Benedictines for Peace and Social Justice
In an effort to support those in need in our local community and take one worry off their plates, we have been supplying meals, two times a week, to the homeless population who are currently residing at the Rodeway Inn in St. Joseph, Minn. Thanks to our wonderful food service department at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, meals are carefully and compassionately prepared for distribution.
Jackie Moren, a staff member in the food service department at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, prepares meals for distribution.
The biweekly delivery of meals, along with the prayerful support of the monastic community, are enhancing the quality of local lives in need. In cooperation with St. Cloud Homeless Helping Homeless and the Central Minnesota Catholic Worker, the practical needs of people are being addressed. Pope Francis’ invitation is direct: “You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That’s how prayer works.”
Catholic Social Teaching states that “human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.”
“This small service that our monastery provides for the homeless is just one way to honor the sacredness and dignity of all those who lack the necessities of life,” one of the Benedictines recently reflected.
Listen. Respond. It’s the invitation, the responsibility realized, as we seek to empower each other through the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
A small child stands before us, eyes closed, presuming they are not seen or responsible as long as they are not looking at what and who is before them. The exploratory experience of “close my eyes to what is before me, what I have done” is often received as a child’s cute learning experience, not necessarily needing to be challenged; no harm done as they avoid whatever their responsibility is in having harmed another. The innocent explorations of childhood’s living with closed eyes when challenges or fears arise can become the life of denial if the pattern of dealing with inner conflict continues to be avoided as adulthood responsibilities lack a grounding sense of justice, mercy and moral responsibility.
Are President Trump and Attorney General Barr presuming that the American public will accept their reinstatement of the Federal Death Penalty in the United States with eyes closed to the reality of federally imposed “homicide” as is stated on the death certificates of Daniel Lewis Lee (July 13); Wesley Ira Purkey (July 15); Dustin Lee Honken (July 17); Keith Dwayne Nelson (August 28); William LeCroy (scheduled, September 22); and Christopher Vialva (scheduled, September 24)? If we remain silent, claiming to be unaware of what is happening, we accept responsibility for these deaths.
We are called through baptism to be prayerful people, living mindfully that our awarenesses and actions reflect our beliefs, our commitment to our faith journeys. The call to consciously live, as Christians, as people of faith, with eyes open, aware of humanity’s choices in the midst of living in the presence of the Holy Spirit’s grace can be challenging more often than many of us admit. No matter how broad the conversation, justice and mercy meet at the heart of Christian decisions and actions.
Politics and Catholic faith, although separated within institutional structures, are professed beliefs that offer grounding understanding of personal responsibilities. In 2005, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote, “Ending the death penalty would be one important step away from a culture of death and toward building a culture of life” (A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death). The life of the nation is scarred with each execution in the United States of America. Our political and faith beliefs are challenged, with eyes opened to the consequences of our actions as illustrated in the documentary, “My Life As a Death Row Executioner.”
Justice. Mercy. Moral and ethical responsibilities. Clearly understood concepts, or not. Definitions, even laws within a country cannot be addressed one concept without the other. We are being called to challenge our understanding and experience as it relates specifically to the death penalty in the United States. October 10, 2020, the “18th World Day Against the Death Penalty: Access to counsel—A matter of life or death” will bring issues of national and international action into the light of responsibilities’ voices being heard and addressed.
Time of reflection, conversation, prayer and action are needed. Questioning the actions of organizations and institutions is necessary as responsible adults, living with eyes open to the truth. And so we pray…
Our awareness of the voices crying out in the wilderness lies muffled behind self-created walls of mistrust and individualism that are taking over multiple media sources, streaming into the simplest of conversations, challenging beliefs and professed faiths. Are we listening to ourselves, realizing a contradiction of what we profess we believe and our chosen actions? Prepare the way of the Lord.
The cries of some are obvious, or maybe not. Children confused by their relatives’ judgmental conversations as they talk about families not having money enough to pay rent and weekly food bills; the many people moving into neighborhoods without language and understanding of the cultural demands that are seemingly unwelcomed; and the acceptance of people in authority creating a cycle of judgement are serving only to silence a future of hope and a sense of belonging in the youth of today. How are we realizing the way of the Lord?
Intentionally listening to what we pray, peace embodied in ritual: the “Our Father,” the kiss of peace at the Eucharist, the greeting of guests are rooted in our life experiences. These prayers are invitations of affirming our faith, challenging our actions as we return to listening from within, taking the time to reflect on how we choose to live.
The rootedness of peace in our lives, often nurtured by the mothers and maternal influences, have been taken for granted at many times throughout our history. The Blessed Mother, patroness of the United States, is a foundational source of inspiration and strength for the nation. The Litany of Women for the Church, written by Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, reaffirms the balance of humanity’s presence, both man and woman’s creation into wholeness. In 1995, the National Women’s History Museum was virtually established within an interactive website. The Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act, February 2020, when passed, will bring the museum into Washington, D.C.’s monuments and museums on the National Mall. Women in history are part of the journey of empowering discovery and peace. On November 18, Saint Benedict’s Monastery will be “greeting guests” via their YouTube channel into Haehn Museum’s “140 Years of Benedictine Women in Science: Uncovering and Sharing Secrets of Science.” Sister Moira Wild, director of the museum, notes, “We have focused on teaching the sciences to women in the past, and we continue to encourage, support and educate women in the sciences today.” From mothering influences to scientific discoveries, peaceable presence is possible through an unified effort of humanities’ desires for future generations.
The voices crying out, parents pleading for the safety of their children, healthcare workers and first responders called forth in the world’s pandemic state, and young people challenging the status quo are to be heard, once realized. In our homes and throughout the world community, the cries are an invitation to live consciously. Listening, first from within, then reflecting God’s presence as makers of peace, we are preparing the way of the Lord.
“I am very pleased that the theme chosen by the ecumenical family for the celebration of the 2020 Season of Creation is Jubilee for the Earth, precisely in this year that marks the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day. In the Holy Scriptures, a Jubilee is a sacred time to remember, return, rest, restore, and rejoice,” begins Pope Francis in his annual letter commemorating “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.” So begins the Season of Creation, which concludes on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on the fourth of October.
“In ways never before faced in history, we realize that the planet is unitary, the population interdependent, and the possibility of human destruction is real. Someone must steward the world,” stated the Sisters of Saint Benedict’s Monastery in their 1980 document, “Of All Good Gifts.” The sisters’ timeless response is the invitation, the realization of our call as stewards, “that we use what we are and what we have for the transformation of culture because creation is the Lord’s and we are its keepers; we hold it in trust. We must remember always that the earth is not so much inherited from our parents as borrowed from our children. We owe a debt to the next generation.”
Awareness, education and action, living into the individual and family-influenced decisions impact the present, into the future of a healthy planet. Scientific studies continually track how human activities are threatening the atmosphere, oceans, watercourses, land, ice cover and biosphere, forming the natural environment.
Prayerful reflection and conversation offer conscientious choices as we live into future generations. On October 10 and 17, the Spirituality Center at Saint Benedict’s Monastery will host a virtual presentation called “Laudato Sí,” where will focus on “the biblical and theological background of Laudato Sí with emphasis on why concern for the environment necessarily goes along with advocacy for the most vulnerable people and nations of the earth.”
Humility and patience are seemingly as common as prudence is in the vocabulary of many. Witnessed or referenced in the dictionary to clarify a sense of understanding if lacking in experience, these might actually be good benchmarks for our welcoming renewed concepts and situations into the awareness of ourselves and each other. A defensive sense of self will seldom realize that humility and patience are signs of strength that receives another’s opinions and experiences as valued. Actualizing the motivations of the choices we are making impacts ourselves and each other. Prudent choices can be empowering.
As people of faith, we are reminded that each person, one’s self included, is a member of the human family, depending on the giftedness of each other to live as a community of peace. Are our households, our local communities, a reflection of our commitment to multiple faith traditions? In 1964, Pope Paul VI began the challenge of the laity to, “In their diversity, witness to the wonderful unity of the Body of Christ. This very diversity of graces, ministries and works gathers the children of God into one, because ‘all these things are the work of one and the same Spirit.’” Generations have followed since the publication of Lumen Gentium, Light of the Nations, a living document of the Church. The Pope’s teachings actively reference authority, identity and the mission of the church in tangible ways that can continue to guide humanity today and into the future.
The challenging realization of our attitudes and beliefs in the midst of conversations are being brought to light as time is taken to listen to ourselves, and in turn listen to each other. Often unaware of the depths of our biases, we are now being confronted with racial, social and societal accountability. Humility, patience and choices that include an understanding of compromising empowerment lead communities into the ongoing process of peaceable living.
For four weeks, beginning September 10, Sisters Christian Morris, Mara Faulkner and Eunice Antony will facilitate “That ALL May Breathe: Facing and Changing Racist Systems,” an online book group study hosted by the Spirituality Center•Studium, a ministry of Saint Benedict’s Monastery. The virtual invitation into Layla Saad’s Me and White Supremacy interactive experience offers time to discuss topics including white privilege, anti-blackness, stereotypes and white apathy in a group setting. Joining the group online or pursuing reading on one’s own time, the thoughtful process of living one’s beliefs will be enriched, if not challenged, into awareness’ choices.
“As a nation, we share many blessings and strengths, including a tradition of religious freedom and political participation. However, as a people, we face serious challenges that are both political and moral. This has always been so and as Catholics we are called to participate in public life in a manner consistent with the mission of our Lord, a mission that he has called us to share,” begins the U.S. Bishops’ Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The document’s 92 points are arranged in three sections: The U.S. Bishops’ Reflection on Catholic Teaching and Political Life; Applying Catholic Teaching to Major Issues: A Summary of Policy Positions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Goals for Political Life: Challenges for Citizens, Candidates, and Public Officials.
The document mentioned, available in both English and Spanish, offers foundational understanding and beliefs of the Catholic Church. It can be both a helpful and challenging source of information as we prepare for 2020 elections. References to Church and biblical documents are noted throughout the texts.
On June 3, 2020, Pope Francis stated, “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.” The Pope is challenging Americans to prayerfully reflect on the defense, promotion and protection of the sacredness of life when preparing to vote: “Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born.” Referencing Gaudete et Exsultate, Rejoice and Be Glad, the General Audience, June 2, 2020, and Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, as sources of reference when comparing the platform of both presidential candidates, Pope Francis reminds the faithful that, “A good Catholic meddles in politics.”
Preparation for state and national elections is the responsibility of each citizen, realizing that our politicians need to be representative of us—we are the reality and reflection of our nation when we vote. Local and national discussions “begin at home” for much of the nation. Entering into productive conversations depends on our willingness to educate ourselves and listen to each other throughout the process of preparing for and participating in the election process. Numerous sources of information are available on the internet, within the resources section of our website and throughout civic and faith-based organizations.
One year and three months after Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Rev. King traveled to Norway. “The quest for peace and justice” were the first words uttered by Dr. King as he accepted the Nobel Prize on December 11, 1964. Fifty-six years later ,his voice continues to challenge us, “Seeking justice, exposing poverty, and confronting our poverty of spirit.”
Catholic Social Teachings
Drawn from this rich scriptural tradition, Catholic theology has always promoted an ethic that is rooted in natural law and God’s revelation. As Catholic social teaching on migration developed, five fundamental principles have emerged to help guide the thinking of Catholics on migration:
I. Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland.
All persons have the right to find in their own countries the economic, political and social opportunities to live in dignity and achieve a full life through the use of their God-given gifts. In this context, work that provides a just, living wage is a basic human need.
II. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.
The Church recognizes that all the goods of the earth belong to all people. When persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right.
When war, natural disaster, famine or crushing poverty causes mass migration, the lands that receive these displaced people may feel threatened, with the citizens of the host nation fearing that newcomers will take scarce jobs, land and resources. As the Gospels make clear, it is God’s will that the abundance of the earth be shared in love by all of His people, reflecting on this spiritual imperative.
III. Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders.
The Church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their territories but rejects such control when it is exerted merely for acquiring additional wealth. More powerful economic nations, which can protect and feed their residents, have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows.
IV. Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection.
Those who flee wars and persecution should be protected by the global community. This requires, at a minimum, that migrants have a right to claim refugee status without incarceration and to have their claims fully considered by a competent authority.
V. The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.
Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity that should be respected. Often, they are subject to punitive laws and harsh treatment from enforcement officers from both receiving and transit countries. Government policies that respect the basic human rights of the undocumented are necessary.
“Listen carefully and attend with the ear of your heart.” Loosely quoted, Saint Benedict invites, challenges, maybe even demands the faithful to become listeners. To realize we are called to listen, and to hear, there is a difference—first from within. One of the many ways to enter into the journey is to read and reflect. Then the conversation begins.
America, The Jesuit Review
Catholic Charities USA
Catholic News Agency
Central Minnesota Adult Basic Education
Federation of Saint Benedict
Georgetown University, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs
Global Sisters Report
Joint Religious Legislation Coalition
Jubilee, USA Network
Justice for Immigrants
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
League of Women Voters of Minnesota
Minnesota Catholic Conference, Human Trafficking
Minnesota Elections and Voting
Moms Demand Action
National Catholic Reporter
National Human Trafficking Hotline, Minnesota
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Pax Christi International
The United Nations Refugee Agency/USA
United We Dream
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
U.S. Government – Voting and Elections
World Peace International