Thursday, May 29, 2014

Are you interested in deepening your spiritual life?

Are you interested in deepening your spiritual life, and your relationship with God? Do you need to discern the next step in your life's journey? Are you looking for fulfillment and meaning in your daily life? Do you want to talk about spiritual issue you’re struggling with? If so, a spiritual director/friend can help explore these questions in a safe, supportive way.
I have spent the last two years training to be a spiritual director in the Stillpoint program ( ), and I am willing to offer my services for free. I am a warm, caring person who loves people and works for peace. If you’d like to meet once a month to talk about your life from a spiritual perspective, please contact me at
I have been trained in compassionate listening and written a book on this and a number of other faith-based subjects  (see I have been a Quaker for 30 years and have lots of experience with “clearness committees” and the spiritual discernment process. You can learn more about me at

What is spiritual direction?

Spiritual direction is an ancient ministry, a unique one-to-one relationship in which a trained person assists another person in the search for an ever-closer union of love with God.

Stillpoint offers a two-year training program in The Art of Spiritual Direction (click here for details), and also provides references and resources for persons who are seeking spiritual direction.

Spiritual directors listen carefully to the unfolding of directees' lives, to help them discern the ways in which God is leading them.

Spiritual Directors meet regularly (usually once a month) with persons who are seeking to share and explore their journeys of faith. The term "spiritual direction" has a long, rich history, and the term is still used today even though the practice of spiritual direction consists much more of "holy listening," rather than direction in the sense of offering guidance or direct advice.

A Spiritual Director is a privileged witness in the spiritual unfolding of another person. The focus is on the relationship between the "directee" and God, much more than on the relationship between the director and directee.

Spiritual direction explores a deeper relationship with the spiritual aspect of being human. Simply put, spiritual direction is helping people tell their sacred stories everyday. Spiritual direction has emerged in many contexts using language specific to particular cultural and spiritual traditions. Describing spiritual direction requires putting words to a process of fostering a transcendent experience that lies beyond all names and yet the experience longs to be articulated and made concrete in everyday living. It is easier to describe what spiritual direction does than what spiritual direction is. Spiritual direction helps us learn how to live in peace, with compassion, promoting justice, as humble servants of that which lies beyond all names. (as described on the website of Spiritual Directors International)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Greece from a Peace Activist's Perspective

Gavrio, the port of Andros
After our two weeks in Italy, we flew from Rome to Athens and then took a ferry to a lovely island in the Cyclades called Andros, where my father was born. There we celebrated Good Friday and Easter with my cousins, of whom I have around 30, thanks to my prolific grandmother, who had 17 children!

 Easter is a major family holiday for the Greeks and I don’t have time to do justice to how beautiful and moving the Easter services are. The whole community takes part in the Good Friday service, where church bells toll mournfully all day long. In the evening we went to the church where the funeral of Jesus is reenacted and his epitaph is carried through the village at night, with lighted candles and rosewater sprinkled among the crowds. The Easter service was also very moving: light from a candle lit in Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was flown to Athens and distributed to all the Orthodox Churches in Greece to light the candles of all who attend the midnight Easter service. I should add that after the Easter service, fireworks go off throughout Greece because Greeks are celebrating not only the resurrection of Christ, but the liberation of Greece from Turkish occupation. In Greece, religion and nationalism merge in ways that can be disconcerting to Protestants like us.
The Orthodox Church is not known for taking a stand on social justice and peace; rather, it tends to do philanthropic work, such as running soup kitchens. Greek orthodox priest are paid by the state and tend to support the status quo. Some of its leaders have been supportive of the Greek fascist party called Golden Dawn. For example, when Golden Dawn opened an office in Corinth, it received the blessing of certain Orthodox priests. On the other hand,  Metropolitan Pavlos of Siatista, described Golden Dawn as “uncivilized,” adding that the party’s acts “have nothing to do with ancient Greek civilization nor the Gospel.” He spoke out prophetically: “We all have to take a clear stand on the Golden Dawn issue… we have to preach the word of God, which has nothing to do with the acts committed by members of Golden Dawn." As a result, this priest received death threats from Golden Dawn supporters.
Bartholomew, the Metropolitan of Constantinople (aka Istanbul), is perhaps the most progressive Orthodox leader, and has been called the “green pope” of Orthodoxy. He has spoken out on a range of issues, from environmentalism to globalization. I highly recommend his book  Encountering the Mystery -- Understanding Orthodox Christianity TodayAmerican Orthodox Institute -,

He attended the inaugural Mass of Pope Francis on 19 March 2013, paving the way for better Catholic-Orthodox relations. It was the first time that the spiritual head of Orthodox Christians had attended a papal inaugural Mass since the Great Schism in 1054. Afterwards, he invited Pope Francis to travel with him to the Holy Land in 2014 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the embrace between Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI.
 Bartholomew has co-sponsored international peace conferences, as well as meetings on racism and fundamentalism, bringing together Christians, Muslims and Jews for the purpose of generating greater cooperation and mutual understanding.
We also met some Evangelical Greeks, a tiny minority considered “heretics” by some members of the Orthodox church.  Yes, that’s the word they said the Orthodox used to describe them. We were impressed with how the Greek Evangelical Church reaches out to the homeless and poor in Athens, providing not only food but showers and a place to hang out. We were also impressed by the spiritual fervor of this tiny sect of marginalized Christians.

I don’t need to tell you that the economy of Greece is a disaster. The economy has contracted by nearly 30% over the past seven years, and unemployment is over 30%, and there is no glimmer of light at the end of this dark tunnel.  Greeks have lost faith in their government, which is under the control of the EU and forced to follow an austerity program that has crippled the already weak Greek economy. A few years ago, the labor movement launched huge public actions, to no effect, and now only a few thousand show up for May Day demonstrations.

The Greeks I met were very critical of the EU and the Greek government, but didn’t have any ideas about what to do to make things better. Greece’s economic problems seem intractable. In addition, millions of immigrants from the Middle East have poured into Greece, and have exacerbated their broken economy. Many Greeks have become resentful and turned to anti-immigrant movements like the Golden Dawn.

Yet I have faith in the Greek people. They are amazingly resilient. In spite of everything, they keep on keeping on, and enjoy life. I was inspired by re-reading my favorite Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis, whose museum we visited while in Crete. You all remember the last scene of Zorba the Greek, in which all the elaborate plans for getting rich come crashing down and the two protagonists are left alone on the beach.  The young writer, who is based on Kazantzakis, asks his friend Zorba: “Can you teach me to dance?” Zorba laughs and the two men start dancing on the beach. It is one of the great moments in film, in literature, and in life. This is the spirit that keeps Greeks dancing even in the midst of tragedy.

Kazantzakis believed that each of us has a god within, and we must be faithful to that god or we never become fully alive. Sound Quakerly? Perhaps that’s why my Quaker friend Peter Bien, a professor at Dartmouth, translated Zorba and spent his life studying and writing about him. Kazantzakis was not political in the conventional sense, though he was drawn to Communism and visited the Soviet Union in the 1920s .  Kazantzakis wrote glowlingly about Lenin as well as about Christ, the Buddha and Nietzche because all these men were seeking what Kazantzakis cared most deeply about:   freedom.  The question that Kazantzakis struggled with all his life was: How do we become free? How does society become free?

Today we live in a world where we are all enslaved to some degree by the war machine and corporate greed. None of us can be truly free as long as the world is enslaved in this way. To become free, we need to free our country (and the world) from its addiction to war and violence. We need to free those who are imprisoned by poverty and oppression. We also need to free those who are caught up in selfishness, racism, prejudice and fanaticism. And as we go about working for freedom, we must not forget to dance.  Dance, did you say, dance? Yes, dance. That is an important lesson I bring home from my trip to my homeland. Even as we do our best to struggle for freedom and justice and peace, let’s rejoice we are alive and have within us a Spirit that enables us to become free. Let’s follow the Spirit within us that calls us to love mercy, do justice, and dance joyfully.

Ελλάδα από την προοπτική ενός ακτιβίστρια για την ειρήνη

Μετά από δύο εβδομάδες στην Ιταλία , πετάξαμε από τη Ρώμη στην Αθήνα και στη συνέχεια πήρε ένα πλοίο σε ένα υπέροχο νησί των Κυκλάδων που ονομάζεται Άνδρος , όπου γεννήθηκε ο πατέρας μου . Εκεί γιόρτασε τη Μεγάλη Παρασκευή και το Πάσχα με τα ξαδέρφια μου , από τους οποίους έχω γύρω στα 30 , χάρη στην πληθωρική γιαγιά μου , ο οποίος είχε 17 παιδιά !
Το Πάσχα είναι μια μεγάλη οικογενειακές διακοπές για τους Έλληνες και δεν έχω το χρόνο να κάνει τη δικαιοσύνη για το πώς όμορφο και συγκινητικό είναι οι υπηρεσίες του Πάσχα . Ολόκληρη η κοινότητα παίρνει μέρος στην υπηρεσία της Μεγάλης Παρασκευής , όπου οι καμπάνες των εκκλησιών διοδίων πένθιμα όλη την ημέρα . Το βράδυ πήγαμε στην εκκλησία, όπου η ακολουθία του Επιταφίου και η αναπαράσταση επιτάφιος του γίνεται μέσα από το χωριό τη νύχτα , με αναμμένα κεριά και ροδόνερο πασπαλισμένες ανάμεσα στα πλήθη . Η υπηρεσία του Πάσχα ήταν επίσης πολύ συγκινητική : το φως από ένα κερί αναμμένο στην Ιερουσαλήμ Εκκλησία του Παναγίου Τάφου είχε πετάξει στην Αθήνα και μοιράζεται σε όλες τις Ορθόδοξες Εκκλησίες στην Ελλάδα για να ανάψουν τα κεριά όλων όσων παρακολουθούν τα μεσάνυχτα υπηρεσία του Πάσχα . Θα ήθελα να προσθέσω ότι μετά τη λειτουργία του Πάσχα , πυροτεχνήματα πάει μακριά σε όλη την Ελλάδα , γιατί οι Έλληνες γιορτάζουμε όχι μόνο την ανάσταση του Χριστού , αλλά και την απελευθέρωση της Ελλάδα από την τουρκική κατοχή . Στην Ελλάδα , η θρησκεία και ο εθνικισμός συγχώνευση με τρόπους που μπορεί να είναι ανησυχητικό για τους προτεστάντες σαν κι εμάς

Η Ορθόδοξη Εκκλησία δεν είναι γνωστή για τη λήψη μια στάση για την κοινωνική δικαιοσύνη και την ειρήνη. μάλλον , τείνει να κάνει φιλανθρωπικό έργο , όπως το τρέξιμο συσσίτια . Ελληνική Ορθόδοξος ιερέας πληρώνονται από το κράτος και έχουν την τάση να υποστηρίξουν το στάτους κβο . Μερικοί από τους ηγέτες της έχουν υποστηρικτική του ελληνικού φασιστικού κόμματος που ονομάζεται Χρυσή Αυγή . Για παράδειγμα , όταν η Χρυσή Αυγή άνοιξε ένα γραφείο στην Κόρινθο , έλαβε την ευλογία ορισμένων Ορθοδόξων ιερέων . Από την άλλη πλευρά , ο Μητροπολίτης Παύλος Σιάτιστας , περιγράφεται η Χρυσή Αυγή ως « απολίτιστων », προσθέτοντας ότι οι πράξεις του κόμματος "δεν έχουν καμία σχέση με τον αρχαίο ελληνικό πολιτισμό , ούτε το Ευαγγέλιο . « Μίλησε έξω προφητικά : « Πρέπει όλοι μας να λάβει μια σαφή σταθεί στο θέμα της Χρυσής Αυγής ... έχουμε να κηρύξει το λόγο του Θεού , η οποία δεν έχει καμία σχέση με τις πράξεις που διαπράττονται από μέλη της Χρυσής Αυγής . "Ως αποτέλεσμα , αυτός ο ιερέας έλαβε απειλές θανάτου από τους υποστηρικτές της Χρυσής Αυγής .
Βαρθολομαίος , ο Μητροπολίτης της Κωνσταντινούπολης ( aka Κωνσταντινούπολη ) , είναι ίσως η πιο προοδευτική Ορθόδοξος ηγέτης , και έχει χαρακτηριστεί ως το «πράσινο πάπα » της Ορθοδοξίας . Έχει μιλήσει σε μια σειρά θεμάτων, από την οικολογία με την παγκοσμιοποίηση . Συστήνω ιδιαίτερα το βιβλίο του Αντιμετωπίζουν το Μυστήριο - Κατανόηση Ορθόδοξη Χριστιανοσύνη TodayAmerican Ορθόδοξο Ινστιτούτο - ,
Παρακολούθησε την εναρκτήρια Μάζα του Πάπα Francis στις 19 Μαρτίου 2013, ανοίγοντας το δρόμο για την καλύτερη Καθολική - Ορθόδοξη σχέσεις . Ήταν η πρώτη φορά που ο πνευματικός ηγέτης των ορθόδοξων χριστιανών είχαν παρακολουθήσει μια παπική εναρκτήρια μάζας από το Μεγάλο Σχίσμα το 1054 . Στη συνέχεια , προσκάλεσε τον Πάπα Francis να ταξιδέψει μαζί του στους Αγίους Τόπους το 2014 για τον εορτασμό της πεντηκοστής επετείου της αγκαλιά μεταξύ Ο Πατριάρχης Αθηναγόρας και ο Πάπας Παύλος VI .

Βαρθολομαίος συνυποστηρίζει διεθνείς συνδιασκέψεις ειρήνης , καθώς και συναντήσεις για τον ρατσισμό και τον φανατισμό, φέρνοντας μαζί τους Χριστιανούς , Μουσουλμάνους και Εβραίους με σκοπό την επίτευξη μεγαλύτερης συνεργασίας και αμοιβαίας κατανόησης .
Συναντήσαμε επίσης ορισμένες Ευαγγελική Έλληνες , μια μικρή μειονότητα θεωρείται «αιρετικούς» από ορισμένα μέλη της Ορθόδοξης Εκκλησίας . Ναι , αυτή είναι η λέξη που είπε ο Ορθόδοξος που χρησιμοποιείται για την περιγραφή τους . Εντυπωσιαστήκαμε με το πώς η Ελληνική Ευαγγελική Εκκλησία φτάνει στους άστεγους και τους φτωχούς στην Αθήνα , παρέχοντας όχι μόνο τα τρόφιμα αλλά ντους και ένα μέρος για να κρεμάσει έξω . Είχαμε, επίσης, εντυπωσιασμένος από την πνευματική θέρμη αυτού του μικροσκοπικού αίρεση της περιθωριοποιημένες Χριστιανών .
Δεν χρειάζεται να σας πω ότι η οικονομία της Ελλάδα είναι μια καταστροφή . Η οικονομία έχει συρρικνωθεί κατά περίπου 30 % τα τελευταία επτά χρόνια, και η ανεργία είναι πάνω από 30 % , και δεν υπάρχει καμία αχτίδα φωτός στο τέλος αυτής της σκοτεινής σήραγγας. Οι Έλληνες έχουν χάσει την πίστη τους στην κυβέρνηση , η οποία είναι υπό τον έλεγχο της ΕΕ και αναγκάζεται να ακολουθήσει ένα πρόγραμμα λιτότητας που έχει παραλύσει την ήδη αδύναμη ελληνική οικονομία . Πριν από μερικά χρόνια , το εργατικό κίνημα που ξεκίνησε τεράστιες δημόσιες δράσεις , χωρίς αποτέλεσμα , και τώρα μόνο μερικές χιλιάδες εμφανίζονται για τις διαδηλώσεις της Πρωτομαγιάς .
Οι Έλληνες που συνάντησα ήταν πολύ επικριτική έναντι της ΕΕ και της ελληνικής κυβέρνησης , αλλά δεν έχουν καμία ιδέα για το τι να κάνετε για να κάνει τα πράγματα καλύτερα. Οικονομικά προβλήματα στην Ελλάδα φαίνεται δυσεπίλυτο . Επιπλέον , τα εκατομμύρια των μεταναστών από τη Μέση Ανατολή έχουν ριχτεί στην Ελλάδα , και επιδείνωσαν σπάσει την οικονομία τους . Πολλοί Έλληνες έχουν γίνει μνησίκακος και να μετατραπεί σε αντι -μεταναστευτικές κινήσεις , όπως η Χρυσή Αυγή .
Ωστόσο, έχω πίστη στον Ελληνικό λαό . Είναι εκπληκτικά ανθεκτική . Παρ 'όλα αυτά , συνεχίζουν στην διατήρηση επί του , και να απολαμβάνουν τη ζωή . Εμπνεύστηκα από την εκ νέου ανάγνωση αγαπημένο μου Έλληνα συγγραφέα Νίκου Καζαντζάκη , του οποίου το μουσείο επισκεφθήκαμε ενώ στην Κρήτη . Θα θυμάστε όλοι την τελευταία σκηνή του Ζορμπάς ο Έλληνας , κατά την οποία όλα τα περίτεχνα σχέδια για να πάρει πλούσια έρθει συντρίβοντας κάτω και οι δύο πρωταγωνιστές μένουν μόνοι στην παραλία . Ο νεαρός συγγραφέας , ο οποίος βασίζεται σε Καζαντζάκη , ρωτά ο φίλος του Ζορμπά : " Μπορείς να μου μάθεις να χορεύεις ; " Ζορμπά γέλια και οι δύο άνδρες αρχίζουν να χορεύουν στην παραλία . Είναι μία από τις μεγάλες στιγμές στην ταινία , στη λογοτεχνία και στη ζωή . Αυτό είναι το πνεύμα που κρατά τους Έλληνες χορεύουν ακόμη και εν μέσω της τραγωδίας .
Καζαντζάκης πίστευε ότι ο καθένας από εμάς έχει έναν Θεό μέσα , και πρέπει να είμαστε πιστοί σε αυτό το θεό ή μπορούμε ποτέ να γίνει πλήρως ζωντανός . Ήχος Quakerly ; Ίσως γι 'αυτό Quaker φίλος μου ο Peter Bien , καθηγητής στο Dartmouth , μεταφράζεται Ζορμπά και πέρασε τη ζωή του μελετώντας και γράφοντας γι' αυτόν . Ο Καζαντζάκης δεν ήταν πολιτική με τη συμβατική έννοια , αν και σύρθηκε στον κομμουνισμό και επισκέφθηκε τη Σοβιετική Ένωση τη δεκαετία του 1920 . Ο Καζαντζάκης έγραψε glowlingly για τον Λένιν , καθώς και για τον Χριστό , τον Βούδα και Νίτσε , επειδή όλα αυτά τα άτομα που αναζητούν ό, τι ο Καζαντζάκης φρόντισε ιδιαίτερα τους : την ελευθερία . Το ερώτημα που ο Καζαντζάκης αγωνίστηκε με όλη του τη ζωή ήταν : Πώς θα γίνει δωρεάν ; Πώς γίνεται η κοινωνία δωρεάν;
Σήμερα ζούμε σε έναν κόσμο , όπου όλοι είμαστε υποδουλωμένοι σε κάποιο βαθμό από την πολεμική μηχανή και την εταιρική απληστία . Κανείς από εμάς δεν μπορεί να είναι πραγματικά δωρεάν εφ 'όσον ο κόσμος είναι υπόδουλη με αυτόν τον τρόπο . Για να γίνει δωρεάν , πρέπει να απελευθερώσουμε τη χώρα μας ( και τον κόσμο ) από τον εθισμό του στον πόλεμο και τη βία . Πρέπει να απελευθερώσει όσους έχουν φυλακιστεί από τη φτώχεια και την καταπίεση . Πρέπει επίσης να ελευθερώσει εκείνους που έχουν αλιευθεί σε εγωισμό , τον ρατσισμό , τις προκαταλήψεις και τον φανατισμό . Και όσο προχωράμε σχετικά με την εργασία για την ελευθερία , δεν πρέπει να ξεχνάμε να χορεύει . Χορός , είπες , το χορό ; Ναι , το χορό . Αυτό είναι ένα σημαντικό μάθημα που φέρει στο σπίτι από το ταξίδι μου στην πατρίδα μου . Ακόμη και όπως κάνουμε το καλύτερό μας για να αγωνιστεί για την ελευθερία και τη δικαιοσύνη και την ειρήνη , ας χαρούν είμαστε ζωντανοί και να έχουμε μέσα μας ένα πνεύμα που μας δίνει τη δυνατότητα να γίνει δωρεάν . Ας ακολουθήσουμε το Πνεύμα μέσα μας που μας καλεί να αγαπάμε έλεος , κάνει τη δικαιοσύνη , και χορεύουν με χαρά .

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Italy from a Peace Activist's Perspective

At the Roman forum in Rome
It's been nearly six weeks since my last posting, but I have a good excuse: Jill and I have been traveling to Italy and Greece! (See Our trip was so intense that we didn't have much time to post anything except pictures on Facebook. Now that we are home, and my 65th birthday party has taken place, I finally have time to reflect at leisure on what proved to be the trip of a lifetime. I'll probably be devoting a few posts to different aspects of this amazing journey.

For the past few days I have been pondering what to say about my trip to Italy and Greece from a peace and justice perspective since on Friday I will have an opportunity to share my thoughts with my friends at Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace. Here are a few reflections:

The Coliseum, which  was funded in 72 AD by looting
the Temple of Jerusalem after its destruction. It was built by
Jews who were enslaved for opposing Roman rule.
Few Christians were martyred here, however: this legend
was made up to justify refurbishing the Coliseum.
First, this trip reminded Jill and me about the fate of empires. Any time you go to Italy or Greece, you see the ruins of mighty empires that no longer exist. “The glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome”—now exist now only in books, and in the memory of those, like me, who love to read about history. Italy and Greece are delightful countries, but they are no longer superpowers.
This is a lesson worth remembering as we seek to dismantle the American empire: it, too, will crumble.  Only the arts of peace, and the God of peace, will last for as long as human beings endure.
One of the enduring legacies of Italy can be found in a little village called Assisi, the birthplace of a man of peace and poverty named Francis.  Located in the midst of the fertile, rolling hills of Umbria, Assisi is especially lovely and peaceful in the spring, when there are few tourists and you can feel the quiet presence of Francis in flowers that grow from the crannies and cracks in old walls. We prayed in the humble Romanesque church where Francis was baptized, and we visited his childhood home—where his father allegedly locked up his God-intoxicated son so he wouldn’t go off on some crazy religious pilgrimage. We saw a statue of young Francis on horseback, coming back from a Crusade, crest-fallen and disillusioned by his first exposure to war. We saw the beautiful basilica built to honor Francis’ memory and house his remains, and savored the irony of its location. When Francis was asked where he wanted to be buried, he said: “Bury me among the thieves and murderers, in unhallowed ground.” And so they buried him not in the Catholic graveyard, but on the edge of town, where criminals were buried. In death as in life, Francis was on the side of the outcasts, the marginalized.
Enrico Peyretti
At Assisi we stayed in a Catholic retreat center called the Citadella Ospitalidad. This center tries to keep alive the spirit of Francis by sponsoring events and conferences focusing on social justice and peace. It was there that I found a book called “La Politica e Pace” by Enrico Peyretti, the controversial leader of the Catholic nonviolent movement in Italy. He is an amazing man, courageous and radical thinker who has spoken out passionately against all forms of violence, including the violence found in the Bible. I wish I had had the time to go to the Italian Peace Research Center (which he founded) and get to know more about Peyretti and his work, but it’s good to know that there is a prophetic peace movement in Italy that’s alive and well. (I plan to write more about him in subsequent blogs: very little about him is available in English.)
We got to spend holy week in Rome and on the first day we connected with the community of Sant Egidio. My Pax Christi friends Father Chris Ponnet and Sister Pat Krommer recommended that we look up this remarkable community which was founded in 1968 by Catholic high school students led by Andrea Riccardi. Over the years it has grown to over 50,000 members in 70 countries. It is devoted to social justice and peace, helping the poor, and fostering interfaith dialogue and cooperation. We worshipped with this community on Palm Sunday in a lovely church on Tiber Island called San Bartolomeo. The priest of this church showed us around and pointed out that this church honors the “new martyrs” to Christianity in the 20th and 21st century—Christians  killed or persecuted in places like East Timor or in Africa or while standing up against Fascism and Communism. Also among the martyrs are “ordinary people” who risked their lives to work for economic development, or to cure disease, or fight corruption. What was remarkable is that non-Catholic were honored along with Catholics. Andrea Ricardi, founder of the Santa Egidio community, described how we are all called to witness to our faith:  “In our time, to resist evil and to resist violence, in faith, in love, poor as we are, ordinary people like us, we can find in ourselves the energy to resist.”
A spiritual highlight of our trip to Rome was seeing Pope Francis during his Wednesday morning audience. Along with 20,000 or so others, we watched the new Pope circulate around St Peter’s Square in his popemobile, waving at the crowds, kissing babies, and looking like a papa. It was an exciting moment. Pope Francis is definitely a breath of fresh air who, like his namesake, cares deeply about the poor. I'd like to end this post with prophetic words from the new pope that are worthy of St Francis:

I encourage the financial experts and the political leaders of your countries to consider the words of Saint John Chrysostom: “Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs.” (5/16/13)

Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules. God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the “culture of waste.” (6/5/13, Environment)

…If you break a computer it is a tragedy, but poverty, the needs, the dramas of so many people end up becoming the norm. (6/5/13, Environment)

In tomorrow's post, I'll talk about our trip to Andros, Greece, the island where my father was born, and how Christians in Greece are responding to the issues of social justice and peace. See


 “Conflicted Hearts: Orthodox Christians and Socia Sant Egidio:'Egidio

 “Memorial to the New Martyrs”:

Italia dalla prospettiva di un attivista per la pace

Mi è stato chiesto di parlare del  mio viaggio in Italia e in Grecia da una prospettiva di pace e di giustizia . Qui ci sono alcune riflessioni :

In primo luogo , questo viaggio ha insegnato  a Jill e a me  molto sul destino degli imperi . Ogni volta che vai in Italia o in Grecia , si vedono le rovine di potenti imperi che non esistono più . " La gloria che fu la Grecia e la grandezza che era Roma" , ora esistono ormai solo nei libri e nella memoria di chi, come me, ama la storia . Italia e Grecia sono paesi deliziosi , ma non sono più superpoteri .

Questa è una lezione da ricordare , mentre cerchiamo di smantellare l'impero americano : pure esso crollerà . Solo le arti della pace , e il Dio della pace , durerà per tutto il tempo che dureranno gli

Uno dei lasciti immortali d'Italia si trova in un piccolo villaggio chiamato Assisi , la città natale di un uomo di pace e di povertà di nome Francesco. Situato in mezzo alle fertili colline dell'Umbria , Assisi è particolarmente bella e tranquilla in primavera , quando ci sono pochi turisti e si può sentire la tranquilla presenza di Francesco in fiori che crescono dalle fessure e crepe nei vecchi muri . Abbiamo pregato nella umile chiesa romanica dove fu battezzato Francesco , e abbiamo visitato la sua casa d'infanzia , dove il padre avrebbe rinchiuso il figlio da Dio intossicato, così non sarebbe andato in qualche pellegrinaggio religioso pazzo . Abbiamo visto una statua del  giovane Francesco a cavallo , di ritorno da una crociata , abbattuto e disilluso dalla sua prima esposizione alla guerra . Abbiamo visto la bella basilica costruita per onorare la memoria di Francesco ' e accogliere le sue spoglie , e assaporato l'ironia della sua posizione . Quando a Francesco è stato chiesto dove voleva essere sepolto , ha detto : "Seppellitemi tra i ladri e assassini , in un terreno sconsacrato . « E così fu sepolto nel cimitero non cattolico, ma ai margini della città, dove sono stati sepolti i criminali . Nella morte come nella vita , Francesco era dalla parte degli esclusi , degli emarginati .

Ad Assisi abbiamo alloggiato in un centro di ritiro cattolico chiamato Cittadella Ospitalidad . Questo centro cerca di mantenere vivo lo spirito di Francesco con eventi sponsorizzazioni e convegni incentrati sulla giustizia sociale e della pace . E ' stato lì che ho trovato un libro intitolato " La Politica e la  Pace " di Enrico Peyretti , il leader controverso del movimento nonviolento cattolico in Italia . Lui è un uomo straordinario , un pensatore coraggioso e radicale che ha parlato appassionatamente contro tutte le forme di violenza , inclusa la violenza trovata nella Bibbia .(Vedi . ) Vorrei aver avuto il tempo di andare al Peace Research Centro Italiano ( da lui fondato ) e conoscere di più su Peyretti e il suo lavoro , ma è bene sapere che esiste un movimento per la pace profetico in Italia che è vivo e vegeto .

Siamo arrivati
​​a trascorrere la settimana santa a Roma e il primo giorno siamo stati portati alla chiesa di Sant’ Egidio . Chris Ponnet e suor Pat raccomandarono a noi di guardare questa straordinaria comunità che è stata fondata nel 1968 da studenti delle scuole superiori cattoliche e ora è cresciuta fino a oltre 50.000 membri in 70 paesi . Si è dedicata alla giustizia sociale e alla pace , ad  aiutare i poveri , e promuovere il dialogo interreligioso e la cooperazione . Abbiamo adorato con questa comunità nella Domenica delle Palme in una bella chiesa sull'Isola Tiberina chiamata San Bartolomeo . Il prete di questa chiesa ci ha mostrato e sottolineato che questa Chiesa onora i "nuovi martiri"del cristianesimo   cristiani dei secoli  20° e 21°  uccisi mentre resistevano contro il fascismo , il comunismo e le altre forme di oppressione . Ciò che era notevole è che i martiri non- cattolici sono stati premiati insieme con i cattolici . "Ciò che unisce tutti i cristiani ", ha detto il sacerdote , "è il sangue dei martiri . " Siamo stati lieti di vedere questa apertura all'unità dei cristiani , nonché  alla pace e alla giustizia nella bella chiesa .

Un punto culminante spirituale del nostro viaggio a Roma fu l’andare  a vedere il Papa Francesco durante la sua udienza  pubblica del mercoledi mattina. Insieme con 20.000 o altri ancora di più , abbiamo guardato il nuovo Papa circolare intorno a Piazza San Pietro nella sua papamobile , salutando la folla , baciando i bambini , e guardando come un papà . E 'stato un momento emozionante . Questo Papa è sicuramente una boccata d'aria fresca che, come il suo omonimo , si preoccupa profondamente dei poveri.

Abbiamo viaggiato da Roma fino a un'isola delle Cicladi chiamato Andros , dove è nato mio padre. Lì abbiamo celebrato il Venerdì Santo e la Pasqua con i miei cugini , che sono circa 30 , grazie a mia nonna , che aveva 17 bambini . Pasqua è una festa importante della famiglia per i greci e non ho tempo di fare giustizia di quanto  belli e commoventi sono i servizi di Pasqua. L'intera comunità prende parte al servizio del Venerdì Santo , dove  le campane suonano tristemente tutto il giorno e la sera siamo andati alla chiesa dove il funerale di Gesù si rappresenta e il suo epitaffio è

portato  attraverso il villaggio di notte , con le candele accese e acqua di rose sparse tra la folla . Pasqua è stata anche molto commovente : la luce di una candela accesa a Gerusalemme presso la Chiesa del Santo Sepolcro è stata trasportata ad Atene e distribuita a tutte le Chiese ortodosse in Grecia per accendere le candele di tutti coloro che frequentano il servizio di Pasqua di mezzanotte . Vorrei aggiungere che dopo il servizio di Pasqua , fuochi d'artificio si spengono in tutta la Grecia , perché i greci celebrano non solo la risurrezione di Cristo , ma la liberazione della Grecia dalla dominazione turca . In Grecia , la religione e il nazionalismo si fondono in modi che possono essere sconcertanti per i protestanti come noi .

In generale , la Chiesa ortodossa non si attiva  per la giustizia sociale e la pace . I suoi sacerdoti sono pagati dallo Stato e tendono a sostenere lo status quo . Alcuni dei suoi leader sono stati di appoggio al  partito fascista chiamato Golden Dawn. Molti dei greci che abbiamo incontrato sono scettici sul cristianesimo e frequentano servizi principalmente per motivi sociali .
Abbiamo anche incontrato alcuni evangelici Greci , una piccola minoranza considerati "eretici" dalla Chiesa ortodossa . Sì , questa è la parola che hanno usato . Siamo rimasti colpiti come la Chiesa Evangelica Greca raggiunge i senzatetto e poveri di Atene , fornendo non solo cibo, ma le docce e un posto per appoggiarsi . Siamo rimasti colpiti anche dal fervore spirituale di questa piccola setta di cristiani emarginati .

Non ho bisogno di dirvi che l'economia della Grecia è un disastro . L'economia ha subito una contrazione di quasi il 30 % negli ultimi sette anni , e la disoccupazione è oltre il 30% , e non c'è barlume di luce alla fine di questo tunnel buio . I Greci hanno perso fiducia nel loro governo , che è sotto il controllo dell'UE e costretto a seguire un programma di austerità che ha paralizzato l'economia greca già debole . Alcuni anni fa , il movimento dei lavoratori ha lanciato grandi interventi pubblici , senza alcun risultato , e ora solo poche migliaia dimostrano per le manifestazioni del primo maggio .

I Greci che ho incontrato erano molto critici della UE e del governo greco , ma non hanno alcuna idea su cosa fare per migliorare le cose . I problemi economici sembrano intrattabili . Inoltre , milioni di immigrati dal Medio Oriente si sono riversati in in Grecia, hanno aggravato la loro economia . Molti greci sono diventati pieni di risentimento e si sono rivolti ai movimenti anti- immigrati , come la Golden Dawn,

Eppure io ho fede nel popolo greco . Sono incredibilmente resistenti . Nonostante tutto , continuano a tenersi su , e passare un buon tempo .Sono stato ispirato dalla lettura del mio preferito scrittore greco Nikos Kazantzakis , sul cui epitaffio ci sono le parole: "Non mi aspetto nulla , non temo nulla , sono libero . " Voi tutti ricordate l'ultima scena di Zorba il greco , in cui tutti i piani elaborati per diventare ricchi crollano e le due protagoniste sono lasciate sole sulla spiaggia . Il giovane scrittore , che si basa su Kazantzakis , chiede al suo amico Zorba : " Mi puoi insegnare a ballare ? " Zorba ride e i due uomini iniziano a ballare sulla spiaggia . Si tratta di uno dei grandi momenti in pellicola , in letteratura , e nella vita . Questo è esattamente ciò che è successo a Kazantzakis quando ha ottenuto in eredità dallo zio , ha assunto un minatore esuberante di nome George Zorbas , e tutti i suoi piani per una miniera di lignite sono crollati . Questo è lo spirito che mantiene Greci ballare anche nel bel mezzo della tragedia .

Kazantzakis ha creduto che ognuno di noi ha un dio dentro , e dobbiamo essere fedeli a quel dio oppure non abbiamo mai da diventare pienamente vivi .Suono Quakerly ? Forse è per questo che il mio amico Quaker Peter Bien ha tradotto Zorba e ha trascorso la sua vita a studiare e scrivere su di lui .Kazantzakis non era un uomo politico nel senso convenzionale , anche se è stato iscritto al comunismo . Kazantzakis ha scritto ardentemente su Lenin e su Cristo , il Buddha e Nietzsche perché tutti questi uomini erano alla ricerca di libertà : politica, sociale , spirituale . Ecco  ciò in cui  Kazantzakis ha creduto con passione : la libertà . Come si diventa liberi ? Come la società diventa libera ?

Oggi viviamo in un mondo in cui siamo tutti schiavi in una certa misura dalla macchina da guerra e della avidità aziendale . Per diventare liberi , abbiamo bisogno di liberare coloro che sono dediti alla guerra e alla violenza . Abbiamo bisogno di liberare quelli imprigionati dalla povertà e dall'oppressione . E come noi lavoriamo per la libertà, non dobbiamo dimenticare di ballare . Danza, hai detto , la danza ? Sì , la danza .Questa è la lezione che ho portato a casa dal mio viaggio nella mia patria . Anche se l'impero crolla lentamente in rovina intorno a noi , ricordiamoci di ballare. Perché dentro di noi vi è uno Spirito che non morirà mai. 
Oopa !
[My heart-felt thanks to Giorgio Taffon, who corrected my manuscript, and was our guide and friend in Rome.]