Benedictines for Peace and Social Justice
St. Cloud area faith communities, organized through the efforts of “The Greater St. Cloud Faith Leaders,” are calling communities, faith and neighbors to unite.
“We pray that, no matter what the results of the election are, our community members will work to build a community of kindness, civility, hope and peace. If there ever were a moment for us to summon the courage to do so, regardless of where we stand in this unprecedented, divisive and sometimes toxic election season, it is now.
We ask you, members of our faith communities and our neighbors, to please demonstrate the values of your faith tradition and these ideals of unity and peace in the way you conduct yourself, including your political conversations, both now and as we move beyond November 3. May all people of faith be an influence of peace in this divided and polarized climate, serving as role models of civility and respect as we talk to neighbors, strangers and fellow faith community members alike.
In the midst of strong opinions and the actions that sometimes accompany them at this politically-charged time, the Greater St. Cloud Faith Leaders group urges peace, respect and civility.”
The fingering of beads, repetitive prayers, the realization of unity in the midst of diversity becomes an awareness of oneness that invites us to walk through each day as peaceful people. Our religious faith traditions vary; from generation to generation, our families, our communities invite us to pray with and for one another.
The earliest use of prayer beads can be traced to Hinduism, where they are called Japa Mala. Japa is the repeating of the name of a deity or a mantra. Mantras are often repeated hundreds or even thousands of times. A Japa Mala or Mala (Sanskrit: mālā) meaning garland is a set of beads commonly used by Hindus and Buddhists, usually made from 108 beads, though any number divisible by 9 is acceptable. It is used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra or name(s) of a particular deity, a practice known in Sanskrit as Japa. Japa Mala are used for repetition of a mantra, for other forms of sadhana (spiritual exercise) and as meditation.
In Islamic cultures, the word “Tesbih” means prayer beads or rosary and originates from the word “Supha” which means to recite the glories of God (Allah). Tesbih with 99 beads symbolize the 99 names of God in Islam. Sometimes only 33 beads are used; in this case, Tesbih would be cycled 3 times to reach 99. The main phrase repeated through the first 33 beads is “Subhanallah” which means “Praise be to God.” For the next 30 three beads, “Glory be to God,” or “Elhümdülillah” and for the final 33 beads, “Allahu Akber” which means “God is most great” is repeated. After these repetitions, a final prayer is said, bringing the total number of prayers, as dictated by the Koran, to 100. Besides 99 beads, tesbih also consists of: the “nisane,” a disc which separates each 33 beads, the “pul,” a small bead that marks the seventh position, the “imame,” which is a long piece marking the beginning of the string, and the “tepelik” at the top of the imame.
Eastern Christians use loops of knotted wool (or occasionally of beads), called chotki or komboschinia to pray the Jesus Prayer. Although among the Orthodox, their use is mainly restricted to monks and bishops, being less common among laity or secular clergy. Among Russian Old Believers, a prayer rope made of leather, called lestovka, is more common, although this type is no longer commonly used now by the Russian Orthodox Church. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The rosary is conferred upon the Greek Orthodox monk as a part of his investiture with the mandyas or full monastic habit, as the second step in the monastic life, and is called his ‘spiritual sword.’”
Roman Catholics and some Anglicans use the Rosary as prayer beads. The Rosary (its name comes from the Latin “rosarium,” meaning “rose garden”) is an important and traditional devotion of the Roman Catholic Church. The Rosary is a Scripture-based prayer. It begins with the Apostles’ Creed, which summarizes the great mysteries of the Catholic faith. The Our Father, which introduces each mystery, is from the Gospels. The first part of the Hail Mary is the angel’s words announcing Christ’s birth and Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary. The Mysteries of the Rosary center on the events of Christ’s life. There are four sets of Mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and—added by Pope John Paul II in 2002—the Luminous. The repetition in the Rosary is meant to lead one into restful and contemplative prayer related to each Mystery. The gentle repetition of the words helps us to enter into the silence of our hearts, where Christ’s spirit dwells.
Our awareness of the voices crying out in the wilderness are brought home as we listen to family members, acquaintances, and coworkers struggle to grow beyond mistrust an individualism that took over multiple media sources, streaming into the simplest of conversations, challenging beliefs and professed faiths over these past several months. Are we listening to ourselves, realizing a contradiction of what we profess we believe and our chosen actions that have possibly become habits out of frustration rather than daily choices? Prepare the way of the Risen 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, some working to create a cycle of judgement are serving only to silence a future of hope and a sense of belonging in the youth of today. Peaceable presence is the invitation, the challenge as we move forward into the hopes of our common future. How are we realizing the way of the Lord as we choose how we are involving ourselves in a peaceable future?
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. Throughout the month of April, the Benedictine Sisters’ Spirituality Center•Studium is hosting “Bread for the Journey: Prayer as Nourishment for the Soul.” Prayer, the centering source of direction and understanding leads us as individuals and communally into the way of peaceable presence. The sisters facilitating the four sessions will be referencing Twelve Keys to Prayer by Jerome Kodell, OSB, during the group presentation/discussion. The book itself offers guidance for families and individuals seeking to nurture their faith into practice.
The rootedness of peace in our lives, often nurtured by the mothers and maternal influences, have been presumed present 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. The multiple sources of knowledge and experience that are being reflected through the influences of women are highlighted throughout the National Women’s History Museum, a living testimony of women’s continual influence within societies and family structures.
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, seeking the dawn of “normality’s return,” and young people challenging the status quo are to be heard, once realized, and then, listening into action begins anew. 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 Risen 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 began the Season of Creation, which concludes on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on the fourth of October each year.
“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. The Spirituality Center•Studium at Saint Benedict’s Monastery has hosted “virtual presentations” that have invited participants into the ongoing reflections of Pope Francis’ encyclicals “Laudato Sí’, focusing on its biblical and theological background with emphasis on why concern for the environment necessarily goes along with advocacy for the most vulnerable people and nations of the earth” and “Fratelli Tutti, exploring the creation of a culture of peace and justice through dialogue.” Both documents are relevant for continuing reflection into discussions of affirming challenge as stewards of all of creation.
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.
The Spirituality Center•Studium, a ministry of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, along with individual sisters extend virtual invitations to read during these “pandemic months” that can continue into suggested themes of reflection into conversation and ongoing involvement. Layla Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” can become an interactive experience, offering time to discuss topics including white privilege, anti-blackness, stereotypes and white apathy in a group setting or read as an individual experience of information and awareness. Sister Bernadette Weber recently shared insights after reading Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman, reflecting on our common sharing of a sense of mutual worth and value. The thoughtful process of realizing and living one’s beliefs will be enriched, if not challenged, into awareness’ choices as reading into discussion evolves.
The Spirit of God rests upon me. A profoundly simple, humbling thought that we share in common with the prophet Isaiah, with each other. St. Benedict directs us, “Listen carefully, my son [daughter], to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart,” as we embrace the Spirit’s rooted presence in our lives.
In our own ways, we profoundly welcome, or choose to resist, the Holy Spirit’s direction throughout each day. The diversity of a mother’s embrace in the midst of a frustrated teenager’s grappling with changing relationships; a couple’s struggle to pay bills as they look towards their present and future needs; protests for justice’s sake on streets throughout the world; and the invitation of a mentor’s challenge to follow a dream all nurture the invitation to grapple with the presence of the Holy Spirit on our journeys as a community of faithful people.
Frustration, passion, an endless stream of emotions can and often are the determining direction to be part of positive change, the energizing challenge to consciously respond. It calls us beyond a self-centered direction, leading us into harmonious action. Be it within a family structure, faith community, or civil society, our beliefs and involvement reflect the essence of ourselves; an inner stillness discovered and nurtured.
Dorothy Day (1897–1980), a complex woman that often referenced scriptures and the Eucharist as her source of strength and direction throughout life, gave witness to a communal sense of responsibility as she lived her understanding of social change born out of struggle and despair. Day’s life can be noted as reflecting our present realities: a global pandemic; social injustice across the nation; governmental and political turmoil; deplorable prison conditions; and through the efforts of many, the empowering presence of grassroot people, offering practical relief for families finding themselves homeless and unemployed.
Be it a parent listening to their children’s search for security and understanding or Dorothy Day, OblSB, acknowledged as a “Servant of God” by the Catholic Church, we can each be assured, the Spirit of God rests upon us, inviting us to listen prayerfully as Isaiah and Saint Benedict have so humbly witnessed through lives intentionally lived.
The need for air, water, nourishment, unifying systems of ecological rhythms and structures within nurturing spaces that impact each other are commonalities of all of creation, including the 7.8 billion people inhabiting the earth today. All We Can Save (edited by Dr. Katharine K. Wilkinson and Dr. Auyana Elizabeth Johnson, published in 2020 by One World) addresses our shared climate crisis in a thought-provoking anthology of eclectic blends of topics and fields of expertise expressed in essays, poems and art. The work, authored by 50+ professional women that create a tapestry of awareness, thought, discussion and challenge embraces our common future. As Indigenous youth activist Xiye Bastida puts it in her “Calling In” essay, “A vibrant, fair, and regenerative future is possible–not when thousands of people do climate justice activism perfectly but when millions of people do the best they can.” The inclusiveness of the book is growing into conversation/action through All We Can Save Project website’s invitation welcoming humanity to virtually gather for discussion, rebirthing into nature’s responsible cycles of life.
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
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
350 – Build a Clean Energy Future for ALL