Being a Good Goat

Reflection for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, by Carolyn Townes, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our November 20th newsletter


Goats.SheepAs I write this reflection, I am reeling from yet another act of violence in our nation. A shooting in a church is unfortunately becoming an all too familiar scenario. The mass shooting in Texas has yet again left our country scrambling for answers of why and how could this happen.

This Sunday is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the end of this liturgical year. Our readings speak of judgment and end times. The often referenced passage of Matthew’s Gospel about the final judgment with us being separated as sheep from goats, is interpreted in many different ways by many different camps. Yet the meaning is quite clear: when we minister to those in need, we are being Christ to them – no matter who they are. And when we turn our backs on those most in need, then we are turning our backs on the Lord. The former will be rewarded with eternal life, while the latter go off to the eternal punishment.

I believe we have heard this passage read so many times that we tend to miss the true meaning. We are not above turning our backs on those who need while giving them the left foot of fellowship. Not Christ-like at all. Notice the passage does not mention being Christian or not, being a believer or not, or even praying so many rosaries or novenas. It is only about how we cared for another; no matter what that level of care looked like. Think about the way we speak to those who disagree with us. Or, speak about them to others. Not exactly ministering to their needs. Perhaps I am not apt to outright gossip but, I call them out on their faults and failures, more than I praise them for the good they do. Am I appreciating others or depreciating them? At any given time, I am doing one or the other.

The more I read this passage the more I question whether I am a sheep or a goat. I like to think of myself as a “good goat” as opposed to a “bad sheep”. I strive to do the best for others, but I fall short at times. My greater question is what can I do to prevent more bloodshed from gun violence? To place blame is not the solution as it only increases the fear and violence. Instead of pointing the finger at someone else to accuse, what if we point a finger at ourselves and ask what can I do to help prevent this from happening again? Maybe the answer is not much, but at least we are being proactive and not reactive. And, ask the Holy Spirit to animate and guide you towards nonviolent actions. Where the Holy Spirit leads, is always right action with justice and mercy.

Carolyn D. Townes, OFS
National Animator, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation
U.S. Secular Franciscan Order

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Published in: on November 21, 2017 at 9:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Potential Reversal of Ivory Import Ban is “heartless and misguided”

by Chiara Klein,
FAN Intern, January – June, 2017

The views published here do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


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Photo by Alexandre Chambon on Unsplash

No words other than ‘heartbroken’ and ‘outraged’ can describe my reaction to the Trump administration’s potential reversal of the ban on ivory imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia. This ban, established by the Obama administration, was based on assessments that both countries in particular had failed to prove that they were managing elephant populations responsibly. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a statement claiming that lifting this ban will generate revenue by way of permit payments that will go towards elephant conservation efforts, the more likely reality is that we will see a significant increase in elephant poaching and consequently, further endangerment of these already highly threatened creatures.

To overturn this ban would be to make a reckless and destructive decision based purely on greed, with no consideration given to the very real responsibility that we have as one of the largest economies in the world. The decisions we make regarding trade with the rest of the world have massive repercussions. By lifting this ban, our administration would be making the economic incentive to poach stronger than ever. This is the latest drastic demonstration of the fact that this administration has no regard for this planet or the creatures that inhabit it.

In addition, by making this a partisan issue, as it is being made out to be, the moral corruption at the core of the issue is being intentionally obscured. We have reached a point where everything that goes against basic morals and reason becomes labeled a partisan issue, in an effort to erase how clearly we have lost our way as a country and a society. I personally refuse to allow the heartless and misguided nature of this potential decision be made invisible.

So many of the decisions that our President has made have seemed unavoidable, based on what we know of his guiding principles and based on the chaotic, divided state of the nation at present. But this latest decision is completely avoidable. And would simply support the needless killing of some of the most awe-inspiring and highly vulnerable creatures on our planet. As we hurtle faster and faster towards knowing a world completely changed from the one we were born into, we should be working as hard as we can to hold onto what we have. We should be using our power compassionately, as stewards of our earth, to ensure that the creatures with which we share this planet have the strongest chances of survival possible. This latest proposal is such an obvious, disdainful, violent step backwards and cannot be given any chance of passing. No matter how tired we may be of fighting to create the world we want to see, we must stand up each time that world is threatened. This is one of those times.

Published in: on November 20, 2017 at 3:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Face of God

Reflection for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN executive director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our November 13th newsletter


Face of GodWe are winding down the Liturgical season the church calls “Ordinary Time.” We are getting ready for the anticipation of Advent and the celebration of the Incarnation. The moment when God became man and all of creation changed. I always find it interesting that we call this season ordinary time. It seems like it is the period where we celebrate the mundane and the ho-hum of our everyday life. In our spiritual journeys, we often do not take time to honor the simplicity of sitting with a cup of coffee in the early morning, listening to the birds singing. We are so busy looking for the burning bush that we walked by the single rose on the side of the road.

Our readings for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time have a familiar theme. In the second reading from 1 Thessalonians 5 it says, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.” This is almost the same as was in last week’s Gospel from Matthew: “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you. Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” I have often heard these scriptures preached in reference to death. We have to remain in a state of Grace because God could take us at any time. It is a theology of fear. I rarely hear it preached to reflect how we should be awake, not because we could die at any minute, but rather because at any minute we might see the face of Jesus in the poor, the immigrant, the marginalized. If we are not awake with the Spirit and filled with God’s love we will miss the face of God in everything around us.

I am reminded of a story I heard as a boy. There was a woman named Sara who was very pious. She attended Mass daily, prayed the Rosary, she even helped out cleaning the church. One day she was at church praying and she said, “You know Jesus I come here every day. I attend Mass. I pray the rosary. I help out the priest and I have never asked you for anything. I would ask just one wish. I would like to see a vision of you, maybe meet you.” There was silence for a few minutes then Sara heard a voice say, “Yes Sara, you have been very pious and helpful. So to show my appreciation I will come to your house tomorrow and have lunch with you.” Sara left the church. She had much to do before Jesus arrived the next day. She cleaned her house, set the tale with her finest china. She went to the store to buy only the freshest produce and meat. Sara prepared her best dishes. She put on her fanciest dress and waited in anticipation of Jesus coming. Around noon, Sara heard a knock on the door. Excitedly she hurried over to answer. When she opened the door, standing there was a man who was very ragged. His clothes were torn and shredded. He smelled terrible and looked unkempt. The man said, “Excuse me ma’am I was walking by and could not help but smell the wonderful aroma of the food coming from your house. It has been several days since I have eaten and was hoping you could spare a bite.” Sara looked at him horrified. She said, “You have to go away now I am expecting a very special guest.” The man walked away.

Sara waited for hours for Jesus to show up. Finally, she gave up, cleaned everything up and threw the food away. The next day she went to church as always. She was angry and said to God, “You promised me you would come for lunch. I went out and bought the best cut of meat the freshest produce, I set my table with my finest china and waited and you never showed up.” Jesus answered, “But Sara, I came at the appointed time and you refused me and chased me away.”

So, no, we do not know the day or the hour that Jesus will come, but if we see the face of God in all of creation and everyone, it will not matter because we will not miss the moment.

Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on November 14, 2017 at 8:16 am  Leave a Comment  

The Foolishness of Wisdom

Reflection for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board President, Sr. Margaret Magee

This reflection was originally posted in our November 6th newsletter


oil lampsI have to confess, I often struggle with this week’s gospel parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. I know that Jesus’ teaching of this parable is the call to ‘stay alert’ and ‘be prepared’, but I’ve often wondered if Jesus would really leave some people outside in the dark, crying out to be admitted and welcomed? This might be a good question for our reflection this week.

Being a product of a Catholic upbringing, I was schooled in the catechism, the sacraments, prayers and various practices and disciplines that not only shaped my life but gave me, and all of you with a similar upbringing, a very strong Catholic identity. With this upbringing we strove to be like the five wise virgins, well prepared with our flasks of oil ready, our lamps trimmed, alert and waiting. In my experience, the focus of our faith was to stay on this straight and narrow path that was needed to get to heaven. We dared not darken the doors of churches that were not Catholic. In a sense our faith and church life was a closed system.

Then things began to change, especially with the election of Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli who took the name Pope John XXIII. In 1959, less than three months after his election, he announced his plan to convene a Council. “I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in.”

In this bold move John XXIII not only called for a Council, he announced that it would be an Ecumenical Council. In this move he invited other Christian Churches to participate as observers, and they came. More than three dozen representatives of the Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and many Protestant denominations attended the opening session. As the Council sessions continued this number grew to almost one hundred. However, in throwing “open the windows of the Church” John XXIII desired not only to address the relationship of the Catholic Church with other Christian Churches. His deepest desire was to explore and address the Catholic Church’s relationship to the modern world.

Our current pontiff, Pope Francis continues to call and deeply challenge us to be the servants of Christ in the world today. He stated, “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” Pope Francis added, “More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within the structures which gives us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, ‘Give them something to eat.’”

Our readings this weekend do call us to stay awake, prepared and alert for the coming of our God. They also call us to seek, to love and to dwell in wisdom. Not the wisdom of knowledge, books and learning but of Holy Wisdom, personified in our first reading from the Book of Wisdom. “Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her and found by those who seek her.”

Francis of Assisi was a true seeker of holy wisdom. Fr. Dan Horan, OFM, in his blog Dating God states, “It’s well known that Francis referred to himself at times as ‘God’s fool,’ as one who was an idiota for the Lord. In other words, the self-admitted logic that Francis appropriated was not that of worldly wisdom or the societal norms of his day. To have done so would have been to continue despising the lepers and the poor, living a life focused on business, success, and wealth, and living a kind of comfortable existence that came at the expense of those most vulnerable.”

Francis’ search for wisdom led him to recognize the true presence of wisdom in the poor and suffering crucified Christ and in the poor, suffering people who were unwanted and unwelcomed, the lepers, the ill, the poor and marginalized in his society. In many ways he did not spend time praying within the walls of the local churches, rather Francis, Clare and the women and men, the sisters and brothers who gathered with them embodied the Church bringing Christ’s healing, mercy and goodness into the streets, the fields and the caves and forest areas that became the leprosariums.

As Franciscans today, we are called to be those foolishly wise virgins, prepared and ready, who have experienced the loving invitation and welcome of Christ, the bridegroom. We are also called, full of foolish holy wisdom, to embody the Church bringing Christ’s healing, mercy and goodness to all who feel unwelcomed and unloved, the immigrant, the stranger, the poor. Are we open to hear their cries? Will we open our doors and our hearts to them?

Margaret Magee OSF
Board President
Franciscan Action Network

Published in: on November 7, 2017 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Serving Others with an Audience of One

Reflection for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Fall Intern, Aimee Roberge

This reflection was originally posted in our October 30th newsletter


image5In this week’s readings, God tells us we must not, “show partiality in our decisions (Malachi 1).” As Christians, we are called to lead from behind and pursue the greatest social good for others because “the greatest among you must be your servant (Matthew 23).” I think of what it means to be a leader and how people embody that differently, especially in this unsettling political time. Partisan politics and arguing can be daunting and fruitless when some leaders “preach but they do not practice (Matthew 23).” We can look to others as role models, such as Pope Francis, who embody servant leadership to inspire and give us hope. Can we come together in common humanity to serve each other and find common ground?

During Jesus’ ministry, he intentionally pointed out on multiple occasions those who were flaunting their piety, worthiness, goodness, or holiness to impress others. God is the only person we should be trying to please as we “have but one Father in heaven and one master, the Christ (Matthew 23).” This is something I struggle with very often in my own life when deciding what to wear or completing tasks at work or hanging out with my roommates. We place so much pressure on ourselves and on others to live up to certain standards of society. Only He can fill those spaces where we feel unworthy, broken, or inadequate. God already know us and all of our strengths and weaknesses so we don’t have to earn our worthiness in His eyes. It can be scary to let go of all that worry and desire to make everyone happy but God knows how hard it is and will bring clarity and peace.

Aimee Roberge
Franciscan Action Network Fall 2017 Intern

Published in: on October 31, 2017 at 9:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Called to be a People of Peace

On Oct. 20-21, 2017 at a Call To Action East Coast Conference entitled, Justice and Mercy Under the Trump Administration, Sr. Patty Chappell, Executive Director of Pax Christi, USA, gave one of three keynote speeches. FAN executive director, Patrick Carolan was there and heard the talk and was inspired by it. We gained permission from Sr. Patty to post her talk here. We offer it in hopes that it inspires in others a desire to become people of peace.


PAX CHRISTI: CALLED TO BE A PEOPLE OF PEACESr.PattyChappell

There was so much going on that evening…We had eaten a good meal, drunk fine wine, had good conversations and reminisced and laughed at how we all met each other and the things we’d experienced and witnessed together…Some of the things that we understood and those that remained a mystery. Our teacher spoke to us of his hopes for us, now that he was going away, and the work that he was leaving for us to continue…Yet we were all nervous, feeling abandoned, distraught, bereft and upset. We were all aware of the rumors going around about an impending betrayal, an arrest and a crucifixion, but we still had no idea who it would be.

The teacher picked up on our emotional state and weariness that night and gave us one of the most poignant teachings on what turned out to be the last night we were all together. Jesus said: “this is my parting gift to you, my farewell gift. It is PEACE. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” With all of our confusion…not sure what would happen next…Jesus zooms in on what we most need. PEACE. That was the night that Pax Christi was handed on to us…AS GIFT.

Jesus then goes on to proclaim one of the greatest understatements in all of recorded literature when he said: “the kind of peace I give you is not the world’s peace.” What a bold, wise, true, and insightful statement. It has withstood the test of time down through the centuries…even to and especially, today.

WE ARE CALLED TO BE A PEOPLE OF PEACE.
I ask, what does that mean and how does that happen?
I recall a wonderful fable told by Anthony de Mello. It is called ‘THE LITTLE FISH.

‘Excuse me,” said an ocean fish. “You are older than I, so can you tell me where to find this thing they call the ocean?
“The ocean,” said the older fish…” is the thing you are in now.”
“Oh, this? But this is water. What I am seeking is the ocean,” said the disappointed fish as it swam away to search elsewhere.

My sisters and brothers…this is the ocean in which we live: It is a world in which we believe that our labors for justice and peace will not be in vain…it is a world where we dare to dream of a life both here and beyond the grave…it is a world chocked full of brave, simple and courageous women, men and children, people of all ages who struggle each and every day to make ends meet, to raise their children and grandchildren with dignity and respect for themselves and others.

If we are to keep it real, we also have to admit that It is also a world that is hell-bent on violence, bullying, threats, retaliation and revenge. It is a world which belittles efforts to bring about peace in families, neighborhoods and between cultures and countries. It is a world like the ocean with its tides, undertows, currents and seasons. Like the ocean our world is beautiful in its ability to reflect sun and moon and stars alike, and it is a world, like the ocean that can also be dangerous and treacherous. It is teeming with life and it can also take lives. Marine life is a world of balance, symmetry and relationships. Yet the ocean and our world hold secret treasures that we are meant to explore.

Keep this metaphor in mind as we examine together… that being and becoming a people of peace is a CALL.

Anyone who has stood in the scorching August sun clearing a drug and condom infested field in downtown Baltimore so as to make it a neighborhood park…has to believe that this is a call. Anyone standing in the pouring rain with a sign for justice for immigrants and refugees…has to believe that this is a call. Anyone who speaks out for the human rights and dignity of the LGBTQ community and the full inclusion of our brothers and sisters in both society and in our beloved church…has to believe that this is a call. Anyone who weeps from a broken heart at the systemic violence done down through the ages to communities of color AND tries to address their own white privilege…has to believe that this is a call. Anyone who has crafted a well written letter to the editors about the environmental poisoning of the planet, only to have that letter rejected…has to believe that this is a call. Anyone who stood to denounce racial hatred and bigotry in Charlottesville and was showered with racial slurs…has to believe that this is a call. And anyone who has reached out with a plant, a note, or attendance at a Vigil to mourn the desecration of a Muslim holy place…has to believe that this is a call. It is a call in response to the gift, the Pax Christi…the Peace of Christ.

We are called TO BE a People of Peace.

To be does not mean: I’ll think about it…it does not mean to dabble…it does not mean to be about peace when I feel like it…or when it is convenient. It does not mean something to ‘do’ when I’m done with going to school, raising my kids, or retired. To be means asking myself and others daily, the stark question of the poet Mary Oliver: “What is it you plan to do with your one, wild and precious life?” If you are called, than there is just one answer and it is to put your hands to the proverbial, Scriptural plow…and NOT look back looking for answers elsewhere. It is to stay in the ocean we are swimming in and not to go looking for water elsewhere.

We are called to be a People of Peace. What does that look like now? What could it look like if we took our call intentionally to become the Beloved Community?
At this moment, People of Peace march under different banners:
Just Peace
Issues of drones and war
Human trafficking
Immigrants and Refugees issues
Nuclear abolition
Prison reform
Global and environmental issues
Restorative justice
Military budget
Peace tax
Racial Equity
and the issues go on and on.

We look upon these and so many other peace issues as silos, individual concerns of concerned individuals. We fail to see the connections between all of the life issues that tear at and compete for our commitment to peace with justice. Again, we don’t see (and often, don’t want to see) the connections, because to see and to make the connections is to realize my own complicity in sustaining the systems that destroy.

While we need specialists in so many of the issues that come at us, the result of silo thinking is unnecessary and unhealthy conflict:

  • The African American community is perceived at odds with the African born community
  • The Latino/a and Mexican communities in competition with each other
  • The Pacific Islanders with the Puerto Rican and Cuban communities
  • The Vietnamese with the Korean
  • The Right to life folks with the Respect Life and Consistent Life Ethic people
  • The divorced and re-married Catholics and their right to the sacraments
  • The women and the establishments of church and society that practice their policies of exclusion
  • The LGBTQ and straight folks who do not perceive their human rights as being the same

And, here again, the list goes on…

If we truly were A PEOPLE, we would be there for and with each other. We would recognize that we are all on the same human journey to wholeness and holiness. We would gather together to marvel at and accept the rich tapestry of life experiences that each one brings to the human endeavor. Why can’t we gather together, organize and work together…for each other…believing that the diminishment of one person, one community, is the diminishment of all of us?

Working together, we would empower one another to the fullness of life that Jesus tells us is our birthright. We would struggle with each other to provide affordable housing, decent jobs, quality schools and welcoming churches. We would take the lead in our efforts from people who have lived on the periphery and the margins of society and listen to their stories, reverence their lives and organize together. We would take the outrage, and anger, the sorrow and sadness and work for justice, so that other human beings would not have to experience the same thing. What is holding us back?

One of the bedrocks on which our American way of life is built is the myth of ‘rugged individualism’. It is a lie, a falsehood that we have been taught, told about, and have internalized and believe in whether we want to admit it or not. We all tell the stories about grandparents who made it here the hard way…who struggled yet, pulled themselves by their bootstraps…who lived through Irish, Italian, Jewish bigotry and “made it.” We are quick to make judgements about those we perceive as ‘lazy, good for nothings, not motivated, who love being on State aid, who fake disability and like handouts and food stamps’. We fail to see the systemic issues involved in those comments, all the while calling ourselves good Christians, and muttering under our breaths ‘thank God I’m not one of “them”.

When we see acts of violence against communities of color, we persist in believing they are isolated, separate incidents…and often react negatively when it is pointed out that these events are part of a systemic evil that is embedded in our economic, legal, and political systems. Our belief in our rugged individualism mitigates our believing that we are a PEOPLE.

Yet, we are called to be a People of PEACE.

Peacemakers are not ones to engage in escapist fantasy or fairy tale pipe dreams. We are not believers in some utopian political vision that promises to make us great again, to build a perfect society of law and order, a world where those who don’t look like us are hidden behind a wall or incarcerated. We are not proponents of the ideology that more guns make us safer and that the ‘mother of all guns’ is a stockpile and arsenal of nuclear weapons waiting to cast fire upon the ‘enemy.’ THAT IS THE PEACE THAT THE WORLD GIVES AND WANTS US TO BELIEVE IN. THIS IS THE PEACE THAT JESUS SPECIFICALLY, SAID WAS NOT THE GIFT HE WAS GIVING US.

We possess no psychic ability to look into the future, nor do we possess a clairvoyant power of our own…yet we dare to believe in peace. We are perceived as naïve, fools, sadly disillusioned, misguided, not believing in reality and best of all ‘dangerous’. We believe that the seemingly Impossible Is Possible.

We follow a religious history where impossible things become possible. Think for a moment how our Biblical family tree is filled with messes, scandals, murders, betrayals. The Greek Testament has an assorted cast of characters who took ladders to heaven, spoke to angels, worship gold calves, took each other’s wives, killed their brothers, vacationed in the belly of whales, used rocks for pillows, heard fiery bushes talk and ate mythical fruit from mystical trees.

The Hebrew Testament is not much better: One brother preferring his sister-in-law for a wife, heads on platters, more betrayals, women asking for crumbs from the table, little food yielding lots and lots to eat, people being brought back to life after being dead and buried, and everyone working in a vineyard for the same salary, regardless of when they began their day.

AND ALL THESE ARE BUT A TINY PART OF THE CLOUD OF WITNESSES CHEERING US ON TODAY.

However, our greatest motivation to answering the CALL TO BE A PEOPLE OF PEACE is Jesus himself…the way he lived, the roads he walked, the words he spoke, the way he died, AND most importantly, the way he LIVES today.

Throughout his life Jesus challenged the status quo of both his society and his religious tradition:

  • he broke chains of those who were imprisoned by culture or circumstance
  • he fed those who did not realize how hungry they were
  • he gave mercy to those who did not deserve it
  • he comforted those who thought they were grieving for their dead
  • he taught those who HE even wondered if they would ever understand
  • he healed those with both visible and invisible wounds
  • he became the disturber of a false peace, confronting the comfortable, the complacent, and those who thought they had it made
  • Jesus got angry and frustrated…but did not resort to violence. Remember the incident in the Temple where he overturned tables, broke up Bingo games, sent pigeons flying and reminded the crowd the purpose of a Temple was for prayer and not for profit.
  • When Peter wanted to play the super hero in the Garden by slicing off the ear of one of the guards, Jesus tells him unequivocally ‘put the sword away’

In Jesus, we start to see the beginnings of a people and a world that was broken become whole again. We see that death can become new life. We see a Jesus, a man of peace, seeing reality squarely as it is with its contradictions and misguided ways…yet he is not daunted, or overcome by fear, or defined by what is all around him. Rather, Jesus, sometimes needing a little prompting, offers fresh hope and invites us to a way of life that is possible.

There are signs in our world today that new hope is rising. Perhaps it has taken our recent election for people to wake up, speak up and show up. After listening to an interminably long, negative and shallow pre-election campaign process, seeing with our eyes, hearing with our own ears and feeling with our hearts the rhetoric of mockery, bigotry, racism, hatred of women, Muslims and immigrants, and this list could go on…people of all backgrounds are now saying that the portrait of America that is being shown by the current occupant in the White House is NOT us.

People of peace speak up and show up and do so nonviolently.
A great example is that on Inauguration Day, according to the DC Park Police, 598,000 people showed up for the March and there was NOT a single arrest. This number is in addition to the 1 million people who gathered in 8 major US cities and does not count the thousands of other peaceful demonstrations that were held around the country.

On a large scale, conflict is a part of life and always has been. Creation was born out of chaos and conflict.

On a smaller scale…Because all of our needs and expectations are different…conflict arises when 2 or more people think, act or express themselves differently based on their own needs and/or expectations.
Conflict is a great motivator that can be productive. Conflict is necessary for any change to happen. Conflict can renew relationships and be instrumental in our growth. In fact, creation and transformation only happens when there is conflict. I repeat: creation and transformation only happens when there is conflict.

How we handle conflict is the challenge:

  • Do we do everything to avoid it? Peace at all costs?
  • Are we accommodating in the face of conflict knowing that the relationship with the individual and/or group is more important than the issue at hand?
  • Do we thrive on conflict? Keeping it going? Looking to start it?
  • In the face of conflict, are we compromising, believing that listening is more important than having it our way?

People of Peace too often equate nonviolence with doing nothing… of living in a state of comfort, tranquility, praying that the bad will go away. Let me be clear…I believe in PRAYER. It is the foundation of my life and I suspect yours also. But prayer without action is sterile and goes no where. We believe that People of Peace need to be committed to Active Nonviolence. Active nonviolence is the use of peaceful means in an active, persistent manner to bring about social change and a means of building a community committed to the well-being of all.

Some of us may not be able to march in a demonstration, but we surely can pick up a phone to call an elected official and let them know that we stand for peace with justice and that if they want to be re-elected, they had better start listening to their people. If the switchboard is jammed with other calls, rejoice and keep calling until you get through

Some of us may be college and/or high school students who don’t have a lot of time for extra work, but we sure can show up and speak up when someone holds a vigil on campus about some form of injustice that is roaming and infecting the campus.

From the time we were in the 5th grade, we learned how to write a letter…there is no reason why anyone in here cannot write a letter to the editor, or to a city, county or district official telling them the same message that the phone caller gave: ‘I stand for peace with justice…and if you want to be re-elected, you’d better start listening to your people.’

I purposely use the phrase ‘peace with justice’ because I believe that they cannot be separated. If there is no justice…there is no peace. If there is no peace…it is because there is no justice.

I was asked to lay before you a challenge to action before ending this presentation and taking questions. I propose an action that has the possibility of transforming you as a people…as a collective. Listen closely…We have all reacted in one way or another to the August violence that took place in Charlottesville, VA.
We have also been taught that what we dislike in others is what we do not want to see that exists in us.
Consider this: The White Supremacy that we have seen so plainly and visibly around this country is the belief system and power that sustains white privilege and which continues to hold communities of color enslaved.

Do you as white members of the Call to Action community, have the courage to take a long and loving look at your inherited and internalized white racial superiority and to delve, with great courage, into that pain so as to know redemption?

Do we as communities of color of the Call to Action community have the courage to take a long and loving look at our inherited and internalized racial oppression and to delve, with great courage, into that pain so to know redemption?

This will take intentionality, deep motivation, honesty and facing conflict squarely.
It will be like the opening metaphor of the little fish…swimming into the ocean looking for water.

We will be like the salt doll journeying for thousands of miles over land until it finally came to the sea. It was fascinated by this strange moving mass, quite unlike anything it had ever seen.

“Who are you?” said the salt doll to the ocean
The ocean smiled and replied, “Come in and see.”
So the doll waded in. The farther it walked into the sea, the more it dissolved, until there was only very little of it left.
Before that last bit dissolved, the doll exclaimed in wonder: “Now I know what and who I am.”

In our journey through life, may our efforts to be Peacemakers with and for one another in this vast ocean/world we live in, lead us to be the ‘Balm in Gilead’ with and for one another. We all need to be whole, we all need to be healed, we all need to be forgiven and to ask for forgiveness. We all need to be honest, we all need one another…if one day we are to taste redemption.

I close inviting you to pray in song, with me, this ancient, ever new Spiritual from the heritage of my people. (Sing: ‘There is a balm in Gilead’)

Let us be that balm for and to one another.

Thank you.

Sister Patricia Chappell
Executive Director
Pax Christi USA
October 21, 2017
Call To Action- East Coast Conference 2017

 

Published in: on October 27, 2017 at 4:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Love your Neighbor as Yourself

Reflection for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Secretary, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our October 23rd newsletter


interracial loveOne of my favorite stories from the life of Thomas Merton is described in his book published in 1966, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander: “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. …I have the immense joy of being…a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate…if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained.”

Science today bears out Merton’s words, “they were mine and I theirs.” We are all interconnected. Matter and energy are recycled, never created nor destroyed. So we are made of the same elements, breathe the same oxygen, and drink the same water as Jesus, as Saint Francis and Saint Clare, as the woman from Syria who has not talked since she witnessed a bomb kill her husband and four children, and as the gentleman who fainted as he was dragged away from his family by immigration agents after his lawyer botched his application for citizenship. “They are mine and I am theirs.”

Many of the top leaders in our government are associated with international companies that benefit from chaos, war, violence and even environmental disasters. Is it any wonder that we see no incentive by our government to work towards peace, nonviolence, justice, and care for God’s creation?

In our human attempts to love our neighbor we can only be changed by what impacts our neighbor. Any victim of violence makes us all a victim of violence. Legislation or a tweet that dehumanizes any child, any woman or any man, dehumanizes us all. Our Gospel this week is a call to action. Love for our neighbor calls us to never give up speaking the truth of our oneness to legislators and governmental officials.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Secretary

Published in: on October 24, 2017 at 8:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Tell God’s Glory Among the Nations

Reflection for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini

This reflection was originally posted in our October 16th newsletter


“Sing to the Lord a new song:Mission Sunday
sing to the Lord, all you lands.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all people, his wondrous deeds.” (Ps 96: 1-3)

This Sunday is WORLD MISSION SUNDAY. I find it fitting that the Responsorial Psalm invites us to give glory to God among all people. I have childhood memories of Mission Sunday celebrated in my parish church. A missionary was usually coming to preach at all Liturgies asking for funds for the missions, but also telling us stories of faraway places where the name of Jesus was not yet known. Outside the church, a missionary displayed art pieces for sale from all over the world. In the afternoon, a movie with some missionary theme was open to everybody in the parish hall. It was when watching “Damien of Molokai” one year that I believe God touched my heart, and the seed of my missionary vocation was planted. O how I wished to go to Molokai and help him!

For this reason I find it very appropriate that this week’s first and second readings speak of call: “I have called you by your name giving you a title, though you knew me not.” Isaiah encourages Cyrus to be aware of this reality in his life. That brings me to ask myself and all of us: am I aware of God calling me by name to still be a missionary, many years later, here where I am today?

Our Catholic faith teaches us that “Mission is at the heart of the Christian faith. The Church is missionary by nature; otherwise, she would no longer be the Church of Christ.” (Message of Pope Francis for World Mission Day 2017)

The invitation, then, is to be aware that we are all in mission, called to proclaim in words and deeds “the transformative power of the Gospel. The Gospel is Good News filled with contagious joy, for it contains and offer new life: the life of the Risen Christ who, by bestowing his life-giving Spirit, becomes for us the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE.” (WMD2017)

How humbling to remind ourselves and believe that for this we are called by name every day…and how important it is to reflect on “our responsibility as believers in a world marked by confusion, disappointment and frustration and torn by numerous fratricidal wars that unjustly target the innocent.” (WMD2017)

What is my responsibility then? Paul was impressed with the Thessalonians and very grateful for the way they were living out their belief in Jesus… “We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ….” (1Thes 1: 1-5B)

Can we be like the Thessalonians? Maybe we can pray that like them we can witness the power of the Spirit in whatever we do. For myself, I hope to remember it next time I walk the halls of Congress or join a rally in the streets of DC. Let us pray that we keep in mind that “Mission reminds the Church that she is not an end unto herself, but a humble instrument and mediation of the Kingdom. A self-referential Church, one content with earthly success, is not the Church of Christ, His Crucified and Glorious Body. That is why we should prefer ‘a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security’” (WMD2017)

Maybe by remembering this we will be able to “repay to God what belongs to God.” Mt. 22:21

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on October 17, 2017 at 9:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Whetting Our Appetites

Reflection for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey

This reflection was originally posted in our October 9th newsletter


BanquetIn our readings this week, Isaiah proclaims, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all the peoples a feast of rich food and pure, choice wines.” Not only that, but God “will destroy death forever,” and will wipe away all tears. Quite a pep talk! And it is for all people. In the Gospel reading, Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast featuring fattened cattle. As we listen, our appetites may be whetted for brunch or dinner after Mass! Hopefully, our spiritual appetites will also be sharpened for meeting God on whatever mountain and for participating in the kingdom of heaven in this life and the next.

While we are energized by readings about feasts and banquets, both physical and spiritual, it is Paul’s letter to the Philippians that leads us to deeper reflection. “I have learned the secret of being well fed and going hungry; of living in abundance and of being in need.” Have I learned this secret? It is a key to authentic gospel living, a key to peace of mind and heart, to the “perfect joy” that Francis taught. Be open to what the moment offers. Accept with gratitude times of abundant food, friendship, good health, successful efforts, and share our abundance with others. Accept with patience times of want, distress, illness, apparent failure, and trust in God’s Love and Providence. The secret Paul has learned is that “I can do all things in him who strengthens me. …God will fully supply whatever you need.” May we treasure this secret.

Sr. Marie Lucey
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on October 10, 2017 at 8:53 am  Leave a Comment  

The Vineyard of the Kingdom of God

Reflection for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board President, Sr. Margaret Magee

This reflection was originally posted in our October 2nd newsletter


10.08MargaretReflectionOur readings this weekend focus very directly on the image of the Kingdom of God as the vineyard of God. Recall that the gospels of the past two Sunday’s have also held this same theme, The Workers in the Vineyard and The Parable of the Two Sons, where we heard the workers and the sons of the vineyard owner being charged to go out and work in the vineyard.

Such a direct and convergent focus raises a few questions for us. Where and how do we image and experience the Kingdom of God today? How are we tending the vineyard of God?

As Jesus spoke with the chief priests and the elders of the people, I imagine that the words of the prophet Isaiah weighed heavily on his mind and in his heart. His images of a landowner planting a vineyard, putting the hedge around it, digging the wine press and building the tower seem to come directly from the mouth of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus’ use of the words of the prophet would be so familiar to the chief priests and elders to call out, in Isaiah’s words the “wild grapes”, the sinfulness and rebellious spirit of the people of Israel who turned from God’s covenant and God’s ways.

However, Jesus’ parable goes far beyond the cry of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus’ teaching through the parable directly challenges the leadership of the chief priests and elders. His images are clear: the vineyard is Israel, God’s chosen people, the landowner is God, the servants are the prophets who were slain for their proclamation of the Kingdom and Jesus himself is the landowner’s son. Jesus calls out those who were supposed to be the leaders and stewards of God’s covenant, yet failed to be honorable, just and true.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that everyone is called to enter into the Kingdom of God and that the Kingdom belongs to the poor and the lowly (544). It goes on to state that, Jesus invites sinners to the table of the Kingdom, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (545). Also, Jesus’ invitation to enter the kingdom comes in the form of parables…through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required (546).

We believe, as scripture tells us, “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” The popular spiritual author, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I. writes, “Biblical scholars and theologians tell us that everything Jesus came to bring us (the Reign of God, the Kingdom of God, the New Age, the Final Age, the reign of justice on this earth, new life, the resurrection, eternal life, heaven) is already here, except that it’s also still coming. It’s here now, but not fully; a present reality, but in tension. And it’s still coming, in its fullness; still to arrive, in ecstasy. It’s already here and it’s still to be realized.”

We must be the stewards of God making the Kingdom present in our world today. Let us be honorable, just and true in our stewardship by following the tenets of our Catholic Social Teaching promoting the Life and Dignity of the Human Person; the Call to Family, Community and Participation; the Rights and Responsibilities; the Option for the Poor and Vulnerable; the Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers; Solidarity; and Care for Creation.

Let us be strengthened in this work by the words from the Epistle to the Philippians, “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen…Then the God of peace will be with you.”

Sr. Margaret Magee
FAN Board President

Published in: on October 3, 2017 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment