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Monday, December 17, 2012

CHRISTMAS STAR TO DISPEL VIOLENT DARKNESS----GOD’S UNCONDITIONAL MERCY, NONVIOLENT LOVE

Scene from Newtown Conn. mass shooting -- Dec. 15, 2012 -- NBC News photo

Jihad Misharawi, of BBC Arabic, cradling the body of his 11-month-old baby Omar after his house was struck in Israel’s air strike on Wednesday 14 November 2012—AP photo

The death of Holy Innocents is all around us.  Too many children destroyed.  Over the past years a couple of thousands in Syria, 35 in eight days in Gaza, 20 in less than one hour in Newton, Connecticut.  We are appalled at some—those that make the media.  The images of suffering children in Gaza are sequestered and little seen.  My dear Ande watched their online video for minutes and tears of compassion came quickly, with a resolve to say the rosary daily till Christmas.  Countless children killed in all wars day after day; in abortion they number millions each year. 
We pray with Thomas Merton for light in the darkness—a Savior is born in a stable. 

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 for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied status as persons, who are tortured, bombed, and exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in the world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst.
  --- from Thomas Merton’s essay ‘The Time of the End is the Time of No Room’.

An idolatrous lie replaces the Credo--the Great Deceiver insinuates: I believe in Gun the power almighty, protector of heaven and earth.

Lord Jesus, save us from evil one, who whispers that killing is sometimes required to secure the way to the Kingdom of God. 
 
 

This sign to appear in downtown Port Huron, Dec. 24th .  May we unite against violence everywhere it lurks.  May we unite the devotional charity [The Merciful] and social justice [The Just] aspects of our churches--conservative and liberal sides of our community--which have too often been at odds. They both must work and pray for each other---repent of violence-based cliff-hanger politics, and commit to the common good.

Pray for all the children --
To help with those in Syria see Catholic Relief Service active during the whole past year of hostilities https://secure.crs.org/site/Donation2?df_id=5080&5080.donation=form1&s_src=emergencypage
or our local contact http://www.optrans.org/syria.html
And please see my report on the complex Syria war-- http://mccarthysweekly-paxvobiscum.blogspot.com/2012/08/making-sense-of-syria-dominoes-of.html

For help in Gaza see http://crs.org/jerusalem/jobs-in-gaza-helping-grads-connect-with-work/
Some ideas to support families in Newton, CN http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/newtown-connecticut-community-effected-shooting/story?id=17998133
http://tv.msnbc.com/2012/12/17/nra-endorsed-sen-joe-manchin-calls-for-assault-weapons-ban/

Monday, December 10, 2012

THE “RIGHT TO WORK” IS THE RIGHT TO SHIRK—REPONSIBILITY TO CO-WORKERS AND COMMUNITY

 
Political cartoon from 1955--era of a different perspective

Michigan is the latest target of, powerful moneyed people who want to explode solidarity--want to wipe from consciousness the idea that employers have responsibilities to their workers, and workers to each other, and both of these, to the whole community.  Walter Reuther, Pope Leo XIII, Cesar Chavez, countless union maids, and so many others are rolling over in their graves.


Michigan has just been voted by its lame duck legislature, a “right to work” state.  The rust belt {insult to injury} is now made the union bust belt—Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and more, the targets.  If they can break the UAW and teachers unions in Michigan of strong labor tradition, they can do it anywhere. 

After many slick operators like Bain Capitol have shipped most of our manufacturing out of the country, then corporate groups like ALEC and the Mackinaw Center cleverly engineer legislation that says we have “the right to work”-- not having to join the union that’s won the right to represent the worker at their workplace.  These think tanks like to say this makes states more likely to draw business.  But on important indicators of a good economy, right-to-work state studies show conflicting, murky results.  Some “job creators” are becoming job devastators.

Soon there will be no more good paying jobs, and no more unions.  Because the “right to work” is really the right to shirk—reject your responsibility to co-workers.  Get the benefits that the union wins in negotiation, but no personal by-in, no shared sacrifice.

Every man and woman for themselves, divide and conquer. The gospel of Ann Rand tries to marginalize the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Unions are disparaged; disunion is celebrated.  I’ve got mine, good luck getting yours.  Selfishness battles shared destiny.

Our grandparents sacrificed to build unions which bargain for the middle class with upper class owners.  We do live in two different worlds.  If you don’t believe so, just try to visit a gated community, join an exclusive club, or fly in a private jet. There doesn’t have to be class warfare, but there surely is class distinction.  The need for mediators to negotiate between bosses and workers should be self-evident.  Yes, there is bad union behavior, just as there’s bad boss behavior, but paying a little attention to the history of organized labor in the USA should convince, that good unions are the foundation for good jobs and productivity.  Many employers now recognize this.  But they didn’t always.
 

he stories of the Flint Sit Down Strike; Ludlow Massacre; Haymarket Riot 1886 Chicago; 1913 Massacre at Italian Hall, Copper Harbor; the International Ladies Garment Workers Union of NYC; the Grape Boycott--United Farm Workers Union; the Battle of Blair Mountain, WV; and hundreds more—these should be told and retold, to afford an appreciation of how hard it’s been, to give workers a fair wage and common voice in America.  There are certainly some union members, along with the corporate CEO’s, who need to become aware of this history.

At a hospital emergency room seeing patients, shoveling in a mine, hoeing sugar beets, or working the assembly line, all the long day—these teach a lesson.  Having done the first and third of these, I’ve learned something.  Most working people know what’s fair and what’s not, if management sits down and levels with them.  This is the purpose of sensible union activity, to achieve the goals of the company / organization, all contributors at the table.  For the rich especially, a thorough contemplative reading of the Gospel of Luke and his Acts of the Apostles, would be a wise prayerful choice during this troubled, holy, season.
St. Luke the Evangelist was bullish on the responsibility the Rich have for the rest of us.
 
May we renew our solidarity, deepening its spirituality—our common good binding us all, rich and poor and middle class, together.  
 
********************************************
 

From Sec. 20 Rerum Novarum, 1891, Pope Leo XIII---“Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen's earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing…”

From Economic Justice for All, a pastoral letter of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1986)
“No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself. Therefore we firmly oppose organized efforts, such as those regrettably seen in this country, to break existing unions or prevent workers from organizing.”







Another form of rights--that includes everyone--Today

December 10th --  Human Rights Day
 
 

 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

DOES THE LEFT HAND OF OUR CHURCH KNOW WHAT THE RIGHT IS DOING?

Two sides of card offered by "Catholics United"
 
 After these elections: less politics, more Jesus.  The answer to the “fiscal cliff” is found in our looking to the heavens for the Second Coming as in today’s gospel, erect, unafraid, because we’ve listened to the Last Judgement message of Jesus in Matthew 25:40 —“whatsoever you did to the least of your brothers and sisters, you did to me.”  And there is practical evidence the “cliff” is just another manipulation by the powerful of the public’s dire imagination, to keep people so anxious they can’t think straight, and forget that it is in God, not Wall Street, that we trust.
 
Why was there such fierce animosity and distrust this last election?  Where did this come from?  Why do those that disagree have to call each other--lost souls?   Many crusaders for respecting life, and ending war, competed in disrespecting each others’ persons.
We need to unite the social justice and devotional charity aspects of our churches, which have too often been at odds.  They both must work and pray for each other.
mixed message
Does the right hand of our church know what the left is doing?  Or does the left know the right?  Our conservative and liberal elements have been placed in pitched battle, especially in this past election season.  Yet red and blue we worship in the same pew.  If both hands can be clasped together offering each other their best strength, depth and humility, maybe the proposed “new evangelization” can become a reality.  “See how they love one another.”
 Celtic knot -- by Kathy Brahney
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, November 26, 2012

THANKSGIVING, AND PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS


 
 
 
 





                     Gaza homemade rocket                                                        Israeli tank in recent conflict, ~1500 rounds launched by each side    
This Thanksgiving Nov. 22 the people of the Middle East, and all of us worldwide, had something to be particularly thankful for – Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza did not go to full-scale war.  The Israelis did not invade, and halted its air assassination campaign; Hamas stopped its rocket launches, an uneasy truce holds.   Thank God, and God forgive us all -- 169 Palestinians dead, and 6 Israelis.*  We don’t know where this will go next, but we know it’s very difficult to follow the divine admonition—“harden not your hearts.”
 
Our country has a tradition of arming the Israelis to the teeth.  Others arm the Palestinians.  From our distance the blood spilled on Holy Land sand hasn’t trickled down to melt many hearts dedicated to war.  Over there it’s almost humanly impossible to overcome the hatreds conflict can engender.  How to rebuild trust in its place?  I believe it’s a matter of special grace, that needs prayer and repeated attempts at forgiveness and reunion.
This is not just a global problem but a personal one.  Here at our house we made some efforts to welcome and prepare for arrival of seven members of our family who’d been living far away, and felt pressed to make the move back to Michigan, before things could be arranged for a proper place to stay.  After a long journey, they made it into town with all their possessions, after dark, the night before Thanksgiving.  Emotions frazzled and minor disaster ensued.  No one is happy with where everyone ended up.
 
e could have done more to make clearer the contingencies, and more to help.  They could have had more foresight, and patience.  It will be hard to resolve these conflicts and assist in arranging a permanent living space for them, especially after angry words have imprinted their sad sting.  But we all believe in this mutual forgiveness, and a better tomorrow, despite today’s wounded reality.   God, grant us the courage and inspiration to find your way to heal and forgive, from our doorstep, to the world’s battlefields.

Lord have mercy on our souls--too accepting of the violence and injustice that, instead of you, we often choose to give us our daily bread.









11-25-12 USA Today, Gaza cleric calls violation of Israel truce sinful” -- excerpt below
The fatwa, or religious edict, was issued late Saturday by Suleiman al-Daya, a cleric respected by both ultra-conservative Salafis and Hamas. Salafi groups oppose political accommodations with Israel.
"Honoring the truce, which was sponsored by our Egyptian brethren, is the duty of each and every one of us. Violating it shall constitute a sin," the fatwa read. ... The fighting killed 169 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, and six Israelis.
 
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[
 



Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

Monday, November 19, 2012

GAZA CRISIS—WE ARE ALL POLLUTED BY PREMEDITATED MURDER


 Palestinian men gather around a crater caused by an Israeli airstrike at a home in Gaza City - CNN photo-11-18-12
 
The figures as of today:  > 90 Palestinians dead, 3 Israelis.

As war once again heats up between Israel, and Gaza, a tiny sliver of land on southern border that they ceded back to Palestinians in 2005, it seems the inaccurate rockets of Hamas, and pinpoint lethal Israeli air-force executions, are again stoking the fires of hatred.  The lines have hardened since Israel’s previous “Operation Cast Lead,” and five years of embargo are making things more desperate in Gaza.  Israel wants rocket attacks from there to halt.

The residents of Gaza want the embargo, and extrajuridicial executions of their leaders to stop.  This recent escalation of violence stems from an October 24th rockets skirmish in which 4 Palestinians died, and then more rockets--followed Nov. 14th by Israel’s air-attack assassination of Hamas Military Commander, Ahmed al-Jabari.

There have been sometimes thousands, and mostly hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza each year.  They appear to have not much more direction than fireworks launch tubes.  From the Israeli Defense Force blog site we have 44 Israelis killed by these in the past 6 years. Comparatively--“Israel's three-week ground war [‘Cast Lead’] against Hamas in 2009 left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead, and destroyed entire villages and much of Gaza's infrastructure. Israel's image tanked internationally as it fended off war-crimes accusations.” And the Israeli computer guided missiles shot from attack airships almost always get their man.

srael disregards international law and cheapens respect for life when it takes 100 or 10  Palestinian lives, for one of its own.  This has been the pattern since at least the first Intifada.  I wrote against its political assassination method in 2008.  I’d already been writing Amnesty International “urgent action” letters to dictators across the globe for years, protesting this illegal extrajuridicial executions tactic.  Two Wall Street Journal editors answered my email submission [first and last time they’ve given my many letters personal response].   There was interest, but it was not published.  Here it is.  That time another Palestinian political target died—but still no end in sight to the violence.

 
Dear Editor Timothy Lemmers, Wall Street Journal,         Feb. 24, 2008
In your Valentine's Day 2008 editorial "Dead in Damascus" you list some horrific crimes attributed to Imad Mughniyeh--and then congratulate the Mossad as his probable executioners, only lamenting that it should have been the CIA. I'm old enough to have seen Adolf Eichmann on TV at his trial* in Israel for his crimes against humanity. His were more heinous than Mr. Mughniyeh's, yet Israel captured him, and brought him to trial, before exacting judgment. Our societies have suffered a tragic loss of decency and due process since that time.

Now you trumpet this simultaneous arrest/trial/execution by car bomb in the streets of Damascus as "an unambiguous victory." Not for the rule of law. This counter-terrorist behavior is against international law. It mimics the behavior of the terrorists themselves. Mr. Mughniyeh obviously did not act alone. Such extrajuridicial executions only confirm to his confederates that surprise killings are the effective way to address grievances. Fighting fire with fire is incendiary policy. We play with fire in attempt to have two wrongs make a right. In the end everyone gets burned again and again and again. Lets get back to the golden rule found in scripture, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Yours truly,    -- Michael McCarthy, Port Huron, MI


s part of and preceding the current crisis, Israel’s leader Netanyahu has stonewalled negotiations in general with Palestinians, marching on with settlements construction in the West Bank, and ignoring international and national court injunctions against the wall Israel is unilaterally erecting between Israeli and Palestinian communities.  Resuming assassinations of Palestinian leaders, and a pending second invasion of the Gaza strip, are part of this hard-line strategy that believes in war as the natural way to solve the ancient land, water, and oil conflicts of the Middle East.  This belief is shared by some of Hamas surely, those who vow destruction of Israel.

The U.S. backs the strongman, Israel, in the struggle, with billions of dollars annually in military aid.  But there is no solution other than a “two state” solution.  The rights and lives of both peoples must be equally respected.  Bring back Arab Spring, and get Israel’s leadership and Hamas involved in the nonviolence.  And may the U.S. lay aside also its illegal killer drones—we are all polluted by premeditated murder.
 

 
Historical problem of the "two state solution"
Gaza is the middle strip on the ocean in the 2 rightmost frames
 
 
 
 
Illuminations by Kathy Brahney
 
* The Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote of Eichmann—Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
 
Recent Gaza events--articles
 
 
 

Monday, November 12, 2012

FACING UP TO THE TRUE FACE OF POVERTY


For many years I’ve been disturbed by the advertisement of the poor that the organization, “Food for the Poor” [FFP] promotes.  They have full page articles and glossy insert brochures in many Catholic newspapers.  Clergy and editors are given tours of needy areas from Jamaica to Haiti. Professional photos of teary-eyed/or smiling children and infomercial stories abound.  These are paid for stories, not journalistic efforts to describe the unjust situations of poverty.
 
“You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.”From Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Populorum Progressio -’Development of the peoples’ (1967), paragraph 23

Luxury hotel gala events, lavish media buys, and priests employed to travel and preach for Sunday contributions, provide the capital.  These measures must cost thousands upon thousands of dollars—money that doesn’t go to the poor, and little done to help correct the structures that keep them poor.  This stratified form of charity that keeps donors from the doing has a downside that can lead to corruption of the mission.  The CEO of FFP, Robin Mahfood, makes over $300,000/yr, and the previous one, his brother, resigned in controversy. {see links* at end for history}

Food for the Poor (FFP) President Robin Mahfood at the Haiti boys orphanage, run by FFP in Port-au-Prince
 
From "Cross International" brochure
 
“Food for the Poor,” the 5th largest U.S. charity {as per Forbes magazine}, and a smaller spinoff, “Cross International”, have a method which has certainly done some good-- $1.1 billion of goods delivered this past year.  They both have various listings as responsible charities.  Yet this does not help resolve the gulf between rich and poor—the shameful gap criticized by Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel of the widow’s mite.  The criticism of “bandaid” approaches to poverty has a long history.
 
The metal "trumpets" into which one tossed coin contributions--the more coin, the more noise
 
Many believe that haves and have-nots must meet and work consistently with each other face to face for injustice to be solved.  This is difficult to do, but provides the way for our mutual salvation.  We cannot afford to sentimentalize our interconnectedness and the shared suffering it requires.  It demands often what Dorothy Day described as a harsh and dreadful love.

We have this, on a danger to solidarity with the poor, from the Encyclical of Pope John Paul II “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis,” para. 39  1986,
The "structures of sin" and the sins which they produce are likewise radically opposed to peace and development, for development, in the familiar expression Pope Paul's [VI] Encyclical, is "the new name for peace."

We commemorate those who’ve worked and lived with poor, among many--the four religious women murdered in El Salvador, Dec 2, 1980---victims, with their neighbors, of the "structures of sin."

Sunday, November 4, 2012

IN A TIME OF CONTINUOUS WAR-CRISIS CONGRESS—RETURN TO MERTON’S CALL TO PRAYER, Part 2


"Lord, that I may see" - Mk 10:51 {from last week's Gospel}
And that the blind may no longer be led by the blind.
 
ow on the day before our national elections---the second half of Thomas Merton’s long plaintive prayer to Congress and the President in 1962.









Prayer for Peace {part 2}

Open our eyes, dissipate confusions, teach us to understand ourselves and our adversary!  Let us never forget that sins against the law of love are punished by loss of faith, and those without faith stop at no crime to achieve their ends!  Help us to use our science for peace and plenty, not for war and destruction.  Show us how to use atomic power to bless our children’s children, not to blight them.
Save us from the compulsion to follow our adversaries in all that we most hate, confirming them in their hatred and suspicion of us.  Resolve our inner contradictions, which now grow beyond belief and beyond bearing.  They are at once a torment and a blessing: for if you had not left us the light of conscience, we would not have to endure them.

Teach us to be long-suffering in anguish and insecurity.  Teach us to wait and trust.  Grant light, grant strength and patience to all who work for peace—to this Congress, our President, our military forces, and our adversaries.  Grant us prudence in proportion to our power, wisdom in proportion to our science, humaneness in proportion to our wealth and might.  And bless our earnest will to help all races and peoples to travel, in friendship with us, along the road to justice, liberty and lasting peace:
But grant us above all to see that our ways are not necessarily your ways, that we cannot fully penetrate the mystery of your designs and that the very storm of power now raging on this earth reveals your hidden will and your inscrutable decision.

Grant us to see your face in the lightning of this cosmic storm.  O God of holiness, merciful to all:  grant us to seek peace where it is truly found!

In your will, O God, is our peace!      Amen

 Thomas Merton (1915-1968)


And more from Merton--a good resolution for us all to take in our own ways, in this time of election:

 "It is my intention to make my entire life a rejection of and protest against the crimes and injustices of war and political tyranny which threaten to destroy the whole human race and the world with it. By my monastic life and vows I am saying NO to all the concentration camps, the aerial bombardments, the staged political trials, the judicial murders, the racial injustices, the economic tyrannies, and the whole socioeconomic apparatus which seems geared for nothing but global destruction in spite of all its fair words in favor of peace."
— From "Honorable Reader"

 Merton and the Dali Lama {from St. Anthony Messenger website}
 
 


 


Illumination and botanical by Kathy Brahney



Congratulations Kurt Hauglie!
Our journalist hero Kurt Hauglie, working quietly from his post at the Mining Gazette in Northern Michigan today struck a blow for freedom of good information. The day before our national election, his story, “Film Remembers 1913 Massacre in Michigan,” appears in AP syndication in newspapers from Port Huron’s Times Herald to the Houston Chronicle. Through the lens of this film’s release he gives us a glimpse--of persistent filmmakers, haves and have-nots, boom and bust, solidarity vs. profiteers, past and present. A timely reminder. Please read at the links below, and thank you, Kurt.

http://www.chron.com/news/article/Film-remembers-1913-Massacre-in-northern-Michigan-4007515.php#photo-3688669

http://www.themorningsun.com/article/20121105/ENTERTAINMENT05/121109864/film-remembers-1913-massacre-in-northern-michigan




 

Monday, October 29, 2012

IN A TIME OF CONTINUOUS WAR-CRISIS CONGRESS—RETURN TO MERTON’S CALL TO PRAYER

 
The Prayer for Peace below was written by Thomas Merton, read in the House of Representatives by Congressman Frank Kowalski [D-Conn.] on April 18, 1962 the Wednesday in Holy Week, and placed in the Congressional Record.  It may have helped some form consciences for the Cuban Missile Crisis six months later.  A long prayer--to counter Congress’ short experience of peacemaking.  Half appears today, and the rest next week.











This week we commemorate 50 years of surviving that nuclear weapons crisis ending October 28th —by the grace of God, and a dash of political courage.  As we contemplate our new-found perpetual enemy of War on Terrorism, and the current political elections climate that multiplies division and negativity, let us turn back to this prayer.  May we not blow ourselves and everyone else up, nor squander our wealth, fighting for freedom and righteousness.  God gives us these when we follow the Gospel of the Servant King. 
 

Prayer for Peace
 
Almighty and merciful God, Father of all people, Creator and ruler of the universe,
Lord of all history, whose designs are without blemish, whose compassion for
the errors of humankind is inexhaustible, in your will is our peace.

Mercifully hear this prayer which rises to you from the tumult and desperation
of a world in which you are forgotten, in which your name is not invoked,
your laws are derided and your presence is ignored. Because we do not
know you, we have no peace.

From the heart of an eternal silence, you have watched the rise of empires
and have seen the smoke of their downfall. You have seen Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece and Rome, once powerful, carried away like sand in the wind.  You have witnessed the impious
fury of ten thousand fratricidal wars, in which great powers have torn whole
continents to shreds in the name of peace and justice.

And now our nation itself stands in imminent danger of a war the like of which has never been seen.  This nation dedicated to freedom, not to power, has obtained, through freedom, a power it did not desire, and seeking by that power to defend its freedom, it is enslaved by the processes and policies of power.  Must we wage a war we do not desire, a war that can do us no good, and which our very hatred of war forces us to prepare?


A day of ominous decision has now dawned on this free nation.  Armed with a titanic weapon, and convinced of our own right, we face a powerful adversary, armed with the same weapon, equally convinced that he is right.  In this moment of destiny, this moment we never foresaw, we cannot afford to fail.

Our choice of peace or war may decide our judgment and publish it in an eternal record.  In this fatal moment of choice in which we might begin the patient architecture of peace, we may also take the last step across the rim of chaos.
Save us then from our obsessions!         [To be continued ]

Thomas Merton--photo by Sybille Akers
 
Above link on Merton in first paragraph is for PBS documentary on Merton--'Soul Searching'
 
 
Another link on the Cuban Missile Crisis from Harvard University--


Monday, October 22, 2012

OPEN BUSIER BORDERS VS MORE BUNKERED BORDERS--BE NOT AFRAID

Blue Water Bridge traffic--On Canada side heading towards U.S.--photo by Jim Steinhart -- 2011

The Port Huron Times Herald has given part of the story on our Blue Water Bridge international traffic.   More Canadian car traffic has come to do business with us these past 2 months than they did in the same months a year ago.  The best such U.S. bound car traffic since 2002.  Good News!  But a quick web search reveals that total car and truck traffic {both East & West directions} hit its record height--6,138,850--in 1991.  Total traffic counts the most, as indicator of U.S. / Canada trade and tourism.  Our truck export trips to Canada certainly need inclusion.  Total traffic was close to breaking the 6 million mark again in the year 2000, but since 911 it has decreased almost every year, planing off at about 5.12 million last year. 

he headline in the Times Herald article was “Busier Border.”  It’s interesting to note that the projected MDOT traffic {from a 1998 study} would put us at 10,179,932 for this year 2012.  Instead we can’t reach even the 1991 high mark.  Important to consider is how the past decade has been spent in creating a “bunkered border.”  Have we all forgotten the two hour waits to make the crossing, the stories of family travelers made to lie prostrate handcuffed by cadres of heavily armed border guards?  Have we not seen the fleet of brand new border patrol vehicles parked in Marysville, and sometimes making the rounds up and down the river?  The millions of dollars high tech camera towers planted from Detroit to Port Huron, trying to do what the “mooned balloon” cameras couldn’t consistently do?  

Billions have been dedicated to beef up a Department of Homeland Security. Yet in the more than ten years since 911, not one terrorist incident apprehended at our borders, north or south.  Why couldn’t this kind of money be spent to provide the infrastructure, education, and new clean energy sources, for trade and commerce to prosper in our part of the world?  To paraphrase past Republican President Eisenhower—someday the people are going to want peaceful enterprise so bad that the government is going to have to get out of the way and let them have it. 


o quote the Trappist monk Thomas Merton:  The root of all war is fear: not so much the fear men have of one another as the fear they have of everything. …  They cannot trust anything because they have ceased to believe in God.”  Let us take to heart the words from God that resound through all of scripture--be not afraid.  If we don’t respond to this real life challenge, we’ll continue to dwindle, hemmed in by our vast array of homeland security.





 
 
Illuminations by Kathy Brahney
 
 

Monday, October 15, 2012

MIGRANT MINISTRY MOVED CHURCHGOERS TO MORE DEEPLY RESPECT EACH OTHERS LIFE

Michigan Sugar "North Camp" license {was located about 4 miles NW of Capac, MI}

My history and that of the Port Huron area League of Catholic Women are interconnected.  Their support {a $1000/month scholarship for three summers, 1966-68}, with Fr. Hogan, and priests of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Emmet, MI, and Cardinal Dearden’s early emphasis on Hispanic ministry at the turn of the 1960’s, helped me take first steps as peacemaker, in migrant farm labor [and paid most college expenses my years at MSU].
Justice and peace shall kiss--Psalm 85--art by John Austin Swanson
 
There was a spirit moving in our church--of serving the poor, of justice for the outcast, learning from and listening to those in need.  In this way the disadvantaged would gain the tools for a better life, and those with plenty, could find the shared faith that helps us save our own souls.  A growing belief in our common calling as children of God was breaking down barriers of culture, class, language, religions, and factions within churches. 
Cesar Chavez, organizer of farmworkers, breaks bread of his 40 day fast, with his wife and Robert Kennedy in 1968
 
Pillars of the Capac, MI church, St. Nicholas, the Glombowski’s and Staniloiu’s, with area farmers, were coming together with the Betancourt family from Immoklee, FL, and the Alvarez family from Carrizo Springs TX, in migrant ministry, with hope to form a real lasting preferential option for the poor.  A Christian service that could change the system so that all are welcome.
Adopt a Liberal {in prayer} is a new website--the helping hands and prayer should go both ways
See scripture below
The conservative right hand of the Catholic Church knew what the liberal left hand was doing, and vice versa.  Both were enkindling a faith on the move.  Evangelization was the natural outcome of the devotional side of the church offering its prayerfulness to lift up the social Gospel advocates’ work for justice.  In today’s dichotomous political terms, the church’s “reds and blues” weren’t at odds, but worshipping in the same pew, depending on each other for inspiration.  At least these were the signs of hope—a wonderful outcome of Vatican II.

Holy Spirit window--St Peter's Basilica, Rome 
Descent of the Holy Spirit--on the People of God
 
The first summer I was a border at the home of an elderly widow in Emmett, as our young church team organized youth faith discussion groups in the migrant camps of the area.  The second year, seeing that in a couple summer months a city boy from Jackson, MI had to learn more about the small town community, or the one in the migrant camps, I decided on North camp, a couple miles from Capac.
Mike with Angie, migrant worker from south Texas, at St. Nicholas Church, Capac MI 1966
 
There for the next two summers the obreros del campo, taught me a great deal about their living on the move, the 5 am to 6 pm work down the rows of pickle harvest, and hospitality with buttered tortillas and cafecito on entering any labor camp shack any time of day.  My small risk living a few months with a people I barely knew, in barebones conditions, was richly rewarded by their acceptance, and a small increased ability in Spanish.  They invited me to visit their other places of harvest also, and I did—cherries in Traverse City and strawberries Bear Lake {both western Michigan} tomatoes in Toledo OH, sugar beet trucking in Colorado, and the marijuana side-business when visiting their simple homes off-season in Texas {did not directly participate, but saw a bit more of the side effects of living on the spare fringe of the economy}.

Junior [aka Lune, el Ojon, Crescencio], one of those I got to know best, and father of five when I met him, {esposa Paulina still only 19, pregnant with 6th } was extremely sharp, clever and a leader at whatever he tried--knew all the words to corridos and Bob Dylan songs, 6th grade education, bi-lingual to the max.   He died in a gun battle about 10 years later.

e and his brothers had made a gift to me, after the first summer, of a Sears’s 1901 8” long sawed-off 10 gauge shotgun with a whittled musket-like handle—hinge pin pulled, it made a small package that could be carried under a trench coat.  They thought this present would be appropriate since I was partial to disarmament.  Later on a friend of mine’s gunsmith dad removed the firing pin. Thrown in were two scimitar-like pocket knives that opened out to an S shape, each 9 inches end-to-end.  The metal blade homemade, painstakingly hammered and sharpened, and handle from a cow’s horn.
Theirs was a hard life very different from mine, but they welcomed me in, because I showed some live-in interest, and we shared the same faith.  Pedro [an informally adopted Alvarez] and Homar [Betancourt, son of the not-always-beneficent labor contractor in charge of North camp], two other young men I came close to, because of joint efforts and their initiative, went on to job training experiences that opened up some doors for them to exit the migrant labor stream.


Junior and Paulina, with some of their six kids present, were married in the church at St. Nicholas the second summer--a rarity in the common-law farm laborers’ life.   Fr. Joe Melton’s pastoral care helped bring this about.  And it had been his invitation at the beginning, and mentoring throughout, that made my learning and working in this rural migrant ministry possible.

Fr. Joe [one of Cardinal Dearden’s Spanish language priests] had facilitated the financing of my project from the League of Catholic Women, and others, and welcomed my presence at daily mass.  When I read my reports of those summers’ activities, it’s amazing how full of myself I was—so certain of my perspectives and ability to figure anything out.  Humility has never been one of my native virtues.
"Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled" applies to all in the political spectrum [see Lk 18:9-14, the Pharisee and the Publican]
 
In the years since, I’ve made many mistakes and realized plenty of personal limitations, but do wonder still at the power of God’s grace to bless our small efforts a hundredfold.  My hope, in the years that remain, is to make the opportunity that was given me, available in new ways for others.  Thank you to those who made stretching cultural boundaries, this grace-filled experience, part of my life. 

 

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men and women, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.
            1 Timothy 2:1-3




Illumination by Kathy Brahney