Monday, October 29, 2012


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


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


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


Monday, October 8, 2012


The White Cross, by Marc Chagall -- a Jewish vision of the need for forgiveness, and Jesus' response
Father, forgive them they know not what they do—versus, father, destroy them I’m excruciatingly fed up with what they do.  Forgiveness even unto executioners—implementers of what most all then judged, a shameful death on the cross.
There is no violence in God revealed by Jesus Christ.  Resurrected Life—in His death He destroyed death.  For the Gospel to be alive and evangelized, it must be the true consistent Gospel, respecting and celebrating all life.  Justified violence is not of Jesus, but from the father of lies.  Christian churches must embrace full Gospel nonviolent mercy—become consistently against both abortion and war.  Both stones--of lust and murder in all societies; these manacles of lust and murder dropped from our hands—replaced by mercy for the adulterous man, the unwed mother, innocent child, and for the violence-embedded warrior. 

At the moment Christ’s work on earth is most threatened by worldly powers, the crisis point, as He’s arrested in the Garden, “Put away the sword.”  Enough of this talk of fighting for God’s Kingdom.  Can God my Father not defend creation, send legions of angels?
"Masters of War"-- painting by John Tartaglione
In the discourse on swords*, we find a version of the dichotomy: works or faith.  Faith alone saves, yet good works are necessary, but never the works of killing for supposed good ends.  The ends never justify the means.  Moreover, the means are the ends, in embryo.  Faith and good works are intimately entwined.  “Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition,” {united in a popular WWII song} are Gospel opposites.  “Put away the sword.”

y their works you will know them.  There is never good fruit from a bad tree, no matter how cleverly the serpent suggests it.  And the tree of the business of war is a tree dripping with blood.  Weapons and war are the worst of works possible.  A society dedicated to them is also making a business of abortion.  True faith in Jesus destroys all recourse to these justified violences.  May we remember this in this season of burning stones politics.  I have this poem from Javier Sicilia and his just completed Caravan for Peace.

“I will try, like them
To be my own silence:
And this is difficult. The whole
World is secretly on fire. The stones
Burn, even the stones
They burn me. How can a man be still or
Listen to all things burning? How can he dare
To sit with them
When all their silence
Is on fire?”

~ Thomas Merton ~

(from “InSilence” -- The Strange Islands: Poems by Thomas Merton)


"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.  Deut 30:19

Click on red and blue texts above for links to sources.

Illumination and botanicals by Kathy Brahney






Monday, October 1, 2012


                                                                  Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld -- Cain Kills Abel
 Detail-Game: Call-of-Juarez-Bound-in-Blood
Guns are ubiquitous.  Guns are us.  I started writing this at the time of a shooter near the Empire State Building in August [feared a terrorist, turned out to be disgruntled employee].  The shooting in yesterday’s paper was that of a son mistaken for an intruder by his father in New Fairfield, Conn.  Tomorrow is the ten year anniversary of the first killing in the “Beltway sniper” attacks.  Pick any day, one can read news of some individual and/or mass murder--or tragic gun misuse--in our country.  It’s become routine, from Columbine to Aurora--Wisconsin to Minnesota--rippling through all homelands east and west.

The first sin outside paradise—murder.  Cain and Abel.  The Good News came to change this: “Put away the sword, those who live by the sword will die by the sword,” -- the last words of Jesus to his gathered disciples before he dies on the cross.  Have we followers of Jesus paid any attention at all?

re we safer now with gun proliferation laws?  A new permissiveness of violence—turns back the lessons of WWII.  Our veterans of that war, volunteered into a sea of bloodshed, were often shell-shocked on return, loathe to discuss war experiences.  Now, against all their spiritual inclinations, many vets are de-commissioned from our war on terrors, with violence professionalized-internalized.  And for other vast hoards of couch potatoes, violence has become entertainment.

Empire State Bldg shooter—latest in a long line of solitary gunslingers—seeking solace for wounded egos by killing others.  Giving out freely the most powerful personal weapons available, in a country where our national wars have transitioned into personal battlegrounds, is a bad idea.  “Shoot first ask questions later” and “make my day” are attitudes that promote death, not right to life.

My friend Jim is an ardent hunter and gun enthusiast.  I, though a vegetarian, respect his use of guns.  The mass violence of stockyards and slaughterhouse are painfully unnecessary in a nation that has so much surplus food.  Jim’s ability as a good hunter makes his method of providing meat for the table less violent than the mass production.  And there is some conscious respect in his way of taking life for food.

he multiple murders being perpetrated by the past decades’ self-appointed assassins, with their hi-powered guns and bullets, are a completely different use of weapons.  Gratuitous fast-and-furious violence.  Guns as people killers.  Military hardware brought into the public sector, to settle disputes in warlike fashion.  This is a disease, this proliferation of quick kill firepower.  There is a physicians’ group dedicated to preventing this socially violent virus.  The membership of the NRA [but not their politicians] wants common sense controls.

Guns as gods.  They can be tools of the Great Deceiver, helping someone who’s lost a job, or been humiliated, turn into a death angel, blasting everyone’s pain to new heights of excruciation, and depths of despair.  Yes, it is the mind, and not simply the gun, that does the killing, but why make killing so damnably easy?  Kept for protection, they most often fail to protect.**  Kept with the intention to murder, they are occasions of grave sin, evil which drags us all down.

Cain kills Abel -- Rembrandt sketch
Can gun owners not help us find some limit to the mayhem?  You know what’s responsible, and what’s not.  Military style weapons in our communities, concealed handguns in our bars and churches?  There has to be a better way.  

Christians believe we are saved into eternity by Jesus Christ.  “There is nothing that can separate us from the love of our God.” Romans 8:39   We all know that we are going to die.  Many of us believe we will be welcomed into a heavenly life after death.  Does Jesus ever indicate we’ll get there any more surely, armed to the teeth?

Mistakes that can’t be corrected.

**A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide (11x), criminal assault or homicide (7x), or unintentional shooting death or injury (4x) than to be used in a self-defense shooting. (Kellermann, 1998, p. 263).
A 2009 study found that people in possession of a gun are 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault (Branas)
[from Brady Campaign to Prevent GunViolence]

83 Americans killed by guns every day [90 deaths fromauto accidents], approaches being the major cause of acute violent death in the USA.

            Violence Policy Center [includes international]

St. Michael's feast day was Saturday, Sept. 29th.  He has been named the patron saint of soldiers.  His only sword is the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney