By Paul Magno,
A resident of the Jonah House community in Baltimore MD and is a member of FOR’s National Council.
By Paul Magno,
A resident of the Jonah House community in Baltimore MD and is a member of FOR’s National Council.
Jonah House Supports Demonstrations Against Police Brutality and Impunity
We at Jonah House support those protesting the racist police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other African-Americans in just the past few years. We also note and deplore the increasingly brutal and militarized tactics employed by police to suppress the right of the people to express their grievances with their governors. Police have followed up the street execution of George Floyd with even more repression towards African-Americans and those that support them. We amplify the call to defund abusive police departments—at least enough to prevent the purchase of military hardware such as tanks, riot gear, tear gas, and “flash-bang” weapons, and to cut off funding for training police officers to use these weapons.
Fifty-two years ago the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. decried the evil triplets of racism, capitalism, and militarism (which now must include militarized police). These three forms of systemic and institutionalized violence are very much connected, as we here at Jonah House, in West Baltimore, see every day. These evil triplets need to be disarmed and transformed, and one of the best ways to do this is for the people to take to the streets and demand justice. Only then will those in power listen and make the necessary changes.
If it takes a militant, non-violent revolution to end rampant police brutality towards African-Americans, so be it.
Two things Sunday morning, after a still-born effort at Zoom liturgy.
Thing one – When I read through the scriptures for May 17th, what stuck to the cobwebs that pass for brains in my head was from Peter’s epistle “ . . . the reason for your hope.”
Why do I like it? Because it goes to something different than doctrine or rules, it tends to see ‘hope’ as something that is intrinsic to a spiritually animated life, a perennial blossom that asserts itself regularly in human discourse, regardless of how often adversity, accidental or deliberate, undermines life (as in the current reign of the dark Lord Corona) or how often the powers and principalities dose us with their “realism” which often as not turns out to be mostly snake-oil, false and self-serving and ultimately detrimental to the prospects of a really human pr1oject, political or otherwise.
What does “the reason for your hope” look like? Maybe an outburst of mutual care, greater in incidence in pandemic times than it is in “better” times. Peter Kropotkin’s anarchistic “mutual aid” hasn’t fared as well as an idea as his contemporary intellectual peer Darwin’s “survival of the fittest,” dear to the hearts of those who succeed at aggregating wealth and power, and therefore a sanctioned virtually official slogan. Not, though, an idea that well serves the global majority, so much as it does the global masters.
Hope comes out of how people band together in community, then nourish and fortify each other along the way. That is a manifestation of organic and natural spirit-driven, even joy-driven impulse. Ideology or structure comes later maybe to institutionalize the powerfully contagious goodness it appreciates and wants to maintain. However such forces don’t always do well in such constraints and those devices get quickly preoccupied with their own self-perpetuation and yield to the temptation to demand conformity.
Thing two – in supporting evidence of my musing in Thing one, the life of John X Linnehan, often simply known as X.
Word came that X passed on this past week at the age of 92 in Gainesville FL attended by his spouse of 47 years Martina. John & Martina together have been a force in their part of the world for justice, peace, and reverence for creation in too many ways to count for close to half a century.
John had come to Florida many years before as a missionary priest of the St. James society commissioned by Cardinal Cushing of his home diocese of Boston. One of the reasons I warmed to him so readily is that he understood the sanctity of the Red Sox and Celtics, among other things. They were key people in supporting the Pershing Plowshares disarmament action eight of us undertook at Martin Marietta in Orlando in 1984. Easter, Passover, and Earth Day all rolled into one calendar date, Sunday April 22. A good soul that he was, when my grandmother died just days after my sentencing that July and my wife of just over a year were in the position of attending the funeral in my stead of part of my family she had barely gotten to know yet, John figured out how to be in Boston at the funeral home to support her, a surreal flashback for him to church personnel at least that he was 25 years removed from, by virtue of geography and his own pilgrimage.
One of the “fruits” of the Pershing Plowshares action was the decision of John & Martina a short time later to establish the Metanoia Community in St. Mary’s GA to attend to the evil of Trident through nonviolent presence, prayer, listening and action, leading an effort that spanned decades. The circle came round and closed when, despite some reservations, they offered a very articulate affirmation of the current Kings Bay Plowshares witness shortly after its manifestation on April 4, 2018. I like to think John passed into the Holy Cloud just in time to attend the forthcoming sentencing of the seven, scheduled at the end of this month.
Hearts out to Martina and to the justice, peace, and earth-loving movements of Florida & Georgia who will miss the real X-man.
Jonah House Community Member.
By Joe Byrne
In addition to restoring graveSTONES I’ve also been attempting to restore gravePLOTS (or family plots), many of which have been taken over by weeds and tall grasses.
First thing I do is weed the plot, Then I lay down two layers of cardboard. Then I put a layer of mulch on top of that. The idea is to kill off the weeds and also begin amending the soil so that things like wildflowers can be planted later.
Full disclosure, this is the second time around for both these plots. After the first time, and after the mulch degraded, they were re-invaded by weeds. But there were certainly a lot less weeds the second time.
This is the first family plot I did:
The second family plot was not that far away from the first (in the “pasture” or J section of the cemetery).
In this family plot, I’ve already begun planting. There is a St. John’s Wort plant in each corner. I would not mind if it took over the whole plot. It has pretty flowers and great medicinal value!
By Joe Byrne
The gravestones for Ellen and Dominick McKeowne were a lot more tricky to restore than the ones described in the blog entry immediately following this one.
As you can see by the “before” photo, the gravestone on the left was tipped over with the TOP half buried in the earth. The gravestone on the right was face down and almost completely buried. It took a lot of digging and lifting to get those stones out of the ground. And they were heavy!
Here is the “after” shot:
The one on the left is the one that was nearly buried face down. Which confirms something I discovered last year: having the inscription side of a gravestone face down in the earth actually helps preserve the inscription! I assumed the opposite, but whatever creatures or moisture are active under the soil, they don’t do much damage, compared to the open air, sun, and rain. (The kind of stone also makes a difference – some, like limestone, are more prone to damage than others, such as granite).
As much as I tried to make this particular restoration a one-person job, in the end it was beyond me and I called on the help of one of our super volunteers, Seymour. Thanks, Seymour!
By Joe Byrne
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors. Don’t worry: I have a buffer of 22 wooded acres around me at all times! I realize I’m lucky to have an outdoors to retreat to, but I promise I’m spending most of my time outside WORKING.
Besides the general upkeep of those 22 wooded acres, I am doing some more gravestone restoration.
Such as this pair of gravestones. Unfortunately, I can’t read the inscription and can’t tell the names on them.
As the before and after pics show, there wasn’t much work to be done. I pried up the stone from the ground and lifted it onto the base (with the hole on the bottom of the stone fitting around the rebar).
I am at Jonah House in Baltimore on Holy Thursday evening, which in itself is a broken play, in terms of coronavirus vetoing the usual observances of Holy Week that I/we are accustomed to. It is our usual custom to be gathered in Washington in one of our Faith & Resistance Retreats. We’d be thirty or forty people, including some college students from the mid-west, reflecting on the classic themes of Holy Week: Holy Thursday – Jesus and his disciples observing Passover with a Seder meal, known historically to Christians as the Last Supper, and then his betrayal, passion and execution on Good Friday at the hands of church and state. We don’t leave this in the religious abstract; we consider the contemporary betrayals of Jesus and his crucifixion at the hands of the war-making empire we live under and endeavor to confront and resist. We’d typically be at the Pentagon, author of never-ending war against peoples almost too numerous to name.
In my immediate recollection, I know that we have ridiculously long military engagements against Afghanistan and Iraq, dating back at least to the early part of the century, not to mention their twentieth-century antecedents. Then Yemen and the US role in arming the Saudi kingdom with the wherewithal to inflict frightful torment, starvation and social catastrophe on that hapless country over the past five years.
If we were at the Pentagon or the White House tomorrow, we’d speak to those instances among others liturgically as modern-day crucifixions, some of us would risk arrest to underscoring those realities.
Instead, we are corona-housebound and I’m settling for trying to sum up Lent and Triduum and anticipate Easter, death overcome; not a small thing considering the breadth and destructiveness of the medical pandemic COVID-19, or the more pervasive and longstanding lethality of the social and political pandemic known as a contemporary empire, a demonic litany of continuous lies and empty promises ad nauseum.
I noticed, as I’ve prayed my way through Lent, how very aware Jesus is of his own danger from the collaborating forces of Roman occupation and Temple leadership. In one vignette after another, he is calibrating when to stay in hiding and when to come out of it. He turns up suddenly and draws crowds, as when he gives sight to the blind man and sends him off to testify before the scribes and Pharisees. He waits days before responding to Lazarus’ falling ill and dying via a furtive rendezvous with Martha, leading to summoning Lazarus from the dead. The powers that be, hearing of that episode, decree that Lazarus should die yet again. Jesus meanwhile lays low on the outskirts of Jerusalem, waiting for an opportune moment to manifest himself. He gives his disciples cryptic instructions about finding beasts of burden to ride into town and equally peculiar instruction later on setting up their gathering for Passover. All the same, they are infiltrated; he is betrayed, captured, tortured and marched off to death on Golgotha in a macabre spectacle of Roman humiliation and terror.
I’m mindful, (and those of us who are Christian could pay more attention to this) of what the Passover observance commemorates. It is not unrelated to our current corona experience. The Israelites in captivity in Pharaoh’s Egypt follow divine instructions in the original Passover. It seems that Egypt to that point had been successively subjected to not one, but ten plagues, each more frightening than the one before. Moses, in Yahweh’s name, tips them to the final one, the death of the first-born males of each household, instructing them to slaughter a lamb and mark their homes with its blood, to spare them from destruction, then roast the lamb and eat while dressed for flight to the desert, as Egypt is overcome by this plague.
We have to imagine that as the first nine plagues have proceeded, the enslaved Hebrews might have been much like we have been asked to be, of late. Bewildered and huddling in their homes, they must be wondering when this nakba will end.
For the beleaguered Egyptians, no relenting. Firstborn sons were slain by the angel of death, a shattering of families and of the political and social order Pharaoh’s rule relies on. All have collapsed in chaos and helplessness, much more severe than what confounds us today owing to the corona pestilence. Thus stricken, even the Sun King tells the Hebrews to get out. No telling what it will take to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Out of such harrowing cataclysm is the nascent Israelite people thrust into freedom in the desert, ready or not. This is what Jesus and the disciples remember in the upper room before his sudden demise.
Can we imagine that come Sunday, death will be overcome and the empire itself subjected to a frightful humiliation of its own, set back on its heels by mere Galileans’ refusal to stay cowed, stay dead, stay obedient to church and state’s prescribed order. If it hadn’t happened, who would believe that it could?
God’s breath is Spirit and Life, ours maybe not so much.
We are fearful these days
Of dying in consequence of breath.
We stagger thru a penitential season
Bewildered by the great pestilence and frightfully under its power
Obedient to demands of social distancing and the solitude it imposes
Scripture speaks safely from the printed page
Of Heaven’s care for us
Of blind man seeing and dead man upright,
Of putative messiah confronting, confounding world order
Animating the downtrodden, alarming our masters
What prayer is even adequate herein:
God is happy to hear from monks and Muslims
no less than five times daily, regardless of virus
And happy to answer, we presume.
Her breath shall renew the face of the earth
Threaten the mighty with resurrection, insurrection
Thee and we shall breathe together,
Kindle a fire of divine love on earth as it is in heaven,
torching greed and violence, a conspiracy of peace and life.
Baltimore, and the rest of the state of Maryland, are currently in lock-down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Jonah House Food Pantry, an “essential” enterprise, remains open, with the blessing of the city and state. We hope to remain open during the weeks of the “stay at home” order.
Our hours are 8am to 12pm on Tuesdays. To find us, search for St. Peter’s Cemetery in Google Maps (are mailing address will not help you find us).
We are not in need of volunteers at this time, but we certainly accept donations. Please use our donation page on this website to do so. Because of the pandemic, more people are in need of food (given many of the shelves are empty at the ONLY grocery store in the area), which increases our costs.
As special thanks Sarah Magno, Paul’s daughter, who raised money from her friends for our food pantry. Along with the $300 dollars raised, she also let us use her Costco membership to buy much needed supplies for the pantry. Thanks Sarah!
By Joe Byrne
Last Lent, I made it a project to restore some graves here at St. Peter’s Cemetery, in West Baltimore. I was only able to do a few graves last year, and I’m late doing it this year, but every bit counts.
Last year I discovered the oldest gravestone I’ve seen here yet: that belonging to Daniel Ryan, who died and was buried at St. Peter’s in 1855, only four years after the cemetery was opened. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of a briar patch (actually, a patch of invasive multiflora rose and wine berry), which made it inaccessible and hard to read.
I decided to make Daniel Ryan’s gravestone my first project this year. I should say from the outset, that I wasn’t restoring the gravestone as such. It was remarkably well-preserved, given its age and that I was limestone, which wears down much quicker than marble and especially granite. What I did was improve the accessibility and readability of the gravestone.
After an hour, this is what the gravestone looked like:
I spent most of that hour pulling vines, and most of the vines were under the ground. I also pulled out the multiflora roses and the wine berries, as well as Amur honeysuckle, another aggressive invasive in the cemetery. I left behind a few tree saplings, and day lilies, which have colonized a good bit of the cemetery in the last couple years. Day lilies are also invasive, but I’m actually encouraging their growth, because they crowd out and out-compete other invasive plants (such as multiflora rose and wine berries), and particularly the vines. If day lilies can discourage vines from growing then climbing trees, that is good. Because inevitably they will strangle the trees and pull them down. When I no longer have a vine problem, I’ll worry about the day lily problem! Besides having lilies in a Catholic cemetery seems appropriate.
Here is the pile of pulled vines (though its hard to judge how big it is).
There are quite a few of similar vine piles in the cemetery. They need to be kept in separate piles so they won’t re-root. Unfortunately, they can’t go through wood chippers, lest they clog up the machine, so the piles pile up as it were. This is one of the vine problems we haven’t been able to solve yet.
By Paul Magno
Our usual Sunday gathering at Jonah House was suspended in respect of the apprehensions about social gathering brought on by the great pestilence in recent weeks
So I made do with a solitary liturgy this am, consisting of penitence for transgressions one against another both personal and social, individual and institutional. A hefty catalog of sins against the poor and powerless global majority, and against creation itself in service of greed and violence. All needing acknowledgement by offenders just for openers, then penance and then a drastic amending of our ways. And for my own short-comings and foibles, anger, despair, thoughtlessness, and the hurts they inflict on people, I beg forgiveness from you my sisters and brothers.
On to the readings of the day, especially the long Gospel of John about the blind man who Jesus gifts with sight after a lifetime of miserable living. Talk about no good deed going unpunished – behold the third degree the men of the church put this man through as he is adamant about saying a good word about Jesus, long after they’ve made it plain that doing so is beyond the pale.
After some meditation on this a few prayers for the sick:
Our Friend John LaForge out in Wisconsin has a serious cancer diagnosis, let the healing hands of God be laid on him
My sister Patricia continues treatment for a breast cancer diagnosis. let the healing hands of God be laid on her
Any and all afflicted by the Corona virus whose health is harmed and life endangered, let the breath of God be poured out in love and care for your healing.
For our world, infested with debilitating and lethal injustices of our own perverse making, let it be on earth as it is in heaven, a just and peaceful subversion of the inflicted social order. May it break in like a thief in the night. Let our hearts cry out like Job for an end to such unmerited suffering.
And the dead:
Our deceased sister Lin Romano was remembered in a Baltimore Sun obituary this week. Let us pray to be guided by the light of her life for others. Resting peaceably in God’s arms, I fancy her bemused by all of our Corona consternation. Lin Romano pray for us
An inveterate peacemaker in Washington of my acquaintance, most recently known as Pat the Peacewalker, remembered by many as Paul Collins, passed on days ago. May the sign of Peace he carried so valiantly for many decades make its indelible mark on us and may God take him to heart as a child of the Peaceable Kin-dom.
And those afflicted by the demonic:
Our Kings Bay Plowshares defendants, enduring a long and excruciating wait for a sentencing date for a disarmament witness against Trident’s omnicidal weaponry two Aprils ago, are prolonged even more, thank-you Corona, as paralysis descends on the court. May the soothing hands of God gift them with the peace they have fought and suffered for over these years, and fortify them for the promised wrath of Caesar when sentencing day does come upon them. God hear our prayer
For the many who need our thoughts and prayers for sufferings of all kinds, we pray to God.
Finally we are promised food for the journey in the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup of liberation. Elsewhere in John’s gospel he says, “I have told you these things , so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Amen. Let it be so.
We are blind too often, too much.
May we see and say what is true, regardless.
Peace, Brothers and Sisters