Good news report from Gerald

First prayer&politiks annual report

A note from Gerald, prayer&politiks’ guardian angel and synod convener

GOOD NEWS!  The advisory synod overseeing the vision and mission of prayer&politiks has heartily recommended another year of work.

When prayer&politiks began in November 2014, the commitment was for one year, to assess whether the need and the support was evident. In September we employed a communications consultant to help with evaluation. Her conclusions: both the quantity and the quality of the survey returns were “exceptional.”

            “You have a loyal base of readers and significant indicators of future financial support.” Read more ›

When hope is aroused

by "Ghost," a maximum security prisoner

When hope is aroused—or even the possibility of that hope’s approach—the body, of it’s own accord, fills with a reservoir of bated breath, as though preparing for the shouts of joy and happiness, victory and triumph, that are sure to come, no longer checked by the dams of possibility and doubt shored with the black mortar of cynicism.

Unfortunately, this air, this breath, this Spirit, must go somewhere. No man, no woman, can live long with held breath! But where? Where, if disappointment is strapped to the back of the dawn, yet again, like a plow whose dull blade knifes through hearts swollen with hope?

Perhaps in a shout still, but one so new and full of hurt it must be swaddled in the torn, blood-soaked rags of rage. But what if the shouts of wrath and rage have long been beaten down and whipped into whispers of malice in the night that somehow becomes smiles in the morning. What, then, of that inhaled breath, that inhaled spirit? To know the answer is to know sorrow’s song. Read more ›

Thomas Merton

A special edition of "Signs of the Times" featured quotes from that most unusual monk

Selected and edited by Ken Sehested

Introduction: A special issue of “Signs of the Times” devoted to Thomas Merton (31 January 1915 – 10 December 1968) quotes was already in the works, to mark the centennial of his birth. But when Pope Francis, in his historic address to a joint session of Congress, lifted Merton's name for special recognition (along with three other Americans), it seemed timely to move up the schedule. (Continue reading Ken Sehested’s "Introduction: The Quotable Thomas Merton.")

§  §  §

§ Meditation has no point and no reality unless it is firmly rooted in life. Read more ›

Thomas Merton

A special edition of "Signs of the Times" featured quotes from that most unusual monk

Selected and edited by Ken Sehested

Introduction: A special issue of “Signs of the Times” devoted to Thomas Merton (31 January 1915 – 10 December 1968) quotes was already in the works, to mark the centennial of his birth. But when Pope Francis, in his historic address to a joint session of Congress, lifted Merton's name for special recognition (along with three other Americans), it seemed timely to move up the schedule. (Continue reading Ken Sehested’s "Introduction: The Quotable Thomas Merton.")

§  §  §

§ Meditation has no point and no reality unless it is firmly rooted in life. Read more ›

Bombs and balm

Remembering Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffit

by Ken Sehested

        Recently declassified documents confirmed what many had long suspected, that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet ordered the 1976 assassination of former diplomat Orlando Letelier, along with his colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffit, in Washington, DC. This news is of especially personal significance.

§  §  §

       Surely I was not the only church-going, hymn-singing preschooler who wondered why a “bomb in Gilead” was worthy congregational music. Mine was a faith tradition which mostly kept the news of “the world” at bay, except of course when liquor by the drink was on the electoral ballot. It would take a while to dislodge those habits of piety. Read more ›

“God acted as a father who has two daughters”

A theological rationale for the conquest of the Americas

       Writing 1571 in opposition to Bartolomé de las Casas’ advocay for indigeneous citizens of the Americas, an unnamed Spanish church official in Peru penned the following parable as a theological rationale for conquest:

       "God acted . . . as a father who has two daughters: one very white, full of grace and gentility; the other very ugly, bleary-eyed, stupid and bestial. If the first is to be married, she doesn't need a dowry, but only to be put in the palace and those who want to marry her would compete for her. For the ugly, stupid, foolish wretch, it isn't enough to give her a large dowry, many jewels, lovely magnificent, and expensive clothes. . . .

Diego Rivera, 1951, Palacio Nacional in Ciudad de México

       "God did the same for us. Certainly we were all unfaithful, be it Europe or Asia; but in their natural state they have great beauty, much science and discretion. Little was needed for the apostles and apostolic men to betroth those souls with Jesus Christ by the faith of baptism. Read more ›

Witness to villainy

An excerpt from Bartolomé de las Casas’ documentation of Spanish conquest in the Americas

       If you want to read about a European pioneer on Columbus Day, learn about Bartolomé de las Casas. His story is one of unfolding repentance over the course of his life in regard to treatment of the indigenous population of the Spanish conquest of the “New World.”

        Born in 1484, Las Casas first traveled to the island of Hispaniola in 1502 along with his father, a Spanish merchant. Initially he participated in and profited from Spain’s enslavement of the population. In 1510 he was the first priest to be ordained in the Americas.

Right: Statue of Bartolomé de las Casas in San Cristóbal, Chiapas, Mexico.

        That same year a group of Spanish Dominicans arrived in Santo Domingo, and they were appalled at the injustices. Specifically, the Dominican Fray Antonio de Montesinos expressed public outrage, which had a significant effect on Las Casas and, in time, prompted him to become an equally outspoken opponent of the conquest. Read more ›

Another world is possible

Introduction to "We Are the Socks," Dan Buttry's new book

by Ken Sehested

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood
and assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them
to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
—Antoine de Saint-Exupery

            What Dan Buttry does in We Are the Socks is what he does better than anyone I know: Write vivid, easy-to-read narratives that are hopeful but not sentimental, honest but not cynical, revealing without being voyeuristic, personal without being self-serving, sometimes humorous but never silly. And the people he writes about, in these few selected episodes out of literally dozens of others from his global work, are not drawn from self-selected elites—the morally heroic or intelligent or ingenious. Mostly they are commonplace folk, drawn from every sort of circumstance, typical admixtures of hope and doubt, compassion and malice, vision and blind sightedness. Not your stereotypical candidates for sainthood. In other words, folk like us, like the ones in our churches and neighborhoods and families. Read more ›

More Merton quotes

Supplement to the “Signs of the Times” special edition (No. 40) on Thomas Merton

§ It may be true that every prophet is a pain in the neck, but it is not true that every pain in the neck is a prophet. There is no more firmly entrenched expression of the false self than the self-proclaimed prophet.

§ The twofold weakness of the Augustinian [just war] theory is its stress on a subjective purity of intention which can be doctored and manipulated with apparent “sincerity” and the tendency to pessimism about human nature and the world, now used as a justification for recourse to violence.

§ While we learn to be humble and virtuous as individuals, we allow ourselves to commit the worst crimes in the name of "society."  We are gentle in our private life in order to be murderers as a collective group.  For murder, committed by an individual, is a great crime.  But when it becomes war or revolution, it is represented as the summit of heroism and virtue.

§ In the old days, on Easter night, the Russian peasants used to carry the blest fire home from church. The light would scatter and travel in all directions through the darkness, and the desolation of the night would be pierced and dispelled as lamps came on in the windows of the farm houses, one by one. Even so the glory of God sleeps everywhere, ready to blaze out unexpectedly in created things. Even so God’s peace and order lie hidden in the world, even the world of today, ready to reestablish themselves, in God’s own good time: but never without the instrumentality of free options made by free people. Read more ›

The quotable Thomas Merton

Introduction to a "Signs of the Times" collection of Thomas Merton quotes

by Ken Sehested

My favorite definition of God is Thomas Merton’s:
God is “mercy within mercy within mercy.” —Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB

A special issue of “Signs of the Times” devoted to Thomas Merton (31 January 1915 – 10 December 1968) quotes was already in the works, to mark the centennial of his birth. But when Pope Francis, in his historic address to a joint session of Congress, lifted his name for special recognition (along with three other Americans), it seemed timely to move up the schedule. Read more ›