Monday, December 29, 2014


Artwork as appeared in recent Maryknoll Magazine on Ebola outbreak in West Africa

Yesterday Sunday was the Feast day of the Holy Family, and of the Holy Innocents also this year, in our Catholic Church calendar.  It seems a strange convergence, the new born sacred family and the infant victims of violence.   In a time when we decry the demise of the ideal family in our culture, and see family values under threat, we must remember that the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus was also under duress.  For their society they were not the ideal family--seen to be in their day, an unwed mother, foster father, bastard child.

The Son of God was born into an unfriendly world, in an occupied country, homeless and displaced by the taxing authority, in a stable.  Jesus then barely escaped being one of some hundred Holy Innocents, babies of Bethlehem murdered by the ruthless potentate of His day, King Herod.  Soon they had to flee for His life, and became refugees for a while in Egypt.  They still made a loving family, deeply blessed in God’s grace.  We can be such open, generous, compassionate families too, by accepting God’s grace, and giving of ourselves, following their holy [often contrary to culture] example.
The Martyring of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem

Holiness as brought to us by Jesus, is not a thing of halos and pretty adornments, but of difficult, dreadful, merciful love.   The times were hard in zero A.D.; they are now, even in our land of luxury, for many rich and poor—in conflicting ways.   We search for a solution, and, as did the Magi, find this One scandalously born into a barn surrounded by animals and shepherds.  The Creator of the world made flesh, to become the Savior of all.

Pope Francis in his Christmas Day proclamation said that hope for the poor is crucially linked to changed hearts among the rich.  From an AP story:  While much of his message concerned poor countries, Francis had harsh words for some in affluent nations. He prayed for an end to the hardened hearts "of so many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference, the globalization of indifference."  Christmas joy will only be realized when weapons are transformed "into ploughshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness," Francis concluded before giving the crowd his blessing.
Referring to refugees and exiles, he prayed: "May indifference be changed into closeness, and rejection into hospitality."

We of the most blessed, nation of immigrants, should certainly be receptive to this prayer, on the day celebrating the birth of Our Savior, and be prepared to be leaders in this change.


Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, December 15, 2014


Tila, Chiapas en La Zona Norte

oday at mass I made the offertory intention, “Lord bring forth your justice and peace for the people of La Parroquia San Mateo, Chiapas Mexico; for the people of Ferguson, MO here in our country, and for women religious {a Vatican study of their U.S. “behavior” is released tomorrow} throughout the world.”  A long prayer interconnecting some of the important mentors of my personal faith.  Padre Heriberto and the catechists of his mountain comunidades.   My dad’s personal witness of integration as I was growing up in Jackson, MI, and the prophetic justice campaign of Martin Luther King I was privileged to be touched by.   All the strong compassionate religious women who have been my teachers in school, and compatriots working for peace.

At this point in my life, while I still can at 67, I’m deciding to return to Chiapas where I’ve been six other times over the years, working in a parish clinic and sharing a small part in their community’s struggles for justice.  They seek a path that preserves the goodness of their indigenous way of life, by overcoming the larger world’s imposed poverty.   For me this is a pilgrimage to their Nuestro Senor de Tila, miraculous shrine of the black crucified Christ, asking for help in addressing our own powerful nation’s need to learn humility, solidarity, and appropriate stewardship of resources with the rest of the world’s people.   My prayer will be for the Holy Spirit to stimulate increasing interest in travel and mission service.  I leave on January 9th, and invite your sponsorship [see below for address].

Padre Heriberto celebrates mass in the remote Carmela, a Zapatista community, in 2011 

Those who’ve had the blessing of time spent living in other cultures, learning their languages, making some miniature bridges between rich and poor, realize the wonderful, intrinsic, spiritual value of the experience.   There was more intention and investment in these efforts in the 60’s and 70’s.  As we beneficiaries age, I believe we need to pass the torch, and much more opportunity, to the next generation.

Many of our young people appear ready to learn and serve away from home to benefit others, and broaden their own perspective.   This is despite our society’s widespread advertised aversion to any risk.  There are certainly dangerous places for anyone now in the Middle East, Africa, the Ukraine.  And Mexico has become a diminished travel destination because of the drug violence there.  Yes, for them the narco-traffic/U.S. drug-market violence is terrible [yet rare in Chiapas], but if you know who to be with, and where to be, you are as safe as anywhere--and this is true worldwide.  While there's always risk just walking out your door, even here in the USA. 

 In the Dispensario Chol, Tila Chiapas, in 2002
Kennedy’s  invitation, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” still resonates.   It should be expanded into a brand new Peace Corps, and faith based groups like Jesuit Volunteer Corps, into not just “do for your country”, but do for planet earth.  Pope Francis has repeatedly called for real tangible solidarity with the poor.  He made it routine practice in Argentina for his all his priests to spend time ministering in the poorest of communities. 

In our parish, and with an interfaith group, we’ve had some discussion about creating a local/regional organization in which more, young and old, could support such service.  We believe we should able to help each other in the funding, researching, recruitment, and mentoring it would take to stimulate a renewed national faith commitment to nonviolent intercultural service, both home and abroad.   My trip can hopefully help seed this project.

Its only by such personal steps across cultural boundaries, and the grace of God, that we’ll all learn to beat back the blight of racism, and the many other –isms of division, and plant in their place—understanding.

Michael McCarthy PA-C

Faith Perspective on War and Peace
2714 Stone St., Port Huron, MI  48060
810 982 2870


Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, December 8, 2014


 O Mary Conceived Without Sin, Pray for Us Who Have Recourse to Thee

Saint Juan Diego with the Tilma de La Virgen de Guadalupe

Today is a church celebration of Mary, mother of Jesus, born without sin.  Then Friday we remember she appeared to the poor Juan Diego five hundred years ago on a hill near Mexico City, as a sign of her love for indigenous peoples everywhere.   The quiet courageous mother of our savior gives us hope for the end of injustice everywhere.   Awaiting the birth of her baby Jesus she says, “God has done great things for me….His mercy is from age to age on those who fear him. … He has deposed the mighty from their thrones and raised the lowly to high places.” {Lk 1:46-55, the Magnificat}

Here is a prayer card written by Fr. E.C. McCarthy invoking the nonviolent merciful love of Mary, La Virgen de Guadalupe, and her son Jesus, God incarnate.   My wife and I said it often with our children at bedtime when they were growing up.


Monday, December 1, 2014


This is the title of one of the sections of a little read encyclical from the U.S. Bishops in 1979, “Brothers and Sisters To Us.”  As the controversy continues over the killing of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, with a militarized police force and National Guard deployed against protesters, confusion taking the place of unbiased investigation, the only thing certain is that white society has a long long way to go before accepting black folk as true brothers and sisters.

 The chasm between the races – Ferguson MO example this summer

Around the turn of the last century, “a black person was killed in public every four days for often the most mundane of infractions, or rather accusation of infractions – for taking a hog, making boastful remarks, for stealing 75 cents. For the most banal of missteps, the penalty could be an hours-long spectacle of torture and lynching. No trial, no jury, no judge, no appeal. Now, well into a new century, as a family in Ferguson, Missouri, buries yet another American teenager killed at the hands of authorities, the rate of police killings of black Americans is nearly the same as the rate of lynchings in the early decades of the 20th century.
About twice a week, or every three or four days, an African American has been killed by a white police officer in the seven years ending in 2012, according to studies of the latest data compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

This from our Pax Christi St. Louis statement says it well.

n light of the recent Grand Jury decision, we are disappointed and saddened because of the lack of clear accountability for the taking of a young man’s life.  We thoughtfully and prayerfully call for actions to end systemic racism and structural oppression, locally and nationally. The casual disregard for the lives of the poor, especially young black men, is a moral scandal.”  May we know the truth of this incident, and so many like it, and may it set us all free from these bonds.  May each and every American find new ways to examine our consciences, and banish the sin of racism from our nation’s soul.

Catholic Worker logo {in the early days} - by Rita Corbin

Some review of what’s known.
"Was Michael Brown surrendering or advancing to attack Officer Darren Wilson?" – Washington Post
Michael Brown's Legacy Continues to Evolve - ABC News
Sadly page 3 of the U.S. Bishops update states that evidence shows an increase of racist attitudes among Catholics in the 25 years since their encyclical “Brothers and Sisters To Us.” From 1979 to 2004.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney
Catholic Worker logo today

Monday, November 24, 2014


We’ve just been through our latest elections in early November 2014.  Money in politics has never been more powerful.   Whether Republican or Democrat, you have to manage mega-millions to play the game.  Pay to play democracy.  One dollar one vote.  The individual voter is left with a wing and a prayer, overwhelmed by political financiers and their election calculations.

And the U.S. government is only a subsidiary of a greater international money club.  “The 85 Richest People In The World Have As Much Wealth As The 3.5 Billion Poorest”—as much as half the world’s population.  This small cluster of power brokers could virtually buy out and own half the people on the planet.  A reversed Thanksgiving with the biggest turkeys in charge.  This week’s gospel is Mt 25 31-45, the Last Judgment.  Goats, especially those on mountain pinnacle, remote from those below, beware.
Goat & Sheep by Philipp Peter Root

Pray that the rich and powerful will have a Gospel conversion experience, and a visit from Marley’s ghost this Christmas.
May they come to kneel before the Prince of Peace, the Savior born in a stable.
Paraphrasing JFK who died of an assassin’s bullet 51 years ago Nov. 22--ask not what your money can do for you, but what your great wealth requires you to do.   [This applies to most of us in the USA, some with much more than others.]

Illumination by Kathy Brahney


Revisiting last week’s issue of our repetitive mistakes in Iraq, and other countries, attempting to enlist the various factions there to fight for our benefit, I offer this from 2003 ---   ?“..occupy a country by force of arms, and then train the people there, to occupy themselves.” [ letter to the Times Herald 11-7-03]

Monday, November 17, 2014


Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983

Once again we work in vain to re-tool the Iraqi army.  As reported in the Nov. 13, 2014 New York Times:
Despite receiving more than $25 billion in American training and equipment over the past 10 years, the Iraqi military buckled, and thousands of troops fled, in the face of the Islamic State’s rapid advance across Iraq this summer. Only half the remaining units are considered fit to fight, according to American officials.
But even as Iraqi and American officials are racing to expand the security forces and turn their losses around, they are having to struggle with a widespread perception of the Iraqi Army as a hopelessly corrupt and incompetent institution.”

wenty five billion dollars busted, to train Iraqi’s to fight themselves.  [And Congress has just voted to spend countless dollars more under a “destroy the Islamic State” formula, to get them and hopefully Syrians also, trained somehow more effectively to fight themselves.]  This business of training proxy armies has been bankrupt from the start.   It’s at least the fourth time we’ve tried this in Iraq.  Iraq-Iran war [giving them “technical assistance”], Gulf War [provoking Kurd fighters on our behalf], Iraq War [supporting the “Awakening” militias, among other schemes].  It should have been three strikes and we’re out.   This strategy that didn’t work in Vietnam either.  Nor did it prevent the fall of the Roman and British empires.

We don’t want to live in your country except behind great big Green Zone walls, sending out drone diplomats to negotiate your life & death issues.  We won’t fight for you in person face to face.  But if you kindly enforce security upon yourselves, we’ll gladly extract the resources we need from your country.  You fight for our right to supersede your nation’s rights, don’t bother to fully focus on peaceful resolution of your own local conflicts.  Imported guns bombs and bullets will do the trick.

This is madness—policy doomed from its beginning.  Who in any other country of the world still believes us?   What waste of money and blood on foreign soil.  It can only benefit a military industrial power elite that detaches morality from financial interests.

So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'

f our country wishes to win hearts and minds in areas of conflict, we must put ourselves in their place, live in their neighborhoods, speak their language, respect their ways as we try to engage them in a respect for ours.    We have to risk encounter without resorting to overwhelming force, weapons spreading mass deception, suffering and distrust.   This is a tall order, ever more difficult to achieve as we continue the sad trajectory launched by our War on Terror.

We must show the world we are willing to spend more on peacemaking than warfare.  Make national service a requirement for every American, but have a Peace Corps and similar efforts, as big as and well equipped for the task, as our armed forces. 

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney 


Monday, November 10, 2014


Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 2014  --  THE WAR TO END ALL WAR, DID NOT
We still believe more weapons and soldiers there will be helpful?

From Fr Emmanuel Charles McCarthy  --
 “November 11 was a legal holiday commemorating the return to peace on November 11 at 11 a.m. when the armistice that ended Word War I took effect on that day at that time in 1918. It was declared a legal holiday with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; etc.
An armistice is an agreement made by opposing sides in a war to stop fighting. It is derived from the Latin armistitium, which is composed of arma, 'arms' and stitium, 'stoppage.'”

Haven’t we had enough fallen heroes—and vastly greater numbers of fallen enemies, plus innocents caught in crossfire?   The courage of those who fought and died is known and often commemorated.
It’s time to take the lives of those who lived or died in war, but would not kill, seriously into deep consideration.  Was it fear, revulsion, their faith, the Gospel, that motivated their refusal to fight?  Is it more heroic to kill for country, or follow one’s conscience, to respect all life even the enemy’s, even under imminent threat of one’s own death, risk to friend and family?  What would Jesus do?  And those who don’t know Jesus, and those of little or no faith?

What does it mean to refuse, or desert, the hell of war?  Some, as in the case of Detroiter Eddie Slovik in WWII Europe, have done so, knowing full well that they would die executed reluctantly by their fellow soldiers for doing so.

These are horrible questions to answer for human nature, especially when violence has reached fever pitch, wars breaking out persistently in every corner of the globe.  It’s beyond human capacity to follow Jesus in this path of unconditional nonviolent mercy, but calling on God’s grace, it’s what we’re all asked to do.

There are many whose courage—as committed peacemakers, perhaps even those “deserters,” in past wars and current circumstances—should be brought to mind.

From WWI  -
Ben Salmon, principled Catholic father, 19 years old, who refused induction, died a few years later from complications of prison abuse.
Journalistic accounts of recent, and previous resistance to war by members of the Peace Churches, traditionally Quaker, Anabaptist, Mennonite, and Church of the Brethern, among others.

From WWII --
Margarette Sommer – Catholic social worker in Germany who risked her life, saving many Jews.
Fr. Alfred Delp – Priest and writer who organized against the Nazi regime, hanged by the Gestapo in 1945.
Fr. Maximillian Kolbe –Priest and saint who took the place in Auschwitz of a man to be executed because someone had tried to escape.
Fr. Max Joseph Metzger  Priest and prolific journalist who wrote against the Nazi regime, and was beheaded by the Gestapo in 1944.
Blessed Franz Jagerstatter – Austrian Catholic farmer and father, beheaded in Berlin for refusing to be part of Hitler’s army.
Eddie Slovik – petty thief and Catholic, drafted into WWII, who determined he could not fight—executed by firing squad.
Otto Schimek – Austrian 19 year old executed in Poland for refusing Wermacht orders.  [I’m researching to write articles on him now]

More recently --
Dorothy Day – On refusal to participate in nuclear attack civil Defense drills in N.Y. 1957.  {at link skip down to the paragraph just before the title “Why We Do It.”}
Mother Theresa – Risks crossing Beruit’s Green Line in the midst of war to rescue Muslim children.
Paul Chappell – West Point grad, military family, deployed to Iraq—now works to create a nonviolent peace force as well trained as the military.
Kimberly Rivera – Mother of Four, Sentenced to Military Prison for Emigrating to Canada, Refusing to Serve in Iraq.
Camilo Mejia – Wanted service in Iraq to advance his opportunities in the U.S., found that killing changes you, went AWOL, imprisoned.
Joshua Casteel – West Point grad, evangelical Christian, interrogator at Abu Graibe in Iraq, realized war violates the Gospel, became C.O.

These lists are a small sampling of an ever increasing number—those helping move the world away from war, towards the Gospel way of peacemaking.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

11-11-14 Feast Day of another veteran, St. Martin of Tours,   316? – 397 AD
Veteran of Roman army who became a conscientious objector, and bishop.
“A conscientious objector who wanted to be a monk; a monk who was maneuvered into being a bishop; a bishop who fought paganism as well as pleaded for mercy to heretics—such was Martin of Tours, one of the most popular of saints and one of the first not to be a martyr.

Born of pagan parents in what is now Hungary and raised in Italy, this son of a veteran was forced at the age of 15 to serve in the army. He became a Christian catechumen and was baptized at 18. It was said that he lived more like a monk than a soldier. At 23, he refused a war bonus and told his commander: "I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight." After great difficulties, he was discharged and went to be a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers.”

References – in order

Monday, November 3, 2014


Tomorrow we vote, deep questions of our moral dollar compass unsolved.

When asked whether to pay the coin of tribute, Jesus says render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s [Gospel read at a mass on 10-19-14].   Knowing Jesus’s intimate triune God relationship, present and begotten within God since the creation, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, all-powerful, all loving, what is He saying we owe Caesar?  What, if we serve God, is left over?  To what other master and system do we owe allegiance? The dilemma for followers of Christ is the sense of being unfair to our neighbors if we don’t fully pay taxes to our government—leave them holding the bag for community services.   Yet so little federal money is spent for these good purposes, and so much badly spent on war, that payment national income tax has become a case of cooperation with evil.

The United States, as its leaders have become ever richer, has become ever more obsessed with its security.   There is waste in every aspect of our government, but the Dept. of Homeland Security now added to the Dept. of Defense together waste an absurd amount of money—so much money that they can’t even keep track of it.

The truth is our kingdom is not of this world, and no government represents Jesus, because they, against His teaching, will kill to maintain dominion.  The primary issue is not what is fair to government coffers, but what is fair, what is faithful to our God.   But Christians now give much more to the state, and its military than they do to any church, or charitable, or social justice cause.
When asked about even the temple tax, Jesus said, “Go fish,” and if one finds a coin in the mouth of the catch, give to the temple.   Neither temple nor country take the place of rendering first to the need we see in good conscience, to make God’s love more present in the world of our neighbors.  Witness the stories of the Good Samaritan, and the Widow’s mite.

Money serves God when it heeds the advice of the Last Judgment, and helps the “least of the brethren,” and when it furthers the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, even to concrete expression of love of the enemy.

There is need for good stewardship [story of the Good Steward], and responsible use [parable of the Talents], but this has the powerful counterweight of warning against hoarding [the rich man’s Barns] and always trusting in God first for basic needs [lilies of the fields].

U.S.  Christians live in a nation awash in too much money, grasped by too few hands.   Wall Street financial interests are the ever more predominant comptrollers of our political system.   Our government has become impossibly rich, favoring the rich.   The deck is stacked against the unborn, and the world’s poor, to guarantee the house of commerce’s lifestyle.   We kill the child in the womb, and the child in the enemy village, to protect Caesar’s palace.

So as we approach the season of Advent and the birth of the Prince of Peace, with Caesar’s feast day of April 15th not far off, I begin to examine my conscience and pocketbook once again.  What should we render, and to whom? 
                                                                                                           Peace Tax prayer vigil at St. Clair Co. Court House  7-4-13, for                                                                                                                          more info - NWTRCC


Monday, October 27, 2014


It seems that Ebola virus has come suddenly out of the dark of Africa to terrorize the world.  There are many factors in disease, but the darkness of war, how it bludgeons a people until they are more vulnerable to an epidemic, is certainly a powerful one.   Sierra Leone, with its contiguous countries Liberia and Guinea, was plagued by terrible war, contributing to its being prominent in the current lethal Ebola outbreak.

The body of a man thought to have died of Ebola on a Monrovia, Liberia, street on Monday--Photo by Daniel Berehulak, NYT
The CIA Factbook states that the civil war there displaced 2 million people, a third of the population, and killed tens of thousands.  The Department of State’s Country Study adds, “Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war destroyed infrastructure and truncated political, social, and economic development. … Sierra Leone continues to grapple with entrenched corruption, poor health conditions, weak governmental institutions, high unemployment, slow economic growth, abject poverty, and inadequate social services.”  This was their summation in January of this year—the Ebola virus resurgence began in March 2014.   Though not directly causing the epidemic, West African wars made this region ripe for disease contagion.

Many of us remember the movie Blood Diamond.  That was Sierra Leone, with diamonds and dollars the profits from civil war, child soldiers, ritual amputations.  Charles Taylor dictator of Liberia, now finally sentenced to life in prison for war crimes which spilled over the whole region, was one of the area’s death dealers.  Many other outside interests made off with their loot unscathed.  Charles Taylor’s guns were not made in Liberia.

President and warlord, Charles Taylor, involved in civil war in Liberia {and adjacent countries} 1980 - 2003

I began to investigate the relationship between disease and war because of a graph published on the high tech review magazine, "Wired’s", website.  It shows war casualties making a minimal .05% contribution to “causes of untimely death” worldwide.    My oldest daughter Maura who cofounded a state-of-the-art startup company, Bluhomes, pointed this out to me.   Perhaps healthcare [heart disease and stroke are the graph’s major negative factors], which has been my profession, can make better impact than peacemaking-disarmament, which I’ve made my vocation.  So this will be a focus of further study.

Stepping back from this model, it should be apparent at the outset that war’s casualties go well beyond those directly damaged by bullets bomb or machetes.   From war's acute effects arise also the chronic conditions of disability, polluted water supplies, inadequate food and shelter, all the stressors of poverty—PTSD {post-traumatic stress disease} being one of many.  All contribute to a disease and injury favorable environment.  Every block in the graph is adversely affected.   It's interesting going to the model creators' site to examine all their info images country by country.
here is very little written on this, but I found a book reviewed on the physicians’ website, Medscape, which addresses war and infectious disease—“War Epidemics” [see below].   It’s a textbook on that aspect of the subject, giving much information on the 1918 influenza epidemic which had WWI as an incubator, but pre-dates the current Ebola virus, and doesn’t look at all the other ways, besides microbes, in which war can be an early death multiplier.

I hope that we as a people will not minimize {as Wired’s article does} the ongoing and potential grave effects of war on our society and the world.   We have been brought at least once in my lifetime to the brink of nuclear war, which could possibly end human life on earth.   Short of extinction, war’s poverty breeds disease {and social dysfunction}, whether TB, HIV, malaria, Ebola—even, it could be assumed, increased risk of heart attack and stroke.  More of these connections need to be examined.

Even preparations for war promote disease and injury risk factors.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” --    1953 “Cross of Iron” speech by President Dwight D. Eisenhower—last president a career military man.
“The armaments race is to be condemned unreservedly. It is an act of aggression which amounts to a crime, for even when they are not used, by their cost alone, armaments kill the poor by causing them to starve.” --Vatican statement to the U.N., 1976
Preparations for peace, instead, are the effective social justice preventative medicine.  Working and praying for God’s healing, saving mercy.

War Epidemics: An Historical Geography of Infectious Diseases in Military Conflict and Civil Strife, 1850-2000
“The National Academies' matrix of conditions contributing to disease emergence mentions over 2-dozen contributing factors, with "war" being one. War Epidemics goes much further in explaining exactly how war rapidly produces ecologic change, population displacement, and environmental disruption, fostering new, unnatural nidalities for rapid diffusion of these diseases.”
“The authors make comparisons between historical morbidity and mortality trends in peace time vs war. They follow with discussions of massive civilian dislocations.”

Illumination by Kathy Brahney