Category Archives: violence

Love Your Enemies

Remembering today the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a plane in 2001, recalling the US sponsored coup in Chile in 1973, and noting the massacre at the church of Saint Jean Bosco in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1988, today’s Gospel (Luke 6: 27-38) is one that most of us don’t want to hear.

love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you….
love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back;
then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High,
for he himself is kind
to the ungrateful and the wicked….
Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.
…the measure with which you
measure will in return be measured out to you.

These words of Thomas Merton, in his essay “The Root of War Is Fear,” found in New Seeds of Contemplation and first published in The Catholic Worker in October 1961, give us a hint of why this Gospel is so challenging:

At the root of all war is fear, not so much the fear men have of one another as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another: they do not even trust themselves. If they are not sure when someone else may turn around and kill them, they are still less sure when they may turn around and kill themselves. They cannot trust anything, because they have ceased to believe in God.

It is not only our hatred of others that is dangerous but also and above all our hatred of ourselves: particularly that hatred of ourselves which is too deep and too powerful to be consciously faced. For it is this which makes us see our own evil in others and unable to see it in ourselves.

When we see crime in others, we try to correct it by destroying them or at least putting them out of sight. It is easy to identify the sin with the sinner when he is someone other than our own self. …

So instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and love God above  all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed — but hate these things in yourself, not in another.

And so today it would be good to ask ourselves if we are willing to let ourselves be converted, from fear to love, from self-righteousness to mercy, from revenge to self-giving nonviolence.

What the world expects of Christians

One hundred years ago today, November 7, 1913, Albert Camus was born in Algeria.

A philosopher, novelist, journalist, and member of the Resistance against the Nazis and their French collaborators, this atheist has become for me and for many Christians a voice that challenges me to live the Gospel in a world full of evil. He saw the world as absurd and the only honest response is revolt – but not an unthinking revolt that is only interested in a cause. It must be a revolt to affirm the human person.

In 1946, in an article, “Neither Victims Nor Executioners,” Camus identified the twentieth century as “the century of fear.” I think we can identify our twenty-first century also as a century of intense fear.

For him, fear “implies and rejects the same fact: a world where murder is legitimate and where human life is considered trifling.…” And so,

Before anything can be done, two questions must be put: “Do you or do you not, directly or indirectly, want to be killed or assaulted? Do you or do you not, directly or indirectly want to kill and assault?” All who say No to both questions are automatically committed to a series of consequences which must modify their way of posing the problem.

His novel The Plague, set in Algeria, but written in France during the Second World War, portrays an Algerian city suffering a mysterious plague. where people faced these question. Camus explores how people respond to the plague. The plague is probably a symbol of the violence that plagues humanity, but it seems reasonable to suggest that Nazism was the foremost plague that Camus had in mind. He wrote much of the novel in the French Huguenot town of Le Chambon-sur–Lignon, which rescued Jews, under the leadership of Pastor André Trocmé.

In 1948, after the war, he was asked to speak at a Dominican monastery in France. That talk, published as “The Unbeliever and Christians.”

He called for dialogue but he also challenged us:

What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest [person]. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today.

Those words have challenged me for many years, most clearly in the past in relation to war, to speak up for the victims of war and injustice, to be on their side. But Camus is realistic.

He told his Christian audience,

… I, and a few others, know what must be done, if not to reduce evil, at least not to add to it. Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children. And if you don’t help us, who else in the world can help us to do this?

But the challenge remains. As he concluded his remarks to the Dominicans:

…if Christians made up their minds to it, millions of voices — millions, I say — throughout the world would be added to the appeal of a handful of isolated individuals who, without any sort of affiliation, today intercede almost everywhere and ceaselessly for children and for [human beings].

Will we take up the challenge of Camus, the, prophet? Will we take up the challenge he gives us to speak up against violence and all that degrades human life?

Will we pledge, like he did, that “I will never he one of those, whoever they may be, who compromise with murder, and ….I take the consequences of such a decision”?


No to violence! Yes to peace!

It is good to remember what happened on September 11 throughout history, not only what happened in 2001. Here’s a list of events that happened o September 11.

2001: Attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and another airplane

2001: Father Michal Judge, OFM, Franciscan friar, New York Fire Department chaplain, killed at the World Trade Center while ministering to the victims.

1999: Father Karl Albrecht, S.J., German Jesuit missionary, killed in East Timor, by Indonesian forces.

1993:  Antoine Izmery, Haitian businessman and friend of the poor, is assassinated, by paramilitaries and policemen, outside a church in Haiti.

1990: Myrna Mack, Guatemalan anthropologist and human rights advocate, is assassinated in Guatemala City.

1988: Saint Jean Bosco Church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is was attacked and burnt by armed men, probably the Tonton Macoutes paramilitaries. Between 13 and 50 were killed and 80 wounded. This was the parish church of Jean-Bertrand Aristide who later became Haiti’s president and was overthrown twice by coups.

1981: Sebastiana Mendoza, indigenous catechist, promoter of Caritas in El Quiche, was abducted from the Guatemala City cathedral.

1973: US-supported coup against elected Chilean president Salvador Allende resulted in deaths, abductions, and years of terror and repression.

1919: US marines invade Honduras.

1649: Cromwell’s forces kill 3000 at Drogheda, Ireland

1609: Expulsion order announced against the Moriscos of Valencia, beginning of the expulsion of all Spain’s Moriscos. The Moriscos were Muslims who converted to Christianity in the early 1500 but were expelled between 1609 and 1614.

So much death and injustice cries out to God for justice, peace, and life.

There is, though, one note of hope:

On September 11, 1906, Mohandas Karamchad Gandhi coined the term “Satyagraha” – “The Force of Truth” – to characterize the non-violent resistance movement in South Africa.

The Jesuit Pope Francis’ Examen on violence

I don’t know what I expected from Pope Francis but his homily at the Peace Vigil in St. Peter’s Square is full of surprises, though it is also very traditional

He starts his homily with a short reflection on the goodness of creation. His first words, from Genesis 1, were “And God saw that it was good.”

…this, our world, in the heart and mind of God, is the “house of harmony and peace”, and that it is the space in which everyone is able to find their proper place and feel “at home”, because it is “good”.

Is this the place to start at a homily at a vigil for peace? Not with a strident critique, but a call to vision, a call to return to the beginnings, to the vision of a world of peace.

As I reflect on the homily, I think this reveals the deep Ignatian identity of Pope Francis and, I believe, reflects Examen promoted by St. Ignatius of Loyola. (A good summary is in James Martin’s The Jesuit Guide to [Almost] Everything.)

The first step of the Examen is to ask for God’s grace. In gratitude, we recall the good things that God has done for us during the day.

Pope Francis, after recalling this “house of harmony and peace,” asks:

Is this really the world that I desire? Is this really the world that we all carry in our hearts? Is the world that we want really a world of harmony and peace, in ourselves, in our relations with others, in families, in cities, in and between nations? And does not true freedom mean choosing ways in this world that lead to the good of all and are guided by love?

Only after this does the pope asks us to question whether this is the world we experience:

Is this the world in which we are living? Creation retains its beauty which fills us with awe and it remains a good work. But there is also “violence, division, disagreement, war.”

The second step in the Examen is to ask for the grace to know one’s sins.

Using the Genesis account of Cain and Abel, the pope asks:

We too are asked this question, it would be good for us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother’s keeper? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! To be human means to care for one another!

He then goes on to identify the sin of war and violence and their causes, perhaps reflecting the third step of the Examen: reviewing one’s day.

Even today, we let ourselves be guided by idols, by selfishness, by our own interests, and this attitude persists. We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death!

Pope Francis’s third point is centered on conversion:

“Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace?”

The fourth step of the Examen is to ask God’s forgiveness for one’s sinfulness. The fifth is to resolve to change.

In the midst of this final section, Pope Francis makes a plea to put the Cross at the center of our meditation:

My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken. This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace!

This very much reflects the importance of the Crucified Lord for St. Ignatius.

In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius urges the person making the exercises to look upon the crucified Lord and reflect on three questions: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I do for Christ?

Recalling the remarks of Ignacio Ellacuría, the martyred rector of the Jesuit university in El Salvador, Father Jon Sobrino wrote:

Concluding his meditation on sin, Ignatius Loyola asks us to look at the crucified Christ and ask ourselves what have we done for him, what are we doing for him, and what are we going to do for him. Ignacio Ellacuría, also crucified, asks us to place ourselves before the crucified people and answer the same three questions: What have I done to crucify them? What am I doing to take them down from their cross? What should I do to ensure their resurrection?

Pope Francis is, I believe, also asking us to look upon the crucified, but not merely as a victim of the violence of the world. He is calling on us to look upon the Crucified Lord as providing a way out of the spiral of violence.

Though he does not use these words, I think Pope Francis is asking us to follow the nonviolent crucified Lord.

How very Christian, how very Jesuit, how very Francis – and how very human.


Dreams, nightmares, and a call to conversion

Fifty years ago, in 1963, thousands gathered in Washington, DC, calling for justice for African-Americans.

I remember watching it on a black and white television at home in Darby, a blue collar suburb of Philadelphia.

Martin Luther King’s speech inspired many of us with his dream of a country that lived out its belief that “all men [and women] are created equal.”

His speech laid out the biblical roots of this dream as well as the cost of trying to live this dream.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places made plain, and the crooked places be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

But Martin Luther King also saw the nightmare that has always been a possibility for the United States and other nations.

In ”Beyond Vietnam,” a speech a year before his death, he warned of what the US had become in the world.  He pleaded for an end to the Vietnam War:

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

And he identified the roots of this madness, this malady, this sin in the giant triplets of “racism, materialism, and militarism.”

But, like a good prophet he offered a way out:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Today as the US remembers Dr. King’s vision, the US government is considering the use of military violence in Syria and continues to support with arms and training repressive regimes.

King’s dream has been robbed of his prophetic power – the power to give us something to live for as well as the power of knowing what we must turn from if we want to live this dream.

And so we who are citizens of the US should take into account what Jesus says in today’s Gospel (Matthew 23: 29-31):

 Woe to you teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous. You say: “Had we lived in the time of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” Thus you yourselves confess to be descendants of those who murdered the prophets.

All who are burdened

Come to me,
all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11: 28

The last few days I have felt burdened. Last Saturday I gave a ride to the Santa Rosa hospital to a women who had been hacked with a machete by her husband. I found out yesterday that he had tried to harm her the day before. She has been transferred to a hospital in San Pedro Sula and that her lower arm and hand had been amputated.

I wish I could have helped more.

But I also feel burdened by the many types of violence that people experience here. This woman experienced domestic violence, which is not uncommon. Many people have not been raised with the skills of dealing with conflict and are all too easily frustrated. There is also the violence of revenge that is related to the lack of a justice system that responds to crimes. There is also the violence of poverty that leaves people without medical care, without a good educational system, with unemployment –  a violence that can be traced to massive inequality here and throughout the world and to structures of injustice.

Violence – all too much violence.

And so I bring this to Jesus – and seek to take upon myself His yoke of love, of compassion, of solidarity with the poor.

I also remember today the death of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas in 1566. He was a sixteenth century Dominican who became a defender of the native peoples in the Americas.

He once wrote in a tract to the Spanish authorities:

All of us, therefore, great and small, educated, uneducated, ruler and ruled, public or private individual, all of us are bound unconditionally to help the oppressed, to help those suffering under violence, injury, any evil, with whatever power we have, official or personal. We are bound to free them, both by the law of nature and the law of charity.

We are bound, yoked to the poor of this world.

At times this feels like a heavy burden. But then I need to place this concern, and the people who suffer, in the arms of Jesus.

I do not leave them there but remember that I am called to be the arms of Jesus to those I meet.

As St. Teresa of Avila wrote:

Christ has no body on earth but yours;
no hands on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks out
with compassion on the world.
Yours are the feet with which he chooses
to go about doing good.
For as He is the Head of the Body,
so you are the members;
and we are all one in Christ.