Journal of daily reflections on the progress of my home-based agriculture experiments, mixed with observations about life, peace, justice, faith, family, community and friends.
Today at Mass the Gospel reading was the parable about the rich man suffering in hell while the poor beggar is at peace in the bosom of Father Abraham. The priest asks each one of us to tell another person when the moment we first became aware of the fate of people facing poverty and rejection. As I was stories with another person, I suddenly became aware that the awareness of poor and marginalized, if we truly are followers of the Way of Jesus, stays with us always and the more aware we become the more rejection we suffer.
The other day I was reflecting on how I first became aware of “white privilege”. Today I realized that discrepancy of opportunities available to me and to others are still with me but have grown deeper as I have got to know people living in pain, rejection and poverty.
To be at peace with this awareness of rejection, poverty and suffering is difficult. We can put it aside, numb ourselves to these feelings or accept them as part of living a Christian life and find peace in being in solidarity with marginalized, poor and those in pain.
Making peace with rejection, poverty and suffering is not an easy task. But we must believe that picking up this cross will mean life everlasting. Living with Rejection can pay off.
See the full list of articles in the Diary of a Worm.
First they ignore you
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
“Everyone in the world knows that Jesus and His teachings were nonviolent except Christians.” M. Gandhi
A Biography of Dorthy Day by Jim Forest
Letter from Dorthy Day prime directive of Gospel
In general, in the first flush of Lent, the struggle is undertaken bravely. What if during the long weeks the fervor lessens and the work of accumulating graces was continued with many lapses, but by effort of will. That time when will has to be brought into play is perhaps the most important of all, despite failures and the total lack of a sense of accomplishment, of growth. Fervor comes again with Holy Week, joy comes on the day of resurrection, with all nature singing exultantly God’s praises.
To keep united to God through the suffering Humanity of His son—that is the aim of Lent. — Dorothy Day from her column “Day After Day”, The Catholic Worker, April 1935
People Need to be Distrubed.
“When it is said that we disturb people too much by the words pacifism and anarchism, I can only think that people need to be disturbed, that their consciences need to be aroused, that they do indeed need to look into their work, and study new techniques of love and poverty and suffering for each other. Of course the remedies are drastic, but then too the evil is a terrible one and we are all involved, we are all guilty, and most certainly we are all going to suffer. The fact that we have “the faith,” that we go to the sacraments, is not enough. ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ with napalm, nerve gas, our hydrogen bomb, our ‘new look’.” (“Are The Leaders Insane?” By Dorothy Day, The Catholic Worker, April 1954, 1, 6.}
“Paper work, cleaning the house, dealing with the innumerable visitors who come all through the day, answering the phone, keeping patience and acting intelligently, which is to find some meaning in all that happens — these things, too, are the works of peace, and often seem like a very little way.”
— Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage, December 1965
There is no explanation of most of what goes on in our own hearts
“The heart of man can be full of so much pain, even when things are exteriorly all right”. It becomes all the more difficult because today we are used to thinking that there are explanations for everything. But there is no explanation of most of what goes on in our own hearts, and we cannot account for it all. No use resorting to the kind of mental tranquillizers that even religious explanations sometimes offer. Faith must be deeper than that, rooted in the unknown and in the abyss of darkness that is the ground of our being. No use teasing the darkness to try to make answers grow out of it. But if we learn how to have a deep inner patience, things solve themselves, or God solves them if you prefer: but do not expect to see how. Just learn to wait, and do what you can and help other people. Often it is in helping someone else we find the best way to bear our own trouble.” — Thomas Merton from his Christmas letter, 1966
Where we are all going?
…. “I am sick up to the teeth and beyond the teeth, up to the eyes and beyond the eyes, with all forms of projects and expectations and statements and programs and explanations of anything, especially explanations about where we are all going, because where we are all going is where we went a long time ago, over the falls. We are in a new river and we don’t know it.”
(extract from a letter from Thomas Merton to Daniel Berrigan)
Violence embedded in culture itself
“The real focus of American violence is not in esoteric groups but in the very culture itself, its mass media, its extreme individualism and competitiveness, its inflated myths of virility and toughness, and its overwhelming preoccupation with the power of nuclear, chemical, bacteriological, and psychological overkill. If we live in what is essentially a culture of overkill, how can we be surprised at finding violence in it? Can we get to the root of the trouble? In my opinion, the best way to do it would have been the classic way of religious humanism and non-violence exemplified by Gandhi. That way seems now to have been closed. I do not find the future reassuring,” — Thomas Merton edited with an introduction by Gordon C. Zahn (Boston, MA: McCall’s Publishing Company, 1971), p. 230
If you want to study modern history
If you want to study the social and political history of modern nations, study hell.-- Thomas Merton New Seeds of Contemplation, ch 17
worshiping the false self in place of God
“After all, what is your personal identity? It is what you really are, your real self. None of us is what he thinks he is, or what other people think he is, still less what his passport says he is… And it is fortunate for most of us that we are mistaken. We do not generally know what is good for us. That is because, in St. Bernard’s language, our true personality has been concealed under the ‘disguise’ of a false self, the ego, whom we tend to worship in place of God.” —Thomas Merton, The Waters of Siloe
Harcourt & Brace, 1949, p. 349
silence between words
“For language to have meaning, there must be intervals of silence somewhere, to divide word from word and utterance from utterance. He who retires into silence does not necessarily hate language. Perhaps it is love and respect for language which imposes silence upon him. For the mercy of God is not heard in words unless it is heard, both before and after the words are spoken, in silence,”
—Thomas Merton, “Philosophy of Silence,” in Disputed Questions
(NY: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1960), p. 181
Nonviolent Direct Action
“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
America, you must be born again
“A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will “thingify” them—make them things. Therefore they will exploit them, and poor people generally, economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have foreign investments and everything else, and will have to use its military to protect them. All of these problems are tied together. What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, ‘America, you must be born again!’” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”
Poor in the Military
“Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.” Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence
Priority of Conscience
“And it is my conscience that compels me to say publicly that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is agrave injustice against women, against our Church and against our God who calls both men and women to the priesthood.” Fr. Roy Bourgeois in his letter to Maryknoll why he could not recant his belief and public statements that support the ordination of women.
“Over the pope … there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary, even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.” Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI,in his 1968 commentary on the Second Vatican Council’s document, Gaudium et Spes.
Nonviolence or Militarism
Breaking the Silence
Dorthy Day’s Worst Nightmare
This article is by a person with a mental health diagnoses that has been a patient and care giver in the Mental Health System
by Janis K.
In recent years, Milwaukee County has changed the title of its mental health facility from the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex to the Behavioral Health Division (BHD). The facility has been under fire for many years due to its inadequate level of care, and documented assaults and deaths of patients on the premises. Yet it is the only facility available for the indigent; those in trouble with the law; and patients who are a danger to themselves or others yet refusing care. Today in addition, our county jail houses more mentally ill persons than the BHD and all other hospitals combined.
I would like to discuss in this writing the vulnerability of our mental health patients and the importance of radical changes to our system of mental health care today by giving examples of failed approaches in the behavioral model used by County BHD. Behavioral medicine is a byword these days for the treatment of mental health issues. This approach can have benefits with new techniques of cognitive therapies and a focus in some circles on proactive and preventative care. However when behavioral health is interpreted narrowly as simply changing the behavior of an individual, it becomes a misnomer which can lead to grave abuses of the human person. “Treatments” that use reward and punishment may well change the behavior of a patient with mental illness but in no way benefit that individual or society at large. I will give three examples. These are mostly not new methods but two of them are used extensively to this day.
Patients at the Mental Health Complex in the 1980’s for example were issued cigarettes “from the desk” on an hourly basis for “good behavior”. These cigarettes were purchased, not by the patients, but supplied by the facility. I had the experience while being housed there at the age of 20 of a nurse placing a lit cigarette between my fingers though I had never smoked in my life. The temporary ‘gain’ of calmer patients has huge ramifications on their physical, mental and social health. This is a simple example of ‘reward and punishment’ but I think the negative consequences are obvious.
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” (Frederick Douglas)
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” - Albert Einstein
“Since war itself is the most extreme form of terrorism, a war on terrorism is profoundly self-contradictory.” -Howard Zinn
“Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily, to them will We give a life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on them their reward according to the best of their actions.” Quran 16:97
“In the Catholic Worker we must try to have the voluntary poverty of St. Francis, the charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the intellectual approach of St. Dominic, the easy conversations about things that matter of St. Philip Neri, the manual labor of St. Benedict.” - Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement
Jokes and Editorial Cartoons
Restoring the Senses, Gardening and Orthodox Easter