The Season of Advent
The Season of Advent is upon us--less than one week away!--and Benincasa Community invites you to join us as we prepare our hearts and home to welcome the stranger. Last year at Benincasa Community we immersed ourselves in Advent by challenging the Catholic Church to open its doors for refuge. Because the Catholic Church is the largest private land owner in Manhattan and selling its vast stock of vacant property (like hotcakes!) to the highest bidder, we called on Cardinal Dolan to stop the sales and open these doors for housing. This year we will again call upon Catholics and Cardinal Dolan to use our Church's vacant property to welcome strangers--whether they are our very own neighbors in NYC or those seeking refuge from other countries.
This election has highlighted the critical importance of resisting divisiveness, in the Church and world, while building a wider community dedicated to the "good news." Below, Jimmy reflects on three transformative responses to this current moment.
We also invite you to join us December 18th, as we come together in song and prayer to more lovingly welcome the stranger.
"Many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' Do not go after them." - Luke 21:8
Unfortunately, many did go after him. Donald Trump won the Catholic vote at 52% , and white Catholics were even more excited to support the Donald, at an astounding rate of 60% . Critical swing states with large Catholic populations: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all went red.
Political satirist, John Oliver tragically described the glaring parallels between Donald Trump and the Catholic Church on his show, Last Week Tonight, from shallow positions on the meaning of pro-life to the misogyny, white supremacy, and financial exploitation of others in our community.  I think this is a good time to sit with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he spoke of white churches in their response to the Montgomery Bus protest in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, “…some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.”
Obviously, there are many factors in an election. With this we must acknowledge the complicity and empowerment that Catholics have provided Trump in this election. As people of faith, committed to creating a world rooted in dignity for all humans and creation, how are we to respond? The good news is there are many ways, here are a few that come to mind as being especially urgent.
Jamie Manson, writer for The National Catholic Reporter, elucidates, "The parallels between the demonization of women who seek equality in the church and women who seek equality in political office are not coincidental."  We cannot deny this parallel. Women must be allowed and encouraged to perform all sacraments and hold decision making positions within every level of the church. We have missed so much by not having their voice on the pulpit for homilies, we are only half consecrating the Eucharist when we limit the power to men, and our politic has been skewed. Now the oppression in the church is spilling out into the streets. At Benincasa Community, our liturgies are inclusive and we hold up Dominican Sisters as the theological leaders they are. We must continue to move forward with grace filled tenacity, heeding the call of St. Catherine of Siena to “proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.”
Expansive Understanding of Pro-Life
Perhaps ironically, the single voter issue that swings the mind of many Catholics is their pro-life belief. What if we expanded our understanding, and were truly pro-life? In support of Pope Francis' call to “welcome our brothers and sisters fleeing war and hunger, violence and the cruel conditions of life” we are planning an Advent action to highlight the opportunity the Church has to welcome refugees through its various vacant properties. We hope to listen deeply to the call of Jesus to forgive “not up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven!” by supporting, through our organizing space, those who promote restorative justice in the face of mass incarceration, militarization of the police, and the death penalty. When we realize that we are the body of Christ and thereby we are the spirit that make up this church, then the possibilities of how peace and equity can be built becomes wide and exciting.
Bastions of Joy I had two encounters with women religious in college that shifted my heart. One was a Sister running a Hansen's Disease (leprosy) clinic in Ecuador, the other was while living with a village of undocumented immigrants in rural Georgia. What so transformed me was that in these tiny communities of seemingly little hope, the sisters emanated a deep joy. It flowed out of their being in a way I had never seen. Joy like this transforms. By being in touch with creation, and rejoicing in the living Christ, perhaps we could tap deeper into the joy inside and around us. As St. Thomas Aquinas states, "The immense diversity and pluriformity of this creation more perfectly represents God than any one creature alone or by itself.”
Grounded literally by the earth, by the cosmos around us, and by the ever embracing God, may we tap into this energy to produce a joy that cannot be denied. As Catholics, we are always being called to give witness to a nonviolent movement of love. Open us to co-creation with our Creator, towards a more dignified and inclusive church, country, and world. While Jesus gives a stern warning not to follow false prophets of exclusion, death, and despair, he then immediately promises: “I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” - Luke 21:15