“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again, the Scribes and Pharisees are at it. They again try to trick Jesus. This time it is pitting the Jewish law against the Roman law. The woman apparently was guilty of adultery – an offense punishable by death according to the Jewish law. But Israel at the time was governed by Rome. The Roman law had control over who could be put to death and who not. So the Pharisees thought they had the perfect trick. Would Jesus let her go – following the Roman law upsetting those following him? Or would he be faithful to the Jewish law in which he was schooled and taught others to live?
Again, Jesus wouldn’t let himself get caught in the trap. Instead, he invited those standing around to search their own hearts. Who are they that they can make a life or death decision about someone else? They, like each of us, need first to examine our own hearts and intentions about our own actions, before we are qualified to make any judgments about the guilt or innocence of another.
“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
How can I judge another to be guilty of a sin (whatever the sin might be), when I am guilty of that same infraction? That can apply to all of us in many different situations. It may not be a serious offense that has occurred, but it does call us to examine our own consciences before making judgments about others. If we would be slower in judging others their wrongs, what a more peaceful world we would live in.
140 years ago today, Bl. Michael McGivney received the news that the Knights of Columbus were officially chartered and recognized by the Connecticut Legislature. On this Founder’s Day, it gives me great joy to share with you several videos filmed by our brother Marcin and his team with us at the Polish-Ukraine border, and around the country as we assist the war refugees.
In founding the Knights, Bl. Michael McGivney foresaw the need for men to become active in their faith, and in that commitment to a fraternal charity that evangelizes, to assist especially the widow and the orphan. In the course of my 18 days in Poland, the Knights of Columbus – through the generous assistance, financial support, and prayers of so many – are doing exactly this in Poland and Ukraine.
First, the K of C through its K of C Solidarity Fund – is able to continue to get humanitarian aid, food, medical supplies, (and even donated ambulances and fire trucks) directly to our brother Knights on the ground in Ukraine – who then distribute the aid around the country, where it is so desperately needed. (Canned food is literally saving lives now for those in the bombed-out Eastern cities of Ukraine).
Second, the K of C runs two Mercy Centers at the Polish-Ukraine border crossings. These are heated and provide warmth, a place to rest, diapers, clothing, toys, food, medicines, etc for those most vulnerable refugees – 90% women and children along with the elderly, who cannot make it further than the Polish border before stopping to rest and then go on further. Our Mercy Centers also have a small chapel as a reminder that the Lord is present accompanying those carrying their crosses (often dragging only one single bag with them), under the cross and on the cross. As you may know, all men 18-60 must stay in Ukraine to fight, and so truly once the women and children cross the border, they are de facto widows and orphans, at least for this time of separation.
The third phase of our work is the establishment and support of the K of C Mercy Centers at our Parishes to serve the longer-term needs of the refugees once they have made it to the cities and towns to which they have fled. For example, Krakow, normally a city of 800,000
residents, is teeming with refugee women and children who now account for over 20% of the population. For the most part, the war refugees are being taken in by Poles or family and friends that had already come from Ukraine. This coming weekend – on the 17th anniversary of the death of St. John Paul II, we will launch the first of our Mercy Centers in the Redemptorist Parish in Warsaw, kicking things off with a Welcome BBQ for parishioners and refugees. There are plans for a kids’ drop-in center during the day with Polish and Ukrainian classes, areas to play, etc. with a coffee house for the Moms to meet and network, while also having the chance to speak with counselors about their trauma, or work on a resume, wash clothes, etc. Please pray for its success! Plans are in the works for the future launch of other Mercy Centers where our K of C Chaplains and Pastors already are doing outstanding work in receiving and assisting war refugees throughout Poland.
On a final note, it was a tremendous privilege to participate in the Consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Friday – at the Budomierz border crossing! Ours was the only Mass at the border that I am aware of that day. The Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy from Krakow (two of whom take turns staying at the border and serving the refugees) led the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The local Pastor celebrated the Mass and offered the Polish Consecration Prayers. Following Mass we had Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the Sisters led us in the Way of the Cross. Afterward, a little past 5 pm, we began a Eucharistic Procession to the border. Saints John Paul II and Faustina were present in their relics which were carried along with icons given from the local Greek Catholic Church. The Polish border guards and officials allowed us to process to the border with the Lord Jesus in the Monstrance as we prayed the Rosary. The Pastor had provided speakers and a sound system so that all around could join us in the prayers. I blessed the border carrying our Lord and we made our way to the field between the countries where we could pray longer. The Pastor had set up a second outdoor altar, as you might see at Corpus Christi. This was located at the end of the “tent city” of the humanitarian border tents. (We chose this particular border crossing because of its relatively smaller size, not wanting to take away from serving the refugees who may have been coming across at that time, but also recognizing that the Holy Father Pope Francis has asked the whole world to unite in prayer at that very moment for peace). We finished the Rosary in Polish and Ukrainian at the second altar and then our Greek Catholic seminarian Taras led us in the Moleben Prayers/Hymn to the Mother of God. Following this, I sang the English prayer of Consecration and then again gave the benediction towards Ukraine and Russia. We processed back to the Mercy Center chapel for a final benediction and prayers as the 6 pm Angelus bells could be heard from the nearby village churches. The international volunteers present (German EMS workers, French fire brigades, etc) as well as several refugees who were there at the time all stopped and respectfully watched as we went by. When it was all over, the Germans took up an impromptu collection and gave me over $60 Euro for the refugees!
So, it is amazing work that continues and will be necessary to continue to support with your financial contributions, donations, and prayers. I am back in the USA for a brief few days for some needed medical appointments, but my heart and my mind are in Poland and Ukraine.
To Praise, to Bless, and to Preach is the Mission of the Dominican Order. It is our mission as Dominicans of Peace to do so always and in all ways.
This mission resonated with my heart as I prayed to discern God’s call to religious life as a Dominican Sister. I had no idea how I would live it out. To be honest, I did not think I had the gifts to do it very well. To my surprise, over the years God has drawn gifts out of me I did not know that I had which have been used to praise, bless, and preach. As I reflect on each part of our mission, I invite you to consider how God may be calling you to embody this mission in some way – especially during Lent.
To Praise: I discover God’s love through daily prayer and contemplation in Word and Sacrament. This invites me to praise God through liturgical music, and the twice-daily singing of the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours. Gathered with my Sisters, singing or praying the Psalms, I am united with all around the world who are praying these same psalms, canticles & readings. Together, our praise rises like incense to God. How will you praise today?
To Bless: In recognizing our relationship with all peoples and all of creation – we affirm ALL as Holy and celebrate its blessedness through our prayer and reverent stewardship. Recently, a discerner asked me, “Can anyone offer blessings for others?” I replied, “Yes! Every baptized person is called to be a blessing and to bless.” Catechism #1669. You can read more about that here. In fact, I often close e-mails, texts, and letters with “Blessings,” which for me is a real prayer for blessings upon the person. In your life, how do you bless?
To Preach: To listen and to respond to God’s Spirit with zeal, compassion, and joy through preaching the liberating truth of the Gospel of Jesus. This is my goal each day. How do I live it? I preach when speaking with a discerner who is struggling to hear God’s voice and I remind her to listen to the still small voice already in her heart. I preach the good news of hope to one who has kissed a loved one goodbye for the last time and I sit by her as she cries. To preach is to break open the redeeming Word of God and to spill out its blessing upon the world. How is God calling you to preach through your life today? Listen and respond.
If God is calling you to join in our mission, to praise, to bless, and to preach, reach out and begin a conversation or attend one of our upcoming programs, or our Mini-Retreat this Sunday, March 27 from 2-5 pm.
Thank you for your continued prayers as well as the financial contributions many of you have made to the K of C Ukraine Solidarity Fund to assist the War Refugees. I write to you from our Krakow K of C Office after a good 10 days of observation and assistance to Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border, at Polish refugee processing centers and visits to our local K of C Councils, Dominican brothers, and other religious and diocesan communities in Warsaw, Radom, Krakow, Rzeszow, Tomaszow-Lubelski, Lubacow, Przemsyl, Ustrzyki-Dolna, and Czestochowa.
I hope many of you have had the chance to see the pictures and videos I have sent on my Facebook and Twitter pages. Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP – who went home today after 10 days of traveling together – also reported on many of the people and places we encountered through the Aleteia website. Fr. Jordan and Fr. Joachim, both from my St. Mary’s community in New Haven, also joined us for about a week of activity during their spring break and are now also traveling home.
As I hope you have been able to tell from news reports, the Polish people are performing an incredible effort of solidarity and real charity in welcoming over 2 million war refugees into the country, on top of the close to 2 million Ukrainians who had been living and working in the country since the start of the conflict in 2014. Our brother Knights of Columbus – who number about 8,000 in Poland and 2,000 in Ukraine – are also doing incredible work to support Ukrainians in their home country as well as those primarily women and children refugees now in Poland.
I have been able to visit our Councils who are continuously receiving humanitarian aid (medicines, food, clothing, etc.) that is still being shipped directly to Ukraine to our brother Ukrainian Knights, who then distribute the aid to those internally displaced refugees. Please pray that the transport trucks continue to get through. In fact, the Catholic Church is the primary source of Western humanitarian aid into Ukraine. I was even able to help load and bless a transport that was leaving from one of our councils.
My primary work last week after visiting 4 border crossings, was to assist our brother Knights to expand the Mercy Center Huts they had set up for refugees at the Hrebenne border crossing. Responding to the local request for assistance, K of C from Tomaszow-Lubelski built 3 tents to receive refugees immediately as they crossed the border into Poland. Our heated tent is the only place refugees can stay that is warm. While most refugees arrive at Hrebenne by bus and are driven further inland to processing centers, the most vulnerable – the elderly, women with young children and babies, and those who cannot afford transportation and have to walk across the border, arrive and stop at Hrebenne. Most simply cannot go further than immediate entry into Poland before needing a break to rest, warm up, wait for relatives or friends who will pick them up, or simply think where to go next. Until now, while cold (it is below freezing at night), the weather has not been too bad. Almost every tent is placed directly on the ground and rain or snow would cause massive mud issues. Fortunately, the Supreme Council’s Ukraine Solidarity Fund was able to provide assistance so that an expanded Mercy Center Hut could be built last Monday. The new Mercy Hut has floors, a designated Mother/Baby area with cots to rest and a diaper changing station, a children’s play area with toys, a small house, and slide, free food, medicines, clothing with a changing area, as well as a medic tent and small chapel area. Over 150 chairs and several tables, allow many people to use the Mercy Hut at one time. Click to see the mercy huts here.
We have K of C volunteers and their wives and families helping to run the Mercy Center Hut 24 hours a day. A huge support too has been provided by our local K of C priest chaplains (who arrive for several days to volunteer from around the country), the local priests in the area, as well as the Sisters of Our Lady Mercy (St. Faustina’s order) who volunteer to staff the Hut. There is also a number of Polish NGO volunteers as well as international volunteers including medics from USA, French firemen, German EMS workers, and cooks from Lithuania (who make 1,000 kielbasas a day for us to eat!) Since ours is the only heated spot there, it is a little village of aid and solidarity on the border with plenty of Polish police, border guards, etc. also present.
In addition to the Mercy Hut at Hrebenne, a second Mercy Hut has also been established at the smaller border crossing of Budomierz, 40 minutes to the south. At Budomierz, the primary use of the hut is as a Chapel and heated place for the volunteers who are waiting to receive refugees. On Friday, Bishop Rojek, the local bishop, celebrated Mass at the Budomierz Mercy Hut. This coming week, we will be working to expand the Budmierz Mercy Hut to meet its growing needs.
Once refugees leave the border, they are often transported to further refugee processing centers. Last week, I visited one near Korchowa, which was a former warehouse housing perhaps 10,000 refugees for temporary shelter. There were cots to sleep on and the usual food/medicine/clothing/cell phone sim card distribution. From here, they could take buses to Polish cities and even European countries. The majority of the refugees so far have stayed in Poland, living with Polish families, at religious convents, or with family or friends they may have known previously. In Radom and Czestochowa, our K of C council parishes have become models of aid distribution and long-term assistance to the refugees settling in those cities. Another task for the coming weeks is to assist these new front-line cities where refugees will settle on a long-term basis, in providing integration assistance, job assistance, and pastoral/spiritual aid as well as trauma assistance.
We were all heartened by the call from Pope Francis for prayers for Russia and Ukraine to be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Friday, March 25th. Throughout Poland, so many are raising up prayers for peace and an end to the madness of war. An important task this week will be to discern how and where to best mark the moment of Consecration.
Of course, there have been plenty of deeply moving personal encounters with refugees and their families. I think of 5-year-old Sophia and her family whom I met last Friday night; of the teenagers from the East who were walking together to safety without any family members; of the whole village that showed up en masse at Hrebenne – women and girls only; of college student Elenora and her family who came across, after saying goodbye to her dad who could not cross (men between the ages of 18-60 are not allowed to leave Ukraine, and must stay behind to fight). Many of those we meet have just said goodbye to the husband, father, or son who could not accompany them into Poland. And to a person, they practically only carry or drag one bag each. It raises the question: what would you put in your one bag? We were privileged to offer rides to Krakow (a 4-hour drive) to 3 different families – 3 mothers with 5 children at various points. I don’t know that I have had more poignant drives in my life.
Well, there’s more to tell, but that should give a sense of the work I am doing. There’s no place I would rather be than here doing this work. I am grateful to my Dominican Provincial and to the Supreme Knight for allowing me to assist at this time in these ways. Our Polish Dominican brothers have also been very supportive and moved by our presence among them. In almost all of the Dominican communities (and for that matter all the religious houses I have heard of) they too are hosting refugee families from Ukrainian cancer patients and their parents in Rzeszow, to up to 50 refugees in Krakow and Warsaw (Warsaw did not even have room for us to stay, because of the number of refugees staying there). We stayed with the Redemptorist Fathers who also hosted refugees in their convent.
Please continue to pray for our Krakow K of C Team and their families, led by Szymon. We are all getting up early and working very late. We will also be bringing onto our team Ukrainian translators and staff to assist us, so please pray for this transition. We have a lot to do and pull together and we count on your prayers. PLEASE JOIN US ESPECIALLY ON FRIDAY MARCH 25 IN PRAYERFUL SOLIDARITY AS POPE FRANCIS CONSECRATES RUSSIA & UKRAINE TO THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY.
I have started my annual round of doctor visits for check ups, etc. Somehow I have managed to lose weight (not sure where exactly), my blood pressure and other stuff are normal but my potassium is low…..bring on the bananas!!! OK, enough self revelation for today.
If you have visited your doctors recently have you noticed there are more questions about your mental health than there used to be? The system I am a part of has included in its pre-check a long series of questions about stress and unhappiness and anxiety, etc., than it did before, around here at least. Then today, my physician asked two additional questions. It allowed for more conversation time than we had had before and it allowed for more information to add to any physical concerns that might be present maybe because of the stresses.
It cannot be denied that the events of these last two years have forced us to dig deep into our reserves of joy and relaxation and inner peace. Just when it seemed COVID 19 was on the down side, along came DELTA and then OMICRON. Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask; get vaccinated, don’t get vaccinated. There is a rumor of a new variant in Europe, should we be worried? And now the war in Ukraine and all the collateral damage. This is all on top of normal life issues that impact us in any normal situation.
So, what can I do? These kinds of stresses and the anxiety they cause are a little deeper than usual. I saw a quote the other day attributed to Ruby Dee, an African American actress, that said “If you pray, don’t worry. If you worry, don’t pray.” I think that is another way of saying, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Some days it might be hard to pray, so just be still. God knows what is in my heart and will hear what is there and will answer accordingly.