Good Friday – Walking the Way of the Cross to Lockheed Martin

Dear Friends,

A group of the faithful carried the cross together, honoring the sacrifice and suffering of Jesus, on Good Friday.

They gathered – Catholic Workers, nuns, priests and lay people – and walked to the Lockheed Martin facility in Sunnyvale, California where day in and day out people go to work building the Trident II D-5 missiles that are deployed on our nation’s ballistic missile submarines.

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Each of those Trident missiles (and each submarine carries 24) is fitted with four (and as many as eight) thermonuclear warheads, each of which is many times more destructive than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.  These submarines patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on alert, prepared to launch their horrific weapons, threatening humanity with omnicide.

Such a thing is quite simply an abomination before God.

Scores of workers stream in and out of the Lockheed Martin facility every workday and, if the employee roster mirrors the societal demographic, a large percentage of those workers call themselves Christians. How then, can one who calls oneself “Christian” do the work of building something that is so un-Godly?  How can one build weapons that are, by their very nature, designed to incinerate tens of thousands or possibly millions – and that is with just a single warhead.

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Are we truly listening to The Story on Good Friday (or on any other day for that matter) when, instead of turning away from violence, from hatred, from fear, and turning toward LOVE, we continue to build the machinery of empire today.  How different is today’s empire from that which was threatened by Jesus roughly two thousand years ago?

On this Good Friday those who walked to Lockheed Martin stood vigil with signs and banners carrying messages of love and peace and calling on all good people to stop making war.  Some of those present went into the roadway carrying that cross and blocking the entrance to Lockheed Martin in an act of nonviolent resistance to nuclear weapons and war-making.  They were arrested by the Sunnyvale Police.  This was their sacrifice in the name of Jesus, who sacrificed for us in the name of a loving God who wants us to live together in Peace.

Those arrested for their witness were Steve Kelly, Susan Crane, Larry Purcell, Mary Jane Parrine, Louis Vitale, and Ed Ehmke.  Steve was held on a warrant, and Larry didn’t sign the citation.  Those released have a court date May 13th.  Steve and Larry will be in court Wednesday, April 3rd in the afternoon.

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Click here to view photos of the Good Friday vigil and action at Lockheed Martin. 

My wish today is that each of us was able to look Jesus in the eyes as he hung high up on that cross when he was crucified, and that we may connect in such a way that we find it in our hearts to carry that cross as we are able – whether a few inches or a few miles – so that others may live… so that we may all learn to live together as brothers and sisters one day as is God’s intention.

With great thanks this day to all who sacrifice so that others may live.

Peace,

Leonard

Sr. Anne speaking on Life, Light and Hope

Dear Friends,

Chrissy Nesbitt was going through the videos that she discovered of the Festivals of Hope surrounding the 1980 Plowshares Eight and discovered many treasures.  Among them was one of Sr. Anne Montgomery speaking to one of the gatherings.  In this particular video Anne speaks beautifully about light and darkness; about living into the light. Continue reading

To Anne and the Road Less Travelled

Dear Friends,

Our dear friend and peacemaker Anne Montgomery was no stranger to the road less travelled, a road requiring great skills of spiritual navigation.  On the other hand, that road less travelled is one that was blazed by some well-worn sandals roughly 2000 years ago.  Anne locked on a true compass bearing that guided her well on her long, full life’s journey. Continue reading

A Lenten Call: Give Up Our Violence!

Editor’s Note: This is a reflection written over the course of two days by William “Bix” Bichsel, SJ during his 30-day stay in solitary confinement at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center. Bix began this reflection on Friday, February 3, 2012, the third day of his second (four day) fast, which was in solidarity with U.S. political prisoner Leonard Peltier.

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As I rubbed my hand down the surface of my bony body, a thought came to me that I was sanding down my dry, itchy skin to be a parchment for writing/proclaiming the Gospel – the Good News.

My thoughts come out of living in a 24 hour lock-down, single cell in a federal prison for 30 days. During 19 of those days I fasted from solid food and drank only water and 2 small cartons of milk a day. During 29 of those days I did not sleep a wink at night and lay awake scratching and itching and tensing my muscles and stretching to get a position to sleep. No sleep came.

The first sleepless nights were spent thinking of projects. After my release I want to join Peter Roderick in transforming Tacoma Avenue into “Peace Pole Avenue.” I also plan to help Jose Mercado create a mural walk of peace and resistance on the walls and sides of buildings there. Planning a family reunion took up most of one night and another was spent pondering how to enlist youth in the work of abolishing nuclear weapons.

Within days it was apparent to me that sleeping at night was not possible. No matter how much anti itch cortisone and anti fungal cream I rubbed on my legs and body –the itching continued. After some days my world turned upside down. No sleep at night; very little during the day; liquid only nourishment; and yet I felt much sustained by the grace of God, the prayers of the community and the companionship of Brother Jesus.

My deepening resistance to the U.S. forces of death led to my decision of non-cooperation with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) system. With this decision, I felt God’s joyful gift of freedom in which I hope to walk. A freedom that conspired with the long, itchy, sleepless nights and lead me to ask: How do I proclaim the Gospel – the Good News – in this post-Christian, self-indulgent, nuclear age? What is the message of the Gospel today?

I choose the Gospel of Mark as my framework today because his Gospel is short and strongly oriented to discipleship in following Jesus. Other Gospels point to discipleship as well; but, Mark stresses this as the main, underlying theme. My thinking is influenced by Ched Myer’s social and political commentary on Mark’s Gospel in his book, Binding the Strong Man. We are in dire need of following Jesus in today’s world.

Mark’s Gospel begins with John the Baptist in the wilderness preaching repentance and proclaiming that one mightier than him will come. Jesus shows up and is baptized by John, and then is led, by the spirit, into the desert. After this, John is arrested and Jesus goes to Galilee to begin his ministry. He preaches, “The Kingdom of God is at hand… Repent and believe in the Gospel – the Good News.”

Jesus’ first and constant teaching is that the Kingdom of God is near – not down the road. It can happen now. “Believe the Gospel – the Good News.” Believe that every human being is precious and that, with care and compassion, the Earth’s bounty can provide what is necessary for a full human life for all. Believe that people with varying religious faith traditions and nationalities and ethnicities are meant not to be threatening, but to be invitations to harmonious cooperation without weapons or violence.

The Gospel message that is most neglected is also the message that holds the most hope for humanity: nonviolence. We can hammer swords into plowshares; we can love one another; we are sons and daughters of a loving creator. These are some of the elements of the kingdom at hand, which Jesus proclaimed. Following his proclamation, Jesus admonishes, “Repent!” But, what does that mean today?

There was a time when Christians believed that repentance was about atoning for rule breaking, like missing Mass on Sunday or eating meat on Friday. Today’s Gospel calls us to repent for more serious offenses. There is no room for trivialities; we are destroying the earth that is home to all God’s worldly creations. We are killing each other.

Retaliation is neither natural nor justifiable and vengeance is incompatible with the forgiveness that is central to Christianity. The Kingdom Jesus speaks of cannot come into existence through violence or reliance on might making it right! Even when a great good – like the freedom of some people – is achieved through violence, the result adds to the unending cycle of violence. The myth of redemptive violence is simply violence concealed in lamb’s clothing.

The lamb’s clothing conceals those forces of death which hinder the Kingdom of God. Forces embodied in national policies that feed a perpetual culture of war and starve our people. The U.S., as the superpower, uses nuclear weapon superiority and military domination to control other nations and peoples to serve our “national interests.” Our weapon system is a sign of ultimate hopelessness that stands in opposition to the Kingdom where humans can live together and thrive.

The forces of death are like rivers of molten lava pouring down a mountainside and the flow is controlled by those with influence, wealth, and power. Corporations, their congressional puppets, and a few highly influential people wield this power in the U.S. They manipulate our government at every level and make a mockery of our justice system. Only the power of nonviolent resistance can challenge this oppressive status quo.

To repent is to confront the violence within us, to change our learned responses of violence. We are called to respond with conscience, intellect, and imagination – to work together for peaceful solutions. Repent and learn the way of nonviolence so that we can live together as a global community. Support the efforts of people of all faith traditions and ethnicities to live and thrive together. Place human need as the priority, and use profits to insure food and agricultural production for every global citizen. Encourage work and farm cooperatives as part of a national and global concentration on food and agricultural production. Open our collective human potential through free education for all. In such an age of cooperation, the gifts and talents of every human being can shine out in global splendor!

The Kingdom of God calls for healing and caring for every acre of God’s creation. The development of energy from solar, wind, tidal and geothermal sources other than oil, coal, and gas can bring about sustainable employment. The tremendous need for environmental healing and repair of the land, water, and atmosphere of our Earth requires workers. Labor unions can bring workers closer together to form relationships and to ensure the right of collective bargaining. Military training can be phased out and replaced by service corps volunteers who serve the nation in building infrastructure and responding to natural disasters.

The call of the Gospel is a deep call to conscience. Preach the Good News: “The Kingdom is at hand!” Venture out in faith that God will do what God promised, “Thy Kingdom come on Earth – as in Heaven.” Resist – by word and deed – the forces of death that undermine the foundation of the Kingdom. Some of these forces that grow in this climate of violence are: war, drone attacks, torture, nuclear weapons, weapon production, corporate control of government, institutionalize injustice, abortion, and the death penalty. Meanwhile, funds for basic needs like food, shelter, health care, employment and education disappear. The will to move our national resources away from death and toward life must begin in each us.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus first calls his disciples to follow him, and then he says, “Pick up the cross and follow me.” As we know, the cross led Jesus to the grave. The conclusion of Mark’s Gospel (Mk 16:1-8) finds women at the graveside, fearful and unable to speak. The angel in the tomb instructs them to tell Peter and disciples that Jesus has gone before them into Galilee and that’s where they will find him.

If we want to continue the story and preach the Gospel in our time we must take over from Jesus in Galilee and embrace his spirit so that the Good News is proclaimed from our voices in this violent age.

A Prayer for Lent*

LENTEN PRAYER OF PETITION
FOR THE RETURN OF ALL CHURCHES TO
THE TRUTH OF THE NONVIOLENT JESUS
AND HIS WAY OF NONVIOLENT LOVE

(*By Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy)

Abba, in the name of Jesus
we ask you to send the Holy Spirit
to gather the Churches together,
so that with one mind, one heart and one voice,
they may proclaim as God’s Way
Jesus’ Way of Nonviolent Love of all people—friends and enemies—
and thereby teach that
violence and enmity are not God’s Way
violence and enmity  are not the Christian Way,
violence and enmity are not the Holy Way,
violence and enmity are not the Catholic Way,
violence and enmity  are not the Apostolic Way,
violence and enmity are not the Way of Jesus,
and thus set Christians free forever
from  bondage to the
unholy, uncatholic, unapostolic, unChrist-like
ways of the counterfeit gods and philosophies justifying
war, capital punishment and abortion.

We plead this grace so that
the Nonviolent Lamb
may be our Lord in deed,
as well as in word and sacrament.

We request this gift
so that the Christian Community
may be for afflicted humanity
a faithful witness
to Jesus’ Way of conquering evil.

We implore this healing
so that the Church may be
an authentic extension in time and space
of the Way of the Lamb of God,
of the Way of the Nonviolent Jesus
which is the Way
to renew the face of the earth. Amen.

OUR LAMB HAS CONQUERED; LET US FOLLOW.

Preparing our hearts for the Prince of Peace

(Written by Susan Crane, December 22, 2011, Dublin Federal Correctional Institution)

There’s a lot of kindness here in prison, but there will be a relief when the holiday season is over, at least for me.

Many of the women are having a hard time; Christmas seems to be a major time marker in our lives.  “I won’t be here next Christmas” a few women say, and the silence of the others says, “I’ll be here for 11 more Christmases”, or for the lifers… a real silence, and I’m not sure what they think.

There is always a hope of getting out as a result of something that might develop. For example, we hear there’s a bill in congress that would release anyone in federal prison who has done half their time if they were here for a nonviolent crime, and are over a certain age, maybe 65.  Many women are getting immediate release for the cocaine/crack equalization resentencing law that passed.

But, all that to say, Christmas is a hard time to be here for most of the women, and of course it’s a time of missing family gatherings, or what the culture tells us we should be feeling.

Yesterday Alan, from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, came for the regular thursday meditation. I like when he comes, we sit for a good half hour, and then walk in silence. It is a very sweet time; I find myself looking forward to it. He asked us each to talk about how we were feeling, about the holiday season and so on. After the silence, after the trust that’s built up, it was a good sharing.

I shared that in my tradition Advent is a time of preparing our hearts for the compassion and nonviolence of Jesus, and that the Advent readings ingup to the coming of the Prince of Peace help us with that preparation, helping us open our hearts so that we can receive that deep peace.

There is, however, an understandable tendency to not live life here, but to live life looking forward to what will happen when released. I try to do my time realizing that this is part of my life; no matter where I am, our purpose is to love others, be compassionate, do what we were created to do.

Of course I fail all the time, but that’s no surprise.

Remembering our way in these dark days…

Friends,

In this time of Advent, and with the Winter Solstice just a day away, I find myself looking for light in everyday encounters and finding the center wherever it presents itself.  I learned from Ciaron O’Reilly that just this morning Fr. Martin Newell was released from Pentonville/London after serving a sentence for cutting into Northwood Headquarters on the Feast of Innocents 2008 in resistance to the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.

I subsequently checked in on Ciaron’s blog to see what else is going on and found a post by the title Mixing it with the Catholic Chaplain for British Military Land ForcesIt was, for me, the perfect antidote to the sanitized institutional church activities that take up the better part of this time of year.

In this season in which we prepare for the birth of the Prince of Peace while simultaneously embracing the societal/cultural messages of violence, Ciaron summarized for us the essential,central problem(s) of the Church from a historical context (which the Church ignores at its own peril or perhaps at the risk of losing what is left of its soul).  Here are what he points out are the 3 responses to the issues of war and violence in church history.

1. Pacifism for the first 3 centuries, practised and taught by Jesus living under the Roman colonisers and the Herodian collaborators – embraced by the Catholic Worker movement and other remnants of radical discipleship.

2. The Just War theory thought up by Augustine after the 3rd. century Constantine shift when the church was legalised, patronised by the emperor and was fasttracked to become basic to Roman citizenship. This “Constantine Shift” turned christian ethics on its head. The ethical question of how do you run the Roman (British, Portugese, Spanish, any empire ) in a Christian way? should never have been our problem…like how do you run a firing squad in a christian way? is not our problem either.
 Both recent popes have mused that given the nature of modern warfare technology the a just war may now be an impossibilty (eg. you’re not supposed to kill civilians for starters!)

3.  Crusades – “kill em all and let God sort them out”.  Theologically discredited in the Catholic tradition but is very much the theology of nuclear weapons, aerial and naval bombardment which is basic to the present wars on Afghanistan and Iraq.

For me, Ciaron’s post is an important reminder to us that although the Church is supposed to be the conscience of the society (rather than the tool of the Empire), we as people of the light must be the conscience of the Church.  And who knows where – such as Ciaron O’Reilly’s “debate” with a military chaplain – opportunities might arise to remind the Church of its errant path for the past roughly 1700 years.

May we continue to seek light in these dark days, and may it help us remember our way.

Peace,

Leonard

An Advent Message from Bix

December 2, 2011 (Written in SeaTac Federal Detention Center)

Today we mark the 31st anniversary of the four US churchwomen martyrs, slain in El Salvador. Lay Missionary Jean Donovan, Ursuline sister Dorothy Kazel and Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, gave their lives that the light of Christ might shine unto the gloom and darkness of this world.

I am struck by how the themes of light and blindness shine out so brightly in the scripture readings.

In the first reading, Is. 29: 17-24 it is written: “On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.”

The responsorial psalm, Ps. 27, begins: “The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear?”

The gospel, Mt. 9: 27-31, is about the two blind men who come to Jesus to be given sight.

What strikes me first about the gospel is Jesus asking them: “… do you believe I am able to do this?” It’s like he needs and wants their affirmation. Through their faith he brings about what they deeply want. They become signs and messengers of the healing work of Jesus which comes to them through their faith.

This teaching and healing event of Jesus moved me to put his question “Do you believe I am able to do this?” explicitly in other events and healings in his life.

To the woman taken in adultery (Jn. 8: 1-11) his words can be: “Do you believe I am able to stop the capital punishment imposed on you?” To us in the 21st century his words could be: “Do you believe I will work with you to eliminate the death penalty?”

To Peter, whom Jesus told to put away his sword (Jn. 18: 11) his words could be: “Peter do you believe I can call you out of your violence to be a person of non violence?” To us today his words could be: “Do you believe that I can teach you to be non-violent? Do you believe I will work with you to teach others to do away with weapons? Do you believe I will work with you to teach universities to give up training for war by eliminating ROTC programs? Do you believe that I am able to work with you to eliminate nuclear weapons?”

To the rich young man whom Jesus counseled to give his wealth to the poor and follow him (Mk. 10: 17-22), and who was not able to follow Jesus because of his riches, Jesus’ words could be: “Your riches hold you and people who need help in bondage; unless you can let go, you will not be free or be able to share the richness of the human community.” To us, in our day, Jesus’ words could be: “Do you believe that I am able to accompany you on a journey in which you give up status and privilege and work to resist forces and policies which deprive people of a full human life?”

In the stillness and early shadows of Advent, the faithfulness and blood of the four churchwomen and the restored sight of the two blind men open my awareness to the presence of the Spirit.

The Spirit’s presence comes with energy and life-generating power which circulates hope and light in which we can walk. We can walk through fences, over borders, through Wall Street and Lockheed Martin, through Grumman and Boeings, through a corporate-person Supreme Court, through a bought out legislative body, and a sold out administrative head. All of this energy can come to us in the stillness of night. It’s the time of stillness, the time when we are aware that the promise of Peace can come to us in the night. And – all of this is free. We don’t earn it. We can be quiet and be open to it.

(Editor’s Note: Thanks to Joe Power-Drutis for transcribing Bix’s reflection.)

Praying for Conversion: A Lenten Reflection

Turn our hearts
Turn our minds
Make us branches holding fast to the vine
Patient Keeper, hold us in your tender mercy, Tree of Life.

This Lenten journey has been one of prayer and conversion. I wake each morning asking god to turn my heart and mind toward nonviolence, love and compassion. It is very humbling to be here with the women being held, waiting for their cases to come up, waiting for sentencing, waiting for a destination. Their stories touch my heart. Their generosity and kindness brings a smile and a disarmed heart minute by minute.

During Lent, we follow the journey of Jesus as he prepares for his arrest, trial and execution. He was tortured and executed by the Roman occupying forces, by the Roman empire that didn’t want any unrest or challenge to its power. Jesus, who taught nonviolence, who healed, fed, and encouraged people, was a threat.

As Jesus is about to be arrested, Peter brings out his sword to defend him. John Dear, SJ, reminds us that if there ever was a time to use violence to defend someone, it would be to defend Jesus, the incarnate God. But Jesus tells Peter, NO. Put away the sword (Matthew 26:52).

He rejects violence, even knowing the consequence can be his own torture and death.

“Put away the sword” is good advice to us today. Put away our nuclear weapons. Put away our military spending. Put away our war making.

Archbishop Hunthausen once said, “Jesus’ acceptance of the cross, rather than the sword raised in his defense, is the Gospel’s statement of unilateral disarmament.”

We 5 are held here at SeaTac Federal Detention Center for saying No to nuclear weapons: No to the trident nuclear warheads.

Archbishop Hunthausen called Trident the “Auschwitz of Puget Sound”. The trident nuclear warheads, like flying ovens, are ready to be launched from the Trident submarines and incinerate millions of people anywhere in the world.

The parishioners of St. Leo Parish sang a hymn of conversion, Tree of Life, at the Mass where we were blessed and commissioned to federal prison. The love, prayers and encouragement of the people at St. Leo’s strengthens us everyday.

We pray for the women and men held here at SeaTac and for the guards; we pray for disarmed hearts in a disarmed world, and for the conversion of our hearts and our weapons.

Peace,

Susan

Relevant Links: 

Archbishop Hunthausen’s 1981 speech on Faith and Disarmament

Click here to learn about the Vancouver Declaration.

Following a nonviolent Jesus while living in a warmaking state

Susan Crane, Tacoma WA  January 4, 2011

During the trial of the  Disarm Now Plowshares, Arlen Storm, the US attorney, said something to the effect that all of us in this courtroom want a world without nuclear weapons.  There is general agreement on that, and the question is, “How do we get there?” The US attorney was objecting to our tactics. And he’s not the only one objecting. Stephen Kent (Catholic News Services) wrote: “Granted, the tactics of the Disarm Now Plowshares were wrong, but not so the philosophy and theology at the root of their action.”

What is the value of a philosophy or theology, if it isn’t practiced?
Or, what does it mean to follow a nonviolent Jesus while living in a warmaking state?

From the Gospels we read that Jesus was a teacher of nonviolence and often broke the laws in order to obey God. This tradition of embracing God’s will can be found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

Shiphrah and Puah, Hebrew midwives

At the beginning of Exodus, we read that Shiphrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwifes, were ordered by the Pharaoh to kill the boys that were born to the Hebrew women. In between the lines, we can imagine that the midwives prayed, talked with each other and with their families, and made a decision based on their faith. The decided to disobey the Pharaoh, and not kill the boys. This is perhaps the first story in the scriptures where people deliberately, in a knowing and careful way, make a decision to obey God instead of Empire (the king or human laws). (Exodus 1:8-17) Continue reading

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