Monday, May 31, 2010


St. George and the Dragon [artist unknown]

This the week after the celebration of Pentecost, day of inspiration, I'm typing out the only homily in my life delivered at Sunday mass-- Pentecost 1984. Twenty six years later, we still wrestle with the same dragon, inordinate funds offered up to the carnage of war, by all sides. It's a hard monster to subdue, especially as we keep in mind the admonition of Thomas Merton: "As St. Augustine would say, 'the weapon with which we would attempt to destroy the enemy would pass through our own heart to reach him.'" We must then choose
our tools for change very carefully, put away all swords.

Homily, Pentecost 1984, St Denis Church, Lexington, MI

"Peace be with you." "Peace be with you," He said again. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." "Receive the Holy Spirit." These are the words of the Gospel for Pentecost, fifty days after Christ rose from the Dead. But they were spoken by Jesus, as a commission to His apostles huddled in the Upper Room, at the very time of His Resurrection. Where are the disciples fifty days later?

In the Act's account of the Pentecost event—they're still in the Upper Room. Then came the strong wind of the Holy Spirit coming down on them as tongues of fire—and they finally did go forth speaking in foreign tongues and making bold proclamation. It had taken awhile for the apostles to get moving. They stayed in the Upper Room afraid to go out, until almost physically blown out by the Holy Spirit, out of their protective walls, into the world to preach Christ's gospel of peace, to their own countrymen, and to all the nations, even to the enemies.

I know the fear they must have had. It is so hard to leave the relatively safe confines of our own concerns. We all have enough troubles of our own in our families, our jobs, in our parish and local communities, to say nothing of among nations. Yet in each of these areas, we are called to live and preach Jesus' Gospel of Peace, even unto all nations, to the point of loving enemies. Pentecost sends each one of us to do this, each according to our different gifts of the Spirit. We received the sacrament of Confirmation for this task--gospel peacemaking.

The early disciples' reluctance is something I can understand. It has taken a long time for me to speak out publicly in my church on this issue. My wife Andrea and I have decided that one of the ways we should work for peace is in not paying our federal income tax. We've done this for a number of years, and the money, which would go to support war technology, goes into an account for peacemaking efforts. There is risk in doing this. The IRS will audit us next month.

It was a hard decision to make as a family. Support has come from the witness of the Catholic Archbishop of Seattle Washington, Rev. Raymond Hunthausen, who is not paying 50% of his federal income tax as a moral statement against nuclear weapons. There is an attachment in the bulletin, in which the Archbishop explains his position. [At a time the Reagan administration was ratcheting up our reliance on nuclear weapons he said, "Our nuclear war preparations are the global crucifixion of Jesus."]

I love my country, and believe it to be most blessed with riches and freedom of faith. We are 4% of the world's population and command 40% of the world's resources. With this comes great responsibility, but what are we doing? As stated by the Pope and bishops of the: Second Vatican Council: "The arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured. And there is every reason to fear that if it continues, it will bring forth those lethal disasters which are already in preparation." The lion's share of our income tax money goes to support this arms race.

Pope John XXIII has said, "The true and sold peace of nations can be found not in equality of arms, but solely in mutual trust." I believe that our nation's blessings obligate us to work for peace all the more—even in the face of real treachery on the part of the Russians and other enemies. Walls of nuclear weapons defense will not win the rest of the world to the Christian way of peace. This only serves to isolate us and sap our true strengths.


ishops in their recent pastoral letter, The Challenge of Peace [1983], have called for a complete halt to the making of nuclear weapons by the U.S. and Soviets. What a positive challenge of peacemaking if our government would say to the Russians, "We are stopping for six months, let us see if you will follow this real step towards peace." There are many less dramatic works for peace that can be done by each of us. It starts, as our bishops have urged us, with study and reflection on the issue of peacemaking in the light of the gospel, and praying for our individual gifts of the Spirit.

None of us can be, on our own, the peacemakers we are called to be by Jesus this Pentecost. We need each other, and to call on the grace of the Holy Spirit, to fill us, and send us forth. Thank you [and Fr. Jim Carlson formerly of St. Denis parish, Lexington, MI] for the privilege of speaking to you from the altar.

Footnote. The IRS audit shortly after this sermon, we experienced in Mt. Clemens, conducted by a Vietnam vet, resulted in us having to pay back about $840. He was somewhat sympathetic to our views, and the fact that we'd used refused taxes for peace efforts, not just kept the money in our pockets. Undeterred at that point we went on to continue re-directing federal taxes for another 7 years. Working at higher California wages, migrant clinic [Mike] and hospital OB ward [Ande], our peace tax with-holding from IRS surged to over $13,000 [$5000 of this we'd sent to Catholic Relief Services during the first Gulf War in Iraq, to help mitigate damages].

Long story short in 1993, after 15 years plus, both of us successfully making war tax money into peace tax, we settled accounts with the IRS. Family fatigue, and the need to remove liens, for our first mortgage, a house in the city of Port Huron [after 2 homes built with community help and small personal loans at rural KY and MI sites]. Yet, in a real sense over time, we'd made thousands of dollars do the work of peace, even though eventually we'd had to pay that sum again, back to the IRS. Now, in the same house, we're renewing effort to make peace tax a more common cause, with the hope of many joining in to vote with their tax dollars, making more money available for peace, not war.

May God inspire everyone's work of hands and heart, give us courage and strength, for plowshares of gospel peacemaking.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, May 24, 2010















Michael McCarthy, October 1996

Fr. Brian C. at Holy Trinity Church here in P.H. gave a powerful, inspiring sermon Good Friday this year, on the full implications of Jesus' last words to His church before His death , "Put away the sword." I hope to be able to publish at least a summary of his message sometime soon--best homily I've ever heard from the parish pulpit on the true social & personal challenge of peacemaking. [You really would have had to have been there to receive the complete blessed impact!] Now with the flames of Pentecost upon us, I bring out above a poem of more than ten years ago, to echo in a small way Fr. Brian's good courageous words.

Celtic illumination by Kathy Brahney

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Peace, in Arabic and Hebrew

If any one of you were among the 70 or so that attended Mary & Tom Mechtenberg's talk this Sunday afternoon on their experiences with Michigan Peace Teams, you are better personally informed about the troubles in the Middle East, and inspired by their insight, to take another step in some direction along your path towards international understanding. Thank you Tom & Mary.

From discussions with local people of all political persuasions comes an idea that encourages young and older, to do something positive and productive for our area, outbound to the rest of the world. This would set up a local agency to help answer the challenge, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." -JFK

PROPOSAL: Alternative Service Opportunity Foundation

• Local group with board and members--purpose to encourage and facilitate citizens of the St. Clair County area to enter national and international service/educational opportunities, such as AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, student exchange, and faith-based service programs.

• Since these organizations have few recruiters in our area, we would bring together members of our community who already have these alternative service experiences, and engage/train/assist them to do outreach in local colleges, high schools, and other public forums, helping young adults and adults to discern which organizations would be good opportunities for them, and then helping them to make the necessary connections.

• AmeriCorps and Peace Corps have financial supports for those who work in their programs, but many faith-based and community programs do not. The foundation could provide small scholarship assistance as incentive towards the practical needs of entering any of these opportunities.

• Board would meet monthly, raising funds for part-time director, and a small scholarship/supports reserve. The director would preside over the activity of volunteer recruiters; some stipend money could be considered. Activity and dollars available would expand in tandem.

• There are many excellent opportunities to learn foreign languages, encounter different cultures, and serve human needs both here in the U.S. and worldwide. Our young people and many retirees are ready and willing. In our area there are few recruiters, nor sign on bonuses, except for the armed services. Our purpose is to expand opportunities for alternative service.

• Some new opportunities that are particular to our area’s experiences {e.g. Port Huron sister city in Guatemala, Michigan Peace Teams, and Middle East—SC4, connections} could be created.

• A final objective. Act as advocates on the national scene, from our local example, for a renewed and multiplied investment in our young people’s positive engagement with the rest of the world. AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, especially, should receive vigorous funding support, and become great sources of national pride, and international interconnected accomplishment.

Please contact us if you're interest in this project. My wife Ande and I have been going to local high schools and SC4 once or twice a year, as alternative service recruiters, but much more is necessary.

"What is power? We see that power has always been used as a force of domination. It is the power of the strong over the weak: it is the power one finds in factories and even in churches. But power is valid only when it is the power of service. That is when power acquires its proper dimension." --- Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Argentina

The weapon of the soldier is the M-16. The weapon of the peacemaker is the learning of a foreign language.

Please see January 17, 2010 McCarthy's Weekly for more on the Peace Corps issue.

Friday, May 7, 2010


In August of 1982 the march in support of the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty closed down whole streets of New York City. The whole city turned its attention to the need for nuclear disarmament; police were present, but inconspicuous, except for a few on horseback. The giant spindly puppets of the Bread & Puppet Theater towered in friendly anti-war color, over both police and protestors. We'd come from Kentucky where Ande & I lived then, working in an Appalachian clinic and hospital, to march for disarmament when President Reagan was spouting Star Wars.

Our kids, Maura and Sam, just toddlers, got tired of walking, but enjoyed the day, and were so unusually tired out, that my cousin Barbara, at whose penthouse apartment we stayed that night, thought them well enough behaved I believe it gave her some of the encouragement to consider kids of her own. Barb was a highly competent tax lawyer then, for International Telephone and Telegraph. Muffin her poodle and our kids had a good time playing together. Now Barb a single mom, still a most competent part-time lawyer, has a home in small town Ohio, and two beautiful young adult daughters.

Barb, in that pre-cell phone age, had somehow found us coming down from her office to the streets to march for a while with us. The atmosphere in New York then was festive and full of hope. The march ended with a concert in Central Park bursting with people and the stars of the folk singer circuit.

This time New York City barely blinked. The numbers of demonstrators had shrunk from one million to ten thousand, and people were methodically discouraged from joining in. Marchers were begrudgingly granted one lane of the streets [while bicyclists, on an annual cross city ride earlier in the day, had the rule of the whole road for hours]. We were assembled and cordoned off at the march stating point, Times Square, by impatient police who bunched us behind cattle-barrier-like tubular steel fences, that interlocked in 10 foot sections, keeping us in a tight one lane 15 foot wide, four block long, corridor. People were to stand there hours listening to speakers & singers, for most of the corralled packed-in participants, way down an unhearable unseeable distance, while traffic still whizzed by alongside.

ur Peace Action mostly Detroit group had been walking miles already that morning, and needed a rest. [Of the forty in our contingent nearly half were in the grey haired activist/“raging grannies” categories—amazing energizer bunny spirits, flesh with some limits.] Instead, we’d come in on the wrong end of the long assembly line, and were being continually prodded along down the cattle fence by law officers, while other non-march onlookers and pedestrians on the sidewalk were left alone. I incurred the wrath of one of the crowd controllers when I gently placed my hand on her shoulder towering above my own, to get her attention—Please can we stop here? --“Keep your hands off the officer!” Realizing my mistake, and with a sincere “I’m sorry”, a more patient negotiation ensued, and we were allowed to stay put. Maybe the NYPD were on short fuse because of the night before’s incident with the wanabee terrorist “pre 4th of July cookout” bomber [unsuccessful --made his bomb out of camper propane tanks, fireworks, and gasoline mixed with the wrong kind of fertilizer].
Nagasaki some time after 11:02am August 9, 1945--Cathedral ruin on hill was the center of the largest Catholic community in the Far East at that time, building used for A-bomb targeting

When the trip towards the United Nations Building began, our marchers certainly kept up spirits with chants and songs. And neighboring Buddhist monk drummers and young spiked-haired Goth shouters were especially impressive. Then it was back on the bus, our only accommodations two nights sandwiching the one day, for the fourteen hour ride home. Ande and I had made it, but the elders on this disarmament pilgrimage were an incredible example for us, and the valiant teenagers who’d come along. One of the older and most colorful of our Peace Action women said it best from under her very wide brimmed hat as she sat down across the aisle, “The thing about us is that we never give up!”
It’s this spirit that guarantees this Mother’s Day, that one day, all of New York City will suspend its business as usual, in jubilation, and celebrate with the United Nations, the end of all nuclear weapons.

o all of New York City—and throughout our nation—we should begin to more than blink, but keep eyes, ears, and hearts wide open, millions upon millions of awakened world citizens. In a small cool park [Dag Hammarskjold] in the late morning of our long Sunday, a smiling Japanese choir of perhaps 75 young and old, invited us to join them and their three accordion players. A beautiful song, with words written by Ohzu high school students translated to mean: “Our Wish”—from above our heads, come down books & notebooks, not bombs—an end to all war. Then, across the language barrier, “We Shall Overcome.” They gave us gifts of bright postcards & peace cranes.

An older man, Kou Tanaka, was second generation survivor of our dropping the A-bomb on his city Nagasaki. He earnestly handed me his calling card. Fortunately, Ande had remembered the “Konishiwa” greeting from our son Sam’s years of Port Huron Northern language classes. The group's translator helped me offer in return the story of Fr. George Zabelka, who we’d known here in Michigan, former chaplain to the Enola Gay bomber crew—his eventual pilgrimage return to Japan, to apologize. Japanese and East Asians had a very large delegation in this NPT disarmament march, and keep coming half way around the world to help us pass this torch of truth, justice, peace down the generations, persistently beside us, until the wish becomes the reality.

Postcard image of Hiroshima monument with peace crane garlands at base--a gift of UTAGOE, Japanese choir group we met.

In a founder of Mother’s Day’s own words, resonating with the message of our May 2 NPT Disarmament march.

Mother's Day was originally started after the Civil War, as a protest to the carnage of that war, by women who had lost their
sons. Here is the original Mother's Day Proclamation from 1870.

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by
irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall 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 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 our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow 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 then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the
means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each
bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a
general congress of women without limit of nationality may be
appointed and held at some place 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

Julia Ward Howe

The tone of this courageous woman reminds me of the words of Mary to Elizabeth in her "Visitation" to her cousin--both of them pregnant and filled with anxious expectation & hope.

The "Magnificat" Please read in Luke 1:46-55

Image by Kristin McCarthy {daughter of Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy}

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney