Giving Tuesday

Today is termed “Giving Tuesday” and is promoted to remind people to include charitable giving in their December plans.

I chose to support three charities today.

First, I contributed to the NETWORK Education Fund, which is the tax-deductible affiliate of NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby, of which I am also a long-time supporter. They help to educate people on issues such as immigration reform, voter registration, economic justice, etc.

Second, I supported Mary’s Pence, which funds projects which empower women, in the US and the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Some are co-operative economic endeavors, while others are geared toward health, education, or bringing about social change. They also fund study grants for women.

My final choice was the Tanzanian Children’s Fund, which operates a school and orphanage in Tanzania, as well as microfinance projects and medical services. Our cousin Sara has a long history of volunteering with them in Africa and we give to them every December in honor of her and the family.

Of course, we don’t confine our charitable giving to one day, but I am glad that there is a special day to remind people to give to others if they are able. There is no shortage of causes that are worthy of support.

Advent, mercy, and climate action

“…and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.”

I was struck by this passage from Luke chapter 21 this morning at church as we begin the new liturgical year with the first Sunday of Advent. Every day there is news on television of some severe weather disaster, whether it is hurricane/typhoon, flood, tornado, drought, heat wave, landslide, ice storm, or blizzard. I am also acutely aware that the nations are gathering in Paris to begin the climate talks which are our best hope to avert the worst level of climate change which would destroy major ecosystems, cause extinction of many species, and kill millions and millions of people.

I realize that sounds very apocalyptic, but these are the effects that science indicates would happen under a “business as usual” scenario regarding the continued burning of fossil fuels.

This afternoon, I attended an event in solidarity with climate activists around the world in preparation for the Paris talks. We were sharing what brought us together and I said that during my years of writing commentary against fracking, while using science and economics in my arguments, I was energized by the moral and ethical grounding that I received from Catholic social justice doctrine, which teaches care for creation and upholding the dignity of each person. I thanked Pope Francis for his encyclical which is addressed not only to Catholics but to all people of good will, which makes clear that we must care for the world and for each other. Francis calls this “integral ecology.”

We do need systemic change and Paris has to be the start of it. Like the wounded-yet-strong city of Paris, the wounded-yet-strong earth needs our love, care, and attention. All the species of the earth need each other to survive and thrive. All the people of the earth bear responsibility for their neighbors, with those with the largest share of the gifts bearing the most responsibility to help those who are most vulnerable.

On December eighth, Pope Francis will open a Jubilee year dedicated to mercy. This is a particularly powerful symbol at this time. The works of mercy include such actions as feeding the hungry and comforting the afflicted. In the letter declaring the Jubilee, Francis writes  of “the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one.” We are called to exclude no one on earth from our love and care at the precise moment when we are facing the challenge of climate change.

The United States and the European nations that have contributed the largest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions must bear the most responsibility as we move forward. Besides making our own rapid shift to renewable energy, we must help less developed nations build their own renewable energy capacity to help and protect their people and environment, as well as extend assistance and welcome to climate refugees.

Today’s reading from the third chapter of the first letter to the Thessalonians begins, “Brothers and sisters:  May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…”  May we all, those who believe in divinity and those who do not, join in an advent of love and mercy to heal our societies and our planet.

It must begin. Now.

Interview with Ivone Gebara

I just finished reading a great interview with Catholic feminist theologian Ivone Gebara of Brazil.  http://iglesiadescalza.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-pope-has-good-will-but-he-cant.html

There are so many threads for me that come together here: my own experience as a Catholic woman and mother of Catholic daughters; years of study of church history, doctrine, Scripture, theology, and spirituality; my advocacy for social justice through NETWORK and other organizations; being an alumna of a women’s college; recent blogging reading and writing, including my Holy Saturday post and a reply to one of OM’s post on women and the priesthood, which I can’t seem to find at the moment so link is to his homepage; the women’s history month/feminist posts that I have been planning to get to for months and haven’t; and reaction to long-standing problems with oppression, violence, mutilation, and human trafficking around the world.

Serious stuff.  The top of my mind gets overwhelmed sometimes…

Father John Dear: “The Nonviolent Life”

Earlier this week, I was privileged to hear Father John Dear speak at a local church. He is on a national book tour, speaking about the concepts in his most recent book, “The Nonviolent Life.” Although it was wonderful to hear him speak about his travels, including his recent trip to South Africa to visit important social justice sites there and to meet with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, it was most moving to hear him speak about the nonviolence of Jesus, as we began Holy Week, and how we can live that nonviolence in our own lives.

He emphasized that nonviolence has three components that we need to carry out simultaneously. The first is nonviolence toward oneself. It seems that that would be easy, but so many of us struggle to love and accept ourselves, judging our own worth in harsh ways that we would not inflict on another person. This being the first principle in the nonviolent life was a powerful reminder that peace within ourselves – and peace in our spiritual practice and relationship with God, if that is our tradition – is essential to bringing that peace to others.

The second component is to be nonviolent to all people and to all of creation. For those of us who are Christian, we are taught these Bible quotes from childhood. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It is much more difficult to live them, though, especially when our world is embroiled in multiple armed conflicts and many are intent on retribution against an enemy. It takes a lot of strength to respond nonviolently to violence, but we have the example of Jesus to follow, as well as more modern examples, such as Ghandi, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dorothy Day.

The third component is to be part of the global grassroots nonviolence movement for the rest of one’s life. That does sound daunting, except that it doesn’t mean that one has to travel to other countries or take on every justice and peace issue. It can mean supporting local efforts to combat hunger or advocating for legislation to stop capital punishment or war or joining the fight for fair wages or equal access to education. Personally, I view my work fighting against unconventional fossil fuels and global warming as social justice work, which, in John Dear’s language, is also the work of non-violence. Likewise, this would encompass the advocacy work for or against legislation on the national level that I participate in as a member of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby.

It can be discouraging when one is working on such a big issue as ending violence. It was hopeful to hear Father Dear speak, because there are so many instances that he spoke about where nonviolent methods lead to important change. If it happened in those times and places, it can happen again here and now, especially with so many of us joining together at the grassroots level to work toward nonviolence, justice, and peace.