At this year’s Holy Week Faith and Resistance Retreat, organized by Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Community, four members of the Jonah House Community participated. Joe, Liz, Ardeth, and Carol traveled to St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church in Washington, DC, on Thursday, April 24 – the 36th anniversary of the assassination of the Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero – for the two-day retreat. We joined members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, students from Loras College in Iowa, the Atlantic Life Community, Pax Christi Metro DC and Baltimore, and other friends. The theme of the retreat was: “Put Away the Sword – Stop Crucifixion Today.”
On Thursday evening, we were present for an inspiring talk on Oscar Romero and the eucharist, by Cinnamon Sarver. After this, we participated in a foot-washing ritual, in which each of us in turn washed the feet of the person to our right, as all chanted “Let Me Be An Instrument Of Peace.” This was followed by an eucharistic bread-breaking. In our Holy Thursday activities, we joined the millions of Christians throughout the world also commemorating Jesus’s act of washing the feet of his disciples, followed by his last supper, before his arrest by Jewish religious authorities and his execution by the Roman state.
We rose early the next morning to vigil for peace at the Pentagon, continuing a practice begun by faith-based peacemakers (including those at Jonah House) decades ago. We were there, on Good Friday, to remember the many who continue to be crucified by institutions of power and economic structures in our world today. While police looked on and Pentagon workers passed by, we read a statement, alternating with a verse from the old spiritual, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” As this was going on, four members of the group – dressed in black and enacting Jesus’s way of the cross – proceeded towards the Pentagon metro entrance. As they processed, they knelt and prayed three times the traditional prayer of Good Friday, “We Adore You O Christ and We Bless You, Because By Your Holy Cross You Have Redeemed the World,” followed by the plea “Put Away the Sword!” These four, including Ardeth and Carol from Jonah House, were arrested, taken into custody, and await arraignment and trial in May.
We returned to the church to break our fast, to discuss our witness at the Pentagon, and to go over our witness at the White House, at noon. Before leaving for the White House, Dr. Ahn, a Korean scientist-turned-peace-activist, shared with us his story, which included his involvement in developing the cruise missile program, and his deep belief in the power of redemption. He also spoke about the “Cheonan” incident in March 2010, which resulted in the death of 46 South Korean sailors.
Our ritual witness at the White House, on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House fence, was in the form of a stationary Stations of the Cross. As many tourists looked on, eleven people, dressed in black, took turns mounting the cross to dramatize contemporary crucifixion. The eleven represented, respectively, Iraq war victims, Afghanistan war victims, drone bombing victims, victims of militarism and nuclearism, victims of racial violence, victims of poverty and economic exploitation, torture victims, victims killed as a result of nonviolent action, victims of imprisonment, immigrant victims, and our desecrated Earth.
For many more details, including the statements read, see Art Laffin’s account on the Dorothy Day House blog: