Tag Archives: war

Fasting from war and injustice


Dresden, 1945

See the fast that pleases me:
breaking the fetters of injustice
and unfastening the thongs of the yoke,
setting the oppressed free
and breaking every yoke.
Isaiah 58: 6

Isaiah 58 is one of the most important chapters for taking Lent seriously. It contrasts fasting from externals and the fasting that changes oneself and one’s nation.

On February 12, 1945, US and British air forces began the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, in which more than 22,000 people were killed.

Eileen Egan, a close associate of Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day, worked in Europe after the Second World War for Catholic Church relief work. She saw the results of war first hand.

An ardent advocate of peace she once wrote:

“Instead of feeding the hungry, we destroy the fields that produce the food; instead of clothing the naked, we bomb factories that produce clothing; instead of giving drink to the thirsty, we bomb reservoirs. In war, the enemy is dehumanized and is no longer seen as a child of God. As Christians, we must penetrate the disguise and see Jesus in the enemy. Then, we would not kill and destroy.”

Would that we would pay attention to her words and the words of Isaiah and make of this Lent a time of real conversion – at all levels: personal, community, and world.

Would that we turn from war and violence and injustice and seek the God of mercy and justice.

Today we can also remember a woman who did that, living and working in the Amazon. On February 12, 2005, Sister Dorothy Stang was killed for her defense of peasants and small farmers. See my blog post a year ago.

Sister Dorothy saw the face of Christ in the poor. As she prayed:

I light a candle and look at Jesus on the cross and ask for the strength to carry the suffering of the people. Don’t worry about my safety. The safety of the people is what’s important.

Eileen Egan asked us to see the face of Christ in the enemy.

What better way to spend Lent – contemplating the face of Christ and responding in mercy and solidarity.


A prophet among us

Today is Jesuit Father Dan Berrigan’s 93rd birthday.

Fr. Dan is a poet, a protestor, a prophet, pacifist, a jail bird and fugitive from (in)justice.

I met him several times and found him a humble man, with strong opinions, but a willingness to listen.

DSC01859Once in the late 1970s I attended a retreat he led at Kirkridge. He autographed a copy of his book on the psalms, Uncommon Prayer, with the note “to the happy philosopher – from Dan”.

He was “exiled” in the 1960s by his Jesuit superiors at the request of a bishop and sent to Latin America – not the place to send a budding revolutionary.

He spent time in jail for demonstrations during the Viet Nam as well for his involvement with burning of draft records (the Catonsville 9) and the pounding on nuclear warhead nose cones (the Plowshares 8).

He has written radical “commentaries” on books of the bible which, though informed by scholarship, make the scriptures very relevant to the struggles of our times.

But I never noticed any self-righteousness in his speaking or in his books, even though they are very critical. His book on Lamentations, subtitled From New York to Kabul and Beyond, is devastating in its approach.

Maybe Fr. Dan is not self-righteous because he’s a poet. Or maybe it’s because he’s a prophet who tries to be faithful to God – and risks his life and his reputation in defense of life.

In a collection entitled Testimony: The Word Made Flesh, there’s an essay “The Strange Case of the Man Who Could Not Please Anyone.” It concludes with this paragraph:

The banning of bombs, and the cherishing of the unborn, as of all living beings — this is the urgent moral business of ourselves. All of us, woven into, weaving anew the wondrous web of life. Graced with the burden and glory of the human vocation. We are stewards of life, never hucksters of death.

May we, like Fr. Dan, be stewards and defenders of life – and not hucksters of death of any sort.