Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hearing the Gospel today at Occupy Philadelphia

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the let the oppressed be free." (Luke 4:18) were the words Jesus spoke in the synagogue referring to himself stating, "today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Well, today those same words of the Good News of Jesus were fulfilled in my hearing and seeing as I visited the Occupy Philadelphia community at City Hall with my sister in community, Sr. Lyngine.

We went bearing a box of coffee from Dunkin Donuts, which we had to refresh, with the intention of meeting people, speaking to them, understanding them better and maybe offering some spiritual encouragement and prayers. And, we did just that, but so much more was done unto us in return in hearing and seeing the Gospel alive.

We arrived at the camp site outside City Hall and immediately heard two men in their mid thirties, driving a large SUV, heckling the protesters by shouting, "get a job" and "get a life hippies." I turned giving them one of my famous "nun looks" of disapproval, but before I could say anything, I heard a response from the protesters, "I would love a job, got one for me?" and "Put a little hippie in your life." Lesson one from the Gospel: forgiveness and compassion.

Then, we met a wonderful man who acted as a sort of tour guide of the community. He was an artist, a painter, who has been out of work and homeless. He directed us towards some people who were in most need of some warming coffee. Lesson two: all people are dignified in their being God's creations.

A little while latter when we had run out of coffee, two people from the movement who had just gotten coffee from us taught us lesson three: charity in community. One of them gave her coffee to another outright and the other poured half of hers into another's cup. These protesters are so much more than that. They have become a real community of prophets sharing their struggles, their fears, and their hopes, trying to awaken the conscience of a nation to economic justice for all.

I did have the opportunity to pray with a few members of the community who asked, and anointed one who was in need. Also gave a few blessings to others, but mostly, we poured coffee, we listened, and were were taught the message of the Gospel today from some wonderful prophets from a community of hope.

Fr. Joseph Augustine Menna, AIHM
Pastor St. Mary of Grace Independent Catholic Church
Media, PA

Friday, October 14, 2011

Augustinian thoughts on "Occupy Wall Street." Where would Augustine be?

First, let us consider what Augustine thought about the State. Commenting on Augustine's writing, particularly in City of God, Donald Burt, OSA, notes "two distinct goals for a political society:

1. the preservation of the peace by seeking to insure the harmonious external conduct of the humans in it and to protect them from external attacks;

2. the administration and organization of those material goods necessary for the continuation of life this side of death.

Augustine does not seem to believe that the state has any special obligation to provide for the welfare of those who cannot provide for themselves. Charitable work is left to the church and private individuals." (

However, Augustine also takes a pessimistic and minimal view of the state as not capable of reaching that perfection of love that exists in the City of God where the well being of neighbor is a primal task of the whole society. Augustine himself noted that civil law is not the same as the law of the Creator. ( Thus our nation which prides itself on its Judeo Christian heritage needs to ask if we are willing to accept a minimal pessimistic view of our society or demand of ourselves something more “Christian?”

Further considering what Augustine himself said about justice and his own actions:

1. Gender Equality: Augustine was quick to point out the discrepancies in Roman law in dealing with men and women, as not being the law of Christ.

2. Tax Fairness: Church sanctuary might protect a few victims of injustice; but the cities and the poor continued to be ground down by excessive and selective taxation, "while we (the bishops) groan and are unable to help," Augustine lamented.

3. Debt relief: “From Letter 268 we learn that Augustine intervened for a person who was bowed down by a burden of debts. Augustine himself had not the sum needed to help him. He borrowed the money from a rich man. However, in doing so Augustine himself got into difficulty himself when he was unable to repay the loan. He had to ask the help of the people of Hippo.” (

4. Dignity and Poverty: “Augustine distributed the property of the church among the poor people for them to be able to work. His deep pastoral sense assured that this help did not remain on the material level. Quite the contrary: he was committed to the authentic promotion of respect for the dignity of the poor people. Augustine became one with the poor, "making myself a beggar with the beggars" (Sermon 66, 5).” (

I think from the reflections above, I myself, an convinced that Augustine would be at the least encouraging to the protesters, marchers, and occupiers, with prayers and spiritual help, and even more so, would be there with them personally to lend the witness of his office as Bishop to their seeking of the justice of the perfect charity of the City of God.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9-11

Remembering September 11, 2001 in prayer:

God of all creation, Father of justice, and Mother of compassion, grant eternal joy to those who gave their lives in innocence and by heroic service on 9-11. Grant to us your children hearts full of understanding and charity that we may see your vision of creation where all your children live in the justice of the City of God and in the long-full peace of the New Jerusalem.

We pray in the name of your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen

Remembering 9-11: I was teaching high school theology, walking the hall to my next class. The principal announced on the PA that a plane had struck the WTC and the Pentagon and it seemed an attack was underway on our country. Change of class was halted as we began a school wide rosary. We turned on the class TV and saw the plane strike the other tower. I could not hold back tears. I began the chaplet of Mercy prayers with my students. We were then dismissed by order of the Archbishop at 11 AM.

I will remember 9-11 by offering Mass for the victims who gave their lives in innocence and by heroic service, and for understanding and the fulfillment of the City of God and the peace of the New Jerusalem.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lenten Reflection from Sr. Lyngine AIHM

This was so good, I had to share. It is from one of our AIHM sisters. Been a while since I posted, but she inspired me.

There's a small part of me, and I suspect most people, that deep, deep down is utterly baffled by the Incarnation. God becoming human. One of us---a messy, vulnerable human being.

It's easier to think of Jesus as being closer to something like Superman. Someone who is more or less human and has feelings and can be hurt, but is essentially indestructible. It's not a bad story. A lot of people are Superman fans and as things go, Superman isn't a bad role model. There are worse role models than someone who has superpowers and chooses to use them to do good in the world. And there is security in that someone being indestructible so they can be around to save one from the bad guys.

But that's not the Christian story.

The Christian story is much harder. Because no one gets saved from the bad guys. In fact, the person who was suppose to be Superman can't even save himself. So what do you do when Superman dies?

Earlier this week I was invited to give a short Lenten reflection at a bi-weekly dinner for LGBT Christian students. Since we were approaching Holy Week and they wouldn't see each other again until Easter, I chose the Lazarus story from last Sunday's Gospel since it could touch a bit on the themes of death and resurrection and still stay within the bounds of Lent. As I was going over what I would say, one of the phrases I was considering was "so when in our lives there are places that appear dead, we are called to remember that in those places God can bring life."

Sounds great doesn't it. Except that it's WRONG.

Lazarus didn't appear dead---he was dead---four days a matter of fact.

So Lazarus, one of Jesus' friends and someone he loved well enough to weep over, doesn't get saved from the messy and the bad either.

Jesus doesn't get saved from the messy and the bad---and neither do we.

Because we didn't get Superman, we got God becoming human.

The proper phrase is "So when in our lives there are places that are dead, we are called to believe that from those places God brings life."

And that is a very, very different thing to believe.

Definitely not Superman.

Deo Gratias