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Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Centenary Committee Report

Father Bob Jalbert, head of MEPD, showed a PowerPoint presentation starting with a quote from the 12th General Chapter. He told us we need to mindful of other celebrations: 40 Years for Orbis in 2010, 35 for the lay missioners as well as 100 for the Sisters in 2012.

In broad strokes, here is what's planned next year.

In January 2011 a Mass will open the Jubilee Year
In February we will co-sponsor a mission trip overseas for PMUSA diocesan directors.
In April Father Dougherty will address the PMUSA Diocesan Directors
The May MISAL meeting is postponed to October
June 1-4 missiologists will lead us in reflections on new directions in mission.
September ALUMNAE WELCOME HOME will have two keynote addresses.
OCTOBER 6-8 mission symposium at CTU
October 30 Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral
November National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis. (Attracted 20,000 in 2009)
December formal closing liturgy

I noted in the Q & A that I noticed nothing was scheduled for our actual Foundation Day of June 29th, not even a cake. Bob said (yet another) committee will soon be formed. I offered a suggestion we as Maryknollers recite the Angelus every noon from June 29, 2010 to June 29, 2011. It would cost us no money, is incarnational, and focuses on the BVM. And it just may rekindle the fires of our Maryknoll spirituality.

Throughout 2011 MEPD there will be sponsors events at Center and local events with the magazines and media

The Alumnae "Welcome Home" weekend will have two keynote addresses
*Facing 21st century of mission
*Missio Dei and other breakthroughs

Plus ecology, spirituality, prophetic witness and social justice issues will be addressed.

For the symposium in Chicago there will be one of two topics: "To the Peoples: Maryknoll, the Church and future of mission"
Or "The church in mission: affirming the past, charting the future."

The goal is to reach as large an audience as possible with these programs.
Exam the trends impacting mission today.

Our four mission centers around the U.S. will contact their dioceses to organize events to commemorate our 100th. Various Benefactors Appreciation Days are planned.

Regions overseas: Africa will have a regional retreat with Mr. Robert Ellsberg giving talks on our Founders. There will be symposia in Nairobi in April.
In June a gathering of Africa bishops will focus on the Maryknoll presence.

In Asia Society Members will gather at Stanley for events and then make a pilgrimage to China. There will also be an All-Asia Society assembly

Latin America will celebrate in Cochabomba.

There will four books by Orbis for our centenary and both magazines will commemorate our 100th.

We will try to foster a spirit of collaboration and closer partnership with the other Maryknoll entities.

Between 2011-2012 there will be four reflection days and retreats with the Fathers & Brothers and Sisters.

There will be an event in Washington, D.C. With the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns.

Eight committees are humming away as we speak.

Various and sundry other proposals have been received from the membership and are under consideration. These will all be made accessible and communicated to the membership via very high tech media.

A Logo expressing "The Gift of Mission" has been designed by the art department. It met with mixed results.

Bob ended with a quote for Fr. Patrick Byrne's departure in 1923 about the seed dying etc.

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Sex scandal

(There. did I get your attention?)

Dr. Claudia Koblenz-Sulkov, clinical pyschologist in our OSP, addressed the assembly about the on-going Praesidium program for dealing with the clergy child abuse crisis.

She pointed out that the past two years have shown the crisis is not limited to the United States. The good news is that since they began collecting data in 2004 there have been NO new accusations of abuse against minors by clergy in the United States. The number of offenders and the cost have also decreased.

She then gave various statistics of outcomes of allegations, removal or return to ministry after investigation, and the amount spent on all theses cases.

Abuse victims and families are now getting compassionate and financial support.
What have we learned? The injury to the victims is greater than we had ever imagined. Easy answers are not valid. Catholics have been hurt by the moral failings of their priest but more outraged by the inaction or mishandling by the bishops. We need to stop circling the wagons in defense of the indefensible. We've learned a lot about the denial and self-deception by abusers who expressed a deep concern for the welfare of the children they abused. We, the Church, continue to suffer the effects of this betrayal of trust.

Fr. John Moran then gave the bad news. The media have given extensive coverage of the worldwide problem of abuse and by mishandling by even Cardinal Ratzinger. The problem is pervasive.

In Dublin, sexual abuse was reported by half of the witnesses: rape, voyeurism and other violations. These people reported abuse by clergy, teachers, lay volunteers and many who had isolated access to children on camping trips, sports events etc.

The hypocrisy of bishops who preach so forcefully against other sins of a sexual nature but who remained shamefully silent in the face of systemic clergy abuse remains the gaping wound of our Church.

John paraphrased the pope's statement at Fatima that the greatest suffering and persecutions come from sin within the Church. John told us to brace ourselves to a new wave of criticism here in the Stares as a movie is erased chronicling the way the seculars media (Washington Post and Boston Globe) exposed this ugly secret and forced the bishops and Church in the U.S. to acknowledge and address this issue.

They then showed us a DVD of heart-wrenching testimony by victims and witnesses, both men and women whose faith, not just in the Church but in God, was shaken or destroyed.

John asked what do we, as Maryknollers whose mission is conversion--of institutions no less than individuals--do to address this pressing issue in our Society, Church, nation and world.

Clericalism, privilege and entitlement foster this unhealthy environment in our Church.

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Father General

Father General Ed Dougherty gave his State of the Society talk this morning session of the U.S. regional Assembly.

He introduced the new world area leadership, whose superiors will gather for the ELB next month.

He called for "all hands on deck" for next years' centenary celebration over and beyond what the committee has planned, which Bob Jalbert will tell us about later.

Dougherty gave us an update on the causes (for canonization) for the founders. Bishop Walsh's cause will be taken up by New York and he expected Fr. Price's cause to be taken up by North Carolina with the blessing of their priests' council.

Shawn Crumb and Philip Yang will take their first oath later today. Lam Hua will renew his temporary oath and Rodrigo Ulloa will take his permanent oath to the Society. At 28 years of age, Rodrigo's entry into our ranks as a permanent member will no doubt lower our median age (from 75.9 years to 74.2).

Dougherty then gave a VERY brief version of our finances, basically saying the budget remains the same for next year.

Some "hiccups" in providing needed healthcare for our members in the past year will be fixed, Doc said. (One hopes by doing more than holding our breath and then drinking water.)

Doc then quoted an essay from Fr. Jim Kroeger some years back that whatever we do, we should do "with a missionary heart."

Doc referred to Fr. Finch and Fr. Sivalon wanting to see this place as "Mission Center" even though it will continue to be a place of retirement and assisted living.

Maryknoll Magazine and Revista will be cut down to six issues a year. How this will impact the successful and effective school bulk program spearheaded by Managing Editor Ms. Marge Gaughan remains to be seen.

At the behest of the bishops, Maryknoll will sponsor two Vietnamese seminarians who will study English and then attend maybe attend Mundelein seminary.

Fr. Emile Dumas was once again welcomed back to the Center as he assumes his new role as the Pastoral Coordinator of St. Theresa's.

Some stateside positions are opening up for any member who might be interested. He noted specifically media relations, from which Ms. Betsey Guest is retiring at the end of next month.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Regional Assembly Day 2

Men in formation and all members at the Center and St. T's were
invited to attend and participate in this session.

Tuesday's focus on vocations

A Culture of Vocations

Today's session was directed by the Vocation Team (Fr. Dennis Moorman, Fr. Dave LaBuda, Br. Tim Raible, Deacon Steve DeMartino).

Dennis started by explaining the three responsibilities of the vocations office are to accompany prospects, the associate priest and brothers program and the short-term mission volunteer program.

Maretta McKenna not present) is the point person for the short-term volunteer program.

Vocation Office does outreach, accompanies men, visits prospects' homes, runs Come and See programs, retreats.

Forty inquiries month come in, mostly through the Internet.

The CARA study of 2009 said that if you look at formation programs over the last ten years there has been no significant change in numbers. Last year religious communities saw a 4% increase.

Twenty percent of religious communities who have one or more men in formation have five or more. By comparison we are in the top 20%.

Are young guys attracted to a community with so many older members? The answer seems to be age is not as important as enthusiasm and an active prayer life.

A study was done by National Religious Vocations Conference was presented by Dave LaBuda to address the issue of what attracts men to religious life.
* Those that follow a traditional style of religious life
* Members that live together in community, participate in daily Eucharist, Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together.
* Members wear habits, work together in common apostolates and are explicit in their support for the Church and the Magesterium.

In the month of May we have 382 hits on our new vocation website, most from overseas.

In January they will sponsor a mission immersion trip to Petén, Guatemala where participants pay their travel

The Holy Week retreat will be held here at the Center next year

In May a "Come and See" weekend at the MM Formation House in Chicago.

The goals are to provide a cycle of activities to expose prospects to the membership and ministries of Maryknollers.

Reflection on Maryknoll's mission identity was focused on our prayer, liturgy, mission charisms, reflection on Maryknoll as a mission community.

The Vocations team's concrete priorities: pray, invite, accompany, experience and mentor.

To view a new mission video shown to the assembly, see: http://

There is a Maryknoll Youtube video (that we cannot view at the Center because it is blocked but don't get me started...) that has had more than 1,000 hits without being advertised.

Discussion focused on these questions: 1) Do we want vocations to the Maryknoll Society?
2) What am I willing to do to promote vocations? 3) What are we as a Society willing to do to promote vocations?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

After the break...

Fr Ray Nobiletti then shared an incident while concelebrating Mass with Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros at Huntington seminary in Queens. The bishop recounted the feeling of humility he experienced in that same chapel years before when he prostrated himself before that same altar when he was ordained.

This comment caused Ray to reflect on his own ordination when there was no feeling of humility but rather how now he was a missionary priest sent to set the world on fire. He went to Hong Kong and was still in language school when circumstances at a local parish necessitated his becoming pastor. His first funeral Mass caused panic. He wasn't fluent in Cantonese; he wasn't sure of his theology of death and resurrection. He wanted to back out. A Maryknoll Sister brought him back to reality.

"Ray, they are not interested in your theology," she said. "They want you, their pastor, to be with them in their sorrow. You will say that Mass." Then as a parting shot she added, "And your Cantonese stinks."

He came to realize it's not what we say but what we represent that is important. Ray had so much time on leaning language, liturgy, the "mechanics" of priesthood without concentrating on cultivating those pastoral skills that enabled him to be more present to the people.

Humility, according to Ray, is built into a mission vocation. Going to a different culture and learning a new language should be humbling. Our foreign mission charisms may not always be understood or appreciated by others.

The priesthood has changed; the brotherhood has changed; and mission has changed.

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Afternoon session

This afternoon Larry Lewis presented a talk on renewal. We talk about it because our centenary is approaching. People also talk about renewal in times of crisis and we are in crisis. We have a lot to worry about and a lot to celebrate. We have 432 members and our median age is 76. We face a crisis of numbers. We face our mortality. If we had large numbers coming in we wouldn't even be having this all-important conversation.

We always were fragile, we always were inefficient. The greatest spiritual threat of our time, according to Thomas Merton is not lack of prayer or charity, but "Efficiency".

We won't and can't go back to the past. We've strategized about reformation. We need now to talk about renewal from our position of fear and vulnerability. According to Lewis, "We can't be in a better place."

Like Peter, when we as a Society were young we went about freely, but now as we grow older God has taken us to places we do not want to go.

Without doing mission with an awareness of our vulnerability, without accepting this fragility, no matter how many churches or schools we build overseas, we arrogantly go about destroying hearts.*

Will we pretend everything is OK? Or will we openly embrace this diminishment in and through which true renewal lies?

Dare we wait for God? We can renew on a level we could never have before. This is a time of grace for us.

*Larry shared this quote from Noel O'Donoghue, OCD, from "Heaven in Ordinaire"
..."for the heart is made for God and the wild glory of God's love and all that means of divination and fulfillment. Or to put it another way: the human psyche has within it an immense energy of self-receiving, of loving and of being loved, of sacrifice and aspiration. And it is this challenge in the depths of himself the anti-mystic has to meet in confronting the mystic, and the only alternative to accepting its motivation is to destroy it utterly. And once I choose the way of the invulnerable heart there is hardly any limit to my self-righteousness and destructiveness. Even when I build churches and schools I am still in the business of destroying the heart."

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Live! From the U.S. Regional Assembly!

We opened with morning prayer taken from the breviary! (Not one tree was hugged, nor kumbaya sung.)

R.S. Mike Duggan gave a brief state of the region, which now has 68 members and is arguably the largest MK region. We have 83 members in residence here in the Center including retirees. Triennial visitations are already underway. Next year members with faculties in the NY archdiocese will need recertification through the Praesidium program (which exempts us from having to attend the otherwise mandatory gathering at Dunwoodie seminary next month.)

The overarching theme of the assembly is "Renewal in the context of being a Maryknoller."

Creation of a Mission Center here, long under discussion, will go forward facilitated by Frs. Dave LaBuda, Bill Boteler and Gerry Kelly. They have been visiting bishops around the country and see the Center as helping diocese and parishes around the country in twinning with places overseas.

Concern was raised by members that we are already behind the curve or may be duplicating efforts already underway by USCMA and Propaganda Fide. Several dioceses are already doing this. The men suggest we communicate with mission offices not just bishops. Global solidarity is already being promoted by groups like CRS and they would welcome us but don't want or need us to tell them what to do. We need to be humble in this, it was suggested, because we do have a good reputation in the mission field but we are no longer the only game in town.

Br. Wayne, first assistant, then gave a preview of what the "Open Space" dynamic will be later in the assembly on Thursday, to afford opportunities to raise and discuss topics of concern to men that have not be adequately addressed.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

House meeting

House meeting minutes for May 19, 2010

Twenty two of the 85 residents attended this last house meeting before the all-important US Regional Assembly which runs Monday evening through Thursday noon next week. A special Mass at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 27, will celebrate temporary oaths of seminarians who will be here following their retreat this week in New Jersey.

May 25, 26, 27 jubilees will be celebrated by 39 Maryknollers with some 800 guests expected.

On Thursday June 3 there will be the Employees Awards luncheon following a prayer service at 11:00.

June 7-18th the ELB (Extended Leadership Board) will meet.

On June 14th there will be a "Karibu Cafe" of African food and music during lunch.

Foundation Day as usual will be celebrated the weekend of June 29

Three years ago Michael Joncas, prominent Catholic composer ("On Eagles Wings"), agreed to compose a special Mass for our centenary. After much dialog, he has completed the "Missa ad Gentes" (subtitled: On the Centenary of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers) and will cut a CD in a Chicago recording studio to be made available at the liturgical musicians convention this summer in Detroit. The music will also be included in the new hymnals published by GIA Sacred Music Publications and yes, it will be the new "improved" translation of the Mass.

Reminder of dress code especially in the dining room as the summer months approach: no cut-offs, short shorts, gym clothes, tank tops or hats.

Once again Br. Kevin Dargan pleaded with the men not to take periodicals out of the reading room especially NCR, but given the small attendance at the meeting it is likely the persons responsible might not get the message.

Food committee: There will be many groups coming through in May and June like the 150 postal workers who came through yesterday. This raises the question: Do we continue to welcome outside groups who have no connection to mission or religion or education?

This set off a lively discussion. Some said it helped get Maryknoll's name out. Others wondered what financial benefit was in it for Maryknoll, as our physical plant people are used to set up the extra tables and chairs. A more basic question was: Does Maryknoll have any say as to who comes in? The house committee will meet with Nancy Kleppel and Barbara Delph to review policy towards outside groups. A general feeling was that a Maryknoller should have input, if not the final say.

Large screen TV is gone from 4th Floor Rec Room after it was reported as out-of-order and supposedly unfixible. This is also an example of decisions being made without the knowledge or approval of a Maryknoller in charge.

For all this, the meeting only lasted 45 minutes.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Needed: A new Maryknoll "mythiology"

A COLLOQUIEM OF MARYKNOLL MISSIOLOGISTS gathered again here at Mother Knoll this week, as they are wont to do from time to time, to theologize and come up with a paper or two on mission. Fathers John Gorski (Bolivia), Jim Kroeger (Philippines), Kevin Hanlon (USA) and Bill LaRousse (Philippines) have been hard at it since Monday but no word yet as to when and what we can expect from their deliberations.

In the meantime, I got to doing some musing of my own. When we held our annual May crowning a few weeks back, we prayed the prayer Bishop James E. composed to Our Lady of Maryknoll in which he asks the Blessed Mother's intercession for Maryknoll as we minister to "the poorest and most despised."

Would that this were true! This type of expression permeates many of Maryknoll's mission statements, documents and prayers and we blithely repeat it but, with literally only a handful of exceptions, simply is not the case. Oh, even I helped out a poor person from time to time when I was in Korea, but "the poorest and most despised" simply were not the emphasis nor purpose of my ministry.

Who are the most despised today? Well, at least in the Unites States and unfortunately in a growing number of countries around the world, without a doubt and with no competition, it would be pedophile priests, accused, convicted or just suspected. How many of us would even speak of them in sympathetic terms much less minister to them?

Ah, but there is a group that did, and without fanfare. Not ten miles north of us, the good Friars of the Atonement (Graymoor), back in 2002 when accused priests were being tossed out of rectories and had no place to turn, opened an entire wing of their friary to these "most despised." They discussed and voted as a community to offer hospitality, with strong restrictions, to these men until they could figure out where they might go and live.

Now, to be fair, Graymoor has experience dealing with men in recovery (or at best rehab) through St. Christopher's Inn. And we here at the Knoll have the logistical problem of Brookside Elementary School being right across the street.

But to my knowledge the question never even arose at a house meeting or regional assembly or general council meeting. One might argue that our focus is overseas mission, but I counter that our duty as missioners does not end just because we crossed the US border. Another unfortunate factor in recent years and especially since 2002, is the veto power lawyers and insurers have over our public activities, especially here in the States.

A Maryknoller could never be the Good Samaritan here because our lawyers and insurers would caution against getting involved and fellow Maryknollers would remind us we can only live the gospel overseas.

So we continue in our increasingly set ways, not permitting outside realities to disturb us, and content to repeat prayers about ministering to the poorest and most despised.

While I encourage our Maryknoll missiologists to come up with something new and inspiring in the realm of overseas evangelization, I see a chronic need for us to purge our prayers of pious platitudes and replace them with realistic and contemporary expressions of just what exactly it is we Maryknollers do. Or better yet, how about reflecting on the words of our founders as well as the giants in our Maryknoll pantheon: James E., Francis Ford, Considine and Nevin, and discuss what we can do—even here in the States and in our present aged condition—to make these a reality and make an effort to live up to our self-inflicted myths.

Now THERE'S something to commemorate our centennial!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Taking off our training wheels (The Ascension of the Lord)

One of the big moments in a child's life comes when she trades in her tricycle for a two-wheeler bike with training wheels. Soon enough the day arrives to remove even these. Self-confidence and independence come from experience, from trial and error, and above all from overcoming the fear of falling or failing. An anxious but proud parent's guiding hand helps maintain balance for awhile but then comes the moment of truth when the parent lets go and the child rides all on her own. "Mom! Dad! Look what I can do!" This small step on the road to maturity demands a willingness on the part of the parents to let go.

Among other things, the Ascension of Our Lord marks the removal of our spiritual training wheels. Unless we experience Jesus' absence, we will never grow up. Unless we learn to make our own mistakes and learn from them, we will not develop a sense of balance, compassion and justice. More importantly, unless Jesus leaves us we will never experience much less appreciate the power of God within us: the Holy Spirit.

That awkward time between the Ascension and Pentecost was necessary to remind the apostles---and us--that without God we can do nothing, but with God there is nothing we cannot do.

The Ascension also celebrates the holiness, not just of humanity but of all creation. When Jesus ascended into heaven he took his glorified human body with him. His human, albeit resurrected, body was made from the elements of the world around him. Even after rising from the dead, Jesus is recorded as having eaten bread and fish. In other words, God continues to interact with the material world of nature.

The Ascension of our Lord into heaven completes the mystery of the Incarnation when God became human. When the Holy Spirit descended on the Blessed Virgin Mary and she conceived Jesus, her humanity did not explode. You might say that humanity, created from the beginning in the image and likeness of God, was designed specifically to receive the Holy Spirit. Conversely, from all eternity God was prepared for the ultimate marriage between divinity and humanity which was consummated when Jesus ascended body and soul, humanity and divinity into heaven. The Trinity did not implode when he ascended with his human nature into the Godhead. This says as much about God as it does about us. Christmas celebrates God with us; The Ascension celebrates us with God.

Jesus came to earth to take away our sin, that is, our alienation, not just between humans and God but also between humans with one another and between all creation and our Creator. Through the incarnation and ascension of Jesus, all creation participates in the life of God. As such, we must be as deferential and respectful of creation as we are of the bread and wine that become the body and blood of Christ.

Church law mandates that the bread must be made of pure wheat flour with no yeast, that is, no corruption. The wine, too, must be made from grapes with no preservatives and at least 12 percent alcohol.

If we are so careful to safeguard the purity of the material that, through the words of consecration and the Holy Spirit, will become the Body and Blood of Christ, shouldn't we be equally careful of the elements of the world around us that participate in the reign of God and the new creation?

At the Ascension two angels appeared and asked, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand there staring into the sky?" Yes, Jesus has disappeared from our sight but he has not left us. What's more, we have a lot of work to do here on earth. People deserve to know the Good News of what Jesus has done for us. People are literally dying to know their sins are forgiven. People have a right to hear that Jesus saved the world.

If you truly believe Jesus has saved the world, now is the time for all people of faith and good will to do our part and save the earth.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is only the latest outrage against the environment. Our air is polluted, our rivers contaminated, our oceans dying, our rain forests disappearing. As disciples of Christ who believe God became human on this planet and who consecrated the earth by his presence, we have an obligation to clean up the various messes we humans have made.

We honor God when we take care of the world God made and gave us. We can still save our environment by being mindful of how we live on the earth and of our impact on it. And we can hold individuals as well as companies responsible and accountable for their actions. Let us do our part to clean up our world so one day we, too, as sons and daughters of God, can point with pride to our earth and pray, "Our Father in heaven, look what we can do!"

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Deacons & Wives in Mission

From Friday, May 7 till Monday, May 10, several permanent deacons and their wives will come to Maryknoll from around the country to pray, reflect, share and strategize ways to be more involved in mission.

Seated above, from left to right, are Rev. Mr. Baldwin and Mrs. Ellen Powell, from Jamaica, West Indies; Rev. Mr. Joe and Patty Symkowick, from Sacramento, CA; and Ray and Jean Knoll, from the diocese of Santa Rosa, CA.

Deacon Baldwin wanted to give a shout out to Father Leo Shea to assure him he was indeed working.

Deacon Joe also works for CRS (I'm not sure what he does in his spare time) and his wife Patty is a Maryknol Affiliate.

Deacon Ray and Jean coordinate mission appeals in their diocese and have been encouraged by Bishop Daniel Walsh to give priority to Maryknoll Father & Brothers, Sisters and Lay Missioners. (Now if Jean would only change her name to Mary, that would be sooo cool.)

According to Rev. Mr. Steve DiMartino, coordinator of Maryknoll's vocations ministries and co-facilitator of this weekend's retreat with Deacon Matt Dulke from our promotion house in the Bay area, some nine deacon couples from every region around the States are gathered here for the weekend.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why was Jesus killed?

Why was Jesus killed?

Throughout their history, the Jews not only contended against hostile neighbors, but even more so against vastly superior empires who threatened both their way of life and their survival.

In the gospel of Mark, the cosmic battle was described as between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan played out in each individual and in the community of believers.

This battle comes to a head when, on the first day of Passover week, Jesus makes an entry into Jerusalem with a demonstration of support by his followers sure to attract Rome's attention. By riding on a donkey, Jesus entry was anything but triumphalistic. A conqueror enters either on a war horse or chariot, Jesus enters on a lowly beast of burden in fulfillment of Zachariah.

Jerusalem was a city of violence and empire, as well as the Temple Herod the Great had decorated with eagles, a symbol of Roman power. This stuck in the craw of pious Jews as it was a constant reminder of their subjugation even in their holiest place.

Jesus then performs another prophetic act, the so-called cleansing of the Temple (actually symbolizing the destruction of the Temple) since it was built by the unholy alliance between Rome and the religious leaders.

Jesus action was an affront to both the Jewish authorities and their Roman masters. It was a protest emanating from the very heart of Judaism. It was a permanently valid protest for all ages against collusion between religion and worldly politics.

Each prophetic sign takes place at the entrance: of Jerusalem and of the Temple.
Mark implies that the populace was totally on Jesus' side, since the Jewish authorities wanted to arrest Jesus but were afraid of the people's reaction. They feared instigating a riot. So far, Jesus is safe.

Judas, however gives them an opportunity to arrest Jesus at night and have him dealt with before the people become aware of what is happening. (Bear in mind this was millennia before texting and Twitter.)

The charges brought against Jesus was sedition against the Temple, sedition by urging nonpayment of taxes and also blasphemy, a serious offense to the Jewish leaders but which Rome cared little about. The term "Messiah" certainly caught Pilate's attention. Pilate despised this untenable dilemma they had thrust upon him.

Their scheme was as insidious as it was brilliant: if the crowd caught wind of the plot, the Jewish leaders could always blame the Romans. At the very least they'd be rid of this pesky Jesus; at best they'd undermine Pilate as well, and maybe get him transferred out of Jerusalem.

For his part, Pilate sought to stick it to the Jewish leaders by forcing them to choose between freeing Jesus, a seemingly unthreatening prophet and preacher from the sticks, as opposed to freeing Barabbas, a notorious murderer and revolutionary.

Mark alone identifies the charge against Jesus as a being a serious threat against the Temple/Rome alliance. Once Barrabas' followers out shout those of Jesus, his fate is sealed. Or so they thought.

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Jesus and the new covenant

The covenant of Moses came in three steps:

1) God says, "I did something for you

2) Here are the rewards if you obey me

3) Here are the punishments for disobedience.

Through the Beatitudes Jesus takes these and turns them upside down. Here are the curses--mourning, poverty, meekness, persecution--but now they are the sources of blessing.

The standards set forth in the Sermon on the Mount are in direct opposition to the way the world operates and the common understanding of religion. "You have heard that it was said....but I say..."

Jesus says that those who live out his commandments will lead solid, stable lives. Those who do not face instability and ruin. There are the curses that befall those who reject the new covenant.

Building one's house on rock was a symbol of faith as understood by the Jews. A rock is dependable, strong, immovable and unshakable by wind and rain.

Like Ezekiel, Jesus called for a new heart to contain this new spirit. We are to maintain our hearts as pure temples into which nothing profane or vile or sinful must be allowed to enter. Only in this way can we live lives of holiness and justice, that is, proper relationships with others in equality and respect, not through manipulation, exploitation, submission or subservience.

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More on the world of Jesus

The following are some highlights from the second lecture by Fr. John Mueller to the Maryknoll residents May 5-6.

Rome wanted to conquer the known world. In 333 B.C. Rome, Babylon, Persia and Assyria were vying for control of the Middle East, with Judah and Israel as pingpong balls. Greece was good at imposing culture but couldn't hang onto its territories.

Rome easily took over the Greek dominion. Northern Europe, however, proved problematic. Caesar Augustus therefore set two boundaries: the Danube River and the Rhein River in the north, and the Tigris and Euphrates to the east. All else belonged to Rome.

Ideologically, Virgil's Aeneid passes the destiny of Hector onto Aeneus with the blessings of the gods to rule the world from Rome because the Greeks had failed.

Horace, a friend of Virgil's, pointed out that unlike other emperors who attained divinity after death, Augustus became a god which still living. Ovid goes further by claiming Augustus is Jupiter incarnate, the sun god, the god of gods, who rules the world by divine mandate.

The victories in war proved the gods ratified Roman rule.

According to stele in the area, Augustus's birthday was considered the beginning of a new creation, for through him chaos is ordered aright and all now bask in the imperial glow.

Meanwhile. Jewish Wisdom literature proclaimed holy Wisdom instructed kings and emperors alike and called to account those who abused their power. This implied a power higher than any secular ruler. This contradicted what Rome was trying to establish. Wisdom held the lowly up to equality with the powerful. Very seditious stuff, bubbling just below the surface on the remote edges of the empire.

Josephus, a captured Zealot, was taken to Rome where he embraced his conquerors and the new world order. Roman power was absolute and all-pervasive. He wrote that without God's aid so vast an empire could never have been built. He assumed Judaism had ended with the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.

Military, economy, politics and religion were one, united and intertwined force sustaining the Roman empire. No opposition was allowed. Into such a culture, Jesus was born.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

God and empire

A two-day workshop on the underpinnings of Catholic social justice teachings in the synoptic gospels and their implications for overseas mission started this morning at Maryknoll.

Father John J. Mueller, S.j., professor of historical and systematic theology at St. Louis University, began the workshop with a meditation on the following poem:

To live with the Spirit, by Jessica Powers (1905-1988)

To live with the Spirit of God is to be a listener.
It is to keep the vigil of mystery
earthiness and still.
One learns to catch the stirring of the Spirit
strange as the wind's will.

The soul that walks where the Spirit blows
Turns like a wandering weather-vane toward love
It may lament like job or here ya
Echo the wounded hart, the mateless dove
It may rejoicer in spaciousness of meadow
That emulates the freedom of the sky.
Always it walks in waylessness, unknowing;
It has cast down forever from its hand
The compass of the whither and the why.

To live with the Spirit of God is to be a lover.
It is becoming love, and like to Him
Toward whom we strain with metaphors of features:
Fire-sweep and water-rush and the wind's whim.
The soul is all activity, all silence;
And though it surges Godward to its goal,
It holds, as moving earth holds sleeping noonday,
The peace that is the listening of the soul.

Jesuits and Maryknollers share a common goal of trying to discover God in our world.

Something forgotten in our time: the world of Jesus was dominated by the empire. It permeates the gospels and Paul's writings.

We will see that the social justice component in the Church can be traced back to the teachings of Jesus.

The life of Jesus comes into a different focus since we have imposed our post-Enlightenment understanding.

They had no problem with one simple concept: politics, economics and religion were all one.

In those days, a new emperor meant good news. As the son of God, Lord and Savior, he ushered in a new age. His coming established a kingdom of justice and prosperity, peace and security to all nations. He therefore deserved obedience and loyalty, thanks and worship.

All these attributes were later appropriated by Christians to announce a counter-kingdom inaugurated by Christ. They had no doctrinal theology but by using these terms they set themselves up as rivals to Rome's absolute power.

Sources of Rome's power: military, economic, political and ideological. They were not into nation- building but province-building. Roads and infrastructure in the colonies was an integral part of the military, along with suppressing rebellion.

These roads in turn developed local economies. Roman currency dominated. They built economies that would flow into Roman coffers. An elite aristocracy held sway. Roman imperial secular "theology" explained and sustained the internal power structure so the people accepted, believed and supported it.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

God and Empire

Father John J. Mueller, S.J., will present a two-day workshop May 5-6, 2010 in the Asia Room on the Christian origins of social justice in the synoptic gospels and their implications for global mission.

The workshops will run from 9:00-11:00 and 2:30-4:30 both days.

Mueller is a professor of historical and systematic theology at St. Louis University.

This workshop is offered by the Office for On-Going Formation, headed by Br. Wayne Fitzpatrick.

I and my new electronic toy (iPad!) will attempt to blog live from the scene.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Voices of the A-Bomb Victims

Br. John Blazo, our resident techie and official greeter, was able to get the overheard projector working just in time for tonight's presentation by three survivors of the atomic blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A ten-minute video showed a reenactment (I hope) of the bombing of Hiroshima with filmed testimony by other survivors. They described the light, shockwave and heat of the explosion. Anyone out in the open was vaporized or carbonized. Next came the sound wave that demolished glass and concrete. A rolling black cloud spread over the mountains and surrounding land.

Tens of thousands of people near the fireball vanished in a second. Those who survived were either trapped under rubble and/or badly burned. Survivors described seeing the closest thing to hell on earth. The morning sun vanished behind a hideous cloud. The film ended.

Personal testimony: A woman who was 15 years-old at the time then described to us about her going to work that fateful day at the Mitsubishi factory that had made the turbines used in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"August 9, 1945 was a very humid day. Suddenly I saw a red, yellow, white and blue light coming towards us. I must have passed out but when I woke I was covered in ash and rubble. On the way to get help I saw a human-like creature stand up, its skin hanging from its bones. Afterwards a soldier on horseback announced a new weapon had been used. That's when I first learned about the atomic bomb.

"...It was a miracle I survived that day.

"Young men who had gone to the epicenter on the 11th to bury the dead returned with bleeding gums, their hair falling out. One by one they all died."

A second women then gave her witness. She was two miles from the epicenter. She was weak as a child and had many difficulties. As it was widely known that the bomb survivors ran a risk of bearing deformed children and decided not to marry. Amazingly a man approached her and offered to help "carry the burden together."

"I suffer from anemia and nosebleeds and assumed I would never have a child," she said. "What joy I felt when I became pregnant, but then miscarried." She later bore three sons, two of them healthy. The doctor told her the radiation would have only effected the firstborn. She realized that was the baby who had miscarried.

The third person to speak addressed a few words to us in English. Quoting President Obama's vision of a world without nuclear weapons, he and all survivors felt encouragement. He was one kilometer from the epicenter and 14-years-old when the bomb dropped. He was trapped in his collapsed housed with his mother and three younger siblings.

"I will never forget that scene after climbing out. All the houses were flattened and smoke was everywhere. Fire was in the distance. I thought the entire city had been destroyed. I didn't see any mushroom cloud because we were under it."

He tried to rescue his family but his sister was badly wounded and the fire was coming closer.

Many buildings around the city hall had been quickly demolished to try to contain the spreading fire, fanned by a strong wind. They dove into the water repeatedly to cool off from the intense heat, not realizing this water might be contaminated or radiated. They drank the water but it made them vomit.

Clumps of his hair started falling out, as did his family's hair. He regrets not keeping that damaged hair as a reminder. His mother died in less than a month and his father prepared funerals for them all. At the time there was no treatment or remedy for radiation poisoning. He needed blood transfusions every other day. His younger sister died six months later. Despite various diseases he and his brother survived. In 1984 his brother, now a doctor, died of liver cancer.

In spite of this he still considers himself lucky because he was together with his family members after the blast, unlike most who never saw their families again.

A question and answer period followed. Of the approximately 60 people in attendance tonight, five were Maryknollers.

This gathering at Maryknoll tonight coincides with the opening of the world nuclear arms conference taking place at the United Nations.

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Voice of A-Bomb Victims


TONIGHT May 3 at 7:30 survivors of the atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki will speak in our Asia Room.

They will present a short video, describe their experiences and engage in discussion with us.

This event us co-sponsored by the Ethical Society of Northern Westchester and the Briarcliff-Ossining Ministerial Association.

All are invited.

I will live blog the presentation.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mozart's Requiem

Members of the Westchester Choral Society and Orchestra rehearse in the main chapel for two performances of Mozart's Requiem and other works.

The concert is tonight at 8:00 p.m. and again tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $15 for students. Maryknollers may still get one of 25 complimentary tickets available for today's performance. Tomorrow's have already been given out.