Yesterday morning at St Romero’s we were once again celebrating in the hospitality room instead of the dining room at St Joe’s, this time because people were getting ready for the Memorial Day Picnic. I loved our Mass; because of the picnic we had more people than usual coming in off the street, and it was a lively bunch.
We talked about the difficulty of Memorial Day for pacifists: that desire not to glorify war, but at the same time to honor the choices and sacrifices made by our sisters and brothers --- often times quite literally our sisters and brothers-- and how very many of our guests at St Joe’s are veterans. I talked about the man I met in El Salvador who had been a guerilla during the civil war there, who said, “During the war, I believed in what we were doing. But now, years later, I see that on both sides, rich people were profiting from the sale of arms, and poor people were killing each other. And in the end, things are not better for the poor.”
This morning, Memorial Day, there was a “Memorial in Time of War” at the Sister Cities Bridge, led by Karen Keenan and Tom Moore. They have done this every year since the war began in 2003. There is a simple inter-faith service, then everybody lines up and takes turns reading out loud the names of people who died in the war – soldiers from the U.S., children and adults from Iran and Afghanistan. As each name is read, a bell is rung. Then we go up on the bridge and drop roses in the river. It always seems such a waste, throwing that beautiful rose in the river. But the waste is nothing compared to the waste of the human lives we commemorate.
Life is hard. Honest people can disagree about how we go about solving the problems of the world. I want to be careful that, sure as I am about some things – like that Jesus calls us to non-violence, that the way to change the world is the way that Jesus did, changing hearts, taking on pain instead of inflicting it – sure as I am, I don’t want to inflict more violence by disrespecting my sisters and brothers who believe in other ways. How do we live with each other? That seems to me both the most challenging and most exciting question there is. How do we love?
Here at St Joe’s we have welcomed our second Muslim staff member in a year. Trying to find ways to pray together, we decided that while he is here, we will change our New Testament reading at morning prayer to one from the Sufi mystic, Hafiz. The Sufi poets are a great source of spiritual nourishment for me and I am happy to make the substitution. We heard from another Sufi, the poet Rumi, this morning at the memorial. Let me share that poem with you. (The translation is by Coleman Barks):
Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase
doesn't make any sense.
Much peace to you… however you believe. May we find that place beyond ideas and “isms,” and live in respect and awe.
Blessings and love to all, Chava
This Wednesday night, June 1 at 7 pm, the Rochester Committee on Latin America will be showing the movie, “Return to El Salvador” at Downtown United Presbyterian Church. This documentary features Ruth and Alex Orantes of Santa Ana; some of you met Ruth when she was here last year for my ordination. One of the issues featured in the film is that of gold mining. People are dying for their resistance to this ecologically disastrous exploitation of the land. After the film I’ll talk about the visit Eli and I made to El Salvador in April, and the people we met there who are trying to stop the gold mining. Please join us, if you can.
Please keep our four RCWP ordinands in your prayers this week. Patti La Rosa, Ann Penick, Caryl Johnson and Marellen Meyers will be ordained to the priesthood in Baltimore this coming Saturday, June 4. I’ll be there but will be back in time for Mass on Sunday at 11!
Please come and join us, any Sunday that you like! We would love to see you.
Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Church in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620