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In the Shadow of #Charlottesville: Blessed are the Peacemakers – Ginny Bouvier

This morning, I delivered the homily at the memorial service for Ginny Bouvier. Before I speak, I like to spend time in prayer. This morning, before my prayer time, I glanced at the news on Facebook. The wife of a friend of mine was gathering with clergy in Charlottesville, VA in response to the Unite the Right march planed there. I watched a live stream from Charlottesville of clergy praying and singing this little light of mine before I shutdown the computer, prayed, and headed over to the service.

I mentioned Charlottesville and the importance of peacemakers in our country, here today before I delivered the following homily. Please continue to pray for peace, for peacemakers, as well as for those who mourn the passing of a great peacemaker.

Today, we gather to remember Ginny Bouvier. Mingled with the grief and sadness of her passing, I suspect many of us will also feel a sense of awe and wish we had known Ginny better. You see, today we are remembering an important peacemaker. Jesus spoke about peacemakers in the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”. Sometimes we may think of ourselves as peacemakers - like when we get to friends to make up after a silly argument. That’s an important form of peacemaking. Yet Ginny’s peacemaking was on a very different level. In her position as chief of operations in Colombia for the U.S. Institute of Peace, she played a vital role in reaching the peace treaty which resulted in Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

I’ve always been interested in those who work behind the scenes, the way Ginny did. I remember when I first learned about the life of St. Francis of Assisi and wondered who were those nuns that prayed over him. St. Francis asked God to make him an instrument of God’s peace, and I think those nuns played an important, though often overlooked role.

Perhaps this tells us something about some of Ginny’s success. You see, Ginny included the overlooked in her work. The United States Institute of Peace noted that the peace accord was “unprecedented in its inclusion of victims, women and minorities, due in no small part to Ginny’s unrelenting support and advice to so many of those involved”.

An obituary in the Wellesley Underground, an alternative alumnae magazine, speaks of Ginny as a “secret Wellesley” an important person whom others find out later, went to Wellesley. Ginny “had been the first ever Latin American Studies major at Wellesley”. The author goes on to say, “though she hasn’t been part of the pantheon of Wellesley heroes, many of us who work on gender, peacebuilding, or Latin America policy would agree she deserves to be.”

Another aspect of Ginny, which is very important to many of us here, was her love of poetry. Her mother Jane told me that while Ginny was in the hospital, a young Dominican brother came and read her poetry, almost every day. It is part of why the adapted version of John Donne’s No Man is an Island is so meaningful. It was adapted to be more inclusive, the way Ginny worked on making the peace process in Colombia more inclusive. It was adapted to reference Colombia because of her work for peace there and how Colombia is the less as a result of her passing. The bell tolls for Colombia. It tolls for all of us.

Her love of literature went beyond just poetry. In 2014, when Gabriel García Márquez died, she wrote a blog post in memory of him. “The entire world mourns with Colombia as we also celebrate his life and legacy.” We can say the same about her life and legacy.

Later on in the blog post, she writes, “It is ultimately our capacity for imagination and faith that allows hope to triumph over despair, life to conquer death, love to conquer hate, and forgiveness to win out over vengeance. In the end, it is our exercise of imagination that allows peace to claim victory over war.”

These are important words for us to consider today. Our imagination and faith will sustain us as we mourn. It fits nicely with the reading from Revelation. The Faith Study Group here at Grace and St. Peter’s has been studying this book and this week we discussed the passage read today.

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”. It is the promise to those “who have come safely through the terrible persecution”. It is also God’s promise to us today.

As Jane and I talked about the music for the service we tried to find some way of working “Julian of Norwich”, sometimes called “Loud are the bells of Norwich” by Sydney Carter into the program.

“All shall be well, I'm telling you, let the winter come and go. All shall be well again, I know. “

So, as we mourn the passing of Ginny Bouvier, let us all aspire to be peacemakers, to include those too often overlooked, to rely on our faith and imagination, and to trust that God will wipe away every tear and all shall be well again. Amen

The Daily Office and Maximizing Mission

One thing I have asked of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life;
to behold the beauty of the Lord
and to seek Him in His temple.

Recently, I’ve been attempting to pray Celtic Daily Prayer each morning from the Northumbria Community Daily Office. I save additional reflections on what it might mean to dwell in the house of the Lord in the Celtic context for a different post. For the time being, I’ll simply quote John Scotus Eriugena

Christ wears two shoes in the world: Scripture and nature. Both are necessary to understand the Lord, and at no stage can creation be seen as a separation of things from God.

Instead, I want to start off thinking about this story: Eric Trump Picked a Fight With Keith Olbermann on Twitter. It Did Not Go Well.

Eric Trump tweeted, “You mean the $16.3 million dollars I have raised for dying children (before the age of 33) at a 12% expense ratio.”

One thing I have asked of the Lord, to keep my expense ratio low….

To me, this seems to capture the fundamental issue underlying America today, what matters to you? Is it lower taxes, lower expense ratios, maximizing revenue?

I am not arguing against fiscal responsibility. I think that is important. The head of the health center I work at often says, “No margin, no mission”. Efforts to serve to common good must be sustainable. Yet the goal isn’t maximizing the margin, it is maintaining the mission.

Unfortunately, this focus of maximizing the margin has become a be all and end all for too many people.

Thankful Ignatian Poetry Online

Last March, I attended a workshop on pastoral care at Fordham University. It was the beginning of Lent and I spent a little time praying in the chapel before the workshop started. I picked up some literature about the Ignatian Daily Examen and thought about how I might work aspects of it into my prayer life.

In May, I went to a poetry conference at Yale Divinity School, where there was additional discussions about Ignatian spirituality, including references to the Daily Examen. It struck me. I should write my reflections from a Daily Examen as poems.

So I started two months ago. My goal was to put up a new post every evening. Over time, the poems have become shorter fragments. I haven’t always managed to polish and post them in the evening and at times, I’ve posted several at once after the fact.

I’ve also thought of this practice as part of other goals. Bringing poetry and gratitude into the daily discourse online. At times friends of mine have participated in gratitude challenges. Some post regularly about Thankful Thursdays. Others post wonderful poems about the stuff of their daily lives. It seems like these sort of posts are especially important in these current days.

I’m not sure what I will do with the Daily Examen posts I have put up. Some I may further polish into better, more complete poems. Some might be combined with others for some sort of longer poem.

I’m not sure yet. However, I invite all of you to join me in a poetic Daily Examen. A good card that is helpful in thinking about the Daily Examen can be found on the Ignatian Spirituality website.

Two Types of People

It is an old cliché, “There are two types of people…” Those who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don’t. I tend to think more in terms of continua and less in terms of binary oppositions. Nonetheless, it is a valuable rhetorical device.

One such example is the quote attributed to Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” It is tempting to head off on a direction about the life of fear that seems to grip so many in our nation today, and the life of adventure. I choose adventure.

This came to mind this morning as I was reading some of Scott Cairns’ “Short Trip to the Edge”. On page 178, (at least in my copy of the book), he says,

Sometimes I think there are two Orthodoxies (as, perhaps, there are two Christianities) – the mystical faith of those who glimpse how little we know (and are drawn and driven by love), and the cranky faith of those who appear to know everything already (and wish the rest of us would either agree with them or disappear).

This resonates with me on several levels. It seems that those of us drawn and driven by love and willing to admit not knowing everything are too few and far between in politics. Likewise, it feels like the discernment process, at least in my branch of the Jesus Movement, fails to embrace those of us drawn and driven by love who admit to not knowing everything.

It feels like allowing God to shape and change me doesn’t fit with institutions that want to do the shaping themselves, perhaps out of fear of confronting changes they need to look at.

Yet again, perhaps we are confronting a false dichotomy. It is not binary oppositions, it is a continua. Our journey is to recognize what we don’t know, where we aren’t as loving as we could or should be and asking God change us in these areas.

Googling Foucault

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook, “Why are there leftists who think Google is an appropriate means of anti-capitalist, anti-oppression pedagogy?” The first comment started talking about learning algorithms, as if such algorithms could somehow be politically, perhaps more importantly, contextually neutral.

Part of the discussion included the question, “If an encyclopedia reports reasonably accurately on, for example, slavery, does that make it pro-slavery or anti-slavery” and went on to say, “Google is a source of data, and in some cases, information”.

This of course leads to the question of whether learning algorithms are truly. One person shared a link to the bookWeapons of Math Destruction. I added to the discussion with a link to AI programs exhibit racial and gender biases, research reveals.

It seems to me that learning algorithms reflect the social context in which they were constructed. Unless there is some conscious effort by their creators, they end up re-enforcing the dominant narratives. This is than exacerbated if they factor in the choices of the users emphasizing the filter bubbles we all live in.

I must admit, most of what I know about Foucault comes from Googling him and reading various Wikipedia articles, but it seems like part of the response to this discussion is that people should Google Foucault; maybe even throw in some Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida, Fanon, Lacan, and others.

Then, as we move past learning algorithms, social constructs, and dominant narratives, perhaps we need to Google Freire as well, but that probably deserves its own blog post.

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