I've been a student of nonviolence for over 50 years. A very poor student unfortunately. But the topic is not as easy as one might think.
While I spoke often on nonviolence, I never fully comprehended that what I needed was to address that personal anger within me. So as I entered my 80s I began to have what I call epiphanies. Sudden and unexpected comprehensions that my most important work was to find a way to end that anger. One of the most important experiences happened here at Newman. When Bishop Barber exiled Fr. Bernie & Fr.Bill It created such a wave of anger many in our community left. I was so filled with anger, I could hardly contain it.
But I knew that, because I was a spokesperson for nonviolence, I had to get over it. Someone once told me, "if you can't forgive someone start by praying for them." And so I did for 3 years. I usually serve breakfast on the last Sunday of the month and so when JC would happily tell me that the Bishop had joined them in serving, I was relieved that I was not there.
Around Christmas a friend told me a story of how the bishop visited the women prisoners at Santa Rita Jail to say Mass and would introduce himself, simply as Fr. Michael. The story touched me and I found myself saying that I was very near to forgiving the bishop. Lo and behold - New Years morning as I served breakfast the bishop came and joined us.
I was struck, by his humility, as we shared our feeling in small group after breakfast Much to my surprise, I found myself liking him. Several months later, he totally captured my heart when he said, "I can't be here every week, but I look at my watch and think they're serving breakfast @ People's Park."
Now I always look forward to seeing him and tell people that I have come to love this man. This has upset some parishioners. To me, this transformation of my feelings was a miracle. I often say "he's a complicated man. But aren't we all? Aren't we each filled with paradoxes and contradictions?"
This thought has transformed me in other relationships. It has allowed me to reconnect with my younger brother, who I've been estranged from for over 20 years because of deep political differences. My brother, like the bishop, is a complicated man, and I am an extremely complicated woman with paradoxes people would probably never believe.
All of this is about the journey towards nonviolence, in that I knew I couldn't hold that hatred in my heart and proclaim to be a student of nonviolence, because the core of nonviolence is love. Loving our enemies is the hardest command that Jesus gave us, and I suspect, it is a lifelong struggle. But we have to begin with little steps and know that God will walk that journey with us. – Kara Speltz