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Shack II – Good Friday at the Basilica of Saint Mary. “God” Among Us.

Sunday, April 16th, 2017


In my tradition, today is Easter. Whatever your tradition, this day, all best for a happy one!

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At the Stone War Memorial at the Minnesota State Capitol Mall, March 28, 2017. Each Minnesota County contributed a boulder on which part of a single war time letter was inscribed. This one is from Todd County Minnesota.

March 17 at this space, I posted about the film and movie, The Shack. You can revisit it here. At the beginning of that post, I very deliberately mentioned Columbine High School which became memorable April 20, 1999. At the end of that post I have now added my blogpost about The Shack written at the time I read the book in 2009, plus my Amazon review at that time. At the end of this post – postnote 1, below – is my unedited first rough draft thoughts about todays post, saved on March 19.


It’s been almost eight years since some friend told me about the book, “The Shack”, and now well over a month since I saw the film version in Littleton CO (see postnote 2 below). I have had some very interesting conversations about the book in the past month (including with myself!), and my antennae have been up to observe, as I say in the headline, “God Among Us”.

These are two repetitive thoughts this day:
1) Ours is an individualistic society, with a tendency to create God in our own image and to justify our own action. This is a real dilemma for organized hierarchical religion of all varieties, long accustomed to controlling the flock through one or another view of what God is, or is not.
2) We have great trouble dealing with forgiveness…of others, and of ourselves. The 1916 quotation on the boulder which leads this column merits long and very serious reflection and conversation.


Tenebrae on Good Friday evening at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis – two days ago – seems to bring it all together for me at this moment in my history.

We were in a jam-packed church Friday night.

The stage for Good Friday had been set for me, personally, through a brief back-and-forth between two of us – long-time good friends – earlier in the day.

I’m a regular at Catholic Mass; my friend used to be. He has his reasons.

Some snips:
J: “Happy Easter from the Apostate. I haven’t been to a Good Friday service in ages… do they still pray for the conversion of the Jews?”
D: “Maybe we’ll go tonight and I’ll let you know…we visited Auschwitz, etc., in the spring of 2000, a mixed group of Jews and Catholics from Basilica and Temple Israel. About that time, the big story was the shakeup in the famous Oberammergau (sp?) Passion Play, where the big deal was the guilt of the Jews… But, I think, there is a relatively positive equilibrium at the moment….

Seated, I leafed through the program booklet, and in the section, “Jesus Breathed His Last” on p.6, was this (click to enlarge):

Tenebrae Program booklet at Basilica of St. Mary Minneapolis MN Good Friday April 14, 2017

The powerful service continued, and at page 12 in the booklet, came a prelude: “Remarks (Please be seated.)”

Presider and Basilica Pastor John Bauer began brief remarks by talking about the tragic history of Jewish – Catholic relations, and the strong impetus to change those relationships particularly in the time beginning with Pope John Paul II.

Then he introduced the speaker, Rabbi Sim Glaser of neighboring Temple Israel in Minneapolis.

I have heard Rabbi Glaser before, and we did go to Auschwitz with Temple Israel members in 2000, so what I and the others were about to hear was not a surprise.

I would summarize Rabbi Glaser’s very powerful remarks in this way:
1) There are three major Abrahamic religions: Jews, Christians, Moslems.
2) Jerusalem is important to all these religions.
3) We all live together in this world, and we need to relearn how to communicate with each other, rather than continue isolation and division.

I usher at Basilica often. I am sure that many of these people who Rabbi Glaser was addressing from this Catholic pulpit had not been in Church for a long while. Some may have been surprised.

The Rabbi had been introduced to much applause; when he returned to the pew, seated among all of us, the applause was even greater and sustained. This at a service where the final words in the program are “All depart in complete silence“.

I thought of my earlier conversation with my apostate friend, and about “The Shack”, whose focus (at least to me) is the need for forgiveness, of others, of ourselves.

A few hours earlier, my friend and I had closed our e-mail conversation.
J: “Heck, I go [to Catholic Mass”] fairly often… at least 2 Sundays per month at least, at St Joan… and I don’t even consider myself either Christian or Catholic….
D: “Actually, I like going to church. It’s a good calming place for me. We’re a large diverse place so there’s all sorts of folks who wander in, including me, I guess.
J: “Yep, calming… agree!

The Shack? A novel followed by a movie. By traditional standards, perhaps, a purveyor of bad theology.

But what I witnessed at Basilica of St. Mary on Good Friday 2017 was the very essence of what I had read about and saw in “The Shack”. It may not seem like it, but people are beginning to get it. Let’s leave it at that.

Happy Easter.


POSTNOTE 1 – the early draft of this post, March 19, 2017: This post begins with two pages from an 1896 8th grade Geography book, used by my grandmother when she was in 8th grade – the final year she went to school at a Catholic school in Wisconsin, not far from Dubuque IA. It speaks for itself. (Click a second time and you can enlarge both).

The above was 131 years ago, in the United States of America, in a textbook sanctioned by my Church, the Catholic Church. It was the basis of instruction for 8th graders in a Catholic School.

We have changed, and I think very much for the better. But where we started was dismal, and for some what the standard should still be.

POSTNOTE 2: We saw the film, the Shack, literally across the street from “Cross Hill“, overlooking Columbine High School in Littleton CO. By sheer coincidence, I was visiting my family in Littleton five days after the massacre on April 20,1999. We joined the throng of people who slowly moved up that “hill” of construction remnants, to see the crosses that had been planted there by a man from another state for each of the victims killed that terrible day. It was incredibly moving.

It is long ago, now, so I don’t remember precisely, but in my memory, the day we reached the top, two of the crosses in that line had been cut down – the ones erected for the killers, the two students who had killed the others and then themselves. They, too, had perished, but denied standing as having also been killed.

In effect, they had been denied the right to be grieved – two more lost lives on an awful day.

My son and I walked up that same hill little over a month ago, and there is now a permanent monument – presently being reconstructed – remembering those killed 18 years ago.

But the killers seem to appear nowhere in todays monument, at least nowhere I can see. I can see the reasoning. At the same time, how long will it be till we can forgive, to echo that letter in the photo above, written in 1916, about the Civil War 60 years earlier.

In my opinion, unwillingness to forgive others, and ourselves, is the blind-side of forgiveness that affects every one of us. No one need qualify for forgiveness. To me, that seems to be the essence of this day, Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017.

Have a great day, and all which follow.

from Flo: Amen.

from Jermitt: Wonderful testimonial, wonderful historical story of your Grandmothers education and great lesson on forgiveness for everyone.

from Larry(, with permission): Found your pieces on “The Shack” and Good Friday in your Roman Catholic Church to be thought stimulating. Will watch for the book and/or movie. I’ve bypassed the book several times but your article prompts me to maybe read it or at least look at the movie.

Regarding the Roman Church, I have my problems with this body and not just because I’m a lifelong ELCA Lutheran. I have many dear friends – like you – who are Catholics and when my wife and I have visited places like Mexico and Hawaii, we’ve attended mass at the most prominent landmark in any village, the Catholic cathedral. I find your church’s emphasis on string instruments and piano refreshing. I’m with Garrison Keillor on protesting against overly-enthusiastic organists. We have them in our church and, apparently, they’re also playing loudly in Mr. Keillor’s.

But my concerns today with your church have to do with their heavy-handed role in American politics. Although it raises my blood pressure, I listened to Catholic media, both radio and television, featuring endless praise for Donald Trump because of his stand on “abortion,” although his stance on anything, including abortion, is a bit suspect. The commentators on Catholic media sounded like they took their training from Fox News. Horribly one-sided. I called into one national program and reminded two of the on-air expounders, who were praising Republicans and blasting Democrats, that it was Democrats who put across the Civil Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and fought for working class people, many of whom belonged to unions and were good Catholics. Also, because I’m “pro-choice,” does not mean I’m against life. I believe Republicans and Catholics ought to care as much about babies who are born – through health care, education, and so forth – as they are about getting between a doctor, his or her patient, and the patient’s God, or no religious belief. Our Republican legislators in North Dakota, many of whom are Catholics, cut health care programs for women and others but pass unconstitutional measures that waste tax dollars on wild goose chases that do nothing but please the Roman hierarchy.

Noting the personal morality record of Mr. Trump, multiple divorces, not paying subcontractors, and proposing to cut health care while investing more money with the Daddy Warbucks of the country, I just don’t get it why the Roman Church in the USA is so in love with Trump and expressed such hatred for Mrs. Clinton. They preached their right-wing philosophy so strongly during the Presidential campaign that, I believe, the should have lost their 501-3c tax exemption.

Response from Dick: Larry, it’s a rather daunting task to take on your response. I just googled the words “Catholic census” and the first link was a reputable one, Pew Research, that says there are over a billion Catholics worldwide, half of the Christians. The whole global population is over 7 billion. I usually hear that Minnesota has about 20% Catholics; the U.S. about 25%. That’s lots of folks, and I know from long experience that they aren’t all alike.

I was in college in the transition from the old to the new Church – 1958-61. Generalizing is dangeous, granted, but I think I can fairly say but “authority” took a hit in the post-Vatican II era. This was great for many Catholics; “the pits” for many as well. In one sense or other this battle is joined every day in one way or another.

Personally, I’m on what I’d call the social justice side of the debate within the church. I’m sure the authoritarian side would also say they’re for social justice, but they’re more into control, often played in the assorted debates that you cast concern about in your state (which is a state very familiar to me.)

I choose to stay within the Church. I don’t see it doing much good to drop out and start over in some other denomination. Those I would call “authoritarians” are not comfortable with the current Church, which is fine by me. The Catholic Church, like many Christian churches (and others, doubtless) has a very long history of authoritarianism, going all the way back to Constantine’s embrace of Christianity as essentially the state Church of the Roman Empire about 300 A.D. In general, where the ruler went, the people went. Some places, everybody was Lutheran; other places, something else. in the olden days sense, we’re sort of in the wild west.

I think I’ll leave it at that, except to emphasize once again Rabbi Glaser’s advice at my Catholic Church on Friday: we need to look at and talk with each other. That is risky, but the only way to break the current and very unhealthy stalemate. Just my opinion.

A LETTER: On April 17, I sent a letter to the Denver Post. I almost immediately got a call back that they were interested, and I expected it would be printed. Thus far (Apr 26) I haven’t seen it printed. So here it is:
Last month we were in Denver to visit family. I asked to visit “Cross Hill”, the place above Columbine dating back to just after April 20, 1999. March 11, 2017, we walked to the memorial.

April 25, 1999, I was in Littleton to visit the same family, who then and still, lives little more than a mile from Columbine. In a steady rain, four of us patiently trod up to those new crosses.

At the top were two fewer crosses than originally set in the ground. Those two were those raised for the killers, also students, who also perished that day. Those crosses were cut down.

I know the reasons those crosses came down.

Today I speak to the need, in my opinion, to recognize once again these two students whose personal demons led to the heinous results. They were victims too.

Forgiveness is difficult. Consider it, seriously.

#1250 – Dick Bernard: “The World Is My Country”, the Garry Davis story

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

“When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”
York Langton*

Today begins the 2017 MSPIFF (Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival). The schedule promises “350+ films & events”.

I highly recommend one film among the many options: “The World is My Country“, which has its World Premiere at the St. Anthony Main theater in Minneapolis, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 23. In order to accommodate possible overflow crowds, the festival has scheduled three screenings. So if you want a seat at the World Premiere, get your tickets early. All necessary information is on the Festival site accessible here.

Along with the World Premiere of The World is My Country will be an eight minute short adapted from the Minnesota film: Man’s Next Giant Leap. The was made especially for this Premiere by Arthur Kanegis and his Associate Producer Melanie Bennett, who edited it mostly from a 30 minute film made back in the 1970’s. Take a look – you’ll be pretty amazed to see what our governor, mayors and other officials had to say about World Citizenship. The short can be viewed here. The Minnesota Declarations of World Citizenship can be viewed here: Minnesota Declarations002

The World is My Country is the remarkable story of up and coming ca 1940 Broadway star Garry Davis. It deserves a full house at each of its three showings. Garry Davis, then into his 90s and very engaging, tells his own life story in the film, which is richly laced with archival film from the 1940s forward. Among the many snips from history: the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rightss at the United Nations, in Paris, 1948.

New York Times front page July 29, 2013. Garry Davis pictured in lower right.

I wrote about this film on April 8, and again after its work-in-progress preview, also at the St. Anthony Main, on January 6, 2013. (See here and here.)

Garry Davis? I didn’t know he existed until his name came up at a lunch in June, 2011. Filmmaker Arthur Kanegis was in town, and a friend of his invited four of us to lunch. It was there that Garry Davis came to life for me. A WWII bomber pilot, his brother already killed in WWII, Davis couldn’t justify killing by war as a solution to problems. In 1948, he gave up something precious to him, his U.S. citizenship. He said he did it as an act of love for the United States, following in the footsteps of our founding fathers who gave up being Virginians or Marylanders to be citizens of the United States of America. He declared himself a Citizen of the World, and ignited a movement promoting world citizenship beyond even his imagination. He took a huge risk he lived with the rest of his 93-year life.

From there, I’ll let the film tell the rest of the story.

I was enrolled, that day in June, 2011, and had a small opportunity to see the dream evolve, and now return to the screen for its World Premiere in Minneapolis.

In the fall of 2012, I received permission to show an early draft of the film to a group of high school students in St. Paul. How would they react to ancient history (WWII era film and characters)? Very well, it turned out. They liked what they saw.

About 100 of us participated in Work In Progress test of the first draft of his film in Minneapolis, at St. Anthony Main, in January 2013. The reaction was positive.

Again, I asked permission to show the preview to a group of retired teachers meeting in Orlando, and they liked what they saw. And on the same trip I showed the in-progress film to the Chair and Founder of the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation. He was very attentive and liked what he saw.

Time went on. Last summer, I attended a private showing of the film, now nearing completion. The process of making a film is tedious, I found, simply from occasional brushes with this one. To make a film is to take a big risk. Now it has earned its time “in the lights” for others to judge.

I do not hesitate to highly recommend this film, particularly to those who feel that there have to be better ways of doing relationships than raw power, threats, and the reality we all face of blowing each other up in one war after another. This is not a film about war; it is about living in peace with each other.

The key parts of the film focus on Garry Davis in his 20s and 30s, roughly the late 1940s through the 1960s. It’s an idealistic film, especially appropriate for young people, with an important place for positive idealism in todays world.

“The World is My Country” does not end with somebody dying (though the real Garry Davis died 6 months after that first preview I saw in 2013). Rather, its call is for solutions other than war or dominance.

Viewing this film is an investment, not a cost. It brings meaning to the timeless quotes of Margaret Mead – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world indeed it is the only thing that ever has”; and Gandhi – “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Applications for World Passports will be available for those interested at the film.

Here is the first, last and only e-mail I was ever privileged to receive from Garry Davis, Jan. 7, 2013. He died 6 months later.

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Garry Davis (on screen from Vermont via Skype), Lynn Elling, film producer Arthur Kanegis and another guest share thoughts on the pursuit of world peace at St. Anthony Main Theater on January 6, 2013.

On taking risks (from a Church bulletin in Park Rapids MN 1982) (attributed to William Arthur Ward):

Attributed to William Arthur Ward

York Langton was a Minnesota Corporate Executive in wholesale business, and often used this quotation in talking about relationships in the 1960s.

“When the people lead, leaders will follow” is a common sense axiom in business. If people want a product, they buy it; if they don’t, they won’t. Fortunes are made by following this simple truism.

The same is true in political relationships. If people make unwise decisions in choosing their leaders at any level, they face consequences.

So, “when the people lead, leaders will follow” is an important one for all of us.

#1249 – Dick Bernard: World Premiere “The World Is My Country” Minneapolis April 23

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Anyone with an interest in and advocacy for Peace and Justice and International Issues will want to see this film, the story of Garry Davis, World Citizen #1. The World Premiere showing is Sunday afternoon April 23, 2:30 p.m. at the St. Anthony Main Theatre in Minneapolis. All details are here (The film is one of two events linked at the header of the home page.)

(click to enlarge photos)
The occasion of Garry Davis’ death in July, 2013 merited front page coverage in the New York Times.

New York Times front page July 29, 2013. Garry Davis pictured in lower right.

The nub of this true story: Garry Davis, an up and comer on Broadway, became a B-17 bomber pilot in WWII. The contradiction of killing innocent people in the European theater caused him to give up his U.S. citizenship in 1948, and the rest of his life was spent as a “citizen of the world”.

“The World is My Country” tells this true story, through Garry Davis’ own words, and is very well-laced with archival film footage. I highly recommend the film specifically for young people interested in history and making a difference in the world we’re leaving them. It is a message of and for peace, coming at a time when we seem to have forgotten the insanity of war as solution, coming from a messenger who participated in war as a bomber pilot in WWII. But it is more than just a story; much is a solutions message for viewers.

Pre-film publicity from Director Arthur Kanegis says this: “The World Is My Country”: “A song and dance man pulls off an act of political theater so gutsy and eye-opening that it sparks a huge people power movement that paves the way for the UN’s unanimous passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Leaping off the Broadway stage onto the world stage as “World Citizen #1” Garry Davis spends the next 65 years of his life as a citizen of no nation, only Earth — travelling the globe on his “World Passport.”

Hailed by Albert Einstein for “the sacrifices he has made for the well-being of humanity,” extolled by Buckminster Fuller as the “New World Man,” and egged on by Eleanor Roosevelt to start “a worldwide international government,” Garry’s story is so inspiring that Martin Sheen introduces it as “a roadmap to a better future.” (See photo of New York Times front page article at the time of Garry Davis’ death in July, 2013, above.)

I have more than passing familiarity with this film, first meeting Mr. Kanegis, and learning of Garry Davis, in 2011. In 2012, I showed an early rough draft of the film to a group of high school students in St. Paul, and they loved it. In 2013, my organization, Citizens for Global Solutions MN, sponsored a private and well received preview showing to about 100 people at St. Anthony Main Theater, and Garry Davis appeared via skype in a conversation with his Minneapolis friend, Lynn Elling (photo below).

Garry Davis (on screen from Vermont via Skype), Lynn Elling, film producer Arthur Kanegis and another guest share thoughts on the pursuit of world peace at St. Anthony Main Theater on January 6, 2013.

Elling and Davis were “kin kids”, virtually the same age, both in their 90s when they died. Davis died six months after the above photo was taken, and Mr. Elling, my friend, died Feb. 14, 2016. In a sense, their lives were intertwined, impacted by direct experience of war, and motivated by a passion for peace.

Davis was about 27 when he became a World Citizen in 1948. Elling first was exposed to the World Citizenship aspect of Davis’ work in Tokyo in 1963, when Tokyo became a “World Citizenship” city. He was in his early 40s. Through his and other efforts, there were several major declarations about World Citizenship in Minnesota between 1965 and 1971. They are detailed here: Minnesota Declarations002. The signers of these documents are very interesting, as is the time of the declarations, during the Vietnam War.

Following the January 2013 video appearance in Minneapolis, Garry Davis sent me an e-mail, which included a link to the cities and other units which became “Mondialized” (World) Cities from 1950 to early 1970s. Part of this e-mail said: “In 2 years over 750,000 people registered, etc.” [the first town to be] ‘mondialized’ [was] Cahors [France]. This small southern French town (famous for its wine) actually started the “Mondialization Movement” from which the 1971 statement of “Mondialization” of the State of Minnesota derived followed by the State of Iowa on October 25, 1973. [NOTE: Minneapolis and Hennepin County MN mondialized (World Citizens) March 5, 1968.]

Colonel Robert Sarrazac, former Maquis during WWII and my principal “organization” in Paris, was the author of the first “Mondialization” declaration….”

Both Garry Davis and Lynn Elling have passed on.

I don’t know about Garry, but I know Lynn was passionate about the issue of peace and justice until his last breath.

Ours is a society which considers old people as ‘old news’. But people like Garry Davis and Lynn Elling did and do make a big difference, by building foundations, and providing an example to those of us who share their interest, and in our various ways can make a positive difference. Their stories need to be remembered and retold.

The base and the foundation were built, for us to carry on.

Other than this showing of “The World Is My Country” (which includes an eight minute “short subject” about the Minnesota Declaration in 1971), little direct evidence remains that there once was a moment when world citizenship was more than a ‘pie in the sky’ ideal. That it flowered in the rubble of WWII should remind us that war is not a game.

It is sadly ironic that I complete and send this post in the day following the latest bombing of Syria, touted as a great victory by some, and a great disaster by others. We continue in the longest war in American history, failing to learn any lessons, it would appear.

Will peace or war prevail in determining our kids and grandkids future? It’s largely up to us, and to them as well. I hope they choose peace.

See this movie, consider its message, and do what you can to have it screen in your area. And go to work.

Lynn Elling and Thor Heyerdahl, holding a copy of the Minneapolis/Hennepin County Declaration, Minneapolis MN, 1975

#1246 – Dick Bernard: Life and Death

Friday, March 24th, 2017

As I write this post, decision time was at hand in the U.S. House of Representatives to replace what was derisively called “Obamacare” (The Affordable Care Act of 2010). Mid-paragraph came a bulletin that the first move to replacement, the American Health Care Act, failed. The apparent objective had been to figuratively kill “Obamacare” on the 7th anniversary of its enactment, Mar 23, 2010.

A good commentary about the lack of action on March 23, can be viewed here. Visit the same source tomorrow for a digest of comments about what happened today. [Mar. 24, “A Fine Failure”, here. SNIP: “The process toward passing Obamacare began on March 5, 2009, when President Obama convened a “health summit” with various players in the health care industry. It finished 383 days later, on March 23, 2010, when he signed it into law.

Trumpcare began life on February 16, 2017, when Paul Ryan released an outline of what a Republican bill would look like. It was abandoned 36 days later, on March 24, 2017.” from Kevin Drum, here.]

Personally, I view this issue of Health care for all (or some) from these vantage points:
1) My wife and I are greatly privileged to have pensions, Medicare, supplemental and long term care insurance. I would guess we are similar to those folks in Congress who sit in judgement of people with less resources.

That’s where the “Life and Death” title to this post originates. The objective of the supposed replacement bill (my opinion) was to make national health insurance less accessible and affordable, thence to enable another round of huge tax cuts whose primary beneficiaries will be the already very wealthy.

2) The practical reality of the future of Health Care for all lies with the very people who gave a win to the Republicans in the last election; and make no mistake, this is strictly a Republican initiative – look at the votes. Salespeople are good at selling dreams. But as an old saying from my childhood goes “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. As a society we have to do better at informing ourselves about the consequences of our own actions (or inactions).

Unfortunately, often we get exactly what we deserve.

3) Personally, today, as stated above, we sit here in pretty good shape, if medical need happens.

Everybody should have the same privilege in this hugely wealthy country that is the United States (I would extend that to everyone on our planet, but that’s for another time.)

As this debate goes on I remember a distinct time in my own history:

In September of 1963 I was discharged from the Army, and by early October was teaching school in Minnesota. My recent bride was also teaching.

I don’t recall the exact sequence, but at one point the insurance agent for Blue Cross/Blue Shield came by, and I opted for the doctor plan (Blue Shield) and passed on Blue Cross – too expensive. In the Army, everything was covered.

At about the same time my very young wife had to quit teaching because her health had seriously deteriorated. The ultimate diagnosis was kidney problems, and she died two years later.

We had no hospital insurance, and even if we had, at that point in history, her ailment would have been a pre-existing condition, and disqualified her from coverage.

In the end, in October of 1965, I was saved from bankruptcy only by a County Welfare Board in North Dakota, which paid the greatest share of the bills (which amounted to about four times my then yearly salary.) Other hospitals and clinics basically dealt with us as charity cases. Even welfare was no certainty. In those two years we never technically became a resident of any County or State. We moved too frequently to reach the one-year threshold….

In our circumstances then (which I described recently as trodding through a blizzard), we had only survival on our minds. Making sophisticated decisions was not part of our process. And if we could have thought things through, we had no resources to carry our own share of the load.’

So, I can sit here at my computer, comfortable that something can happen, and most likely I can get treatment quickly and at low and affordable cost.

But I lived for two years in a terrifying world, totally dependent on a system I didn’t understand, and couldn’t afford to leverage to our benefit.

There are millions upon millions of people not so fortunate as I, and why should I not help them out by one of life’s basics: affordable health care? I stand for sharing.

4) There has always been something incongruous about the need to further pad the vast resources of the already wealthy.

Capitalism (unfortunately) is based on consumption, but people in middle and lower classes need resources to buy things and thus enrich the capitalists, particularly the wealthy.

The very wealthy, however, remind me a lot about a favorite childhood comic character, Scrooge McDuck, cavorting around in his money bin.

Salting away wealth in a bank, perhaps even offshore, is not a way to help a great society stay great. Greed ultimately kills us all.

Dick Bernard: Planting Onions…and Glorious Flowers

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Today’s post is a recollection about my Aunt and Uncle. Shortly, we leave for a few days vacation. This computer will lie quiet for awhile. The following post has nothing to do with politics…then again, it may have everything…. At the exact same time I was composing this, among many critical issues, the most important of all, “repeal and replace” “Obamacare” has erupted in our nations Capitol. Insuring all of we citizens against catastrophic medical costs is a very, very big deal everyone needs to care about. In my view, the launch of this supposedly new plan is like launching a nuclear bomb against an unsuspecting people…. Here is a long and readable summary to read on this issue, if you wish. I will write later on my deep personal concerns on this matter. More in coming weeks.

Vincent Busch May 7, 2013

(click to enlarge any photos)

“Forwards” are not always welcome, as anyone who does e-mail knows.

Sometimes, like a couple of days ago, comes a gem, one such reaching me from a North Dakota farm near my ancestral farm at Berlin ND, a blog post by Rachel Held Evans received and forwarded to me by a good friend.

What caught my attention was the headline: “…Planting Onions*….”

What attracted my memory was remembering a row of onions I watched being planted by my Uncle Vincent May 7, 2013. (See photo which leads this post).

Uncle Vince was 88 at the time, and this visit he had a compelling need to plant some sweet onions in the now nearly vacant one acre garden he and his sister Edithe had kept alive long after the rest of the nine family members who had lived there, helping with and enjoying the fruits of the garden, had passed on.

Now there were only the two of them. and for seven prior years they’d lived in assisted living in town. But near every day they’d drive out to the old farm, and every spring was the ritual planting. Every year, the actual planted area decreased, but every year the entire acre was cultivated, to keep weeds at bay.

Now the gardeners were down to my Uncle, and he had very little energy left to expend. But once again he had plowed the ground, preparing the soil, and now it was time to plant something.

Six months earlier his sister had been admitted to the Nursing Home, and Uncle Vince now had to come to the farm alone. This year about all he was managing to plant were a couple of row of sweet onions. In his quiet way that pleasant day in May, I seemed to be witnessing almost a religious rite, near grief: a nod to a past that was rapidly disappearing.

It was while looking for the photo that leads this post that I came across another photo of something else I had seen at the same farm, a few minutes earlier that May day, as we drove up the lane, past the long vacant farmhouse.

Aunt Edithe’s voluntaries, May 17, 2013

Those and other flowers were Edithe’s passion, and probably in a previous year she had planted them, and here they were, unattended, but beautiful nonetheless, adding life to the house and surroundings..

No one had been by to remind them that it was time to bloom; they paid no mind that no one was weeding around them, or making sure they had water; or that they had an audience to admire them. They just were….

It seems to me, now, four years later, that both Uncle Vincent and those flowers were sending their own messages to us, about things like reverence for the land and tradition, about devotion to the better sides of our nature. Many other messages can be conveyed. They are for you to contemplate yourself and, if you wish, to share with others as well.

Have a great day.

* – Ms Evans post talked about “revisiting Madeleine L’Engle’s Genesis Trilogy,” and being “struck by how forthcoming the author is about her own fears around raising children during the Cold War. She writes of one particularly worrisome season: “Planting onions that spring was an act of faith in the future, for I was very fearful for our planet.”

In her Mar. 1, 2017 blog post, Ms Evans commented: “Planting onions” has come to signify for me the importance of remaining committed to those slow-growing, long-term investments in my family, my community, and the world, no matter what happens over the next four years”.

Time went on after that May visit to the garden.

In mid-July I made another visit to Vincent and Edithe; and once again Vince and I went to the old farm between Berlin and Grand Rapids.

July, 2013 in the garden

Vincent told me the rows of sweet onions were no more – he had gone out to the farm by himself, after dark, to plow the garden, and by mistake plowed them under.

It was clear to everyone that Vincents memory and general health were failing as his sisters had.

My next trip, in September, it was even more clear.

In November, 2013, Vincent joined Edithe in the memory care unit at the St. Rose Nursing Home in LaMoure. In Feb, 2014, she died at 94. Almost exactly a year later, in Feb, 2015, Uncle Vince passed on, having just reached 90.

At the lunch after Vincent’s funeral, neighbor farmer Pat Quinlan recalled the onion sandwich Vince had given him one day when he was over helping. It was the funniest of stories, as the photo below attests. Probably Vince would have squirmed, but it was all in great humor. Vince was who he was. In life, he would appear to be just an ordinary farmer with a small farm. But he was oh, so much more….

Pat Quinlan (at right) remembers the onion sandwich, February, 2015

We have only our own images of what heaven might be like.

Perhaps there is a garden and flowers and gentle breezes there.

Meanwhile, here on earth, let’s do what we can to make this world a better place for all of us.

Edithe and Vince in their garden July 27, 2007

Flowers and Onions, July 27, 2007

Edithe and Flowers, July 27, 2007

Edithe with the flowers from the garden July 27, 2007

#1241 – Donna Krisch: Diary of a Working Visit to El Paso. A Lenten Reflection

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

“SNIP” Feb. 27: “We decided on a menu of macaroni & cheese with tuna and peas, spaghetti and a carrot/yellow squash combo and apples. I started the meal and all at once was joined by a woman from Honduras who really knew how to cook. I speak basically no Spanish but could understand very well that I had not cooked the vegetables correctly. We were then joined by a woman from Brazil so none of us spoke each others language but we all knew the language of human.”

NOTE FROM DICK BERNARD: A long and very powerful witness to the less publicized side of our neighbors in Mexico and Central America by retired teacher, Donna Krisch. (She and I “share” North Dakota roots, and an Aunt, long deceased.) I hope this essay diary of two weeks in El Paso is shared broadly. All photos, excepting Statue of Liberty, by Donna Krisch, click on any to enlarge. Guest columns, such as Donna’s, are always welcome here. dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom for information.

Wednesday February 15, 2017
Today four Basilica of St. Mary (Minneapolis MN) members plus myself will leave for El Paso Texas to help in a shelter on the Mexico/Texas border. We have two nurses in our group and the rest of us will help however we can. The people coming to the shelter are seeking asylum from violence in their own countries. We have heard most are coming from the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Thursday, February 16, 2017
We arrived in El Paso yesterday afternoon. During our stay we will be staying at a beautiful, old convent of the Loretto Sisters directly across the alley from the shelter where we will be working.

Arriving at El Paso

Clothing room at the shelter

Dormitory for volunteers

When we arrived at the shelter a Brazilian woman with two small children was being taken to the airport to catch a flight to Boston to meet family having spent the night at the shelter. The morning was spent getting a tour of the facility, and sorting clothes that were collected by the Basilica children. In the afternoon, we met with Eina Holder, director of the shelter. She gave us a brief history of the shelter and an update on what we can expect to be helping with during our stay. In December, there were some days where up to 150 asylum seekers stayed at the shelter mainly from Central America and Brazil.

People coming to the border are questioned, fingerprinted by Border Patrol and processed at a facility an hour away. Some are required to wear an ankle bracelet with a tracking number and a phone call is made to a family member or friend vouch for them and send them travel money.

ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) will bring them to one of 3 shelters. Nazareth Hall receives asylum seekers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and people will stay for 1-3 days and then either travel by bus or plane to meet family somewhere in the US. In the last few weeks the number of people seeking asylum has dropped so significantly that two of the shelters will be closing next week. Starting Monday, Nazareth Hall will be the only short-term shelter open. No one can explain why. Some possible reasons we heard were increased border patrol and also the new administration’s stance on immigration.

We have been treated so kindly by everyone we have met.

Friday, February 17, 2017
This morning we went to the shelter at 9 AM. Our work for today would be to continue to organize clothing, disinfect and disassemble cots, and organize the storage room full of supplies.

At noon, we attended a peace gathering in front of the El Paso courthouse. We were introduced to Fr. Peter & Sr. Betty. Fr. Peter is 94 years old and Sr. Betty is in her 80’s. They have devoted their lives to the work of the poor in Central and South America. They currently live and work with the poor in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso. It was as if we were in the presence of saints. Each Friday they are among a small gathering of people that bring their tattered peace signs and stand on the corner for an hour.

After lunch, we went for a tour of Annunciation House. This shelter houses people seeking asylum that need to have more than 24 hours to figure out where to go. Some may stay for months. It is run by volunteers and houses up to 100 if needed. Upstairs in the house we saw the dining room and kitchen. Eina our guide then took us into the chapel which also serves as a bedroom when the shelter is crowded.

On the wall behind the make shift alter was a cross made of metal boxes each containing a shoe found in the desert where people might have crossed.

Cross of shoes found in the south Texas desert

One of the shoes in above photo

The story Eina told was of a young child traveling with her mother. The mother had written the phone number of the relative in America where they would go to live with in ink on the child’s hand. Along the way, the mother died. When the little girl was finally found, she was holding her fisted hand very tight. When she finally opened it the phone number was smeared so no one could decipher the number.

Saturday, February 18, 2017
Today started when Eina, the director of the shelter where we are working took us to her church to meet some of the young teenagers that came unaccompanied to the border and are now at Southwest Key a facility for children and teens.

Three times a week, they host groups of 10+ youth to come, play games, do a prayer service and have a meal like pizza and soda. Each week groups of youth ages 3-17 come to Rico center for three hours away from the detention center. This ministry is named in honor of the priest’s nephew who was murdered in Mexico.

Poster at Rico Center

Seeing these young people not knowing what they have been through, what they have seen, who they left behind at home was very moving for all of us. We prayed with them and for them. When we were leaving, the young woman leading the group thanked the “white people” for coming.

After lunch, we returned to the shelter to finish up tasks to be ready for people arriving on Monday.

*In 2015, there were 75 shelters that house children along the US-Mexico border housing approximately 14,365 unaccompanied minors. Rico ministries and the detention centers collaborate to provide this program for youth in detention. Their future is unknown, they may be deported, they may reunite with another relative. If a pair of siblings comes to a center and one turns 18 they will be separated and the 18-year old will go to adult detention. You have to ask yourself what kind of a nation does this to children.

Sunday, February 19, 2017
Beautiful sunny morning in El Paso. Eina picked us up for mass at 11:30 and we drove across town to El Buen Pastor parish in Horizon City, a suburb of El Paso. The church is in one of the poorest neighborhoods of El Paso and is surrounded by a very wealthy suburb.

When we arrived. the church was already filling up 45 minutes early. I have never felt so welcome in a Catholic church. The priest welcomed us during the sermon and we were thanked by the entire community at the end of the mass. During the handshake of peace, a little 4-year old boy came over into our pew, crawled through the entire pew, and shook everyone’s hand. After the 2-hour long mass we purchased 80 tortilla’s, to deliver to the farm workers at their center in downtown El Paso.

When we arrived at the farm workers center we were greeted warmly by a man named Carlos Marentes who runs the center. The center is located on a corner where farmers will pick up day laborers to work in the fields if there is work. They have lockers and showers and sleep on the floor. At midnight, they arise and stand out on the street and wait to be picked up if there is work. Of all we have seen so far this for me was the most difficult. Grown men with skin like leather, sleeping on the floor. Maybe it was because of growing up on a farm but I saw in those men my brothers and uncles and really for no other reason than luck is there life so very different.

We introduced ourselves and they introduced themselves and the Mexican state they are from. We then joined hands and said a prayer. One of the men I was holding hands with was missing half a finger and another I am sure must have Parkinsons Disease.

The work they were doing tomorrow was picking hot chilis. Apparently, they pick by the 20-gallon container and for each one they fill they get a chip which will then be exchanged for money. The plants are low growing so if you are tall you need to crawl through the fields on your knees. We were told by the end of the day their hands feel like they have a fever. Carlos thought they may also be planting onions. To do that they poke their fingers into rock hard ground and put onion plugs in each hole. For all this earn an average of $6,700 per year (just over $500 per month).

Monday, February 20, 2107
Our day started this morning at 9:15. We cleaned this huge gathering room called the Sala. After packing up the 40+ cots and them stashing them away we sorted through a great number of toys, vacuumed the rug to get ready for the next group of travelers. We received instructions on how the intake process works.

At 1:30 an ICE van pulled up to the shelter and dropped off 4 families with a total of 9 people. Usually the processing center feeds them lunch but when they arrived they had not eaten. The group were a father and son from Brazil who were going to Boston, a young mother with a two-year old and a seven-year old from Guatemala going to Florida, a mother and her 16 year old son from Guatemala going to Nebraska, and a father and his 10 year old daughter going to North Carolina.

After a short interview one of the workers tried to call their US families waiting for them. We then helped them find a new change of clothes, show them their rooms and help them find the showers.

Every Monday a local church brings a delicious meal of beans, rice and shredded beef. One of the men that brought the food sat down at our table and talked about why he does this work. He told us that 5 years ago he was an engineer and very successful owner of a construction company when he had a heart attack. He was lying there close to death when he decided his life had to change. He decided he needed to give back because his life had been so good so he now makes and serves dinner every Monday night at the shelter.

Things we found out about the families: the Brazilian man decided he wanted to go back to Brazil. He had left two daughters behind. For him to do that he would not ever be able to get back into the US again, plus he would need to go to a detention center until a whole planeload of detainees needed to go back to Brazil. The mother with her 16-year old son was pregnant with him the last time she saw her husband. The 10-year old little girl was complaining of her legs hurting and the dad just said that yesterday they had spent the entire day running.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Today seemed like a long day. We started at 10:00 with a meeting to write a shopping list for the shelter and then purchase the food. Three of the families from yesterday are waiting for bus tickets sent by their receiving families. The father and his ten-year-old daughter will be leaving on the bus at 4.

The process when families arrive looks something like this. The director of the center and one of our Spanish speaking volunteers do the initial intake (finding out what papers they have, finding out who to call to receive them, etc.) From the office, they are taken to their sleeping rooms.

Next, they are taken to a used clothing room to pick out one set of clothing because they literally come with the clothes on their back. The final stop is the shower where they each are given a hygiene kit with everything they need. After they shower we give them sheets and blankets to make their beds.

Today the refugees did not get dropped off by ICE until about 3 PM so by the time they finished everything another church group had come in with the evening meal which we shared with the families. After dinner, we helped them make their beds and get settled in.

The group that arrived today were two families from Brazil. One of them was a father and his 1½ year old son. They left Brazil because they had witnessed what he called a “massacre.” His wife and their older daughter will come soon maybe tomorrow. The reason they came separately and not together was they would have been separated at the border. The father would have gone into a detention center and the mother would have come to the shelter with the children. The other two families were from Guatemala.

One was a nineteen-year old mother with a 3-month old baby the other family was an older mother with her six-year old daughter. The young mother and her baby were both extremely dehydrated so even though the baby was trying to nurse the mother had no milk to give. The baby screamed uncontrollably for most of the early evening. Although complete strangers the older mother stayed with the younger mom through the night to make sure she and the baby got plenty of fluids… amazing compassion.

We had the chance to see for the first time the electronic ankle bracelets. I had imagined maybe a small band. They are at least two inches wide, battery operated and the batteries need to be recharged on a regular basis or ICE will start looking for them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Nazareth Hall got the call that 32 people (12 families) would be coming to the shelter by early afternoon so we sorted clothes, got bed linens ready and made sure we were prepared for their arrival.
This has been the largest group to come in since we came here. This time a huge white ICE bus arrived. We all felt a bit more prepared for what needed to be done.

During intake, I noticed a woman and two children. Throughout the process tears were streaming down her face and her two little girls were patting her on the back. Apparently when they arrived at the border her husband was taken away to detention and she and the girls were sent on. Everyone was once again very hungry so we served snacks while they were waiting to do their paperwork. While everyone was waiting, we noticed many of the people did not have shoe laces. Apparently, they are taken away when they arrive.

We left the shelter at 5:15 to attend a memorial mass in honor of Juan Patricio. The young man was killed outside the Annunciation House Shelter 15 years ago. We walked through luminaries that lined the sidewalk to the spot he was killed. We sat on benches in front of a makeshift altar outside. The mass was attended by many young people and many older adults.

Walk for Juan Patricio

Mass at Annunciation

Thursday, February 23, 2017
Many of the asylees [those seeking asylum] were leaving the shelter early in the day to go to the bus station.

Today people were leaving to be reunited with families in Maryland, Florida, New York and many more places. Because they will be riding the bus for several days and have no money the shelter sends them with a travel bag. Travel bags are made up of a blanket for each, sandwiches and fruit, snacks, water, and if they have children some sort of toy and pages to color. Some bus trips take over 36 hours. They are also given a winter coat if going to a cold climate state. Once the bags were made we started preparing for a new group of asylum seekers.

At 10:30 we got the call that 15 people (7 families) would be coming in the afternoon. After everyone was settled we put travel bags together for each family.

Tonight, we had an invitation to go to dinner at Villa Maria. This is a home for woman in crisis that need a place to stay until they can get their lives together. Women with mental issues, addiction and homelessness come to this shelter. Women from a variety of age groups live at the house. They usually stay up to two years.

Recently, however, women are being pushed to move out more quickly due to reductions in money from HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] The home is run on grants and a fundraiser each year. We had the opportunity to sit down with the women and enjoy a wonderful meal that they had prepared. This special place houses 22 women and offers support and counseling, job training and access to classes at a community college. It is a very calm place with a courtyard in the middle.

We are so impressed with the organization, the planning and collaboration of these shelters. All of the resources are donated and all the staffing of the centers are volunteer.

Friday, Feb. 24, 2017
We got a call this morning that Nazareth Hall will be closing today because of an inspection of the attached nursing home. All asylees will be taken to Annunciation House until further notice. We are glad to have an afternoon to rest.

Saturday, February 25, 2017
Matthew 25: 35-40
For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty
And you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made
me welcome; naked and you clothed me; sick and you
visited me; in prison and you came to see me.
. . . I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of
the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.

This is the reading Rubin Garcia referred to as we met with him this morning. What we thought would be a 20-minute meeting lasted 2 hours. Rubin Garcia started working with the immigrants 40 years ago when he quit his job and with the help of the archdiocese of El Paso opened Annunciation House. He has since opened many shelters as the need arose in the immigrant and the asylee community. All of the shelters including staff are operated by donations.

He started off by saying we probably should take down the Statue of Liberty.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The words ring hollow.

Statue of Liberty New York City harbor late June, 1972

Joni and Tom Bernard at Statue of Liberty, late June, 1972 (Photos by Dick Bernard)

Mr. Garcia believes that the church has failed to raise awareness for these most vulnerable people. The clergy need to start talking about Catholic Social Teaching. After 40 years and countless groups of people coming to the border to raise their own awareness nothing has changed.

In 2014 the first wave of immigrants arrived. They arrived in south Texas and because of the numbers immigration asked Rubin Garcia to house people in El Paso. He agreed with the stipulation that he would receive no money from the government so the government would have no leverage over these people.

From October 2016 thru January 2017 the arrivals of people needing shelter went up to 1,000 refugees a week. Since the new U.S. administration has taken office the numbers have dwindled significantly. Mr. Garcia thinks people are not coming because of new U.S. immigration policy and posturing. He said there is no official policy on who gets detained, and who doesn’t. The number of government run and private detention centers has risen with the surge.

In Mr. Garcia’s words our new President changed mindsets with the power of fear and the power of repetition of lies. He repeated the terrorist threat many, many times during his campaign. Mr. Garcia said we should ask ourselves how we feel about the leader of our country given absolute freedom to lie. What do we tell our children? He compared the terrorist threats to car accidents. Since 2011 there have been 80 deaths due to terrorists and 600,000 deaths due to car accidents. So, should we ban cars? Do we fear the car companies for making cars?

He encouraged and challenged us to talk to our neighbors, both however they voted about what is already happening in America. Find out what people are afraid of in regards to immigration. He also encouraged us to sit down with our pastors and ask them how we should be responding as Christians.

His biggest fear at this time is that the U.S. will set up immigration courts at the border and no one will be granted asylum. Once turned back they will be in Mexico which does not have the accommodations to house Asylees.

Sunday, February 26, 2017
This morning we have an invitation to visit Sr. Betty and Fr. Peter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. We are to cross the San Antonio bridge from El Paso, Texas to Mexico. Sr. Betty assured us she would meet us at the bottom of the bridge. We had a difficult time finding the right bridge and when we asked the response was always, “You’re going to Juarez??”

Fr. Peter and Sr. Betty and Cathy.

For over 5 years starting in 2005 Juarez was known as the murder capital of the world but in the past few years murders have dropped considerably. It was the city Pope Francis chose to visit in 2014. In any event, we were happy to see Sr. Betty at the bottom of the bridge.

Juarez, Mexico, border city of El Paso TX

Housing from the street in Juarez

Going from El Paso to Juarez was quite something. Crumbled streets, very primitive housing almost appearing to look like the site of a city that had been in a war. We made our way by bus to the little house and yard that Sr. Betty and Fr. Peter rent.

It seems like an oasis in the middle of a desert but is located in one of the poorer boroughs of Juarez. They served us eggs from their chickens and we talked about their years working for peace and justice in Central and South America and for the past 20 years living in Juarez. At 94 years of age Fr. Peter continues to say mass at one of the boroughs in Juarez. Sr. Betty at 84 has classes for women on her porch. She took us out to her backyard to show her chickens, and the tomatoes she had just planted. In their back-yard they have a covered area where she has made memorials to various groups of people that have been murdered. She has painted murals and listed all of the names of these people. There are murals for slain journalists, murdered women, students and men and people that have died in the desert.

Juarez has had many problems over the past few years. Early in the 2000’s American companies set up Maquiladoras (factories). A Maquiladora is a factory run by a U.S. company in Mexico to take advantage of cheap labor and lax regulation. Workers usually work 6 days a week for an average of $6.00 per day. When they first began workers especially women were drawn to these factories. There is a reason we can buy cheap goods in America. Sr. Betty was telling us that one of the companies was John Deere. The same job if done in America would earn a salary of $25.00 per hour. Hardly a living wage.

Monday, February 27, 2017
It is hard to believe this is our last day to work. We got a call that Annunciation House was receiving 39 asylum seekers (12 families) and needed help. About 2 PM ICE came with two white buses and dropped them off. It was basically the same procedure as Nazareth House with the exception that the men would stay at Annunciation Shelter while the women and children would walk two blocks to Casa Theresa. Some of the Basilica group stayed to help find clothing for everyone and I went to Casa Therese to make beds. Once beds were made there was dinner for 22 that needed to be made.

We decided on a menu of macaroni & cheese with tuna and peas, spaghetti and a carrot/yellow squash combo and apples.

I started the meal and all at once was joined by a woman from Honduras who really knew how to cook. I speak basically no Spanish but could understand very well that I had not cooked the vegetables correctly. We were then joined by a woman from Brazil so none of us spoke each others language but we all knew the language of human. The Honduran woman’s 10-year old son squeezed limes to make a beverage.

When everyone had their plates filled we all joined hands and said grace. It was truly a moving moment, I will never forget.

While this was taking place, the people were registered and given medical treatment if they needed it.

The stories of some of these women will stay with us forever. One woman carried her paraplegic son on her back the entire way from Honduras. Another woman and two children had wandered through Mexico trying to get to the border for the past 3 months. They slept in woods and would beg to sleep in people’s yards. At each place, they were told they needed to leave after one night. Another young girl maybe 12 or 13 year of age said her whole body hurt and was stiff. Apparently, there is this holding facility called the icebox because it is so cold at night where people can only be detained for 24 hours but she had been there for a few days.

Over the past two weeks not once did we see a potential terrorist. These are the poorest of the poor looking for a life free of violence. They come with their children, they come to be reunited with family, they come to make a better life for their families. Everyone I talk to in Minnesota seems unaware that this is happening here at our border. How can we the richest nation on the planet turn our backs on our brothers and sisters.

Thank you to the Sisters of Loretto for their hospitality and all the people we encountered during our time in El Paso. This is an extremely generous and caring community that works tirelessly to make life better for the poor.

POSTNOTE FROM DICK: Politics and Compassion are very uneasy companions. A dozen or so years ago I came across a succinct and very powerful explanation of the relationship between politics and compassion, made by then U.S. Senator, and former U.S. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. You can read it here. I read it some months after a powerful visit to Haiti, and after the Iraq War had commenced. The brief paragraph or two spoke many volumes.

Donna Krisch reflects on the very human side of the migration (refugee) story.

Others with the microphones and media and levers of power much stronger than Donna or myself can better publicize “illegals”, “drugs”, and the seamy underside of immigration. The comment by Rubin Garcia (above) brings it home: “He compared the terrorist threats to car accidents. Since 2011 there have been 80 deaths due to terrorists and 600,000 deaths due to car accidents. So, should we ban cars? Do we fear the car companies for making cars?”

Back at the beginning of the worst of the Great Depression, 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a statement that deserves repeating, over and over and over: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

We are a nation of immigrants and descendants of immigrants. Even Native Americans, the first immigrants, initially came from somewhere else.

The only ancestor I personally knew who was an immigrant from another country was my grandfather, Henry Bernard, who came to North Dakota from Quebec about 1894. His only language when he arrived was French, and he had a first grade education. Doubtless it took years for him to speak English fluently.

He died when I was 17, and I knew him well.

Four of six of my great-grandparents immigrated to America, long before the Statue of Liberty became the welcoming beacon (and lest we forget, the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France.) My circles – all of our circles – are full of immigrants.

We do not honor ourselves by our present day fear-filled approach to people whose only sin is, as proclaimed at the Statue of Liberty, “yearning to breathe free”. We will, one day, be called to account….

Lynn Elling: An Anniversary; Thoughts About Peace on Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

It’s Valentine’s Day, and today I’m remembering my friend, Lynn Elling, who died one year ago today, a few days short of 95 years. He was a remarkable guy. He walked the talk about Peace. I was honored to talk about him at his Memorial Service on May 1, last year. I wrote a bit about him then. You can read it here, “In praise of exasperating people”.

The 1971 Declaration of World Citizenship
Click to enlarge, twice to double the enlargement

Last spring, after Lynn died, the family invited me to go through the residue of his long life which related to his passion, the quest for world peace. He gave “World Peace” a great run, leaving a substantial base – and a challenge – for the rest of us. Down in our garage is a single box with many remnants of over 70 years passion for Peace, which began, for him, as a young Naval officer viewing the aftermath of the awful battle at Tarawa Beach in the Pacific, November, 1943.

A truly major accomplishment from that box is shown above, from March of 1971, and I’d invite you to take the time to really look at not only the text of that Declaration of World Citizenship, but to carefully study the list of signers who, at the time, represented all of the major leaders in Minnesota, Republican, Democrat, Civic…..

Out of this accomplishment came a 30 minute film, “Man’s Next Giant Leap”, which is worth watching on line, here.

Lynn was 50 years old when that Declaration was signed. Two years previous had come a similar Declaration for the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County; and six years earlier a similar declaration for the United States of America.

The idea of Peace was catching on.

And on and on.

In about two months, in Minneapolis, a new film, The World Is My Country, will be shown at the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul about Garry Davis, another remarkable man, and friend of Lynn’s, who began a world wide campaign for the concept of World Citizenship. When I know details I’ll announce them in this space.

On May 1, at Gandhi Mahal in Minneapolis, we’ll celebrate another creation of Lynn and others: World Law Day, which first was held in 1964, went on for years, and after a hiatus, this year will be the 5th in the most recent series. More on that event, featuring Shawn Otto of later as well.

Yes, Lynn Elling could be “exasperating”.

But it is “exasperating” people that are very often the ones who make the difference; the people who go beyond the bounds of “average and ordinary”. We all can learn from being “exasperating” ourselves, from time to time!

Have a great Valentine’s Day.

POSTNOTE: Another great accomplishment by Mr. Elling came May 1, 1968, when the United Nations Flag was mounted beside the U.S. flag at what is now the Hennepin County Government Center Plaza. The flag flew there until late March, 2012, when it was removed. More can be read here. This, too, was a completely bi-partisan initiative. Elling was a downtown Minneapolis businessman, working with others in the business community. The UN, then, was not considered as some enemy of the United States, as some have come to portray it in more recent years.

Related, Feb. 13, 2017, here.

Dick Bernard: Killer or Healer? A Decision We All Need to Make

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Sunday’s homily at Basilica of St. Mary was a powerful commentary on a portion of the Gospel of Matthew: “You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with brother will be liable to judgment.” (full text MT 5:20-22A, 2728, 33-34A, 37).

Fr. Harry, a retired Priest of the Diocese and frequent celebrant and gifted homilist at Basilica, wove his message not around physical killing, but the more common, now almost ubiquitous and unfortunately acceptable practice of “killing” others by actions other than a gun or similar. He talked of a couple of old guys, once friends, who hadn’t talked to each other for decades, though they worked in the same building, who were more or less forced into contact by the marriage of their respective granddaughter and grandson…and in the process of renewal of their long interrupted relationship couldn’t even remember what caused the fracture in the first place….

So it goes.

Driving home, for some reason, I got to thinking of a homily I had heard in a Port-au-Prince Haiti Catholic Church on December 7, 2003. Six of us were in our first full day in Haiti*. The congregation of the church was financially very poor, but vibrant. The Priest, Gerard Jean-Juste**, was a charismatic preacher, and this particular day, he knew he had a target for his message in we six visitors from the United States, an hour or so flight away.

(click to enlarge)

Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste and parishioners at Ste. Clare Parish Port-au-Prince Haiti December 7, 2003 (Dick Bernard)

Fr. Jean-Juste saying Mass at Ste. Claire Dec 7 2003 (photo by Dick Bernard)

He didn’t look at us – we really hadn’t met him at this point, but he knew we were there – but his message about the role of our wealthy society in the U.S. – to be the “killers” or “healers” of this desperately poor country – struck home. He supported the democratically elected President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide; and by the sundry means available to it, the U.S. was in the process of “killing” this president whose constituency was the poor. Rather than helping (“healing”) the poor. We were making it all but impossible for Haiti to compete in any way with their very wealthy neighbor, our own country. Democracy in Haiti was competition, and could not be tolerated. With “friends” like us, who needed enemies?

While there weren’t dead bodies in the street – at least not a great number of them – nonetheless, they may as well have been: farmers who had grown rice were forced out of business by U.S. undercutting Haitian farmer prices, and then dominating the rice market…things like that.

I got to thinking of a recent visit to our towns bookstore. I was looking for a book of meditations for a friend whose wife had recently died. Walking down an aisle, I was stopped short by a sign, which so struck me I went back to the car to bring in my camera and click this photo:

Book Display December, 2017

I googled the author and found quite an array of books, almost all dark topics: about killing Patton, …Kennedy, …Lincoln, …Jesus; similar about the attempted killing of Reagan; in effect, the killing of Hitler and the Nazis, and per the picture, killing “The Rising Sun” in WWII; the Next Nuclear War….

Clearly, killing was O’Reilly’s selling point for his books. There is a polarity in this country in which many enshrine the idea of killing an enemy: a political opponent, “al Qaeda”, on and on. We sort of enjoy killing. It is politically very useful to have an enemy to kill.

Similarly, I am sure, there is a “healing” niche as well, with a completely different audience….

A friend of mine, a migrant from another country, here for many years, but not yet a citizen, described us well, recently. The U.S., he said, is a polarized country, where we largely exist in “bubbles”, like those two old guys that had no relationship whatever for many years, until some unplanned event brought them together again.

I’m on the “healer” side of this polarity. At the same time, I say we have to find ways to constructively communicate with the other side as well.

“Killing”, whether physically or by character assassination, is no solution. In assorted way, the assassins described in the books ended up dying themselves, either individually (like Lincoln’s assassin) or on a larger scale (Nazi Germany).

“Killer” or “Healer”? I’ll take “healer” any time.

TUESDAY, VALENTINE’S DAY: a shining moment when “healing” held sway.

* – More about the trip, if you wish, here.
** – Jean-Juste was on the “wrong” side in the battle with the U.S. Less than 3 months after our meeting him, he was imprisoned, then deposed to the United States, where he ultimately died, effectively in exile. President Aristide was deposed and taken out of his country by the United States. It was a sad lesson for me, on my first visit to Haiti.

#1210 – Dick Bernard: A Men’s Retreat

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

For several years I’ve spent a winter weekend at a Retreat for Men at the Franciscan Retreat and Spirituality Center in Prior Lake MN. I enthusiastically recommend both the Retreat and the Retreat Center. (Next years Men’s Retreat is the first weekend of February, 2018).

This years theme: “Find the Missing Peace: Pathways to Prayer”. This became the focus at the first group event on Friday night:

(click on photos to enlarge them)

Franciscan Retreat Center Feb 3-5, 2017

Each of us was given a wooden token as a reminder:

What do a bunch of men, mostly older, do in 44 hours at a Retreat on Prayer?

Well, I can only speak for myself. It was a quieting, reflective time. I didn’t see a newspaper, or hear any news, or see any television, or hear about such for 44 hours. It had been a long week, so I got some needed extra sleep; there were few distractions from just thinking about where I fit into the bigger picture of “peace”, and life in general.

It was a precious time.

Doubtless, we men approached it the topic in our own ways, privately, coming from wherever we were at at the moment. The greatest gift was the opportunity to escape from the madding crowd which is a constant in all of our surroundings in this fast and furiously paced world in which we live. For some precious moments we could be quiet.

In part of my time, I walked outdoors – the weather was decent.

I’ve made friends with an old Peace Pole out there. The pole needs to be rehabbed, and when I reported on that, yes, they knew. Much to my surprise, a good friend of mine, Fr. Vince Peterson, had been the driving force for the peace pole some years ago. I’m sure it will be brought up to date.

Personally, I wouldn’t want it replaced with a new pole. By itself, it represents a history I want to help reinvent. Peace Poles are around you. Look for them. They’re available. Here’s one source, a good friend of mine.

Old Peace Pole at Franciscan Retreat Center Prior Lake MN Feb 5, 2017

Of course, we got pieces of paper at the retreat, and they were talked about by the conference facitators. Thomas Merton was a favorite source of quotes. I think I was in college when I first read his “Seven Storey Mountain”…inspiring book.

And we saw a movie on Saturday night, one I’d highly recommend – very thought provoking. It’s called Unconditional, and is 90 minutes, here on Youtube. Take the time, and watch it! It may speak to you, in some way….

Franciscan Retreat Center celebrated its 50th birthday last year, and there were panel displays remembering events surrounding its history, which began in 1966. I found these interesting in themselves, and they don’t need additional elaboration.

late 1960s

1970s forward


Somehow, the panels spoke to me in a pretty powerful way. The list may not include something of importance that you remember from those past years in our history. Add it in!

That what’s a retreat is for….

Have a great week.

Barbara Gilbertson: “It was an amazing experience, the [Women’s] March [on Washington, Jan. 21]”.

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

NOTE: Barbara, of the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis-St. Paul, is one of the two people I know who actually participated in the Women’s March Jan. 21, 2016. Barbara writes in response to my blog of January 24, 2016. In response to my request to reprint her response as a stand-alone post on my blog, she included this comment: “Funny about Moana. It’s the only Oscar nominee film we’ve seen this year. Loved it!”

Barbara Gilbertson:
It was an amazing experience, the March. Turned out I went to D.C. Bold choice for someone who doesn’t much like long bus rides, crowds, and some days even more than one person at a time.

I threw together a commentary for the Strib {Minneapolis Star Tribune]. It was weak sauce, and I don’t expect to see it published. but it helped me gather my thoughts. In much the same way as dissecting a movie after you’ve seen it before you go to the movie reviews to see whether you liked it.

The March was inclusive by every definition.
The March gave me experiential learning about intersectional feminism.
The March gave me a new framework for intersectionalism that extends beyond any given individual.
We had a boatload of intersectionalism at work in Washington, D.C.

I didn’t know anything but the diversity had crossed my radar until I got home.

The last two hours on our bus (#3, and named to honor Patty Wetterling) turned out to be the foundation for my 36-hour experience with the March and the Marchers. In the crowded confines of that bus, random access to a microphone (voluntary — some chose not to speak, but very few) emboldened those whose stories we had never heard to speak. Actually, more like summaries/overviews than stories. With deep dips to the core of the speaker. Powerful and often painful sharing. Knocked my big, knitted socks off. In fact, I suspect socks were flying all over the bus.

At age 74, I was the oldest woman on board. The youngest was 17. We were white, black, Asian, Hispanic. Male, female. Sexuality diverse. Experienced politically alongside neophytes. Extroverts and introverts. Telling true stuff about ourselves in the context of the March and the immediate aftermath…what we’d expected, what we got, what we thought we’d gotten but needed to digest. Some anger, some despair, buckets of tears and enough shared information to ramp everyone up at least one notch on the empathy scale.

Everywhere, all weekend long, The Big Question: What next? It was never answered to anyone’s satisfaction. Because no one knew/knows, exactly. But we started up a FB [Facebook] bus group (within three minutes of its being suggested…those college students are techie whizzes). We have been sharing extensively ever since we got home. The MN “chapter” of Women’s March on Washington is active. The national group is active as well. There are calendars of “do this today” ideas. There are hot issues surfacing almost hourly. With Trump in the Oval, how could it be otherwise?!

This is by no means an exclusive endeavor. Neither was the March. It was totally inclusive and, as it turned out, totally safe. Nothing bad happened. And it didn’t take long to know during the March/rally that someone always had your back, wherever you were, whatever you were doing. Not in a cosmically holy way, but in a very human being way. Small children. Babies. Moms and dads. Singles. Groups.

It’s only been 48 hours since this eagle landed. So frankly, I don’t pretend to know the answer to “What next?” But I’m absolutely confident there will be a “next.” Maybe a March. Maybe something different. The Blitzkrieg HQ’d in the Oval is intended to be upsetting and off-putting. And it’s working quite well. But what got started in DC (and St Paul, and Chicago, and LA, and Kenya, and little towns all around our country and the world) is not going away. It’s bigger and stronger than a hot, one-time idea.

I’ll keep you posted. But likely you and your compadres won’t be sitting around waiting for invitations or permission or, or, or to rise to this national crisis. So cross-posting seems like a marvelous idea, don’t you think?

POSTNOTE FROM DICK:: Check back in a few days to this or any blogpost at this site. Quite frequently, people submit comments which are both thoughtful and interesting. This blog is published usually about two to three times per week, on various topics. Guest submissions, like Barbara’s, are welcome. The main criteria are that they be constructive and respectful. Dick Bernard