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.
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.
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
I woke up here in Baltimore this morning and knew it must be raining for a reason
Just a few minutes later a brief text from David Hoovler announced that Lin Romano had died this morning, at age 63 after a 16 month battle with cancer.
Hard not to cry, harder even to cry.
Lin had lived at Jonah House for about a year in the late 1980s, after her participation in the Epiphany Plowshares disarmament action at Willow Grove Naval Air Station in PA in January of 1987.
After four trials she was finally convicted and sentenced to two years in federal prison in Lexington KY.
For over a decade before that, she had lived and worked among the poorest people in Washington DC as a member of the Community for Creative Nonviolence.
Throughout the last three decades, she has remained “passionate about creating a just world,” through several jobs here in Baltimore, through her continued association with Jonah House, and with David, to whom she was married since 2005.
Joe Byrne and I had an opportunity to visit her at the Gilchrist Center, an inpatient hospice care facility in Towson, last week, and to be by her bedside for about an hour. Though her body was weak, she was aware of our presence and tried to sing along with the tunes Joe played on the dulcimer. She was able to smile and open her eyes a few times.
We wait on word from David about any memorial arrangements
To close, I’ll paraphrase just one of those songs
Her life flows on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentation.
We hear the real, though far off hymn
That hails the new creation
Above the tumult and the strife,
We hear the music ringing;
She sounds an echo in our souls
How can we keep from singing?
Shared by Paul Magno for the Jonah House Community
By Joe Byrne
I entitled this entry headstone restoration 0 because I wanted to mention two other efforts at headstone restoration, done last year.
One is the headstone of Raymond Porter. One day a family came into the cemetery looking for Porter’s headstone (he was the grandfather, or great-grandfather). Since it was summer, and we’d had a lot of rain, it was swampy in this section of the cemetery (Section H) and it hadn’t been mowed in a while. That is, any headstone in that section would be hard to find. The family didn’t find the Porter headstone, even though they had a picture from a genealogy web site showing it intact. (Note those seeking graves of relatives in St. Peter’s Cemetery: come in the winter, before the green stuff takes over, which makes parts of the cemetery inaccessible, and makes many gravestones hard to find).
After they left, I did some sleuthing. I found Raymond Porter’s gravestone! It was at the base of a maple tree, with the stone (and inscription) facing the trunk of the tree, surrounded by tall weeds (mugwort). I removed the weeds and turned the stone around so it could be read.
Like the other gravestones, one other step is needed: some nice, native, colorful plants around the headstone.
And now the first headstone at St. Peter’s I ever restored: that of Greta Storm. All I did was level the pediment and place the stone (which was a few fee away, lying flat on the ground), on top of it. I used no cement.
A few weeks after my simple restoration, a leaning locust tree fell upon the gravestone. The un-cemented stone didn’t budge! Pretty good for my first time out.
And the locust tree is still alive! Here is another angle of the headstone holding up the tree, now flowering.
So not only did I restore a headstone, without the use of cement, but I also helped save a tree!
By Joe Byrne
Flush with the success of my previous headstone restoration, I went ahead with round 2. I found a headstone in the same line as the others I had restored.
It was the headstone of Emma Carter:
First a quick note on how/why I choose a particular headstone for fixing. My first criteria is the legibility of the inscription. For many of the headstones–particularly those carved of soapstone, limestone, and marble–the inscription has long since been worn away by the elements. That is rarely the case with stones, like this one, made of granite. So granite stones are more likely to get my attention, in regards to restoration, than non-granite stones. In my mind, it doesn’t make sense to spend a couple hours and quite of bit of muscular energy to restore a stone that is blank!
In my previous installment, I showed how I accidentally found a buried headstone that, once unearthed, was remarkably intact (Joseph Digg’s headstone). Well, sometimes you find something underground which is an unpleasant surprise (and I don’t mean skeletons!). Such was the case with Emma Carter’s headstone.
In order to fix the headstone, I had to fix the pediment (the bottom block on which the headstone sits). I did a little digging and tried to use a crow bar. It wouldn’t budge. I dug some more, and then more. That’s when I discovered that underneath the pediment (which was about 2 and half feet tall) was a skirt of cement that went down into the ground another two feet.
Not all pediments have such a skirt. Having one makes it much harder to fix. I’m guessing that a hole was dug, cement was poured into it, and the pediment lowered into the pool of wet cement. If so, they lowered it crooked, so that the headstone had to be placed upon the pediment at an angle (and the ground shifted perhaps). Eventually and inevitably the headstone fell off.
I don’t know if the cement skirt was originally part of the grave. I haven’t dug up enough headstones to know if that’s common or rare. It might have been part of a previous restoration effort. If so, as in some cases, in the name of stability and longevity, the “restoration” made things worse. That is why I am loathe to use cement when I fix headstones. If I set them up straight, and they’re heavy enough, that should be enough. And if they get knocked down, I can pretty easily put them back up. Not so with stone with a crooked pediment set in cement.
That’s why I gave up on Emma Carter’s stone for the moment. I will have to come back and do a lot more digging. In the meantime, I set Emma Carter’s stone upright, nearby.