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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Shalom, Peace: An Advent Reflection

   We begin advent today, a season of hope, a season not only to prepare for Christmas, but to look ahead and prepare for the next coming of Christ, and to ask ourselves how we're doing now in helping the reign of God to come about in our everyday lives.  That task involves many things, but I was struck by a verse from today's first reading from Isaiah, specifically Is. 2,4, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again."

   It's obvious that we are far from realizing this prophecy which appears on many of our Christmas cards.  We are still making weapons and training for war.  As a Christian and especially as a Franciscan I feel a call to work for peace. I have no naive delusions  that make me think that the world will disarm in the near future.  But shouldn't we be striving for that.  As nations train for war can we train for peace?

    But how do we do this?  I have been called unpatriotic for raising questions about some of our nations military involvements.  I'm sorry, but as much as I love our nation my faith comes first. Can't you oppose a war because you love this country? Doesn't patriotism call us to strive to live out our deepest ideals and challenge our leaders when they do not.  When I wrote about dialoguing with Muslims a while back I got responses suggesting that when they open to us we can open to them.  That's an understandable knee jerk reaction but doesn't our faith call us to rise above that.  At the same time many Christian opponents of war end up siding with political groups that do dislike our country and that have views that are hardly compatible with the Gospel. I learned this as a seminarian when I marched in an anti-Vietnam war protest in Boston, but walked away from it because the speakers were lashing out in foul-mouthed hate filled venom. I still think that war was wrong but that wasn't my way of expressing it.

   So what do we do?  I think that instead of engaging in angry street protests we should look to take positive steps to bring people together, people from different countries, different religions, different political views and start training for peace, not to try and convince anyone to see things our way but to show that in spite of our differences we can live in peace and that we can develop models of conflict resolution that don't involve violence.  There are groups that do this and I believe we need more. Pax Christi comes to mind as one of those groups.  No, we're not going to end war tomorrow, but let's at least start training for peace, one step at a time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Gift of God--Sister and Brother

Left:  Dorothy, Near a beautiful tree outside the St. Petersburg Art Museum

Below to right:  John (myself) by the same tree.  Click on either to enlarge.
   As I write I am in the middle of a wonderful visit with my sister Dorothy here at St. Anthony Friary. Our friary  has wonderful guest accommodations and she is enjoying the warmth and hospitality of my brother friars. The reason for writing about this visit on this blog, however, is the uniqueness of our relationship. I did not know Dorothy, or know of her until a little over 4 years ago.  To give the short version of the story Dorothy was born to my mother a year before she met my father.  Times were different then and Mom had to put Dorothy up for adoption.  My parents met, had a wonderful marriage of 48 years, and raised three children, me, my sister Anne and my brother Michael.  Anne passed away in 2002.

  At the time of our mother's death in 1992 I learned of the child that she bore prior to meeting my father.  I had interest in making contact but looked in all the wrong places. Four years ago, shortly after I moved from Hialeah to St. Petersburg, I received a letter from a social worker in Boston informing me that my sister desired to make contact with us. There was a very respectably written letter from this woman named Dorothy expressing a desire to meet us but fully appreciating that we might not want to do that.  I immediately made contact and arranged to speak with Dorothy and meet her as soon as possible. My brother Michael and his wife Laureen joined me a few weeks later to travel to New Hampshire and meet her.  It has been a blessing for all of us, as well as for Dorothy's children  Melissa and Erik, and Michael's daughters Laurie and Michelle.

   We are amazed at the family resemblance in each others faces and are delighted to learn of the experiences that each one of us has had in life. During this visit with Dorothy in St. Petersburg I have enjoyed seeing her appreciation of art and architecture and she, understandably nervous about living for 5 days in a friary, has enjoyed the hospitality and kind outreach of my brother friars who have truly made her feel like part of the Franciscan family.  In Greek Dorothy means gift of God and she has indeed been that to us and I hope that we have been for her.