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

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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

 

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.

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.

Prayer, Justice, and the Scales of Justice

“So long as we talk and argue and busy ourselves on the plane of this world, evil seems the stronger. ….The thing is to enter on another plane, to find that fourth dimension which represents the kingdom of the Spirit…. – Henri de Lubac, quoted by Dorothy Day, Catholic Worker, 1978

Injustice is easy to see. When black men are targeted, when rape is dismissed as a prank, when gays are murdered, when families struggle for food and shelter, we see injustice in the flesh.

lady_justice_w_scalesBut what is justice? Is it simply the absence of injustice? Revenge is a kind of justice; it is the desire to rebalance the scales. The image of Justice is a woman with a blindfold holding a scale.  When one man murders another, the world is thrown out of balance. By killing the murderer, some think, the world regains its balance. The forces have been equalized again. The family of the victim, the community can be satisfied. The value of the death penalty is not as a deterrent to murder; it is the restoring of balance from chaos.

Then along comes Jesus. “You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.”

We’re being told to keep the scale unbalanced. We are being told not to attempt to purge evil by killing. He’s talking about another kind of justice.

What does this justice look like? smell like? feel like? An abstraction like justice or hope or love, stays uselessly abstract until we give it form.

“The legal battle against segregation is won, but the community battle continues.” Dorothy Day The Catholic Worker, November 1956

On December 12, 2014, friends and neighbors stood in the cold in Greenfield to declare the obvious truth that black lives matter.

Afterwards, thirty people came together in the Upper Room at church to celebrate Our Lady Of Guadalupe, or Tonantzin, the Mother. The 12th is her “birthday.”

In December 1531 at the hill of Tepeyac, Mexico, Mama Lupe appeared to the First Nation peoples. She spoke to the peasant, Cuauhtlatoatzin, (Juan Diego), in his original language, Nahuatl. She demanded that the Spanish conquerors build a church on the place where people had come for centuries to honor her as Tonantzin, the Mother. Cuauhtaltoatzin, a devout Catholic, repeatedly brought her demand to the Spanish authorities until, after she miraculously spread roses at their feet, they relented.

And so a Presence of Love and Protection appeared on the hill, in a country where people lived under the oppression of an occupying army.

In celebration, we placed images of Mama Lupe on a table with roses and candles. We lit candles to bring together all who call for justice: for parents of slain young men, for black children, for racism’s end. We prayed, sang, listened. We called down justice to live among us.

Praying gives justice voice. When evil seems overwhelming, sounds and images springing from the creation of ceremony can crystalize peace and freedom, allowing us to hear and touch it, and each other. And give sustenance to action.