Sunday, July 15, 2012

Contemplative Dialogue Retreat

Yesterday I finished a week long retreat on Contemplative Dialogue with Jean Holsten, Director of Dialogue Programs from Bread of Life in Sacramento.   Our Congregational Prioress, Sister Gloria Marie Jones, has participated in contemplative dialogue workshops since 2008 and has used it with our  congregational boards, administrators, prioresses and departments at the Motherhouse.  Fifteen of the youngest members of the Congregation participated in the retreat.  In addition to learning the skills for contemplative dialogue we were able to get to know one another on a deeper level.  We plan to continue to meet in the coming years as whole group at least once a year and in small groups of 3-4 to share life, laughter and learnings as we try to apply the contemplative dialogue skills in our daily living.  

I really want to hold the new friendships we are forming as young religious in gentleness and compassion and pray for us to grow in love and understanding of one another for the rest of our lives.  Our living apart makes this a challenge, but all of us are committed to making it happen.  I pray for the graces we will need to happen along the way.  

I came away from the week with a desire to use the ladder of inference tool to assess my own assumptions and how they lead to emotions and actions that are different from others in ministry and community settings.  I want to be more aware of when I am in a caught in a single loop that makes me continue to try to solve problems in the same way with the same result and observe leadership models that are coming from a defended stance or non-defended stance and how those play out.   I want to recognize polarities in myself and use the four quadrant to map out positives and negatives, shared assumptions and outcomes I want to avoid.  I want to read more about Rahner's theology of the human person and use the life frame arenas to consider topics of interest to me from a variety of perspectives. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fast for the Truth of Gospel Nonviolence

Today I am joining the 30th Annual Forty Day Fast for the Truth of Gospel Nonviolence, July 1 to August 9, together with thousands of people around the world who are praying to bring about peace and spread authentic Christlike Nonviolent Love (agape) throughout the world.  Because I believe that peace between Muslims and Christians is essential to bringing about world peace, I am using a modified Ramadan fast.  Ramadan is a forty day fast that begins July 20 and goes to August 18.  Muslims typically refrain from all food and drink including water from sun up to sun down during these days.  They begin their day with a good breakfast before sunrise and join their families and friends for a large meal after sun down. I am beginning my daily fast at sun up with a good breakfast and joining my community for the evening meal when it is served.  I am drinking water throughout the day.  

During these days I am praying for peace especially in the Middle East and between Muslims and Christians everywhere.  I am praying for an end to the war and for healing for all who have suffered mental, physical, emotional or spiritual injury.  I am praying for the Churches to return to the non-violent message of Jesus Christ.  I am praying for all Church leaders to step back from the maelstrom of violent political rhetoric and stop any  oppressive practices that serve no Christian purpose.  The message of Jesus Christ is clearly not about using your power and authority to assert your own will over others.  It is about loving kindness and peaceful resistance.  Fasting and prayer is an ancient practice that Jesus himself employed to bring about peace and overcome evil.  I found a website that gives good advice for engaging in the 40 day fast.  If you want to join us, please take the precautions advised on the Campus Crusade for Christ website to prevent damage to your health.  On behalf of Pax Christi and the Center for Christian Non-Violence, I ask for your prayers and support. If you choose to join us, please know that no effort is too small.  All efforts at bringing about peace through intentional acts of loving kindness, prayer and fasting contribute to the field of compassion from which peace flows.        

Christian Non-Violence and Peace

Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy
I made my annual retreat at the Marie Joseph Spiritual Center in Maine.  The retreat was an interfaith retreat, A Call to the Churches to return to Christian Non-Violence and Peace.  The retreat director Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy is a priest of the Eastern Rite (Byzantine-Melkite).  He was ordained in 1981 in Damascus, Syria. He is the founder and of the Program for the Study and Practice of Nonviolent Conflict Resolution at the University of Notre Dame and a co-founder along with Dorothy Day of Pax Christi-USA. He has spoken throughout the world on the issue of the relationship of faith and violence, and the Nonviolent Jesus and His Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies.  

I chose this retreat because of my belief that the war must end soon and my hope to work with veterans and their families as they readjust to civilian life.  I did not expect to be converted to radical pacificism.  Fr. Charlie's carefully laid out argument convinced me that the so-called "Just War Theory" is a deceitful misinterpretation of the message of Jesus Christ.  The fact that this misinterpretation has been around for 1700 years doesn't make it true.  From Constantine onwards Christian leaders who are move interested in political power than living the way of the non-violent loving kindness of Jesus Christ have employed Just War Theory to rationalize involvement in war.  For 17 centuries Christians have been divided into those who believe in the tenets of a just war and those who are radical pacificists.  In our time both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI declared the war we are presently engaged in unjustified, but the USCCB published a statement saying that Catholic youth could participate in it with a clear conscience.  

In the afternoon sessions we saw the neurological damage done to soldiers and civilians traumatized by war and saw that the recruiters are well aware that the human brain does not achieve full formation until the age of 24.  For this reason young people who experience the trauma of war have brain damage that is difficult to repair because they have no former mature brain formation.  Over the course of the retreat I came to the realization that the biggest challenge of our time is to bring about peace through prayer, fasting, preaching and ministering.  We can overcome evil with loving kindness and courageous resistance to violence in all forms.  Those who are returning from the war need a compassionate and understanding society willing to help them heal their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wounds.  This is the call I am answering through training for clinical pastoral care at John Muir Medical next year.   I didn't expect my retreat to be so perfect a preparation for it, but God provided just what I needed!  I support the Center for Christian Non-Violence and the Veterans for Peace