Monday, September 15, 2014


Looking back over the summer we’re grateful for our trip to Spain.  Ande and I, as padrinos to Theresa and longtime family friends, were invited by Joe & Rose Crowley to their daughter’s wedding in Cantabria, Spain’s north coast.   It was an intimate celebration within the gardens of a 300 year old country inn, hosted by Demetrio, proprietor and friend of the groom’s family, the Ferreiras, for generations.   Everything was generous and blessed, with la familia connections deep in the old world and new.

The spirit of this union, with new bonds spanning the distance of language, culture, place—along with later travels from the Picos de Europa mountains to the coastal El Camino, with the proud parents we’ve known for decades—renews my faith in traveled friendship.   Both our families have had up and down challenges.   Both continue to believe in extending the risk of encounter to beyond the regular boundaries, seeking immersion in the life of many different countries, rich and poor—our grown children now taking the lead.

he Basque country of Spain is especially close to my heart.  Though I’d never been there before, I’d wandered, hitch-hiking, broke, through other parts of Spain for many months forty plus years ago.  A young Basque of beautiful baritone voice taught me his Euskadi songs at our gatherings when I managed a few months stay in Madrid, shared the deep-rooted hospitality of his homeland, helped me buy my first Elosegui beret in the Madrid Sunday market.  Though they’d suffered the wars of Franco’s fascist bombers, and for years some responded with ETA’s terror attacks, he showed me the common people were renowned for their welcome of the stranger, closeness to the land, their cooperative labor movement.   I’d always hoped to go north to see their ancestral tree in Guernica, share more of their history and friendship.

City of Guernika, April 26, 1937, after the bombing by German warplanes - Euskadi archive photo

With good fortune, and lots of planning, that finally happened this trip.  After a few wrong turns in the coastal town we found Guernika‘ko arbola [tree], traditional assembly point for the Basque people.  Then Ande & I’d been put in touch [through Ande’s high school girlfriend] with Ester who’d been an exchange student in her school, after Ande left.  Ester was now a travel guide in San Sebastian, one of the most beautiful old cities of the Basque country.  Along with her husband Ignacio they gave us a wonderful evening of walking the streets and seacoast hills of their place, giving us the best of their food [pintxos], wine, and deep conversation in three languages about the necessity of travel, for peace in the world.  I was even invited, at a bar table shared with strangers, to sing my remembered version of the Euskadi anthem.

These were high points in our two week trip.  The marriage, and on the road with rental car.  There were many small difficult decisions along the way, and one is always quite dependent on the good will of random local people.  It’s easy to get lost in many senses of the word, when you don’t understand every word.   Mistakes are always close by.  You must pay attention.

Traveling is hard work, but it is the only way to meet those new people far away who have something important to say to you—fresh foreign perspective.  Do not be afraid, despite issues we are all brothers and sisters.  They meet our simple daily needs which are now complicated as we swim outside our culture in theirs—in ways that are surprising, and make us grateful.  What positive connections!
Monastery at Cobreces, from the small part of the Camino we walked

We thank Mirna at the hotel in Lekeitio on Spain’s north coast, a Rumanian from Paraguay, cheerfully patiently respecting my efforts using my Spanish, bargaining down the price of our rooms.  Brother Bonifa at the Camino monastery in Cobreces, lodging us creatively, always with bemused smile.   Heriberto, young man in Nike cap who rolled down his window when asked directions as it was getting late and we’d found no place to stay.   He was high on something, but assured us to follow, on a fast wild goose chase up and down narrow hill roads seeking a country posada—but not finding, still wrote out directions to a hotel in the next town over, which did finally work out fine.   Vanessa, young professor from Oxford, and another Basque by birth, in animated discussion on the train in towards Madrid’s Atocha station, while suggesting good places to eat our last day in Spain.  And so many more, in just a two weeks journey.  Learning a foreign language is the key to travel, and the first step in global interpersonal understanding.

Artist's redition of Guenika'ko arbola--They've planted a new one to replace the old, of which the trunk only remains, though it did survive the bombng.

Of course we are most grateful to the extended family of the Ferreiras in Santander & Miami, and to dear friends of many years, the Crowleys who were our reason for being in Spain. 
¡Que Dios les bendiga Theresa y Arturo!  Que su amor crezca siempre.

Flores de Quijas, Cantabria

"The Good Shepherd" at Iglesia de Santa Maria in San Sebastian---The Basque people are famous for their shepherding skill

Illumination by Kathy Brahney
Photos by myself

Monday, September 8, 2014


Face of our current enemy threat --Members of the Islam State of Iraq and Shaam (Isis) with senior commander Abu Waheeb - photo from the Telegraph UK

President Obama, reacting to the recent ISIS violent beheadings in Syria, said on 9-3-14, that “he wants to ‘degrade and destroy’ the extremist group Islamic State."  Out of our use of “overwhelming force” for 9 years in Iraq, comes now their overwhelming violence, the beheadings of fundamentalist Sharia law.   So the next evil empire to be attacked, is this Islamic State in Iraq and Syria { ISIS }, the very ones we helped create as we destroyed evil Saddam and his army, then moved on to battle Assad in Syria.

Can’t we yet see the moral bankruptcy of “if you don’t do as we say, we blow you away” foreign relations?  We’ll not overcome this with targeted killings.  What we do with drone operators and smart bombs, they do with bullets, IEDs, and the executioner’s sword.  It’s all gruesome with death the final solution—but the hatred and enmity of wars upon war never stops.

If we could only come to recognize that death is not the end, and all the killings pointless.  God’s love and mercy has saved us, and shown us the only way to conquer evil and death. War’s power always fails to deliver.  The way of the cross has defeated the way of the sword.

ave you ever heard any politician, from whatever the party, say, “Love your enemy.”?  And nobody says this because—it’s not practical?   Yet it’s the central teaching, along with forgiveness, of the Son of God.
From Rev. John L. McKenzie S.J., biblical scholar, we have, “Most Christian do not believe that Jesus knows what He is talking about in this area. They dismiss Him as unrealistic at best, probably stupid. Therefore they refuse to even to try to implement what He taught about nonviolence and love of enemies. This guarantees that His Way of nonviolence will never enter into history as more than a na├»ve and stupid idea. Give me the money that Christians give to the Pentagon for war, and I’ll show you nonviolence works.”


Image of Mary from Cuba -- Our Lady of Caridad de Cobre
Today the universal church celebrates the birthday, chosen to be Sept. 8th, of Mary, mother of Jesus.  Though not much is known of her origins, the Saint of the Day page has this to say:  “We can see every human birth as a call for new hope in the world. The love of two human beings [Anna and Joachim in this case] has joined with God in his creative work. The loving parents have shown hope in a world filled with travail. The new child has the potential to be a channel of God's love and peace to the world.”  “Next to the birth of Jesus, Mary's birth offers the greatest possible happiness to the world.”

Love and respect for all life give us the greatest hope against degradation, destruction, and death itself.


Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, September 1, 2014


...we must first of all recall a principle that has always been taught by the Church: the principle of the priority of labor over capital.” -- Pope John Paul II [emphasis in original]

There was not one advertiser’s glossy insert in today’s local paper.  The Monday edition has become the slimmest—but there’s usually at least one insert even as all local dailies seem to diminish size and coverage.

Could it be the lack of flyer is due to the fact that today’s Monday holiday is only Labor Day?  It’s become the poor sister of holidays, the sad end of summer.   Holiday editions almost always have more heft than the usual run of the news mill.  But labor has become less and less profitable in recent years, discounted, certainly not celebrated by mainstream media.  And now since average workers have so little wages to buy with, their day doesn’t even merit a single shiny sheet enticing them to go spend.

The whole situation is shameful in the world’s richest society.  Powerful people paint unions and worker solidarity as the obstacles to success.  They ignore the history of how the vibrant middle class was built in this country.  Now the slow death of our middle class is documented by many observers, such as in the video, Inequality for All.

Doing a job well, work for work’s sake, for the creative good done, is devalued.  The message trickling down from the wealthy top is that fat profit margins are the most important measure.  This way of thinking makes the Gospel story of the generous master who pays all equal regardless of how long they worked that day, an incomprehensible scandal, never to be imitated.

We have some great examples to lead us in the positive spiritual direction, the direction of solidarity with brothers and sisters here and abroad.  Martin Luther King was assassinated as he was in Memphis TN, helping to organize garbage collectors.  Cesar Chavez gave his life organizing farmworkers.   Walter Reuther, after bringing auto workers together here in Michigan, reached out to help the farmworkers union.   Gandhi worked tirelessly for the rights of the untouchables in India.

What we do here has grave impact on societies across the globe.  The Gospel instruction, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” has been turned around—take as much as you can get.   Pope Paul VI’s instruction, “If you want peace, work for justice,” has its covert obverse, which is now active in all earth’s corners:  If you want war, promote injustice.    War, lamentably, is short term very profitable for a select few.

The Church has had something to say on this.  Pope Leo XIII back in 1891, said in his  Rerum Novarum,  “The elements of the conflict now raging are unmistakable, in the vast expansion of industrial pursuits and the marvelous discoveries of science; in the changed relations between masters and workmen; in the enormous fortunes of some few individuals, and the utter poverty of the masses…”   All too familiar a situation.

Then Pope John Paul II in 1981’s Laborem Exercens continues, We should also consider here the prospect of worldwide catastrophe in the case of a nuclear war, which would have almost unimaginable possibilities of destruction.  In view of this situation we must first of all recall a principle that has always been taught by the Church: the principle of the priority of labor over capital.[emphasis in original]  Capital is to serve the interests of labor.  The union makes us strong.  What an about face from the current direction of the corporations of America.

May we all learn to be in solidarity with, and capitalist servants of, the poor, to our best abilities, as our Catholic church teaches, but not yet preached from many pulpits, nor reported by the press.

From Fr. Joe Scott, CSP’s commentary on Laborum Exercens
The Church has sometimes criticized corrupt practices within a particular union, or warned against the practice of fostering division between management and labor. Yet Pope John Paul II in his encyclical on labor, (1981) asserted the fundamental principle of “the priority of labor over capital.” While in actual fact capital has organized itself against labor in our society, John Paul II insists that capital exists to serve labor: “There is a need for ever new movements of solidarity of the workers and with the workers…The Church is firmly committed to this cause, for it considers it to be its mission, its service, a proof of its fidelity to Christ…”

Leo XIII: Rerum Novarum -- A Summary Article by Gerald Darring
“The Church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions.” – U.S. Catholic Bishops 1986 Pastoral Letter, “Economic Justice for All.”

Monday, August 25, 2014


James Foley--died Aug. 19, 2014, after 2 years in captivity

The WSJ’s 8-22-14 story is ominous, “U.S. Eyes Wider Action on Islamic State: Killing [beheading] of Journalist Fuels Push for International Campaign; Officials Say Syria Vital to Defeating Islamic State.”  A video goes viral with the horrific execution—one militia's vision of war’s justice.

The major media publicizes this one brutal killing.   The strategists’ response is that we expand our war machine’s reach to kill however more thousands it may take to control Syria.    Arming these militias [object was to topple Syria’s Assad] has unleashed a most radical Islamist State army, which now with vicious calculation beheads captive U.S. journalist, James Foley.  Incredibly some think it just takes more weapons and firepower to solve this region’s problems.  [For partial history of our underwriting various sides of this Middle East violence, see previous entries, Aug 13, 2012, Jan. 20, 2014 ]

Condemned Saudi prisoner in a scene from the 1980 docudrama Death Of A Princess

nd once again, as with the post 9-11 push towards Iraq through Afghanistan, the U.S. points in conflicted directions.  Fifteen of the nineteen Trade Tower attackers were Saudis.  We are appalled at this terrible execution in Syria, contemplate increasing our war against terrorists there, while we ignore the 19 beheadings presided over by the Saudis just since August 4th.  Read of the deaths also of their prisoner victims--short story in the 8-22-14 NYT.  It’s a continued regular aspect of their justice system, for both violent and nonviolent offenses.  We don’t understand this, it’s not our culture, but we tolerate it, -- and of course our own more modern methods of capital punishment.

Saudi Arabia’s money and weapons, with our government’s blessing, have been a major support of the Islamic fighters, many using these same terror tactics, to fight Syria’s Assad.  With the Islamic State army, ISIS, now out of control surging from Syria to Iraq and back, some strategists suggest we bomb them in Syria, as we recently did in Iraq, paradoxically supporting Assad.

Which is more violent—being beheaded, or blasted to smithereens?  Every day in the Middle East many go to their death finding out, one way or another.

Barbaric violence seems to be most acceptable to us when it comes wrapped in oil money futures.  And if Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King are to be believed, all violence only insures future violence, no matter how noble or state approved the intention.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

"The beheading of journalist James Foley has prompted American officials to begin working to knit together a broader international campaign to combat the extremists of the Islamic State, an effort that the Pentagon warned will require taking the fight beyond Iraq and into neighboring Syria.
The Obama administration has indicated it is prepared to continue selective airstrikes against the extremists inside Iraq, where they have seized significant swaths of territory. ..."

“The country [Saudi Arabia] has historically rejected international standards for offenses deemed insufficient for capital punishment, applying it to crimes that include adultery, armed robbery, apostasy, drug trafficking, rape and witchcraft.”

Monday, August 18, 2014


In the 1950s, corporations paid for about a quarter of total federal spending, but it has generally dropped since, accounting for about a fifth in the 1960s and about 13 percent in the ‘70s. That proportion has seesawed since then and now covers about 7 percent of the country’s bills.

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, recently said, “I love America.” Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, wrote an opinion article saying, “Investing in America still produces the best return.”
Yet guess who’s behind the recent spate of merger deals in which major United States corporations have renounced their citizenship in search of a lower tax bill? [emphasis mine]   Wall Street banks, led by JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. …    [“tax inversions” turn patriotism upside down]
These deals are expected to sap the United States Treasury of $19.46 billion over the next decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. And that figure doesn't take into consideration any future inversions. Nor does it account for the possible loss of jobs and revenue that will ostensibly move overseas over time.

 And total tax evasion by corporations is much worse.  A Bloomberg analysis estimated American companies are parking as much as $2 trillion in cash overseas.”

What to do?  If we follow corporate leadership’s logic, it doesn't look good.
Lets start with a premise, A implies B, and B implies A.  If corporations are people, then people are corporations.  So we should all follow their lead and invest ourselves, into foreign entities, so we can all avoid paying taxes, like the big corporations do.   That bankrupts the USA.

Then at the same time the 1% corporates lose their 99% infrastructure—we’re all in the same leaky boat.  At this point the rich can return to their fair to middling support of the common good here in our country, or we can all emigrate to our foreign corporate sites, and leave the U.S. to a whole new wave of more deserving immigrants.
  "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.    Mt 6:19
[Port Huron alert -- bad "Float Down" possibilities]

Today's gospel was the story of the rich young man.  Jesus made the invitation, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven."  Then come, follow me.”   This certainly upends any strategy to invert and evade public responsibility.  What will be our response?  How can we personally, and as a country, better direct the fruits of our labor, and our taxes to serve the common good?

Bloomberg explanatory video for reference on tax inversions - the financial experts are divided.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Palestinians inspect the destruction in Farouq Mosque after it was hit in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza--Times of Israel photo, 7-24-14

July 23, 2014--UN Rights Chief Warns of Possible Gaza War Crimes - NYTimes. [both sides accused, with Israelis holding the higher count]

 “Some are shamelessly accusing Israel of genocide, or putting us in the dock for war crimes. The truth is that the Israeli Defense Forces should be given a Nobel Peace Prize! A Nobel Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint."  Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, speaking 8-1-14 at the annual Christians United for Israel conference.

An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth is again on the rampage rained down on the Gazan territory that Israel claims control over.   Christians in the U.S. most often give a pass to whatever Israel does to protect its interests and integrity in the embattled Middle East.   The current death toll in this Gaza conflict, is more than 1900 Gazans [a majority according to the NYT probably civilians], and Israel 67 [3 reported civilians].

The Old Testament equal damage axiom, has certainly been exceeded.  The New Testament Gospel admonitions to love the enemy, forgive seven times seventy, are not even on the table.  This is even more a failure of U.S. Christians than of the Israelis.  We are called by Christ Jesus in whom we profess belief to resolve rather than perpetuate conflict.   Instead we’ve played into and ramped up their fears for survival, that loom powerful out of WWII’s history of Holocaust, by arming them to the teeth for decades, instead of working hard to disarm the whole Middle East, to give some hope of real lasting peace.  In the midst of this current lop-sided bomb-blasting our government resupplied Israelis with hi-tech stockpiles, no questions asked.
Israel has a claim on us Christians.  We follow Jesus a most faithful Jew, and our scriptures converge.  My first memories of their history as a nation come from the movie, Exodus—‘this land is mine, this old and ancient land.”  But there is a sad complicated history of the destruction of the Jewish nation in 77 AD, two thousand years of diaspora troubled without a home, Holocaust, and then a violent re-founding on Palestinian land in 1948.
Palestinian protesters marking the 66th anniversary of the Nakba, on May 15, 2014, near the West Bank village of Walajah -AFP-Musa Al-Shaer

he Catholic Archbishop of Galilee, Elias Chacuor, of Palestinian roots, called the Prophet of Peace, and a friend of Israeli presidents, still states the problem this way, [interviewed in the St. Anthony Mesenger] “Where I was born was a village in North Galilee, a Christian village. All the inhabitants were Christians and Catholics. In 1948 we were deported, evicted  from our homes by the military and promised that we would be out for only two weeks. But the two weeks did not end; now it’s 64 years later. We were reduced to refugees in our own country, to deportees in our region. We took refuge in a nearby village
where some houses had been emptied. And we lived there, waiting for the time to return. And the time did not come. We wonder if it will ever come.
Q: So it’s not a dead issue to you, all these years later?
A: It will never be a dead issue, as long as we are living! And those who ought to understand our position most are the Jews. They say, “We were here 2,000 years ago; we are returning.” We say, “We have been here that 2,000 years, but 64 years ago, we were deported by violence and we will return.”
Photo by Larry Towell--WEST BANK 2004. A Palestinian man runs through an opening in the wall where the last eight meter high concrete slab seal is to be set in place.
And this happened also, to countless more Palestinian Arabs [they call it the Nakba].   This land is whose?   The Palestinians now have about 23% of the land [calculating from the CIA World Factbook] they had before the Israeli state was formed, and that is now mostly occupied and/or controlled by the Israeli Defense Forces.  And since the new military government of Egypt cut off Gaza border commerce a year ago, the people there have become so impoverished and desperate, driving the most radical to launch their low-tech missiles indiscriminately as long as they can, just to attract attention, even though it’s self-destructive to Gaza.

o you remember how this current tragic exchange began?  The parties were just about to find a possible Two State peace agreement, when the Palestinians declared they were going to start signing their own international agreements with other countries regardless.  Israel immediately announced a new round of settlements construction in the Palestinian territories.   Eyes for eyes--no peace.   Next, three Israeli teens are abducted and killed.  Israel alleges Hamas of Gaza is responsible.  Immediately a Palestinian teen is killed in revenge.  The battle is on—no holds barred.
Who has a solution?  Remarkably, from the start, it was family members on both sides, whose teenage sons were murdered.  This received virtually no notice from the main media, as the bombs burst on the scene.  [Appears in a commentary of Nicholas Kristof, 7-23-14 NYT]
In the carnage of Gaza and the Middle East, the most unlikely people have stepped forward from their grief to offer moral leadership.
The family of Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old Jewish boy who was one of three kidnapped and murdered, said in a statement after the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian boy: “There is no difference between Arab blood and Jewish blood. Murder is murder.”
Likewise, the father of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian boy, said: “I am against kidnapping and killing. Whether Jew or Arab, who would accept that his son or daughter would be kidnapped and killed? I call on both sides to stop the bloodshed.”
Thus those who have lost the most, who have the greatest reason for revenge, offer the greatest wisdom. Yet, instead, it is now hard-liners on each side who are driving events, in turn empowering hard-liners on the other side.

he leaders paid no heed.  But the solution is—to follow the wisdom of these who’ve suffered, and put away the sword.  Every violent death is a little part of holocaust.   No country on earth should sell or deliver any more weapons to either side in this conflict.   The arms moratorium-disarmament should include the whole Middle East, all countries, all factions—a true path to a new Arab-Israeli Spring.  This would cost the arms dealers and their political allies dearly.  Yet, the means of peace are the only way to peace.

U.S. resupplies Israel with munitions as Gaza offensive rages - Reuters (1)
                Arab Boy’s Death Escalates Clash Over Abductions – NYT 7-3-14

UNICEF laments Gaza child casualties, warns of task ahead—Reuters 8-4-14
140807- Conflict Leaves Industry in Ashes and Gaza Reeling From Economic Toll -

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

Sunday, August 3, 2014


For many years, starting in Croswell, MI in 1985, there have been small gatherings making prayer vigils on the August 6th, 9th anniversary evenings of the Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  We've placed floating candle lanterns on area rivers, and prayed in commemoration of all those who've died in all wars, on all sides, and for an end to all wars.  This year we'll do this again this Wednesday on the banks of the St. Clair River in Port Huron.  There is an ever increasing need, especially with Gaza and Israel, to turn back to God for our trust and strength, and put down forever the terrible technology of war that ensnares us, and plagues so many, all across the globe.  Please come if possible and pass the word.

Wednesday, August 6th, Year 2014

A prayer vigil in commemoration of all those who have died in war
To commit ourselves to put an end to war
On the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima
So that future generations may live in peace
Come pray for conversion from the arms race, on the banks of the St. Clair River, at the new River Walk, south of Vantage Point, in Port Huron {midway down the walk at the reef barriers}  At 9:15 PM, Wednesday, August 6, 2014
ave we yet listened to, or even heard, the voice of the U. S. Catholic Bishops, spoken in their “The Challenge of Peace” pastoral letter of 1983?
            “After the passage of nearly four decades and a concomitant growth in our understanding of the ever growing horror of nuclear war, we must shape the climate of opinion which will make it possible for our country to express profound sorrow over the atomic bombing in 1945.  Without that sorrow, there is no possibility of finding a way to repudiate future use of nuclear weapons…”
We found none invading Iraq, but we still possess more than 5,000 nuclear weapons here in our homeland, and plan on making new generations of them ourselves.  We are by far the biggest overall arms supplier in the world.  It’s time to follow the Gospel’s advice:  “Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”  Mt 7:5
"Other warheads" are bombs still in storage, yet to be destroyed.

            Unjust wars rage in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Israel, Sudan, Ukraine, Libya, Syria, drug wars in Mexico, Central and Latin America …   This tragic violence should touch our consciences--our choices of vocations, jobs, our uses of time and money.  Do these support war or peace?  Do these follow the way of Caesar, or the way of Jesus?

Come, pray, help prepare the way of the Peaceable Kingdom.
            “Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.” -- Martin Luther King
“War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”  -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy
"I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you" -- Jesus Christ the Lamb of God
 Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Vigil at atomic bomb site, every July in New Mexico
Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, family man who wouldn’t fight in Hitler’s Wars—executed August 9, 1943
{Prayer Novena now in progress}
St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, Jewish intellectual convert to Catholicism, became nun, sent to Nazi gas chamber August 9, 1942

Illumination by Kathy Brahney
Paintings by Kristin McCarthy
Franz icon by Fr. W. McNichols