1991 Jan 19 – 2rd Sun Ord (Bulletin Letters)
Pastoral / Resistance Writings
90 01 20
THE WEEK WAR BROKE OUT:
Sunday night we had a good showing at St. Anne’s for the Rosary and Prayer Service for Peace. After the Rosary, Rev. Ron Clayton read Mark Twain’s anti-war essay, “THE WAR PRAYER”. Jerry Simpson, the Logan night policeman, brought the essay to Ron’s and my attention late Friday night when he heard we were going to have a Prayer Service for Peace. Jerry had served in the Korean War, and knows first-hand the horrors of war. The essay points out the hypocrisy of praying for victory during wartime. The essay was written about the Civil War, and Twain did not let it be published until after his death.
Monday morning, I went back to court with the other two remaining co-defendants from the December 28th witness in Omaha. We pleaded “no contest” and Judge Troia gave us all 30 hours of community service and one month probation. Monday night at IWCC, I turned my whole class period over to a discussion of the crisis in the Middle East. It was obvious that the impending war was on everyone’s mind and our discussion was very helpful for many of us.
Tuesday morning, I was back in court – this time in the Federal Court – with Helen Tichey and Cory Hardin. Cory is from the Catholic Worker in Des Moines, and Helen is a 79 year old retired teacher and friend of the Des Moines Catholic Worker. They were facing charges of breaking their past ban and bar letters from SAC. They were among the seven folks who crossed the line on the day of my trial and conviction last April. I deemed it a great privilege and honor to be in the courtroom with Helen when she told the Judge her reasons for breaking her ban and bar letter from SAC. Helen and Cory pleaded “no contest” and were given probation. The next time they cross the line at SAC, the judge promised them they would be going to jail. Tuesday night, I skipped the Jesuit Social and Dinner for Area Priests at Creighton and attended a Prayer Service for Peace in Atlantic, IA. Harry Fisher, the youth director for SS. Peter & Paul Church in Atlantic asked me to be their main speaker for the service. About 100 people gathered at the foot of the War Memorial in the park at 8: 00 p. m., to pray for peace. My message was basically the same as it was on Sunday night in Logan. I read Twain’s “The War, Prayer” and told the gathering that we cannot simultaneously pray for peace and prepare for war. We prayed to God for intervention to stop the war but, if war should come, I prayed God would give all who claim Jesus as Lord, the courage to be true peacemakers in these days of conflict.
News of the outbreak of war came to me Wednesday evening just before leaving for IWCC for class. Chuck Ryan, our Diocesan Rural Life Director was with me at the time. Chuck was my guest speaker for the class. We were in no mood to be having class that night, but went anyway. Chuck and I, with Kathryn Epperson, drove down to IWCC while listening to the radio reports of the opening minutes of the war. At IWCC, classes were delayed so people could watch and hear the President’s 8:00 p.m. message to the nation. After the President’s message, classes were resumed. We went through the motions of having class, but our hearts were not in it. Chuck and I stayed up until 2:00 a.m., watching the news reports of the war on T.V.
Thursday morning, I celebrated Mass for the St. Pat’s school children in Missouri Valley. Our theme was “peace”. I told the children that in war, there are no real winners, and everybody loses. The fact that we are at war is proof that we adults have failed them. I told them war was never the right, or just, solution to human problems. We prayed for our men and women in the military in the Middle East. We also prayed for the enemies they face, as well as all the innocent men, women and children, who will suffer directly from this war. We prayed this war would soon be over with a minimum loss of life and property. We prayed that when they, the students, were adults, they would never have to live through, or fight, a war. After Mass, I went to Omaha to join the anti-war demonstration at the Federal Building at 2:00 p.m. There were about 100 of us there, along with 15 pro-war demonstrators. We sang songs, and prayed for peace. At 4:45 p.m., 13 of us entered the lobby of the Federal Building in an effort to occupy the building. We were all arrested by Omaha policemen, taken to a waiting bus, and drove around the block to the Civic Center across the street from the Federal building. We were taken off the bus and brought into the Civic Center where we were processed, fingerprinted, photographed, and given a citation for criminal trespassing. We were ordered to appear in court on February 15th, and we were then released. As I write this letter, news of Iraqi missiles hitting targets in Israel fill the airways. I, like the rest of the country, am wondering, “What next?” I am praying that the fighting stops as soon as possible, and that the destruction of life ends.
WE ARE NOTHING MORE THAN A GNAT ON A COW’S ASS:
When I called Rich Koeppen about details surrounding the protest in Omaha on Thursday, we both shared how helpless we felt to prevent this war. Rich said of the demonstration about to take place on Thursday, “We are nothing more than a gnat on a cow’s ass.” I reminded Rich that ALL our efforts for peace throughout the years have never amounted to anything more than being a gnat on a cow’s ass. The outbreak of war in the Middle East only serves to prove how ineffective we, in the peace movement, have been. It is most disheartening to admit, a sobering feeling. It has forced me to look hard and deep into my heart and ask “Why bother to do anything?” .Why should we keep on struggling for a non-violent world where peace and justice rule when greed and self-interest are the real rulers of our times – death and destruction their by-products. George Bush’s “New World Order” looks a lot like the old world order; where might makes right, with the poor and defenseless suffering the most.
Then I looked to the example Jesus set for us. He, too, struggled in vain for a more just and loving society. I am reminded of His gentle, non-violent love that reached out to all people, the just and the unjust, the poor and the rich, His friends and His foes. Jesus showed us how to lay down our lives for our fellow human beings. He challenged us to be willing to die for our beliefs. He never taught us to kill. Two thousand years after His death and resurrection, Jesus’ way is no more effective than it was when He was nailed to the cross. In the eyes of the world, Jesus was no more influential in implementing His non-violent ways into the political arena than that of “a gnat on a cow’s ass.” Yet, our faith leads us to proclaim that it is only in Jesus that the world will come to salvation and redemption. I told Rich that we may well be nothing more than a gnat on a cow’s ass in our efforts to stop this crazy war, and maybe that’s all we are supposed to be. If that is true, we should try to be the best gnats we can possibly be and leave the rest in the hands of God.