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.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Conjectures of a Guilty Lakesider

Prophets, Civil Rights, & Commitment
by: The Boat Czar
“I hate and despise your feasts, I take no pleasure in your solemn festivals…But let Justice surge like water and goodness like an unfailing stream.” (Amos 5:21, 24) Listening to the mighty words from Amos in my humble lake chapel two weeks ago I felt my soul rise and move with energy. My heart wanted to cry an “Amen!” as I imagined the rallies that I had been reading about during the civil right struggle where this very passage was read. These words left me agitated and restless. I wanted to move, act, and do something.

A new prophet began this past week. The denunciations of Amos were left behind and the tender words of Hosea were heard talking of God luring Israel back like a lover. The unfaithful and unjust are not abandon by our tender God. It is said of Israel “She shall be called my husband…I will espouse you to me forever.” (Hosea 16, 22). The God of justice and energy is also the gentle lover who is ever faithful and committed to walking with the wandering people.

Reading more into the history of civil rights I am inspired by people I never knew about that followed God’s example. They are the minor characters of history who committed to the struggle of teaching and organizing everyday folks in the struggle for freedom. These are the likes of Ella Baker, who was the leg-work behind the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and who said once, “I have always thought that what is needed is the development of people who are interested not in being leaders as much as in developing leadership in others.” She, like Myles Horton and Septima Clark, cared for people and pushed them to develop not through stirring speeches but through questions and lives that made them think.

Bob Moses, another “hero” recalls that SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee) was invited to Mississippi to begin voting drives because people, “…saw in the students what had been lacking-that is, some kind of deep commitment that no matter what the cost, people were going to get this done.” These workers dedicated their lives to work with the poor of rural Mississippi to move a system in a small but significant way. Their commitment was both faithful and tactical. They burned for justice yet were patient so as to listen and walk with the people.

My restless soul that wants to act is soothed by these truths and stories. These “heroes” were deeply aware of their own particular reality and responded out of their courage and depth. This, I believe, is the invitation of God who walked as Jesus of Nazareth. He came to one small place to help and suffered with a particular people so that they might more fully participate in their salvation. God has chosen this world to work in and invites us to labor in our time and space.

Pedro Arrupe S.J. once said “Nowadays the world does not need words, but lives which cannot be explained except through faith and love for Christ poor." Arrupe is speaking of lives of commitment, sacrifice, and depth. It is a sacrifice because it is hard to let many things and causes go so as to dig in with a community. It is hard to take the necessary time to pray, grow, and develop your skills so that you may have the depth to respond faithfully and effectively. This is all part of the struggle, invitation, and gift that we have been given.

I pray that my peaceful and restless time on the lake may help to move towards these ideals. I pray for all of you responding now that God may give you the grace you need to further walk this road of salvation.

Some of the books that inspired this:
We Make this Road by Walking: Conversation on Education and Social Change Myles Horton and Paulo Freire
Parting the Waters: American in the King Years Taylor Branch –(a must read, many pages but reads like a novel)
I’ve God the light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle Charles Payne

Monday, July 5, 2010

America, Be Beautiful

“Perhaps we chose to come to this country, or it was our parents or grandparents, or even further back that family came here with hopes and dreams and determination. For others among us, being here is directly related to forbearers being brought here as slaves. For many of us there are a variety of situations and circumstances that have led us to where we are today. The best way we can acknowledge the freedoms that we enjoy is to work to assure that they will not be eroded for the generations that follow us. We also must be vigilant that these freedoms do not encroach upon the freedom of others. Without justice there is no freedom. Even as we give thanks for what we have, we realize we are part of a larger world where in many places there are people longing for the same freedoms that are ours. May we pray and work for the freedoms that recognize the dignity of all our sisters and brothers.” -Father Grassi, St. Gertrude’s Church (emphasis added)

I felt so grateful for Father Grassi’s words this Sunday, the 4th of July. It has been interesting experiencing the approach of this holiday surrounded by this beloved assortment of activists and anarchists who view it with such antipathy. Interesting, and at times frustrating. Ambivalence, I can understand. How can one take an honest look at all the blood that has been shed, and all the injustices committed in the name of the Nation, for the sake of “Freedom” and not feel the need for repentance and critique as well as thanksgiving and celebration? Yet, we are a people of great privilege. That word too though is one that, amongst those of us who desire to remove from ourselves the mantel of power, can be seen only in a negative light. We are people of privileges that ought to be acknowledged and celebrated because they are privileges that we would desire for all people. If we ignore these unmerited gifts, there is the risk that we may begin to think that we’ve earned them, that we deserve them and that those who don’t have them must not have earned them, must not deserve them. There is the risk that if we ignore them, we will obliviously swallow them in excess. Neither enjoying them nor sharing them, all while others are deprived, waiting, working, struggling.

Mass ended with “America the Beautiful” as our closing hymn. I felt the influence of the afore mentioned ambivalence creeping in as it was announced. “Really?” I thought, “this is what we want to end with?” While singing, I realized I’d never learned any lyrics beyond the first verse. Here is the second, for those who might be in the same boat as I:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Singing the first few lines I thought about how little most of with the legal label of “citizen” can relate to the struggle indicated here. How many of us bear the blisters and burns and calluses of “pilgrim feet?” How many are familiar with the wilderness? My mind immediately recalled images of the desert, that sun-scorched scape that blurs the boundaries between the United States and Mexico. I thought about the pilgrims I met there. I thought about the “stern impassioned stress” that drove them from their homes and families; that burdened them along their treacherous trek; and that enveloped them as they were branded “illegal,” put in cages, processed through courtrooms, shipped away to unfamiliar cities full of unfamiliar people and promptly forgotten by those who can cross borders with barely the flick of a passport because of where they were born.

I feel fortunate to amongst those born here. But that fortune weighs heavy. My mom has often said, “From those to whom much has been given, much is expected.” I’ve long felt the truth of this as an individual. I feel it now also as a resident of the United States.
“America! America (incidentally, when we use this word, do we forget that we are only North America? There are South and Central nations that share our name!)! God mend thine every flaw; confirm the soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.