Triduum Reflections 2016

Everywhere across the globe Christian communities are participating in Holy Week traditions. Here in “mission country” St. Francis of Assisi School in Lumberton has a highly visible tradition: The Stations Walk. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but having just returned from this 3-mile walk with Jesus I must say that I was moved and inspired.

Jesus may not have walked 3 miles to Calvary (it was less than a mile by some accounts, and just a fraction of a mile by others), but this 3 miles is significant to this community.  It became significant to me today.  St. Francis Church is in Lumberton, off the Reservation, while our sister parish, St. Patrick’s, in on the Reservation in Dulce.  The praying of the Stations of the Cross begins inside St. Francis Church and ends inside St. Patrick’s with a 15th Station, The Empty Tomb.  Between the two Catholic churches we stop along the way to reflect on each of the 14 Stations.

Along the way I tried to help keep people off the road and kids out of arroyos and ditches.  I also tried to remain reflective and prayerful.  Difficult!  I was reminded of the marches with the CIW that I participated in while in Florida; walk at a slow pace, three-by-three, and pass out water and snacks along the way.  God bless the wise elders in our  Dulce community for the donated water, juice & oranges at Stations 4 & 8!

Our Jesus was rather fit this year.  By the 3rd station many of us were lagging far behind, huffing and puffing, and ready to jump in the “rescue Jeep” leading our procession.  At Jesus’ pace we would have reached St. Patrick’s by 10:30 instead of the estimated noon-time arrival!  With a gentle suggestion, a bit of pace-correction, and a firm teacher gaze, we soon settled into a more prayerful pace that suited the older participants, one pregnant mother, and several families pushing strollers.

Once I was able to breath again, relax, and observe (I’m getting over a severe sinus infection this week), I noticed amazing things on this journey.  First I found myself toward the end of the 130+ procession imagining myself actually following Jesus on his way to Calvary.  That made me want to cry.  Then, just as we began to climb a slight incline, I realized that I couldn’t see Jesus, but I could see the tip of the cross.  I found myself calling to children who were straying off the path “Keep your eyes on Jesus!  Stay on the path!”  Soon I found that I couldn’t see Jesus or the cross.  At first I felt a sense of loss and even fear, but then I realized something amazing.  We were all moving forward and following Jesus.  I reflected on my own life and what happens so often in everyone’s life.  How often do we lose sight of Jesus?  How often do we lose our way?  How often do we feel lost and alone?  The best thing to do is to find people who are on the path following Jesus, and follow them.  When I feel lost and struggling with my faith and hope, I should always look to those whose faith is strong for help.  Eventually I will find Jesus again and be given strength for the journey.

Another gift I found on this Stations Walk is a woman named Dulley!  She subbed for me so that I could be with my family when my grandmother died in late January.  I love this Apache woman!  What an amazing spirit!  She walked the whole way & brought the oranges earlier on our walk today.  When nature called, she stopped at a gas station in Dulce and picked up a mother and her two young girls from Boulder, CO who were just passing through.  Several others in Dulce joined our procession around the 12th Station.  Again I imagined what Jesus’ actual journey must have been like.  I imagined those who knew Jesus and who had followed him for the last three years following him on this last journey.  Then I imagined people who didn’t know Jesus asking “What’s happening here?”  During the last 3 Stations I saw several faces that I had not seen before; rather like the workers in the vineyards.  It doesn’t matter when we arrive to help, we all are called to do the Father’s work, and we are all invited to share in God’s love.

So, in the end I thoroughly enjoyed the 3-mile Stations Walk followed by this evening’s Holy Thursday Mass.  I think the key to any of the Triduum traditions is to cast yourself in the role of someone who may have actually been there.  Mary Magdalene is my patron saint.  At the end of mass this evening I found myself in church, almost alone, feeling very much like Mary Magdalene at the tomb; lost and uncertain.  As the Gomez family was locking the Sacristy and getting ready to leave, I asked if they were locking up the church or coming back later to lock up.  I said that I would go home if they were locking up, but if nobody was staying with Jesus, I didn’t want to leave.  This was a new feeling.  It was decided to lock up the church, go home and prepare for Good Friday.  I truly felt like Mary Magdalene without her Lord.

This was by far one of the richest Holy Thursday I have ever experienced.

Thank God!


Consumers Hold the Keys of Change

When I read stories or hear news about the brutal violence that laborers in the fields suffer, I am horrified.  Although conditions in most US agricultural areas have improved, pockets of inhumane conditions still exist.  But this is not the case in Mexico, South America, China, and other parts of the world.  For many of these countries and regions modern slavery is the norm, not the exception.  In October 2014, 43 Mexican students were disappeared and murdered by an extremely corrupt political system in partnership with a local drug cartel.  The more I read the CIW’s story “Fear and Fair Cannot Coexist,” the more I wanted to vomit.  The phrase “man’s inhumanity to man” doesn’t even begin to describe the gruesome acts of violence committed against ordinary people who simply want to work, raise their families, and live their lives free of violence, fear, and injustice.

How is it that, in the 21st Century, we still have slavery and a seemingly never ending supply of people willing to commit such acts of violence?  How is it that we have not grown in a more positive way as a society?  Poverty is certainly part of the problem, but I have come to believe that we consumers must also share in the blame.

As with any complex issue, we cannot expect to find a singular solution, and I am not interested in finger-pointing.  Many factors contribute to the problem of modern slavery and a culture of violence, fear, and intimidation.  A solution to this systemic problem will happen only when all the contributing factors seek change, but we must begin somewhere.  I cannot hope to change the corrupt governments of foreign countries; that’s just unrealistic.  But, I can use my personal “power of the purse” to affect change.  We all can.

As consumers we hold the keys of change in our wallets.  We must stop demanding lower prices for everything from produce and meat to clothing and manufactured goods.  Our addiction to stuff is out of control!  Statistics show that most Americans throw away food at alarming rates, and change our wardrobes with the seasons or according to the latest trends. We consume far more than our share of the world’s resources, we are #2 (China’s #1) in our production of greenhouse gases, and we demand products that cost next to nothing.  Our very lifestyle is not only unsustainable, it is what drives modern slavery and encourages unsafe working conditions in factories and fields.  It is also what is contributing to Climate Change and the destruction of Earth’s land and water, but that’s a whole other topic!

So I started this year by asking myself (again), “How can I change my patterns of behavior to help create a society that is both fair and sustainable?”  For starters, I have re-committed myself to eating as much local and seasonal food as possible.  I’ve gotten pretty good at putting-up fruits and vegetables, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.  Some staples such as coffee, flour, olive oil, and coconut oil are not available locally, so I make sure I purchase Fair Trade and organic as close to home as possible.  I am also stepping up my game in the clothing department.  My sewing skills are basic, but I do enjoy learning new tricks (I just learned how to make continuos bias tape!).  Besides, sewing my own clothes using US organically grown cotton just feels good on so many levels!  I know what your thinking:  “But your creative, Maria!  I’m not!”  My mother says that a lot!  With Pinterest, YouTube, and all the technology out there, I believe anybody with a passion for sustainability and justice can discover ways to do just about anything.  There are no excuses in this modern age.  We can do better!

As always, personal actions help, but getting friends and family on-board is necessary.  The more people are aware of injustices in our world, the more impact our buying power has.  As consumers each of us has a voice, and we voice our opinions and express our values every time we make a purchase.  Eventually places like Mexico will be ready for justice in their fields and factories, but we consumers will have to take the first step using our buying power.

Holiday Activism for the Family Dinner Table

My classroom is tidy again, I’ve left school behind for Christmas break, and I have NOT taken home any school work!  I hope my fellow over-achievers out there are able to do the same in the coming days & weeks (especially you teachers!!!).

So much is going on at this time of year; I am always amazed at the busy-ness around me. Some of it is necessary, but much of it is not.  Support for, prayers for, and the work for peace and justice, however, never takes a holiday!

With so many issues in the news lately I wanted to focus on some things to consider taking part in and passing along that don’t involve demonstrating en masse in Ferguson, NYC, or DC (although I do encourage that!).  Many of us will be spending time with family, and this is the perfect time to drop little seeds of knowledge about the issues we care about.  Now, I am not advocating for starting family feuds over politics, religion, or other potentially volatile subjects!  Try a more subtle approach.  I have found some links of interest below that I think will help with re-educating the family.  If your family is anything like mine, you’ll have some explaining to do, and at some point you’ll just have to “agree to disagree” until Easter (or Passover)!  I can get away with a lot around our holiday table:  I bring desert & rule the homemade whipped cream bowl.  No whip for the unruly!

So here’s what I’ve found to share at this year’s Christmas dinner with the family:

With gift buying and giving come concerns about child labor, workers rights and their dignity, as well as Fair Trade and sustainably made items. Even if you make your gifts, it’s worth going that extra mile to make sure your supplies are sourced with these things in mind. Some good sources for guides & information include Fair Trade USA, US Department of Labor, and Free2Work, among others.

Many of us will eat out over the holidays. Many restaurant chains are being urged to take steps toward buying produce from sources that respect the workers dignity, and provide fair wages for their labor.  Those of you who know me know how much of an advocate I am for the CIW (Coalition of Immokalee Workers) and the Fair Food Program.  They have made such amazing progress over the last 20 years!  Corporations like Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, Chipotle, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Wal-Mart have signed the Fair Food Agreement and are now part of the solution to improve the lives of farmworkers and their families.  But now, in the wake of the LA Times investigative report into the labor practices of Mexican farms, we find several Corporations  who are guilty of being complicate with the growers in Mexico who deny their workers the most basic of human rights.  As we gather ’round our plentiful tables, we must consider where our food comes from, and who harvests the apples in our pies, the celery in our stuffing, the grapes for our wine, and the mined minerals in the devices with which we capture our precious moments on social media.

There is a new petition addressing some of these concerns. Click here to add your name to this petition letting Subway, Darden, and Safeway know that we insist on oversight and victim compensation.  If it’s wrong for US children to labor in the fields for 12 hours a day, with few (if any) breaks, and for a mere pittance, then it’s absolutely wrong for children of other countries to do so.   If you click here you’ll find this petition and several others from Fair World Project.

And, finally, I ask you to pray for peace.  No matter what your beliefs are, no matter what formal, informal, traditional, or non-traditional faith foundation you may practice, prayer is powerful.  You may call it by another name, but if you are silent with your thoughts, you are in prayer, and your prayerful energy is joined with that of others.  That’s what makes prayer so powerful!  I ask that you join me & my community in prayer on January 6th as we pray for 3 special Sisters on a special mission.  I also invite you to pray for peace daily.  Peace in our world, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts.  Every day.

Merry Christmas, everyone!



Human Rights Day

Today we celebrated Human Rights Day.  When I consider the words with which we communicate, I often pause at the matter-of-fact way we toss them about.  “Celebrate.”  By its very definition “to celebrate” something means to put it high above everyone or everything else; to publicly praise, applaud, honor, commemorate, or otherwise observe in a joyful way a noteworthy event or anniversary.  Whether it is an accomplishment, a birthday, anniversary, prize, or victory, for me a celebration is a time to reflect on what’s been achieved.  So, can we really “celebrate” Human Rights Day, or is it more appropriate to say that we “commemorate” or “recognize” December 10th as Human Rights Day?  Either way, today is a day to stop & consider how we participate daily in support of human rights.

Perhaps I’m being a bit cynical, and I welcome any gentle nudges in a more positive direction, but, have we really made great strides in the area of Human Rights in the last year?  In the last 50 years?  I am so happy to be a part of a group advocating for Human Rights and Dignity in the field (CIW), and great strides have been made this year by the members of the CIW as well as by the businesses that have recently signed on.  Wal-Mart is a new Fair Food partner (although they have a long way to go on other human rights abuses!).  Many other companies and farms have become partners of the Fair Food Program over the years.  This is progress!   So where are Publix & Wendy’s on this list of supporters?  OK!  Perhaps I’m not cynical, just demanding & impatient?

As Americans, however, I think we have become too indifferent in our response to human rights abuses in our own country and around the globe.  With this year’s high-profile murders of unarmed African-American citizens by the police, the inhumane treatment of children & families at our borders, the human trafficking and other forms of modern day slavery that take place in our country & around the world, I wonder if we have made any progress in improving human rights.  Oh!!!  And don’t get me started on this week’s CIA Torture Reports, and the latest on Brazil’s human rights abuses! (still processing this disturbing information!).  Heartbreaking and unbelievable; I am simply horrified by all of it!

While I ponder human rights abuses and our necessary response to these atrocities and injustices, I will also consider how to actively engage others in recognizing the human rights abuses that have become a part of every-day society.  Please share your thoughts on how you address these human rights issues.

As this years Human Rights Watch slogan suggests:  Celebrate human rights, not just today, but every day!


CIW Movie “Food Chains” in WPB via TUGG!

This will be short & sweet & then I’m off to sleep…. The film “Food Chains” is opening in select theatres on November 21st. The film has won rave reviews at some of this year’s film festivals. It is all about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the group of workers from the tomato fields of SW Florida who continue to work (since 1993) for human rights, dignity, justice, and fair food.  If you live & blog in Florida, please re-blog or share the link on your social media sites.  There will be a screening of the film in West Palm Beach on November 22nd, but only if we can sell another 32 tickets!  Click here for the TUGG link to this event & get some tickets!

Knowledge is half the solution to any issue.  The more you know, the better you can help advocate.  The more you advocate, the better our world becomes.  It’s an exponential thing.  Let’s get this film screened on the Treasure Coast & help spread awareness.  Publix & Wendy’s are sweatin’ it out.  We need to turn up the heat!

CIW Makes the NY Times Front Page!

And is it any big surprise? For the last few months the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has been making headlines in the news & all over the internet & social media: First Wal-Mart signed on to the Fair Food Program in February, and then Del Monte Fresh Produce just a few weeks ago. All this has been happening while the CIW and their supporters have been focused on campaigns to get Publix & Wendy’s on board. What a boost to have such a major newspaper like the NY Times highlight the Fair Food Program and all the good this program does for thousands of workers in Florida’s fields!

When a group of hard-working, determined people come together to right what is wrong, and bring about major change in an industry over-wrought with injustice & human rights abuses, it’s such a joy to see those efforts pay-off.  The recognition that the CIW & it’s members have earned in just the last year alone is overwhelming.  The struggle for human rights, respect & justice in the agricultural business is long overdue.  Today the film “Food Chains” premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC.  Hopefully this film will open new doors for the CIW and provide for more opportunities to expand the Fair Food Standards to more and more farms across the USA.

Congratulations CIW!  There is still work to be done, but it looks like there are many more hands to help with the work ahead.


24-Hour Vigil Participants, 15 March 2014. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” ~~~MLK


Now Is The Time Tour: It’s a New Day, Publix!

As the night gave way to a new day Julia made her way up and down the sidewalk waking the weary with “Up! Up! It’s a new day!”  <sigh>  Yes.  I fell asleep somewhere between 4:30 & 5:30 am.  If it’s “always darkest just before the dawn,” then I think it stands to reason that the coldest hour of the night is also just before the dawn.  I think the cold finally made me succumb to sleep.  Lots of us took one or two little “power naps” throughout the night.  The naps, the coffee (did I mention there was a 24-hour Starbuck’s less than 2 blocks away?!), & the breakfast burritos helped give us the energy to make it through the night, into the morning and another day of action.

We continued our vigil and greeted the new day with prayer, singing, sharing and more coffee.  We all began peeling off the “layers” as the chill of the early morning quickly became another warm, beautiful, sunny day.  More sharing from members of the CIW and the supporters helped keep us focused on our mission and before we knew it, it was noon.  After eating lunch the tents, tables, and the “stage” were disassembled & loaded onto vans & the truck that would lead our 3-mile march.  One final announcement from Gerardo before unplugging the mics:  “The two Port-O-Pots have reached capacity & are no longer in service!”  I wonder if perhaps Publix can find meaning in this tongue-in-cheek metaphor?

The newly energized vigil-keepers were soon joined by many, many more supporters.  People began arriving from all over Florida and goodness knows where else.  The shuttle vans carrying supporters ran non-stop until 2:00 pm when it was time to begin the 3-mile march to Kryger Park at Mirror Lake.  The line of supporters, marching two-by-two, extended the length of the sidewalk, across the street, and down another sidewalk for at least 1/2 a block!  Although I don’t have an exact number, all reports indicate that 1,000 (maybe more?) were marching.  I watched Gerardo going through the line counting us all.  I also know that there were plenty of people who were back at the park setting up tents, chairs, water stations, and a new stage.

The 3-mile march didn’t drain me, it energized me!  Naturally I ended up next to the Reverend from the Orlando UU church, and Elena laughed when she found us bringing up the end of the line “talking shop!”  I caught up with Gwen, Rob & Gail at the rally.  I welcomed the shade, the water, and the chair to sit in.  Fun fact:  Rob was one of Michael Livingston’s professors when he was in college.  Small world!

I’m happy and humbled to have been able to join the CIW on this vigil.  What an incredible experience!  I truly am blessed to know such amazing people.  The CIW, their families, and their many supporters hold a special place in my heart.  The 10-day, 10-city tour came to an end Saturday evening, March 15th, but the struggle for systemic change in the agricultural industry continues.  The women of the CIW closed the rally with a very powerful message for Publix, Wendy’s, and others who would profit from their abuse, “We will not take one step backward.  We will only continue forward.”


My brother & mother picked me up around 5 pm Saturday. They said I looked like a vagabond! At least they brought coffee & bought me dinner!