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CIA: Communications Interfaith Activism

CIA is a freelance consultation and communications service for individuals and non-profit institutions seeking media assistance in printed publications and online services. Special consideration is given to religious organizations, particularly those inte

Updated: 2014-03-18T23:31:49.250-04:00


Advent Lessons & Carols


StreetProphets has a good article here on the meaning of Advent and begins a discussion on the Christian practice of Advent amongst a liberally spiritual community of bloggers and social acitivists.

Below is an edited version of the Catholic readings for today offered here for reflection on the journery.

Reading I:
They shall beat their swords into plowsharesand their spears into pruning hooks;One nation shall not raise the sword against another,nor shall they train for war again.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your walls, prosperity in your buildings.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Because of my relatives and friendsI will say, “Peace be within you!"Because of the house of the LORD, our God,I will pray for your good.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.


“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;only say the word and my servant will be healed.For I too am a man subject to authority,with soldiers subject to me.And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacobat the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”

I missed Ramadan this year. A time for focused, daily prayer. I feel in the mood and in synch with the church body to pray daily again.

The season of Advent, the faithful journey to the Christmas Birth, began this past Sunday. The week prior was the Feast of Christ the King, which is the last week in Ordinary Time. One week from Christmas, we celebrate the New Year on the Roman Calendar.

Add to that the "October Surprise" of various overlapping of religious traditions, the closeness of Chanukah and Christmas this calendar year and Passover and Holy Thursday in 2006 and you get the sense that Liturgical Calendars can and do have a real, visceral presence and importance in the lives of the faithful.

And I have been amused at the wealth of creativity our pastors have placed in their sermons during this advent season to heighten such effects. But I am also perplexed why those I have heard don't choose the simplest imagery of all for the Season.

The yearning patience, dilligence, and faith it takes to gestate, carry and labor a child to term.

Advent Lessons & Carols: Be laboring the obvious.
A Great Miracle Happened Here!

Rosa Parks: RIP


Washington Prepares To Pay Rosa Parks Rare Tribute at Capitol [WPOST]
"The nation's capital began preparations yesterday for a historic weekend, when civil rights matriarch Rosa Parks will become one of only 30 Americans ever honored with the pomp and ritual of a Capitol Rotunda viewing."

Rosa Parks, mother of the civil rights movement in the U.S., died Monday Oct. 24, 2005 at the age of 92. In 1955 she made headlines for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white man in defiance of segration laws then in force.

City buses are reportedly leaving the front seat open in tribute to her.

People Get Ready!
Rosa, your ride is free.

Monika Hellwig dies Sep. 30, 2005.


Hellwig, noted theologian and author, dies after suffering stroke
(CNS NEWS BRIEFS Sep-30-2005)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Noted theologian and author Monika Hellwig died at Washington Hospital Center Sept. 30 after suffering a severe stroke. She was 74 years old. She had just recently retired as president and executive director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Hellwig taught theology for more than 30 years at Georgetown University before taking up the ACCU post. Just days before her death she had taken up a new position as a research fellow at the university's Woodstock Theological Center. A former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, she received numerous honors and awards for her work, including more than 30 honorary degrees.

A Woodstock Forum held at Georgetown University just this past Monday marking the 30th Anniversary of the Forum, listed her as the moderator for "Re-envisioning the Papacy", a panel presentation which looked at the papal invitation of Ut Unum Sint and the Johanine call "that all may be one."
May you join with Pope JPII at the banquet that has been prepared and look kindly on us as we endeavor to continue in the ministry of God's invitation to gather us in.

Frere's Funeral Ecumenically Inclusive


At His Funeral, Brother Roger Has an Ecumenical Dream Fulfilled - [New York Times]
Petra Simmert, a schoolteacher from southern Germany, came with her husband and two children. She is Protestant, he Catholic; one child is Catholic, the other Protestant. "We're an ecumenical family," she said, with a laugh. Watching the funeral of Pope John Paul II on television, they saw Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, give communion to Brother Roger, even though he was not Catholic. "That struck us," she said.
In his closing homily on World Youth Day, Pope Benedict lovingly spoke of the Eucharist, the source and summit of the church. For Catholics, this is the Year of the Eucharist. While there are many devotions associated with this foundational sacrament and many actions which have proven politically divisive, Pope Benedict, other ecumenical religious leaders, and progressive writers, have continued to cmphasize the Gospel call of non-violence and the all embracing abundance and transformation of God's love. Triumph over sin and death.
May we be worthy of such remembrances on our eternal day.


Frere Roger, Taize Founder, slain


Brother Roger, 90, Dies; Ecumenical Leader [New York Times]:
"With his group of monks - including Lutheran, Anglican, Evangelical, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox members - he sought to create greater unity among Christian churches, but his focus above all was to awaken spirituality among the young people in Europe who were growing up "
I have to believe that there are songs on heaven and earth that console us and welcome Brother Roger's soul to his eternal home. Taize will continue to be an important pathway for many people of many faiths to enter into the Holy Presence stirring from deep within us and amidst our practicing community.

The Gift remains.
  • The BBC is taking comments after their article here.
  • Information on his deranged killer here.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry


He Would've Wanted Everyone to Eat [New York Times]:

"People judged your worth by how well you made rice. If your rice wasn't proper, my God."
My grandmother, when she was alive, often repeated the words: "Eat, drink, and be merry" as a supplemental grace before meals. Often she'd have the guts to include "...for tomorrow we die." More often, she'd simplify her savory psalms as "Eat and Eat!" And in our Filipino household, it was something we did with an overactive devotion.

I'm married to a Jewish woman now and as I read this NYT's article speaking of the different repasts that accompany funerals and mourners' celebrations, I recall all the food that was lavished on us earlier this year when we buried our son, Joshua Emet.

Sometimes, you just eat your heart out.

Some Words History Has Waited For


Fiqh Council of North America Issues a Fatwa Against Terror::

"The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam's absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.
Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram or forbidden - and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not
martyrs. "

BBC NEWS-UK Northern Ireland IRA says armed campaign is over

"The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann (the IRA) has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign. This will take effect from 4 p.m. this afternoon. All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means."

Tribe Platypus on TIKKUN'S call for Spiritual Progressives


From Tribe Platypus:
God is in our midst, once again. And while I am confident of the value religion has for politics of either side, I am even more certain that chaining it to politics runs the real risk of making religion itself "godless" in its orientation.
Rabbi Michael Lerner of TIKKUN joins others in the observation of how religious conservatives and the far right have managed to create an alliance over the years despite voting against their own interests. An uphill battle also seems to loom in which spiritual progressives on the Left need to not only reclaim religious values from within a largely skeptical or secularist movement, but must also press for a similar alliance for the sake of survival.

See related articles:

POLITICS-US: Response to Jim Lobe on London Bombings


POLITICS-US: Familiar Debate Resumes in Wake of London BombingsResponse by Jay CuasayWe can continue to argue the premise of whether or not the correct (or a correct) response to terrorist attacks is “to take the fight to the enemy.” At that basic level, the two sides drawn debate whether to prosecute terrorist acts as a crime or to wage a war on terrorism. Sides have been taken, for whatever the ultimate outcome might be. Personally, I tend to side more with prosecuting terrorist acts as crimes. Despite that position, I strongly resist the characterizations made by Karl Rove and other spinsters for right wing ideology that want to paint that position as “offering therapy and understanding” to such terrorists. I actually agree with Pres. Bush’s language that says we will use all our options to combat terrorists (by which I took this to mean not just military actions).On a deeper level, Lobe wants to highlight a different set of issues: Do terrorists hate who we are (i.e. the freedom that we stand for) or what we do (i.e. military occupation and capitalistic imperialism)? He also highlights international relations areas in which terrorism threatens progress: Israel-Palestine, the G8 Summit, EU-3 nuclear talks with Iran, for example.Overall, it seems staunch conservatives want to argue that we must continue to fight the war on terror. To not do so is either “appeasement” which capitulates to “Islamofascist” who will interpret this as a sign of weakness and increase their attacks or it is a naïve “distraction” that the free world cannot afford to make. At this point, I also have to note that terms such as “Islamofascist” come off sounding like think tank jargon, which to be fair, does have its place. But perhaps too, it should be kept in its place.I have neither the actual age nor the worldly history to back up this statement, but sometimes I feel like the U.S. is trying to make up for arriving late to world affairs. Dragged reluctantly into World Wars, which tended to be a more European affair or at least a war we fought “over there” to make the world safe for democracy, we now approach the world stage as if we understand what a global war is like. September 11th is our chance to rewrite the history of the Poland invasion, for example. It is our chance to stop a creeping evil empire.The trouble is, for the most part, all of the first world countries have benefited and lived some semblance of peace time prosperity stemming from the Post-WWII period. Yes, there have been other conflicts, and indeed other wars. But nobody is particularly excited about gearing up for an all out offensive, non-stop, World War III. Nobody, especially Europe with its memories of World War, wants to live that way again.We are not prepared or willing to be 100% vigilant and living under a militarization of whatever semblance of peace time we have. We do not want to live like we are Israelis (or Palestinians), and while the angst and perception of credible threat remains, we are still for the most part comfortable with our “distractions” of SUVs, reality-TV, Hollywood affairs, and celebrity scandal. We are also plagued by chronic issues of crime, poor education, environmental, and living standards, to name a few. And in that light, winning the war on this credible, great evil of a threat, does not seem to be the panacea.Instead, I look at the British response to the latest bombings and note that rather than up the ante of wartime aggression, rather than pledge more boots on the ground to “bring the fight to the enemy”, more sabre rattling, more militaristic talk, they have continued to do what civilized people do. Bury their dead, repair their damages, and bring in the civil servants (as well as military intelligence) to route out suspects and investigate the situation. London is trying to get ba[...]

Embryonic stem cell research


Comment by Jay Cuasay

I think it would be helpful if both sides of the debate agreed on some common language so that we do not simply talk past each other to reiterate our own steadfast positions. We would all be on the same page if we viewed the fertilized egg outside of the womb as potential human life (if implanted) and something certain to die/disintegrate (outside of the womb).

I would find the opposition more convincing if it did not try to associate stem cell research with the issue of abortion, where it views abortion as the taking of innocent, human, life. It should argue instead that it is opposed to the active intervention such research causes (outside of the womb), which advantageous though it may be, is inappropriate at such a time. Their slogan and sentiment seems to be: “Let them die in peace (outside the womb).”

Supporters might note that we would take a dying person's cellular materials for beneficial use if it was under the right conditions and not if it denied proper "human" dignity to the event. A similar ethical protocol could be enacted. A similar one is already in place to handle the discarding of such materials. And it should be noted that where science may appear too clinical to completely handle the enormity of this event, we have other psychological, theological, and spiritual means for understanding and processing these events, as well. Why not develop a way that gives a larger “humanity” and dignity to such an event? Their slogan could be: “Don’t just let us die, help us help someone else.”

Personally, the opposition to stem cell research in its heart may come from a right place morally. But it poorly stretches the skin of simplistic rhetoric to inadequately cover a vast body of issues. We need to be more complex and serious about the totality of this life and death event rather than playing chicken with it.

President Bush's initial decision to allow for stem cell research on existing stem cell lines was great politicking, but it makes no sense. It works in the sense that it is in effect, but it also lets the genie out. Other countries not bound by such self-contradictory laws will move forward and produce their own findings. We will still need to reconcile such activities and findings with our own clinical and moral inactivity. To handle this with our full human capacities, we ought to let theologians, scientists, et. al. have their say. And they should use the BIGGER words they have because the politician's vocabulary and thinking on this isn't effective and it isn't an answer.

Response to Thomas Cahill's NY Times Piece on JPII


“The Price of Infallibility”Thomas Cahill NY Times OP-ED Contributor, April 5, 2005Response By Jay Cuasay[Abstract of Cahill’s piece is available at :]I thought the best written piece, or at least the most comprehensive (though repetitive) piece was the NY Times obituary printed on Sunday by Robert D. McFadden prior to Thomas Cahill’s Op-Ed. Most other pieces try to present a generally even tone concerning the late Pope John Paul II's progressive and regressive contributions. Cahill's obviously opts for the latter more.I can't say that I agree 100% with Cahill’s assessment because I feel the need to put some clarifications onto the discussion. The big plus for JPII's papacy is that it breathed new life into the catholic church, post-Vatican II to present the religion as a world religion with moral force that had something to say to the modern world. In a word, it was still relevant. At the same time, post-JPII, we live in a world where the largest increases in catholics are in so called "developing countries", priests are in shortage, and Islam is on the ascendancy. Rather than evaluate that like a job performance review for the pope, I look at it from the point of view of what are its implications for the catholic church in order to maintain its global moral force and its perceived global mission?This to me, like Cahill is an issue of ecclesiology. What do we mean by church and how ought it to be managed? To me, this has broken up into the categories of discipleship and mission. But not everyone thinks in those terms on a day to day basis. In terms of ecclesiology, perhaps a helpful image is to say the church is a communion of communities (koinonia not just ekklesia). And thus, while I agree a strong centralized papacy with a rigid hierarchical structure is counter to this, we have to be careful about the structural solutions we put forth and the source of their motivations.Another term that we don't think of in day to day terms is MINISTRY. The pope is "the first bishop among equals." But perhaps a more helpful way of thinking about it is to see the pope as exercising the ministry of unity. Thus issues of ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, reaching out to youth, placing catholicism globally in a modern pluralistic context all become a different matter, a matter of ministry, not simply authority or authoritarianism.Many of Cahill's concerns tend to accord with dissent in the AMERICAN catholic church experience, particularly over sexuality. These same issues have a very different meaning, and ministerial response--for example reproductive choice for women, even poor women in the U.S. and reproductive choice as it pertains to the spread of AIDS in Africa. The former often appearing as a case of championing "moral values" or freedom to choose. In the other, it's mortally about basic subsistence and survival.Any way, to the extent the papacy is in need of reform, I suggest reading Ut Unum Sint [], JPII's 1995 document based on the Johanine passage "That all may be one". This is the document that perhaps would best present his thoughts on the papacy itself, especially paragraphs #88 and following. You will see a careful, ministerial and spiritual deliberation over the issues of church mission, papacy as office of unity, pope as one of a college of bishops, and the need to exercise functions of koinonia in that light.Finally, note in #96, the pope writes: "This is an immense task, which we cannot refuse and which I cannot carry out by myself. Could not the real but imperfect communion existing between us persuade Church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject, a[...]

Fr. Frank Pavone's Thoughts for this Past Week


Comment By Jay Cuasay

[Fr. Frank Pavone publishes a weekly column “My Thoughts about this past week” on Catholic Exchange. The following is a response to his April 4, 2005 column published April 6, 2005 by Catholic Exchange. Full text available at].

"United in faith" I do not see that grieving Schiavo's "murder" and "mourning JPII's passing" are of the same category. However, a parallel that I have NOT seen written about that ties the same respect for life and human dignity espoused by JPII and is deserving of scrutiny and criticism is the lack of accountability and initial move to secrecy that surrounded the priest sex abuse scandal, for which the church (and the pope in particular) were rightly excoriated, and the utter *lack* of similar interest and resolve to investigate, monitor and call into account flagrant human rights violations legitimized by the U.S. military structure and condoned by the present administration.

If the pictures from Abu Ghraib or the tortures and violations attested to elsewhere had instead been depictions of priest's simply "performing their duties" how would that have played out? How should the faithful and supporters of a "Culture of Life" have responded, especially for a war much of the world and the pope himself disagreed with? How do we legitimize such acts and give soldiers, the military, the commander in chief, such a free pass and allow this administration to so freely share "pro-life" language?

Will we with equal vigor, faith, and conviction, laud similar praises for such examples or seek instead proper judgment and accountability?

Jay Cuasay/CIA
Communications Interfaith Activism

Easter Interfaith: Jews and Christians


I also believe in Open DoorsBy Jay Cuasay(A Reply to Sue Rusell’s "Singing the Passion" available at Russell, writes about her experience of singing with a Christian choir, as a Jew, during the Easter Season and her impressions of the Gospel of John. Jay Cuasay responds with a look at the Gospel composition and audience of John’s and Matthew’s Gospels, liturgy from a inter-religious perspective, and a common orientation to the one God for Jews and Christians in post-Temple times.As a fellow musician who sings in many different liturgical circumstances, I can sympathise with the author for the personal and spiritual flexibility it requires to enter into Christian liturgical music as a Jew, especially around Easter settings. Perhaps some historical considerations might also be helpful, noting that each Gospel was composed at a certain time under certain historical realities. The best source for quickly framing both the Gospel of John and Matthew, in my opinion, is to consult Raymond Brown's Intro to the New Testament.Simply put, it's often easier to categorize Matthew's Gospel as more palatable toward Jews than John's. Matthew's Gospel is composed much earlier and generally speaking wants to take the theme that Jesus is the "New Moses". Thus it tries its best to show parallels between earlier Hebrew Scriptures and the salvation history of the Jews and the larger more universal salvation through The Way. The main audience for Matthew's gospel are still Jews meeting in synagogues and a number of gentiles (still in the minority) who have come to be interested in the God of the Jews through the stories they are hearing about Jesus as told by his Jewish disciples. Thus, it is a Jewish story told by Jews, imbued with Jewish religious language and understandable (at least in syntax) to Jews.John's Gospel is written after the destruction of the Temple. It is written at a time when gentiles to the Jewish sect have greatly increased and there is increasing acrimony between this minority sect (with its increasing number of gentiles) and the majority of Jews. John's Gospel also has a very radical departure from previous Hebrew scripture in the sense that it is almost a re-writing, or recasting of the entire framework. Note its prologue: "In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God." This isn't Jesus as the "New Moses" or even simply "the New Adam". This is Genesis itself "fulfilled" or amplified. This is part of God's plan for creation from the very beginning.Another perspective worth looking at is how it is possible that Christians (who admittedly) read/misread the offending passages in the past, today go to great pains to explain how such passages are now interpreted in light of Christian Jewish relations (inaugurated by WCC post-holocaust, and in Catholicism put forth in the document Nostra Aetate during Vatican II in 1965, and its subsequent work). Simply put, "his blood be on us and our children" has been taken universally to mean on all of humanity's implication in sin and our universal need to be redeemed by God. As for the role, historically, that Jews played in the crucifixion, it has been my understanding that blasphemy (a religious charge) was punishable by death, but capital punishment was not a sentence that any Jew could legally carry out. In any case, Jesus was handed over to Roman authorities as an agitator and executed by the power of Rome during Passover, when any threat of civil dissidence would be viciously crushed. This was after all Jerusalem--a backwater gulag of the Roman Empire.The final point I'd like to make returns again to comparative sympathy for a Jewish person experiencing Christia[...]

Post-Fallujah: Letter and Reflection


Sheila Provencher, from Jesuit Volunteer Corps. (Twin Cities '94-'95), is a Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) member currently serving in Iraq. Below is her letter and a reflection concerning the recent military actions in Iraq/Fallujah.
+ 0 +

Dear Family,
Thank you for all of the messages you have sent and all your
prayers. Here in CPT Iraq, we are starting a new effort to gather
all of our prayers together. Every Tuesday we will practice a Day
of Prayer and Fasting, with specific themes, intentions, and
suggested action steps. I will send more info on that in a new

This has been a difficult week. Although I cannot get out to our
contacts in Fallujah, I can see the reaction of our neighbors here
in Baghdad. Many express sorrow for the loss of young US soldiers.
All express horror at the terrible bombing and other violent methods
used to fight the insurgency. I do not know what images you receive
in North America, but my Iraqi friend saw TV images of "many" dead
women and children in Fallujah's streets. They had been there for
days. Can you imagine how some of the Marines felt when they
entered the city and saw what their bombs had done? Torture rooms
for hostages they discovered, yes, and weapons caches, but they also
had to face the results of their own violence. Also disturbing are
the numbers--in the hundreds--of US soldiers sent to the Landstuhl
Regional Medical Center in Germany. Only seriously wounded soldiers
are flown to Landstuhl. Is this getting publicity in the US? I do
not know--only you can help with that.

I wrote the following reflection one week ago during the bombing of
Fallujah, so as you can see it is dated.

Here is a spot of light--as I write, we are in the third day of Eid
al Fitr, the holiday at the end of Ramadan. The park across the
street is full of families, and I can hear the voices of children.
I send their laughter to you.

With peace,

[Read Sheila's Reflection: Listen]

Letter in support for hearing Howard Dean speak at Loyola


TO: Matt C. Abott, MichNews.Com
CC: Peter Facione, PhD (Provost, Loyola University)
FR: Jay Cuasay, MAPS (C I A: Communications Interfaith Activism)
RE: Letter in support for hearing Howard Dean speak at Loyola

I read your article in the Michigan News [1] about an upcoming speech to be given by Howard Dean at Loyola University. The close of the article asked people to write an email to Peter Facione, the Provost, expressing “concerns” presumably for having a politician speak who did not conform to the USCCB’s document “Catholics in Political Life.”

I am writing this email to express my concern for narrowness and rigidity in Catholic thinking.

In a recent Commonweal, the editors published two open letters. One letter to Senator Kerry[2] asks him to better clarify the intersection between his role as politician and his own Catholicism. The second letter, addressed to the U.S. bishops[3] cautions them against the simplicity of “black and white” moralism for the complexity of social issues.

In that light, I applaud Loyola’s invitation to Howard Dean from the point of view that listening not only to a politician, but a physician on women’s health issues might be of value. To hear a defense of marriage through an articulation of civil unions and civil rights premised on human dignity, might also enlarge the circle of understanding. More importantly, it may rekindle in us a language of human respect and decency so absent from the language of self-righteousness and moral superiority.

The approach you advocate through your quote of the USCCB document tends to present a model of social (in)action based on denial that there is lack of catholic consensus on these issues and a lack of social policy beyond turning our backs away from disagreement. Such activity seems counterproductive to the lessons affirmed by Vatican II which calls us into the world and into dialogue.

Progressive Catholics believe that we bring our values into the social arena to help build up the common good. We do not shrink away into catacombs where we minister to ourselves, but are called to minister in the world and be hospitable to the stranger and outsider, who may very well break into our hearts as one of us in need.

  1. Howard Dean to Speak at a Catholic University (Matt C. Abott)
  2. Dear Senator Kerry (Open Letter from Commonweal Editors to Senator Kerry)
  3. ...Dear Bishops (Open Letter from Commonweal Editors to US Bishops)

NAEIS and NAIN: The Access of Interfaith


National Association of Ecumenical & Interreligious Staff (NAEIS) and North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) hold joint conference and first-ever film festival in New York City.
(New York) NAEIS and NAIN, two North American organizations drawing members from numerous world religions and faith traditions held their first joint conference “Connecting Partners: Enlarging the Circle” July 24-27 at Soka Gakkai International in NYC. NAIN also launched its first-ever International Interfaith Film Festival, with screenings of 11 films in multiple New York locations. Film Awards were given for best feature length, documentary, and overall best submission.

Diana Eck, Harvard Professor and Director of the Pluralism Project, which seeks to provide a state by state mapping of successful religious partnerships, gave the opening remarks about “The Interfaith Movement and the American City.” Gillian Sorenson from the UN Foundation delivered the keynote address at the NAIN film awards ceremony and banquet enroute to the Democratic convention in Boston. Menachem Daum’s Hiding and Seeking, a film on faith and tolerance after the Holocaust, received top awards.

The goals and mission of the Barcelona Report for the Parliament of World Religions held earlier this month were furthered through multiple workshops and presentations, and worship. A consistent theme throughout was the inescapable violence and unrest in the 21st Century done “in the name of God.” While there are many causes and explanations, it was clear that world religions need to participate in interreligious dialogue and interfaith actions in order to work for justice and peace, while maintaining integrity and accountability. To that end, Tatiana Androsov, Jay Cuasay, and Stacy Smith received conference scholarships acknowledging the interfaith work of young adults in their communities and tapping their potential. Dr. Eboo Patel, head of the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago was also awarded the first NAIN Networking and Advocacy Award for his work.

More information available at the NAIN website:

Communion Q&A


Being Christian about the present political season By: Jay CuasayOf interest to Catholics who monitor their faithfulness internally, as a matter of individual conscience, and in the public forum of political debate, the issue of Holy Communion has been thrust into the spotlight. The seemingly pastoral question of to whom or under what conditions should communion be denied, has been politicized. Should Kerry receive communion? Should Catholics who are pro-choice? Are there other questions which we should ask ourselves? Such questions are not new. In fact, they are precisely the kind of questions we ask ourselves when we think about the Eucharist. If they have more interest now, we should ask ourselves why this is so. But as a matter of our faith as Christians, we should also be clear on the meaning of Communion. Cardinal McCarrick indicated as much in his recent talk with journalists and Catholics at Theology on Tap[1]held in conjunction with the Catholic Press Association in Washington. Cardinal McCarrick’s view of the situation essentially spelled out the position that the Eucharist was not meant to be a political or divisive wedge, and that the abortion issue should not be singled out as a litmus test for a candidate, especially not at the altar for communion. Such a misuse and misunderstanding of the Eucharist amounted to a “slippery slope” policy of exclusion. Similarly, excommunication over the abortion issue seemed heavy handed. New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright, also speaking recently in an interview with NCR’s John Allen,[2] aptly explained the relationship between abortion in the spectrum of “life issues” and Eucharist in the call to social justice. Drawing from the situation depicted in 1 Corinthians 11, in which divisions between rich and poor became an instrument of exclusion and abuse of the sacrament, the continuing Christian understanding is that fellowship and service are required for Holy Communion. What is true then is true now. What formed as an early abuse of the sacrament then, still implicates us today. It is not the case that “the church teaches x, but this person says y, therefore they should not be allowed to receive the Eucharist,” said Wright. Such a framing is too small. Wright goes further, citing the history stemming from the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement that served to prop up the Western banking system and place much of the remaining world in debt as a modern day example that mirrors the Corinthian situation. Given this situation, we shouldn’t even think that “abortion is the issue,” claims Wright. Rather, if we are to truly be Christians of proper faith and practice we need to examine the structural conditions that have led to this persistent division and maintenance of basic inequality in human life. In the current political climate of the upcoming presidential election, it is a persistent temptation to identify a candidate’s stance on a particular issue in conjunction with how a person of faith should vote. Though it may be naïve to consider the “Catholic vote” as a uniform body, or even as a nuanced demographic, it is much more vital that we do not confuse the sacrament of Eucharist as it implicates us in fellowship and service, with how it is improperly used to legitimize exclusion. Rather than let the pundits write about us or politicians court our vote in this light, it is much more important that we understand the meaning of Holy Communion and the call to social justice.[Jay Cuasay is a graduate of Washington Theological Union where he received a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies with a concentration in Mission and Cross Cul[...]

Ramadan 2003: Day #29


Day 29: November 24, 2003
CONSTRUCTING PEACE TODAY, Message for the End of Ramadan,‘Id al-Fitr 1424 A.H . / 2003 A.D.

Summary of document:

Truth, Justice and Love
Presupposes our Freedom
For Pillars to Pray
+ )
‘Id mubârak.

Ramadan 2003: Day #28


Day 28: November 23, 2003
Homeward bound, began with breakfast in one of the adjoining sun rooms. We brought home with us one English guest, as far as Shady Grove, but shared the trip home in sun drenched goodness…quite the opposite of the dark passages through the mountains that had been our ascent.

My reflection: There was something palpably different about this wedding than any I had ever been to before. A journey, just far enough, to let me feel its growth, to touch upon the memories I share with my own beloved, and new enough to reverence Hope with speechlessness.

-Weddings take you on your way home-

Ramadan 2003: Day #27


Day 27: Saturday, November 22, 2004
Today, the news was saturated with the anniversary of JFKs assassination, challenges to Shevardnadze’s power, and the impending law suit against Michael Jackson. Silly, I know.
Today, thankfully for us, was a different agenda: waking up to room service and breakfast in bed, followed by a second nap. Outfit #1 for the wedding ceremony in a rather expressive St. Vincent’s Basilica, which lived up to its name. A rather interesting Gospel midrash which joined together Jesus’ discourse on divorce with his instructions to “a certain rich man” to sell all his possessions and to “follow me.” A Koan or parable that replied to the question of divorce saying: “If you have already given all of yourself away to another, what else do you have to sell?” Return to our room at the Inn, with its splendid view to watch the sunset and change into evening attire.

If I were to succinctly express the harmony to which we were invited witnesses, I would say two things: First, the lay of the land in Pennsylvania was so self-expressive. The weather could not have been more gracious, but also the curve of the hills, the mixture of farmland and small town, could not have been more reminiscent of an English country-side into which I am sure the Burton family must have felt welcomed. Secondly, someone in the family assemblage of the Kristofs, prepared homemade butter cookies as part of a dessert offering. Someone, out of such love, made “a batch” of homemade cookies for some 130 or so wedding guests as a personal expression and participation in this event.

It was the best cookie ever!

Ramadan 2003: Day #26


Day 26: Friday, November 21, 2003

+ 0 +
On Shabbat we travel, not knowing how this shall end.

I give it all to YOU.

Ramadan 2003: Day #25


Day 25: Thursday, November 20, 2003
Tonight WTU bids farewell to Ken Himes, OFM who leaves us to Chair the Theology Department in Boston.

Ken Hime’s Christian Moral Life was the first class I took at WTU. It was the first graduate theology class I took in a “Catholic” institution to which I found myself as an adult in faith. I remember that his warmth and personality impressed upon me two things

First, that I was truly in the right place studying what I was meant to be studying. Another student, years later, related to me a very good way of expressing this feeling: “Ken made you feel good about being Catholic (again).” It was BOTH the good and the again that really touched upon a felt history of experience of the struggles that emerge in living a life of faith, and to the particulars of living this particular Christian way of life. Ken brought back the wholesomeness of its original promise.

Second, Ken provided a very succinct sense of discipleship and mission. This was stretched out over two semesters from Moral Theology (how to be a disciple) to Catholic Social Ethics (how to preach the Gospel today). But really, it could be succinctly expressed as “falling in love.” Not just conversion as perhaps some sort of quasi-mystical or radical life altering experience, but a very today-ness simplicity of living in a loving world as lovable people in love with one another.

Who is the Other? Threat or Gift.
Only YOU can answer "I love you" as the measurement of such a gift.

Ramadan 2003: Day #24


Day 24: Wednesday, November 19, 2003 A rainy, wet, dark day. But one that also came with a realization. A recent court case in Massachusetts has placed the issue of civil-unions, and more specifically, gay-marriage into the social-political debate. Pundits wonder whether or not this political hot-potato will go off in the upcoming campaign. A recent NPR news story said that whoever raises the issue first tends to be the first to get hit in the face by it. Other commentators mentioned that while conservatives and right-wing Republicans might rally around something like a Defense of Marriage Act and bristle at the notion of gay-marriage, it would be very difficult for them to come out in the open to fight for this issue without sounding like bigots. I actually wasn’t so sure. I’ve lived most of my life “out in the open” and have heard all sorts of bigoted, racists, close-minded, and hurtful comments that I thought would have been weeded out a long time ago, if not by government interventions, than by religion, social mores, or some kind of notion of civil decency. Last night, as I walked in the rain through the parking lot of a nearby grocery looking for my parked car, several locals passed me by. My locale came into slow focus and I realized how racially diverse an area I live in, despite the fact that one might mistake our part of Loudoun County as just another fairly affluent, conservative, suburbia of Northern VA. I also reflected on the fact that at least half of my parish is made up of interracial couples—many of them “white/asian” like Eileen and myself. Most of the time, I never think of Eileen and myself as interracial and I’ve only started thinking of us as inter-faith because my pastoral identity and ministerial focus emphasizes a theology that takes that distinction seriously. It had never really occurred to me to label couples on any deep and judgmental way based on the fact that there was a marked difference either between themselves (say by race) or between them and my own marital relationship. My suspicion is that the increase in interracial couples is probably because these people too have grown up in a generation that wasn’t terribly oppressed or confined by such a regimented notion of who could marry whom. Nevertheless not less than one or two generations ago, or perhaps even now in some household somewhere, this STILL is a divisive issue. And I wondered to myself, if perhaps in another generation, I might look around my parish setting and note Betty Anne and Ilse, or Rob and Andrew, as couples. And it would take me a moment, as it did with these other couples, to see through all kinds of layers and say—oh, that’s one of our gay couples—and have that mean no more than some other description, and perhaps much less than the fact that they too, like others amongst us, stand side by side, hand in hand, in love, in service, in faith with us. No, I don’t know if this issue will be a divisive one with any traction in this election. I know that people like to rally behind something that gives them a sense of identity or power, and nothing feels as alluring as self-righteousness or moral superiority. People, for all kinds of reasons, like to bring their faiths to bear upon issues of social value or point to social statistics for interpretation. But again and again I am struck by the tactics that set up a world in which that which is inalienable to humanity is categorized as privileged and rese[...]

Ramadan 2003: Day #23


Day 23: Tuesday, November 18, 2003
I received two prayers yesterday. This morning I received another, via email, from a cousin on the West Coast. She has been the center of family activities the last few months—being the online connection for postings from my Grandmother’s Memorial, and then the sudden passing away of two other relatives.
In the tumult, which subsided as news like that tends to do after awhile, I suddenly remembered that she recently celebrated her engagement and wedding shower—and like others in my life, I eagerly anticipate her wedding this upcoming summer in Toronto—my childhood home away from home.

The closing of the online prayer asked to simply say a prayer for the person who sent the email. And I was happy to recall that piece of forgotten hope and promise amidst the litany of other memories.

On arriving at work, I received an email thanking me for a prayer I had sent out earlier in Ramadan. I also opened a package from Maryknoll, who was sending out their Advent Reflections: Hoping, Seeking and Demanding Justice. Tonight, at the Center, we have invited some area parishes to discuss a new program and to also join in a Pre-Advent Reflection.

So this prayer may be on one hand too early for a season not yet upon us, but not too early for the conditions in which we live:

Prayer in a Desperate Advent
O May all hearts be broken
with stories of squalor
and horrors of war.

O May all be haunted
by the screams of the
tortured and the faint
whimpering of a hungry
child dying.

O May Madonna images
from Africa, Iraq
inner-cities everywhere
burn deep
Píeta embraces of unnecessarily broken bodies
pierce our comfort

O Dear Compassion
May a path be made ready.

Through the desperate wails and gnashing of teeth
O May Justice be birthed.

O Dear God.

Ramadan 2003: Day #22


Day 22: Monday, November 17, 2003
Arnold got sworn in today. Terminator II was on the Spanish Movie Channel. CSPAN was covering debates on Medicare. TBS played Rain Man. The Primaries continue with Dean celebrating his 55th in DC, Bush prepares to visit Britain, causing $8M in British security fees, FTAA is gearing up in Miami, Virginians sigh with relief that the Sniper convictions may end in death penalties, ICJS is gearing up to protest the release of Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic movie, Passion...

Channel 29 ran Pleasantville.

That was Monday.