PROVOCATIVE WORDS FROM POPE FRANCIS and THE LOSS OF A LIVING SAINT: Sister Antonia Brenner 1926-2013

PROVOCATIVE WORDS FROM POPE FRANCIS

I’m not a Catholic, but I admire the new Pope and the missions and ministries of many Catholics the world round. I am a practicing Episcopalian (as I like to tell people, I’m not that serious, I’m just practicing). But I am serious about my commitment to issues of social justice and my activism is informed by my desire to follow in Christ’s footsteps, My fight (and I am a fighter)  is always strengthened by my faith. I’m not a literalist and I don’t lose myself in ideology or dogma. I’m more interested in the mystery than I am in search of certainty. I believe you have a right to a God of your own understanding.  And I’m not alone.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget the progressive wing of the Christian faith, the ways in which abolition and civil rights and gay rights and women’s rights have been fought for and won by those acting on Christian conscience. And those are the headline grabbers. But each and every day in a much quieter way random acts of kindness, love, caring, and compassion are put forth into the world by people acting out their faith.

For every Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian who runs with the Tea Party crowd, there are progressive Christians who are feeding the hungry and clothing the needy and even fighting for the hungry and needy to earn living wages that restore their dignity and allow them to be self-supporting. For every Al Qaeda suicide bomber, there are Muslims practicing their faith in ways that further justice and peace. For every Conservative Jew who thinks Palestinians should be taken out back and shot, there are enlightened Jews who recognize the humanity of everyone and the insanity of an apartheid-like state in Israel.  For every Buddhist burning down the houses of non-Buddhists in Myanmar, there are those seeking mindfulness and serenity and pursuing non-violence.

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Because my cultural and family tradition is the practice of the Christian faith,  I pay especially close attention when someone like the new Pope makes a provocative a statement like the one he recently did about ideology and ideologues:

“…when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

Way to go, Pope Francis. You’re fast becoming one of my heroes. 

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THE LOSS OF A LIVING SAINT: Sister Antonia Brenner 1926-2013

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While the Pope is in Rome, some heroes are much closer to home. Just south of the San Diego border lived another unsung “Mother Theresa,” Sister Antonia Brenner who died recently at age 86. She was particularly extraordinary because in the middle of her life she decided to give herself a second chance and turned everything she knew upside down. I imagine many thought she had lost her mind, but she knew better. And so she changed her life and in turn changed the lives of so many others.

Sister Antonia Brenner began life as Mary Clarke in Beverly Hills where the success of her Irish immigrant father’s office supply business afforded her family the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Growing up, Cary Grant was just one of her well known neighbors. She was destined to become a “Real” housewife of Beverly Hills.

 And so she did. She married and raised seven children, four daughters and three sons. But not everything worked out as planned. Sadly, her first marriage ended in divorce, as did a second. At mid-life, her children now grown and searching for something more, she was moved to make a change.

 In 1977 her choice was clear. She gave away all her expensive belongings, took holy vows and moved to Tijuana, Mexico to take up residence inside a penitentiary that she knew of previously through outreach and volunteer work. As Sister Antonia Brenner she lived just as the inmates in the penitentiary did, in a 10 by 10 foot cell. She lived and worked freely among the inmates who looked upon her as an angel in the flesh and referred to her affectionately as “Mama”. She was deeply respected and loved both inside and outside the prison walls.

She would tell new inmates “Don’t be afraid. Christ was a prisoner just like you. He knows what it’s like to be arrested and interrogated and sent away. He knows what it’s like to be hated and mocked and humiliated. He hasn’t abandoned you. In all of the Scripture, he doesn’t speak a word against you,” (quote from http://www.thecatholiccatalogue.com)

In the 1990’s she founded her own religious order to continue and expand her work, the Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour. http://www.eudistservants.org

 She often returned to Southern California to raise money for her work and to visit her family which had grown to include more than 45 grand and great-grandchildren. But she always returned to the prison where she lived and ministered for 30 years.

 Speaking of Sister Brenner, Father Joe Carroll, who once ran the St. Vincent de Paul Village in San Diego and knew her well, said:

 “Rhyme, reason – you can’t rationalize why she did it. She [had] that one-on-one relationship with God.”

Sister Antonia Brenner 1926 – 2013.

 May she rest in peace.

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To read the Los Angeles Times Obituary of Sister Antonia Brenner, click here http://www.latimes.com/search/dispatcher.front?Query=Sister+Antonia+Brenner&target=adv_all

To read the New York Times obituary of Sister Antonia Brenner click here http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/us/antonia-brenner-prison-angel-who-took-inmates-under-her-wings-dies-at-86.html?rct=j&q=sister%20antonia%20brenner&source=web&cd=9&ved=0CFYQFjAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2013%2F10%2F21%2Fus%2Fantonia-brenner-prison-angel-who-took-inmates-under-her-wings-dies-at-86.html&ei=62FlUpN7s-XIAYaSgPgB&usg=AFQjCNFNDnqaFl_VV5kCFB4-1kFhi9tsBA&sig2=KTwSZwPnc0SNyt5Fiw-z9A&bvm=bv.54934254,d.aWc&=

To learn more about the Eudist Saints of the Eleventh Hour, or to make a donation click here http://www.eudistservants.org

 

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OBAMACARE, SATAN, HITLER MOUSTACHES and the “WHITE SUPREMACIST ISN’T DOING HIS JOB” HAIRCUT

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It’s been pretty frightening lately.

It would make sense that I’d be scared, being in a fight against cancer and all.

But what’s more frightening is the insanity surrounding the current U.S. President and his healthcare reform program that was passed into law.

For one thing, I am alive right now due to an early pilot rollout of the Affordable Care Act in my county. I’m an example of someone whose life was SAVED by what they call OBAMACARE.

For another thing, people I actually like shock me when they get on the subject of President Obama and/or the ACA.

I thought I’d found a great barber in town, a nice man who was still operating the same shop after 25 years. But on my third visit, while reading a Los Angeles Times newspaper article on the ACA with an accompanying photo of President Obama, I caught my barber looking over my shoulder. Seeing the image of Obama, he stiffened.

“You know, yesterday I had one of those skinheads in here to get his head shaved,” he said, and then went on to describe a tattoo on the back of this man’s head that is consistent with the white Supremacist movement.

My barber continued. “I told this guy, ‘Hey you’re not doing your job.’ And he asked me what I was talking about. I said ‘Obama’s still in office.’ We both laughed.”

I didn’t.

And now I don’t get my hair cut there anymore.

Then there has been all this nonsense and government shutdown over the “we must stop Obamacare at any cost” agenda of those on the right. Notice I didn’t say extreme right, because they aren’t on the extreme right. They should be on psychiatric lockdown at the nearest hospital, but instead they are right in the creamy center of the GOP.

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And then there’s Satan. Yes, recently Justice Antonin Scalia reminded us of the personhood of Satan and his wiliness. And so many of these anti-Obama crazies are convinced that our President is the anti-Christ and signing up for Healthcare under the ACA is secretly joining the Satan Fan Club. It’s all linked together in an apocalyptic conspiracy to destroy the world. But according to Representative Michelle Bachmann who sits in the House of our glorious United States, that is actually a good thing. Because it means Jesus is coming back super fast. “Maranatha!” she said in a recent interview, which is kind of like saying “Cool dude,” in Evangelical Christianese.

Yesterday, while driving home along Highway 62 I passed a group of protesters with posters of President Obama with Hitler moustaches painted on them. It’s usually such a scenic drive. This view just made me want to puke.

But worst of all, just now while writing this post in the local Carrows I had to move to another table in the restaurant because the old couple next to me who are obviously on Medicare would not stop talking about the horrors of Obama and his ObamaCARE at the top of their lungs.

I interrupted the couple and  said to them politely but firmly, “Excuse me, but you’re offending me with all your loud talk about Obamacare.  And you don’t really know what you’re talking about because I got cancer in February and got insurance through an early rollout of ‘Obamacare’ and wouldn’t be alive now if it weren’t for that. And I was here before you, quietly enjoying my meal, but you came in and sat down and now you’re talking so loudly and offensively that I’m going to have to move to another table right  in the middle of my dinner.” I started to pack up my laptop and pile my silverware onto my plate.

“You don’t need Obamacare,” The old man’s wife told me. “There are things like cancer societies and charities that you could have gotten help from. You didn’t need that.”

I shook my head.

“My cancer treatment has already cost over 500,000 dollars and you don’t know what you’re talking about. There was no cancer society rushing to give me insurance. And aren’t you on Medicare, maam?  Isn’t that a government healthcare program?”

That’s when the old man told me that “I’d better move” or he was going to “make” me move with some kind of violent assistance.

And that’s when I really lost my temper. Because I don’t have to take that. And I’m not going to.

“You need to shut the fuck up,” I told him, “Because before you were offending me but now you’re threatening me, and if you want to do that then I’m going to call the police and we’ll see how this all ends up.” His eyes widened, but he didn’t stand up or make any other movement because he could see I was damn serious.

That’s when my waitress intervened and stood in support of me. And then  the old man’s wife wisely reached her hand across the table and grabbed hold of his arm and told him to keep quiet.

Like all  bullies he finally backed down. And indeed he should have.

I have no doubt that tomorrow they’ll still be bitching to each other about the crazy faggot who went off on them in Carrows while they are standing in line to pick up their Medicare Part D prescriptions at Walgreen’s. All paid for by the government financed single-payer system for those over 65. I-N-S-A-N-I-T-Y.

My mom is going to cringe when she reads this, knowing I said the ‘F’ word to some senior in Carrow’s — but mom, he threatened me and I needed to let him know I was serious. He deserved it.

They used to send ambulances with trained medical personnel to put people like this in straitjackets and take them to the hospital to protect the rest of us from their dangerous delusions. And they’d provide them with medication and compassionate care. Not anymore.

Now they just let the nutcases roam free and hold office. They’re also running barber shops and cutting our hair, waving signs and shouting at us from the roadside as we drive by in our cars, sitting next to us in restaurants talking at the top of their lungs and saying the most offensive things with no concern for anyone else around them. Beaming out at us on television making arguments with no legitimate facts or figures behind them. Frightening half the populace with talk of the devil and death and evil and ruin and the apocalypse all wrapped up in a little brown secretly muslim tootsie role named Barack Obama.

What crazy world are we now living in? What the heck is wrong with these people? And why do we have to put up with them at every turn? It’s wearing me out.

In a final SHOUTOUT from LOONEYTOWN, two-time Republican Tea Party Candidate for Idaho’s state House Gregg Collett hates Obamacare and doesn’t think “…the government should be involved in health care or health insurance,” even though his TEN kids are all on Medicaid.  (you can read more about Mr. Collett at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/10/18/1248637/-Idaho-tea-party-candidate-wants-government-out-of-health-care-has-10-kids-on-Medicaid?detail=email

My final thoughts are summed up in the cartoon below. The only way to get through this is to not lose your sense of humor. But even though I’m laughing, I’m scared. People really are getting frightening.

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