Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hiroshima, Nagasaki and St. Lawrence, the Martyr

 THE LAMB CATHOLIC WORKER, Columbus -  Yesterday was the feast of St. Lawrence the Martyr (Aug. 10) who was grilled alive, yet was filled with the grace of God to the level of having humor.  “The story goes that even as Lawrence was being burned alive on the gridiron, he said [to his executioners]: ‘Turn me over, I’m done on this side.’” (Word Among Us, Aug. 10, 2012).  His courage and good humor are seemingly attributed to the first reading on his feast day: “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that … you may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8).
       Some of these good works have been done very recently, on Aug. 6th and Aug. 9thacross our land by many faithful peacemakers in commemoration of the horrific bombings of the innocent civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan during World War II.  My father, Tom Siemer, was among the protesters, having given a peaceful witness at the Pentagon both days (at 82 yrs. old!), exhausting himself.  He is a former weapons dealer who feels he has a lot of making up to do over his sin of participating in the “military industrial complex,” a money-making set-up for war productions (many times selling to both sides of wars for profit).   Let’s just say he made himself a channel for war instead of a channel for peace, as the St. Francis song goes. His theme was not, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,” but, “let there be war on earth and let it continue with me.”
       His heart is of pure gold though and he has spent the last thirty-five years spreading Christ’s peace message across the world, especially among Catholics, and particularly in the realm of weapons of mass destruction and the potential ending of the human race (and all life as we know it) - with the massive unimaginable radioactive clouds that would spread across the entire planet from more modern nuclear weapons. Fr. George Zabelka, the former military chaplain over those who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki also spent much of his later life boldly speaking out against weapons of mass destruction.  He agreed with Pope Paul VI at Vatican II that "every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and humanity, which merits firm unequivocal condemnation" (80, 81).  He was a good friend of my father who marched with him across Ohio for nuclear disarmament.
       The concept of what its technology was turned into was so upsetting to one discovering/inventing scientist, Albert Einstein (splitting the atom), that when he saw what his contribution was being turned into, he stated:  “If I had known, I would have been a clock-maker."  Moreover, those "tiny" weapons used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki are pinheads compared to the blast and destructive level of current ones. 
       Modern weapons of mass destruction and their magnitude of blast, damage, and death are so counter-creation, so counter-sacred human life, and so counter-God that in creating this new man-made unstable element for the periodic table – Plutonium - scientists could name it after nothing else but the Greek "god" of hell (or Hades), PlutoAnd to think it was not a part of God's plan of creation (which is all very good) - we did it with our own hands.  We brought hell to Earth.
       Why St. Lawrence and the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?  He was grilled alive and they were grilled alive. Furthermore, there are several Catholic connections.  To begin, Nagasaki was the Catholic center of all of Japan, thanks to St.Paul Miki and the other Japanese martyrs long before.  In addition, an entire religious order of sisters was wiped out in one day as well as most in another order. Some there had a quick death, but most, a very slow and painful death of radiation sickness, deformities (for the fetuses in utero during the radiation blast whose DNA was altered forever), leukemia, and other cancers.


       My heart is filled with joy to see my fellow Catholic Workers doing prayerful and peaceful demonstrations against weapons of mass destruction in service to Jesus, the Prince of Peace. I am also proud of the leadership of our Catholic Church in the area of weapons of mass destruction and disarmament:
“One of the most serious [challenges] is increased military spending and the cost of maintaining and developing nuclear arsenals. Enormous resources are being consumed for these purposes, when they could be spent on the development of peoples, especially those who are poorest. For this reason I firmly hope that, during the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to be held this May in New York, concrete decisions will be made towards progressive disarmament, with a view to freeing our planet from nuclear arms”
         -address of His Holiness Pope Benedict [emeritus] to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps for the Traditional New Years Greetings,
“With the persistence of tensions and conflicts in various parts of the world, the international community must never forget what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as a warning and in incentive to develop truly effective and peaceful means of settling tensions and disputes. Fifty years after the Second World War, the leaders of nations cannot become complacent but rather should renew their commitment to disarmament and to the banishment of all nuclear weapons.”
            -address of His Holiness John Paul II to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Japan on their “Ad Limina.”
       Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J. (91 yrs. old), another of the stalwart “greats” in the Catholic peacemaker (and poet) world exposes this theme of firey death poignantly in his poem, "Shadow on the Rock":

Shadow on the Rock

At Hiroshima there’s a museum
and outside that museum there’s a rock,
and on that rock there’s a shadow.
That shadow is all that remains
of the human being who stood there on August 6, 1945
when the nuclear age began.
In the most real sense of the word,
that is the choice before us.
We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race
now in this generation,
or we will become shadows on the rock.


        Having just spent my third of a three-week retreat at the grave site of Thomas Merton (Brother Louis), in honor of his life work of theology and holiness, in addition to his unwavering peacemaking (he was mentor to Fr. Daniel Berrigan), I ask his special intercession at this time of building two new nuclear weapons facilities in the United States. Also, pray against nuclear energy, with all of the wind, water, and solar sources to tap all around us, as there is a direct connection of the nuclear power business and nuclear weapons business.  They cannot make nuclear weapons without the spent and highly radioactive "rods" from nuclear facilities. May we be channels solely of love and of peace, and not of danger, destruction, and bad stewardship of this beautiful world God has made.
       At this outdoor site above, where these famous men are conversing and planning peacework,  I also meditated and prayed.  Pray for us, Fr. Dan and Brother Louis!  St. Lawrence and St. Francis also pray for us! Mother Mary, Queen of Peace, intercede for us before your beloved Son!