Tears of Resistance

“Like every human being who hungers and thirsts for justice and peace, Dorothy Day had periods of complete exhaustion, sorrow, and pain. I was told that she would then withdraw and cry — for hours and days. She would sit there, talk to no one, eat nothing, and just cry. She did not withdraw from her struggle-filled, active life for the poorest of the poor. She never ceased to look upon war, and preparation for war, as a crime against the poor. But at certain times she wept, long and bitterly.

“When I discovered this, I understood better what pacifism is, what God means in the midst of defeat, how the spirit comforts us and leads us into truth. I understood that comfort is not had by giving up truth, that one does not happen at the expense of the other. That Dorothy Day cried for days on end means for me that the Spirit’s consolation bears, at the same time, its own inconsolability. With Dorothy Day, we can learn to pray for the gift of tears.”

from Against the Wind: Memoir of a Radical Christian by Dorothee Soelle

People who fight for justice and peace are on the right side of history, correct? So why should we experience exhaustion, sorrow and pain? Frustration, hopelessness?

Because the news cycle of history is decades long.

The fight against injustice spans centuries.

History is not, I believe, an endless cycle, defeats and victories repeating themselves over and over. Think of a long, slow wire coil making its way down from the attic to Eden. Landing on a step, hesitating, collecting itself, allowing itself to be led to the next step down toward its goal.

Imagine we are working half way down the stairs, we can barely see the steps above, only the long way down. Imagine if we were to stop pushing that coil onward, but we stopped, discouraged because CNN did not report the march, the action, the phone calls, the arrests.

Resistance has no news cycle.

Resistance does not feed instant gratification, quite the opposite.

The desire to stop the unnecessary hunger, the spending on wars, the killing of innocents on the street….. it is so intense.

…”With Dorothy Day, we can learn to pray for the gift of tears” and, with her, keep on.

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The Peace of Silence

“….you go into a warm, dimly lit vastness, with the smell of wax and incense into the air, the smell of burning candles, and if it is a hot summer night there is the sound of a great electric fan, and the noise of the streets coming in to emphasize the stillness.”

                                                                                                                                     The Long Loneliness p.9

Dorothy Day opens her autobiography with a description of a city church on Saturday nights. Churches create small crevices of silence. Even a chapel out in the country encompasses a stillness unlike the quiet in field and woods.

In grammar school I had my parents drop me off early at a daily Mass. St. Mary’s was a dark cavernous church in a small city. Every weekday morning an ancient priest said a Mass for the Dead, complete with black vestments, women in black shawls, and me. The Mass was in Latin, so I had no idea what was being said. I just liked that quality of stillness. I could sink right into it. Later on, my high school had tiny chapel with yellow walls and bright windows. I’d sneak in to catch a breath of quiet. I was always the only one there.

My mother lived in elder housing which had taken over a nun’s retirement  home. The “chapel” gaped larger than many churches and people sat praying (or something) all times of day. I had long since stopped going to Sunday Mass, but I’d sit there briefly, before going to Mom’s apartment, surrounded by statues of saints I’d forgotten.

One evening in Boston I wandered into a chapel hidden below a storefront sidewalk. The smoke of incense drifted in the small room, no doubt drifting there for a few decades. Two women covered in black knelt hunched over in prayer. Above the altar hung a life-size Jesus, bright red paint dripping down his body which writhed in realistic agony.

Suddenly medieval Italy and 1970 Boston co-existed in time and space, and I stood suspended somewhere between. As one of the women began to gather herself together I left, afraid to be dragged into some fifth century Inquisition dungeon and left there. Or maybe I was just embarrassed to be caught touristing on this woman’s sacred place.

Cultivating stillness is a spiritual practice. Thich Nhat Hanh says,  “Silence is ultimately something that comes from the heart, not from any set of conditions outside us.”

While this is true, PLACES of stillness, of silence are precious.

I’ve stayed too late at nightclubs, and believe me, nothing is more shocking than 2 a.m. when the lights blare on and the music shuts off. That’s not the kind of quiet I’m talking about. That is more akin to waking from a dream in fairyland and finding out it’s ten years later than when you walked in. An awakening indeed. Especially after a few gin-and-tonics.

Dorothy says later in the chapter: “I have not always felt the richness of life, its sacredness.”

Silence nurtures that awareness.

“We can’t find the peace of silence without stopping.”

                                                              -Richard Rohr

Medea Benjamin Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

“If we want to reap the harvest of peace and justice in the future, we will have to sow the seeds of nonviolence, here and now, in the present.”

-Mairead McGuire

Medea Benjamin Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

 

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Click on link above to read Mairead McGuire (Nobel Peace Prize recipient 1976) sum up Benjamin’s work and support her for award.

Dorothy Day was rejected as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize because she was “too radical.” The work for social justice that Benjamin continues to do makes her a spiritual granddaughter of Dorothy. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has a chance to correct skipping her over by awarding the prize to Benjamin.

 

 

 

 

Prayer for Justice

Prayer: 

God of justice and mercy, we ask your blessing upon those trapped by the world’s sin

For those who live in the terror of war …

Place peace in the hearts of those carrying out violence

For those who live shackled and trafficked …

Grow mercy in the hearts of those who hold them captive

For those who bear the weight of poverty …

Create generosity in the hearts of those who can help bear the weight

For those whose life and livelihood are affected by our changing climate …

Place prudence in the hearts of those in positions of power

For those who continue to be pushed to the margins of society – the elderly, immigrants, addicted …

Grow compassion in the hearts of those who might welcome them into its center

And for all of us, grant the strength to continue working for justice in this world and the faith to believe in the justice of the world yet to come.

Amen.

Chasusa.org Feb 2016

Judging Leaders at the Airports

Over and over again, people had to disobey lawful authority to follow the voice of their conscience. This obedience to God and disobedience to the State has, over and over again, happened throughout history. It is time again to cry out against our ‘leaders,’ to question (since it is not for us to say that they are evil) whether or not they are sane.

Dorothy Day, April 1954

Over and over again leaders face the judgment of citizens. Today thousands of citizens showed up at international airports to protest an order to block Muslims from entering the U.S.

The Bible, philosophers, Quakers, Henry Thoreau, all have plenty to say about when and how to confront authority.

If you see the extortion of the poor, or the perversion of justice and fairness in the government, do not be astonished by the matter. For the high official is watched by a higher official, and there are higher ones over them!                                  Ecclesiastes 5:8    (NET Bible)

Yet many are indeed astonished by the degree of perversion of justice in this ban.

The International Association for Refugees lists 46  Biblical instances of people forced from their homelands. [iafr.org]

The plight of refugees is one of the underlying themes in the Abrahamic traditions, yet still our leaders don’t get it. The treatment of strangers in our land is a test of our national conscience. And how we confront our leaders on this defines the values of citizens.

In this rather prophetic sentence, Day reminds us not to judge our leaders as evil, just whether or not they are sane. Wisdom from 1954 Catholic Worker.

 

And now the good news: According to Mother Jones: “A Federal Judge Just Issued A Stay Against Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ Judge Ann M. Donnelly’s ruling halted deportations, but refugees abroad remain in limbo.”     JAN. 28, 2017 8:50 PM  [click on name for link]

 

Walking Toward God

What is the connection between walking and meditation, walking and prayer? Meditation and prayer require our mind, souls, and bodies to work together in order to bear fruit. Walking requires that our eyes and ears be open.

In The Long Loneliness, Dorothy describes her time living on Statin Island. She says, “I found myself praying, praying with thanksgiving, praying with open eyes while I watched the workers on the beach and the sunset, and listened to the sound of the waves and the scream of snowy gulls.”

“We can train ourselves to walk with reverence. Wherever we walk, whether it’s the railway station or the supermarket, we are walking on the earth and so we are in a holy sanctuary. If we remember to walk like that, we can be nourished and find solidity with each step.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, “Shambhala Sun”, August 6, 2012

 

Merry Christmas from Dorothy Day, 1936

Catholic Worker joins in appeal for democracy and peace, therefore asks you to join protest against all dictatorships, fascist and Bolshevist, against all suppression of civil liberties, fascist and Bolshevist, including freedom of religious propaganda, education, and organization, against all war, whether imperialist, civil, or class.

Merry Christmas.