Monday, May 26, 2008

Corpus Christi & Memorial Day

"Vengeance on the nations" related to the Corpus Christi procession I participated in yesterday.

I had the privelege of leading the Divine Mercy chaplet while we were walking up the hill from the Science Museum to the St. Paul Cathedral. The annual Archdiocesan procession is a beautiful public testament to the faith. Archbishop Nienstedt gave a wonderful talk and said twice that Corpus Christi should not be celebrated without a procession. (Hats off to Fr. Z for this photo I stole from his blog.)

I said yesterday that actions we perform individually and together that are prayerful works of mercy and charity constitute "vengeance on the nations." This is because we are proclaiming a higher authority than mere civil or national power. We are proclaiming Christ as King of the Universe! Despite all appearances to the contrary, we have the best handle on the actual reality of the situation. The powers that seem in charge right now are only temporary. Christ will reign for all eternity. Any unjust governments who rule us now will blow away like dust in the wind.

Even the just governments will fade away. Is the USA just or unjust? In spite of a lot of mistakes the US government has made over the years(many of them acknowledged), I think the freedom we experience here makes justice possible for the greatest number most of the time. That's why I celebrate Memorial Day as well as Corpus Christi.

For Memorial Day today, I took my family over to Glenhaven here in Crystal, where the McReavy family has organized a fabulous tribute to our war vets, living and dead. Last year I attended the dedication of the largest privately funded War memorial in the state of Minnesota--right here at Glenhaven. Both last year and this year the program included:
  • Dorothy Benham (Former Miss America) singing patriotic songs
  • Minnesota Brassworks
  • current and past military heroes speaking and being honored
  • 21-gun salute
  • dove release
  • crowd reciting Pledge of allegiance to the flag and singing patriotic songs
  • Christian prayers for justice in our country and for all warriors living and dead

Before last year I have rarely done anything with my family to recognize Memorial Day. Last year I put my foot down and insisted that we all go and honor the warriors. In spite of much resistance, I think everyone was glad that we went, especially since we went to Coldstone for ice cream afterwards. But my reasons for insisting my family do something to honor our war dead were based on this excellent article by Jody Bottum in First Things. He says that "we create true communities only when we have shared dead."

Some may wonder at my good will toward the US given the injustice they have perpetrated on my ancestors the Ho-Chunks (or Winnebagos as most non-Indians call us). Well, my people have a long history of honoring our warriors. In the last one hundred years all of those warriors have fought for your freedom and mine in wars involving the US against foreign powers. We have been on the same side for some time now. It just feels natural and right for me to honor all of my people comrades in those wars.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Vengeance on the nations

Here is a passage from Psalm 149, the third psalm in Morning Prayer for Sunday Week 1, which Holy Mother Church prays today on the Feast of Corpus Christi:

Exultabunt sancti in gloria laetabuntur in cubilibus suis
Let the faithful rejoice in their glory, shout for joy and take their rest.
Exaltationes Dei in gutture eorum et gladii ancipites in manibus eorum
Let the praise of God be on their lips, and a two-edged sword in their hand.
Ad faciendam vindictam in nationibus increpationes in populis
to deal out vengeance to the nations, and punishment on all the peoples;
Ad alligandos reges eorum in conpedibus et nobiles eorum in manicis ferreis
to bind their kings in chains, and their nobles in fetters of iron;
Ut faciant in eis iudicium conscriptum gloria haec est omnibus sanctis eius
to carry out the sentence pre-ordained; this honor is for all his faithful.
Why does our Mother the Church place this passage before us on such a joyful feast? Even in the Grail translation given here, it is a pretty violent and forceful passage. This "vengeance" is not just a police action here, to be carried out by priests or civil authorities, but "this honor is for all his faithful," which sounds like it means us ordinary 'citizens' of Israel.

I don't pretend to know the complete mind of the Church, which is the mind of Christ, but this is what I thought of this morning when I read this: The "two-edged sword" is the Word of God, as Paul says in Ephesians 6:17: "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." We "wield" that sword whenever we perform some act of charity or mercy, whether corporal or spiritual, especially acts of penance or reparation.

So how are such meek and mild acts to be seen as "vengeange...punishment...bind(ing) fetters?" These acts, individually and in concert with others, have an real effect in the world. God answers prayer. When people perform these actions, it brings healing, order, and peace to their own lives and the lives of those around them. This is a rebuke to "kings and nobles" who supposedly rule the nations and make us all miserable because it restores the Kingship of Christ to the disordered rule of corrupt human governments.

One might even argue that these prayers and works are the ordinary ways for peaceful change to happen when injustice reigns. I recall peaceful change during the Marcos regime in the Phillipines brought about dramatically by prayer and action of ordinary Philipinos.

This does not mean I oppose legitimate military actions by duly constituted governments if they are just and defensive. Those are not addressed here by this psalm.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Catholic, Native and Proud

I just posted a (probably too long) response to a post on a great Catholic Blog OrbisCatholicus written by John Sonnen of St. Paul. Like many others, I was led to the blog by Fr. Z at What Does the Prayer Really Say?

He was lauding the many great Catholic bona fides of the Twin Cities and Minnesota. I just felt really left out when, by omission (but probably not by intention) he made it seem like American Indians never existed or were never here. It implies that we have disappeared or have been absorbed into the vast melting pot of the Americas and don't exist as a people anymore.

I'm not bitter about this, I just want people to know that we can talk about the painful history in ways that promote understanding and harmony. It doesn't have to be an occasion for leftist diatribes against the Church or against "white" European culture in general.

First read his post here, then read my response, which is below.

Please allow me to gently take you to task for studiously avoiding mention of the aboriginal inhabitants of this wonderful “Northwest Territory (a region which once belonged to Catholic France)” in this post. I happen to have significant heritage in a tribe who has lived in and around Minnesota since before 1680.

Acting as if we never existed is not only contrary to dignity and charity, it is historically lazy and inaccurate. Perhaps you are not aware of the roots of the many place names you grew up with if you lived in the Twin Cities in your youth. The “most unique name” Minneapolis is not unique by accident, but because it borrows the Lakota word for water “mni” and combines it with the Greek. Minneapolis was not “discovered” in 1680 by Fr. Hennepin, because it did not exist as a city with that name until centuries later. If you want to say that the place around St. Anthony Falls was discovered by Fr. Hennepin, that would only be from the perspective of Europeans. We knew it was there all along.

Now I suspect that your heritage is European in origin and in your defense, you would be expected to speak from that perspective. But as someone who sees the many races of the world on pilgrimage in Rome, the headquarters of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church, you probably are aware of the error of being too Euro-centric, especially these days when the official government of Europe is so stridently anti-Catholic or at least agnostic towards religion and morality in general.

Let me tell you something else about that “old American military outpost established at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.” That place was as sacred as a place can be for the Lakota, something akin to St. Peter’s in Rome for Catholics. They called “Makoche Chokaya Kin” or “the center of the universe.” Building a military establishment there was, while probably good military strategy, was an abomination to the indigenous people who worshiped there. It would have been something similar to Muslims, having taken over Rome, making St. Peter’s not a mosque, but a warehouse to store armaments.Now please be aware that I don’t mean clobber you over the head with this information. If I sound harsh, please know that I bring you this information in the hopes that your impulse to be a more holy Catholic may also include care and concern for the least of God’s people, the American Indians, and respect for their history as well as your own. Perhaps you were just not aware of this history which was understandably “subliminated” until recently, in order that the progeny of the conquerors would not see themselves in the light of these monstrous and unjust deeds.

I don’t see the Church as complicit in these injustices for the most part, as most of the priests and missionaries, Father Hennepin foremost among them, came here not to build a great civilization, but to bring the love of Jesus Christ and his Church to the likes of lil’ ol’ me and my bro’s. For the large part they opposed unjust treatment of Natives, but the overwhelming culture of death (“manifest destiny”) which pervaded early America usually drowned out the truly Catholic voice in the public square.

Please receive my words in the fraternal charity with which I mean them.