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.

Judge the Power of Prayer by the Reaction It Gets from the Powerful

Lessons from Standing Rock

“We certainly need to pray for courage these days. ‘Dear God, please deliver me from the fear of my enemies.’”  Dorothy Day 1970

Why talk about such inconsequential subjects as prayer in the time of hatred and irrationality?  We don’t have time for that.

The Standing Rock Water Protectors called on prayer as their foundation to protect their lands and our waters. People responded to their prayer: indigenous people from Hawaii, Australia, Canada, Congo, the Arctic, the Caribbean. Not only indigenous people,people of all backgrounds responded.

And government forces attacked. Again and again and again.

This is not the first time prayer had been attacked by government forces:

Aaron Mair recounts the government reaction to the Sioux Ghost Dance 1890. He relates that

The ‘Ghost Dance’ (Nanissáanah), a religious and spiritual resistance of prayer and dance was practiced by the Sioux Nation in 1890 to enlist the spirits of the dead to fight on their behalf, to make the white colonists leave, and to bring peace, prosperity, and unity to Native peoples throughout the region. Alarmed by the Ghost Dance, the United States government and local authorities sent in thousands of troops to violently put down this peaceful protest and sought the arrest Sitting Bull, who was believed to be one of the spiritual resistance leaders. The unarmed Sitting Bull was shot and killed when the attempt was made to arrest him.

Sierra Club 2016

Judge the power of prayer by the reaction it gets from the powerful.

Rev William Barber channels Dorothy Day, etc., etc.

The list of people Rev. Barber was channeling at the Dems’ convention is very, very long….back to New Testament and further.

 

Rev. Barber mentioned Dorothy Day in his speech. Small wonder.

This  is the introduction to the first Dorothy Day’s newspaper, Catholic Worker 1933:

“For those who are sitting on benches in the warm spring sunlight.

For those who are huddling in shelters trying to escape the rain.

For those who are walking the streets in the all but futile search for work.For those who think that

there is no hope for the future, no recognition of their plight, THE CATHOLIC WORKER is being

edited….”*

It burns me up what the right, Protestant and Catholic, deem Christianity all about sex and give hate-filled sermons. Churches, synagogs, mosques, are grassroots organizing places, not right-wing Hotspots.

 

 

 

*http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/articles/913.html

 

 

 

 

 

An Embarrassing Hero

I saw Dorothy Day at a Mass one afternoon. She sat in a front pew with her head bowed in prayer. I had the same contradictory reaction to her that I do now, forty years later.

Her uncompromising belief in pacifism inspired everyone I worked with in the Catholic Left, activists who worked for the end of the American War in Vietnam, and for a shift in America’s attitude toward war. She is best known for her work with desperately poor people, opening Houses of Hospitality to feed and house the most marginalized in Depression America, and after. She constantly confronted the Catholic hierarchy in their neglect of the Christian message of social justice. Her stand for pacifism was absolute. Christians, she said, had no other choice.

That afternoon, what I saw in her bowed head was a piety and submission to authority that made me cringe. She once said that if the Cardinal told her to stop printing her Catholic Worker newspaper, she’d shut it down immediately. The idea of totally obedient and will-less devotion to a religious authority is a destructive medieval hold-over. It is an infantile approach to church. She was devoted to that obedience.

However, to categorize Dorothy Day as totally obedient or will-less or infantile verges on the ridiculous, and counter to everything we know about her life. So Dorothy Day, enigma, paradox, embarrassing hero, haunts my spiritual life.

This year, when a pastor was arrested for feeding homeless people outdoors in Fort Lauderdale, I swear I could see her right there. She goes to Palestine with Sherrill; she’s in jail for acts of social justice next to Paki. She is working at the Food Pantry. She is insulating walls with Richard to protect the creation she loved. She is striking with fast-food workers for a living wage. She is an unfailing guide for social justice.

But, a spiritual guide? Yes: “How can you not believe in God when there are so many beautiful things?” she asked her lover. Her beliefs about the sanctity of voluntary suffering? No. Her rigidity about women’s roles and about divorce? No. Her humbleness before church authority? No. Her humbleness before God? Yes.

I gave up this year. The only way to deal with a ghost is to face her. I’m reading what she wrote and what is written about her. I’m sitting next to her before God. The result: her paradox is becoming more pronounced – not what I was hoping for. Now the paradoxes in my own soul are clearer to me. Wandering in the celtic knot of Dorothy’s life is making me recognize the knot of my own life. Celtic knots are mysterious and beautiful, however unsettling to live with.

Who is the Most Communist Catholic? Catholic Opinion Divided!

“I quote the Gospel, they call me a Communist.” 

Pope Francis

Websites dedicated to the idea that Dorothy Day was a Communist agitator are easy enough to find.

Pope Francis and Dorothy Day are neck in neck for the title of The Most Communist Catholic. Francis took the lead when Fox News reporter Stuart Varney called him “the Obama of the Catholic Church.” To him, that’s even worse than being a Communist.

carl-marx-and-Obama conservative papers.com.

conservativepapers.com

Trying to stick a political label on Dorothy Day is futile. Feminists who came to see her were disappointed, Communists were disappointed. Because one Catholic Worker headline proclaimed “Feed the Hungry, Starve the Bankers,” probably the bankers were disappointed. She was outspokenly anti-communist. Communists believed that the good of the “masses” mattered more than the good of the person, an idea she strongly opposed. Also, they were atheist.

She kept her eyes focused on God and the “Body of Christ,” feeding poor people, caring for the most marginalized.

One thing is for sure, state control of the economy would be an anathema. Much of what she said about unemployment insurance and other programs would be hailed by Rand Paul.

If Day had any ideology, it would be, using her word, “personalism.”  Personalism is the opposite of communism and popularized in the Church by John Paul II. He summarized it as, “persons are not to be used, but to be respected and loved.”  “ (Redemptoris Missio)

Debates about Dorothy Day’s ideology already fill books and websites. They miss the point.The center of Day’s thinking was her beliefs in God, Christ living in every person, in every moment. She read the Bible every day. Whoever advanced the vision of the primacy of The Beatitudes was her companion, regardless of affiliation. She writes:

“The truth is the truth, writes St. Thomas, and proceeds from  the Holy Ghost, no matter from whose lips it comes.”

Currently there are only four communist countries in the world. Granted, China is pretty big, but it is also turning more toward capitalism. So declaring the supposed communism of gospel-inspired people is a waste of time. It detracts from the message of the kinship of all people.

These two Catholics can call themselves Aquinas-ist, aquinas pixVincent dePaul-ists, or Ezekial-ist ezekial picor Amos-ist, or Zachariah-ist, or best of all,

dd jesus volto-cristo-bologna                                                             Jesus-ists.

These are the teachings on social justice that Dorothy Day held dear.

But Communist? Marxists? No.

Political label?

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

Proverbs 31:20:NIV

Simple as that.

The Holy Sanctuary of the Supermarket

“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

Thich Nhat Hanh, teacher and social activist, advises his students to sit in meditation for 20 minutes at a time, no longer. This meditation does not bring us to other realms of experience, but to the world as it is around us right now. Whether we are sitting or walking, meditation helps us realize we are in a “holy sanctuary”  no matter where we are.

Sister Tri Hai, a student of Thich Nhat Hanh, was arrested in Vietnam while working for peace. He says, she “practiced walking meditation in her prison cell. It was very small—after seven steps she had to turn around and come back. Sitting and walking mindfully gave her space inside. She taught other prisoners in her cell how to sit and how to breathe so they would suffer less. They were in a cold cell, but through their walking meditation, they were grounded in the solid beauty of the earth.”

Prayer is simply creating space so we can consciously step into the very place we are. In fact, the ground under our feet is the only place we can meet God.  Rummaging over the past, wishing, pondering the future… these thoughts crowd out God. The mind needs to open, drop theological rumination, doubts. These thoughts will not go very far away; we can turn to them any time we want. Meditation teaches us to be open, to experience what is freely given, to meet God without mediation.

“When [Dorothy] tried to pray on her knees, arguments against prayer and religion overwhelmed her thoughts, but whenever she set out walking – no matter what the direction, the purpose, the hour, the distance or the weather – the debate was stilled and she found it impossible not to pray.”

All is Grace, Jim Forest p. 77

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.”

Theresa of Avila is famous for her, sometimes cranky, conversations with God. I suspect these must be a nice break from all the rote, sentimental words that find their way to heaven. She spent her life clearing out “The Interior Castle,” finding her way to the inner-most room where God lives.

Prayer is simply cleaning up the living room to have room for your guest. Or just stuffing all the detritus into a closet for a while.

After a walk, Dorothy says, …on the trip back I neither prayed [with words] nor thought but was filled with exultation.”

Dorothy Day and Thich Nhat Hanh are leaders who embody the “open to Presence” that is the foundation of their work for justice and peace.

The Depression, The Recession, The Poor

“It is the people who matter, not the masses.”  (The Long Loneliness)

Looking back, it seems easier to see which people were poor during the Great Depression than to see them today. They were people you see in black & white.

whoo caliing poor pix

Then, papers printed pictures of “Hooverville” camps, shanty towns with houses made of cardboard, scrap lumber, tin, whatever the people could find. People evicted from their homes built them across the country. They were clearly poor.a seattle hoovertown

 

 

A Hooverville, Seattle 1933

 

Poverty-In-America-Photo-by-Karen-Apricot-300x225

 

 

Poverty 2013

      (picture by Karen Apricot)

 

 

The soup lines went down the street and around the corner.

1933                                                                    2013

soup line 1933soup kitchen line 2013 pix

 

The Great Depression was so long ago. The Great Recession is still with most of us. People live in inadequate houses, stand in line for meals today as then. But our image of poverty has changed. People look  more destitute in back and white photography. In the 21st century, an improbable number of U.S. citizens blame poverty on people who are poor. Unsavory politicians claim that race, low I.Q., laziness are to blame. Democrats are to blame, Republicans are to blame, Obamacare is to blame, Roosevelt is to blame, Reagan is to blame.

In the 1920’s – 30’s, radicals discussed which ideology might lead to a more just society. Socialism, communism, anarchism? Dorothy was not as interested as her co-workers in theory.

“It is the people who matter, not the masses.”        (The Long Loneliness)

People use the New Testament as justification for all kinds of political agendas, not noticing that the New Testament does not talk about political agendas.

Dorothy’s outrage at poverty and the crushing of civil rights combined with an insight about the connection each of us has to each other …to each person as brother and sister. She saw God in each person. She focused on the person in front of her.

The debate continues. What is our country’s best direction?

However, the question, “Who are you calling poor?” is easy to answer. The person in front of you, down the street, in the other country, who needs food, housing, warm clothes.

That has not changed.