Monday, July 27, 2015


There is so much injustice in our communities that confronts us daily, and the violence between rich and poor which persistently plagues us throughout the world.   Evil—manifest pride and greed, no matter the disguise.   How can we bear it, how can we conquer it?

A small but infinitely powerful event happens at each and every Sunday and daily mass.  The joy of Holy Communion instantly unites us with Jesus, in the child refugee from war in the Middle East, or from drug gangs in Central America, the child abused by teacher, priest, parent, or coach; all the men and women hated and shunned from justice and job because of race or class; and certainly the members of our own families, those loved--and those disaffected.  As all these through baptism of desire receive Jesus into their souls in mystical eucharist also, we become one in pain, purpose, and present moment, and the hope of mutual salvation.

In this spiritual community beyond human knowledge, all are welcome—no barriers.  One has only to ask for forgiveness, and take part in the forgiving one another.   Justice will grow out of telling the truth, and if we want the real peace promised by God, we will work for justice, as we pray the prayer Jesus taught us.

One person who prayed that often, and to the hour of his death was Blessed Franz Jagerstatter.  Next week we begin a Novena of Prayer with him, who would not fight Hitler’s wars, for the end of all wars.

{For a short history of Franz' life, a family man's refusal to take part in Hitler's unjust wars, it can be read in my July 29, 2011 web article  or  K of C version of this linked here.}

Yearly Novena of Prayer, at our Holy Trinity parish Port Huron, MI in 2008—August 1st to August 9th, the day of his execution in 1943 by Nazi government, because he would not fight in Hitler’s wars.
The prayer below is prayed at all our parish gatherings and liturgies for these nine days.  We pray for respect for all life.   And we pray Jesus to free us from our mandates that support the disastrous violence of war. 

Lord Jesus Christ,               
You filled your servant Franz Jägerstätter
with a deep love for you, his family and
all people.
During a time of contempt for God and
humankind you bestowed on him
unerring discernment and integrity.
In faith, he followed his conscience, and
said a decisive NO to the Nazi regime
and unjust war.
Thus he sacrificed his life.
We pray that you may glorify your
servant Franz, so that many people may
be encouraged by him and grow in love
for you and all people.
May his example shine out in our time,
and may you grant all people the
strength to stand up for justice, peace
and human dignity.
For yours is the glory and honor with
the Father and the Holy Spirit now and
forever. Amen.
     (Prayer from the Diocese of Linz, Austria)

Monday, July 20, 2015


One way to get to know what poverty means in St. Clair County these days, is to sit for a morning in our District Court.   I had to do that recently with a friend facing traffic charges, and it is instructive.  As the 50 or so defendants in the general pews await the appearance of the judge, there is a cordial shuffling in and out, of attorneys and court staff at the frontal {beyond the bar} area.   They sit at tables and make last minute arrangements.

When the judge enters, the cases they handle proceed expeditiously and with decorum.  The 45 or so people left on the docket, those without lawyers, are next in line, given more scrutiny, and though the same petty crimes are being considered for most, there is a more severe disciplinary air in court.   Many have minor drug possession, or suspended license, or violation of previous probation, level charges--and most are unable to pay anything on the fines that are levied.   The judge remonstrates with them for not bringing money to court, and they dissemble, and say that they will bring some when the date set by the judge arrives.

There are a disproportionately large number of people of color in the group that waits—and black or white, by the clothes they wear, and the back-of-the-bus atmosphere surrounding the unrepresented, those without money carry an extra burden well beyond their offenses.

There are so many ways our justice system discriminates against the poor: racial profiling leading to arrest, unnecessary force during arrest, lack of adequate legal representation, severe sentencing guidelines for nonviolent crimes, incarceration awaiting trial because unable to make bail, doing time in jail because of being unable to pay fines, …

nstead of the mock trials that are staged for our local high school students to teach about our justice system, much better to have them, in small unobtrusive groups, attend a morning’s court session.  Our courtrooms are public, and there is no better personal upfront instruction as to the good, and broken, elements of justice in the USA today.

The widening gap between rich and poor in our country puts us in danger of creating a permanent underclass, of the even greater institutionalization of inequality.  Those with money are encouraged to demean those without.  A major television studio now has a reality show that depicts the moral struggle of contestants, as to who needs $100,000 the most.   A leading candidate to be our next president has written a book with a chapter, “The Restoration of Shame,” in which he says, “For many, it is more shameful to work than to take public assistance—that is how backward shame has become!”  Shame for those caught in a cycle of poverty, but no shame for those caught in a cult of riches?

Robert Reich [former U.S. Secretary of Labor] on wealth & poverty in America

We live in the country whose idol is the “self-made man.”   Responsibility and initiative are definitely important.  But it’s your fault if you’re born into poverty?  Yet eminently commendable if you’re born into, or amass great wealth?   In an enlightening page of Bishop Ken Untener’s book [see below] of Lenten reflections this past year, entitled “Poor can be overwhelmed into inaction,” a day-in-the-life of the poor is compared to that of a regular Joe.  And there but for fortune go any one of us.
The benign view of the rich: their trickle-down, will lift all boats {without their need to pay any attention to the personal situation of the poor}.   The Last Judgement vision of Matthew 25 sees it from the completely different perspective of a merciful all-loving God, “…when you did it to the least of the brethren.”  The personal acts of mercy, for the ones we’re inclined to love the least, are the path to heaven.

Interesting videos that touch on the money and poverty questions –
Robert Reich – Inequality for All
Wall St. Journal approach
Ed Asner’s not-so-fractured fairy tale on the subject

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, July 13, 2015


In total military spending, we lead.

“The USA with its massive spending budget, has long been the principal determinant of the current world trend, often accounting for close to half of all the world’s military expenditure. The effects of global financial crisis and the post-Iraq/Afghanistan military operations have seen a decline in its spending, now accounting for 39% of spending in 2012.”

As the world’s foremost exporter of weapons, we lead.
The main importers and exporters of major arms, 2010–14
share (%) 
share (%) 
 1. USA
1. India 
 2. Russia
2. Saudi Arabia
 3. China
3. China
 4. Germany
4. UAE
 5. France
5. Pakistan
 6. UK
6. Australia
 7. Spain
7. Turkey
 8. Italy
8. USA
 9. Ukraine
9. South Korea
 10. Israel
10. Singapore

And will continue to lead.

"U.S. Reforms 'Open Floodgates' on Arms Exports"

The blind lead the blind.

An arms race is a race to nowhere, and a theft from the poor, murders the innocent.
Passing out {the manufacture and distribution of} these worldwide weapons is equivalent to a massive sterilization and birth control campaign.  Populations control in third world countries by supplying them with the means to make their enmities go viral in violent mutual self destructions.  Insidious anti-family planning.  This war economy has no lasting benefit to winners nor losers.  It only increases suffering, and the stain on our collective soul, brings us closer to a bad end.

The Blind Leading the Blind -- by Pieter Bruegel the Elder - 1568

"How a nuclear near-miss in ’95 would be a disaster today"

In the New Mexico desert, at the site of the first test explosion of a nuclear bomb on July 16th 1945, people are praying again through the night, that we will put away this terrible sword.   May we join with them in prayer, on this feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and embrace the way of merciful saving light—brought to us by her son, Jesus.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel--Trinity Atomic Test Vigil, July 16th – art by K. McCarthy

Monday, July 6, 2015


The tro-tro [mini-bus] hub in central Accra, where my bike [for 25 mile return trip] and I began

Later, in a market hub, 8 miles outside of Accra Ghana {June 2010}, doing a mini-bus transfer along with the locals, most all of us in western clothes.

“Does someone have a knife?!”  -- as the transit van pulled away, loaded up with everyone else aboard moving on, the driver yelling “we got to go!”  -- and my bike with stiff woven plastic packing cord stretched out but still securely tying it to the outside back door area [only way they could make it fit].   The driver’s assistant and I had been working franticly for 3 to 4 minutes to untie knots or just tear the bike off to no avail.  Now I was just holding on to it running behind, as the vehicle started away, gathering speed—2 mph, 5 mph.  My trip to the mountain-top Aburi gardens, and my use of my brother’s bike I’d renovated, were nearly both goners.

“Does anyone have a knife??!!”  -- a man of noble bearing, tall in traditional long brown flowing robe and square corned skull cap, deliberate and surely rose from where I’d noticed him sitting stately amidst the swirling crowd. It seemed he’d had special place, under cover of shade trees at the edge of our market road.   With a few quick steps remarkable for his age he is at my side.  Out from the folds of his garment appears a large folding pocket knife {like the French Opinels I’ve used for years I thought in the brief moment it was there for all to see --  the symbol of “le main commande” is etched into the base end of the steel blade near their beautiful wood handles}.
hether or not this knife was the brand, his hand did in that moment command, as he took the binding cords from me, sliced, my bike snapped free, and our eyes met.  The tro-tro puttered now faster away, and I gave a slight bow to him, as I steered the bike out of the road’s traffic, and as he was already turning to sit back on his bench under his tree, to resume his day.  The possible distant relative of former colonizers was back on his way, in this African’s debt, and grateful.  All left unsaid, that was enough.  The griot* had spoken.

* From Collins Dictionary: In Western Africa, a member of a caste responsible for maintaining an oral record of tribal history in the form of music, poetry, and storytelling.   {for all I know, he may have been royalty}

le main couronnée - the crowned hand logo

Trees at Aburi Gardens - photo by MM

In this time of July 4th  Lets strive for Independence from War Tax – 50% of Federal income tax goes to warmaking.
Consider minimizing prepayment of federal income taxes that go to war, by increasing the number of exemptions on your W-4’s, and not paying any immediate tax when you receive 1099 income, such as retirement fund disbursements. Not having paid so much through the year, will leave some tax due, to refuse and redirect to community service, job creation, and peace projects near in the Blue Water area, or farther away—whatever amount conscience inspires on April 15th.

This is a civil disobedience, with the tax payer advising the IRS openly, of their purpose to not pay all the tax due [amount an individual decision]—redirecting to peaceful enterprise.  The IRS will send letters, and there’s some cost to this discipleship, but help is available on the details from the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee.

When we render to our merciful, forgiving, all-powerful God what is God’s, what is really left for Caesar’s wars.
If we pray for and want peace, why pay for war?   Work for justice, invest in the tools of peacemaking.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney