Saturday, March 21, 2009

Peace. Paz. Pax.

Last Friday, I decided to go to a prayer vigil for peace at my parish. I've been trying to do the Stations of the Cross at my parish for Lent, which I did last week. There was time between the Stations and the vigil, so I slipped into the chapel to pray. I forgot my "Christian Prayer" book so I could pray the evening hours, as I had the week before. Then I realized I had them office readings downloaded to my Ipaq, and it was up-to-date. So I sat quietly and then prayed evening prayer while I waited for my friend who was going to join me at the service.

I was hesitant about going but we went. Because there was another ecumenical Lenten gathering going on, this service was in a classroom in the back. Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. It started with an ecumenical service and then there was a gathering in the chapel where names of victims from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan were read, both military and civilian. I can’t imagine how many civilian names were read and how many names they actually had, but still they were going to read them for another 20 hours or so.

The gathering was sponsored by the New Mexico Pax Christi group. I’m not really sure how people feel about Pax Christi in general. It seems to me that opinions are pretty mixed. I’ve never had any experience with the group but it seems quite active here in New Mexico and my parish, being named for Our Lady of Peace, is pretty heavily involved. Father John Dear, SJ, is very active in the New Mexico group. This year he didn’t attend the vigil though, but I've been curious to read some of his writings. One of my co-workers was arrested with him while protesting the war (I don't remember what they were protesting, but I'm guessing the war?) at former Senator Domenici's Santa Fe office a while back.

There were pictures, brochures and other information. There was a pictorial of the Stations of the Cross using images of soldiers and civilians from Iraq and Afghanistan. Until I got home and looked it up, I really didn’t get a good sense of what it was. I suspect there is a mixed reaction to them. This is my first experience with any sort of peace movement at my parish, really anywhere. Being this is a pretty tolerant community, on Fridays there are anti-war protesters on the corners of the largest intersection in town peacefully demonstrating. Actually, that intersection has become the place where just about every group demonstrates, campaigns and gathers in protest or support of something happening in the world. And sometime, last week, there was a peaceful protest for Tibet. I do live in an interesting place.

The vigil started with a service one of the priest's from my parish leading it. Another priest, an Episcopal from Espanola, was supposed to join us but he was seriously ill so another priest filled in. Not sure what church he was from, I think the other Episcopal church that tends to do ecumenical things with my parish. I’ve seen him around town, but don’t know him from anywhere specific. I know who most of the local Catholic priests are, mostly because I see them during the summer for the novena to Our Lady.

Anyway, we all took our seats and before we got started we introduced ourselves. There were probably about as many men as there were women. A few, maybe most were from the parish, but I only really recognized a few people I knew from the church. I also felt very out of place because I think I was the youngest one there. (I was the only one whose hair was still it’s natural color--well trying to be as I’m no longer trying to fake being a red-head but that’s really just a superfluous detail and not relevant to my recap of the night.) My parents were too old to be a part of the peace movement of the late 60s and 70s and I was way too young to even know anything about it. That being said, I really did feel young and I even said so. We were all told to say one thing about “peace” and I said that I was still young enough and idealistic enough to believe it’s possible. See, sometimes, I’m not all that cynical and jaded.

I tried to find copies of the prayers from the service, but didn’t have much luck. I did find one which I was really looking for. It was mostly a time of prayer and quiet reflection.

Originally it was supposed to start with a Taize song, “Nada Te Turbe”, followed by Silent Reflection.

The Invocation. Then Silence. (I will type this up later if I can't find it on the 'net somewhere.)

Reflection: Prayer for a New Society. (Pax Christi). This was read by four different people.

A Prayer for Unity in a Time of War. (by Kathy Kelly, Founder of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. )

Prayer for Peace (by Mother Teresa)

Prayer of Oscar Romero. (Martyred Bishop of San Salvador. This I found online and was really the most beautiful prayer.

Prayer for the Decade of Non-Violence. (Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB)

Prayer of Thich Nhat Hanh. This is a Buddhist prayer and I couldn’t find the exact prayer online.

Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

Casa del Sol Prayer of Jesus. (From Casa del Sol Liturgies, which are ecumenical and seem to come from Ghost Ranch and it’s Institute of Religion and Democracy). I can also type this up for anyone who is interested.

Closing Song: “Peace is Flowing Like a River”.
I felt so out of it because I had never heard this song in my entire life.

Afterward we went to the chapel for the reading of the names. It was really something. They read the names in 20-minute intervals. I didn't go back later that night or the next day. The time I spent listening was enough to break my heart. They read the name of the deceased, the age, where he/she died, and where he/she was from. I didn't hear civilians names. It was hard enough listening to the names of the US servicemen and women killed as a result of the war.

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