Good Friday – Stations of the Cross

Following the Way of Jesus in Downtown Duluth, MN

by Mark Daniel Hakes and Chelsea Froemke (from the Loaves and Fishes Catholic Worker)

 

First Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death

Location: Courthouse

 

Reading – Matthew 27:22-26

Pilate said, “What would you have me do with this Jesus, whom some call the Anointed One?”
The crowd shouted, “Crucify Him!”
Pilate responded, “Why? What crime has this man committed?”
Still the crowd shouted, “Crucify Him!”
Pilate saw that unless he wanted a riot on his hands, he now had to bow to their wishes. So he took a pitcher of water, stood before the crowd, and washed his hands.
“You will see to this crucifixion, for this man’s blood will be upon you and not upon me. I wash myself of it.”
The crowd responded, “Indeed, let His blood be upon us—upon us and our children!”

So Pilate released Barabbas, and he had Jesus flogged and handed over to be crucified.

 

Prayer

God of justice and mercy, we ask forgiveness for the many ways we wash our hands of the suffering of those around us. As a society, as Christians, and as individuals we have ignored injustice and condemned our siblings to live lives marred by addiction, violence, physical and mental health issues, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and so much more all perpetrated through our complacency with oppressive systems and structures. Today, we ask that our eyes, our ears, and our hearts be opened and that as we walk with Jesus to his crucifixion, we might learn to walk more closely with our neighbors.

 

Second Station: Scourging and Crowning with Thorns

Location: Sacred Heart Center

 

Reading – Matthew 27:27-31

The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into a great hall, gathered a great crowd, and stripped Jesus of His clothes, draping Him in a bold scarlet cloak, the kind that soldiers sometimes wore. They gathered some thorny vines, wove them into a crown, and perched that crown upon His head. They stuck a reed in His right hand, and then they knelt before Him, this inside-out, upside-down King. They mocked Him with catcalls, saying “Hail, the King of the Jews!” They spat on Him and whipped Him on the head with His scepter of reeds, and when they had their fill, they pulled off the bold scarlet cloak, dressed Him in His own simple clothes, and led Him off to be crucified.

 

Prayer:

Creator God, we acknowledge that we are on occupied land. Here, in front of a building that symbolizes the forced assimilation of Native people, we ask forgiveness for the ways we have stripped Native communities of land, culture, language, and religion. Disregarding the humanity of the people before us we have mocked them and attempted to cloth them in the trappings of the dominant white culture. Help us to notice how we continue to participate in the scourging of our Native siblings. May we link arms with them against those things that threaten our common home and work to finally end the exploitation of native lands and lives.

 

Third Station: Simon of Cyrene and Wine with Bitter Herbs

Location: CHUM

 

Reading – Matthew 27:32-34

As they were walking, they found a man called Simon of Cyrene and forced him to carry the cross. Eventually they came to a place called Golgotha, which means “Place of the Skull.” There they gave Him a drink—wine mixed with bitter herbs. He tasted it but refused to drink it.

 

Prayer:

Sheltering God, we stop here to notice our friends who are forced to carry their belongings, everything they possess from place to place. We give thanks for the many people among us and in this community that offer those who find themselves homeless shelter, food, and hospitality. May we strive to not forget people’s humanity and remember to give them more than just our leftovers.

 

Fourth Station: Peter’s Denial

Location: The Flame Nightclub

 

Reading – Matthew 26:33-35

Peter said, “Lord, maybe everyone else will trip and fall tonight, but I will not. I’ll be beside You. I won’t falter.”
Jesus looked at him with compassion and replied, “If only that were true. In fact, this very night, before the rooster crows in the morning, you will disown Me three times.”
“No!” said Peter, “I won’t deny You. Even if that means I have to die with You!” And each of the disciples echoed Peter.

Prayer:

God of many names and many identities, too often we have we denied our queer siblings, disowning them from our families, churches, and lives. We give thanks for places like this that have provided a sanctuary for people who are hiding their identities out of fear of revealing who they are. May we strive to make our churches and homes places of radical refuge. Help us learn how to be people who welcome, accept, and embrace the rainbowed diversity you have created.

 

Fifth Station: Jesus is Crucified

Location: Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial

 

Reading – Matthew 27:35-39

And so they had Him crucified. They divided the clothes off His back by drawing lots, and they sat on the ground and watched Him hang. They placed a sign over His head: “This is Jesus, King of the Jews.” And then they crucified two thieves next to Him, one at His right hand and one at His left hand.
Passersby shouted curses and blasphemies at Jesus. They wagged their heads at Him and hissed.

 

Prayer:

God of the innocent condemned, as we contemplate Jesus’s death, we remember the crucifixion of three innocent men on this spot; Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie. We decry the continued lynching of our black and brown siblings, often at the hands of those sworn to protect all of our community. We declare with full-throated conviction that Black. Lives. Matter. and we call on all people, but especially those of us with power and privilege, to work to dismantle the racist systems our country, state, city, and churches are built on.

 

Sixth Station: Repentant Thief

Location: Building for Women

 

Reading – Luke 23:37-43

The soldiers at the cross called out, “Hey, if You’re the King of the Jews, why don’t You free Yourself!” Even the inscription they placed over Him was intended to mock Him—“This is the King of the Jews!” [This was written in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.]
One of the criminals joined in the cruel talk, saying, “You’re supposed to be the Anointed One, right? Well—do it! Rescue Yourself and us!”
But the other criminal told him to be quiet. “Don’t you have any fear of God at all? You’re getting the same death sentence He is! We’re getting what we deserve since we’ve committed crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong at all!” Then turning to Jesus, he said, “Jesus, when You come into Your kingdom, please remember me.”
Jesus responded, “I promise you that this very day you will be with Me in paradise.”

 

Prayer:

Mother God, we ask forgiveness for the ways we are often like the cynical thief subjecting women to ridicule and public humiliation when they’ve made decisions about their own health and their bodies or when they have come forward to speak their truths and expose the sins of others. May we be like the repentant thief who calls out injustice and centers the stories of those oppressed and victimized. Help us to stand firm in our faith, trusting women with their own health and stories, and embolden us to work to end sexual violence and intimidation whenever it occurs in our churches, our community, and our world.

 

Seventh Station: Jesus entrusts Mary and John to one another

Location: Federal Building

 

Reading – John 19:25-28a

Jesus’ mother was standing next to His cross along with her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus looked to see His mother and the disciple He loved standing nearby. Jesus called to his mother, “Dear woman, this is your son (motioning to the beloved disciple)!”And then to John, His disciple, He said, “This is now your mother.” From that moment, the disciple treated her like his own mother and welcomed her into his house.

 

Prayer:

God of borderless love, we stand in front of the Federal Building which houses the offices of Border Control. Open our ears to hear the cries of your children who, seeking security, safety, and a new home, are instead separated, rounded up in raids, led to detention centers, and deported. Give us courage to resist and the strength to stand with and for your inclusive love. May we embrace them and welcome them into our common home, just as John did Mary. This is the work that Jesus calls us to. This is the Way of Jesus.

 

Final Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

Location: City Hall

 

Reading – Luke 23:44-46

At this point, it was about noon, and a darkness fell over the whole region. The darkness persisted until about three in the afternoon, and at some point during this darkness, the curtain in the temple was torn in two.
Then, Jesus shouted loudly, “Father, I entrust My spirit into Your hands!”
And with those words, He exhaled—and breathed no more.

 

Prayer:

God of the voiceless, the people we have lifted up today are often silenced by conditions outside of their control. Here on the steps of City Hall, we call on all of our leaders to work for an end to the structures and systems that marginalize and oppress. We recognize, however, that like Pilate, our leaders are often swayed towards injustice by the screaming voices of hate. As we prepare once more to celebrate Jesus’s resurrection and the recreating power of Jesus’s Way of Love, may we be strengthened to continue building a new world in the shell of the old and may we recognize the face of our Savior in those around us. Amen.

 

Go in peace, friends.

 

Song Texts:

 

 

  • Bless the Lord, my soul, and bless God’s holy name. Bless the Lord, my soul, who leads me into life.
  • We adore you, Jesus Christ, and we bless your Holy Name; truly your cross and passion bring us life and healing.
  • Wait for the Lord, whose day is near. Wait for the Lord: keep watch, take heart.
  • O God hear our prayer, O God hear our prayer, when we call answer us. O God hear our prayer, O God hear our prayer, come and listen to us.

 

 

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Consider The Puppies

For the past few weeks, my apartment has been under attack by an intruder.

While I usually experience the intruder’s attacks head on, I sometimes don’t discover her dastardly deeds until days later. I’ve suffered injuries and had valuable possessions destroyed. I’ve been woken up in the middle of the night by yelling, and have forgotten what it’s like to sleep past 5:30am. The most amazing thing? This intruder is three months old, weighs six pounds, and is unbelievably cute.

You see, just over a month ago, my girlfriend and I went to a local animal shelter to pick up the cutest Dachshund puppy we had ever seen. We had no idea that Shiloh Becker-Noble would eventually become what I call the “tiny canine terrorist who lives in our home.”

Now don’t get me wrong: I love this dog. She’s mostly well-behaved and friendly, and I don’t know what I did with all of my daily stress before puppy snuggles. But it certainly hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. She chews our carpet and pees anywhere she sees fit. In the past month alone, we’ve lost a lamp cord and a computer charger when she ripped them to shreds, and my laptop when she decided to take a potty break on the keyboard. Our baseboards, hands, and toes are marred with teeth marks, there’s a new hole in our bedsheets, and one corner of our carpet has been sufficiently shredded. She barks at planes flying overhead, and attempts to eat every piece of plastic she finds outside.

Although the damage, destruction, and noise haven’t been my favorite thing, the time commitments of a puppy have been far worse. Work and social commitments are constantly interrupted by the need to go home and take Shiloh out to do her puppy business. Without long walks, she sprints around our apartment, howling and whining until we take her down three flights of stairs to the small patch of grass outside. A timer is constantly running in the back of my mind: how long has Shiloh been home by herself? When should I head back to let her out again? When’s her next vet visit?

These commitments have been most challenging when they conflict with my schoolwork. As a divinity school student, most of my time is spent writing papers, reading long books, and frantically reviewing Hebrew flashcards. However, it seems like Shiloh has a built-in hyperactivity timer that consistently coincides with the time I’ve reserved for studying. Sitting down with a book or flashcards almost guarantees that Shiloh will instantly be biting at my ankles, peeing on the carpet, or climbing something she’s not supposed to.

Shiloh’s constant activity can feel like a burden on my daily schedule. While I tend to get excessively frustrated with Shiloh and her need for attention and stimulation, my girlfriend offers much more grace to our canine companion. “Remember,” she’ll often tell me, “She’s just a puppy. She doesn’t know any better.”

And it gets me thinking: what does Shiloh know? Mostly, she knows about the daily functions of her body: when she hurts, when she’s tired, when she’s curious. She does her best to communicate those knowings to us by barking, running, and playing. Since she’s teething, she knows that her gums hurt and she needs to chew on something. She knows when nature calls: when she needs to do her business and sometimes even throw up.

What Shiloh doesn’t know about are the systems that she and her owners live in. She doesn’t know that peeing on a laptop or ripping up the carpet means that her owners have to pay their landlord or a computer company extra money. She doesn’t know that we leave during the day because our economic system makes us choose between quality time with our loved ones and labor. She doesn’t know that wanting to play all the time can’t happen because her owners have to put in long hours at work and school to work for the possibility of a secure future.

Shiloh doesn’t know that the scary noises that wake her up are military planes that wreak death and destruction flying overhead, paid for by her owners’ tax dollars. She doesn’t know that the plastic packaging she tries to eat outside is the result of a wasteful consumer culture and corporate agriculture that threatens her health and the planet’s. She doesn’t know that it’s hard to find expanses of grass because of gentrifying urban sprawl that decimates poor communities and communities of color.

You see, Shiloh doesn’t actually impose on my way of life. The way I act, the way humanity acts, imposes on her way of life. Our systems of domination, oppression, and exploitation are grounded in what Rosemary Ruether calls a “patriarchal anthropology.” In this view of the cosmos, humans are destined to a life of “ruling over others, superior to them, and escaping our common mortality.” Our priorities and desires come first, and we subjugate the needs of the Shilohs of the world to uphold our middle-class comforts. We replace biological harmony with technological colonization of the natural world and our fellow living beings. We replace social harmony with social sin.

During Lent, we are called to repentance, to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Good News.” In the Hebrew Bible, repentance is described as teshuva, from the root word shuv, which means “to turn.” So how can we turn from structures of domination and towards a life-giving model of collaboration and symbiosis?

In the Gospel of Matthew , Jesus instructs his followers to cast off the worries of human life. He calls them to “consider the birds of the air” and “consider the lilies of the field,” since they aren’t bound to the sowing, reaping, toiling, and spinning of human existence. Perhaps in our 21st-century context, we should “consider the puppies,” and the world of right relationship and mutual respect they call us into.

Still not thrilled about that laptop, though.

Rebuilding the People’s Church

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(Image via Christians for Socialism)

I recently completed a research project on the ecumenical dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). As a Roman Catholic student at a Disciples of Christ seminary, I am interested in the historical relationship between these two communions and the broader complexities of ecumenism and dialogue across lines of difference. This research interest led me to remarks by World Council of Churches ecumenist Aram I, who serves as the Catholicos of Cicilia and head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Aram spoke in 2005 to representatives of the Joint Working Group (JWG) dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. In this dialogue, he offered a challenge to ecumenical workers, urging them to make their work relevant to the Church universal:

“How many churches, clergy or theologians are aware of the work of the JWG? Its work is confined to a limited circle of ecumenists. To address this situation, the work of the JWG must be related to the life of the church on the local level, and must be appropriated by the churches through a process of ecumenical education. Reaching the local churches: I consider this a major task before the ecumenical movement for the years to come.”

 Aram’s call for a relevant ecumenism that speaks to the needs of the local church reminded me of another challenging call to the Church by Sheila Briggs. At the 2000 gathering of the Women’s Ordination Conference, Briggs challenged dominant views of ordination:

“Sheila Briggs, an African American Catholic religious studies scholar, stated that ordination is by its very nature an elitist practice, one that by definition excludes women (and men) who are not highly educated. She asked, ‘when will the poor begin to celebrate the Eucharist?’

Like Sheila Briggs, Roman Catholic labor leader Dolores Huerta challenged the elitism of Roman Catholic power structures in negotiations with the Catholic Conference of California. When César Chavez asked for a priest to support striking farmworkers, corporate interests convinced bishops to take the priest away.

“Dolores Huerta lead a group of farm worker women into Bishop Manning’s office in Fresno and asked, ‘Why did you take our priest away from the farm workers? We’re not going to leave until we get an answer.’ Bishop Manning said ‘I’m going to go now and pray.’ Two hours later, he came back and said ‘I’ve been praying to the Holy Spirit.’ Dolores and the women said ‘We are the Holy Spirit incarnate. We are the poor!’ He thought about it and agreed.”

The words of Huerta, Briggs, and Aram challenge people like myself who are invested in the world of academic theology. They shake our ivory towers, reminding us that God’s transformative reign of global flourishing, peace, and justice will not be brought about by academic elites. The good news cannot be proclaimed on high from comfortable seats of abstract theological discourse. Our theological debates are meaningless if they have nothing to say to the poor and exploited, to lay members of the local church, and to those whose voices and priestly callings are repressed by the Church because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

How can we debate the two natures of Christ without resisting the exploitation of nature itself? How can we examine the intricacies of the Eucharistic meal without working with those who have no food to eat? How can we wonder about the details of God’s embodiment in the Incarnation without demolishing the material oppressions that the United States’ racist warmongering, policing, and deportations inflict on the bodies of people of color at home and around the world? How can we inquire about the metaphysics of Jesus’ healing while our neighbors die because they cannot afford healthcare? In the words of St. John Chrysostom, how can we see Christ in the chalice, but not in the beggar at the church door?

If we believe Dolores Huerta’s words, that the Holy Spirit is incarnate in the lives of the poor, oppressed, and exploited, then we must change the voices we value:

  • Instead of uncritically praising Pope Francis, we must turn to the survivors of clergy sex abuse he has harmed, the women whose priestly calls he has denied, and queer and trans people who have suffered under the church’s oppression.
  • Instead of centering popular Catholic voices who have the backing of hierarchs and celebrities, we must turn to academic thinkers, church workers, and revolutionaries who have faced excommunication and marginalization for questioning the racialized, gendered, and economic power imbalances of our Church.
  • Instead of believing that the Good News can only flow from respectable institutions of Catholic higher education, we must turn to those workers whose union rights have been denied by Catholic colleges and universities. We must turn to those whose neighborhoods have been gentrified by Catholic schools, and to those who suffer under the boot of US imperialism while Catholic colleges allow military training on their campuses.
  • Instead of presidential candidates, priests, and popes, we must turn to the witness of workers and the laity, knowing that “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17)

We must revive the call of liberation theologians, re-building a “theology from below” that forms the foundations of a “People’s Church.” When it comes to war and the environment, we must stop thinking like Catholic hierarchs and start thinking like Catholic Workers.

When we dare to dream of a liberating future for all of humanity, we must turn to the witness of the People of God enacted through groups like Christians for Socialism, the Movement for Black Lives, the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, and the Poor People’s Campaign. Instead of dancing around controversial issues in the Church, we must fully affirm the lives, loves, reproductive freedom, and priestly callings of women and LGBTQIA+ people.

It is time to break free of institutions that stifle, and to enact God’s live-giving presence against oppression and exploitation in our local and global communities.

Risking Resurrection: Cultivating Eucharistic Vision

This is a post by Jacob Taylor and was originally posted on the EcoFaith Recovery blog. Jacob’s work is primarily concerned with the intersection between watershed literacy/eco-spirituality and Christian discipleship. All photographs in the post are his.

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“Christian hope begins where every other hope stands stiff before the face of the Unspeakable.” Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable

A few months ago I began hosting weekly “Eucharistic contemplation” hours at my house. It initially began as an excuse to invite friends over to participate in two symbols/rituals that are really important to me, and through which I make sense of my life – silence and Eucharist – and to cultivate some spiritual community in a home that can otherwise get a bit lonely. Over the past couple of months it’s become an anchoring point in my week and a brilliant means of connecting with others in my community who are also, for whatever reason, drawn to these mysteries. Every week it’s a profound joy to set the Table, stoke the wood fire stove in the living room and lay out candles, icons, and burning myrrh or palo santo wood in preparation for everyone to arrive. We’ll read a section of the Bible from the lectionary or a salient excerpt from a saint (the likes of Berrigan, St. Teresa, Merton) and sit in silence for 30 minutes of centering prayer and meditation, then close out the gathering with a poem or Taize tune. It’s a simple, stripped-down gathering that continues to be a well of refreshment and grounding.

As we’ve been gathering, and as I’ve continued my monthly EcoFaith meeting at my church, the question that continues to linger in my mind in our meditation and all our conversations around sacrament, ecotheology, justice, and discipleship is, “what does it mean to live Eucharistically in this moment?” Given the circumstances, socially, ecologically, personally, whatever, what is the Eucharist inviting us into in this moment, right now?

Whatever else it is, I understand this symbol to mean that Christ is unrelenting in his solidarity with the pain of Creation, and that he embraces our (and all the earth’s) collective groan for healing all the way to death and back. And as we make that reciprocal embrace of Christ’s suffering in ingesting the Elements, we conscript ourselves into the same to-the-death solidarity, and retell the story of redemption in our bodies. We eat and drink God’s given-ness, and in turn give ourselves back; in mystery, we participate in the very life of Christ by pouring ourselves out for the world.

Of course this sounds nice, but the question that won’t leave my mind concerns what we do with this story, practically, in this historic moment. Certainly I don’t need to ramble off statistics here about how terrible things look for the climate or belabor the prospects of continual war, political balkanization, and extractive economic practices. We are by no means in a crisis of access to this critical information. Instead, we find ourselves continually confronted with the choice (as my mentor Ched Myers puts it brilliantly in his book Who Will Roll Away the Stone, Orbis 1994) of discipleship or denial, given that all of this is happening. Will we continue to warm our hands with Peter in the courtyard at the imperial fires of privilege and first world comfort and entitlement, or will we run, finally, to the cries of the scourged One inside? 

The earth and its inhabitants continue to groan under the heavy foot of human violence and domination. The invitation I see in the Eucharist is to imbibe and emobody the counter-narrative of shalom/reconciliation and claim our bodies and lives as this-much of the world, this (personally speaking, of course) 5”11 150 lbs of humus already in alignment with the reign of God. This much made new and participating in the making-new of all things. We are invited to not only believe in the resurrection, but to risk it, and this affirmative choice empowers us to put our lives in the way of the death-dealing forces of the world (read: the System) without fear of being overcome. Christ has conquered death by death, and whether we live or die, we exist in his Life, liberated from the tyranny of death’s intimidation. The Eucharist stands in history as an interrogation of both the politics of domination and the self-congratulating spirituality (Christian, post-Christian, new age, “non-religious,” whatever) of cheap grace. Indeed, Father Berrigan said a person should first consider “what they look like on wood” before they get serious about following Christ. Each generation, and each would-be disciple, must make the connections between this commitment and their lived experiences, personally, socially, and historically. It is always as particular and specific as this moment.

We are the representatives of and, in mystery, the very living presence of Christ in the world. To live eucharistically is to participate experientially in both the enormous love and grief of Christ, and reciprocally, to receive his word of solidarity with and love and grief of Creation. Prayer (mental prayer or just listening in silence) is the process of widening the aperture of our spirits to a more expansive experience of both the profound compassion and the pain of God. It is a deepening of the human spirit, and a coming home to the truth of our very being, which is hidden in the presence of God — whose heart has been called “the open wound of Love.” In the Eucharist and in prayer, we come home to wholeness. We re-member what has been disjointed, cut off, exiled, and forgotten. In silence, we model Mary in consenting to the active word of God already at work in us, and we surrender to the mystery and beauty embodied in the Elements. 

This things are too precious to be left in the hands of those who would relegate their significance exclusively to detached, otherworldly concerns. The kingdom of God is among us now, here, and is beckoning us to join the work of reconciliation, to risk resurrection and meet Christ along the way. In every situation, “though the earth gives way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46) may we have the vision and the courage to live these questions with integrity, curiosity, and the very given-ness of our God. Maranatha!

embracing guadalupen theology

I wrote this a few years ago and wanted to repost in honor of today’s feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   My reflection looks at the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a “still speaking” text of liberation and wholeness.   ¡Que viva la Guadalupana!

Some music in honor of today:  La Guadalupana sung by Miriam Solis; a variation of the same song by Emmanuel and Alexander Hacha. 


As I reflect over one of my favorite images of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, I realize the rich complexity and beauty within the apparition of la Morenita del Tepayac.  Just as in Galilee Mary’s yes and life pointed to God; so too in Mexico on a sacred mount Mary again points towards the path to God.   It is an apparition that does not have one meaning but speaks to us today on several levels.   The apparition has social, historic, and theological implications with new discoveries and meanings to consider with each look at the story.  Theologically, Guadalupe demonstrates God’s revelation through the unlikely hero, the need for safe space for divine encounter, and of the “un-boxing” of God’s revelation.

Throughout Biblical and Christian history, there are many examples of the underdog that saves the day.  In Guadalupe we come to see what God can do through the “nobody”, the outcast, and the rejected.  Just as God chose a poor Galilean Jewish girl to come into the world, God chose a poor indigenous man to reveal God’s plan for a new creation.  It is through the marginalized community that God planted seeds to fix the mess created by misguided, well-intentioned European colonizers—a revolu that is still being dealt with today.  Similar to stories in the Hebrew Bible, God demonstrates that God does not abandon God’s people but walks with the people and will provide a messiah. Mary, Joseph, Hagar, David, and Rahab are examples of people who were not hero material on the outside because of their gender, size, class, or fulfillment of cultural expectations but whose lives revolutionized their communities and history; Juan Diego is in this same line of known and unknown individuals that God uses to reveal truth, bring about change, and reflect divine love.  Though indigenous people were looked down upon and their culture seen as threat by Europeans, God sees potential and uses Juan to evangelize the Europeans and ultimately the world.   God holds up the rejected by calling an indigenous farmer to be a prophet, using the language and symbolism of the “conquered” to deconstruct harmful rhetoric, and comes to the people through Mary’s apparition as one of them through one of them to bring wholeness and liberation.

The story of Guadalupe reflects the need for safer spaces to connect with God.  Europeans came and destroyed the lives (on every level) of the Indigenous people of the Americas.  Native communities were flattened through a “salvation” of coercion and  humiliation—all in the name of God and in the name of progress, globalization, and evangelization.  People along with their traditions, beliefs, and way of life were completely eradicated because they were perceived to be less human (difference, like today, was seen as a threat to be silenced and conquered).  European notions of God, customs, dress, and education were forced upon tribes.  The conquest and colonization did not give people the space to desahogarse of their traumatic experience or grieve the loss of their livelihood as a community who became strangers in their own land—land that they had worked, bought with their sweat and blood, built homes on, and was a source of connection to the divine.  They were violated, blamed for being violated, and had no outlet to express these feelings. A dynamic that sadly continues today with other marginalized groups who are re-victimized by being blamed for the dominant group’s harsh treatment of them.

The missionaries’ church was not a place of encounter with God but a place of fear, pain, and terror.  Why would the indigenous people who were being evangelized and forced to convert want to come close to a god or deity who obliterated their sense of self, their land, their families, and their way of life?  Before any relationship with God could be created and fostered, it was necessary to establish spaces where people could heal and find God in travesty and tribulation.  God was not freely found but imposed—that is not healing, forgiving, liberating, or “whole-making” but just deepens the wounds.  As with other forms of violence, people than and now begin to believe the lies told to them by their oppressors.  It is beautiful and amazing how Mary greets Juan Diego; her greeting in his mother tongue begins to restore dignity that was taken from his people. Guadalupe provided a safe space by reclaiming a sacred site as a place of divine encounter, demonstrating that indigenous practices were not evil but good, and planted the seeds for a new beginning for both natives and foreigners.  Though the story of Guadalupe has brought healing and created a safer space, I believe that the Church needs to take a step further to apologize for its actions in the 1500s and not hide behind the image of Our Lady.  The story of Guadalupe shows how God reached out to create a sanctuary where people could encounter the divine on their own terms and through their own unique self and to begin a new creation from the pain of chaos and confusion (a message that has many implications for pastoral work today).

God’s work through the unlikely hero and the creation of safer spaces demonstrates that God’s complex and liberating revelation can be revealed to us through simple means that truly pack a punch.  Through Juan Diego’s testimony, the tilma with Our Lady’s image, and guadalupen roses God continues to speak to us today in a truly remarkable way.  We sometimes get caught up in the grandiose and in the bells-and-whistles; we often forget that God speaks in the “still small voice”.   Guadalupe was a reminder than and now that God can use anything as a microphone to speak God’s message of love and justice for all.  Guadalupe shows how God spoke and continues to speak through the rejected and marginalized to the Church and to society.  God’s message can come through the institution and hierarchy of the Church but it is not confined to it.  God speaks through the whole church choosing prophets from every level of church from bishops to forgotten campesinos.  The message of Guadalupe did not come from a learned philosopher but from a simple man eager to please his dulce Señora­—the message that was given was directed from the pueblo to the higher-ups (not vice versa as is often the case). God used Juan Diego and La Morenita to remind us that God’s revelation is bigger than the neat little box we try to put it in and is not limited to one person or a select few.

The story of Guadalupe has multiple meanings and was an event in history that continues to speak to us today. It’s messages take on new significance with each reading of the events that took place.  Hopefully we continue to learn, listen, and live what Guadalupe said and continues to say to us today as individuals, community, and church.   ¡Que viva la Guadalupana!


 

delfin bautista is a native of Miami, FL, delfin is of both Cuban and Salvadoran heritage.   delfin is a social worker and activist theologian who is passionate about engaging the intersections of religion, gender, sexuality, race, and justice.   delfin is a former member of CTA’s Vision Council, Board of Directors, Anti-Racism Team, and 20/30 Leadership Team.  delfin is coauthor of religion and spirituality in Trans Bodies, Trans Selves and also serves on their Board of Directors.  delfin currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University as well as serving as adjunct faculty in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  delfin is also a contributor to Believe Out Loud’s blog and “preaches” on their blog “La Lucha, Mi Pulpito.”

Thesis writing as Activism

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For now, writing my thesis is my activism.

These words slipped out of my fingers as I was replying to what I had thought was a simple-enough Facebook post turned comment war, and I don’t know that I really believed them at first. Writing for a blog for Call to Action, and being the post following one on Standing Rock, I suppose I don’t really need to explain why I’m talking about activism on a Catholic blog. But let me just say that it’s in my DNA. I grew up with parents who write letters to political leaders and take part in protests out of a sincere desire to live out the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church. Much has been made of the debate between Catholics and Lutherans over whether one is saved by works or by faith alone, but whatever the answer, the good side of it is the motivation to get out and do something.

But what if you find yourself so busy that you really can’t fathom doing another thing? Certainly sometimes this is a sure sign that you’ve over-extended yourself in unimportant areas and need to refocus on what is important. For me right now, however, I have all I can do to focus on work, thesis writing, and being a good boyfriend. In that case, it helps to turn to these words attributed to Oscar Romero:

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

If I can’t add to my plate right now, perhaps I can see this plate in a new light – as doing something. I remind myself that I chose to work at the library because I was genuinely excited about being able to serve everyone. I know that my interactions with my boyfriend, on their best days, bring Christ into the world both for him and for others who see us.

And I warm up to the idea that perhaps writing my thesis is activism. I’m writing about different Catholic responses to the transgender community, and I hope to spur some healthy dialogue. If just one person reads my thesis and starts on the path of being a voice for transgender people, I will have at least done something. And yet, even without this outcome, my research is changing me. While I consider myself an imperfect but decent trans ally, I’ve realized that I had never taken the time to really look at the Church’s thoughts on being trans and pull them apart. If we agree that the Church needs a radical transformation on its stance, knowing that stance precisely is the first step toward an effective counterargument. At the same time, my understanding of the liberal Catholic response has evolved from “they think the official teaching is wrong” to an appreciation of the beautiful, creative theology being written by these groups to carve out a well-deserved place in the Church for trans people. When my thesis is finally signed off on, hopefully I’ll go back to the traditional forms of activism, but for now – and I now say this with conviction – my thesis is my activism!

About the author: Francis Beaumier is on the leadership team for the Dignity Young Adult Caucus and an active member of the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Family as well as Angels of Hope Metropolitan Community Church. He currently works for Brown County Library as an IT Specialist and is pursuing a Master’s in Liberal Studies at St. Norbert College.

Bridge-Building and Radical Forgiveness: Standing Rock and Beyond

This is a post by Jacob Taylor who is a native to the Maketewah watershed in southwestern Ohio. His work is primarily concerned with the intersection between watershed literacy/eco-spirituality and Christian discipleship. All photographs in this post are his.

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I decided to take a break from a few years of relative FB silence to voice support for anyone considering making the jaunt to Standing Rock. I’m really happy to share information from my (limited) experience there.  If it’s been on your radar, I think it’s a really good time to start making plans. If it’s not, there are a lot of avenues for you to extend support to that struggle from home, for real.

On another note, amidst a lot of heaviness, I feel an immense gratitude for all of the demonstrations of courage, solidarity, and bridge-building I’ve witnessed in the past two days. I sat in a mosque basement last night (I would’ve maybe never found myself there were it not for the election results) with a group of Muslim sisters and brothers to talk about how we can support each other in the coming days, and for every tearful voice that said, “I’ve never felt more vulnerable in my life” there was another that said “today I feel strong. Today I feel love towards those who would demonize me. I choose to extend compassion and listen to the pains and concerns of those who would cast a vote against my life.” We wept and laughed and ate pizza and it felt like holy sacrament.

Last week I stood on broken glass with 500+ Christian clergy members against a giant police and National Guard barricade to renounce our complicity and silence in the midst of so much earth-pillaging in ND. I heard a Lakota elder, pointing up over the hill towards the construction workers currently ripping up native sacred sites and in the process effectively endangering the water supply of 18 million people, and towards the militarized police defending them, say “we must pray for them, for their well-being and and for the well-being of their families. We must forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing.” As a group, in ceremony, we acknowledged and mourned five centuries of profound violence, and pledged solidarity with the indigenous represented and renewed covenant with earth. We found out that the number of clergy enrolled in the Standing Rock delegation was 544, exactly the number of years since the Doctrine of Discovery.

There is reason for real concern. Anguish, even. But for despair, never. We’re about to dive head-first into some deeep and old historical traumas and wounds, and we’re going to bleed in the process. But we’re going to start the long work of healing. We’re going to bind up each others’ wounds and keep struggling towards Shalom. We’re going to build stronger bridges and alliances, more sustained resistance movements, give longer hugs, plant bigger gardens, and we’re going to call each other to unprecedented gestures of courage and solidarity. Our work has never been more cut out for us. This struggle is old as time, and as Canadian patron St. of heartbreak L. Cohen (rip) said damn, we have the music. And damn if I can’t see a couple stars out tonight. If even just a couple. You are loved. You are strong. Together we are stronger. Kyrie Eleison, now and tomorrow, come what may. God of Life, give us vision and courage.