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.