Category Archives: Faith & the Public Order

Christ’s voice heard through Cistercian nuns in Syria

The Cistercian nuns of the Monastery of Blessed Mary of Font of Peace (in Arabic, Dier al Adrha Yanbu’a-s-Salam) Azeir, Syria are speaking out:

The people are straining their eyes and ears in front of the television: all they’re waiting for is a word from Obama!

A word from Obama? Will the Nobel Peace Prize winner drop his sentence of war onto us? Despite all justice, all common sense, all mercy, all humility, all wisdom?

The Pope has spoken up, patriarchs and bishops have spoken up, numberless witnesses have spoken up, analysts and people of experience have spoken up, even the opponents of the regime have spoken up…. Yet here we all are, waiting for just one word from the great Obama? And if it weren’t him, it would be someone else. It isn’t he who is “the great one,” it is the Evil One who these days is really acting up.

(excerpt from 29 August 2013 letter, the full text is here)

This is a matter of faith and the public order. These voices need to be heard and prudent action needs to be taken up. Killing more people to save face is not the Christian way.

Typically, you don’t hear from Cistercians in this way. They are now speaking up for justice and peace at a time when another World War is possible. Following the 6th century Rule of Benedict and the Constitutions of the venerable order of Citeaux. You may say, the small group of nuns of Blessed Mary of Font of Peace have as their key work to pray for peace and to work on their conversion.

The monastery is located in Syria, on the boarder with Lebanon in a village of Maronite Catholic. Historians will note that the intuition of the Cistercian nuns coheres well with the context in which they find themselves: at the crossroads with East and West, where Christianity began, and where culture flourished.  From where the nuns are located, you can see the Good News sent abroad to Asia Minor, Greece, France, Rome, Armenia, India, China. The nuns, too, rely on the intercession of saints like Afraate, Ephraim, Cyrus, Simeon the Protostilite, Maron, John Maron, Isaac of Niniveh, John Chrysostom, John of Damascus, Rafka, and countless others who followed Jesus Christ.

Our Lady of Peace, and all Syrian and Cistercian saints, pray for us.

Pope calls for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, Sept 7

September 7 prayer for SyriaOn Sunday, the Pope’s weekly Angelus prayer and address included an invitation to prayer, fasting and awareness for the situation of peace in Syria. On the vigil of the Nativity of Mary, Pope Francis –with all local churches around the world, will meet in supplication. The portion of the Pope’s invitation from the Angelus address is here:

May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

I have a dream –50 years later

MLK I Have a DreamThe 17 minute “call to arms” speech delivered by Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr, on this date in 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, is recalled today. Few of the key people from 1963 are still around but many of the listeners are plentiful.

Benedictine monk, scholar and hymn writer Father Harry Hagan, wrote this hymn “We Have a Dream,” a meditation on and a prayer for our aspirations for peace.

Speeches are meant to move its hearers to action. In what ways am I working for peace today?

We have a dream that we shall see
all races rise as one
a dream of vast equality:
the day God’s will is done.

Lord grant that this may be the day.
Lift us so we may rise
and lift each other by your Word
filled with divine surprise.

We have a dream that we shall touch
each person’s self and soul;
with cords of mercy bind them up
till they, as you, are whole.

Lord, grant that this may be the day
when wounds begin to heal,
when enemies are reconciled
and share a common meal.

We have a dream that we shall know
the coming of the Lord;
when in the twinkling of an eye
earth’s goodness is restored.

Lord, grant that this may be the day
when you shall draw so near
and in your presence we are filled
with love that casts out fear.

We have a dream that we shall feel
your justice and your sway
when we shall follow you alone
though we be framed of clay.

Lord, grant that this may be the day
when justice sets us free
and we by being true to Christ
shall claim our dignity.

We have a dream that we shall live
in harmony and peace
when lamb and wolf together lie
as heirs of your increase.

Lord, grant that this may be the day
when walls are broken down;
and we as sisters, brothers, all
shall one in Christ be found.

We have a dream that we shall reach
Jerusalem the New
where every tear is wiped away,
where all is held by you.

Lord, grant that this may be the day
when life begins to reign
and gathers all into the life
that you yourself sustain.

Hymn written for the Fiftieth Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Speech: “I Have a Dream”, written at the request of Westwood Hills Congregational Church, UCC.

Father Harry Hagan, OSB
Archabbey of Saint Meinrad
28 August 2013

The Fourth of July: looking to live in a freedom for excellence

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God of justice, Father of truth, who guide creation in wisdom and goodness to fulfillment in Christ your Son, open our hearts to the truth of the Gospel, that your peace may rule in our hearts and your justice guide our lives.

Our prayer today ought to be for the citizens and the government of the USA. As the Collect for today’s Mass asks God who is justice and truth: to open our hearts to recognize divine truth and to be rule by His justice. We are not creators of our own destiny as Mr. Obama said today. God has given us our destiny. Our work is to recognize the path laid before us to walk to Him.

Faith and good public order linked graces. 237 years ago the Declaration of Independence was signed; but we are still looking for a good definition of freedom. Let me offer one: freedom for excellence.
What does freedom for excellence mean? One aspect of this type of freedom is that what is expressed in the universal call to holiness. My “I”, that is, my whole person, is a gift from God. In this notion of personhood there is a fundamental openness to the Divine Mystery who created all things, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in this life, and in the next. From a Pauline point of view, we live in Christ. And if I live in Christ who is excellence to perfection, then I need not have the disordered attachments of money, power and fame; not be seduced by accomplishments, possessions, interpersonal competition, and reducing my intellect, sexuality and my will to base desires.

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Priest killed allegedly for giving bad homilies

The small, rural Scilian town of Trapani apparently is a crossroads of culture and history. It is now dealing with the murder of an elderly priest for allegedly giving bad homilies. His assailant, 33 and unemployed, wanted to teach Father a lesson one what he was saying in the pulpit. In some reports, Father Michele DiStefano is said to have spoken in a public fashion of the wrong-doings (sins?) of his people. I hope he wasn’t revealing what he heard in the confessional.

Bad preaching can drive people away. Actually, I think music can equally disturbing. If priests read this report they may want to get their affairs in order, or pick up a Father Peter John Cameron’s book on preaching, Why Preach: Encountering Christ in God’s Word.
I suppose you could make many conclusions about this circumstance, but I think it’s if we pray for God’s mercy on Father Michele and the man who killed him.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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