[long read] "Mom, Dad, the doctor said I should call you. This is her phone. I'm in a hospital in Guatemala." Four hours later a phone was pressed into my hand. "Chris, oh good, hold on." It was my mother's voice. "Your father is boarding a flight. I just told him we reached you."
Twenty years ago I participated in a delegation to El Salvador. In many ways that's where lessons I had started to get exposure caught up with me in full force. A few years before, the global campaigns for justice first pierced my bubble in Seattle during the successful shut-down, sit-in to stop the World Trade Organization. Only two months before the twin towers created a national mnemonic for my generation, I was trying out broken Spanish and freshman microeconomic theory in a meeting with the Mayor of Nueva Trinidad. The community had formed in Honduran-based refugee encampments during the 1980s and maintained its identity, then ten years since the conflict had begun to end the 1992 peace accords.
Over thirty years ago, a sister-parish relationship began to confront the weight of the world's sin, covertly, as the check-point of young soldiers believed they passed on a worker's truck loaded with unimportant, poorman's stuff, while underneath the covering lay a dedicated parish priest, Fr. Craig Boly, SJ and George Hofbauer, St Joseph parish school principal on their way into Chalatenango, a stronghold of the anti-oligarchic guerrilla fighters among whom practitioners of liberation theology were considered anathema by the Reagan Administration, who deemed the movement a force of Communism.
Forged during the years of civil war the parish of St. Joseph in Seattle, WA had networked Jesuit relations to send peacemaker teams to la parróquia de san Bartolomé de las Casas, in Arcatao, El Salvador. On the Feast of St. Joseph, yesterday, that bond remained as strong, four to a bench, as the decorated church was filled, all wearing masks, enjoying the special occasion for youths' speeches about saints Romero and Joseph, prayer and song, followed by a troupe who danced foklorica.
Last December, Pope Francis issued Patris Corde, which commemorates St. Joseph. The celebration last night coincides with the upcoming 41st anniversary of St. Romero. Among the many prayers, I would like to highlight one which I sent to friends who just had their first child: Liz and An, an Asian-American, multi-racial couple replete with joy and love of music, passion for accompaniment to the needy, by their respective vocations to law and therapy. While the full document of Patris Corde was helpfully summarized last evening, a prayer further boiled down essential qualities of Joseph in its sense of the many moments we might respond as Joseph did.
Maybe it's...Moments of silence--to hear the angels speaking to us.
Or....Moments of discernment--being able to know God's will for us.
Moments that demonstrate justice to each person who touches our lives.
Moments of openness to change--to have humility in recognizing our imperfections.
Or...Moments of courage--to take action in the face of fear.
So, St. Joseph is an example for us, and let us try to follow him; quietly, humbly with obedience and love in our hearts. The prayer thus ends, and while I find it a useful examine, let me turn to my day.
A lay-leader of the rosary group reached out with an almost request--only to then say that as soon as he had posted the supplication for help on facebook he received an answer. A response that an outgoing mother was on her way to mail items.
"This is hell," David Beasley said when he saw the Yemeni children in the hospital who cannot cry. They cannot, because, every ounce of strength must insist on survival. 400,000 close to starving to death of starvation. Will they lift the blockade, the US has the ability to pressure Saudi Arabia, whose blocade has combined, over the seventh year, bludgeon it for control of fisheries, oil reserves in eastern and western, and the strategic port. Meanwhile, reports of Houthis, blocade or no, they have gained control in the north. They have themselves engaged in human rights violations, but nothing to touch what Saudi Arabia. If the weapons arrive to the Houthis regardless of blocade, is the purpose punitive. May increased aid be given, stop all sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia led coalitions, departing from Baltimore, the Merrimack shipyard in Wisconsin, and from Chicago, the Boeing 650 laser-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia, this is wrongful and we can work hard to stop it. --quoting Kathy Kelly at length.
The day included a brief address from Mass. state senator Jamie Eldridge, whose SD. 128 is "An Act establishing Massachusetts Freedom Day" and SD. 129, "An Act relative to the divestment of state pensions from nuclear weapons." He spoke of Ft. Debins, closed in 1996, still army training base in Ft. Devins, tour at height of Obama escalating the Afghanistan war. "Some of my residents were struggling due to the recession, yet to see the new facilities, new training grounds for soldiers going to Iraq and Afghanistan, without any regard for our domestic needs, while our funds continue flowing to these"--Eldridge said. I heard words like war-machine to complete the thought. "If we could cut our military budget," he continued, "investing in transportation, combating poverty investing in education, advocate with our congress men and women and US senators, and divest our state pension from companies that build weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons..." Now this is a practical figure in the mold of Joseph's humility in recognizing our imperfection, and courage to speak out without fear of reprisal.
"Please stop bombing this road, it's the only way out for refugees"
In Kathy Kelly's article, "Blood for Oil" published on the Progressive website, she calls for our contrition. While she wrote in advance of Pope Francis's visit to Iraq, and envisioned his meeting President Joe Biden to Iraq to hear his confession. As fathers today, we are all invited to rent our cloak, take sack-cloth and ashes, decrying our country's militarism.
The ground at the Amiriyah shelter in Baghdad must be the kind of place Sts Joseph and Oscar Romero would bow low to the ground in tears. As Kathy Kelly writes:
"There, on February 13, 1991, two 2,000-lb. U.S. laser guided missiles killed 400 civilians, mostly women and children. Another 200 were severely wounded.
Kathy Kelly visited Iraq throughout the 90s, dozens of times violating sanctions by delivering necessary medicines. Witnessing in 1998 to the atrocities of sanctions-induced starvation, she recalled a peace team participant's reaction: “I think I understand,” said Martin Thomas. “It’s a death row for infants.”
"Milan Rai, now editor of Peace News and then the coordinator of a U.K. campaign to defy the economic sanctions, knelt next to one of the mothers. Rai’s own child was close in age to the toddler the mother cradled. “I’m sorry,” Rai murmured. “I’m so very sorry.”
Quoting at length from Kathy Kelly, who included the above image in her newsletter. To end this evening as a father, grateful to share the planet with soulforce espousing global citizens like Kathy. We men, we fathers, it is in relationship to our greater self-shedding identity that we liken the God of relation, the Trinitarian God who died and suffered. We pray with the saints on this 30th anniversary, or 18th anniversary of Iraq war, teach us O God, to love with courage and humility, that we might offer the future our own creative protection.
Kathy Kelly, 2 March 2021 <https://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/03/02/operation-desert-storm-blood-oil> last accessed 20 March 2021.
Brett Wilkins, <https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/03/19/18th-anniversary-iraq-invasion-activists-renew-calls-us-reparations> accessed 20 March 2021.