Prayer for Our Nation In Transition

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Our priest, Fr. Thomas Gallagher OFM, wrote the following prayer for us to recite antiphonally on Sundays.(Each side of the congregation takes turns reading a section. Then we read the last two lines together.) I find it very soothing and inspiring, so with his permission I have copied it for you.

Blessed Are They

BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT:

     the marginalized,

     the sinner,

     the person who does not fit in,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN LOSSES:

     of love, of freedom, of dignity,

     of home–the refugee,

     of identity–the exile

for they will be comforted.

BLESSED ARE THE MEEK:

     the unseen, unappreciated worker,

     the physically, emotionally, spiritually abused,

     the one who is bullied,

for they will inherit the land.

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS:

     the one who teaches through deeds of compassion,

     the one who stands in solidarity with the marginalized,

     the peaceful protester,

for they will be satisfied.

BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL:

     the one who opens doors, hearts, minds,

     the one who forgives,

     the person of hospitality,

for they will be shown mercy.

BLESSED ARE THE CLEAN OF HEART:

     the one who holds no grudges,

     the visionary,

     the one who welcomes the least one,

for they will see God.

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS:

     those who strive to create a space for others to be at home,

     those with the vision to see from another perspective,

     those who accept forgiveness,

for they will be called children of God.

BLESSED ARE THOSE PERSECUTED FOR THE SAKE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS:

     those who remain faithful to love despite opposition,

     those who hold space for others to become themselves,

     those whose witness speaks truth to power,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH.

YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.

“These Rooms”

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Compassion can be found in many physical locations. This was my grandparents’ summer home where I found love and safety. Another place I discovered great kindness was in “these rooms,” shorthand for 12 step meetings which offered me solace as I dealt with the addictions of members of my family.

I have been reflecting on something I learned years ago in such a room. When the family member of an addict changes, she will encounter a very strong message of “change back.” The addict counts on the people around her staying the same so that she can continue on her own course. Once the other person stops their routine behavior-whether walking out of a room where the addict is raging, or refusing to make excuses for their behavior- the addict has a problem. Things have changed. The solution the addict comes up with is CHANGE BACK. I LIKED THINGS THE WAY THEY WERE!

It seems to me that there is a lot of “change back” going on in our country at the moment. It’s uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous to resist the pressure to change back. But we are called to continue on the paths to justice, racial and religious reconciliation, respect for women, welcome of the outcast, and embrace of the homeless that we were on earlier this century.

We can’t expect that our persistence in the face of such powerful and scary messages to “change back” will be welcomed. Ask anyone who has sat in “these rooms” and discussed the ramifications of refusing to give into an addict’s demands. But persist we must. It is the way to healing and wholeness, both for the future and for our country.

 

No Santa?

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When I was a child, I still believed in Santa Claus and I visited him at Meier and Frank, the big downtown department store. Going downtown was an occasion to dress up, and so I had.

In the recent election, many voters seemed to see our  President Elect as a present time Santa, promising an end to many problems, most beyond any one person’s ability to solve.

Today I am feeling compassion for those folks who may find many of their hopes crushed as the country moves forward. As I have written before, there is no going back to a so-called golden age of the United States. Not only will there be massive changes to access to health insurance; there are rumblings about privatizing Medicare. In the good old days there were millions of poor, ill, uninsured citizens, many elderly, in this country. I pray that doesn’t happen again.

When I found out that Santa wasn’t real, I was reassured that the spirit he represented still lived. Compassion, generosity and a listening ear are all available even if Santa isn’t the one providing them. I pray that, when people learn that the promises of the campaign may not prove to benefit them, they not become bitter and disillusioned. May we as a country find a way to meet the deepest wishes of all our citizens without pitting them against each other. When we turn on each other, no one wins.

Au Revoir Leonard

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I wrote about Leonard Cohen a few days ago as I was baking the 36 minute apple pie. I followed him all his musical(and not so musical) life and continue to be moved by his last album.

We all will come to the end of our lives and will have a chance, God willing, to do some deep reflection on how we used our, to quote the poet Mary Oliver, “ one wild and precious life.” Cohen does that in the last album asking for a treaty with God, history and those he has loved.

Some times in history call for contemplation of our individual and collective purposes. I think this is such a time. We can surrender to either despair or jubilation, depending on our political outlook. Neither is ever warranted by the election of any flawed human being to the presidency of one country. Instead we can look to the Beatitudes for our blessings. They provide cold comfort for the entitled, close-minded and smug. But they provide sustenance for those who keep putting one foot in front of the other in the pursuit of peace, justice, elimination of suffering, and hospitality to the stranger.

THE EIGHT BEATITUDES OF JESUS

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10

Thinking About Yeats

The Second Comingyeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
I am a retired English professor, and I once spent a semester in college reading Yeats for a tutorial. This poem comes from World War I, but the first stanza resonates especially strongly with me today. In the United States at the moment, half of the population appears to be in mourning while the other half is jubilant. Clearly this is no way to coalesce to face the very real problems facing this society.
There is no going back to a mythical “great America,” as I have written previously. The very notion damns a sizeable proportion of our citizenry for whom America was anything but great. It is like a 19th century Confederate longing for the “good old days of slavery,” with our “happy Mammies” and “nigras” who “knew their place.”
The way forward is the only way available. No one knows what it looks like, but it certainly won’t be full of steel mills and “the little woman” at home. May we face reality with hope rather than bitterness and blame. May we find a way to  redirect our “passionate intensity” into rebuilding a nation with “justice and liberty for all.”

Micah 6:8

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“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?”

My grandparents lived through two world wars, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. They survived the Spanish Flu, which nearly claimed my grandfather. They lived through the Great Depression. During that economic crisis, the faculty at the University of Buffalo where my grandfather was a Dean, chose to take an across the board pay cut rather than lay off junior faculty members. They understood ordeal, suffering and sacrifice. Yet they remained loving and hopeful throughout their lives. Their faith gave them a firm foundation on which to stand.

My foundation is God, not the United States. This morning as I deal with a new and troubling national reality, I look to Micah for instruction. It is pretty clear that despair is not from God. I will continue to try to walk out my life justly, kindly and humbly.

As the New England abolitionist Theodore Parker said in 1853: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one. . . . But from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”

Winding Down

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It has been a very long time that we have suffered through the 2016 Presidential election in the United States. I think it has left many many people deeply demoralized and discouraged about the future of the country. Ugliness has abounded, truth seems to be up for debate. Not any particular truth, but the existence of truth itself seems to challenged.

I was this tiny baby born just after the horrific conflict in World War II. I joined the “boom” of infants born then to visibly show faith in the future. Now two of us are grappling for leadership of this country with conflicting views of the future of America.

I cannot seek to “make America great again,” knowing as I do the multitudes who were excluded from that purported Eden. Instead I look to a future that deals with the reality of a massively shifting economic base, globalization and climate change. These things are true. They will not disappear by calling them lies. There is no way to return to some imagined perfect past. May we rise to the challenges ahead and vote with our hopes, not our fantasies.

Staying Sane

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Some people enjoy getting scared. The idea of “thrill rides” is, well, thrilling. The middle swing in this picture is of my husband and two grandchildren high in the air on a carnival ride. Needless to say, I am the one on the ground taking the picture. I was scared enough growing up to last me several lifetimes. Adrenaline and I are rarely friends.

The election is having a destabilizing effect on me, and I read this morning that it is having the same effect on many Americans. I am alternatively sucked into reading every word I can find about it and hiding from all information. The rhetoric is frightening, but it is not useful for me to be frightened by it. That only adds to the unsettling atmosphere around me.

I have been reading American history instead. It is comforting to see that we have come through equally difficult times. One Senator even repeatedly bashed another with a walking cane over the head on the Senate floor, rendering him incapable of serving for the next three years.

I have one vote, which I will cast on November 8. Until then, I will try to stay sane and not allow the ugly to live rent free in my brain.

The Look of Denial

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I have been disheartened in a deeply personal way by the response of the candidate for President to the accusations of sexual abuse. Perhaps it is because I have heard the same kinds of statements throughout my life. “It never happened.” “Who would abuse her?” “Why is everyone blaming me?” “I would never ever have done such a thing.” “She must be crazy to be saying these things.”

Denial is a mystery to me. I think that in general it is just a way to try to divert the attention back to the victim. And denial has a chilling effect on the listener. Even the victim is vulnerable to questioning her own experience. The experience of trauma is real, but sometimes the details are remembered, sometimes not. Sometimes we remember the car was black when really it was blue. When someone puts the focus on the color of the car, we may back off from our very real experience of sexual assault in a car, no matter the color.

May we continue to, as the early women in the movement in the 60’s would say, “Listen each other into speech.” May we support each other, women and men both, in acknowledging the truth of sexual violence commonly perpetrated by men in power against women and men with less power. Let’s let truth, not denial, have the last word.

A Break From Insanity

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Cape Breton Nova Scotia

The news here has been teeming with discussions of sexual assault. For the many women my age, there is nothing unusual about the accounts of women’s experience. We were regularly taken as sex objects long before we knew that there was another way to be female. There is something terribly rewarding about the outrage that is widespread in the country about such “locker room talk” and behavior. It is as if finally someone is angry about how we were treated, even if it was many many years ago.

Still, the whole election climate has been upsetting, and I have needed to remember the true loveliness of the world. Here is one such image. May we all evict the abusers from our brains and fill our thoughts with the deep beauty available all around us.