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On the Road to Peace

The collected writings of Franz Jagerstatter

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A few weeks ago, Orbis Books published Franz Jagerstatter: Letters and Writings from Prison, the first complete collection of his writings in English. Through his intimate letters and powerful reflections on faith, church and death, we enter the mind of a contemporary saint and martyr. And we learn a thing or two about growing in sanctity and how we might resist war and practice Christ’s peace.

On August 9, 1943, for refusing to take “the military oath of unconditional obedience to Hitler,” Franz Jagerstatter was beheaded. A year and a half ago, he was beatified during a Mass in Linz, Austria, with his children present along with his dear widow Franziska, now 96.

'My rosary is my only weapon'

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Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, 62, of Haiti -- one of the finest priests I have known and one of the world’s great prophets of peace and justice -- passed away May 27. Sick with cancer already, he suffered a stroke and died in Miami. The death of a saint is always an occasion of sorrow, joy and reflection. For years this saint has been a presence of steadfast hope in that forlorn island of poverty and despair. His death invites us carry on his work of hope, struggle, justice and healing.

To be pro life is to be nonviolent

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Last week, one dedicated Christian killed another during church services in Wichita, Kansas. Both men thought they were doing God’s will. One -- the zealous anti-abortion activist, Scott Roeder, believed in “justifiable homicide” to bring to a halt the activities of the other -- the abortion doctor, George Tiller. I grieve for both of them, for everyone in that scene, for all of us. Both were far from the nonviolent Jesus, but so are we all. This sad event confirms what many of us have been saying for years. We all need to repent of our violence and discover Jesus’ way of nonviolence.

Nobel laureates to come to Los Alamos

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We’ve been at the task earnestly for the last six years. Each August to mark Hiroshima Day, Pax Christi New Mexico and friends gather at Los Alamos, birthplace of the bomb and every succeeding generation of nuclear weapons, to pray, vigil and repent as best we can for the mortal sin of war and nuclear weapons.

In recent years, we have adopted the method of the people of Nineveh and donned the accoutrements of sorrow and regret: sackcloth and ashes. And like the Ninevites, we beg God for the gift of peace, for nuclear disarmament. Save us, O God, from ourselves!

On the death of Fr. Larry Rosebaugh

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He was 74 years old, legendary in the peace movement for his anti-war actions, and for his decades of service to the poor of Latin America. And last week, in Guatamela, during a gangland-style robbery, Fr. Larry Rosebaugh was shot and killed.

His death shocks us into recognizing once again the world’s unacceptable, rampant violence and rank poverty. But his life instructs us on how to serve Christ embodied in the poor and persecuted. Larry lived a most Christ-like life, which calls for gratitude and honor, as well as emulation. His life and death invites us beyond our liberal Catholicism, mainstream Christianity, and all-American normalcy to radical Gospel-based discipleship.

The simple life of Jose Hobday

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With the global economy collapsing, wars still raging, the climate warming and nuclear arsenals threatening -- plus church folk arraying themselves along divisions ever more hostile -- the need to live according to God’s ways seems more urgent than ever. The daily reality of suffering keeps proclaiming that everything must change. It declares that we need God’s gift of peace, that “we must be the change we seek.”

Pete Seeger's persistent hope

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Last week, to celebrate legendary folksinger Pete Seeger's 90th birthday, family, friends and the folk-music world threw a party for him at Madison Square Garden. We sang, we cheered, and we raised money for his Clearwater Foundation, a project to clean up the Hudson River. The music and the musicians were terrific -- Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez, Ani DeFranco, Kris Kristofferson, Roger McGuinn, Ruby Dee, Ritchie Havens, Bruce Cockburn, Arlo Guthrie and Bernice Johnson Reagon.

Dar Williams, one of folk's best singers, and her husband Michael, invited me along. It was thrilling to meet old friends and great musicians and join the festivities. But it was more than a party; it was a celebration of the grass-roots struggle for justice and peace.

"It is better to have struggled and lost, than never to have struggled at all,” Pete once said. His life has been a long nonviolent campaign, using the weapon of music, for civil rights, disarmament and social justice.

We apologize for the Iraq War

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Last week some five hundred of us gathered in Washington, D.C., to repent of the mortal sin of the U.S. war on Iraq. There we expressed our remorse and called for an end to our nation's warmaking. Then we streamed onto the streets to take our plea to President Obama, arriving at his gate as he concluded his TV appearance marking his first 100 days. Some criticize Notre Dame for welcoming the president onto Catholic ground to deliver its commencement address. As for us, we criticize the U.S. government, including the Obama administration, for its ongoing warmaking.

Dom Helder Camara, Presente!

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This week, Orbis books published Dom Helder Camara: Essential Writings, an anthology of the charismatic Brazilian archbishop’s speeches, poems and essays. It’s an essential collection for anyone struggling to live in the church in these times, because this little man with an accent thick as gravy paved the way for liberation theology, base communities and contemporary peacemaking, not only for Brazil and Latin America, but the whole church. His lessons and insights are needed more than ever.

Easter peace means no nukes

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Last week, on Easter Sunday morning, 60 of us gathered for Mass around a makeshift altar in the spectacular Nevada desert, about an hour and half northwest of Las Vegas. There in the natural cathedral of the wide open desert floor and the towering snow-capped mountains surrounding us, we celebrated the resurrection of the nonviolent Jesus.

After the benediction, 21 of us crossed the line and entered the grounds of the Nevada Nuclear Weapons Test Site. We were trying to put the resurrection into practice, to non-cooperate with death, and to welcome the risen Jesus’ gift of peace here and now. It was a beautiful moment. Arrest followed swiftly.

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August 15-28, 2014

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