Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

From here:
After the angel Gabriel had announced to Mary that she was to become the mother of Our Lord, Mary went from Galilee to Judea to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth, soon to be the mother of John the Baptist. This visit is recorded in Luke 1:39-56. Elizabeth greeted Mary with the words, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." Mary burst forth with the song of praise which we call the Magnificat, beginning, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord." We are told that even John the Baptist, still unborn, leaped for joy in his mother's womb. Thus we are shown, side by side, the two women, one seemingly too old to have a child, but destined to bear the last prophet of the Old Covenant, of the age that was passing away; and the other woman, seemingly not ready to have a child, but destined to bear the One Who was Himself the beginning of the New Covenant, the age that would not pass away.

It is this meeting that we celebrate today.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pine Gap 4 Vigil

The trial of the Pine Gap 4 was due to begin yesterday, so we did a vigil in Bourke Street Mall to pray for them and express our solidarity as they face a possible seven year jail term. We also thought it would be good to do it in public to raise some awareness of Pine Gap and the trial itself. It turned out to be more of a conversion experience for us than for any of the passersby.

Simon talks with Brent and Marcus.

Our banners - drawing attention to the trial and to the role of Pine Gap in Iraq.

Some of our crew attempting to hold the banner up in the wind.

Lorien and Christop take their turn to read the names of those killed in Iraq. It was a deeply moving experience.

A family affair! Paul Jameson and I brought our kids along, which made it all the more significant.

My turn to read the names.

We met up around 11 and talked a bit about what we were there for and how we were going to go about reading the names. Then we walked over to Bourke Street and picked a spot right outside the Myer entrance.

Most people walked past us, of course - we reflected later on some ways we could have engaged people better, but for the moment I was content just not to be pushy, and let people come to us if they were interested. And they did - we had quite a few people approach us and ask what it was about. A few people knew about Pine Gap, but not many. The last guy we talked to was actually a doctor from Alice Springs, many of whose patients work at the base. So that made for an interesting discussion.

Mostly though it was useful for us to do this: reading the names out had a particularly significant effect on us all. We read the names, ages, occupations, date they were killed, how they were killed, and where, of both coalition and Iraqi casualties. We wanted to do both to bring a sense of balance and recognise that there are victims on both sides of a war. The emotions it evoked were intense. I went through despair, sadness, frustration, anger, peacefulness. Often it depended on which list I was reading - it was harder to feel sympathy for the coalition casualties, who you knew were there to do a job, and who were there intentionally. Whereas for the Iraqi list, made up mostly of civilians, it was much more poignant; especially when you're acknowledging the deaths of children, unborn babies in their pregnant mothers, farmers, mechanics - not soldiers. Even still, most of the coalition dead were under 24; many as young as 18 and 19. For us it was really as much about repentance as anything - not flagellation, but recognition and genuine regret and solidarity. Realising how complicit we all are in this system of violence and destruction - confessing and repenting of it.

So this turned out to be much more for our good than for anyone else's. And the sense I was left with is that there's such a long way to go. We barely scratched the surface - maybe read 2 or 3 hundred names - of somewhere in the ballpark of 650,000 casualties. The pain of this and the legacy of destruction cannot even begin to be touched. But we've begun.

Some Christop photos here.

more pasted street art

Seeds for Pentecost

Well, a bunch of us from inspiral, Footscray, Bendigo and Norlane headed up to the You Yangs on Sunday for a gathering of the clans...lots of kids, a beautiful spot and wonderful people. Here's a pictorial tour of the day:

Marx leads as only Marx can.

Chelsea decided we were at "Bear Rock", and thought it was the best thing ever. At one point, when she looked out at the view, she gasped and exclaimed, "Look at that big world!" (I was tempted to say, "No darling, that's just Geelong," but didn't want to disappoint her.)

Some of the gathered clan. Check out the view of the big world in the background.

The sky was doing some pretty cool things.

The view from the other direction.

We headed back to Norlane afterwards for afternoon tea. Great to hang out with this bunch, and I only wish more of our mob were there.

no no...not THOSE B-52s...

Tuesday 22 May, at Bristol Crown Court, the trial of two Oxford peace activists Philip Pritchard and Toby Olditch (known as the 'B52 Two') concluded with the jury returning a unanimous verdict of not-guilty- in less than three hours. The two were charged with conspiring to cause criminal damage at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire on 18 March 2003 when they tried to safely disable US B52 bombers to prevent them from bombing Iraq. The court heard the two men acted to prevent damage to life and property in Iraq, and war crimes by the aggressors.

The trial started on Monday 14 May 2007. This is the second trial for the alleged offence; the first in October 2006 ended in a hung jury, after 12 hours of deliberation spread over three days. The two accused were facing up to ten years in jail. There are two other similar cases awaiting re-trial, due to hung juries, at Bristol crown court.

The two activists maintain that war crimes were committed in the bombing as cluster bombs, which spread unexploded bomblets that kill and maim civilians (like mines) were used, as were 'bunker busting' bombs tipped with depleted uranium that fragments, spreading radioactive toxins which are harmful to civilians.

During the trial the prosecution accepted that even delaying the bombers would have prevented civilian casualties, as it would have allowed those fleeing cities more time to escape. In his hour and a half summing up today, Justice Crowther explained the legal tests that must be met for the prosecution to succeed, he reiterated the facts and summarised the evidence. A document 'steps to verdict' had been provided to assist the jury.

Toby Olditch said "We're overjoyed, and thankful for the good sense of the jurors, for the wonderful support we've received, and for the commitment and expertise of our legal representatives. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people have still suffered as a result of the Government's actions. It shouldn't have come to the point that people had to take direct action to try to check the abuse of executive power."

Phil Pritchard "I am delighted that the jury have returned a unanimous not-guilty verdict. Our action in trying to prevent illegal attacks on the people of Iraq in 2003 is vindicated. I hope war of this kind never happens again."

Friday, May 25, 2007

St Philip Neri

From here: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise.

At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate.

As the Council of Trent was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome.

At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way.

Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services.

The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory.)

Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

St Gregory VII, St Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, and St Bede the Venerable

St Gregory VII - from here: The tenth century and the first half of the eleventh were dark days for the Church, partly because the papacy was the pawn of various Roman families. In 1049, things began to change when Pope Leo IX, a reformer, was elected. He brought a young monk named Hildebrand to Rome as his counselor and special representative on important missions. He was to become Gregory VII.

Three evils plagued the Church then: simony (the buying and selling of sacred offices and things), the unlawful marriage of the clergy and lay investiture (kings and nobles controlling the appointment of Church officials). To all of these Hildebrand directed his reformer’s attention, first as counselor to the popes and later (1073-1085) as pope himself.

Gregory’s papal letters stress the role of bishop of Rome as the vicar of Christ and the visible center of unity in the Church. He is well known for his long dispute with Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV over who should control the selection of bishops and abbots.

Gregory fiercely resisted any attack on the liberty of the Church. For this he suffered and finally died in exile. He said, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile.” Thirty years later the Church finally won its struggle against lay investiture.

St Mary Magdalen of Pazzi - a vow of virginity at age 10 and she's still called "the ecstatic saint"? - from here: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God and both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint."

She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there.

Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths.

As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, Admonitions, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious.

The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people.

It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.

St Bede - from here: Bede is one of the few saints honored as such even during his lifetime. His writings were filled with such faith and learning that even while he was still alive, a Church council ordered them to be read publicly in the churches.

At an early age Bede was entrusted to the care of the abbot of the Monastery of St. Paul, Jarrow. The happy combination of genius and the instruction of scholarly, saintly monks produced a saint and an extraordinary scholar, perhaps the most outstanding one of his day. He was deeply versed in all the sciences of his times: natural philosophy, the philosophical principles of Aristotle, astronomy, arithmetic, grammar, ecclesiastical history, the lives of the saints and, especially, Holy Scripture. From the time of his ordination to the priesthood at 30 (he had been ordained deacon at 19) till his death, he was ever occupied with learning, writing and teaching. Besides the many books that he copied, he composed 45 of his own, including 30 commentaries on books of the Bible.

Although eagerly sought by kings and other notables, even Pope Sergius, Bede managed to remain in his own monastery till his death. Only once did he leave for a few months in order to teach in the school of the archbishop of York. Bede died in 735 praying his favorite prayer: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As in the beginning, so now, and forever.”

His Ecclesiastical History of the English People is commonly regarded as of decisive importance in the art and science of writing history. A golden age was coming to an end at the time of Bede’s death: It had fulfilled its purpose of preparing Western Christianity to assimilate the non-Roman barbarian North. Bede recognized the opening to a new day in the life of the Church even as it was happening.

cyber activism

Interesting article here about a guy who has taken a very different route to protesting the war and militarism, and providing a memorial for those who have died in it. Cyber activism at its best. From his website:
I am currently in the process of logging into the America's Army online game to input all of the names of each of the over 2000 [now almost 3400] American service persons who have been killed in the Iraq conflict, utilizing the game's instant texting feature. America's Army is the free, downloadable first person shooter game that serves as a primary recruiting mechanism for the United States Army.
Great nonviolent direct action.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Lyrical Spotlight: Screaming Jets (II)


You can't do much about the
Governments policies
You can't do much about the heresies
You can't do too much to stop the squeeze on society
When you're all out of touch
You can't have much to say.

We can put a man on the moon
But we cant find a cure for starvation
Everybodys passing the buck
And there's no realisation

Well ain't it like being impossible
But there ain't no harm in tryin
Said ain't it like being impossible
But I'm gonna die trying

You can't do much about the birth of a new age
You can't do much about the old days
You can't do much about the equal and opposite reaction
You can't do much about that satisfaction

I don't know much about it
I didn't listen too much
There's no use in denying your piece of luck.

Ain't it like being impossible
There ain't any use in hiding
And I said hell man
Ain't this like being impossible
But I'm gonna die trying

You can't do much about what's gonna happen today
And you can't do much about yesterday
You can't say much against some
Angry individual
You can't say much against the majority

Is there any use shouting about it
Will anybody listen?
Will anybody back you up?
Is it gonna be your mission?

Well ain't it like being impossible
But there ain't no harm in trying
And I say hell man
Ain't this like being impossible
But I'm gonna die tryin'.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Gembrook NVDA training

Last weekend, the CAN crew headed down to Gembrook for a weekend of fun, frivolity and NVDA training. With both the peace convergence and trial of the Pine Gap Four fast approaching, it seemed like an appropriate time to do it. Here's the weekend in pictures.

The wombat very kindly made itself available to us. It's been sick but seems to be coming back to health.

The Wall prepares to receive yet another body.

Never say NVDA training is dull.

Gembrook is a pretty spectacular place to be at the moment.

The colours are absolutely amazing.

Some of the crew listening to some guy drone on and on.

Role-playing. Sandra Sully, Tracey Grimshaw, Mr Paul Tester and Ali.

St Rita of Cascia

Patron saint of lost causes...and the inspiration to persevere. From here: Daughter of Antonio and Amata Lotti; known as Peacemakers of Jesus, they had Rita late in life. From her early youth, Rita visited the Augustinian nuns at Cascia, and showed interest in a religious life. However, when she was twelve, her parents betrothed her to Paolo Mancini, an ill-tempered, abusive individual who worked as town watchman, and was dragged into the political disputes of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Disappointed but obedient, Rita married him when she was 18, and was the mother of twin sons.

She put up with Paolo's abuses for eighteen years before he was ambushed and stabbed to death. Her sons swore vengeance on their father's killers, but through Rita's prayers and interventions, they forgave the offenders.

Upon the deaths of her sons, Rita again felt the call to religious life. However, some of the sisters at the Augustinian monastery were relatives of her husband's assassins, and she was denied entry for fear of causing dissension. Asking for the intervention of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Augustine of Hippo, and Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, she managed to bring the warring factions together, not completely, but sufficiently that there was peace, and she was admitted to the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalen at age 36.

Rita lived 40 years in the convent, spending her time in prayer and charity, and working for peace in the region. She was devoted to the Passion, and in response to a prayer to suffer as Christ, she received a chronic head wound that appeared to have been caused by a crown of thorns, and which bled for 15 years.

Confined to her bed the last four years of her life, eating little more than the Eucharist, teaching and directing the younger sisters. Near the end she had a visitor from her home town who asked if she'd like anything; Rita's only request was a rose from her family's estate. The visitor went to the home, but it being January, knew there was no hope of finding a flower; there, sprouted on an otherwise bare bush, was a single rose blossom.

Among the other areas, Rita is well-known as a patron of desperate, seemingly impossible causes and situations. This is because she has been involved in so many stages of life - wife, mother, widow, and nun, she buried her family, helped bring peace to her city, saw her dreams denied and fulfilled - and never lost her faith in God, or her desire to be with Him.

Monday, May 21, 2007

St Christopher Magallanes

From Wikipedia: Saint Cristóbal Magallanes Jara was born in Totatiche, Jalisco, Mexico on July 30, 1869. He was son of Rafael Magallanes and Clara Jara, who were farmers. He worked as a shepherd in his youth and enrolled in the Conciliar Seminary of San José in Guadalajara at the age of 19.

He was ordained at the age of 30 at the Santa Teresa Temple in Guadalajara and subsequently served as chaplain of the School of Arts and Works of the Holy Spirit in Guadalajara. He was then designated as the parish priest for his home town of Totatiche, where he helped found schools, carpentry shops and the planning of hydrological works including the dam of La Candelaria.

He took special interest in the evangelization of the local indigenous Huichol people and was instrumental in the foundation of the mission in the indigenous town of Azqueltán. When government decrees shut down the seminary in Guadalajara in 1914, he offered to open a seminary in his parish. In July of 1915, he opened the Auxiliar Seminary of Totatiche, which quickly achieved a student body of 17 students by the following year and was recognized by the Archbishop of Guadalajara, José Francisco Orozco y Jiménez, who appointed a precept and two professors to the seminary.

Magallanes Jara wrote and preached against armed rebellion, but was falsely accused of promoting the Cristero Rebellion in the area. Arrested on May 21, 1927 while en route to celebrate Mass at a farm, he gave away his few remaining possessions to his executioners, gave them absolution, and without a trial, he was martyred with Saint Agustín Caloca in Colotlán, Jalisco. His last words to his executioners were "I die innocent, and ask God that my blood may serve to unite my Mexican brethren."

He was succeeded as parish priest of Totatiche by José Pilar Quezada Valdés, who went on to become the first bishop of the diocese of Acapulco.

He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 21, 2000.

Friday, May 18, 2007

St Pope John I

From here: A native of Tuscany in Italy, John was elected Pope while he was still an archdeacon upon the death of Pope Hormisdas in 523. At that time, the ruler of Italy was Theodoric the Goth who subscribed to the Arian brand of Christianity, but had tolerated and even favored his Catholic subjects during the early part of his reign. However, about the time of St. John's accession to the Papacy, Theodoric's policy underwent a drastic change as a result of two events: the treasonable (in the sovereign's view) correspondence between ranking members of the Roman Senate and Constantinople and the severe edict against heretics enacted by the emperor Justin I, who was the first Catholic on the Byzantine throne in fifty years. Spurred on by the appeals of Eastern Arians, Theodoric threatened to wage war against Justin but ultimately decided to negotiate with him through a delegation of five Bishops and four senators. At its head he named Pope John - much against the latter's wishes. Little is known for certain about the nature of the message which the Pope bore and the manner in which he carried out his mission. What is known is that he succeeded in persuading the Emperor to mitigate his treatment of the Arians and thus avoid reprisals against the Catholics in Italy. The Pope's visit also brought about the reconciliation of the Western and Eastern Churches which had been plagued by a schism since 482 when Zeno's Henoticon had been published. However, Theodoric had been becoming more suspicious with each passing day. While waiting for the delegation to return, he ordered the execution of the philosopher Boethius and his father-in-law Symmachus on a charge of treason; and as he got word of the friendly relations between the Pope and the emperor, he concluded that they were plotting against him. Hence, on the delegation's return to the capitol city of Ravenna, Pope John was imprisoned by order of Theodoric and died a short time later as a result of the treatment he experienced there.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lyrical Spotlight: Bob Dylan

Eve of Destruction (Screaming Jets version)

The eastern world it is explodin',
Violence is flarin', and the bullets are loadin',
You're old enough to kill but not for votin',
You don't believe in war, what's that gun you're totin',
And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin',
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.

Don't you understand, what I'm trying to say?
Can't you feel the fears that I'm feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there's no running away,
There'll be no one to save with the world in a grave,
Take a look around you, boy, it's bound to scare you, boy,
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.

Yeah, my blood's so mad, feels like coagulatin',
I'm sittin' here, just contemplatin',
You can't twist the truth, it knows no regulation,
Handful of Senators don't pass legislation,
And marches alone won't bring innovation,
When human respect is disintegratin',
This whole f'ing world is just too frustratin',
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China!
Then take a look around at your own backyard!
Ah, you may leave here, for four days in space,
But when your return, it's the same old place,
They're poundin' out the drums, the fright and disgrace,
You can bury your dead, but don't leave a trace,
Hate your next-door-neighbour, but don't forget to say grace,
And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend,
you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.
you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.


So today is the Ascension, and I could sure do with some. Just lots of stuff going on at the moment and I’m not feeling at all on top of it. Weary and not looking like a break soon…all really good stuff that I love, but just too much of it.

Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’

Somehow as if the call to “follow me” wasn’t enough, Jesus then takes off, leaving us to do the rest of the work…of course, it’s not quite that stark, and there’s as much a sense of empowerment in that as anything else...but I can see how the disciples might have felt a bit that way.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Trouble With Our State by Daniel Berrigan

The trouble with our state
was not civil disobedience
which in any case was hesitant and rare.

Civil disobedience was rare as kidney stone
No, rarer; it was disappearing like immigrant's disease.

You've heard of a war on cancer?
There is no war like the plague of media
There is no war like routine
There is no war like 3 square meals
There is no war like a prevailing wind.
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It flows softly; whispers
don't rock the boat!
The sails obey, the ship of state rolls on.

The trouble with our state
-- we learned only afterward
when the dead resembled the living who resembled the dead
and civil virtue shone like paint on tin
and tin citizens and tin soldiers marched to the common whip

-- our trouble
the trouble with our state
with our state of soul
our state of siege

Monday, May 14, 2007

St Matthias

Best known as the guy who replaced Judas in the about shoes to fill.

According to Acts 1:15-26, during the days after the Ascension, Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (about 120 of Jesus’ followers). Now that Judas had betrayed his ministry, it was necessary, Peter said, to fulfill the scriptural recommendation: “May another take his office.” “Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22).

They nominated two men: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. They prayed and drew lots. The choice fell upon Matthias, who was added to the Eleven.

Matthias is not mentioned by name anywhere else in the New Testament.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Christop Chwestions

Is Captain Feathersword nonviolent? (via text message)

Hey we were wondering what you think of smashing pinatas? (also via text message)

Me and Tomsy were wondering if you went into a restaurant with no money and ate there and then refused to pay would that qualify as civil disobedience?

(check out his blog here)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sts Nereus, Achilleus, Domitilla and Pancratius

Not much is known of these...they died too early, and little information survived...except that they were likely to have been soldiers turned pacifists who were killed for their refusal to fight...from here:

The commemoration of these four Roman saints is made by the Church on 12 May, in common, and all four are named in the Proper of the Mass as martyrs. The old Roman lists, of the fifth century, and which passed over into the Martyrologium Hiernoymianum, contain the names of the two martyrs Nereus and Achilleus, whose grave was in the Catacomb of Domitilla on the Via Ardeatina; in the same calendar was found the name of St. Pancratius, whose body rested in a catacomb on the Via Aurelia.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The original Mothers' Day

Proclaimed by Julia Ward Howe in 1870, Mothers' Day was originally a call for war to cease. The proclamation below eloquently spells out her reasoning.

Ironically, she is better known for penning the words to "Battle Hymn of the Republic", which has been interpreted as one of the most staunchly militaristic songs in the Christian tradition. Yet in actual fact it majors on the grace of God in the face of militarism - our God is marching on.

But below is the her original Mothers' Day proclamation. Let this be our call for those who still find themselves involved in war this Sunday - husbands, fathers, sons, daughters, mothers and wives.
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

John Dear on the refusal to vote

Of course, he's in a country where voting is not compulsory; and after his Plowshares action, he's ineligible to vote anyway. But this passage from his book "Peace Behind Bars" still makes me wonder whether as Christians we should vote at all...
The Gospel of Mark calls for "new wine in new wineskins." This "newness" led us to discuss the need for an entirely new society, a new way of living as the human family. "The Gospel is about nonviolent revolution," Dr King used to say. What are the ingredients of this nonviolent revolution, this new human society? The Gospel makes it plain: nonviolence, voluntary poverty, resistance to evil, community, prayer, hospitality, solidarity and care for the earth. This new nonviolent revolution rules out reform. Jesus doesn't stand for reform: he is about personal and social nonviolent revolution. The three of us [Bruce, Philip Berrigan are in prison together for the Pax Christi Spirit of Life Plowshares action] do not vote or seek public office. People often explode with anger when I tell them that like Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, I’m a Christian anarchist. They are not too upset that I go to jail or risk my life living in an violent inner-city neighborhood or travel into the war zones of El Salvador or Haiti, but when I mention that I don’t vote, people get apoplectic. Bruce explains it this way: 1) He votes with his life; everyday, especially in jail, he tells his government what he thinks; 2) voting is “the opiate of the masses.” People think that all they have to do in a democracy is vote; actually voting every four years and not doing anything else is the antithesis of democracy. 3) Voting is about real choices, but we are never offered any real choices. We might be able to vote whether we want 22,000 nuclear weapons or 21,000 nuclear weapons, but we will never be allowed to vote for total nuclear disarmament. A few years ago, we could vote to spend $40 million or $90 million to the death squad government of El Salvador. That is not a choice. As Clarence Jordan said, “We don’t want to shuffle the deck; we want a whole new deck.” New wine and new wineskins!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More MLK gold

Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness.

And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.

--From The Drum Major Instinct, a sermon by MLK Jr.

MLK Jr.: Prophet of Peace

From his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
"There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators"' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide, and gladiatorial contests.

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust."
Talk about prophetic. I'm doing what i'm doing now precisely because the church has been dismissed (rightly, in my opinion) as an irrelevant social club. It is still true that unless the church becomes a thermostat that transforms the mores of society, it will continue to have no authenticity, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twenty first century.

Friday, May 04, 2007

introverts of the world, unite!

If you're an extravert, check out this article because there are some things you need to know. If you're an introvert, check out the same article because, well, it's nice to know there are other people who understand and sympathise. Especially when they recommend two hours by yourself for every hour around people...heavenly!

Some highlights:
How many people are introverts? I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. The answer: About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—"a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population."
Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping.
The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books—written, no doubt, by extroverts—regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward. We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts' Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say "I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."
Thanks to Mark and Mary Hurst of the AAANZ for pointing me to the article.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sts Philip and James

St Philip is someone we don't hear about very often. He doesn't rate much of a mention in the gospels, so it's worth tracking what we do know about him, and what is fabled of him. From here:

Like the brothers, Peter and Andrew, Philip was a native of Bethsaida on Lake Genesareth (John 1:44). He also was among those surrounding the Baptist when the latter first pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God. On the day after Peter's call, when about to set out for Galilee, Jesus met Philip and called him to the Apostolate with the words, "Follow me". Philip obeyed the call, and a little later brought Nathaniel as a new disciple (John 1:43-45). On the occasion of the selection and sending out of the twelve, Philip is included among the Apostles proper. His name stands in the fifth place in the three lists (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 6:13-16) after the two pairs of brothers, Peter and Andrew, James and John. The Fourth Gospel records three episodes concerning Philip which occurred during the epoch of the public teaching of the Saviour:

* Before the miraculous feeding of the multitude, Christ turns towards Philip with the question: "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" to which the Apostle answers: "Two hundred penny-worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little" (vi, 5-7).
* When some heathens in Jerusalem came to Philip and expressed their desire to see Jesus, Philip reported the fact to Andrew and then both brought the news to the Saviour (xii, 21-23).
* When Philip, after Christ had spoken to His Apostles of knowing and seeing the Father, said to Him: "Lord, shew us the Father, and it is enough for us", he received the answer: "He that seeth me, seeth the Father also" (xiv, 8-9).

These three episodes furnish a consistent character-sketch of Philip as a naïve, somewhat shy, sober-minded man. No additional characteristics are given in the Gospels or the Acts, although he is mentioned in the latter work (i, 13) as belonging to the Apostolic College.

The second-century tradition concerning him is uncertain, inasmuch as a similar tradition is recorded concerning Philip the Deacon and Evangelist -- a phenomenon which must be the result of confusion caused by the existence of the two Philips. In his letter to St. Victor, written about 189-98, bishop Polycrates of Ephesus mentions among the "great lights", whom the Lord will seek on the "last day", "Philip, one of the Twelve Apostles, who is buried in Hieropolis with his two daughters, who grew old as virgins", and a third daughter, who "led a life in the Holy Ghost and rests in Ephesus." On the other hand, according to the Dialogue of Caius, directed against a Montanist named Proclus, the latter declared that "there were four prophetesses, the daughters of Philip, at Hieropolis in Asia where their and their father's grave is still situated." The Acts (xxi, 8-9) does indeed mention four prophetesses, the daughters of the deacon and "Evangelist" Philip, as then living in Caesarea with their father, and Eusebius who gives the above-mentioned excerpts (Hist. Eccl., III, xxxii), refers Proclus' statement to these latter. The statement of Bishop Polycrates carries in itself more authority, but it is extraordinary that three virgin daughters of the Apostle Philip (two buried in Hieropolis) should be mentioned, and that the deacon Philip should also have four daughters, said to have been buried in Hieropolis. Here also perhaps we must suppose a confusion of the two Philips to have taken place, although it is difficult to decide which of the two, the Apostle or the deacon, was buried in Hieropolis. Many modern historians believe that it was the deacon; it is, however, possible that the Apostle was buried there and that the deacon also lived and worked there and was there buried with three of his daughters and that the latter were afterwards erroneously regarded as the children of the Apostle. The apocryphal "Acts of Philip," which are, however purely legendary and a tissue of fables, also refer Philip's death to Hieropolis. The remains of the Philip who was interred in Hieropolis were later translated (as those of the Apostle) to Constantinople and thence to the church of the Dodici Apostoli in Rome.

And then there's James, who we know only a very little bit about; and what we do know is utterly confused since there are several James'. From his Wikipedia entry:

James, son of Alphaeus was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus of Nazareth. He is mentioned only briefly in the Synoptic Gospels, and there is no consensus about which other references to "James" in the New Testament refer to the son of Alphaeus.

"The son of Alphaeus" appears in the slightly varying lists of the Twelve Apostles provided by the Synoptic Gospels, as well as in the Acts of the Apostles. James is the son of Alphaeus and a brother of the Apostle Matthew, also known as Levi.

James is clearly distinguished from James, son of Zebedee, also called James the Greater, another one of the Twelve Apostles, but he is often identified with two other figures of the same name:

1. James the Less, who appears only in reference to his mother Mary in Mark 15:40, Mark 16:1, Matthew 27:56 This identification was convenient as it juxtaposed the two Apostles called James as Jacobus Maior and Jacobus Minor. However, it also made it imperative to identify Clopas, the husband of Mary, with Alphaeus, the father of the Apostle James. This identification was almost universally accepted and therefore, tradition knows him also as Saint James the Less.
2. James the brother of Jesus, who served for thirty years as head of the Church at Jerusalem and was killed in 62 CE. The identification with the brother of Jesus was supported by Jerome and therefore widely accepted in the Roman Catholic Church, while Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches tend to distinguish between "James son of Alphaeus" and "James the brother of the Lord".

Another tradition holds that James, though strongly clinging to Jewish law, was sentenced to death for having violated the Torah. He is reported to have been martyred by crucifixion at Ostrakine in Lower Egypt, where he was preaching the Gospel. A carpenter's saw is the symbol associated with him in Christian art because it is also noted that his body was later sawed to pieces.

Lyrical Spotlight; Screaming Jets


This girl didn't know what happened
When she knocked upon my door
The things you had, the life you lived
All the dreams you had before.
Your eyes were facin' your heart and soul
You know they said it all
What happened on that day back then
The moment hurt us all

Now you can see the reason why not everyone's the same
And you don't have to please them, or try hard to save your name

They said you'd never get anywhere,
Well they don't care and it's just not fair
That you know, and I know better.
They said you'd never get anywhere,
Well they don't care and it's just not fair
That you know, and I know better.
(Yes I do)

Well the days go by and you wonder why, "is this really true?"
Your heart says "No" but your feelings show the poor baby never knew
But you and I, we knew deep down, that ain't really you
We always knew that it'd work out right and we could start anew

Now you can see the reason why not everyone's the same
And you don't have to please them, or try hard to save your name

They said you'd never get anywhere,
Well they don't care and it's just not fair
That you know, and I know better.
They said you'd never get anywhere,
Well they don't care and it's just not fair
That you know, and I know better.

Well things ain't always what they seem
So wake up and get outta your dreams
Things ain't always what they seem so wake up!
Well things ain't always what they seem
Wake up man, you're in my dreams!
Things ain't always...

Oh now you can see the reason why not everyone's the same
And you don't have to please them, or try hard

They said you'd never get anywhere,
Well they don't care and it's just not fair
That you know, and I know better.
They said you'd never get anywhere,
Well they don't care and it's just not fair
That you know, and I know better.
They said you'd never get anywhere,
Well they don't care and it's just not fair
That you know, and I know better

A one, two, three, four, they said you'd never get anywhere,
Well they don't care and it's just not fair

You're never gonna get anywhere
That's what they tell me

Never, never, never, never, never, never, never gonna get anywhere
They don't care, and that's not fair!

They said you'd never get anywhere
They don't care and it's just not fair
That you know, and I know

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

St Athanasius

Most famous for defending the divinity of Jesus during the Arian controversy. Brian McLaren does a good accessible version of Athanasius' argument from On The Incarnation in his book The Secret Message of Jesus:

“Once upon a time there was a good and kind king who had a great kingdom with many cities. In one distant city, people took advantage of the freedom the king gave them and started doing evil. They profited by their evil and began to fear that the king would interfere and throw them in jail. Eventually these rebels seethed with hatred for the king. They convinced the city that everyone would be better off without the king, and the city declared its independence from the kingdom.

But soon, with everyone doing whatever they wanted, disorder reigned in the city. There was violence, hatred, lying, oppression, murder, rape, slavery and fear. The king thought: what should I do? If I take my army and conquer the city by force, the people will have to fight against me, and I’ll have to kill so many of them, and the rest will only submit through fear or intimidation, which will make them hate me and all I stand for even more. How does that help them – to be either dead or imprisoned or secretly seething with rage? But if I leave them alone, they’ll destroy each other, and it breaks my heart to think of the pain they’re causing and experiencing.

So the king did something very surprising. He took off his robes and dressed in the rags of a homeless wanderer. Incognito, he entered the city and began to living in a vacant lot near a garbage dump. He took up a trade – fixing broken pottery and furniture. Whenever people came to him, his kindness and goodness and fairness and respect were so striking that they would linger just to be in his presence. They would tell him their fears and questions, and ask his advice. He told them that the rebels had fooled them, and that the true king had a better way to live, which he exemplified and taught. One by one, then two by two, and then by the hundreds, people began to have confidence in him and live in his way.

Their influence spread to others, and the movement grew and grew until the whole city regretted its rebellion and wanted to return to the kingdom again. But, ashamed of their horrible mistake, they were afraid to approach the king, believing he would certainly destroy them for their rebellion. But the king-in-disguise told them the good news: he was himself the king, and he loved them. He held nothing against them, and he welcomed them back into his kingdom, having accomplished by a gentle, subtle presence what never could have been accomplished through brute force.”

Ah, the nonviolent God.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Pine Gap 4 nonviolence training

To know, worship, love, embrace and follow the God of nonviolence is to become a people of nonviolence. In a world of violence, religion is about praxis, living a concrete peacemaking way of life. A theology of nonviolence must be lived. It is a theology of action. It requires focusing on the God of peace, accompanying (for Christians) the nonviolent Jesus, and taking public risks of love to end war and disarm the planet.” --John Dear

With the trial of the Pine Gap 4 coming up in late May, the Christian Activist Network has decided to put together a weekend of training and reflection on nonviolent Christian witness, particularly aimed at solidarity actions for the PG4. It will be a weekend of reflecting on the nonviolent life, death and resurrection of Jesus and our place in it, as well as practical training in nonviolent direct action.

Solidarity actions are being planned for May 29th (trial starts 2pm) and June 2nd (to coincide with Alice Springs vigil).

It is being held at the Indigenous Hospitality House's retreat centre, 215 East Beenak Road Gembrook on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th May. It will begin at 10am Saturday and conclude at 5pm Sunday. Meals will be provided.

A suggested donation of $25 is requested.

Email Simon to book a place.

Feast of St Joseph the Worker

A consecration of the work of our hands (and feet, minds, etc.). From here: "Apparently in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955. But the relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers has a longer history. In a constantly necessary effort to keep Jesus from being removed from ordinary human life, the Church has from the beginning proudly emphasized that Jesus was a carpenter, obviously trained by Joseph in both the satisfactions and the drudgery of that vocation. Humanity is like God not only in thinking and loving, but also in creating. Whether we make a table or a cathedral, we are called to bear fruit with our hands and mind, ultimately for the building up of the Body of Christ."

Ralph David Abernathy and the Civil Rights Movement

I've been reading And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, the autobiography of Ralph David Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr's best friend and right hand man. It's a remarkable insight into Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. But it's also a remarkable insight into the machinations behind black Southern Baptist churches in the 1950's...a hotbed of politics, backstabbing and skullduggery. (yes yes, "and how is that different to now?" I hear you say.)

Anyway, here's a story he tells about MLK Jr. before he came to Montgomery:
I was beginning to hope that he would be called to Dexter Avenue, though I knew enough about the politics of the congregation to know how unlikely that would be.

The chairman of the Board of Deacons had already made his choice, and the man he had anointed had preached a highly commendable sermon two weeks earlier. The rest of the board had concurred with the chairman’s judgment, and most of the congregation was likewise in agreement. Martin Luther King’s visit was no more than a formality in which everyone had to participate because the clerk of the church, Robert Nesbit, had insisted Martin be invited…Martin…was at his best, and at his best no one was more learned and eloquent.

His topic was “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life,” and when he was finished, the congregation was in awe of him…the deacons who had been so certain in their decision before the service began were now just as certain that this new man was sent to them by heaven. The chairman of the board pounded the table and reminded them that they had already made a decision. They replied that it was their prerogative to change their minds. Besides, they pointed out, no final vote had been taken. The chairman insisted that they ratify the earlier decision immediately, and the board said they were not prepared to make such a move – not after hearing the three dimensions of a complete life.

They argued all afternoon about what to do and finally struck a compromise. The earlier candidate would be invited to preach a second sermon, after which the board would make their final decision. With that they adjourned.

The following Sunday the chairman’s candidate returned for a second appearance in the pulpit. He had been briefed about the nature of the situation, as was clear from the topic of his sermon, published on the bulletin board outside the church: THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF A COMPLETE LIFE.

That fourth dimension did him in. By the time he was finished, the deacons and congregation knew they wanted Martin. When the chairman was confronted with this unanimity of opinion, he gave in and Martin got the call.
Hahahaha. I found that hilarious. This next one, though, I found much, much less hilarious. David Abernathy is the minister at the First Baptist Church, but has been called away to a meeting in Atlanta when he gets a phone call from his wife saying their house had been bombed (with her and the children in it). Luckily none of them were harmed. He says this of Juanita's (his wife) story:
I found one detail of the story particularly chilling: her account of what had happened while we were talking on the telephone the second time. As she had been huddled in our bedroom, talking to me, suddenly the sky had flashed, and then she had heard a distant blast.

"What's that?" Juanita had asked, trembling with renewed terror.

A nearby policeman had looked down at his watch. Then looked back at her with a frozen face.

"That would be your First Baptist Church," he had said.

She had stared for a moment into the coldest eyes she had ever seen, and suddenly the full horror of the situation had dawned on her. The police had known all along. They were in on the plans. There would be no real investigation and no one would be arrested or indicted. And the same would have been true had she and the baby died.
Yikes. It's easy to glamorise the Civil Rights movement in some ways, but stuff like this must have been beyond bearable. Especially when you consider that the Montgomery Bus Boycott was over and won at this point. The bombings were pure retributive malevolence.