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