October, 2015

Dear friends, Peace be with you!

What a time! We had over 375 demonstrations/action/events across the country in every state during the Campaign Nonviolence week of action, September 20-28th. Thousands marched, held vigil, spoke out, and called for a new culture of justice, peace and nonviolence. We have posted a full list of all the actions, with photos and reports from most of them. Check out: www.campaignnonviolence.org.

I myself took part in two great events. On Sept. 22nd, a hundred of us gathered in front of the White House to speak out against war, poverty, nuclear weapons, and environmental destruction, and call for a new culture of peace. Fifteen people were arrested in nonviolent civil disobedience for trying to deliver a letter to the president.

A few days later, I spoke at the San Ildefenso Pueblo “Gathering for Mother Earth,” their open house and festival, which included food, music, workshops on the environment, sponsored by Tewa Women United. I gave a talk on nonviolence to the hundreds who attended the outdoor celebration. This pueblo, located just below the mesa of Los Alamos, New Mexico, and its notorious nuclear weapons labs, is one of the poorest counties in the nation, with some of the most amazing peacemakers I’ve ever met. What an honor and a blessing to be part of such a great day!

In Washington, D.C., I was part of the Mass at Catholic University with Pope Francis. But I was astonished and inspired by his historic address to Congress the next day. Please read it if you have not, along with his speech to the United Nations. There in Congress, he denounced poverty, exclusion of immigrants, the death penalty, war, the arms trade, and environmental destruction.

Then he called us to pursue as our models four Americans: Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. To hear him speak of King, Day and Merton was such a happy surprise! They remain my great teachers and heroes. My latest book is the work of a lifetime: Thomas Merton Peacemaker (please get it!). The Pope urged us to learn from King, Day and Merton. Wonderful! (Check out my article for Huffington Post written just after the speech.)

I think Pope Francis’ visit with a Kairos moment for us. For days, he called us to live the Gospel with our lives, by serving the poor, working for justice, and welcoming the kingdom of God. In the midst of this insane violent culture, his presence and message was a great grace, a blessing, and a gift of hope. I thank God for his visit, and hope we can go forward to live the Gospel of Jesus in bold new ways, as he invites.

Next month, I will lead a retreat Nov. 13-15th in East Stroudsburg, PA, called “Living the Nonviolence of Jesus, Gandhi, and Dr. King Today.” Please join me. To register, visit www.kirkridge.org.

In this time of poverty, war, torture, executions, nuclear weapons, and environmental destruction, the best thing we can do is to follow the nonviolent Jesus on the path of peace, love, compassion and justice, and support the growing grassroots movement of nonviolence. Thank you for supporting my work and welcoming God’s kingdom of nonviolence. See you along the Way!

God bless you,

Fr. John