(A note from John Dear: For your end of summer reading, I offer here excerpts from my autobiography, A Persistent Peace, published last week from Loyola Press. We'll begin with part of the introduction. Have a peaceful August!)
On the Road to Peace
This week, to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Aug.6, 1945, hundreds of us converged on Los Alamos, New Mexico, birthplace of the bomb, and did what some may think strange. Taking a page from the book of Jonah, we sat in sackcloth and ashes and repented of the mortal sin of war and nuclear weapons. Along Trinity Drive we sat in silence, our hearts begging the God of peace for the gift of nuclear disarmament.
St. Ignatius Loyola looms large in the life of every Jesuit. For most of us, he is daunting, awesome, even a bit frightening. He was a strict taskmaster who wept consoling tears every day over the life of Jesus and our call to serve. This week, as we celebrate his feast July 31, my thoughts turn once again to this remarkable human being, and ask for his intercession for the Society of Jesus, the church, and the world.
Imagine this - a rigged national election. The popular candidate garnered more votes and precincts but still did not win. Now imagine the population refusing to sit back, to throw up their collective hands, to give in to apathy. Such is the story of the "Orange Revolution," the 2004 presidential election in the Ukraine, a tale with lessons for us.
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the late archbishop of Chicago, was right. The best way to pursue the narrow path and uphold the length, breadth, height and depth of God's love is through a consistent ethic of life, which does not pick and choose between issues but faithfully adheres to all the issues, and says no to every form of violence -- war, racism, sexism, poverty, starvation, the death penalty, abortion, nuclear weapons, global warming and every injustice. Such an ethic renounces every type of killing. And in doing so, it promotes life everywhere and welcomes God's reign of nonviolence in our midst.
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last week to speak at the National Convention of Unitarian Universalists, I met my old friend Bruce Friedrich. We spent eight memorable months together in a tiny jail cell, along with Philip Berrigan, for our 1993 Plowshares disarmament action. A former Catholic Worker, Bruce is now one of the leaders of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He gave a brilliant workshop on the importance of becoming a vegetarian, something I urge everyone to consider.
A few weeks ago, I was in Oaxaca, Mexico, on retreat with Maryknoll Lay Missioners who serve and accompany the poor. One of the most beautiful places in Mexico, Oaxaca has a gorgeous main plaza and never-ending market, but 75 percent of its people, most of them indigenous, suffer grinding poverty, thanks to NAFTA and multi-national corporations.
"This is the best monastic building in the country," Thomas Merton wrote on May 17, 1968, while visiting the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in northern New Mexico. I drove over there last week, near Abiquiu, a hauntingly beautiful corner of the world and tasted for myself the "peace which the world cannot give."
The death penalty will be abolished. It's just a matter of time now." So said Mike Farrell, star of M*A*S*H and a leading opponent of the death penalty, in a recent visit to Santa Fe. Such words a decade ago might have rung hollow. But now they strike a loud chord. New Jersey's abolishing the death penalty this past January fills the air with hope.
Last month in Santa Fe, Pax Christi New Mexico held its first Assembly Day, and just this past weekend in Albuquerque, held its annual retreat. What a healing time we had, these gathered souls. Together, were building a base-community movement for justice and peace. Therein lies the hope in Pax Christis vision.