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Pace e Bene – 30 May 2023

image and quote courtesy of Pace e Bene

“When I choose to see the good side of things, I’m not being naïve. It is strategic and necessary. It’s how I’ve learned to survive through everything. I know you see yourself as a fighter. Well, I see myself as one too. This is how I fight. . . . The only thing I do know is that we have to be kind. Please, be kind. Especially when we don’t know what’s going on.”—Waymond Wang in the film Everything, Everywhere, All at Once

Pace e Bene – 29 May 2023

image and quote courtesy of Pace e Bene

“We humans know how to start wars, and we know how to end them—eventually if we don’t think we’re ‘winning.’ It seems the thing we still don’t know is how to avoid them.”—Michael Nagler

Sojourners Verse and Voice – 29 May 2023

Verse of the day
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

– Matthew 5:9

Voice of the day
We must pray that God give us grace and healing when we ourselves fall short, until Christ shall come again to gather us together within a world that shall never require of any human being that they sacrifice their life to our divisions.

– Benedict Varnum, “Observing Memorial Day, Down by the Riverside

Prayer of the day
Lord, we remember those who lost their lives because of war. We pray that the world would be transformed to a place where no one has to sacrifice their lives due to a nations’ divisions.

Memorial Day – A Reflection

Cambridge American Cemetery near Madingley, England. The final resting place of over 3,500 American service men and women who died during WW2. Cambridge American Cemetery

Memorial Day has always been a complicated “holiday” for me. It has become even more complicated the further I get from wearing the uniform of a USAF Chaplain, Lt Col. (This blog isn’t about me and my rank or my military service… as Veterans for Peace, an organization that I belong to says, “if you want to thank me for my service, work for peace.”)

This blog is a combination of looking back, looking to today, and looking to tomorrow. When I first put on the uniform in 1985, I had no idea what I was getting into. The last few years of my service the number of military members I either knew and buried, or knew and mourned increased dramatically. I guess the older I get and the more that I experience, the more the reality of life and death became more real.

It wasn’t the Hollywood War movies, rather it was the ugly reality of war and death. A friend of mine and fellow chaplain emailed me from the Baghdad Airport Casualty Collection Point in the opening days of the invasion of Iraq and said, “Mike, this shit is real and they are trying to kill us!” However, we were doing the same thing to the people of Iraq.

This weekend I have been reading the works of Thomas Merton, Daniel Berrigan, and Martin Luther King, Jr. These prophets from the 1960’s and in the case of Fr Berrigan up until his death in 2016, speak to me of a world that was mad and continues to me mad. As Dr King said in his sermon at New York’s Riverside Church in 1967:

When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence

I was a part of the military industrial complex. I am not proud of that. However, I was able to speak to a different way of viewing life and the value of people’s lives while I was in uniform. I spoke to the fact that people are more important than implements of war. As Thomas Merton said in No Man Is an Island, The God of peace is never glorified by human violence.

Something happened today on our drive to the Pensacola Airport today. The traffic was pretty heavy and rough. However, it was when someone behind us began laying on their horn while traffic was at a standstill that things changed. When he jumped out of his truck to yell at a driver in front of us, I went into full-on military defensive driving mode.

We made our way through that ugly situation but it took a while for our blood pressure to drop. Seriously? On a weekend that is supposed to honor and remember those who died as a result of our nations wars, someone is going ballistic? Dr King’s words speak to me once again of the futility of this situation. We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation… And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace.

Tomorrow I will remember those who died… who died in the wars of this nation. I will also strive to be a voice for peace. In 1968, Daniel Berrigan prayed as the Cantonsville Nine burned draft records to protest the war in Vietnam. May God make it possible through this action for others to live. May he make it more difficult for them to kill one another. We make our prayer in the name of that God whose name is peace and decency and unity and love. Celebrant’s Flame: Daniel Berrigan in Memory and Reflection (p. 46)

His words speak volumes today as a this nation and world continue to see violence as the only answer. My prayer is that we will make a way through this world of hatred, fear, and violence. In the words of St Francis of Assisi, Lord make us an instrument of your peace.

Pace e Bene – 28 May 2023

image and quote courtesy of Pace e Bene

“if there is cosmic beauty
then your face holds it
if there is human understanding
then your soul is capable of it
if a mind ever thought of freedom
yours has flown to where freedom
lives and has drifted back . . .
i can see it . . . you must know that one
day we will all be

Ericka Huggins

Prayer Leads to Compassion – Henri Nouwen

Prayer and action can never be seen as contradictory or mutually exclusive. Prayer without action grows into powerless pietism, and action without prayer degenerates into questionable manipulation. If prayer leads us into deeper unity with the compassionate Christ, it will always give rise to concrete acts of service. And if concrete acts of service do indeed lead us to a deeper solidarity with the poor, the hungry, the sick, the dying, and the oppressed, they will always give rise to prayer. In prayer we meet Christ, and in him all human suffering. In service we meet people, and in them the suffering Christ. . . .

Action with and for those who suffer is the concrete expression of a compassionate life and the final criterion of being a Christian. Such acts do not stand beside the moments of prayer and worship but are themselves such moments. Why? Because Jesus Christ, who did not cling to his divinity, but became as we are, can be found where there are hungry, thirsty, alienated, naked, sick, and imprisoned people. Precisely when we live in an ongoing conversation with Christ and allow the Spirit to guide our lives, we will recognize Christ in the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden and will hear his cry and respond to it wherever he is revealed.

Pace e Bene – 26 May 2023

image and quote courtesy of Pace e Bene

“We are one, after all, you and I;
together we suffer,
together exist,
and forever will recreate each other.” 

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Pace e Bene – 25 May 2023

image and quote courtesy of Pace e Bene

” A voice from the dark called out,
‘The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.’
But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.” 

— Denise Levertov, “Making Peace

Pace e Bene – 24 May 2023

image and quote courtesy of Pace e Bene

“Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek—it must be rejected, altered and exposed. . . Sexist language, racist language, theistic language—all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.”—Toni Morrison

We are Windows to God’s Love – Henri Nouwen

The discipline of community makes us persons; that is, people who are sounding through to each other (the Latin personare means “sounding through”) a truth, a beauty, and a love that is greater, fuller, and richer than we ourselves can grasp. In true community we are windows constantly offering each other new views on the mystery of God’s presence in our lives. Thus the discipline of community is a true discipline of prayer. It makes us alert to the presence of the Spirit who cries out “Abba,” Father, among us and thus prays from the center of our common life. Community thus is obedience practiced together. The question is not simply “Where does God lead me as an individual person who tried to do his will?” More basic and more significant is the question “Where does God lead us as a people?”