Thoughts on Prayer, Action & Community

Yesterday was a very good day for this Sister of Peace.  I started out with a floor meeting here at the CTU dorm where the new mix of folks on my floor (I am one of only a few returning residents) met to discuss how we want to care for and share our common space.  Our new RA (also a returning resident and a good friend) invited us to begin with prayer for the situation in Syria.  We then had a good conversation, crossing language and cultural barriers to build community.  The current mix includes 4 US born folks, 3 from China, 1 from Korea, and 1 from Uganda!

Then I headed downtown to participate in a public march for peace.  Well, that's why I was there. It was actually more of an anti-war march with a hodgepode of other agendas thrown into the mix.  That's usually the way things go, in my experience,  and it's a constant struggle for me. Really it's part of my vocation story.  During the marches after 9/11, I felt a deep desire for a community of peace seeking folks.  It led me to join the interfaith peace movement, found a local chapter of Pax Christi, and eventually join the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.

 I feel the need to speak out publicly for peace and against war, especially when military action is looming by my own government, all the while being a witness to peace and student of nonviolence as best I can.  And so, I find myself at such public events where I am uncomfortable sometimes with the tone and tenor of the speakers.  Often times, they say things I do not agree with, such as those advocating for revolution now (the Communist types) or in this case asking us to bless the syrian army (the Syrian community who I'm guessing support the government and not the rebels, but in any case do not want US military action).  That is the nature of coalitions--it's a dance and sometimes the different agendas bump into each other.  I can deal with that and there's much that I agree with, such as the craziness of spending money on war and not schools, jobs, or health care.   Other times I find myself uncomfortable with the general vibe or angry chants that border on violent, but then that's all the more reason to be present as a peaceful presence.

And as angry anti-war events go, this one was pretty mellow and positive.  I especially enjoyed the "Peace Won't Bring Bombs" chant, given that the sign I made for the occasion said "Pursue Peace ... not bombs."  We marched from the Federal Plaza to the Tribune Building, about 600 folks asking Congress to vote no on war in Syria.  When we got to the Tribune Building, we happened upon a wedding party doing their photo ops.  You might think this would be a potential for conflict, anti-war protesters crashing their photo shoot.  But it turned out the Bride & Groom were also opposed to the war and they borrowed signs and posed for a very special wedding photo.

We say in our CSJP Constitutions that prayer leads to action, while action leads us to pray.  I certain experience the two in dynamic relationship, and so I was grateful that in the evening, 30+ folks from the Catholic Theological Union and some students from McCormick Theological Seminary accepted the invitation of Pope Francis to pray for peace in the prayer service that I organized in the chapel of our residence hall.  It was very full as it's not a big chapel!  I was expecting a much smaller crowd. but was prepared with just enough programs (just in case!).

It was a very powerful moment, knowing that we were joined with the global church and people of Syria in this moment of of hopeful prayer for peace.  I also know that some of our Sisters used the same prayer service I prepared in New Jersey and Seattle, and the CTU Biblical Study Abroad program in Israel used it as well.  We were all connected in prayer!

It made me realize as well how much I miss regular opportunities to gather with my CSJP community to pray for peace, seeing as I am away from them while I study here in Chicago.  Praying for peace is key to our charism, spirituality, and way of life.  Daily in community we pray for peace. Each week we are invited to pray our weekly CSJP peace prayer which Sister Carmel prepares.  It's posted on our website each week so that we can pray it wherever we are (you can pray with us too wherever you are!).  But there is something different about physically coming together to pray for peace.  Further confirmation that I am a member of the community which shares my heart's desires!

There are all sorts of community, though, and I've also been blessed with a wonderful student community here at CTU.  My day ended in the park by Lake Michigan celebrating the birthday of my classmate Melissa.  It was a simple potluck and a mix of folks, some of whom knew each other well, others who were just meeting for the first time.  When I reflected back on my day, I realized that my prayer and action for peace was book ended by opportunities to build community in my daily life.  And you know what, that seems about right.


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