When asked about my religious tradition, I never know exactly what to say: born into a Presbyterian family, I’ve spent time as a Southern Baptist (yes, really), sang in an Episcopal choir in high school, became a professional United Methodist in my forties when I worked for the denomination, and now float somewhere between Lutheran (ELCA) and Catholic. My Catholic home is St. Boniface Church, in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, and the congregation looks something like what I imagine the heavenly banquet to be: everyone’s invited and no one is left out.
I mention all this because our prophetic Franciscan priest, Fr. Louis Vitale, is moving on after 13 years in this parish. Louie is one of those pastors who’s been everywhere (including a three-month stint in federal prison for crossing the line at the School of the Americas) and done everything (including serving in the U.S. Air Force and being named Pax Christi’s Teacher of Peace along with the Berrigan brothers). He is an extraordinary human being, and I am a better person for having had the privilege of knowing him. At age 73, he doesn’t know what the next part of his journey will be, but you can bet that peace and nonviolence will be the focus.
Peace is much on my mind these days, mainly because of its absence from our troubled world. Many of us have been encouraged, though, by the witness of Cindy Sheehan and all those who have joined her at Camp Casey. A member of Pax Christi forwarded the following message from Patricia Kane, who was in Crawford last week. It’s a powerful testimony and worth your reflection (see especially point 3 — 7,000 people came through, not the mere hundreds you’ve heard about on CNN!):
People keep asking me what was the strongest impression that I took away from Crawford, and I think there are three things:
1)What I witnessed is a PEACE movement, not an anti-war movement, and it is a very inspiring thing to have seen. I left Crawford with a feeling of just wanting to be nicer to everyone, including my ex-husband. I suddenly felt a great deal of compassion for him, and I believe that this was in part due to what I witnessed at Camp Casey: kindness, gentleness, sincere love for those in opposition. Amazing.
2)I saw a gentleness of spirit combined with a focus – “For what noble cause?” – in all the people at Camp Casey, that leaves me feeling very hopeful, for the first time since the lead-up to the war. And
3) Something is terribly wrong in our country – what’s happened in Crawford IS NOT BEING REPORTED. Did you know that over 7,000 people have passed through Camp Casey since August 6? That’s not what’s on TV, is it? I’ve thought and thought about why this is so, and I believe that if Americans saw the truth at Crawford – the crowds, the gentleness, the integrity, the desire for dialogue, the determination – more and more of us would feel empowered to speak out – and that’s not what our current crop of media moguls want. So, I will talk until my throat gives out about what I saw in Crawford! Just point me at an audience and I’ll do the rest.
I heard Medea Benjamin say last week that being in Crawford was a religious experience. That was my exact thought the day I left and drove to the airport in Austin. I heard Cindy today say that it has been the most transformative experience of her life. I thought that, too. Our job now is to keep things going, and part of that is for people to be able to see and hear what happened.
“Our job now is to keep things going….” That’s true whether we are in Crawford or anywhere else. We have to keep up the passion for peace that I learned from Louie Vitale, and we have to do all we can to see that this invasion/occupation comes to an end. We can’t do everything, but everyone can do something, just one thing, to bring true peace. Let’s just give it a chance!