Re the Albert Rossi article
I was surprised that In Communion published "Purity of Heart: an essential for peacemaking" in the winter issue. Why a story that essentially trashes the anti-war movement? Because Rossi saw things he didn't like, he condemns those filled with anger. I admit I have it too when I read how many people are being killed everyday in Iraq and people here just go along with it. But how can you discredit a whole movement that helped the US military pull out of a disastrous war in Vietnam that killed a million Vietnamese people? Who was really violent at these protests the protesters or the police and government?
When I protested on March 20 last year, the first day of war in Iraq, we all marched peacefully in the streets and then the police provoked people and arrested hundreds of people doing nothing, just showing their support for the people being terrorized by the US government. One of the most deplorable things are these religions supporting a pre-emptive aggressive war based on lies, which states we can attack a country and its people that has done nothing to us just because we deem them bad and our "leaders" think they might do something in the future. You and I know this is utterly ridiculous and hideous it changes everything and furthers our race to the destruction of everything on this earth.
As I said in my article, "I am convinced that killing another human in any form is totally unacceptable. This includes abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty and war." Since we agree on the end, I should think that we could allow healthy differences on the means to the end.
For me, it's okay for someone to fully support anti-war demonstrations and it's also OK to be allergic to anti-war demonstrations as a means of achieving peace.
I think the Vietnam War ended within a matrix of reasons. The Lord softened the hearts of killers for His own reasons. The sustained prayers of untold hosts of good-willed people for a long time, coupled with intense pressure from high ranking prelates and politicians, coupled with economic pressures, coupled with anti-war demonstrations all combined to finally stop the atrocity of the Vietnam War.
Part of the horrific fallout of the war was a deeply divided country. At that time, I was a high school guidance counselor at a school with a large teaching staff. Half the teachers wore American flags on their lapels and half the teachers wore a peace symbol on their lapels. I dutifully wore a peace symbol. Half the teachers hardly talked to the other half of the teachers. The scene deteriorated to the point that some teachers brought guard dogs to extra-curricular events. I just think there must be a third way out of this polarization. Authentic peace-making means overcoming violence and division in all forms.
One of the horrific fallouts of the war was the treatment of returning veterans. Vietnam veterans suffered greatly. I was at anti-war rallies where anyone in army fatigues was booed. The battle lines were drawn. I am not sure that finding fault for the cause of the brutality to veterans is helpful. I just think that anything that contributes to the unstated violence and division of a situation needs some examination. At that time, the anti-war demonstrations contributed to the polarization of the country. I participated in good conscience. All I am saying is that, since that time, I have a changing attitude towards the overall impact of anti-war demonstrations.
My hope would be that we who are truly for peace can talk with each other and learn from each other through respectful interchange. I hope and pray that we can keep talking with each other and fighting fiercely for world peace, beginning with more ardent prayer.
A request was posted to the OPF List for names of peacemaker saints. Here are excerpts from some of the responses:
Two saints who clearly put peace into action are St. Nicholas and St. Basil, who both anonymously gave money to the poor. In St. Nicholas' case, it saved three girls from being sold into slavery/prostitution (depending on which version you're reading).
Another more recent saint in this vein is St. John Maximovich, who would always give his shoes away to those who didn't own any, rendering him shoe-less most of the time. When his parishioners complained about this, his bishop told him he must wear shoes. So, he wore them tied around his neck!
The Grand Duchess Elizabeth went to the man in prison who had assassinated her husband. She conveyed her husband's forgiveness as well as her own. She gave this man an icon and prayed for his repentance. She also gave her life to the poor perhaps the greatest peacemaking of all.
St. Dionysios of Zakynthos (+ 17 December 1624) was renowned as a conciliator and peacemaker. One of the most remarkable events of his life involved his forgiveness and protection of the man who had murdered the saint's brother.
Another more recent example of peaceful forbearance in the face of hostility, even within the Church, is St. Nektarios of Pentapolis (+ 9 November 1920). He never spoke ill of his self-declared enemies, but forgave them, and patiently bore all their persecution of him.
St. Raphael of Brooklyn worked tirelessly during his life for the reconciliation of adversaries and the restoration to ecclesial communion of those who had left the Church. Even now, he is invoked as a model and intercessor for those who would strive for full ecclesial unity among the orthodox in North America, divided into denominations since 1922.
More recently, there's Mother Maria of Paris. One of the best collections of materials about her can be found at: incommunion.org.
Saint Martin: My favorite peacemaker is Saint Martin the Merciful, Bishop of Tours. While still in the army he saw a beggar shivering in the winter cold and responded by cutting his cloak in two, giving half to the beggar. That night, Christ appeared to Martin wearing Martin's cloak. He heard the Savior say to the angels surrounding Him, "Martin is only a catechumen, but he has clothed me with this garment." He was baptized soon after this and eventually was allowed to leave the army. He went on to become one of the great missionary bishops. See: oca.org.
Boris and Gleb: Among the saints of Kiev are the brothers Boris and Gleb, sons of St. Vladimir, who refused to fight their brother Sviatopolk in a power struggle after their father's death. Knowing there was no hope of winning in battle, the two young brothers refused to fight in order to save the lives of their faithful followers who were certain to be punished if they did fight. As "sufferers of non-resistance," Saints Boris and Gleb were the first to be canonized by the Russian Church in 1020. They were glorified as those who laid down their lives that others might live.
St. Magnus of Orkney is a Viking who, instead of joining in attacks on people in today's Scotland, chose to remain on board the ship singing psalms, behavior that did not please the King, who regarded him a coward. Magnus escaped from the King's ship one night and swam to the shore of Scotland. After his father's death he inherited half of the Orkney earldom, while the other half went to his cousin Hakon, who eventually ordered Magus' execution. Magus said to the main who had been ordered to killed him, "Be not afraid, for you do this against your will and he who forces you sins more than you do." For more on his life, see: www.orkneyjar.com/history/stmagnus.
The Prophet Daniel was a peacemaker in that when confronted with danger, he did not respond with violence. Rather he prayed to and worshiped God.
The intercessions of many saints averted or quickly ended hostilities. St. Genevieve of Paris was instrumental in protecting Paris from Atilla the Hun and helped to end a siege by another army.
I wonder if there is such a thing as a saint who is not a peacemaker, in some way. Isn't it true that anything that helps to spread the truth of the faith also promotes peace?
St. Daniel, Prince of Moscow, helped unify Russia and also founded Moscow's oldest monastery. Historical data and church tradition indicate that the benevolent and meek St. Daniel (1261-1303), the younger son of Alexander Nevsky, sought to avoid settling fratricidal conflicts by force. St. Daniel turned Moscow, which was a small town, into one of the growing Russian state's main centers.
St. Telemachus, a monk, ended gladiatorial contests. All forms of gladiatorial contests were in theory prohibited by Constantine in 326 because of their brutality, but they did not, in fact, come to an end until 404, when Telemachus, rushed into the arena to separate two gladiators. The spectators were furious and stoned the monk to death, but the Emperor Honorius declared him a martyr and finally put an end to the games. (See: www.stthomasirondequoit.com/SaintsAlive/ id621.htm ).
Although he lived 1500 years ago, he still sets us a good Christian example. His story reminds us that violence is not from God but from Satan. The peace that is so necessary for the functioning of society is not only shattered by the violent; violence can create a hell on earth for those who ask only a chance to live ordinary lives. Look at Bosnia, for example.
Christ, embodiment of the unplanned
Over breakfast this morning Nancy and I were talking about how the Christian life has a great deal to do with responding to the unexpected and the undesired. Nancy made the remark, "Christ himself is the embodiment of the unplanned." This stopped me in my tracks. Yes! Practically nothing about Jesus fits into any plan.
In a related conversation, yesterday Nancy asked me what did I think is the most important thing in the house. I thought first of our icons, then of our library. Her own answer was the front door. Another flash of illuminating lightning. Yes, the front door! It's the place where whoever knocks is made welcome. It is also a symbol of all life's interruptions and of one's capacity to see the other as icon. (All icons are doors.)
OPF parish presentation
We were asked by our rector to report on our experience of the OPF conference at St. Tikhon's monastery last summer. The presentation went well. About 30 people attended. We received many complements.
I opened the talk by reading the list of countries that are currently at war while our rector ended the presentation with the Daily Prayer for Peace taken from the OPF's web site. We had copies for everyone in attendance.
The people at my parish are politically very conservative and so I was pleased that we were so well received. However, we did not discuss any controversial issues. Carolyn and I made it clear from the beginning that we were going to give information and tell folks where to go to get more information about OPF and not talk about the controversy of the Iraq Appeal since we believe that OPF is more than the one issue.
I did have a man come up to me after the presentation and chastise me for discussing the issue of Mother Raphaela's experience in Israel-Palestine. He said that I was selective in the story I chose to tell and that I didn't talk about Palestinian terrorists. I tried to tell him that I was presenting information about the OPF conference and Mother Raphaela's experience that she told us about. I told him that nothing justified the suicide bombers but he didn't seem to hear me.
Minnesota OPF launched
The first meeting of our Minnesota chapter of OPF was a great success. We had about 22 people attend and this on a snowy evening when some people may have chosen not to drive. Although it was held at my church, St Mary's Greek Orthodox Church, we had a good pan-Orthodox presence.
Jim Forest spoke on Mother Maria of Paris. Not only was she a person who lived hospitality and mercy, she was a theologian in her own right. We have chosen her as the patron of our new chapter.
We had presentations on new service and ministry opportunities in affordable housing, prison ministry and domestic abuse. I also spoke briefly on my desire that our chapter begin working towards opening a house of hospitality in the Twin Cities area. This will be our long term goal. Some of us are planning a trip to Winona Minnesota to visit two Catholic Worker houses there.
At the end of the meeting I asked for donations so that we can start sending out a newsletter. We received over $200. Several people approached me and offered to do specific tasks, such as mailing lists. We will be meeting monthly, and one of our first topics will be ways that we can support the work of the larger OPF and perhaps do some of what Greg mentioned in taking the burden off of Jim.
I am perplexed why some priests seem to think that they have to do so much themselves. It seems to me that the issue of the ministry of the laity is crucial in our time. And it isn't as if the Scriptures are void of support for lay ministry. St. Paul says, "And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ..." (Eph 4:11-12)
Everyone in the church should have a job to do, from the youngest child to the oldest adult to the extent they are capable. In following the lesson from the parable of the talents, those who show diligence in the discharge of their duties should be entrusted with greater responsibilities.
Roles in the Church have evolved over the course of centuries. Granted, there hasn't been much change during the last several centuries, but given the fact that there was before might indicate that there is no hard and fast theological reason why all sacraments must be carried out by the ministers to whom they are presently assigned. This might lead some to believe that the office of deacon could be allowed to revert back to an earlier form, in which case some might see a need for the restoration of the female deaconate. (The Coptic Church of Egypt has already done this. They have celibate female deacons who wear a distinctive robe and carry out social work.)
I have been a priest for nearly 30 years and during that time I have come to feel that the main source of clergy stress is the fact that people expect one priest to handle a congregation of hundreds, sometimes more.
I tend to see it in this way, based on my own experience: Imagine a barber shop that has one chair and one barber. Yet there are 40 people waiting for haircuts, and none of them want to wait too long. They all want to be in and out in an hour. The barber would be under remarkable stress trying to give 40 haircuts in an hour in fact, he would be under tremendous stress trying to give 40 haircuts in six hours. Yet he does not want to put in a few more chairs and engage a few "associate" barbers. Ultimately, he either gives lousy haircuts, zipping them off quickly in the ridiculous attempt to actually give 40 haircuts in an hour, or he loses most of his customers. Any sane person would suggest that more barbers and chairs are essential.
Translated into church terms: We often saddle one priest with 400 parishioners, each of whom need a certain amount of time. And then we wonder why clergy burn out.
In many parishes, when the budget is figured out, the "leftovers" go for salaries. But salaries should be a priority. We build million dollar churches and million dollar halls and then expect one priest to minister to hundreds of souls. It simply cannot be done.