Saturday, April 26, 2014

I Spent Good Friday at a Trial

For many years Good Friday has been a special part of the Holy Days for me. I live in the privilege of the Western world which is deeply resistant to discomfort. And Good Friday seems like the only day in the liturgical calendar where we acknowledge suffering and do prayerful actions in solidarity. I’m often with some of my favorite people on this day. 

This year, however was very different.
On this Good Friday, I had several choices of observances. In particular, there was the Pax Christi Metro New York Good Friday Way of the Cross. Always a moving experience as a crowd proceeds prayerfully along 42nd St. beginning at the United Nations and ending at Port Authority, stopping at relevant sites of corporate and militaristic injustice. Many of the sisters in my community make this an annual event. Many of my faith based activist friends were at The New Sanctuary Coalition’s event, Stations of Deportation- An Immigrant Crucifixion. Considering the stalling on immigration reform legislation that has frustrated so many of us in the Catholic community this would have been a very intentional way of commemorating Good Friday. But instead I chose to go to a trial along with two other clergy friends, both women priests in the Episcopal tradition. It seemed like a really original way to observe Good Friday. But I wasn’t prepared for how dissimilar it would be. 

It was the trial of Cecily McMillan who is being accused of felony assault of a police officer. Cecily does not deny injuring the police officer when he grabbed her breast from behind and she flung her elbow back as a reaction. The prosecution argues it was intentional, so this is the point of dispute. Doing an online search of Cecily McMillan will garner you pages of sources of details of the trial including many pictures of her injuries from that night. I had attended previous days of the trial and even brought students from our Criminal Justice major. It had always been quite interesting, but this day was different. It was the end of the questioning of the officer. It was hours long, remaining seated on wooden benches; no electronics allowed; listening and listening to deconstruction of the events of March 17, 2012 in excruciating detail. Each piece of evidence having a memory and emotion tied to it. Some in the court room had documented evidence of being beaten by NYPD on that same night although the ADA clearly stated in pre-trail motions that, “what other officers were doing on that night has no bearing in this case”.

So here’s the part that was different. All those other wonderful events have always left me with a sense of self-satisfaction. They have a cleansing effect, in a strange way absolving me of my complicity as US citizen. This did not. It was actually traumatizing in itself. This was going over and over the violence of the night with those who experienced it first hand in the room. And here’s where I think choosing the trial was really different. Most of our Good Friday events rarely include those who are actually suffering from state sponsored injustice even remotely akin to Jesus. This did and it felt terrible, all day. It has me asking myself, should I really feel good on Good Friday?
--Susan Wilcox

Friday, April 18, 2014

Let Us Rejoice

Once again we walk the sacred path,
Once again we contemplate sacred mystery,
Once again we are blessed in our remembering,
Once again we die and rise.

Yet this time the stories are deeper because our lives are richer for having lived another year, prayed another year, shared another year. What a blessing it is to be here and now, in the unfolding of life, and of religious life, with its hopes and its challenges.

I am blessed to have the opportunity to plant veggies and flowers, trees and shrubs. As I tend the good things of the earth, I sense Earth's Creator tending me, nurturing my spirit, watering my soul, building and nurturing the dream. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Claiming Sisterhood

National Catholic Sisters Week was celebrated a month ago, for the very first time. I wasn't able to attend the main celebration in St. Paul, MN, but there were celebrations, liturgies, rallies and other events across the nation and lots of attention from media and on social media channels.
There is one phrase that stuck with me from all the events and images, posts and tweets, that the event was about Claiming Sisterhood.
That one brief phrase has echoed with me in the weeks since the celebrations. For me, claiming sisterhood says that we are coming to an understanding of religious life as a reality broader than any one congregation. There is a growing sense of who we are as a movement, that is an umbrella over who we are as individual congregations. The reality between congregations is increasing, even while the reality within is decreasing.
The wordle that I included here is one borrowed from the FCJs. Could it not be so much the same for so many of us in our newly-claimed sisterhood.
As I sit with it, I ask myself: what do I resonate with? What would I add?
The thing about a wordle is that it is not a statement, it is not an assertion. The power of a wordle is in the relationship between the words. Intersubjectivity. So I think the power of sisterhood is being found in the relationships among us, as we realize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
May we be blessed in our emerging sense of sisterhood.