We started by building an 8′ X 2′ box in our three-season room, and (with help of good persons at Growing Power and some worms) grew, with mixed results, salad greens and seedlings for the first summer’s garden. As the seasons change, our focus shifts back and forth between the sun-room and its evolving Growing Power Home Garden Project Box, and our Growing Power backyard garden, where we use the rich soil, worm castings and worms from the indoor box outdoors. Same system yet different.
Digging in the earth can uncover all kinds of things, and so can digging deep in ourselves. In my online journal, I have been recording daily reflections on the progress of our efforts in adapting the Growing Power model to our home and garden, mixed with my observations about life, peace, justice, faith, family, community and friends. Enjoy. Thank you! — Bob Graf
Computer Information Overload
We had our first significant snowfall today, not much, but enough to cause a great number of automobile pile ups on the road. One of the persons interviewed on the news said that people traveling on the highways were going much too fast for the conditions. Some of us on our stretch of streets have been trying to tell our alderman for some time now that cars are speeding. He seems to understand, having himself been a resident of this stretch of road, but seems helpless to do much about it. The speed limit for the nine blocks is 30 miles an hour and 20 miles an hour during school time but few bother with these limits. The ultimate speeding experience came today when I heard a loud noise outside. I looked out the window just to see a snowplow barreling down the road with speeds at least 50 miles an hour. He had a salter in back of the truck. The truck was in one of the middle lanes and did not have to slow down for parked cars.
Many in society, including myself, seem to be speeding through life these days. Sometime we are going too fast to see and hear what is going on around us. Maybe that is good at times since there seems to be so much going around us these days, sports, life, death, wars, poverty, violence, and Christmas shopping. It is easier to let life fly by than take it in.
When we do not take time to slow down and touch, see, hear, feel and smell life around us we can be become numb to human suffering and joy. One of the themes of this liturgical season of Advent is to Wake Up. If we are awake we can find more joy in life but also more suffering and pain. There is so much going around us, “powers that be” throw all kind of issues at us, war, street violence, environmental, like genetically modified apples that I heard about today.
Life becomes like a many channel TV where we look for the “least objectionable” program. It is easier to rationalize and justify things like racism and poverty than do something about them.
When we first got a personal computer and had access to the web, I found myself ‘surfing the web’ just looking at stuff and moving on. It was fun at first but soon I realized it just took so much time. I decided to take a very narrow and ‘monastic’ view of the web. I called it ‘monastic’ because like a monk, I wanted to take a self denying or reclusive view of what I was looking for. I tried to narrow my computer usage to learn what I needed to learn and to search for information that I needed. I tried to leave the rest of the many things you can do or discover, alone, as much as possible. However, as more things to do with a computer and more information and opinion were available this became harder to do.
With Nelson Mandela’s death I have been thinking about great men and woman of the 20th century, like Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and Gandhi and realized they had one quality in common: Each one took time for prayer and meditation in their busy life. Once I heard a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. to the effect that the busier he became the more time he needed to take for prayer and reflection.
In a world speeding by maybe we all need to take more steps back into solitude and be more ‘monastic’ in our approach to life and living.
Kitchen without a stove and
refrigerator is no place to cook
Today I received some more quotes from Nelson Mandela that you will not find in the American media. So with the quotes I used in the posting Replacing Mandela. I have a good source of Mandela quotes to start a new quote page on www.nonviolentcow.org .
Today making a home visit for our St. Vincent De Paul Conference I met a mother who just moved into a rental unit that “did not come with a stove or refrigerator.” Sadly this is a common experience these days where landlords do not lower rents but do not provide basic appliances, like stove and refrigerator. With all the appeals for food these days I wrote a ‘Letter to the Editor’ of the local paper about this situation. Here it is:
Giving food to the hungry is popular during this season. That is good, but things are different this year. A growing number of landlords are no longer providing stoves and refrigerators in rental housing in the poorest and most segregated neighbors of Milwaukee. Calling 211 people find the only group providing vouchers toward a purchase of a used stove or refrigerator are a limited number of St. Vincent De Paul (SVDP) conferences located in parishes. SVDP is an international Catholic lay organization dedicated to person to person visits to people need and providing aide when they can. With the increase demand for used stoves and refrigerators the cost has come up. SVDP conferences are limited in what they can do.
There was a proposal to use the 1.1 million dollars realized by the Archdiocese closing a Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee to provide a Sustainable Works of Mercy Fund for beds, stoves and refrigerators. However the Church decided to put the money into an ‘endowment’ fund instead.
So food flows freely this season but how do the poor use it? We need an organized effort to provide stoves and refrigerators for the hungry to prepare and cook healthy food.
Icon of St. Nicholas of Myra,
part of modern day Turkey
Today I made a home visit to a man who was a modern day St. Nicholas, pasting our gifts to children whenever he could and a modern day Catholic Worker, opening up his house to hospitality for children and families in need. I am not sure if he knew who St. Nicholas was but he did not know, although he was one, what a Catholic Worker was. I explained to him that the Catholic Worker was a movement to open our homes and lives to those in need like he was doing.
Before him was an open bible and we had a long conversation about our spiritual beliefs and our actions. Here was one of the ‘ordinary persons’ I was talking about last night who was Replacing Mandela. He told me how when he reads a scripture he does not understand how he prays till God opens up the meaning of scripture for him.
He really believed and lived God’s will. As an example he gave me how I had arrived there. He heard about St. Vincent De Paul from a friend and had called me awhile back about getting a few beds for his ‘boys’. I told him to call the Central Office, he did, but they never acted on his call. Sometime later he called me again and this time I said to call the Central Office and if he did not get assigned a parish conference to visit him to call me back. He did call again and this time they told him that according to the computer they use, his address was ‘outside of our service area’. He lives a few blocks closer than a number of families we have visited. So I called the office and after some run around got the central office to assign his request to our conference and specifically to our team of home visitors. It turns out he needs the beds for some young children he is becoming the legal guardian of since their father and mother due to problems could no longer care for them. So I was a ‘tool’ of God’s will in his life.
There was a big bed in his living room. He explained that by saying there was a recently evicted family nearby. He took them in because they had no place to go.
The man was jolly and a little round so maybe he was good old St. Nick.
Born July 18,1918,
Died December 5,2013
In my lifetime I have learned the ways of Jesus, the way of nonviolence from many well know persons, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day. I have also learned the way of nonviolence from many lesser or unknown persons, men in prison, families I have visited, friends like Lorenzo Rosebough. Today the last of the well known world leaders I have read, seen and heard died. Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95. Is he the last of extraordinary leaders of my lifetime to die?
Since his death late this afternoon on the media and on the web there have been countless eulogies and honors give to Nelson Mandela. He has been called a great politician, courageous, a man of forgiveness, great leader, founding president of a free and democratic South Africa and much more. But I have not heard one person mentioned nonviolence in reference to him.
Leaders of our world, like our own President, go on TV talking about what a great person he was, helping South African overcome apartheid. This is true but the Way he did it is not mentioned. Nelson Mandela was a great leader of the nonviolent revolution that took place in South Africa, where love and forgiveness overcame violence and fear.
Like Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson Mandela knew “There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.” (Long Walk to Freedom, his autobiography)
He deeply admired Mahatma Gandhi: “In a world driven by violence and strife, Gandhi’s message of peace and non-violence holds the key to human survival in the 21st century, said Mandela.” He also said about Gandhi: “He rightly believed in the efficacy of pitting the sole force of the satyagraha against the brute force of the oppressor and in effect converting the oppressor to the right and moral point.”
Like Thomas Merton he knew: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner”. Also like Thomas Merton he understood that people can be discouraged in the struggle for freedom. “There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile to continue talking about peace and non-violence against a government whose only reply is savage attacks on an unarmed and defenceless people.”
As Dorothy Day he understood the dichotomies between war and peace. “We speak here of the challenge of the dichotomies of war and peace, violence and non-violence, racism and human dignity, oppression and repression and liberty and human rights, poverty and freedom from want. We stand here today as nothing more than a representative of the millions of our people who dared to rise up against a social system whose very essence is war, violence, racism, oppression, repression and the impoverishment of an entire people” (Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 1993.
Nelson Mandela knew the policies of the United States, like war in Iraq, support of Israeli threats to Palestinians and its espousal of nuclear weapons was “a threat to world peace.” (On Iraq, Newsweek, and Sept. 10, 2002)
Like many young African American adults he understood the cruelties of prisons, having spent 27 years in prison himself and emerging without bitterness or fear. “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.” (Long Walk to Freedom)
Jesus died for his revolutionary ways, teaching love of enemy, the poor shall be on top and the rich on the bottom, giving all to follow the Way, risking imprisonment and death in seeking the truth. Jesus died accused of treason. His crime was written on the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of Jews”.
I feel like we lost the last of our great leaders of nonviolence. There may not be any more Days, Kings or Mertons. Maybe it is time for us ordinary people to step up in great numbers to replace these extraordinary leaders, like Nelson Mandela.
‘Friendly fire’ kills British woman
soldier in Afghanistan
Today, a warm and rainy day before the deep cold and snow hit us, a few of us held what we called a “Teach In” about military training and Marquette University. We chose the time, 3–4pm at the Alumni Memorial Union at Marquette because the Center for Peacemaking was holding a wine and cheese reception for faculty and staff at 4pm in the Union. We thought persons going to that event would be receptive to our message. It was clear that the Center for Peacemaking did not want us present with our message of Marquette Be Faithful to the Gospel and No Longer Host Military training on violence, war and killing on campus. When the head of the union told us we could not pass out flyers without permits in the union and when he came down to room of wise and cheese reception to tell us again to move we knew something was up. We did not try to go into the reception but they tried to block us from even give faculty and staff our “Teach In” flyers on Catholic Church and the teaching of killing on campus. It was clear our message was feared by Marquette Administrators and the Center for Peacemaking.
Why does the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking so greatly fear those of us trying to Break the Silence about Marquette teaching killing on campus?
Although I resisted believing this for years about Marquette I can no longer find any reason not to believe it is for money. The Center and Marquette University fears our ragtag group and our message that Marquette by being the only college and University in the five country metro area to host Department of Defense military training on campus is doing it for MONEY. We cannot see the contracts between Marquette University and the Department of Defense for officer training program for Army, Navy/Maries and Air Force on campus that clearly state it is for money. All universities and colleges, under Federal law, the Solomon Act must allow students to be in ROTC in order to qualify for any Federal funds but none are required to host it on campus. Hosting the military on campus is a free choice Marquette and only Marquette makes in this five country area.
Recently the Department of Defense pulled its contracts from some small military training (ROTC) programs in the USA to spend the millions of dollars it could save on ROTC programs on larger universities like Marquette that produce more officers. The small colleges and universities, some who have been hosing ROTC since the 40’s on campus were outraged from the great lost of money that was being withdrawn. Universities hosting ROTC and JROTC programs in high school and the DoD Starbase for middle school children are the new Selective Service forced draft system. Marquette University is a leader in this movement to “train soldiers to kill or be killed.”
Jesus said what he meant:
Put the poor on top and
rich on bottom
Today I heard an ad about giving money this Christmas season for homeless dogs. Everybody is asking and many are giving this time of the year. A big thing is collecting food for the hungry The poor are hungry all year along but the giving is best at Christmas season When I hear an ad about giving food I wish I could ask about giving vouchers for used stoves and refrigerators to those in need. Due to some landlords being greedy, many people no longer have stoves and refrigerators ( See Bedbugs and Greedy Landlords) So the problem is if you get a lot of food how do you store it and cook it? Our St Vincent De Paul Conference decided not to ask for money this season. What a shame since we are one of the few groups that give vouchers for used stoves and refrigerators.
I give money to a number of groups, most local and not agencies and would like to spread it out during the year but with the most reminders coming now I give the most now. Begging has become a fine art since the day of Jesus when the blind beggar, with no family to support him, stood outside the temple entrance begging for anything. In fact some scripture scholars say that is Jesus’ time the blind beggar or window without any family support were the ‘poor’ Jesus was talking about.
In today’s ‘Opinion’ page I read an article called “What do critics of Pope Francis think about Jesus then?” The author points out that the teachings of Jesus in his time would be even more radical in our times. The author points out that what Jesus said he really meant. For example, “Jesus did not preach income equality between the rich and the poor. He preached the complete reversal of the social order: The rich and the poor would switch places.…. Although modern Christianity has tried to spiritualize this message of Jesus, transforming his revolutionary social teachings into abstract ethical principles, it is impossible to overlook the unflinching condemnation of the wealthy and powerful that permeate Jesus’ teachings.” This taking Jesus on his own words which the rich and powerful did in his times should give thought to both conservatives and liberals.
When it comes to poor and marginalized we seem to talk the talk and give them some food at the holidays. Giving food is okay but a refrigerator and stove would help the poor gain dignity and respect and put them closer to the top where Jesus places them.
Giving beds to sleep on, stoves to cook food and refrigerators to store food would be fulfilling the words of Jesus and our Holy Father to overthrow the system and help in effort for rich and poor to switch place, to put poor on top.
Today I received an email from a group requesting that I sign a petition reprimanding a right wing radio host for calling Pope Francis a ‘Marxist’ My response was going to be why give this extreme person any creditability by signing a petition against him. I know that when I am attacked it often gives me encouragement to continue doing what I am doing and some creditability. Why give someone like this creditability by attacking him. Before I could make such a comment I noticed a number of other persons had made the point in the comment section already.
When someone makes an insulting remark against you or someone you respect, like Pope Francis, it takes the discipline of nonviolence not to react and perhaps even not respond. Taking insults and even injuries in the name of peace and justice is something great saints like St Ignatius of Loyola or great Americans like Martin Luther King Jr. understood, wrote about and practiced.
I find it very hard to treat insult and injury this way. I want the truth, at least my ‘opinion of the truth’ to come out. I think it shows courage to defend oneself against misrepresentation However true nonviolence, takes an act of courage and faith to know ‘all will be well’ without my opinion and response.
Being humble means taking it on the cheek a few times. Silence in the face of insults is holy
My lovely wife, Pat, continues to run into more medical complications since her emergency surgery after her hip replacement surgery. She is feeling okay but the ills keep piling up. I noticed she is dealing with her medical problems a lot better than she did with the complications of life in the days when she lived in pain. Without pain life looks better.
My appreciation of two friends who live with constant pain grows. They keep up their spirits although the both live with great pain. The worst type of pain, in my opinion, is pain of the brain I had some brief bouts of pain of the mind and body that were hard to deal with When I think of the pain of my sister with cancer or my son with a brain illness, both now deceased, I admire their courage living with such great pain of body and mind, Yet people do live with pain and many, like my two friends, do it well. Thank God for good health.
Expected Fear in Haunted House
My wife, Pat, is back in the hospital. She was doing so well in her recovery from hip surgery but this morning when her wound started bleeding the doctor was called and came to the hospital for immediate surgery. It was his fear of infection that drove him back to the hospital. He thinks he got everything fixed and cleaned this time but she remains in the hospital till at least Monday.
Life is like that at times, with unexpected setbacks. However, at times there are unexpected forward plays. It seems all we can do is ride the present, remember and learn from the past and look for a bright future. When everything seems smooth, like with my wife’s recovery, something may go right or it may not. But even setback can be forward plays if we learn from then and move on.
Winter is really here and all I can do is take care my worms in the worm box downstairs, sift some soil into casting, insulate the house and move on. I moved my indoor tomato plants and fluorescent lights from the cold, non insulated sun room to the basement which is warmer. They are solid but fruitless. I do not hope for tomatoes but just they stay alive till next spring when I can plant them outside.
My son and his family were here for Thanksgiving. After my grandsons went shopping with their mother, very early this morning, came back and had some sleep, I asked both of my teenage grandsons for time to talk. They were accommodating and after some small talk they went back to video games they had purchased this morning or had some food before they had to leave for Madison to visit with their other grandparents and many cousins. My asking to talk with them was a little unexpected since most often their mother tells me what they are doing in school, sports and life.
The news today was about the great rush to shop Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The national news commentator reported that people were passionately shopping for stuff like this the last time they could do so. He pointed out how the low prices quite often were more hype than reality and how many products could have been purchase for same amount or less at other sales during the year and online. According to an ‘expert’ they consulted the news station said that a lot of the mad rush to shop was motivated by fear that someone else would get a deal that you did not.
Black Friday is the biggest shopping day in the year because people expect great savings on that day. Expectations are not often based on reality but twined with fear are very strong. The unexpected is never expected so it may catch us off guard. Fear is expected and sells.
Teach In - Thursday, November 28, 2013
This Thanksgiving Day again reminds me that it is harder for a person stuffed with food to think, pray and act than one who is fasting from food. Too much turkey, stuffing and grape leaves is not good for the digestion system or health.
Our son and his family were here today. My son mostly slept and the grandchildren, outside of dinner time, were busy watching football on TV (like me) or with my wife and daughter-in-law playing card games. My grand children’s dog seem to be the only normal one today, checking out a comfortable chair or couch to rest on or food left around to eat.
I showed my family a group pictures I took on our family trip to Disney World last October. Although everyone says how much fun the trip was there is not much interest is viewing the pictures, although I was able to get them on the TV screen. Memories of the immediate past do not mean as much as anticipation of the near future. When I am not so full I enjoy the present moment the best.
Next week some of us will be having a teach-in event in the Alumni Memorial Union at Marquette. We hope to have flyers and information for students and faculty about military training on a Catholic University campus. In discussing this event this event a friend from the Catholic Worker house in Milwaukee and I discussed what makes Marquette University, a Catholic Jesuit university, different from any other college or university in the area. Thinking about this I can only find one major differences at Marquette. It is the only college or university in the five country metro area to host military training (ROTC) on campus. In fact Marquette hosts for the Department of Defense a School of the Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force. Students from the five county areas that wish to pursue officer training in the military must attend Marquette’s Golden Eagle battalion for classes and training in warfare and killing without conscience.
Perhaps we can engage some students and faculty in dialog and debate about military training at a Catholic university and what we should do, except keep silent, about it. I will make sure not to eat anything before our Teach In.
War At Home - Wednesday, November 27, 2013
War At Home
Last weekend thousand gathered at Fort Benning in the annual SOAWatch to close the military training program for Latin America at Fort Benning in Georgia.
Forty or fifty of those had traveled there from the Milwaukee area. Yet when we have a protest to close the military training program for the region at our Catholic University we would be more than blessed to have 50 persons.
Many want to stop military training, teaching a person to kill without conscience, at a military base in Fort Benning, Ga. but few would stop this same military training at our local school, Marquette University. This phenomenon is true on many issues. Churches sent missionaries to poor countries while people go without shelter and food in our cities, like in North Central Milwaukee.
The violence, the poverty and racism on the streets of Milwaukee continues to increase. People call for incarceration and punishment but few ask why. Some help by giving money or food, especially in this season, but few are willing to take a risk that will mean structural change in our institutions that would mean change in how we deal with people in our cities.
Someone asked me the other day what was the difference between Marquette University and other colleges and universities in the area. I thought hard but could only respond saying Marquette University was the only college or university in the five country area to host military training on campus for the Department of Defense.
Many Catholics praise the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for his position on making the main mission of the Church to aid the needy and marginalized. Few say anything when a local Catholic Church, here at home, takes over a million dollars gathered from closing a Church in the poorest and most segregated neighborhood and putting it into an “endowment for future” over using it to provides beds for children to sleep on and refrigerators and stoves for people to store and prepare healthy food.
Why do the Works of War predominate over the Works of Mercy? The answer, my friend, I fear is money. War, violence and killing make money while providing shelter, health care and comfort to poor and marginalized takes money. Waging war comes with major suffering and lost to soldiers and civilians in war zone. To most Americans it is just more violence in a foreign country and without a personal loss has little effect on them. They praise our soldiers yet continue to send them off to “kill or be killed” in endless wars.
In a cartoon many years ago the character of Pogo says: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The War starts and ends here at Home.
It is two days before Thanksgiving and I went shopping for food the last time before this holiday, I hope. Tonight my wife is shopping via the internet for Christmas gifts. Since I cook most of the meals I can understand why I should shop for the food. But the very consuming work of Christmas gift shopping is something that leaves me cold and I am glad my wife, Pat, likes doing it. With her recent hip replacement surgery she has more time to shop but with online shopping she does not need to submit her new hip to lots of standing.
For me the computer and internet is a place to read and write not shop. However, there is no substitute for person to person conversation. A Catholic Worker friend came over tonight and we had a conversation about peace making and stopping the violence and killing that Marquette University, a Jesuit Catholic school, teaches. We both discussed of what distinguishes Marquette University from any other public university. What does it mean to teach Gospel values when you teach values, like killing without conscience, contrary to Gospel values, due to money it brings in?
We both are seeking nonviolent actions we can take to communicate our message that Marquette should stop teaching killing; but it seems the only weapons we have these days are our words, spoken and written. Words are powerful but as St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, the religious order that founded Marquette, said: “Love is best expressed in deeds over words.” But sometimes words are all we got.
Eating healthy, speaking wisely and leaving the shopping to others may be good advice for me this season.
Three young men deported
to Haiti by Executive orders
Last year we wrote three essays on Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee. We tried our best to make the essays historical, but like all recent history, it has a point of view. A few persons responded positively to the essays but most ignored them. One group of Catholics for Peace and Justice censors a link to the essays from its online newsletter. However, no one denied any facts in the essays.
Now over a year later more facts and information have come to light and I need to rewrite the essays. To verify the new information I will write to persons who provided me the information for the first essays as well as those who ignored the first essays but are involved in the history. I expect lots of ‘ignores’ but that is just the name of the game when someone is seeking a truth people do not want to hear or talk about.
I really enjoy studying history and researching events and issues. However, as I said many times before, many Americans are not too interested in learning from history or learning facts that make them uncomfortable.
A good example was in the news today. President Obama was giving a speech on immigration today in the Bay area in California. Someone from the crowd present shouted out about the deportation of immigrants and asked him to stop it or slow it down. He responded that congress was to blame for the high deportation rate and there was nothing he can do. “In fact, even as Obama expresses sympathy for law-abiding undocumented people, his administration has deported 2 million immigrants – more than President George W. Bush did in eight years” ( Christian Science Monitor, November 25, 2013) Yes, he cannot provide a “path to civilization” law but he can, by executive order, slow down the rapid rate of deportations.
When I was in Haiti after the earthquake I met with a number of young men, who had minor run-ins with the US law enforcement and were immediately deported to Haiti. Many of them were in the United States from an early age and had family and roots in the USA. The president did slow down the deportations for a few months after the earthquake but quickly resumed them. There was no trial or appeals given them, just put on a plane once a month and sent to Haiti with nothing, many of them were unable to speak the Creole language of Haitian people.
The president dismissed the young man by misrepresenting the law on immigration and the facts of what he can do or not do. This seems to be the new standard of American truth telling, “Ignore and/or misrepresent the facts.”
Winter, sadly, is here in force with a temperature of 11 degrees this morning. I say sadly, because cold weather and dark days leave me feeling a little low. But sad is okay as long as I am at peace inside Joy is better but again without peace inside joy is not so good The other night at a meeting getting angry when I saw the poor were being treated was okay but getting frustrated, losing my cool and inner peace was not good.
St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits, gave all of us a lesson in discernment of spirits in his book the “Spiritual Exercises”. Being aware of how you feel is a big part of his discernment of spirits. To do this, be aware, one must take time out for an examination of consciousness, what brought me peace and what brought me anxiety in my life today. St. Ignatius felt strong about this Examine and held it out to his followers as the most important part of their day.
Our friend Father Jerry Zawada was here last night and, as usual when he stays here, he stays in the room that was our son Peter’s room the last four years of his life. Jerry did not know Peter but, from us, knows about his suffering and death. When I got up this morning Jerry was already up and had made the coffee. He has suffered nightmares recently that kept him awake. This morning he told me he slept well last night but had a dream this morning where he felt the overwhelming loving embrace of God when a person dies. In this dream he felt Peter’s presence in God’s loving embrace and Peter communicating to us how greatly he is loved and with us in our struggles. In his dream, no matter what we do, when we die we are in the loving presence of God. It was a very comforting thought and I told him to tell Pat about it. He did and she cried.
I have never cried in over three year’s since Peter’s tragic death and still cannot. But I have felt his presence in my life and Jerry’s dream last night confirmed my feelings. Yes I am sad about what is going on around me. But with Peter’s presence and awareness and discernment of the spirit within me I can handle any cold, snow or sadness thrown my way
“Remember the ‘good old days’
of concern for true health care
Tonight I went looking for a good laugh to put on this posting. I looked at my friend’s emails who usually sends out humorous ones but found none. I did read a serious article tonight that might have been laughable if it was not so sad. It is called The Obamacare Disaster and the Poison of Party. It tells how “Obamacare is a mess largely because it builds a revamped healthcare system around the retrenched and extended power of insurance companies—setting back prospects for real healthcare reform for a decade or more.” Now this might not be funny to most but for people who have been saying this since 2009 it is some kind of poetic justice. Not so funny, I guess!
How about the picture below which shows how even Squirrels know the difference between GMO Corn and Organic Corn. Give me a break if you do not find this picture a little bit funny. Where is the humor when you need it?
“War Is Hell”
Lee Harvey Oswald being taken
from the theater where he was
hiding, November 22, 1963
This morning while I was waiting in the clinic for my wife, Pat, to have physical therapy, I struck up a conversation with an elderly African American man, 68, who was also waiting for someone. He clearly was a Vietnam Veteran and had this statement all over the jacket he was wearing. We shared deeply with each other our life experiences especially with war. Right after graduating from Rufus King High school in the 60’s he was drafted and remained 10 years in the military, one year in Vietnam where he was wounded. He was proud of his military service and enjoyed it but after time came to realize, as many others, he should been fighting the war at home against racism and did not belong in Vietnam. In fact he had been an early member of the Milwaukee Commando’s, an African American group that protected and organized civil right leaders. He fondly remembers Father Groppi opening up St. Boniface Catholic Church for civil rights efforts. He told me that years later he got on a Milwaukee Transit bus and was surprised to find Jim Groppi was the bus driver. Jim had left the clergy and got married but for him he was still a deeply loved and respected person.
He told me how he was not born in Milwaukee but came here as a child when his father, a minister, was called to a local church.
After serving his ten years in Military service he could not come back to Milwaukee, except for visits. He was out east and down south for awhile but no matter where he went he was haunted by his experiences in the war. I told him about my son, Peter, who always thought that if he escaped Milwaukee, which he did a number of times, all his brain illnesses would disappear. It did not happen. After seeing his reaction to my telling him my son eventually committed suicide I wish, I would not have told him that fact.
He was very emotional and a few times had to stop to gather himself together while describing his life since being drafted in the military. I joked with him that he should have tried to escape the draft until 1968 when fourteen of us raided the Selective Service draft board and destroyed all the 1 A files, thus allowing many young men escape from being drafted in the military.
At one time a lady sitting across from us, in true Milwaukee style, joined in our conversation briefly. Seeing his Vietnam jacket she said thanked him for being in the service and said how proud she was to meet him. However, in the same breathe she said the Vietnam War was wrong and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were wrong. We both agreed.
He has recently returned to Milwaukee to live and the friend he brought in for therapy was a person he had know since he was about 12 years old. He had return home from the war after 50 years. Finally his friend came out and it was time to depart. His name was Kenneth. He was a military and Vietnam veteran, just the type of causality of war that John F. Kennedy was trying to prevent when he was killed and just the person that motivates me to stop these ‘endless wars’, the continuing racism in Milwaukee and to stop teaching killing at Marquette University. Kenneth is my friend and brother.
“Perhaps people will stop
repeating the human-made
catastrophes of the past when
we cease being ahistorical and
truly learn from history’s
lessons.” –Larry Pinkney, The
Boston Globe, April 27, 2006
An important part of nonviolence is holding in anger and frustration when people say or do what “in your opinion” are acts of injustice. This happened to me tonight at a meeting when an issue concerning the poor and marginalized was misrepresented. I expected statements would be made of such a nature but when it happened I was unable to stop myself from speaking out.
These days when I am in the waiting room during my wife’s hospital visits I am reading Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” It is said that history is written by the powerful, rich and strong but this version of history is from the people.
I have always enjoyed reading and studying history but find it frustrating when people and governments do not learn from history. Today I learned that the US war in Afghanistan, already the longest war in our history, will continue on for another ten years or so. Our role may change but our involvement in this conflict will continue. We withdrew from Iraq but the war continues. Not learning from history we are in an “endless wars.”
History is telling us that John Kennedy was determined to end our involvement in the war in Vietnam when he was killed fifty years ago. He even signed a presidential order making this withdrawal from the war official. After his death, this document and his intent were ignored.
I think of the phrase from a popular song: “When will ever learn”? We can learn from history or be doomed, as we are, to repeat our mistakes.
My anger at the meeting tonight has happened before. I can explain it but not justify it. When will I ever learn?
This morning when going to an interview on the Marquette University campus with a graduate student,I decided to park my car on the street instead of in the parking lot right near where I was going. While I have been ‘unbanned’ by Marquette University to be on campus I was not sure if my known trespasser car had been unbanned.
After the interview, while walking through the parking lot to my car I noticed this sign (on left) on a couple of parking spaces. It read “Parking for Gesu Parish Jesuit Fathers.” I thought to myself if one was not a Catholic they might not know what “Gesu”, “Parish” or “Jesuit” meant. Then the sign would read “Parking for Fathers”. The obvious question would then be “What about the mothers? Where can they park?”
This sign represents the male hierarchy of our Roman Catholic Church. Only men can be ordained priest, pastors, Bishops or Pope. We call God, “Our Father” not our ‘Our Mother and Our Father’. We recognize only twelve apostles, all male, although there are followers of the Way of Jesus, some called apostles, in the early church. A hierarchical top down Church is bad enough but when it is an all male hierarchical Church it can become unbearable.
A woman friend of mine, an ordained Catholic priest, will say Mass this weekend at the SOAWatch to close the School of America’s, an USA military training school for terrorist in Latin America, located at Fort Benning in Columbus GA. The last two male ordained Roman Catholic priests who said Mass with her the last few years, elderly religious priest, have been banned by the Church from saying Mass. The founder of the School of America Watch was excommunicated from the Church and kicked out of his religious order for being present on the altar at her ordination. She and all the many woman Catholic priest in the USA, although ordained by an ordained Bishop have all been excommunicated.
So I ask “What about the Mothers”. Is there room for the mothers and daughters in our Church to preside over our liturgies? Would a woman Archbishop, rather than our present male Archbishop, close her eyes and ears to the poor and marginalized when closing Catholic Churches. Would a woman ignore the teaching of killing without conscience at our largest Catholic University? I doubt it. We need to make spaces for the mothers as well as the fathers.
I was surprised last summer when after a routine hearing exam I was told I have a hearing problem. Since that time I noticed that I do have a hearing problem and someday may need a hearing aid. My unknown hearing problem might explain a few things like why I talk so loud. People with hearing problems tend to talk loud. Also my difficulty hearing is why I cannot sing. In church I just mouth the words of a hymn so not to throw off people around me. I have been accused of talking too much and not hearing. There is some truth to my talking too much and interrupting persons. However, I do hear what people are saying but process the words too quickly and jump too early to a response.
After telling a parable Jesus in the Gospel would often say let those who have eye to see and ears to listen see and hear. This type of hearing and seeing, behind the words, I believe I am good at. This is the type of hearing that many people want to avoid these days. When someone says “Marquette Teaches Killing” few ask what this means and is it true. Most do not want to hear this statement so just dismiss or ignore it. Actually some years ago when I was encouraged to look into ROTC, military training at Marquette, I did not want to find out what it meant. I just looked into it because good people said so. But what I saw and heard what is happening at Marquette I could not ignore what I believed in conscience to be morally wrong.. I have no choice, with my present conscience, but to break the silence on this issue.
In an online discussion I started on this subject of Marquette Teaching Killing, I had a Marquette University alumnus now a distinguished lawyer say that politicians make moral judgments about war not the individuals. Tomorrow I may send him this quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2242) He made other statements contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. In all his Catholic education at Marquette he did hear about the ‘priority of conscience’ over any directives of the government. (#2242)
The The Cry of the Poor is also something hard to hear. Someone else wrote me today telling me how complicated and involved a decision to give money for vouchers to St. Vincent De Paul conferences. What is so complicated, if the decision is made, to give money to a group when 100% of the money goes for vouchers for beds, appliances and furniture for those in need.
Maybe what I need is more silence. After all if it was not for the silence between words, words would not make sense. More silence, fewer words may be good for all of us and lead us listen and act.
Cold weather is here to stay this winter. Cold brings hardship for many, high heating bills, children sleeping on cold hard floors, car and transportation difficulties, more work to obtain food, warm weather jobs disappearing, children are confined inside more times and the list goes on. Most of us will not experience any of this difficulties but the growing number of people in poverty do. Our response is to give money to charities for food and toys for people in need. Charities compete to collect money and food while poor families increasingly have no stoves and refrigerators to store and cook the food and children with new toys still sleep on the floor.
In Catholic social teaching the main mission of government is to serve the ‘common good’ and the mission of the church is to bring to what we do the “evangelical and preferential option” of Jesus to the poor and marginalized.
By these standards our government and Catholic Churches are failing. Our government seems more worried about ‘tax breaks’ for rich, more money for the military, killing enemies, imprisoning poor and minorities, protecting our borders and deporting people and cutting service for low income than for the ‘common good’. Our church, at least locally, seems more concern about spending money to prevent victims of sexual abuse from getting compensation, hiding money in endowments for ‘future church’, closing churches in poor and segregated neighbors, talking about the dignity of human life but looking the other way when we teach and practice killing without conscience.
What do we do? A friend mildly accused me of giving up hope by not working for ‘results’ or ‘outcomes’. I do want a government concerned about the ‘common good’ more than allowing health care to be a profitable business for the few. I do want a Catholic Church using its money for those in need rather than giving it to bankers for storage. I do want to see our Catholic University stop teaching killing. However, if I only look for results I would have despaired and lost hope by now. It is like struggling against the cold of winter only to find more cold and more winter. Hope means believing that spring will come or, for us, that someday governments will be for the ‘common good’ and the Church will given preferences to serving the poor and marginalized.
Facing the death of winter or the rejection of efforts justice and peace is not the time to look for ‘results’ or ‘outcomes’. We just live through the winter making the most of our conditions and believe that spring will come. We just resist violence and injustice and believe that goodness will overcome evil. If it happens or does not happen we can keep our hope alive by listening to our hearts and the silence within us. Keeping Hope alive, especially in the cold of winter is hard, but it is all we can do, as we try to bring the new life of spring to our planet