Sunday, May 23, 2010

Annunciation, Pentecost and Pax Christi

The main doors of Annunciation in Cleveland's West Park has two signs affixed, a prominent no death penalty one, and a small one reading: Our way of life is peace and non-violence. All weapons are forbidden on these holy grounds. In between the sentences there is a dove. One has to wonder if the signs will be there at the end of the month, and if they are, will Lennon's security abide with the latter's prohibition?

The second parish to close in Cleveland [the first ws the old cathedral] was its only French parish, Annunciation (Église de l'Annonciation de Cleveland), in 1916. Some of its patrimony came to St. Emeric's. Its activity ended just before the US entered the first world war. A second Annunciation parish began after the second world war, in 1946, in the newish section of West Park, which was thoroughly modern, and 'up to date' for the american working class. At the end of this month, that Annunciation will be no more, it will merge into Ascension parish. Saint Patrick, West Park, is also to be forcibly merged with Ascension which also dates from 1946. St. Patrick strongly, and sometimes rambunctiously, wishes to continue; it began a century earlier amongst, then, farmland.Annunciation is now a smaller parish, in a declining neighborhood. The post war boom times ended with the onset of the rustbelt years of the 1970s, and the continuing economic concentration that has fractured this country, and has sapped its vitality.

Annunciation has its own parochial culture. It is a peace church, a rarity for a catholic church in the US of A. Jesus called us all to be a peace church.The second Annunciation has read the leaves, it raised its finger in the wind, and realised it had no chance in this climate. For some years now, the parish had not a resident priest, nor a pastor. Such parishes are not acceptable to Lennon, the destroyer of parishes. Even these 'mild' and peaceful people are upset with their fate.
On about a score of Pentecosts [this will be the last] the parish has invited people to make a public vow, verbal or written, or a private vow for peace using the Pax Christi vow of non-violence. Written ones are kept in a bowl in front of the shrine of non-violence, which remembers three Cleveland martyrs; two of whom, Jean Donovan and Sr. Dorothy Kazel were depravedly tortured by their murderers amongst the El Salvadoran soldiery; and the third martyr, is Ralph Delaney, who was murdered in Cleveland while serving the poor. This parish tradition was started by their last pastor, Fr. Russ Banner. He also founded the Cleveland-West chapter of Pax Christi.

Pax Christi was formed in France at the end of the second world war to reconcile with the germans. Jesus's Sermon on the Mount is the core of its philosophy. It has since expanded to over 60 countries, and is recognised by the United Nations.

Pax Christi has the full cohort of pro-life agendas. They are against abortions, but they do not stop at that line. And because of their unflinching additional pro-life beliefs, they lose potential followers. For Christ's message of peace, and life, goes far beyond the rejection of abortion. They believe in peace, in a country that believes in war. This does not make them popular. As a group, they are against the death penalty, for the mercy Jesus offers he also requests from us towards others. Other peace and justice initiatives they also work for, of course not all initiatives are pressed with the same momentary intensity. Resources, including members, are too few, and people have only so much stamina. But still some good is done.

Amongst other peacenik and christian service activities, the parish has a peace liturgy, or programme, for New Year's Eve, at a pre-Guy Lombardo hour, that has been carried out in these years. In the last few years, luminaria in the form of small votive candles in plastic milk jugs have given a candle light witness, while people show signs to the drivers on W. 130th encouraging peace, and an end to the wars, especially those begun by gwbushjr.

The last gathering of Pax Christi at Annunciation was Saturday, the 15th of May. They reminisced, and they took their last 'action', which was to attach their names to Buffalo, New York's Franz Jägerstätter People for Breaking the Silence group's Ash Wednesday's letter, to the catholic bishops, to encourage nuclear disarmament and peace. Pax Christi is an international peace group, it is primarily a catholic organisation, although members can come from any tradition. The local chapter has members and friends whom are not catholic. The next gathering will be at the old Ascension parish.


RECOGNIZING THE VIOLENCE IN MY OWN HEART, yet trusting in the goodness and mercy of God, I vow for one year to practice the nonviolence of Jesus who taught us in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God...You have learned how it was said, "You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy"; but I say to you, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven."

Before God the Creator and the Sanctifying Spirit, I vow to carry out in my life the love and example of Jesus

  • by striving for peace within myself and seeking to be a peacemaker in my daily life;
  • by accepting suffering rather than inflicting it;
  • by refusing to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence;
  • by persevering in nonviolence of tongue and heart;
  • by living conscientiously and simply so that I do not deprive others of the means to live;
  • by actively resisting evil and working nonviolently to abolish war and the causes of war from my own heart and from the face of the earth.
God, I trust in Your sustaining love and believe that just as You gave me the grace and desire to offer this, so You will also bestow abundant grace to fulfill it._____________________________________

To the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
Your Excellencies,
Does loving one another “as I have loved you” mean assembling and maintaining thousands of nuclear weapons with the capacity of incinerating millions and millions of people while spending billions and billions on “development and upgrades” as the world has done in the past decade? American Catholics helped produce the “Fat Man” that killed thousands of their fellow Catholics in Nagasaki. Could we possibly do that again to other baptized Catholics, loving one another as he has loved us?
We are a stiff-necked generation! Our generation refuses to heed your 1983 exhortation from “The Challenge of Peace, God’s Promise and Our Response”: "Deterrence is not an adequate strategy as a long-term basis for peace; it is a transitional strategy justifiable only in conjunction with resolute determination to pursue arms control and disarmament." That was nearly 30 years ago and the U.S. still spent some $52.4 billion in 2008 according to the LA Times, $145 million per day, to maintain its nuclear arsenal.
Nor has our generation heeded your 1993 call, from “The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace”, for a comprehensive test-ban treaty, effective action to halt nuclear proliferation and greater progress toward nuclear disarmament.”
You reminded this generation, “Part of the legacy of The Challenge of Peace is the call to strengthen peacemaking as an essential dimension of our faith, reminding us that Jesus called us to be peacemakers.” And you have told us, “Nonviolent strategies need greater attention in international affairs.”
Nevertheless, since your warning in 1983, we have further blurred the distinction between nuclear and conventional weaponry with “bunker busters”, depleted uranium, “dirty nuclear devices”, “low yield nuclear devices”, and the like. And proliferation now extends to as many as 9-10 countries with others working toward that end. The US has continued nuclear weapons threats which have been well documented. The oft-repeated “All options are on the table”, means just that.
Archbishop Edwin O’Brien was direct in his speech to the Strategic Air Command in July 2009, “Nuclear war-fighting is rejected in Church teaching because it cannot ensure noncombatant immunity and the likely destruction and lingering radiation would violate the principle of proportionality. Even the limited use of so-called ‘mini-nukes’ would likely lower the barrier to future uses and could lead to indiscriminate and disproportionate harm. And there is the danger of escalation to nuclear exchanges of cataclysmic proportions.”
All this - in contrast to the nonviolent teaching of Jesus, “Lay down your weapon” - and his very life example. And all this - in contrast to Blessed Franz Jagerstatter who sacrificed his very life as a martyr rather than participate in a sinful unjust war, which you have declared nuclear war to be.
How many millions are to die by a single error of human judgment? In the name of Jesus, could we do other than loudly declare the assembly and maintenance of nuclear weapons anything but SIN? Congressional voting for nuclear budgets, taxpayer cooperation without protest, military people accepting assignments to keep nuclear weapons on alert…should we not proclaim this all SIN?
Some of you have recently condemned these weapons, e.g., Cardinal George in July 2009; and Bishop Matthiesen in his book, Wise and Otherwise, said about contamination, “Now the pits that are the cores of the thousand of nuclear bombs we assembled during the Cold War are turning on us.” Yet we stand at A New Moment for Nuclear Disarmament. President Obama in his Prague speech gave us hope for a new future, a new road toward the nuclear disarmament you have called for, especially when he said that “moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon”.
Pope Benedict in his World Peace Day Message 2010, encouraged “the efforts of the international community to ensure progressive disarmament and a world free of nuclear weapons, whose presence alone threatens the life of the planet and the ongoing integral development of the present generation and of generations yet to come.”
Following your prophetic pastoral statements in 1983 and 1993, with the same determination and skill you are employing in your health care reform advocacy and your call for Immigration Reform, bringing your moral leadership to the process, we call upon you to: a) engage all Catholics to refuse to participate in any way in maintaining nuclear weapon systems; and b) in a new demand that the scourge of nuclear weapons be removed from the face of this shrinking planet. c) We further ask you to provide an education program for all Catholics, both young people and adults, on the nonviolent teachings and life example of Christ himself - helping Catholics to understand the immorality of these weapons, and all weapons of mass destruction; and helping them to join your call for eliminating this curse; and d) encourage active engagement with the actions now planned that are consistent with your prophetic calls, e.g., the “Spring 2010 Walk for a Nuclear-free World”, or your own creative non-violent action.
We pray for God’s grace and blessing on your leadership
Franz Jagerstatter People for Breaking the Silence

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