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Night Prayer

Sculpture of a homeless man under a sleeping bag on a bench.

Photo: Timothy Schmalz

Tonight I am grateful for the roof over my head
and while the rain comes down.
I am grateful for the love of my dogs and cats.
I am grateful for the consolation of Mass.
I am praying for those without adequate shelter.
I am praying for those affected by terrible storms.
I am praying for those separated from those they love.
I am praying for those needing healing and hope.
I am praying for those suffering from violence and war.
Praying for peace.
Praying for justice.

—Robin Vestal, on her Facebook page last night.

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Blessed are the Peacemakers …

BEATI PACIFICI QUONIAM FILII DEI VOCABUNTUR (Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.)

Mosaic at Mount of Beatitudes, Israel (Photo: Devor Avi (CC BY-SA 3.0))

Today is the Feast of St. Matthew, which is also the International Day of Peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God …

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment,  and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ [imbecile] will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny …

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile,  go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect,  just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:9, 21-26, 38-48 (NAB) via the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website (usccb.org).

Pray for peace, today and every day.

Twelve Years and Two Days Ago

The Moving Wall in Florence (9/9/2001)

Photo: Julia Ozab

On Sunday, September 9, 2001, Julia and I visited the portable Vietnam Veterans Memorial (“The Moving Wall“) during a stop over in Florence, Oregon. I’ve never been to the permanent memorial in Washington D.C.—it was built three years after my family moved to California—so this was the closest I would get unless I ever made it back east again.

Under normal circumstances, this would have been a memorable visit. But that week was anything but normal. Two days later, almost 3,000 innocent people would lose their lives on a day none of us will ever forget.

And in my memory, these two events that came two days apart by coincidence will be forever linked in my memory. I pray every year at this time for the families that lost loved ones on 9/11, and I also pray for those who lost loved ones serving in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq.

Some September, I hope to make it back east again. To visit the Vietnam War Memorial and also to visit the September 11 Memorial. To return to the place where the towers once stood, and to pray for peace.

The North Tower Fountain (9/17/2011)

Photo: Kai Brinker (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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I Am My Brother’s Keeper

Cain Slays Abel (Gen. 4:8-15)

Detail of “The Death of Abel” by Gustave Doré (from The Doré Bible, 1866)

When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the center, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict …

It is exactly in this chaos that God asks man’s conscience: “Where is Abel your brother?” and Cain responds: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). We too are asked this question, it would be good for us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother’s keeper? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! To be human means to care for one another …

We need only look at the suffering of so many brothers and sisters. This is not a question of coincidence, but the truth: we bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and in every war. All of us!

Excerpts from Pope Francis homily, given during today’s Prayer Vigil for Peace in St. Peter’s Square.

A Different Kind of “Risk”

Three people playing Risk

Photo: Andre Engels (CC BY 1.0)

Today, the Five-Minute Friday prompt is “Risk.” Since I’m supposed to write for five minutes on the first thing that pops in my head, I will be taking this post in a different direction.

The first thing I think of when I hear the word “Risk” is the Parker Brothers board game I played when I was a kid. The object of Risk—for those who’ve never played it—is perhaps both the grandest and most disturbing object of any board game: to conquer the world. Two to six budding Napoleons send armies marching around the globe with the ultimate goal of wiping out everyone but themselves and possessing every territory on the face of the earth.

As a boy, I never thought about what such a quest would entail in real life. The devastation of global warfare, even in an idealized 19th century pre-mechanized world, would mean death, famine, and suffering hundreds of millions of times over. The armies, after all, were just pieces of plastic and the civilians: well, there just weren’t any.

I also never thought about what would have happened after a real-life version. What would it take to keep the world “conquered” once I’d won? Empires never last, and the longer they do the more brutal they have to be to keep control.

But I was a kid, and it was just a game. And Risk wasn’t the only “war” game I owned. I had a chess set—though I never had the temperament for that game—along with a selection of strategy games based on various historic battles, but Risk was my favorite by far because it covered the whole world.

I haven’t played Risk since my early teens. I own a newer version of the game: one with infantry, artillery, and cavalry pieces in place of the abstract shapes. I bought it for sentimental reasons, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever play it.

Most likely, I won’t play it because I won’t find a worthy, or interested, opponent. But there’s a small part of me that wonders if the real reason I won’t play it again is because I can’t think of war as a game anymore.

This is my latest contribution to “Five-minute Fridays,” a weekly blog carnival hosted by Lisa-Jo Baker (aka The Gypsy Mama). Today’s prompt is “Risk.”