By Rose Marie Berger
a communal lament
Blessed are you, Lord our God, Keeper of the Universe.
You have thus far kept us alive and preserved us.
Though Sister Death arrives with swiftness now into our circles of care,
We praise You and remember that You alone
are keeper of the Book of Life.
It is You who sends Your Angel Death into the world dressed as a broom;
You who fashioned us from earth, mixing straw and mud with Your own breath.
You blew Time into our nostrils, making our days like fruitful herbs,
which green up in morning, flower and flourish at noon, then fade by close of day.
In humility and grief, we stand before You now, mindful of all we have not loved.
We acknowledge through tears and fears, through our grief, sharp or dulled,
that You alone are God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
We, though many, are not gods. And now, small and frightened, we stand
before the power of viral death that sweeps through the corners of our world.
We are small and afraid of the media’s measuring stick of dead and infected.
We are small and afraid before the needs of our family, neighbors, and congregations.
We are small and afraid listening to tales told by rulers who are full of sound and fury.
We are small and afraid in the face of scarcity and those who demand to be paid.
We are small and afraid before our isolated, individual selves—
self-quarantined, sheltering in place, locked down—and we long for the casual
affections of others. Continue reading
Image via Kayla Lattimore
By Rose Marie Berger, re-shared from Sojourners
I spent five hours as a guest of the U.S. Capitol Police last week. It was hot, really hot. And those plastic handcuffs leave bruises.
I was one of 71 Catholics arrested by the U.S. Capitol Police in the rotunda of the Russell Senate building in Washington, D.C., for “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding” while praying the rosary. My prayer was — and is — to end the warehousing of immigrant children in cages — 63,624 of whom have been apprehended by border patrol at the southwestern border between October 2018 and June 2019 and seven of whom have died after being in federal custody since September. More than a dozen Catholic orders and organizations sponsored the event. Seven Catholic bishops sent letters of support. Continue reading
By Tommy Airey
This book review of Rose Marie Berger’s Bending the Arch originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Geez Magazine.
The day after the brutal massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, there was a blizzard. The snow highlighted the innocence and purity of the victims. However, the whitest of snow could not cover the extent of Indigenous blood.
I recently heard this story told by Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, and a few days later I found myself stranded under two feet of snow in Northern Paiute land, sitting next to the fire with Rose Marie Berger’s newly released book of poems, Bending the Arch. Continue reading
Once a young woman asked Rose Berger, out of the blue, to baptize her. I watched as right then and there, Rose summoned sacramental power and beauty pouring water and speaking holy poetry. So, when Rose publishes a book of poetry, I pay attention and call upon all of you to heed her cry. -Lydia Wylie-Kellermann
Bending the Arch, By Rose Marie Berger
RD: It is a heavily annotated poem, can you talk about the relationship between the poetry and the history and information in the back?
RMB: It’s a good question. I just finished reading Micheal O’Siadhail’s The Five Quintets, a 350-page poem examining the Modern era with no endnotes or explanations. It’s a stunning, ground-breaking work. But it requires a lot of work by the reader. Bending the Arch requires a lot from the reader also, but I wanted to lower the bar a little. Make it a little easier and more accessible. There are themes in Bending the Arch that I want readers to explore more on their own. My hope is that the endnotes will encourage readers to dig into the suppressed historical narratives in their own families and regions. Continue reading
By Rose Marie Berger, Heidi Thompson. Re-posted from sojo.net.
LANCASTER, Penn. — More than 500 people gathered in a hot and dusty Pennsylvania cornfield yesterday afternoon to join the Catholic sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ for the dedication of a new outdoor chapel, built on land about to be seized from them by a corporate developer planning to build a natural gas pipeline.
The chapel is an outdoor arbor built by a local craftsman, Jon Telesco, and contains an altar surrounded by wooden benches. (The tradition of building “booths” in the wilderness to mark prophetic presence has a long history in biblical tradition, including the “brush arbors” used by enslaved African Americans for worship.) The sisters dedicated the sacred space on Sunday by reading from their community’s land ethic adopted in 2005. Continue reading
Day 8 of our Lenten Journey through Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” Speech.
Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.” It can never be saved so long as it destroys the hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that “America will be” are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
By Rose Marie Berger, a senior associate editor at Sojourners magazine
Between the first and second sentence of this paragraph, Brother Martin fully entered into his “vocation of agony.”
Between these two–the first, where he holds America accountable to the ideals of her founding and the second, where he begins his sharpest theological critique to date–King “sets his face like flint” (Luke 9:51; Isaiah 50:7) toward the center of military empire: Washington, D.C. Continue reading
Today, we begin our Lenten journey together, daily meditating on the words of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers. I also want to say that I consider it a great honor to share this program with Dr. Bennett, Dr. Commager, and Rabbi Heschel, some of the most distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation. And of course it’s always good to come back to Riverside Church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it’s always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit.
I come to this great magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization that brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.
Highlights from Rose Berger’s April 2007 Sojourners Magazine interview with Vincent Harding (photo above: Rose with “Uncle Vincent”), the author of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech:
The Riverside speech (variously called “Beyond Vietnam” or “Breaking the Silence”) named the sickness eating the American soul as “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.” It was a watershed moment. Continue reading