Monday, March 31, 2008

Armenian-Catholic Relations

Armenian Church (Soviet Era clip)

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State visited Armenia for three days this month. The trip was originally postponed after Presidential election strife left 130 people injured and at least eight people dead.

The trip focused on East-West Church relationships. The director of Aid to The Church in Need has described the visit as a potential “milestone” in improving relations between the Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches. One of the potentialities is improved and closer relationships between Rome and the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Cardinal met with His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. The Cardinal presented his Holiness with a letter from Pope Benedict XVI. The Church has been an important and active participant in the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

The Armenian Church is an important church. In 301 AD Armenia became the first nation to become a Christian Nation. The Church, along with other Oriental Orthodox Churches split from communion with Rome and the other Eastern Orthodox Churches during the Council of Chalcedon in the 4th century. The split was related to differences in language about the divinity and nature of Christ.

I find all of this fascinating. First the history is breath-taking. Second, the geography is phenomenal. Here is a mountain country with the music and culture of southwestern Asia. Here is a nation surrounded by Islamic Countries: Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran. This is an ancient church worthy of support.

I am currently taking a course in Systematic Theology. We are studying the First Seven Ecumenical Councils. The very issues that are being addressed by the Vatican Secretary of State and his Holiness are the issues stemming from Chalcedon. The Coptic Church of Egypt and Rome have shown the world that dialogue is possible. We ARE one body, it is good that we are beginning to act like it. The next step will be a visit by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians to the Vatican.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Muslim-Christian Relations in Azerbaijan

Christian Music in Azerbaijan

The Vatican Secretary of State has stated that the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan is a model of religious tolerance that the whole world could use as a guide. This is clearly very different news from what we are use to hearing. All over the world we hear of religious fanatics of all faiths being intolerant of others. So what makes Azerbaijan so different?

Perhaps it is partly due to history. Azerbaijan, a predominantly Muslim country had been ruled by the atheistic communist regime of the old U.S.S.R. The citizens know what persecution and intolerance feels like. The result is a very different response to diversity.

The country has maintained traces of the early Christian Church. In fact there are two tiny remnant Churches within its boundaries, Orthodox and Catholic. Under the direction of its President the country has reconstructed a Catholic Church that had been destroyed by the communists. The land had been donated to Pope John Paul II by the President of the Republic in 2002. A homeless shelter ran by the sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta is to be part of the new church complex. So on March 19, 2007, the Vatican secretary of State was in attendance for the dedication of the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
This is indeed a gift worth giving thanks for. In a nation that is 99% Muslim it was the leadership, the people and the religious communities that made this possible. It was the Caucasian Muslim Office and the religious leaders of Azerbaijan that made this day possible. Now that is inter-faith dialogue!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Way of the Cross-2008: Station Fourteen

Johnny Cash and The Carter Family: Were you There?

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Fourteen: Governor’s Mansion (Jackson Street)

Station Fourteen: Jesus is placed in the tomb

The human agony is over. Jesus’ body is laid in the tomb. We have walked together and remembered with love and tears the suffering and death of our Lord and Savior. So, too, we have walked and remembered with love and tears the way we, and our world, crucify him still.

Now, may we find strength enough to hum a few notes of a hymn, whisper some bit of a psalm, say a snatch of a prayer, and give thanks for those who journey with us. May we on this day of death, find presence enough to speak our love for all of God’s children. May we find gratitude enough to forgive and ask to be forgiven. May we, even now, see in your face in the faces of those to whom we are blooded and bonded. We humbly pray:

Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed be they name.
Thy kingdom come,
They will be done one earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory now and forever.

And so ended my unplanned pilgrimage among strangers/friends in Springfield Illinois. Franciscans were the protectors of the Holy sites in the Holy Land. When the Ottomans denied pilgrimage to the sites it was the Franciscans that popularized the Stations of the Cross. The pilgrimage became internal but aided by the senses. Over the years there were many different models of "doing" the Stations. The number of Stations varied and actually went as high as 34 Stations.Over time the Stations were standardized. We say 14 Stations and may add a 15th, the Resurrected Christ. The Way of the Cross-2008 was stylized to aid the pilgrim to remember the Passion but also to acknowledge the Living Christ in a specific time and a specific place. Thank you Springfield.

Way of the Cross-2008: Station Thirteen

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Thirteen: Governor’s Mansion (5th Street Gate)

Station Thirteen: Jesus is taken down from the Cross

A disciple of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, took Jesus’ lifeless body from the cross and carried it to a new tomb, which had been cut out of rock. Laying his body down, he prepared it for burial. Having bound it up with wrappings of cloth with perfumed oil, it was laid in the tomb, as was the custom. Joseph treated our Lord with loving care and respect.

Standing outside the Governor’s mansion, looking out over this beautiful garden, we pray that such loving care and respect might be shown for all people from conception to natural death. Daily, people are dis-respected because of the color of their skin, because of their gender, because of the way they choose to worship, because of their sexual orientation.

We hear voices say, “What we need is tolerance,” No! What we need is respect: the same kind of respect that Jesus showed the tax collectors and the lepers; the same kind of respect Jesus gave to women and children, the same kind of respect with which Joseph treated Jesus’ body even after his death on the cross.

“Try saying this silently to everyone—you see for thirty days and see what happens to our own souls: “I wish you happiness now and whatever will bring happiness to you in the future.” If we said it to small children we would have to stop abusing them, even in the name of training; if we said it to (all) people, we would have to stop stoking the fires of enmity around us. WE WOULD CHANGE~ In a high Spiritual season, Lord, we ask you to change our hearts!

Way of the Cross-2008: Station Twelve

Wa Habibi, Good Friday Hymn sung by Fairouz

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Twelve: Federal Building

Station Twelve: Jesus dies on the cross

As we stand in solemn witness to the memory of the death, death on a cross, of our Lord, Jesus, we face the fact that he died for us. We also face the fact that the land made holy by Christ’s life, death and resurrection is becoming a more and more difficult place for the followers of Jesus to live.

Since the time of Christ, Christians have lived in the Holy Land with varying degrees of peace and justice. Recent political conditions in the region have made life even more difficult for Christians.

(Much of the body of this meditation is an attempt to be balanced about the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I do not doubt the motivation and sincerity of the writers of this meditation or the fact that my own bias is making me less than objective. Still, I found the meditation to be one-sided and excessively blaming of Israel. I believe you do have to be blunt and honest in an assessment of conflict to resolve conflict. I also believe both side must feel heard and understood to trust the process. Therefore, I have left out most of this meditation)…

Palestinian Christians are caught in the middle with little hope for support from either government. The Christian population has diminished from more than 20% in 1967 to less than 2% at present. At the present rates there will be no Christians by 2020 in the land that spawned Christianity.

Throughout the Middle East, Christ is being crucified once again. This time it will be an ever slower, m ore subtle death, but a certain death, if our government doesn’t intervene on behalf of Christian brothers and sisters.

Lord, your disciples deserted you at the time of your death as a human being. Let us not desert you as our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land die a slow “death” by our apathy and inattention.

The death of Christianity is Israel is a cause for concern and prayer. The problem is far bigger than this one nation even though this nation is the birthplace of our faith. Christians in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Egypt are all facing persecution. We need to find ways to support them that does not increase their chances of being targets. We need a bridge between two worlds. We need another Francis.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Way of the Cross-2008: Station Eleven

Kenya Dadaab Camp: Somali refugees

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Eleven: Municipal Building 7th and Monroe

Station Eleven: Jesus is nailed to the cross

Jesus-today the world is on the move.

In a Christian village not far from Mosul, a mother and father with two young children are trying to decide whether they should seek refugee status in the United States. Terror surrounds them, but it is 15 hours buy car over dangerous roads to Damascus. And that is only the beginning. They are afraid to go and afraid to stay.

In the Congo, an estimated 5.4 million people have died from war-related causes-not from violence but from its after effects: poverty, disease and displacement. The war began in 1998 and ended in 2000. But people- most of them children—are still dying from malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition at the rate of 45,000 a month. These people are refugees in their own country.

Foreign workers from southern Asia make up 37% of the 35 million people who live in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. They send money home to their families to pay for housing, education and clean water. They are beginning to be seen as a threat.

The route of illegal immigrants seeking work in the United States begins far south of Mexico. People from Nicaragua, Salvador and Guatemala cross the Rio Negro into Mexico to begin the perilous journey. …

In the United States, the detention of immigrants is the fastest growing form of incarceration in this country and is becoming a lucrative business..

Jesus, you lived in a global empire where the rich got rich and the poor got poorer. Terror wielded by emperors, kings and insurgents raged throughout your life. The New Testament says that Joseph, warned in a dream, fled with You and your mother into Egypt, escaping Herod’s massacre. You crossed borders. We don’t know if you were legal or illegal.

Jesus, help us to remember your story and the stories from our own families as we look at the intense and polarizing debate over immigration into our country today. What are the core values here? What would you have done?

This is not an intellectual exercise for folks in Fort Wayne. Our Catholic Charities is the catchment area agency for refugees from Burma, Somalia, Afghanistan, Chad, Sudan, central Asia. We also work with asylum-seekers. To the south of the city are farms that are dependent on migrant labor.We are far more diverse than I would have ever guessed when I moved here. Diversity requires understanding which requires exposure. we must get to know our neighbors so they can stop being strangers.

Way of the Cross-2008: Station Ten

Breath In,Breath out, Greenpeace

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Ten: The State Journal Register

Station Ten: Jesus is stripped

At the crossroads of knowledge of the existence of global warming and what is needed to reduce its impact, we are charge with a tremendous task. Do we make the connection between our work of peace and justice and our love and respect for Earth and all her creation? Do we see the connection between a golden sunset, a baby’s smile and the rights of everyone, no matter their skin color or facial features, to adequate housing and a decent life?

De we hear the connection between the call of a gull, the whisper of an evening breeze and the rights of all to live in dignity without war and violence? Do we feel the connection between soft kitten fur, a tiny flower’s petals and the need for all of us to good food, compatible companionship and the rights of all to untainted food and clean water?

Are we willing to make the sacrifices necessary for the life of the world that comes after us: our children, their children, and all living beings throughout this great green pulse? Can we use less, give more and allow for the loving, symbiotic mutual stewardship of all creation?

Spirit of Wisdom, bless us with a greater knowledge of Mother Earth. Fill us with love for all her sentient beings, the holy ground on which we step, the life-giving air we breath, the healing water to be shared among plants and animals alike, and the finite resources that are gifts not o be taken for granted.

Hate Crimes and Silence?

Ellen DeGeneres Discusses The Recent Tragic Death
Well the news today is full of stories of young people being killed because they are gay. Where is the outcry from people who are supposed to be peace-lovers, who are supposed to love our brothers and sisters? Are the members of the GLBT community and the parents, sisters, brothers, cousins and friends of the victims the only ones who are supposed to hurt or cry out for an end to this senseless killing?

In the last 12 months gay youths have been killed for being gay in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and California.

One man was beaten so severely his brain was severed from his brain stem. Another was shot in the back of the head, twice.

Across the nation GLBT communities have held vigils and called for stronger enforcement of Hate Crime laws. Some schools are recognizing April 25th as a National Day of Silence in which GLBTs and allies vow not to talk to emphasize how members of the community do not talk about their orientation out of fear of reprisals.

As people of faith we cannot simply rewrite our doctrine, it is not the act of individual believers. However, there is also the pastoral directive. We are called to love. Who are we called to love? Everybody. Emmaus Ministries in Chicago, an interdenominational ministry is a great example of what can be done. It is a ministry for homeless male prostitutes. The members of the ministry are directed by a gospel of love. They leave the judging to God and they do as Jesus commanded, they love.

We seem to do a very poor job of teaching respect for others and sometimes the consequence of that poor teaching is tragic. This is one of the problems of the world that we actually have in our power to change. We can change how we model to others how Christians are supposed to treat others. People are dying, young people are dying, silence is not an options.

Asian, African & South- American Catholic Bishops for Peace

Well I never made it to meet the Coptic Pope. Maybe, just maybe I can get to the University of Norte Dame (the other Catholic university in Indiana!). Why go there, because the bishops of Nigeria, Burundi, Uganda, Colombia and the Philippines will be there.

On April 13 , the conference’s opening plenary, “Peace as the Church’s Vocation: The Role of Bishops,” will include the bishops listed above as well as Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, S.J., of Cagayan de Oro on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines and Bishop Evariste Ngoyagoye, president of the Burundi Episcopal Conference.

If you are a regular reader of this blog than you’ll recognize many of the hot spots. The Philippines with the clash between radical Islam and its Christian citizens has been addressed. Africa has many of the same problems and the result sadly is a new cadre of martyrs. South America continues to deal with the clash between the owners and the poor. In all of these situations the church has a role to play as peace-maker and it has been struggling to do just that.

The bishops will also address “Catholic Peacebuilding in Africa”. It should be an easy date to remember, April 15th, tax day.

On April 16th Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga of Tunja will speak on” Colombia: the Church as Peacemaker.”

Franciscans are called not to be peace-wishers but peace-makers. That means taking chances, getting your hands dirty, being misunderstood. As Franciscans we can learn from these Catholic leaders and use their experiences and wisdom to guide our efforts.

Shalom, Salam, Peace, La Paix, Heiwa, Amaní, Aman Malay, Barish, Damai, Ets'a'an Olal, Fred, Hasîtî, Hau, Hoa Bình, Innaihtsi'iyi, Iri'ni, Kapayapaan, Írq, K'é, Innaihtsi'iyi, Khanhaghutyun, Kev Thajyeeb Nyab Xeeb, Kiñuiñak, La Paqe,

Pace n Bene

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Way of the Cross-2008: Station Nine

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Nine: Sangamon County Jail

Station Nine: Jesus falls the third time

One out of every one hundred Americans is incarcerated. We‘re number one! The United States has the dubious honor of having more people in jail, per capita, than any other nation I the world.

And how do we treat our prisoners, brothers and sisters each and every one? Is it enough that we take away their freedoms? No, apparently not: depending on where they are jailed, women and men in prison:
Lose their right to worship their faith;
Lose their right to adequate health care;
Lose their right to adequate nutrition;
Lose their right to visit their children;
Lose their right to be treated with dignity and respect;
Lose their right to adequate and sanitary blankets, clothing, and towels; and,
Lose their right to safety.

Can we take two hours each month to investigate the conditions in our local jails and prison, visit someone in jail, correspond with someone in jail, advocate for our sisters and brothers in prison, advocate for alternatives to incarceration, advocate for decriminalization of some of the nonviolent crimes?


Redeemer God, you who shelter fawn and flower, hear the prayers of your people. Help our leaders to seek the common good over profit and power; move jailers to treat all who they serve with respect and equity; bless those who visit prisoners; and rain down your healing compassion to the women. Carry them in your love throughout each day and protest them in the dark of night.


Way of the Cross-2008: Station Eight

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Eight: The Inner City Mission

Station Eight: Jesus meets the weeping women of Jerusalem

Jesus met sympathetic faces in the women of Jerusalem. Even if they had not heeded the words of Jesus’, ministry, they were not immune to the boldly suffering they saw as Jesus carried his cross to Calvary. Jesus stopped to console them.

As we stand here at the doors of the Inner City Mission, we are aware that present-day women and their families also need to be consoled.

The Inner City Mission provides three levels of shelter and care to single women, women with children, married couples with families and men with children: overnight emergency housing shelters a family for one night, while arrangements are made for their safe transport to relatives; extended housing consists of no more than 60 nights of shelter and supportive transitional housing, which is the primary focus of the Mission.

Emphasis is placed on providing a safe environment and basic human needs (food, clothing, transportation and guidance), so that a person may focus on identifying and addressing the causes of poverty and homelessness without concern for the safety and primary needs of life.

The U.S. census found that single motherhood is on a steep rise- growing three times as fast as couple parenthood. Single parent families often struggle with low wages and other complicating factors.

As we encounter those who are struggling to make ends meets, may we be as compassionate and caring as the women f Jerusalem were to Jesus on his way to Calvary.

Jesus, attune our hearts to hear the cries of women, single parents and their families, Give us your compassionate heart to help them bear their crosses. Lead us was we attempt top address any injustices that they encounter.

A note to any students who may be reading the Way of the Cross-2008, I received permission from the participants to post the Stations from the Walk for Justice. The goal is not to take credit for other’s writing, it is to acknowledge their event and especially to share their contemplations for compassion.

The Interdenominational Group that composed the meditations and the walk have provided all of us with a model that can be followed in our home towns. So thank you brothers and sisters in Springfield Illinois!

Kenya, the Catholic Church and Prayers for Peace and Healing

Francis Cardinal Arinze

Bishop Peter Kairo of Nakuru

Kenya continues to struggle with the aftermath of its election. The economy is in shambles, tourism is at a standstill and thousands of people are displaced. The Catholic Church has taken an active role as an advocate for peace and healing.

The Vatican sent Francis Cardinal Arinze to Kenya with a request that all Catholics pray for peace in Kenya. The Cardinal is one of the highest ranking clergy on the continent and had been considered a possible successor to Pope John Paul II.

Catholics throughout Kenya attended church during Holy Week and prayed for peace and reconciliation. Priests called upon the President and the leader of the opposition to compromise and cooperate with one another.

The Catholic hierarchy in Kenya called upon the government to begin resettling the internally displaced citizens. This is a matter of urgency. Beside a simple matter of justice the country needs to move toward some sense of “normalize” so that others are not afraid to invest in the country. Citizens need to begin to trust one another. The church has been making substantial humanitarian contributions and Bishop Peter Kairo of Nakuru, head of the bishops’ justice and peace commission has expressed optimism about the chances of the nation moving toward a peaceful resolution of the current situation.

There are currently over 300,000 displaced citizens in Kenya. During his Easter Message the bishop stated, “Dear brothers and sisters, we must come together in prayer and promise never to let such atrocities be committed against one another," he said. "Let us allow our neighbors to come back and occupy their lands, start preparing the farms for the planting season to avert a famine outbreak and allow the children to go back to school."

Let us pray that the bishops prayers are answered. Let us also call on our elected officials to take an active role in advocating for peace in Kenya.

Workfest 2008: Update #3 (The Sheila Teresa MacLean Collection)

Way of the Cross-2008: Station Seven

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Seven: the Medical District, 7th and Mason

Station Seven: Jesus falls the second time

Jesus falls a second time, under the weight of the cross. The Compassionate Healer is himself becoming weaker and in need of healing care.

Here in Springfield, we have excellent medical facilities, providing the latest procedures and technologies. But many of our sisters and brothers have serious health needs that are not being addressed. Health care in the U.S. is arguably the best in the world, but it is far from being equally available to all who live here. With nearly 46 million people lacking insurance coverage, our wealthy nation is not living up to its potential, and is leaving millions outside of a healthcare system that discriminates base on income, job status or other factors that marginalize vulnerable people.

It is our neighbors who stand outside the hospital door. It is our neighbors who die from incurable diseases. It is our neighbors who suffer needlessly for want of basic medicines…Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequalities, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

We most find an alternative to the way we provide health care coverage today. Our faith calls us to carry one another’s burdens, to bind up wounds, to act with justice, and to treat one another with compassion.

Healing God, we ask your blessing today on all those whose quality of life is threatened by a lack of adequate health care. Ur voices cry out that health care is a basic human right. Life and health are your precious gift to us. We pray that your elected officials and other leaders in our community, state and nation may be attentive to the needs people who are uninsured and provide strong leadership to see that everyone in America has health coverage they need for their health and well-being.

The two major teaching hospitals in Springfield are within walking distance of this Station. I had spent much of the week in one of them. While standing at Station Seven the contrast between what is available and what is provided to people became very clear. We have a lot of work to do.

Workfest 2008: Update #2 (The Kate Stefanowicz Collection)

Student cabins, yep this is an "alternative" Spring Break!

These are the cabins the students stayed in!

Way of the Cross-2008: Station Six

Homeless in America

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Six: Lincoln Library, where the homeless get out of the cold, Grace Lutheran food pantry, 7th and Capitol

Station Six: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Jesus, you said. “The birds of the air have nests, and the beasts of the field have dens, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

You knew what it is to be without a home, and so the homeless are always close to you in a way those of us who take for granted four walls and a roof cannot imagine.

Who knows? Here in Springfield and across the globe in shelters and refugee camps and illegal cities, it may be that the prayers of the homeless are keeping the Earth in its orbit even as we speak.

It may be that we’ll find You as Veronica did when we cross the borders of our comfort to work in homeless shelters, transitions programs, hiring efforts or to join community organizations like Homeless United for Change.

Or when we build low income housing, fund supportive housing programs, Housing First programs, and full service day centers where homeless people can find resources and community.

It may be that we will find You when the homeless get a voice in decisions made about them….

Help us to gather together what we have, bless it and share it, as you did that day on the mountain.
Help us see that when our leaders say, “Some must die so that we may live,” they are dealing death not only to those they target but also those they wish to protect and to the Earth itself.
Help us live in a way that replenishes what we take from the earth.
Help us conserve our natural resources and refuse to exploit and degrade the resources of others.
Help us create food policies that protect our health and the environment.
Help us to create trade policies that are fair to small farmers here in the United States and worldwide.
Teach us to share and to sustain so that we can find Your abundance.

While we were singing, praying and reading a homeless man with a cart went past us. He was concerned about interrupting us and apologized. He was caring for us.

Workfest 2008: Update #1 (The Jim Zeirke Collection)

Here are a few photos from the Jim Zeirke Collection. Maaarvelous, they all look maaarvelous!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Way of the Cross-2008: Station Five

Poverty in America

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Five: Federal Building

Station Five: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus

As we remember Simon of Cyrene, who was pressed into service to help Jesus carry his cross, we are reminded of our brothers and sisters who suffer the affects of poverty. The poor of our world carry the burdens imposed by the rich.

Here at the Federal Building we remember the short-comings of our governing bodies to take measures to alleviate poverty. The trends that are largely responsible for the rise in poverty over the past 25 years are a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in medical expenses, unemployment, and underemployment….

Christian people when asked what Jesus said about poverty are most likely to voice the quote, “The poor you will always have with you,” in order to excuse their behavior toward the poor. We must never forget that Jesus promised eternal life to those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirst, clothe the naked, care for those who are ill, welcome the stranger and visit the prisoner.

Those who live the covenant with God know that their nation will be judged by the way it treats the least among them. This is our calling: to carry the burden of those “least” among us.

Like Simon, give us strength to help our brothers and sisters in this journey of life. Let each of us always be attentive to the cries of the poor.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Domestic Violence

Patrick Stewart Talks About Domestic Violence: Amnesty International

Way of the Cross-2008: Station Four

Old State Capitol
I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Four: Old State Capitol (where Abraham Lincoln practiced law)

Station Four: Jesus meets his Mother.

Mary looks with love and pity at her beloved son, who has been scourged, crowned with thorns. Here we stand in the shadow of our historic state capitol contemplating the violence that permeates our society.

U.S. culture is exported around the world every day. Products and advertisements touting everything for jeans to soft drinks to athletic footwear are everywhere. Image of violence are often associated with the United States. Western movies depict cowboys conquering Native Americans and music videos exploit young women. Violence is everywhere in our psyche and culture.

Statistics inform us that the rates of interpersonal violence are higher in our country than in any other “developed” country. Homicide is the leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds. Violence against women continues. One source suggests that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Injury prevention experts agree that no one in immune from the affects of violence….

The violence in our country demands the concentrated attention of all of us. Violence prevention depends on the working partnership of religious, civic, cultural and governmental organizations and agencies.

We who see the face of Jesus, as Mary did, bloody and beaten are called to acts of compassion. So, too, we are called to speak out against all in the culture which either contributes or celebrates the violence around us.

Lord, Jesus Christ, through your death on the cross you disarmed the powers of evil. Help us to enter into your victory and to take a stand against all violence wherever it may be. Le us see your face, as Mary did on your way to Calvary, and let us be moved to compassion to pray and take action for all the victims of violence in our world.

Way of the Cross-2008: Station Three

WTC Memorials
I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Three: 2nd and Adams

Station Three: Jesus falls the first time

After a long night of questioning and torture, Jesus falls while carrying his cross to Calvary. Jesus was tired, wounded, yet he got up again and continued his journey. Abandoned by his friends and disciples, he was alone, but for the continuing presence of his Father in heaven.

In the United States, post 9/11, citizens are wounded and frightened. The attack on our country by terrorists leaves the nation with a wound that may not heal for generations. And now, we are engaged in a war that many of us fear will provoke even more terrorism. Our government, not wanting its citizens to feel alone or abandoned, has moved into a “defensive mode”, developing a Department of Homeland Security and passing legislation limiting civil rights of “select persons” through the Patriot Act.

These actions are put into place to make U.S. citizens feel secure and protected. They will not! The world in which we live is a dangerous place. We try to protect ourselves and our loved ones from every peril. But as people of faith we know that our efforts at self-protection will always fall short, that it is only in God that we will find our true security.

God sent us Jesus to suffer and die for us. It is God who is our shelter, our place of safety, our place of solace. It doesn’t matter that nature of our burden, it can be personal burden or one shared by a nation, or our world. God is always present to us, surrounding us, protecting us, as our security and our strength. God will be our shelter today and tomorrow, next month, next year. That will never change. From everlasting to everlasting our God is our sole sufficiency.

God, help us not forget your promise to be our stronghold. When we give in to our anxieties and fears, let us feel your everlasting arms. Help us remember always that your love for us is so great that you sent Jesus who willingly took up his cross to give us the security of eternal life. Amen.

I liked this interpretation. I responded to September 11th like most Americans did. I do not blame my leaders for wanting to keep us safe or feeling obligated to look like they are. I understand why we would take extraordinary measures to keep us safe. However, as the readings make clear, searching for safety out of anxiety is an illusion. We must remember where our security comes from. That is easy for me to say because I am not responsible for anyone else’s safety.

Stop Racism

Blood is Blood

Way of the Cross-2008: Station Two

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station Two was across the street from the Capitol Building and in front of the statue of Martin Luther King Jr. I felt honored that I was the reader at this station.

Station Two: Jesus carries his cross.

We stand before this well know countenance, the striding statue of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. As a young minister he was drawn to a position he did not necessarily want to be: early on he was placed in the role of leadership. Many looked up to him. Some thought of him as a holy man. As he progressed from seeking justice for African Americans in the country- to identifying was as the ultimate form of hatred- in a world in need of love, the number of his detractors grew. Finally his life was taken by an assassin’s bullet.

So much like the life of Jesus! Martin was called to bear a cross, and he bore it until death. Members of the African-American and white members of the Springfield community bore the cross during the race riot of 1908. The riots were spared by the transfer of two African-American prisoners out of the city jail by the county sheriff, because the white crowd wanted to take matters into their own hands. Buy the end of the riot, 40 homes and 24 businesses were destroyed and seven citizens killed.

The year 2008, the hundredth anniversary of the race riots has been proclaimed a “Year of Reconciliation” by the Springfield Ministerial Alliance. As we continue through this year of reconciliation, we join with God’s people in prayer on the first Sunday of each month…

If we expect warring factions throughout the world will someday find peace through reconciliation and forgiveness, so must we in our own community examine our hearts, call for reconciliation and seek forgiveness for injustices brought to bear on our beloved family, our brothers and sisters of color.

Creator of love, call forth the compassion deep within us to counteract our racism, denied by logic, instilled by our culture, and reinforced by our institutions. Grant us the courage to stand as converts to your love, as we admit to the racism within us and bring witness to your gift of equality for all.

Death Penalty Effects

Death Penalty Effects

Way of the Cross-2008: Station One

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station One was outside of the Illinois Supreme Court Building.

Station One: Jesus is condemned to die.

We stand before the Illinois Supreme Court building, symbolically the last word on executions in the state. It is the U.S. Supreme court, which, in recent decisions, has limited the use of the death penalty by declaring it unconstitutional to execute persons with mental retardation and juveniles under the age of 18.

Currently the federal government and 35 states have statues authorizing the death penalty. As of January 23, 2006, there were 3,383 inmates on death row in the United States. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, more than 1000 persons have been put to death. In that same time, 173 people have been released from death row in 25 states with evidence of their innocence. ….

At this time four countries account for almost all executions in our world. China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are the top three. The United States is number four. …

We urge federal and state governments to seek alternatives to the death penalty that reflect intelligence, civility, compassion and justice. Restoration of society and healing of the victims, as well as to reform and rehabilitate the offenders, must be the goals of the criminal justice system….

Opposition to the death penalty must not be perceived as disregard for the victims of violent crimes and their families. Healing of their pain must be fostered through special love and compassion; it cannot come about by further suffering and death…

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ report, “A Good Friday Appeal to End the Death Penalty”, makes another appeal: “We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders. The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.”

Creator God, we thank you for your presence in our lives, for the love you bring to all your creation, for the forgiveness you bestow on us as a blessing. Let us honor your gift of forgiveness by forgiving those who trespass against us, even those who have committed violent crimes. Amen.

Monday, March 24, 2008

China, Tibet, Human Rights and the Olympics

The world is watching as China clamps down on Tibet. So much for autonomy. So much for openness to the press and so much for respecting human rights. I have no doubt that Tibetans chose this time to protest because this is the time that might galvanize world opinion. But maybe not.

George Bush has been tepid in his rebuke of the Chinese clampdown. European leaders talk about boycotting the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics but not of boycotting the Olympics themselves.

Should we be surprised? China did not use its considerable influence when the Burmese government violently suppressed protests by Buddhist monks. China has not used its considerable influence to pressure Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur. And what have we done, we have tolerated this behavior with minimal protest.

The Chinese complain that Pelosi is habitually bad tempered because of her call for the world to know what is happening in Tibet. My issue with Pelosi is not her bad temper. It is her professional politicking. I wish she had put as much energy into stopping the War in Iraq as she has in calling attention to the Chinese treatment of Tibetans. Still, at least she is standing up to brutality.

The Pope has called for a peaceful resolution to the problems in Tibet. The Dali Lama has called for the Olympics to go forth but for negotiating to begin to resolve problems in Tibet and to increase autonomy. The Pope is trying to normalize relationships with China, the Dali Lama is trying to protect his people.

We do not have such constraints. Burma, Sudan and now Tibet. Enough. There is no good reason to act as if this is business as usual. It is not. It is time to call for a boycott of the Summer Olympics.

I understand that the International Olympic Committee will cry out that this will only hurt the athletes. That is a self-serving and insensitive argument. The rights and the lives of people out weight the rights of athletes to compete. Alternative competitions can be created, alternative lives cannot. Enough.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Joyous Easter

Sing Alleluia

Jennifer Knapp & Mac Powell of Third Day sing “Sing Alleluia" the Easter Gospel Luke 24: 1-12. Happy Easter everybody. Let’s pray that this time next year we have a little more peace in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas. However, in the meantime let us celebrate this day!

Peace and all good,


Way of the Cross-2008: Springfield Illinois

Stations of the Cross

Cemetery Outside of St. Bonaventure University

Diane Lopez-Hughes

I observed the Good Friday Services at the Cathedral in Springfield. The service was moving. The music was beautiful, the liturgy was familiar and I felt in touch with Catholics and other Christians around the world. However, it is what I did earlier that really made it feel like Good Friday.

At noon I met with an interdenominational group across the street from the State Capitol Building and in front of the Supreme Court Building. This was the 20th annual Walk for Justice. The walk or The Way of the Cross-2008 was a walk around downtown Springfield. We stopped at strategic buildings or landmarks. For each of the 14 stops or Stations we connected the Passion of Jesus with social justice issues we as Christians should be concerned about. It was very touching.

The program stated:

Good Friday is much more than
Re-living the passion of Jesus;

It is entering into solidarity with the passion of
All people of our planet,

Whether in the past,
The present,
Or in the future.

In Jesus all human suffering is collected.

The broken heart of Jesus
Is the broken heart of God.
The broken heart of God
Is the broken heart of the world.

Henri Nouwen


The duty of every Christian is to take Jesus off
The cross where we find him.

John Sorino, S.J.

This was a great group of people. It included a Franciscan sister, members of different Christian denominations and a Franciscan Associate. The Associate, Diane Lopez-Hughes was a very friendly woman who is a member of Pax Christi and JustFaith. When I met my mother-in-law she asked if I had met any peace activist who was recently released from jail. She was talking about a woman who she had met, who knew her son, a woman who had been arrested twice for trespassing on federal property to protest the Schools of the Americas. Turns out it was Diane! This is a small world.

This group welcomed me with open arms. Before I knew it I was the reader for the Second Station and I carried the Cross to the final Station in front of the Governor’s Mansion.

After I get caught up I will post about each station. However, the Locations and themes were:

Supreme Court Building: Capital Punishment
Martin Luther King Statue: Racism/Race Riots
Second and Adams: Militarism
Old State Capitol: Violence
Federal Building: Poverty
Lincoln Library: Homelessness/Hunger
Medical District: Health Care
Inner City Mission: Women/Children
Sagamon County Jail: Prisons
State Journal Register: Environment
Municipal Building: Immigration
Federal Building: Middle East
Governor’s Mansion (5th Street Gate): Life
Governor’s Mansion (Jackson Street) Prayer

So, first I need to do my homework, connect with family, get ready for work and then I will describe each of the Stations.

Peace and all good,

Walking Around Springfield Illinois

Lincoln's Home

The State Capitol Building

The Old State Capitol Building

The Cathderal

Lincoln's Tomb

Holy Thursday in Springfield Illinois

I spent the past week in Springfield Illinois. We had a seriously ill family member who required our support. In between hospital visits I spent time in the downtown area observing Holy Week.

This is not a strange city to me. I am from Chicago, for most of my life this was my State Capital. Lincoln’s home, his tomb, law office, the Old State Capital and the current State Capital Building are familiar to me. The new Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum I am not familiar with.

However, I was not here to be a tourist but the sites were all around. I felt like I had come home.

I observed Holy Thursday services at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Bishop George Lucas is an articulate, warm man with a good voice. The Cathedral is beautiful and when you step outside you see the State Capital Building. The church is only a few blocks from Lincoln’s Home and from the Governor’s Mansion. It is also a few blocks from the Presbyterian Church Lincoln attended. Still, I prefer my Cathedral in Fort Wayne, that is my home now.

One thing that struck me this past Thursday was an experience in the hospital. An adult granddaughter washed the hair of her hospitalized grandmother. While this is not an extraordinary occurrence it seemed to be symbolic of the day. During services we heard of the Last Supper, of the denials and the betrayal. We saw the Chrism Oils brought forth. However we also saw the bishop wash the feet of twelve congregants. Jesus, the ever-humble God was a servant. If we are to follow in His way than we must be servants. This granddaughter acted out of love and was a servant and by the reaction of the grandmother the act of love was not taken for granted. This was a simple and powerful lesson I hope to carry with me.

Peace and all good,

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cathedrals of the Immaculate Conception: Springfield Illinois

For more beautiful photos of the Cathedral or of other churches go to Rome of the West. This is a great blog that you will want to add to your blog rolls or your Favorites.

Cathedrals of the Immaculate Conception: Washington D.C.