Sunday, December 25, 2011


                                 Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it – because he is out of place in it, and yet must be in it – his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected because they are regarded as weak; and with those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, and are tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst.

                                     By Thomas Merton                           
Rembrandt -- Adoration of the Shepherds

Goria in excelsis Deo {Glory to God in the highest}—Shepherds first invited, Magi can come too—Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis {And on earth peace to men & women of good will}.

They can come work for us to give us our daily bread, but there is no room at Inn USA

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, December 19, 2011


Patrols by American soldiers in Iraq will soon end with the scheduled troop withdrawal---Maya Alleruzzo--Associated Press
May 1, 2003--Mission Accomplished in Iraq-- President Bush on flight deck
December 15, 2011 marked the most recent official end to the Iraq War [remember May 2003 with Pres. George W. Bush looking buff, but certainly at-sea, on an aircraft carrier declaring victory]. Nine years of war that never had to happen, a pre-emptive non-defensive morally unjust war. No national clergy called it just, the U.S. Catholic bishops had “grave doubt.” Then Pope John Paul II and our current Pope Benedict XVI both stated that this war did not meet just war criteria. Yet the leadership and people of the USA have pressed on--with casualties of 4,487 American lives, with another 32,226 Americans wounded in action *, and Iraqi civilians dead in the hundreds of thousands [our government never counted]. Nor were Iraqi enemy combatants killed ever tabulated, their being hard to distinguish from the rest of the population. Few of us have been able to speak the simple truth. This was at best a bad mistake. Moreover, this was wrong. We can all prayerfully respond, “mea culpa” as in the Latin from the penitential rite of the mass-- “through my fault.”
The Holy Innocents by Giotto di Bondone
So much death and destruction leads to no real celebration at war’s declared end. Only a slight sigh of relief on both sides, as we emerge with an economy crippled by two major wars, and they deal with the escalated violence between religious factions, and a decimated infrastructure—the bad fruits of this war of choice. The tenor of the 45-minute farewell ceremony [Dec. 15th], officially called "Casing the Colors,” was likely to sound an uncertain trumpet for a war that was started to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction it did not have.” * This final, low key, passing of the torch to the Iraqis was in a Baghdad area fortified courtyard, in what has been our major airbase in their country. The tenuous security atmosphere in Iraq was underscored by helicopters that hovered over the ceremony, scanning the ground for rocket attacks.” * I’m reminded of my father-in-law’s dry parting shot for the not-so-welcome guest, “Don’t let the door hit your behind on your way out.”
A boy sits in debris from Speicher Base near Sokur, Iraq, which housed American troops until they left the site on Oct 20--Photo from NYT, 11-16-2011
What we’ve left behind is a country without a dictator [as we “decapitated” Saddam] but also without a democracy--with 4 million internal and external refugees [a good number from Iraq’s ancient Christian community], and many of their talented workers and professionals fled or dead. The leadership has been transferred from Sunni to Shiite, more bad blood shed between them in this war than ever before. The Iraqi Shiites are closer allies to Iran, the most powerful Shia country in the region, than they are to the U.S. And Iran [a designated axis of evil] is our probable next target in the interminable Wars on Terror.

ow do we, the most militarily mighty of the worlds’nations, stop this marching to war after war? The first step is to confess the sin, to admit we were wrong, from the leadership down to each and every one of us. Those who were for this Iraq War either operated from false ulterior motive, or allowed themselves to be mislead. Those who were against did not do enough, or slaked their consciences with, “there’s nothing I can do.”

I place myself in the class of those who did not do enough. Seeing the grave importance of avoiding this unjust invasion a group of us circulated the Iraq Peace Pledge at our local churches. In one weekend early October 2002 here in Port Huron, nearly 400 signed against the war, with 41 of us pledging,“If the U.S. sends combat troops, invades by proxy, or otherwise significantly escalates its intervention in Iraq, I pledge to join with others to engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience at U. S. Federal facilities, Congressional offices, military installations, or other appropriate places.”

The war came with “shock & awe” on March 20, 2003, and none of us to my knowledge responded to our pledge. No civil disobedience arrests here. As a nominal leader of the pledge, I had a few ideas, received no call from other leaders, found no inspiration catch hold, was busy with other things, and did nothing except go to a Pax Christi conference to present a talk against the war. A number of us resisted federal income tax for this war, redirecting some tax in an “Iraq Peace Bonds” campaign for a while, but this was minimally effective, and lost momentum.
Iraq Peace Bond [in place of income taxes for war] presented to St. Clair Co. Library on May 2, 2007

We did pray for an end to this unjust war, and continue to. For four years now our Holy Trinity Church has held a Novena of prayer nine days before the August 9thanniversary of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter’s death by execution. He was an Austrian Catholic who wouldn’t fight in Hitler’s unjust wars, and we ask his intercession with the Almighty to help end this Iraq war, and Afghanistan, all wars. The almost complete pullout of our troops from Iraq this month is certainly an answer to many prayers, and courageous actions, at home and abroad.
God bless us with the faith to be inspired in new swords-into-plowshares ways, to follow your infant Son as we await His birth in a stable, all-powerfully vulnerable. Help us to make present Jesus the Prince of Peace, in our hearts and in our nation.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

* These citations, quotations, from U.S. Ends Mission in Iraq” NYT, 12-15-2011. This article, plus all those on Iraq in the NYT that day, are worth reading.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Today we sang las Mañanitas at la Guadalupe Center in Port Huron, in celebration of the Mother of God recognizing the beauty and holiness of the indigenous cultures in Mexico and the Americas—the only certain apparition she has made to this western half of the world.  She gave the gift of a picture of herself on the woven cloak of Juan Diego, Cuauhtlatoatzin his native name, to him.  Also as a sign to the Hispanic bishop that the indigenous people were close to her, special to her the Virgin Mary Madre de Dios.  Most of us, descendants of conquistadores, should keep this in mind this day, as we approach the birth of the Savior born in a stable, and as we make ongoing decisions as to how we bear the gifts and treasures of our lives.
This is our last studio photo of our kids.  As may have happened to some of you, life got very busy as they grew, and Bridget youngest now 24 [left of Maura, Sam & Kath] makes it in as a cut and paste--all great blessings to us.
Here, in Spanish and English, is a prayer from a holy card to La Virgen de Guadalupe we have said often with our children as they were growing up. “Do whatever He tells you,” as we are urged by Mary’s words at Cana.  It was written by Fr. E. C. McCarthy, our priest friend who has made it his life work to preach the heart of the Gospel--the nonviolent unconditional all-merciful love of Jesus. 


         Santa María de Guadalupe, señal del Poder y La Misericordia, no hecha por manos humanos, tu, que estas levantada por La Sabiduría de Dios, al centro de las Américas, en la tilma milagrosa para que todos los de la América puedan verte, le pedimos  a tu Hijito, curar la mordedura  de la serpiente ardiente que quiere destruir  nuestro cuerpo y nuestra  alma.

          Mientras, mirándote  a ti, Madre de lo Imposible, te pedimos quitar nuestras aflicciones, como tu quitaste las enfermedades del tío de Juan Diego, para que la victoria sobre ellas, puedan testificar el Amor de Dios, el Poder de Dios, y el camino de Vida de Jesús, El Cristo.

          Querida, cariñosa Señora de Guadalupe, nos arrepentimos de todo los pensamientos, palabras y obras que no habían sido según la Vía que Jesús nos enseña, dar  la Vida—el Sermón del Monte.  Prometemos, tratar sinceramente seguir tus ultimas palabras en el Evangelio:  “Hagan lo que Él les diga.”

 Ahora, Clemente, Madre de Humanidad, quien está mas  profundamente unida en Cristo Dios, que intercedes con tu Hijo, para que escuches   los gritos de nuestro pequeño corazón 
(Aquí se hace la petición)

Virgen Inmaculada de Guadalupe, mientras  miramos tu rostro de bronce, por favor danos La Paz, con  una mirada de Amor, una sonrisa del Paraíso, un beso curativa de Dios.

                                                        Gracias – Amen

                                                        Salve María......

                                                        Toda Santa Trinidad,

                                                        Ten piedad de nosotros.

Escrito por Padre Emanuel Charles McCarthy

Trad. por Padre José G. Herrera Alcala.
For more of Fr. McCarthy's writings see his webpage--

Sunday, December 4, 2011


We should never sacrifice life for our country, just one among many nations, all are merciless, demanding more than God-- but we should constantly prepare to live and die for the one true God, who embraces all.   
We in the abundantly blessed USA must make a good examination of conscience this Advent.  “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths,” we are told in this Sunday’s Gospel.   John the Baptist has called everyone out of their comfort zones, out of homes and courtyards into the desert, to occupy sites near the river Jordan.  Be baptized by water, and then the spirit.  We have been fighting two unjust wars, one for more than a decade.  Neither was of last resort—a major one of the 9 conditions, each of which has to be met for those who seek to call a war just. 
John the Baptist--a voice crying in the desert
Now Jesus comes to forgive sins—repent, change your mind and heart.  None of us has done enough to reverse Iraq & Afghanistan, all of us too complicit in wars fought by misguided leaders for oil, money, & power.
A boy sits in debris from Speicher Base near Sokur, Iraq, which housed American troops until they left the site on Oct 20-- NYT Photo Nov. 16, 2011
final point for contemplation for Christians who are to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, in this Holy season, within a world wracked by wars.  Where in the Gospels, or in your deepest heart, does Jesus tell you—“Kill your enemies before they kill you” ?  Where does the One who lived and died in expiation of all the world’s sins, plant the seed for a justified war?

Illumination by Kathy Brahney