Karen Sjoholm, an artist and arts educator who has served in Bay Area educational institutions for over twenty years, recently brought a group of sabbatical participants from the School of Applied Theology to the exhibition Religion and Resistance. Armed only with a simple prompt, the participants created moving pieces of writing, and in one case art, in response to the works on view.
Participants were given the following instructions: “An image is not simply a picture we look at but it can become an opening to contemplation, to prayer, something that speaks to us in a grace-giving way and that we respond to in an active way. Go through the exhibit and when you are drawn to a particular artwork pause. You do not have to know why you are drawn to it, just trust your intuition. Look at the work for 30 seconds to a minute and then turn around, away from the chosen artwork, and write down what you observed and your feelings. Then turn around and look again at the artwork, adding any new observations and feelings that come up from this second time of contemplation. From this writing create a poem and/or prayer to share with the group.”
WE HAVE SEEN THIS BEFORE,
JEWS AGAINST THE BAN
I am moved by the simplicity of this piece, so ordinary yet with a sacramental message that transcends its material ordinariness to a sacred truth and purpose about our calling as human beings.
A piece of brown cardboard torn from a large box containing I don’t know what
Now this piece is no longer just a piece of brown cardboard, Its words:
“WE HAVE SEEN THIS BEFORE,
JEWS AGAINST THE BAN” (accompanied by the Star of David on both sides)
Written crudely yet profoundly in black marker ink speaks to us
A heartfelt message born of intolerable suffering from decades ago
A salutary word, let this inhumanity not happen, never, never again
A wisdom call respecting our common humanity
Do not repeat the horrors of the past.
May You, God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus Christ,
Creator God of beauty and compassion unite us, unite us all,
Bond us together in your everlasting love
That we may remember who we are
And never repeat the deadly deeds of the past. Amen.
– Fr. Pat Duffy, C.P.
WE HAVE SEEN THIS BEFORE,
JEWS AGAINST THE BAN
Every picture, every poster, cardboard or paper, including this amazing giant puppet of Oscar Romero, demands a response. However, given the limited time and the fact that we can only choose one, I have chosen the cardboard one which states ‘We’ve seen this before, Never again Jews against the ban.’
Well, having visited Auschwitz concentration camp a couple of months ago and witnessed the horror of the remains after the holocaust, human hair, spectacles, adult and children’s shoes among many other personal possessions, along with the empty gas cylinders used during the extermination, I broke down in tears and felt the same sentiments printed on the cardboard poster ‘NEVER AGAIN!’
After some short reflection I began to ponder that ‘NEVER AGAIN!’ and recall the atrocities that have taken place and are still taking place in so many countries throughout the world, the genocides, the tortures and disappearances of so many groups of people since World War 2, all I can say is ‘We have learned nothing!’ This being so, we still cannot give up hope or we may as well throw in the towel right now.
All great resistances start small. The fight for social justice must never end, and so I finish with a personal prayer
‘O GREAT SPIRIT, in the midst of your awesome creation, I apologize and ask your forgiveness, along with the people affected, for the part I have played in the social injustices towards my fellow human beings and to our beautiful home we call Mother Earth’ Give me the strength and the courage to stand up and not be silent in the midst of such injustices. Amen’
– Fr. Abe Kennedy
How Dare We Deprive?
The picture which drew me was the one highlighting the Native American situation. It depicted the finely chiseled face of a young Native American Indian wearing the symbols of his culture. Behind him was a red sun and eagle and a colorful cross, at the foot of which were rocks, water and bears with a haunted look.
I felt a sense of injustice at the deprivation of land and culture prompting this painting, which resulted in the deterioration in spirit and loss of the dignity which makes the Native American Indian who she or he really is. I feel shame at our lack of comprehension and sensitivity, and our arrogance. I feel our loss and a different kind of deprivation at our failure to recognize the gifts that land and water, sky and rocks, animals and birds are!
How dare we deprive?
How can they survive?
All they are and have is ripped away.
Naked, they have lost their birth rights!
But for what gain, to them or us?
Yes, ‘us’ and not just ‘them’,
For I am connected and part of such disconnectedness.
Who is really naked? Bereft of what makes one worthy.
And what is worth? And who determines worthiness?
Higher Spirit, God, of my ancestors and theirs,
Teach me to value as you do,
To accept my interconnectedness with all you have given,
But without the conditions we impose on it.
Forgive us our arrogance, our lovelessness, our apathy,
And transform us to be the compassionate face of God,
Effecting true justice and delicate dignity.
– Sr. Rita McLoughlin, FCJ
The unseen when it’s seen makes
a resistance true.
The eyes of St. Oscar see.
– Fr. Cris Janson, S.M.
GUILTY OF THE GOSPEL
What does this statement means for me? How can one be guilty of the Gospel?
As I continue to ponder on this rather profound and fundamental Statement, my mind goes back to my country Sierra Leone where during the rebel war in the 1990s, some missionaries Sisters were killed by the Rebels as portrayed in this photo. (The photo on the wall states that four nuns were killed for the sake of the gospel).
The missionaries during the war decided to stay among the people of Sierra Leone in times of trouble and conflict. They could have gone back home. It is similar to the situation with the Sisters in El Salvador. They could have gone home but rather chose to stay with people and thereby witnessing to Christ through their death. They were Guilty of the Gospel.
So as I take a closer look at the photo and reflecting on it, I came to the conclusion that Guilty of Gospel means being tortured , betrayed, crucified, misinterpreted, misunderstood, for the sake of the gospel which is a source of life for me and for all those who take Jesus seriously.
How often have I been suppressed for a cause I believe in or for my honest shared opinion that contradicts someone else’s action of injustice?
And also how often have I suppress, intimidate, misunderstood others because they think and do things differently. I use age, seniority, position, influence to silence others.
May all those who find themselves Guilty and martyred for the sake of the gospel find complete fulfilment and rest in the Lord. Amen
– Br. Andrew Musa Turay
THE SUBVERSIVE POWER OF LOVE
Virgen de Guadalupe
Fierce gentle woman
Loving caring Mother
Tall you stand…
Facing violence of human trafficking
Crossing walls of segregation
Paving the road to justice
With flowers of rebellion…
Risking fearless love
God’s bottomless mercy
Will embrace us
And set us free…
And bold and strong…
And loving and caring…
And shining at the heart of the universe…
Virgen de Guadalupe,
In times of trial,
Be always with us.
– Sr. Kesta Occident, C.S.C.
It is in our streets,
It is in our homes
It is in our politics
It is in very nation
It is in every army
It nestles in the breast
Like a dangerous snake
Its poison seeps into the blood
Its venom strikes the victim
It is in the very center of the home
It is in every heart.
“My own peace I give you” says the Lord,
To eyes that cannot see,
Ears that cannot hear,
Hands that cannot feel,
Hearts that are cold and barren.
The warmth of Jesus’ blood needs to splash on our hearts,
For the home to be warm
For the streets to be safe,
For the country to know peace
For the races to hold hands and walk.
Jesus, may we know your peace
May our hearts find warmth so that the eternal winter of the world may burst into the spring of new life.
– Sr. Leonarda Tubuo, SST
– Sr. Terry Rogers