This blog is an attempt to ‘keep alive the memory of the Passion’ of Jesus, as Passionists say. It is an attempt to ‘blow the dynamite of Catholic social teaching’ as Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, used to say. The Passion of Jesus Christ continues in our world today in the crucified of today, the crucified people and the crucified earth. Our crucified God continues to suffer with them and in them. Jesus the non-violent revolutionary showed us and taught us what it means to love and suffer as God does.
My hope is that this blog will inspire and challenge. That it will communicate what I’ve been up to and why. That I will be able to share with those who read it my thoughts on what the world, the Gospel and the God of Jesus Christ call us to.
What goes on Behind the Walls?
The new Eco Community at Minsteracres, currently Lya, Michael and Scott, have just published their first newsletter.
“It could be quite mysterious having a group of people working behind high walls, seemingly closed off from the wider community. Knowing a little about the three of us, there may be a temp-tation to fill in the blanks!
What are we doing here in the walled garden?
Firstly we are a Christian/Passionist response to the suffering of the earth.
We wish to complement and support the ministry of hospitality and wel-come at Minsteracres.
We are forming a Chris-tian Community in the mould of the new monastic communities.
We are attempting to live a sustainable life. Growing as much food as we can, not eating meat, reducing dairy, moving towards a net zero carbon emissions lifestyle, reducing our waste and recycling and re-using where possible.
We are outward look-ing. We are interested in the wid-er community and the wider world.
We take time to discern how we might respond to the needs of others, crea-tion and the environment.
We are a place of welcome for all those in need of rest, a listening ear, nour-ishing food, quiet space, engagement with nature, whilst nevertheless seeking to have a contemplative element to our community.
To read the rest of the newsletter, download it here: Eco Community Newsletter Summer 2020
A talk originally given on May 30th 2020 as part ot the Christian Climate Action series on “Our Biblical Mandate for Civil Disobedience”
This talk is going to be mainly based on part of a book by John Dear, “The Sacrament of Civil Disobedience”, pp 33 – 37 . It is also influenced by Daniel Berrigan’s book “Daniel” , as well as adding my own reflections.
(Daniel in italics in this article, refers to the Book of Daniel)
The book of Daniel is the only apocalyptic account in the Old Testament. John Dear quotes David Daube as saying it is “a veritable charter for civil disobedience by a minority”. He says it is “The most explicit account of nonviolent civil disobedience in the Hebrew Scriptures”. That “Mark’s Gospel cites every Chapter of this book”  and that Jesus modelled Himself and His ministry on Daniel. Jesus certainly uses the title of the ‘son of man’ or ‘the human one’ that is prominent in Daniel, and quotes this scriptural text before the Sanhedrin. For example: “You shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mk 14:62).
According to John Dear, Daniel is “one of the most revolutionary works of ancient literature” and “next to the Gospels, [it] is one of the strongest manifestos ever written on nonviolent resistance and loving disobedience to ruling authorities”. He quotes Daniel Berrigan, “We have in Daniel, a book about worldly power – and about the powerlessness of the believing community – revealed (ironically) as a new form of power… It is a story of providence, not success. A story of obedience [to God] and it’s risks.” For John Dear, “Daniel… is a parable of nonviolence”.
(This is the text of a talk I gave on Saturday June 13th, for the weekly Christian Climate Action online study of our ‘Faith Mandate for Civil Disobedience’. It will also be posted on the CCA website at https://christianclimateaction.org/ )
On Moseley Road a couple of weeks ago…
I am starting here from the assertion that we are in a ‘kairos moment’. A climate kairos. We are facing a moment of choice, an urgent invitation, a time of promise or threat. Can we read the signs of the times. Do we know what time it is?
I am reproducing an article by James Martin, S.J. , posted on America Magazine website here on June 14, 2012 . Yesterday would have been his 99th birthday. This morning it was my turn to lead the Christian Climate Action morning prayer. I used these and some of his most challenging and inspiring words, and was asked to share these for the help and encouragement of others. So, here they are.
Of course as someone who has written on the Old Testament (particularly the Prophets) Daniel Berrigan, S.J., age 92, the Jesuit priest, poet and peace activist, understands the centrality of the original Ten Commandments. But thanks to Jim Forest, himself an apostle of social justice, for pointing me to these ten spiritual rules from Father Berrigan’s book, Ten Commandments for the Long Haul (1981). There’s a personal interest in this for me, too. Once, several years ago, I wrote to Dan when I was frustrated about something in the church and was tempted to, as Thomas Merton used to say, “blast off,” i.e., speak my mind in not the most sensible way. In response to an agitated letter, Dan, who had himself known Merton, wrote me to counsel patience, and reminded me that I’m in this “for the long haul.” I think his “Commandments” are useful in the church today. (Photo also thanks to Jim Forest.)
A Talk for the Day for Religious,
On February 2nd, I was invited to address the Archdiocesan Day for Religious on the subject of “Discipleship in a Time of Climate Emergency”. After the talk, I was asked if I could make the talk available.
So, see here for the Powerpoint presentation.
There is some rough text on the Notes pages of the Powerpoint, but the text I used is available to download here .
A long time ago, someone said that to understand John Sherrington, you always have to remember that he was an artist first. And then of course he was a Passionist. And then an ordained priest. As a Passionist, the image that John seemed most fond of was that of Mary, the mother of Jesus, standing at the foot of the Cross. For John, his Passionist vocation was first and foremost about standing at the foot of the Cross, standing with the crucified of today, in solidarity and with love, and finding God and Jesus with them, among them and in them. It was about finding, in his own phrase, ‘sites of suffering’ and standing there, staying there, being with those in whose wounds we can see the cross of Christ. And in whom, especially, we can see Jesus.
But John perhaps brought a particular artists way of seeing this, of living it.
This is the text of a talk I gave to an ecumenical group of ministers from a wide variety of church traditions in Birmingham in 2016, which was followed by lively discussion. Most of the pastors were from churches in deprived inner city or other urban areas. It is just as relevant today.
Whose discipleship are we reflecting on today? Our own, or that of our church members, or our neighbours? I am not a pastor of a particular church, although I have recently been getting more involved with my local Catholic parishes in Sparkhill, Digbeth and Balsall Heath. I have been celebrating the Eucharist with them, and preaching, so I have to reflect on this question too. Of course we have to reflect on our overall context to also reflect on our place within that, and that of our neighbours and church members.
I want to mention in passing two issues that we can come back to later:
[This is an adapted version of a talk I gave recently for the Birmingham Diocese Catholic Justice and Peace Lent Retreat, 2019]
“The Passion Of Christ Is The Most Overwhelming Work Of God’s Love”
– St Paul Of The Cross, Founder Of The Passionists
In what way or ways is this true, how can it be that the Passion of Jesus is “the most overwhelming work” of God, and of love, in the words of St Paul of the Cross, Passionist founder? I want to reflect on two aspects of this overwhelming, unexpected, love of God. The first is expressed in the phrase “The Crucified God”. The second aspect of God’s love, is expressed in a dimension of Jesus’ life and teaching that led Him to be tortured and executed, and that can be called “Active Non-Violent Resistance”, which is something Pope Francis wrote about in his 2017 World Peace Day letter, “Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace” .
The Passion and Cross of Jesus as the Suffering of God
In the Marlon Brando film, “The Waterfront”, set in 1930’s USA, a young woman’s brother has is murdered by the gangsters that run the dockers so-called Union, and the priest is called to anoint his body. Just before he leaves, the priest says to the sister, “If you need me, I’ll be in the church” . Her response is one of anger. In effect she says, what is the use of a priest who stays in the safety zone of the church, while injustice and violence are happening around him? If the priest is going to remain in his comfort zone, in the safety of his church and house, it is no use to her, or to her brother and those in situations like them. She – and they – need him to come out of his protected zone – recognise where suffering humanity is, and to be willing to risk suffering with them.
To read more see here to read as a download, OR continue reading below
I’m posting here a download of the abridged version of this inspirational book.
BINDING THE STRONGMAN – Abridged – by Ched Myers – With Forward by Daniel Berrigan
Seeing the life and ministry of Jesus through the perspective of non-violent activism was not my idea. I got it from Ched Myers in the first place, with his study of Mark’s Gospel, “Binding the Strongman”. I read it in condensed form during Bible studies in the 1990’s. While I was at Seminary, I used to go to a small room in a church near Oxford Street, to meet Chris Cole, Virginia Moffat and others to read and discuss what it had to say. We had one copy of the full size book, Bibles, and we each had copies of the abridged version Chris had put together from articles Myers had published in Sojourners magazine in the USA. It blew my mind, and I think its blown many others since. It was electrifying. My only criticism of it was that at times it could be a bit reductionist, reducing what were deeply multi-layered events and actions to only the political dimension. But its not called a ‘political reading’ of the Gospel for nothing. Myers highlights the amazing challenge of Jesus’ call to ‘follow the way of the cross’ and his journey to Jerusalem, towards that final confrontation that led to the cross. And then the Resurrection. And even that was illegal.
The original book is published by Orbis and its still available. At over 500 pages, its not the type of short book I usually like to read. That’s why I still like the 48 page abridged version. Both can be inspirational for a more radical discipleship, and I’m sure some readers of the abridged version will want to get the full size one.
On Thursday, I am leading a class at St Mary’s University Twickenham, on the Catholic Worker movement and its place in Catholic Social Tradition. In particular, in relation to liberation theology and Catholic Social Teaching. So I have been looking up some old Catholic Worker articles from some years ago, that impressed me and stayed with me in their clarity and inspired me with their Gospel radicalism.
The first is by Frank Cordaro, probably the best known Catholic Worker in the USA today, at least among those in the movement. His “Call to a Resistance Church” outlines how to read the life of Jesus as the life of a non-violent activist, as well as God incarnate. While Frank was writing in the 1990’s, this is a reading of the Gospels that is today being integrated into a ‘christology from below’. According to Scripture scholars there can be little doubt that the Gospels show us a Jesus whose non-violence was a “central part of his life and teaching” (Terrence J Rynne in “Choosing Peace – The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence”, edited by Marie Dennis of Pax Christi).
Frank outlines “Four Marks of A Resistance Church”: Downward mobility, identification with the poor and oppressed, non-violent resistance to injustice, and intentional communities. Download it here as a PDF: A CAll to a Resistance Church – Frank Cordaro
The second was written in the late 80’s. Originally entitled “Christian Radicalism in the United. States: The Catholic Worker Tradition” this article by Mark White and Angela Jones delves into the true Gospel radicalism of Catholic Worker thought and practice: radical in the sense of the Latin meaning of the word. The Latin ‘radix’ meaning ‘root’, indicates how the Catholic Worker vision gets down to the fundamentals of the Gospel as well as the issues of our age, such as the what it means to ‘live’ God’s Kingdom or Reign as a ‘spiritual revolution’. Reading this it is crystal clear why most of today’s radical movements are not too radical, but not radical enough, as they do not get to the spiritual roots of our crises. See here for their article.
See here for the text of my talk on “The Catholic Worker and Liberation Theology” (Note: I have developed some of the ideas further in the year since it was originally written). And here for a further reading list about the Catholic Worker.