Stories Seldom Heard
November 2018 - Matthew 5:
9: Part II
“Blessed are they who strive for peace and justice; they shall be
called the sons and daughters of God.”
Welcome to Stories Seldom Heard.
I would especially like to welcome the parishioners of St Peter’s
Parish, Memphis, Tennessee.
Return to the most human,
nothing less will nourish the torn spirit,
the bewildered heart,
the angry mind:
and from the ultimate duress,
pierced with the breath of anguish,
speak of love.
Return, return to the deep sources,
nothing less will teach the stiff hands a new way to serve,
to carve into our lives the forms of tenderness
and still that ancient necessary pain preserve.
Return to the most human,
nothing less will teach the angry spirit,
the bewildered heart;
the torn mind,
to accept the whole of its duress,
and pierced with anguish…
at last, act for love.
~ May Sarton
Like you, this morning, I am grieving:
grieving the deaths of the eleven victims who died during Saturday’s
mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation, a synagogue in the
Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh.
During morning prayer, after we read
each person’s name and age, we paused in silent prayer for them and
their families. Naming each person helped us absorb the pain and
tragedy more personally. We prayed for the many who were wounded in
the attack, including first responders and police officers. We also
prayed for the suspected murderer, his family, as well as all those
who hold hatred and violence in their hearts and minds.
It is shocking to recognize how openly
violent our country has become. Over the years many of us have
learned a lot about striving to become more nonviolent in our words
and actions. This nonviolent journey begins with rethinking some
of the things we have been taught. Violence has many tentacles.
Because of this, we might need to expand our definition of violence
and become aware of the subtle way violence enters our daily lives.
It’s hard to be a peacemaker if we use violent words and
expressions. It’s hard to teach peace to our children, nieces and
nephews when we make angry gestures when someone cuts in front of us
on the freeway. It’s hard to have hearts growing in peace when we
are prejudiced against a race or religion. It’s difficult to say
that we are nonviolent and peace-loving people if we never raise our
voices against injustice, violence or prejudice.
Most of us are not going to find
ourselves at a nonviolent protest in front of the Federal Building
when we hear of our government’s practice of torture. We might not
be part of a vigil that stands against the death penalty on the
night of an execution. But, we might choose to write a letter to
the editor of a newspaper that offers a more informed and just
perspective on issues that affect the quality of life and the
environment. We might bring a peaceful presence to a heated
discussion at the office or at home. We can be a fair judge on the
playground or a reconciling voice in an argument. We can veer away
from aggressive language and try to build understanding.
Considering the escalation of racial and religious prejudice
throughout the U. S., we could ask the pastor of our parish or the
pastoral staff to be proactive and head off violent behavior. We
could suggest some classes on the great religious traditions to
increase our understanding of other faiths. We could ask to have
some workshops on nonviolence training. Jesus blesses those who
hear his words and act on what they hear.
Jesus said, “I have not come to bring
peace, but division” (Mt. 11:34). What a strange quote or maybe not
so strange! It might be something we need to think about. What is
the division that Jesus wants us to bring? Does he mean that we need
to separate the truth from fiction? Does he mean that we cannot
have peace without the truth? If this is what he means, how then,
might we bring truth in a nonviolent manner? Can we bring the truth
without being aggressive or defensive? Can we disagree without
attacking the person with whom we disagree? Do we need to separate
ourselves from the way the world often evaluates critical situations
that affect the quality of other people's lives? Do we need to view
situations through the lens of gospel values: values that Jesus
taught us, values based on love of God and love – that is justice –
of our neighbor?
To begin this process of exploring the
varied faces of violence, I offer the following definitions of
violence, as well as some questions on which to reflect.
Some Working Definitions of Violence
Violence is emotional, verbal or
physical behavior that dominates, diminishes or destroys our self,
others or the environment.
Violence crosses boundaries without
permission, disrupts authentic relationships and separates us from
Violence is often motivated by fear,
unrestrained anger or greed that increases domination or power over
Violence can occur even when motivated
by the desire for justice. Often those who perpetuate violence do
so with the conviction that they are overcoming a prior violence or
injustice. Longing to put things right, to overcome an imbalance of
power, to end victimization or oppression a person sometimes uses
Violence can provoke new violence.
This spiral of retaliatory violence is often propelled by social or
personal scripts that are enacted in situations of conflict.
Violence is responding to a person as
an object for self-gratification.
Violence is ignoring or forgetting
that there is an infinity behind every human face.
Nonviolence is not an option. It is
Some Personal Reflections on
1. Of what area of violence are
you most aware?
2. When did you first realize the
diverse levels of violence: physical, domestic, verbal, structural,
spiritual and personal violence etc.?
3. What kind of violence most
disturbs you? Why?
4. To what kind of violence are
you most prone?
5. What kinds of violence have you
6. What would be the next step of a
nonviolent lifestyle for you?
7. What focus or practice do you need
to develop to accomplish this goal?
“... at last, act for love.”
Special thanks to Mary Ellen Green and
Maria Hetherton who have helped in editing this article. "Stories
Seldom Heard" is a monthly article written by Sister Patricia
Bruno, O.P. Sister is a Dominican Sister of San Rafael,
California. This service is offered to the Christian community to
enrich one's personal and spiritual life. The articles can be used
for individual or group reflection.
If you would like to support this
ministry, please send your contributions to: Dominican Sisters of
c/o Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P.,
2517 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA
94115 Thank you.
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