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