Archive for January 2012

Viva Padre Bix!

January 29, 2012

Jesuit priest and peace activist Father Bill “Bix” Bichsel, 83, is in his second week of a hunger strike to protest solitary confinement at Washington’s SeaTac Federal Detention Center, where he’d been held for an earlier action against a proposed nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee.

Wasn’t that a time?

When the Catholic Church produced such men and women, fiery spirits who were engaged with the world.They entered the priesthood to challenge the enemies of life.They had learned from the silence of the Church in the 30’s that to say nothing was to come down on the side of the oppressor. As the great war resister and married priest Phil Berrigan used to say, “When they come for the innocent make sure they have to step over your body.”

Today the opposite is true. The wounded souls coming out of seminaries are looking for safe havens, islands of holiness where tbey can focus on their interior lives.There will be no crucifixes for them.They will not disturb anybody—just like Jesus of Nazareth!

Viva Bix Bichsel! A holy man who has taken history and the incarnation seriously.

A member of Disarm Now Plowshares, Bichsel has been arrested several times for nonviolent civil disobedience at military bases, nuclear weapons manufacturers, and the School of the Americas. He is currently being punished – including having to wear shackles at his hearing – for an “unauthorized” visit by two Buddhist monks who drummed and prayed outside for him. Despite cold and health problems, Father Bichsel says he sings to himself in his cell. His resolve remains strong to fight against nuclear weapons and other US policies “that are without conscience.” He has alot of work ahead of him.


William J. Bichsel, S.J
 # 86275-020 SHU
P.O. Box 13900
Seattle, WA 98198 – 1090

Wine before breakfast?

January 23, 2012

Wine Before Breakfast?
… what else would you expect from a
glutton and a drunkard?

Hip incarnational theologian Brian Walsh has this sign in his room.

Now you need to know something about the New Testament and Jesus in bad company, his penchant for hanging out with those on the margins, the uncool and decidedly unhip.It goes without saying that the brother opened his table up to the washed and unwashed, providing much fare for scandal.

Hence the eucharist today…all are one at the table. Even Conrad Black only gets one piece of bread! Money and status are radically relativized.Real eucharist is a foretaste of the just society

Jesus celebrated but one—and was crucified.Today’s church cranks them out endlessly.The sacrament hardly points to his reality of “danger.” A sacrament only is potent if it does not lose sign value.

Theologians use the word “commensality” to describe this shocking behaviour of Jesus particularly in the highly stratified society prevalent in Palestine in the first century.

It was just like Downton Abbey, the hit TV show af Edwardian England.

You simply did not sit at the table with the servants.There was “Upstairs” and “Downstairs.”

World War l helped to shatter the stratified British society.War generally shakes a lot of “givens” and “prohibitions” up. IN WW l many left the churches when they understood the role they played in pumping war.Whenever you see a flag on an altar, leave!

In the USA it was the catalyst for black demands for inclusion and women’s demands for greater participation in society.

So a monthly group of Anglicans meet at 7:22 AM with Wine before Breakfast…and all are welcome!

A little seed of community in downtown Toronto.

Rick Santorum Right to Death

January 20, 2012

On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear program in Iran turn up dead,” bragged U.S. Republican nomination candidate Rick Santorum. “I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.”

Yes, indeed Mr Right to Life, Rick Santorum candidate for Republican nomination for US President.

Can you get your mind around such hypocrisy? This type should embarrass these so-called Pro Life dimwits.The man just bragged about murder! About a man who is the father of a small child.

Not that Obama was any better when he crowed about the extra-judicial murder of bin Laden.
And both of these upholders of the law remain silent as “the only democracy in the Middle East”, Israel regularly takes the law into its own hands and without a trial, without even a semblance of a gernuflecion to international law, kills somebody.

This is nothing but Empire thinking, the justification of the powerful that they are beyond the law.

But Santorum does take the hypocrisy cake. Life before birth, rah rah.After birth, not so sure!

Bye to the Magi

January 18, 2012

So we bid goodbye to the 3 Kings.

The feast of the epiphany (Jan 6) should be celebrated in a better way, maybe simple gift giving.

Of course the Bible never says thee were three but the evangelists were not interested in history in many cases. Matthew simply is telling us about the significance of this baby! After all he is writing history backwards.He knows the end of it! The baby grows up into this guy Jesus in whom we will find some kind of ultimacy, God breaking through in a human life.

So let’s give him a significant birth.This was a common thing with the ancients.They felt at home with myth. We don’t.We have become sad literalists, fundamentalists and thus miss the many splendored thing.

Here with the use of midrash, (Like Isaiah 60 where you will find the star from the east, kings, traditional gifts like gold and frankincense) Matthew constructs this absolutely lovely “story” about Jesus significance…and even pagans, mere astrologers from Persia can learn from him about how to live a life.

Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4 “Lift up your eyes and look about you:
All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the hip.
5 Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.
6 Herds of camels will cover your land,
young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
bearing gold and incense…

Star of Wonder,Star of Bright!

Maybe it’s Jesus!

Finkelstein and Chagall all in one day! What a gift!

January 13, 2012

Imagine two beautiful Hasids in Toronto on the same day.Difficult to believe but true nevertheless.

Norman Finkelstein the unparalleled documentarian of Israeli apartheid gave a 90 minute speech at the University of Toronto on January 11 and just down the street at the Art Gallery of Ontario there he was the inimitable Marc Chagall, he of the beautiful pan and refined Hasidic sensibilities. Forget the fact that he has been dead for 25 years or so, his work in several art forms still speaks to us of a deep humanism which took flight particularly in his work commemorating the Jewish community of Vitebsk in modern day Belarus.

The Hasidic movement rescued Judaism in eastern Europe from its pedantic and irrelevant posturing. It bought back the joy of the Living God in evert day life, a joy which had been leached from the community by dull rebbes whom had forgotten the holiness of the quotidian. Chagall learned its lessons well and we are all the beneficiaries.

It was Rabb Israel Ben Eliezer (b 1750) or the Baal Shem Tov (the Besht) as he was known who put the colour back into Judaism at a critical juncture in its evolution.It gave new hope to generations living under the cruelty of the czars…and Mark Segal (Chagall) was its most prominent face in the 20th century.

Anybody remotely familiar with Chagall’s work is always rejuvenated.One leaves any gallery with a smile on one’s face.L’chaim indeed!

“Gray is life’s theory, green indeed its living”, wrote Goethe and Chagall reminded his contemporaries of this.

Down the street Norman Finkelstein was doing the same, a Jew whose parents were Holocaust survivors was in deep solidarity with the suffering of the Palestinian people. Here was an unparalled scholar who has dedicated his life to unpacking the immiseration of another Semitic people held forth.

He too brought hope.

Sadly so few people in the Jewish community came out to hear him, the best of the humanistic tribe of Judah, a modern Hasid capable of deep solidarity with a suffering people.

We Three Kings

January 9, 2012

The Magi have come and gone.We said goodbye yesterday at mass.The opening hymn was We Three Kings. The epiphany, first Sunday near January 6.

Now it is official the 12 Days of Christmas have ended.

We can take or Christmas tree down.

The liturgical cycle by which we calibrate our lives moves into ordinary time.
This is the Story I choose to live in. It is perennially new, a lovely meaningful way to structure a life.

It is lamentable that many have not moved beyond the first level of naivete,Just Saturday a friend asked me a question about where the “wise men” came from. 45 years after Vatican ll our people largely have not moved in their understanding of scripture.A massive failure of the post Vatrican ll church.

Matthew whose gospel tells us of the MAGOI (the Greek word can not be translated “kings”) was well aware of the symbolic import of “Non-Jews” from afar were among the first to acknowledge “the new born king”. Luke of course has no MAGOI, only shepherds but that symbol speaks volumes as well. Both are “outsiders’ who grasp the meaning of the Christ chid.

What a story (Greek, mythos), full of dynamite!These men from Persia, the land of Zoroaster are practitioners of the occult, astrologers who read the stars, a prevalent belief then—and even now. Every day the papers contain your horsocope!

But as the Bard reminds us, “The fault dear Caesar is not in our staes but in ourselves!” KISMET was a prevalent worldview among many.Our llfe is fixed and you can read it in the stars—but you can’t change it!

So here come the Magoi laying their gifts at the foot of him who will be Love incarnate. No more Kismet.We have free will to love, to follow the way of the Christ, to die and rise into new life.

More on this later

The latest evidence: Imposed Celibacy does not work

January 4, 2012

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala has resigned after disclosing to superiors that he was the father of two children. The Vatican announced the bishop’s resignation Jan. 4 in a one-line statement that cited church law on resignation for illness or other serious reasons.

So writes the NCR on the latest proof that enforced celibacy does not work.

Nor has it ever worked.

Anyone familiar with the literature ( Here I recommenend Elizabeth Abbot’s book and that all time classic of Henry Lea on Sacerdotal Celibacy.) has come to this conclusion.

The denial in the Vatican is both hypocritical and deeply injurious to the right of the People of God both to marry and have effective ledesrship regardless of gender.One look at Latin America and Africa’s celibacy problems would disabuse any thoughtful person about the efficvacy of this respected discipline.Optional celibacy fully embraced is a great yet rare charism.

Mike Crosby ofm has a great metaphor here.

WE are fishing in the water for new priests.One side of the boat is overfished; no one is biting.On the other side they are leaping out of the water but they happen to be married, female or both. DO NOT FISH HERE!

What does the Church do?

It lowers its standards to keep the civil service stocked.

But the People of God are onto this and are walking with their feet.Parishes are overtocked with inadequate leaders for the 21st century and the talent in the Body goes ignored and unused.

The Vatican remains a peerage of tin ears refusing the call of the Spirit.