Archive | November, 2012

Have an Andrew day!

30 Nov

November 30 is the feast of St. Andrew.

I have heard someone say – Father James Martin in his “My Life with the Saints” book – that the saints are “companions” for us. But how do they become our companions?

Father Martin wonders if this might be true: that we are attracted to a particular saint for two reasons: (1) something in the saint’s life that is so similar to that same something in our own life draws us to him/her, and (2) this REALLY fascinates me, that we are drawn to a particular saint because that saint had already been praying for us long before we have paid any notice to him/her. The saint’s life itself – and, particularly, the saint’s previous, unsolicited and continuing prayers for us – draw us to pay attention to a particular saint.

Makes me wonder why I feel so attracted to St. Andrew!

Andrew’s saltire cross

30 Nov

In almost every piece of art of Andrew

as in our Andrew window

00 01 Andrew Stained Glass Szaz BEST

in our Andrew statue

00 01 Andrew Statue

and in the “heavenly” window in our choir loft

00 01 Choir Stained Glass

Andrew is pictured with an X-frame or saltire cross.

not on Friday, but on Tuesday

15 Nov

Every Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m., with obvious connections to the time of suffering that Jesus endured on the Friday that we call Good, Father Ibrahim Shomali, the parish priest of Beit Jala (Bethlehem) celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with his people in an olive grove in Cremisan Valley on the outskirts of the town.

This place is chosen by the parish of Beit Jala for Mass to protest in a prayerful and nonviolent way the proposed path that the Israeli government plans to follow in building another section of the separation wall through this very valley. What the Palestinians (and I) and many Israeli citizens call a separation wall, some proponents prefer to call a security fence, claiming that only 3% of it is actually a wall, and that the rest is a low lying, barbed wire structure. There is no doubt that this section will not be a fence; it will be a wall. And it will separate: 58 families  from their olive groves, 450 children from their school at the convent of the Silesian sisters, and all the people of Beit Jala from the only recreational park, green space that is left for them. And it is hard to imagine how this particular re-routing of the wall to take more land and water for Israel is necessary for security.

The schedule for our pilgrim-teachers from schools of our Archdiocese of Cincinnati did not allow us to join him/them on Friday, so Father Ibrahim arranged for Deacon Suleiman to accompany us to the place for Mass on a Tuesday morning.

When we arrived, we found the ground turned up and over. Someone had obviously plowed the ground.

It was alleged by some of the locals that the Israeli government had done that to make it difficult to pray there. No matter who did it or why it was done, the turned up ground did make it quite complicated to walk and difficult to stand, the slightest shift of our weight causing our feet to slip from underneath us. The situation made us more determined in our prayer. We stood our ground as best as we could.

Deacon Suleiman called us to worship with a reminder that Jesus prayed on the night before his crucifixion in another grove of olive trees: at the base of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. These olives trees are a Gethsemane of another kind. Here the agony of the garden continues.

We prayed that the agony of our friends from Beit Jala will be eased.

As we left, some of us picked up stones and olive branches, not knowing whether or not we will ever be able to return with them to this place.

Cremisan: will they lose again?

13 Nov

If the separation wall gets built as planned by the Israeli government in the Cremisan Valley on the outskirts of Beit Jala (Bethlehem), it will be disastrous for the local people. Fifty-eight (58) Christian families from Beit Jala depend on the olive groves on that land for their livelihood. Special needs children and the nuns in their convent school will be virtually cut off from each other. On top of that , this is the only green space that is left in the area for the people of Beit Jala, and it is a crucial source of water for the farmers.

The Bishops of the Holy Land have condemned the planned route of the wall, “Cremisan green area is the main lung through which the population of Bethlehem can breathe. Besides, the 450 children attending the Salesian Sisters’ school will have to go to a prison-like school, surrounded by military barriers and check-points. The planned construction of the wall will put more pressure on the remaining Christians living in Bethlehem. Without an income and a future for their children, more people will make the decision to leave the Holy Land.” The Bishops of the Holy Land have taken the case to the Israeli courts. A decision will come down soon.

The Bishops of the United States, through Bishop Richard Pates’ letter to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, have joined their voices, speaking against the Israeli plan to re-route the separation barrier between Israel and Palestine through the Cremisan Valley, saying that the plan would “harm 58 Christian families whose livelihoods and living conditions depend on these lands” and “cut families off from agriculture and recreational lands, other family members, water sources, and schools – including depriving Christian Palestinian youth of fellowship with their peers. Moving the wall and disassociating Palestinian families from their lands and livelihoods will incite more resentment against the State of Israel among residents of the West Bank, not less, increasing the frustrations that can lead to violence.” 

My friends in Beit Jala, our Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, fear that, once again, what little they have left will be taken away from them.

Tomorrow’s blog: Mass in Cremisan olive grove.