Unity through Thankfulness

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

Every year at our annual family Thanksgiving dinner, my extended family gathers in a circle for prayer before the meal. After our prayer, we also go around the circle (which is quite large, usually around 40 family members) and say something we are thankful for. This is not a tradition unique to my family, as I know many other families and groups gathering for a Thanksgiving feast do the same, yet there is something beautiful with voicing our gratitude that unifies us and brings us even closer together.

This year our work for justice and peace has been filled with advocacy, education, preaching, and prayers. Truly, 2017 has been a year like no other, and while it’s been disheartening and dismal at times, we’ve seen peace and justice budding and growing all the while.

This is the week we come together to share our thankfulness for the blessings we’ve received. Here is a short (and incomplete) list of what I’m thankful for this year:

  • The Dominican Sisters of Peace and Associates Justice Committees who continually work for peace and nonviolence, an end to human trafficking, immigration reform, and eco-justice with a passion and commitment that is inspiring and energizing;
  • Increased political involvement and awareness by countless individuals and communities;
  • Events that bring together individuals in a display of unity and determination such as the Women’s March in January, the March for Science in February, and the People’s Climate March in April;
  • The lawyers who mobilized at airports after the President’s refugee ban, and the continued support for immigrants and refugees;
  • Our Dominican family and all our families and friends;
  • Communities who have become Sanctuary Cities and churches who have opened their doors as a sanctuary to those facing deportation along with the communities who support them;
  • The U.S. Climate Alliance, a bi-partisan coalition of states committed to meeting the goals of  the Paris Agreement; and
  • The solar eclipse in August which brought together individuals, sparked conversation about science and the Earth, and filled communities with wonderment.

There continue to be endless people, events, and initiatives to give thanks for. May we continue preaching peace and showing gratitude for our many blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for this year?

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Grateful Living – A Spirituality of Gratitude

Blog by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP

Recently I downloaded a free E-book from Gratefulness.org:  “An Introduction to Living with Gratefulness.” In his short chapter “A Vision for the World” Br. David Steindl-Rast wrote:

Gratefulness is the spontaneous response of the human heart to the gratuitously given. This gratefulness releases energy. In the gap of surprise before the first thought, the powerful surge of an intelligence that far surpasses thought takes hold of us. We can make our thinking a tool of this creative intelligence that constantly brings forth and sustains the world. If we willingly open ourselves to its gentle force, it has power to change whatever is not in tune with it. Gratitude is thinking in tune with the cosmic intelligence that inspires us in grateful moments. It can change more than a mood; it can change a world.”

My daily prayers of intercession are often about the many ways humans choose to use their amazing gifts to create, program, and launch weapons of destruction—especially automatic guns designed for  killing humans rapidly, war machines and nuclear weapons able to destroy not only humans, but also our beautiful Earth and all its inhabitants.

With the hubris of world leaders so often on display in our news–who boast of their power to do great damage or destroy each other with ‘fire and fury’, these thoughts usually open the door to doom and gloom thinking for me. At such times, it is helpful to recall a couple of lines from Manifesto: The Mad Farmer, Liberation Front: “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”  “Practice Resurrection.”

The other day NOVA (one of my favorites) on PBS television was for me a moment of being surprised by a “gratuitous given.” The show was about the unmanned Voyager Space Probe that was sent “up in 1977 to get close up views of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and use the orbital thrust of each planet to speed it on its way to the next. Imagine—that was 40 years ago!

From the start as I watched, there were moments when I held my breath as they encountered unexpected challenges, both computer and physical apparatus, that threatened to abort the mission.  But somehow, almost miraculously, the problems rectified themselves and the Voyager went on to accomplish all that their designers and controllers had hoped for, sending back pictures never before seen of these far away planets with their rings and moons. In addition, having completed those missions, it did even more as it broke through the “bubble” of our solar system, and headed out into deep space.

Among its cargo, is a recording made of gold and copper. It features pictures of Earth in all its wonder, its inhabitants—animals, plants, creatures of land, sea, or air, people of every ethnicity, music of several genres, and vocal greetings in every language. The hope is that an intelligent life form in another solar system might find it, and with the help of illustrated drawings assemble the included parts to be able to gain access to the contents. Seems they thought of everything!

Watching this show was for me a prayer/contemplation suspending me in a state of wordless praise of God, the Creator of our ever-unfolding universe and Designer of humans in God’s own image.

It is always amazing to me to learn about the programming, creating and launching of such instruments as the Voyager and Hubble Telescope, which enable us to get a glimpse of the expansiveness and beauty of what we used to know only as the starry sky. Viewing the pictures they send back to Earth is one of my favorite preludes to contemplation, drawing me into wonder and admiration for “this creative intelligence that constantly brings forth and sustains the world,” and gratitude when I see what humans are capable of doing when working together for peace.

I guess it all is summed up in a wall plaque I saw in someone’s office: “HAPPINESS IS ENJOYING A SUNSET AND KNOWING WHO TO THANK!”

Voyager Space Probe
Posted in Associate Blog, News

Millions of Small Things

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Jesus describes the kingdom of God in a number of ways. It is: like a mustard seed that grows into a tree, like seeds scattered in a field, like children playing in the square, like yeast in dough, like fine pearls, like a treasure hidden in a field, like a fishing net. All small things.

It struck me that the ways of God are made visible in these and so many other small things. Small stories about people who see, in the circumstances of life, that God is an active player.  Small symbols of God’s generous and compassionate heart are revealed. Small things, a million small things, in which the Divine breaks through our earthly plane. Kindness happens because someone was thoughtful enough to see the needs of another person. Healing comes, sorrows end, new life appears. The poor are fed and the humble are raised up.

Thanksgiving Day is like the kingdom of God too. It is a national feast of small things. A table setting, a few hours with family and friends, favorite foods like turkey and gravy, sweet potatoes, cole slaw, stuffing, cranberries, corn, and peas, and lots of pie. Getting out the good dishes. Fine wine, conversation, and football. What small things would you include?  Yes, Thanksgiving Day is like the kingdom of God, a feast of small things.

Our world is full of really big things…war, poverty, strife and division, fear and hostility. Millions of small things make visible the kingdom of God. Thanksgiving Day is like a thousand points of light, a million acts of kindness, and countless moments of grace. This Thanksgiving Day, let the big things go for a day, have a healing conversation about the small things that make God visible to you, talk with one another about what brings you joy, what gives you pleasure. Appreciate one another and enjoy the kingdom of God.

Hope is found in small things, a million small things can pierce the darkness. A million small things bring about the Kingdom of God.

Happy Thanksgiving Day, everyone.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Locked in the Cycle of Debt

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

No one would knowingly take out a loan with a 591% interest rate… Unless they had no other choice, unless that’s the only way they could get their car repaired so they could get to work in order to feed their family.

Payday loans are usually small, short-term loans that help individuals with financial obligations or emergencies until their next payday (hence the name). However, the interest rate on these loans is astronomically high, upwards of 400% (in Ohio the interest rate is 591%). If an individual is unable to pay back the loan in full by their next payday, the interest starts accruing, and fast, so the borrower might have to take out another loan, called a rollover, to continue covering it.

To qualify for a payday loan, an individual must have a job and a checking account. These payday lenders are therefore targeting working families and the working poor. They often don’t expect (or want) borrowers to be able to pay off their loan and escape the cycle of debt that has the potential to throw their entire lives off course.

These loans add up fast, and there is a large advocacy effort trying to get payday loan reform passed. Payday loans are of huge concern and are a moral issue. President Obama previously spoke about the problem with these types of loans in Birmingham, Alabama in 2015 and called for reform.

He explained that we’re a country “that was built on the idea that everybody gets a fair shot and that we put laws in place to make sure that folks aren’t taken advantage of. When this country does not live up to its promise of fairness and opportunity for all people, we’re all hurt.”

At the beginning of November, the Dominican Sisters of Peace participated in a rally at the Ohio Statehouse to support payday loan reform in Ohio. Sr. Gemma Doll spoke at the rally and encouraged the legislators to act morally. She quoted scripture saying, “For I, the LORD, love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing” (Isaiah 61:8). These payday loans are immoral and akin to robbery and injustice.

Across the country, our citizens deserve a fair shot at success and with the ability to provide for themselves and their families. These payday lenders are manipulating loopholes and exploiting hardworking Americans who are simply trying to make ends meet and make it until payday. These vicious predatory loans must be reformed. For more information, click here. For information on payday loan regulations in your state, click here.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

SOWING SEEDS OF HOPE IN UNEXPECTED TIMES AND PLACES

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Do you believe in divine intervention — being placed in the right place at the right time to be a catalyst for someone in need?

I do (you may, too; but you might call it something different — fate, destiny, coincidence, synchronicity?).

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I were driving through a shopping area, when we decided to stop in a jewelry store to browse.

We had no plans to make the stop, and we weren’t looking for anything in particular.

But what we found was an opportunity to encourage someone struggling with a difficult situation.

When we walked into the store, we were greeted by a salesman who asked how he could help us. I responded that we would like to look at bracelet charms. As we looked around, the salesman offered to clean my rings and asked another salesman if he would continue to help us, while he completed the cleaning task.

The second salesman came over and greeted us. During a conversation with my daughter, she shared with him that she loves to read (while looking at a “Love-to-Read” book charm). He shared that his 18-year-old daughter also loves to read.

I asked if his daughter is in high school. He responded that she is a student at a nearby university. But, he said, she is now taking some time off because she is hospitalized, experiencing complications after surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Seeing the pain in his eyes, I asked for his daughter’s name and offered to pray for her.

As he responded “Olivia” and “Thank You,” I could see a glimmer of hope almost replace the pain in his eyes.

Before leaving the store, I asked if it was okay to place Olivia’s name on a prayer list. He answered in the affirmative and said: “This is why I was sent over here to help you. Thank you.”

It was clear to me that the salesman believed that the reason he was asked to help us was God’s way of showing him love and mercy via my and my daughter’s prayers.

I, too, believe that we were drawn into the store to share our prayers as a reflection of God’s love and mercy. I also know that our prayers for Olivia have helped my daughter and I think beyond ourselves and grow in our compassion for others.

When we pray for others, we must pray from the heart; out of love (unselfish concern); and with faith (knowing that God has all power and loves the people we are praying for).

I spoke with Olivia’s father on Sunday. He told me that she is home, facing a long road to recovery.

I don’t know Olivia or her father (the first time I set eyes on him was when we walked into the store that day); but I will continue to pray for them and their family because God knows them and is able to meet their needs.

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”

                                                                                                                                     — Max Lucado

Posted in Associate Blog, News