longing. Intense longing for the whole world to know my love- no, God's love, longing for unity and relationship and justice from that love. Fear-nerves of having to let go those I care about to suffer for justice.

And then I was sitting along the same fence, a different spot. A curb as close to the entrance as possible. Again my fingers clutched the small white beads and my heart grasped for presence and unity of spirit with those I wasn't physically with. Those answering their call-Annemarie, Regina- as I answered mine with those plastic circles linked by metal. Letting go.

The sky burst open with hope and color, and the sun set. Morning came like a mother's whisper and caress and I was back at that fence. Instead of the beads I held pulsing hands. We offered our hearts and wills and beings to the glory of Love, the warmth of the sun surrounding our circle. I felt peace, joy, and hope- but mostly peace.

We walked in the vigil, intensely aware of those not with us. Yet, at the same time, all were Presente and I shoved my small white cross into that fence. No one was forgotten, least of all the 9 month old baby put on a cross.

We sat in our circle, a circle that kept moving and shifting and growing. We prayed for things that didn't make sense, yet were whole in meaning and beauty. And Christ sat among us, and we knew what was next. The cup passed, and we drank.

And suddenly I was kneeling, my hand reaching through a tangle of arms to bless our brother. And the sun of peacemaking shone and ignited our community. And it was right, it was hard, it was reality, it was whole.

Then shaking hands dispersed. Crosses were reverently moved, no one wanted to step on these for justice. And Chris climbed, reached the top, clutched barb wire. Oh! I was shaking, nervous, proud, speechless. Cheers erupted and I wondered about his hands. Were they bleeding? Had he clutched the barbs?

And he was over that fence and it was done. None of us could be with him in any physical way, and he walked toward the next gate without looking back. Jake stood, holding his small brown cross high, turned towards Chris.

Our emotion bubbled from our souls through our eyes. I needed to be present to what was moving in me- I didn't want to pretend this didn't just happen and go back to talking about sunburn and granola bars. I found myself back at my original spot along the fence. Clutching those same smooth beads.

Mary's struggle and pains entered my heart, and I realized her presence among the mourning crowd.
She knew this. She knows this.
The necessary pain of letting go, watching loved ones suffer and sacrifice- left with only an understanding of faith and love and prayer-unity. Her pain- greater than mine- paralleled so many planes within my heart, and unity within the struggle shone as brightly as the ever-present sun.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Lesser Gravitron

Gandhi may have been a hero of noncooperation, but I count myself a foolish imitator. When confined by the military police on premises of Ft. Benning, suspected of trespassing, for a brief moment I challenged my adversary. It was hardly heroic. I stood with my back to the bars when Officer Bracey came in, mirth bounding from him as he announced “Fantastic. Time to go Mr.”

I didn’t turn. No, conscientious objector that I was, I would not aboutface. Why should I submit myself to the accursed system? This officer represented the will of the police state, and with what integrity could I describe myself if I readily clipped my heals to his beck and call? My feet remained firmly planted, resolutely splayed apart. There was never a more perfect posture of defiance…

Then again, I was busy pissing in the toilet.

“Sorry officer” I said, “I want to obey, but it’s the call of nature.”

“Hey, I get it. When you gotta go, you gotta go” he said.

What Daniel Berrigan, S.J. called “divine obedience” requires a surrender. But how so, as wholly unmistakable as a free fall in the force of gravity, or as uniform as a pledge of allegiance? Probably the latter, since in ordinary ways God moves most of mankind. The prophet Elijah went to the dramatic vista of the mountaintop seeking the command of the Holiest of Holies. Neither in thunder, nor in lightning, neither in the heat of sunset or the sublime aurora of the night did he encounter the command. A fire brandished in a column led the Israelites forth from Egypt, but none came to Elijah in the darkness. At dawn, when light slowly swept back the curtain of shadow, finally, in the whisper of a gentle breeze, he heard the uncontestable voice.

Then again, what times we find ourselves in? Are we like the styro-foam cup I now see drifting among the fallen leaves, utterly ignorant of what awaits us? Though a feint rush is audible, do we fail to recognize it for the pitfall that tantalizes? If we could read the signs of the times, we could make out the sign that reads “Danger!” and steer clear of the electric dam.

Most of us can not describe ourselves as either holy innocents, or radical refusniks. Still, the call of our divine soul beckons us with the call of nature.

It just so happens that a full moon occurred the evening of the SOA vigil. Could it be so different that in us also, just as the tides adhere to the gravity of the moon, the beckon of God elicits from us great movements of nonviolence. Though the sun is said to be that acting force around which our world swirls, the lesser gravitron sets in motion the oceans of our planet, the winds of circulation, and upon all this, whole ecosystems bless the Lord. Similarly, albeit unconventional to participate in nonviolent protest, we too give life by our surrender to the less attractive magnet of vulnerability and powerlessness.

[Written at dusk, beside the river running through Columbus, upstream from the mill, when first inspired by two kayakers surfing a wave on the wild side of the dam. To me they define the playfulness of a resister: They fight upstream the way Daniel Berrigan went limp, joyfully held aloft in the arms of his muggish FBI captors. May we too search for that irresistible counter-current that is the voice of God.]

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dark Horse Heroes

(Context by A. Nee): "Our sisters, Annmarie Barret of Metanoia House and Regina Rust of the White Rose Catholic Worker are currently incarcerated with 22 other men and women in the Muscogee County Jail of Columbus, Georgia. A dozen of these protesters, including Annemarie and Regina, were arrested for their part in a planned direct action. The rest were subject to a mass arrest of random individuals."

Never in the twenty-year history of the movement has police behavior resembled such arbitrary and flagrant disregard for civil liberties. As a result, local attorneys never before associated with the movement have volunteered, outraged by what has happened. Their inside expertise of the labyrinthine city and state legal domains has already proven invaluable… Who are these men? The blind, whose scales fall from their eyes, healed by Jesus? The paralytics, whose listlessness turns into dancing beside the pool of Bethesda?

Among lawyers, a strain of fundamentalism runs deep, such that a case that treats a first amendment violation is worthwhile whether or not it means defending bigotry of neo-nazi’s. This fundamentalism looks to the founding father President John Adams as a prophet for our times. Indeed, the nemesis of Thomas Jefferson took the position of a voice in the wilderness when he championed the case of English soldiers in the aftermath of the Boston Massacre. A witness of this kind stands for due process, but some might question the moral relativism of such lawyers. For a contemporary example, consider the first amendment defense of direct actions by Westboro Baptist Church (see the Snyder v. Phelps case analysis by the citizen media law project).

The men who teamed the defense deserve our gratitude, not such rude appraisal as I seem to imply. They have taken risks to do as they have: one, whom the judge never acknowledged, explained that they had previously been close friends. Before we surmise them shysters seeking media attention, we can appreciate their effort and celebrate the momentary close of a gap long divisive in the Columbus legal community. Such a healing, unexpected, reflects the grace of God laboring in our midst! Why should we be spare with love for such men? Knowing that Jesus healed those in households of all classes of men, including the Roman centurion, we too can rejoice in the revelatory faith of these dark horse heroes.

First Impressions: SOA Protest 2010


I write this while sitting in a courtroom waiting for the arraignment of those arrested yesterday for the civil resistance action and randomly during the mass arrest that followed. Regina and Annmarie are among them. Bail was set at over $5000 dollars. Our friends didn’t intend to pay, hopefully we won’t have to.

Chris “crossed the line” this afternoon, nimbly, over the fence. I cried. I don’t know why. Meg, Mary Ellen, Cat and a girl I’d just met gave me long hugs of consolation. He leapt into becoming a representative of those murdered by graduates from the School of the Americas. Now I have to care.

We were there to mourn those who have lost lives and loved ones as victims, those who’ve lost integrity and humanity as victimizers. We were there too to uncover the infiltration of militarization and corrupt powers that exist all around us. The SOA has itself become a symbol. This school that has become notorious for graduates who lead and participate in assassinations, coups, massacres, war crimes—trained on U.S. soil, in U.S. tactics, with U.S. dollars, implicating U.S. citizens.

During our informal “pre-crossing” mass I could hear the “presente!” chant of the procession continuing around us, the beating of the drum. Feebly, I drew toward a sense of empathy with those who attempt to worship while surrounded by death.

“What are your impressions from today?” I asked Aaron. He said the mass felt like it was the last supper. Jake was Peter, the right hand man, the organizer. Crowds of friends and followers gave mixed messages of praise, concern, encouragement and scorn to our lamb. I wondered if he thought of Christ’s crown of thorns as his fingers wrapped over the barbed wire strung across the top of the fence.

“We act in response to the holocausts continuing to occur around the world,” he had said, carrying with him the ID card of a seven-year-old Belgium boy who’d been gassed in nazi Germany. Many of those killed by SOA graduates were young children, infants, mothers. We wonder, in retrospect, how such things as the mass killings of Jews could be allowed to happen. Could it be that such cruelty continues” Could it be us allowing it now?

After the Chris’ crossing I sat in the shad of the stage and listened to songs of freedom being belted out by the powerful voices of the musicians collective. Brother Josh, who had painted his face white, worn a black robe and carried a coffin in the procession sate beside me. “How did it feel?” I asked. He said it felt like being family, as pallbearers often are. He thought about how when one dies, all the family dies too. He thought, if we were able to truly understand each other as brother and sister, wars would cease. We would know we were killing ourselves.

Waiting silently in the courtroom to hear our friends’ fate, I think of those arrested yesterday who were not prepared, who did not enter purposefully. I think about those without support. I acknowledge that this happens every day; often without justice, often without love. Now I have to care. This is the heavy gift that our brothers and sisters who risk arrest offer. Even when I don’t fully understand thief action, I see the value of this gift.

Gratefully, I accept. May I be found worthy of the gifts that I’ve received! May we all remember the cost, and the debt that remains.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Words of admittance.

I am proud to be an American.

I believe in it’s institutions, ideals and traditions.

I glory in its heritage.

I boast of its history.

I trust in its future.

--Mike Masaoka, internee as a result of President F. D. Roosevelt’s executive order to isolate the potential enemy within. Later staff sergeant for 442nd Combat Team in WWII. Then civil rights advocate.

I too am proud to be an American.

I believe in its institutions, ideals and traditions.

I too glory in its heritage, boast of its history, and

I too trust in its future.

I have prepared myself to cross the line onto Ft. Benning. I do so for solidarity. I do so in the faith. I ask that the institution of the SOA/WHINSEC stop purporting to teach democracy and civil rights. I cherish the ideals of democracy and the traditions of civil rights. As a citizen, I thereby withdraw my consent of the institution.

With a clear conscience I am risking arrest in my action tomorrow. I do so because of my faith in my Creator who bestowed me with certain inalienable rights, and my belief that “in order to secure these rights, Governments were created by men.” These words echo the Declaration of Independence which concluded with the signatories bold statement: “For the support of this declaration, with firm belief in the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” With this same fervid desire to support the declaration upon which the United States stands, I offer this action as a symbol of solidarity by which I stake my life, my fortune and my sacred honor.

I announce the virtue of solidarity in this action, a practice that since I lived briefly in El Salvador has become less fashionable since 9-11, yet more necessary, more s

This year the co-commandant of SOA/WHINSEC is from Mexico. This couples with the past year’s $20 million increase in the securitization of the US-Mexico border, to demonstrate a significant time to resisist at the SOA/WHINSEC. We already know that the so-called drug war is proliferated by US interests, substantially culpable since the SOA/WHINSEC trained 2/3 of the Los Zetas cartel members. This year the principal symbol of US fear, in reaction to the battleground Juarez…was none other than SB 1070, the Arizona law stayed by an injunction order filed by the Justice Department. Much like the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, SB 1070 made possible the criminalization of any person of mulatto skin tone.

If arrested I will decline to give my name but will present:


For the dead and the living we must bear witness

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

"(inside jacket) This card tells the story of a real person who lived during the Holocaust.

"Name: Zigmond Adler

Date of Birth: July 18, 1936

Place of Birth: Liege, Belgium

"Zigmond’s parents were Czechoslovakian Jews who had emigrated to Belgium. His mother, Rivka, was a shirtmaker. She had come to Belgium as a young woman to find a steady job, following her older brother, Jermie, who had moved his family to Liege several years earlier. In Liege, Rivka met and married Otto Adler, a businessman. The couple looked forward to raising a family.

"1933-1939: Zigmond was born to the Adlers in 1936, but his mother died one year later. His father remarried, but the marriage didn’t last. Zigmond’s father then married for a third time, and soon Zigmond had a new half-sister and a stable family life. As a boy, Zigmond often visited is Uncle Jermie’s family, who lived just a few blocks away.

"1940-44: Zigmond was 3 when te Germans occupied Belgium. Two years later, the Germans deported his father for forced labor. After that, Zigmond’s stepmother left Liege, giving Zigmond to Uncle Jermie and daunt Chaje. When the Nazis began rounding up Jews in Liege, some of Uncle Jermie’s Catholic friends helped them get false papers that hid their Jewish identity and rented them a house in a nearby village. Two years later, early one Sunday morning, the Gestapo came to the house. They suspected Jews were living there.

"Zigmond, his aunt and two cousins were sent to the Mechelen internment camp and then to Auschwitz, where 7-year-old Zigmond was gassed on May 21, 1944."