Monday, September 15, 2014

MYSTICISM – FUNDAMENTALISM AND THE SEARCH FOR MORAL – POLITICAL GUIDELINES


Where are we?   

                                                       THE WASTE LAND


   If there were water                                           

And no rock
If there were rock
And also water
A spring
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock
Where the hermit thrush sings in the pine grass
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land, Part V, 1922
                  
                                     

THE HOLLOW MEN
        

We are the hollow men                   
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
                                                          Headpiece filled with straw.  Alas!
                                                              

Our dried voices, when
           We whisper together  
           Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass
          Or rats’ feet over broken glass
                       In our dry cellar

T.S. Elliot, The Hollow Men, 1925.

                            Drawings by Elizabeth Snowden, Milwaukee, Wisconsin



Mysticism – Fundamentalism and the Search for a Moral Guideline


   How can society make the best political choices?  The search for a proper moral guide is a constant throughout history.  Let us borrow and work with some ideas from E. Gilson, Joseph Campbell and T.S. Eliot.

   When there is a breakdown in philosophy – e.g. realism in whatever form is considered inadequate- then we resort to mysticism and fundamentalism deprived of experience and rational analysis.  The mysticism and fundamentalism serve as a support, if considered needed, for the moralism of survival of the fittest economics or the moralism of those opposed.  Gilson considers the collapse of Thomism in the 14th century and the enlightenment epoch as examples.  (Gilson, Etienne, The Unity of Philosophical Experience, Charles Scribners. New York, 1950.)  David Hume’s separation of ‘is’ from ‘ought’ still affects our moral considerations.  With Hume we have the danger of The Waste Land (T.S. Eliot poem) of morality without principle perpetuated by Hollow Men (another T.S. Eliot poem).  Joseph Campbell establishes the importance of myth. (The Power of Myth, 1988)  It’s not all about reason; the collapse of myth as well as reason clearly leaves us as ‘hollow men’ in Eliot’s ‘Waste Land.’  Benevolent dictator, Pope Francis, recognizes the desert or The Waste Land.  He proclaims:


In some places a spiritual ‘desertification’ has evidently come about, as the result of some societies to build without God or to eliminate their Christian roots.(Evangelii Gaudium,2013)

   An example of fundamentalism and mysticism:  The Milwaukee New Sanctuary Movement of Voces de la Frontera sponsors a prayer vigil once a month.  We pray for immigration reform and for the families affected.  Our evangelical allies insist that a personal encounter with Jesus fortifies us in our struggle.  But who is this Jesus we encounter but our own creation.  Of course the Jesus we personally create and encounter is for immigration reform, but what else does he advocate?  Pope Francis, with a hollow sound, recognizing the gains of evangelicos in Latin America, suggests the personal encounter with Jesus. 

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ. (ibid)

  Forget research on the historical Jesus – we can easily create him in our own minds.

   The Waste Land is always a problem, but I argue that we are experiencing the Waste Land as much, or more so than at any time in history.  Bill Droel says that the Roman Catholic Bishops should not present opinions on political candidates at the present time. (previous blog -9-7-2014) I agree.  The Roman Catholic hierarchy is stuck on their fundamentalist views of abortion, contraception, gay marriage, etc.  Good politics depend on compromise and do not spring from rigid fundamentalism or mysticism. 

   Economists Krugman and Reich extricate themselves from the enlightenment economics inspired by David Hume by insisting on a moral dimension of economics that makes sense.  We can debate what makes sense, but an agreement on the ‘common good’ seems possible to me … except if we insist on absolute certainty and therefore are locked into a rigid fundamentalist or mystical belief.  The impending Vatican synod on the family will not establish reason as the rule and make a nuanced explanation of the Natural Law – realistic philosophy has been abandoned even by those claiming to be from the tradition of Thomism.

   What 'makes sense' was considered key to natural law theory by John XXIII.  In his encyclical Pacem in Terris  he quoted Thomas Aquinas, “Human reason is the norm of the human will…” (Part I, #18)  A problem for natural law theory is that derivatives of ‘natural law’ are considered absolute ‘law’ by those who attribute to ‘natural law’ mandates that were considered reasonable at a previous time in history, but are no longer viable.  Such a claim reduces these projected derivatives of the 'Natural Law' which could be bad law, but in fundamentalist belief should be followed.  We then have erroneous natural law placed above civil law.  The Roman Catholic pedophile crisis was partially the result of popes, bishops and priests believing that they were above civil law with a reference to higher natural law circumscribed by even higher Divine Law.  They also sometimes use the mystical approach and refer to Divine law not backed by reason.  Divine Law establishes the need for priests and the sacraments for salvation.  Reason itself cannot be blamed for improper use or mistakes of the past and changes in society.  Perhaps the struggle with contradictions in the rigid church philosophical and theological position, with open debate, can result in positive moral development for the Roman Catholic Church with a return to realism. 

   A way back to realism for the Roman Catholic Church would be a return to Catholic Social Teaching on labor.  The Encyclicals are based on the 'moderate realism' of Thomas Aquinas.  Over the years the Encyclicals adjusted to the times.  A 1950’s Thomism would not work.  It would only fortify philosophical fundamentalism.  What is needed is a philosophy of moderate realism with no absolutes, supported by a theology in awe of being which respects and reveres all creation including human reason and myth as myth.  Rabbi M. Maimonides (1135 – 1204) refused to define God even though it meant that some considered him to be an atheist.   Instead of seeking Roman Catholic identity in fundamentalist beliefs such as anti- gay marriage, anti- contraception and anti- abortion, Church officials could look to the adjusted and adjustable moderate realism of the Encyclicals on labor.  John Paul II wrote that the Encyclicals on labor were part of the 'new evangelization.'  Of course supporting labor would go against the wealthy supporters of the Church.

   We cannot extricate ourselves from the enlightenment and its slavish reliance on statistics without recognizing a place for myth in moral decisions.   While the correct policy or decision may be influenced by myth – stories – conscience, but reason must have the final say. The question is:  does the policy make sense in reference to the common good?

   The official pronouncements of the Roman Catholic Church have avoided Biblical fundamentalism since the Galileo debacle, but philosophical fundamentalism on the 'natural law' now emerges as a serious problem.   Will the Church Hierarchy resort to a renewed desperate grab at biblical fundamentalism?  But there is hope.  The Hebrew people came out of the desert with the law of love and common sense guides for life.

  



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Working Catholic by Bill Droel


Bill Droel is editor of INITIATIVES, a newsletter about faith and work.



Misguided Voters’ Guide


Our U.S. Catholic bishops periodically issue a voters’ guide; most recently in the form of a 36-page booklet, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” Its next edition is scheduled for Fall 2015—in time for the presidential campaign. In light of themes stressed by Pope Francis the U.S. bishops will edit the guide to give more prominence to the “option for the poor and vulnerable.”
As long as editing is in process, I make this suggestion: Drop the project. No one is waiting to read what bishops think about politics. Citizens who carry their Catholicism into the voting booth already know how they determine their candidates. Further, bishops’ credibility is unfortunately so low these days that their effective witness can only be humble service, not public statements.
There is also some evidence that young adults become further disaffected from the church when bishops and clergy wade into politics. One’s general ideology or politics (liberal or conservative) seems to drive one’s attraction to or neglect of regular worship, write sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell in American Grace (Simon & Schuster, 2010). The evidence, at least tentatively, says religious formation does not per se determine political temperament. It is the other way around. Conservatives worship at a higher rate than liberals.
Now for step two in Putnam and Campbell’s argument. Young adults perceive religious leaders who assert themselves in public as conservative—even though Catholic bishops sometimes advocate for liberal policies like immigration reform. Young adults are not in the main conservative, which to them also means intolerant. Thus, they are turned off by religious leaders who get political. “Mixing God and Caesar is bad for both” religion and politics, Putnam and Campbell conclude.  
The bishops, of course, will ignore my suggestion. Their guidance to voters, as “Forming Consciences” says, is not just another opinion. As “the Church’s teachers,” the bishops feel obliged to speak regardless of the reception. Besides, the bureaucratic wheel is in motion and a revised voters’ guide must appear.
OK, here’s another suggestion: Quit telling Catholics to vote for individual candidates based on their positions as they affect “human life and dignity as well as issues of justice and peace.” The bishops want voters “to see beyond party politics…and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation.”
We have an adage in my Chicago neighborhood: “Punch the ticket.” It means, vote the party’s slate of candidates. In Catholicism this is called the principle of subsidiarity. The idea is that a middle-range of smaller institutions, including precincts, can buffer individual families from the mega-forces of business and the State. These institutions have been in decline since about 1960. (See again Robert Putnam’s research.) Parishes, ethnic clubs, unions, school associations and the like are nowadays nearly powerless to help ordinary families with health care, legal troubles, job assistance, child rearing issues and the like. Meanwhile the mega-institutions grow more unaccountable and the culture grows increasingly individualistic.
One result is relegation of political parties to event planners. They are little more than entities that throw a convention in one or another city every four years. Candidates count on their party for very little and if elected are accountable only to themselves and the donors who gave specifically to their campaign. Legislation moves slowly, if at all, because legislative leaders have no clout on so-called party members. Ideologues emerge and command disproportionate power because they do not depend on any party’s machine. Compromise is scorned. In telling Catholics to vote for individuals our bishops are further eroding the milieu of mediating structures that were once so promoted by and beneficial to U.S. Catholicism.
The bishops don’t want to say “punch the ticket” because they rightly object to those Democratic candidates (and some Republicans) who favor unrestricted access to abortion and because they object to Republicans who, contrary to Catholic values, support the death penalty, oppose labor unions, impede immigration reform and more. 
The laity need support and guidance as they make decisions in their province of citizenship. A voters’ guide is the wrong tool. For starters our bishops might volunteer to be election judges come November 2016. It would be humble witness to those who enter the polling station.                                                                                                                    

To contact Bill Droel:  write to PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

LABOR DAY 2014


   We introduce Bill Droel of the National Center for the Laity as the guest author of our 2014 Labor Day article.  www.catholiclabor.org/NCL.htm

   
   Droel is longtime editor of INITIATIVES, a free newsletter on faith and work from the National Center for the Laity (PO Box 29112, Chicago, IL 60629).  We expect to continue to post Bill Droel’s articles on this blog.



The Working Catholic
Bill Droel
Labor Day History
Labor Day began in 1882 when machinist Matthew Maguire (1855-1917) and carpenter Peter Maguire (1852-1906) organized a parade in New York City. Both, though unrelated, were Catholic laymen active in the Knights of Labor, the first successful national union in this country. The New York parade was repeated in 1883 and 1884.
Soon thereafter Oregon, and then a few other states, began honoring working people with an official Labor Day on the first Saturday of June. It was later changed to the first Monday in September. Finally in 1894 Congress voted for that day to be a national holiday.
Once upon a time I was part of a lobby to change the feast of St. Joseph the Worker from May First to the first Monday in September in the United States only. The proposal got a fair hearing from the U.S. bishops but the inertia of bureaucracy stopped us.
May First means something to workers in Europe, but strangely not to people in the U.S. Strangely because that date commemorates an event in my sweet home, Chicago. It all started on May 1, 1886 when the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Union, with a city permit, demonstrated for the enforcement of eight-hour work laws. A previously scheduled follow-up rally was held on May Fourth. “No single event has influenced the history of labor in the U.S. and even the world more than this [1886] Haymarket Affair,” writes William Adelman in Haymarket Revisited (Illinois Labor History, 1976).
Late in the evening someone at the rally threw dynamite; the police fired wildly. Soon seven police and four workers were dead. Eight workers were quickly arrested, including a lay minister, a printer and others. Seven were found guilty in August. One was given 15 years; two got life sentences; one was killed in jail. The remaining three were hanged in November.
Thus by July 1889 European countries designated May First as Labor Day to honor Chicago’s Haymarket workers. The European date, contrary to assumptions, does not point to any date associated with communism.
Haymarket history was pushed aside in the U.S. and young adults now know of our Haymarket area only as a trendy place to eat.
Catholics risk losing a crucial part of our identity if we forget our own labor history.
Cardinal James Gibbons (1834-1921) of Baltimore spoke up in Rome in 1887 for the Knights of Labor and thereafter he spoke stateside in support of the Catholic doctrine on labor relations. His good pastoral sense was not always the norm in Europe and Canada. The close cooperation between the U.S. labor movement and Catholicism benefited both for an important century in our nation’s growth.
The connection between labor and, to use the current jargon, new evangelization was particularly strong in the years before and just after World War II. There were several “labor priests” in those days including Chicagoans Msgr. John Hayes (1906-2002), Msgr. Dan Cantwell (1915-1996) and Msgr. George Higgins (1916-2002), who spent most of his career at the national bishops’ conference.  There were also several outstanding U.S. “lay apostles” who devoted themselves to nurturing the relationship. They staffed over 100 Catholic labor schools where workers were trained in parliamentary procedure, history and Catholic social doctrine. They produced inspiring newspapers, including Work here in Chicago. And they formed some networks operating alongside the labor movement, including the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists and the Catholic Labor Alliance. A good start on this history is reading Go To the Worker by Kimball Baker (Marquette University Press, 2010).
 Of course, things have changed. But young adults are still invested in their jobs—probably more so than in the industrial era. The challenge is to assist them with new ideas and new forums. The future of the U.S. Catholic church, despite worthwhile energy devoted to other projects, largely depends on a turn toward the world of work.

Droel is editor of INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a newsletter about faith and work.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

VATICAN II

"LUMEN GENTIUM" III, #18

EXPLAINS THE ABUSE CRISIS

CARTOON BY LIAM GIMA LANGE (FRESHMAN, LOWELL HIGH SCHOOL, SAN FRANCISCO, CA)

August 2014















(First Cartoon Section: "Frankly - the abuse and cover up are                              inexplicable"....."Really?".

Second Cartoon Section: Priests preside in the place of God over the flock...Lumen Gentium III #18)














Thursday, July 24, 2014

THE PROCESSIONS – WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?


Final posting on the Gate pilgrimage to Guatemala
  
   The Holy Week processions in Antigua Guatemala reach their zenith on Good Friday.  Members of the various parishes of the city prepare their floats with statues of the suffering Jesus.  Many include the sorrowful mother Mary also suffering for us. The cobblestone streets are decorated with special ‘rugs’ which are works of art.  



They are made with colored sawdust, flowers and vegetables.  The heavy floats are carried in shifts by the faithful dressed as middle easterners. Thousands of people line the streets for the passion spectacle starting at 4:00 A.M. and continuing well into the next morning.   



WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

   Perhaps for some of the tourists Holy Week in Antigua Guatemala is an experience of 16th century pageantry.  For others it is very personal. The personal message is easily accepted, but difficult to practice.  To imitate the story of the life of Jesus is a continuing personal ‘jihad.’ Arguments against a personal goal of love of neighbor as non violence and forgiveness seem hollow.   

   There are no banners or slogans but some see a political message in the story of Jesus’ life and passion.  The University of San Carlos in Guatemala City does a Holy Week presentation depicting the Guatemalan indigenous as the suffering Jesus executed by the Guatemalan military.  ( http//www.huelgadolores.com/: also https://www.behance.net/gallery/Holy-Week-Chronicale/7966217) Before he was martyred in 1998 Bishop Gerardi wrote:





The suffering of Christ in his mystical body is something that should cause us to reflect.  That is to say, if the poor are out of our lives then, maybe, Christ is out of our lives.  (Goldman, Francisco, The Art of Political Murder, Grove Press, New York, 2007, p. 12)

Statements like this were correctly understood as political by Gerardi’s killers   There is a political message when a core part of evangelization is “preferential option for the poor.” Pope Francis’ renunciation of Ronald Reagan’s trickle down economics makes this clear.  (Evangelii Gaudium, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC, 2013, #54, p. 54.)

Let us consider reflections by two other companions on the pilgrimage.







Gerard Mullaney, Cuyahoga Fall, OH

   You asked for my reflection on the processions and the genocide.  So here goes.  I see the processions as a metaphor for our journey through life.  Life includes suffering – the platforms of the processions depicted Jesus processing with us and suffering with us – and we walking in procession with Him.  As we reflect on Jesus and His posture in regard to is persecution, we do not see anger nor do we see any giving in to injustice or the ways of the times that He sought to challenge.  We see Jesus simply remaining faithful to God’s message of peace, justice and love (which also includes forgiveness of His persecutors) – while accepting that suffering may come.  Perhaps this then inspires not only those who experienced the genocide, but all of us to move beyond what was done and what is done that brings suffering and to respond to a call for peace, justice, and love as Jesus did – and He is processing with us.






Joan Bleidorn, Milwaukee


   The April, 2014 G.A.T.E. trip to Guatemala was truly a transformative experience for me, giving me first hand evidence of the disastrous effects of U.S. foreign policies in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.  The policies of privatization, the acquisition of land by the wealthy, to be used for growing export crops like sugar cane, the rapacious mining, poisoning the water, the civil war massacring the poor in their small villages – all these things led to the breakdown of society, the development of a violent drug culture, often involving those in high place like the police and the government.  We are seeing a blowback at this time, with children on the U.S. border risking their lives to seek safety in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”  U.S, policies have created this situation, and we now owe these refugee children a place of haven and welcome.














Friday, July 18, 2014

THE PILGRIMAGE CONTINUED - ANTIGUA GUATEMALA

   Antigua - founded in 1543 and named Santiago de los Caballeros. 


The city of Antigua was the third capital of the colony of Guatemala.  This Spanish colony included almost all of Central America including Chiapas which today is part of Mexico.  After devastating earthquakes in 1773, the capital of the country was moved to Guatemala City.  Many Guatemalans abandoned the city of Antigua, but some of the ruins of colonial buildings remain.  The name of the old capital, Santiago de los Caballeros, was changed then to Antigua Guatemala (the old Guatemala). 


Where have we been and where are we going?

   We arrived on Tuesday of Holy Week in Antigua to experience the famous processions which rival Seville, Spain as a tourist attraction.  We found ourselves enveloped in late medieval architecture, and anticipating our participation in late medieval piety with the processions and rituals. The small town of about 35,000 is packed with visitors from all over the world for Holy Week.


                                  Preparing for the Good Friday Processions in Antigua


The baroque architecture of the ruins of the 1773 earthquake is still easily perceived, and some of the buildings have been restored to look like the originals.  The dominating architecture transports you back to the days of the Spanish empire.


Bartolome de Las Casas, O.P.   

   Joanne and I went for a brief walk in the city.  We came upon the Merced, the remains of a church and convent built by the Mercedarian Fathers from 1749 – 1767.  


                                              Church of the Merced in Antigua

Despite being constructed to withstand earthquakes, the complex was badly damaged in the 1773 earthquake.  The restored version of the church is a close version of the original building.  

   In the front of the building is a statue of Bartolomé de Las Casas, O.P., Bishop of the area from 1543 to 1547. 


                                     Statue of Bertolome de las Casas outside the Church of the Merced

He was called ‘Defender of the Indigenous People.’  Opposing the prevailing theology of the day, Las Casas insisted that the Indigenous were fully human and had full rights as human beings.  He denounced the ‘encomienda’ system established by Imperial Spain for the Spanish Americas in 1502.  According to this system the encomendero (owner) was given an allotment of indigenous people to protect and instruct in the Roman Catholic faith.  In return the indigenous were to provide labor and tribute to the encomendero. A similar program was used in Spain in the reconquista (reconquest) of Muslim territory.  Gustavo Gutierrez writes that a key reason for Las Casas’ fierce opposition was that “these laws perpetuate and definitively establish the system of distribution (of native people), or encomienda, that is the servitude of the Indians and the exploitation of their labor.”  (Gutierrez, Gustavo, Las Casas, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 1993, p. 284.)  

   Las Casas instructed confessors to refuse absolution to encomenderos unless they freed the Indians working as slaves on their work sites. (Ibid. p.33) The nearby provinces of northern and southern ‘Vera Paz’ (true peace) were named reflecting the quality of life advocated by Las Casas and his Dominican Friars.

    The founder of Liberation Theology, Peruvian Gustavo Gutierrez, notes that Las Casas insisted that the colonial economic system be completely abandoned not merely adjusted. (Ibid. p. 288)   United States’ global neo-liberalism of today is a similar economic system that desperately needs to be changed.  Gutierrez refers to the Latin American Bishop’s documents from Medellin, Columbia (1968) and Puebla, Mexico (1979), which advocate change in political and economic structures, to demonstrate that the Church’s tradition of justice for all, preached by Las Casas, continues. (Ibid. p. 286) 

   We toured the beautiful baroque Merced Church.  Inside parishioners were preparing their float for the processions.

   Three of us decided to go to visit the Santo Domingo Church; we thought it was a church, but it turned out to be a luxury hotel and a museum.  The original church and Dominican convent were destroyed in the 1773 earthquake. Remains of the original church can be found in the hotel-museum complex.


                   Dominican Shield displayed in the Hotel/Museum of Sancto Domingo in Antigua

   I talked to a museum guide about Bartolome de Las Casas and also the massacres of the indigenous during the civil war.  I asked him if he felt that revenge was necessary.  He thought awhile and responded, “No! Father Bartolomé would say no.” I asked another Guatemalan about the guide’s response and he said, “It’s a Ladino (upper class) comment – he’s told you what you wanted to hear.”


Holy Thursday at the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral

   On Holy Thursday we went to Mass at the Cathedral.  We arrived early, but the plaza in front and the church itself swarmed with people.  We saw room available in the front of the church; Joanne and I went up to claim the seats, but we were told they were reserved.  We went to a side aisle; our companions remain in the back standing.  At least we had the wall to lean on during the long ceremony.  The entrance procession included the Bishop, clergy and well dressed lay leaders of the church, certainly Ladinos or upper class.  They took the reserved seats in the front near the altar.  The Bishop washed the feet of the important Ladinos in the Holy Thursday ritual which attempts to enact the story of Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper.

   The readings of Holy Thursday are selected to point to key understandings of Salvation History.  The homilist, the Bishop of the area, chose to emphasize the importance and the need for priests.

   It is ironic that the myth of the Eucharist and the Catholic priesthood was in the process of collapse during the 16th century in northern Europe yet still remains viable in Guatemala with similar 16th century trappings.  Is it that some Latinos & Ladinos, by necessity are better at salvaging the good from a myth and simply ignoring the obvious absurdities? 


   The myth of the priesthood and the Eucharist establish an upper class institution yet still were a challenge to the racism and greed of the U.S. dominated, global economic system.  The numerous martyred priests and religious are witnesses. Is it reasonable to ask: do the myths enveloping Jesus, the young Jewish handyman executed by imperial Rome, in one way or another make sense of our lives politically and personally?    

Thursday, July 3, 2014

SANTIAGO ATITLAN


Jesus returns to Jerusalem...

Then taking the twelve aside he said to them, “Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man is to come true. For he will  be handed over to the pagans and will be mocked, maltreated and spat on, and when they have scourged him they will put him to death; and on the third day he will rise again.”  But they could make nothing of this; what he said was obscure to them, they had no idea what it meant. (Luke 18, 31-34)



   
                                               Lake Atitlan


   We went by van on a short trip to parish of Santiago Atitlan. Both San Lucas and Santiago are on the picturesque resort Lake Atitlan.  



                             Lake Atitlan - Guatemalan Resort Area

   Santiago Atitlan was the parish of Father Stan Rother from Oklahoma City.  Father Rother was murdered by the Guatemalan military in 1981.  We visited his church and the rectory where he was killed.



                            Patio of Father Rother's Santiago Church

  The Pastor of San Lucas Toliman, Father Gregg Schaffer, warned his fellow pastor at Santiago Atitlan, Father Stan Rother, that the military was after Father Stan.

   Father Rother was not politically ‘concientizado.’ There was nothing reported about him conducting clandestine meetings.  No one says they remember Father Stan discussing the 1968 document of Medellin promulgated by the Latin American Bishops demanding changes in political and economic structures.  The military targeted the pastoral priest because of his unrelenting support for his cherished parishioners. During an army attack Father Rother sheltered hundreds of people in his church.

   At the advice of Father Gregg Schaffer, Father Stan Rother returned to Oklahoma City.  He was invited to preach at an Oklahoma City church and he questioned Reagan’s claim that the communist threat in Central America justified the massive military assistance given to these countries.  A parishioner reported Father Stan’s sermon to the Guatemalan embassy. 

   

                    Memorial to Father Stan Rother, Santiago Church

   Father Rother couldn’t be away from his beloved people while they were under attack.  He returned to Santiago Atitlan to face the military bent on genocide.  Within a few months Father Stan was murdered.  His body was sent to Oklahoma City for burial but his heart remains enshrined in the church at Santiago Atitlan. 


Nakal kolonton – My heart is at peace

*Laughlin, Robert, with woodblock prints by Naul Ojeda, Diccionario del Corazon, from a Mayan dictionary compiled in 1599 by a Dominican Friar - metaphors of the heart with the Spanish medieval translation and the modern Spanish version.  Taller Leñateros, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico 2003.


     The name of the town 'Santiago' is significant.  Many cities in Latin America are called Santiago.  The name refers to St. James; some scripture scholars would speculate that St. James was Jesus’ brother and a Pharisee.  A legend tells us that the remains of St. James, after martyrdom, were sent miraculously from the Holy Land by boat to northeastern Spain.  James arose from the dead to lead Christians to a military victory over the Muslims.  There is a city in Mexico called Santiago Matamoros – St. James the Muslim killer.  Churches in Spain and Latin America have statues and paintings of Santiago Matamoros riding on his horse and wielding his sword.
 
   I didn’t notice a painting or statue of Santiago in Stan Rother’s church or town.  Again it was perhaps because of being overwhelmed by the stories of Rother’s murder and the slaughter of the indigenous in the area.  I wasn’t looking for Santiago on his horse; after all we couldn’t blame him … or could we?

   Matamoros is the name of a military post and prison in Guatemala City.  General Efrain Rios Montt was taken to Matamoros Prison in 2013 after being convicted of genocide.  A companion on the trip recalls the statue of Santiago Matamoros outside Stan Rother’s church, but does not remember a statue or painting inside the church.

   Our next stop in Santiago was the Peace Park.  (Parque de la Paz)  At first I didn’t realize it, but just our presence was an acknowledgement of a victory for the people and a sign of hope for Guatemala.  Two Guatemalan leaders, poet and theologian Julia Esquivel, and the head of the water project in Chutzoropi, stated unequivocally to us that there was no hope for Guatemala through the government.



                                   Santiago Peace Park

   We experienced a sign of hope when we visited the Peace Park.  The people of Santiago Atitlan successfully rejected military force – the power of the government.

   On December 1, 1990 a group of soldiers from the local military post were out partying and got out of control.  They killed one of the townspeople who were trying to constrain them.  In the morning thousands marched to the garrison to demand an end to the murderous rampaging of the military in Santiago.  The townspeople were met with gunfire; eleven were killed and several injured.    

   Community leaders demanded a meeting with the Guatemalan government.  With international support, an agreement was reached permanently removing the military from the town of Santiago.



                          Graves of the massacred at the Peace Park
   

   The graves of those killed in the massacre are in the Peace Park along with a plaque stating the agreement of the government to remove the military from the area.  There are no religious symbols such as Santiago Matamoros. However, every year on December l, a celebration takes place to remember the victory of the people; part of the celebration is a Catholic Mass.  
  

    Peace Park, Saturday, December 2, 1990, Panabaj, Santiago Atitlan


SISTER, WOMAN OF FAITH 
by Julia Esquivel, in exile, New York City.

I think of the Indians
driven from Manhattan with blood and fire
and my heart
crushed by sorrow
along with other hearts in solidarity
struggles to turn back the claws of Capital
poised over Santiago Atitlan ...

The homeland is an altar – not a pedestal.


The Certainty of Spring, The Ecumenical Program, Washington, D.C. 1993