Facing Our Powerlessness

Over the last several days I have been gifted with Ribbons coming in via snail mail or email as folks have sent me pictures of the panels they’ve made that depict “What I fear will be lost in a nuclear tragedy.”  Over the next 12 days I plan to share those with you as we go about creating our “virtual” Ribbon.  

The one you see above was created by the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota.  Accompanying the email was this information,  “Incorporating seventy-five hand-folded paper cranes (sent by Japanese atomic bomb survivors (Hibakusha) and their supporters)…we are actively engaging in the days of Remembrance, the 75th Anniversary,1945-2020, through prayerful reflection, reading, and table conversation focusing on historical understanding and empowering actions throughout the Monastery community.” 

The Sisters continued, “Our ribbon will be placed outside of the Oratory at St. Benedict’s Monastery, where Sisters will add their written reflections, prayers, and petitions, reaffirming a communal commitment of responsible living.”  I am looking forward to the time when I might see that Ribbon panel in person.  I am impressed by their commitment to engage in “prayerful reflection, reading, and table conversation” over the days leading to 75th Anniversary Commemoration.    

Marilaurice invited me to be the homilist on August 9.  She and I have exchanged some thoughts on how we might engage this Blessed Community in the sharing that follows the homily.  I am proposing that we commit to a Novena over the next 9 days, following the Benedictine Sisters’ example of “prayerful reflection, reading, and table conversation” but with an added twist.

Justine Merritt, the originator of the Ribbon project in 1985, spoke of the value of acknowledging the fact that we live in a nuclear age.  “I had been unable to confront my own fears of nuclear war…I became angry, grief-stricken, terrified.  I felt powerless.  The idea behind The Ribbon from the beginning was to face that sense of powerlessness.”  She continued, “When I was making my own Ribbon panel, I found that as I would thread my needle, I was confronting the fear, confronting the grief and terror.  As I drew the needle up through the cloth, I was praying for peace, and the prayer became an affirmation of life.”

Over the next 9 days, I am inviting you to engage your prayer-filled energies in creating your own affirmations of life.  Here are two options for you to pursue, both with a bit of challenge to them.  These are not required activities but each holds an opportunity to reflect in a different way to explore this difficult topic. 

Option 1: Take a blank page of paper 81/2 x 11 and draw/color/design your own mini Ribbon piece that depicts “What I fear will be lost in a nuclear tragedy.”  We know that some of what is created will be works of Art.  But every design that is created will be a work of Heart.  We welcome both!

Option 2:  Not comfortable with visual art?  Then how about turning to words?  “Japanese Haiku is an elegant, timeless art form defined by the arrangement of syllables and the spare evocation of a concept, emotion or natural event. When written in English, the classic form is three lines of five, seven and five syllables.”

Here are some examples from a Haiku competition held in Nagasaki in 2010.  The theme was the atomic bomb.

 Diane Mayr wrote:   

    the sun cannot know

    the smudge on the ground

    once had a name

Sue Burke wrote:

    haunting images

    a devastating price to pay

    for peace

Sue Burke also wrote: 

          Nagasaki, Hiroshima

          names etched in the memory

          of our collective guilt


 — A Bowl Full of Peace by Caren Stelson.  This is the latest book written by local author Caren Stelson.  She will be retelling the story at the August 8th Commemoration event in St. Paul.  Please go to her website to learn more about the books she has written and her commitment to this cause.

In Stelson’s Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story, “Grandmother’s bowl was the only object Sachiko’s family found when they returned home after the atomic bombing of their city at the end of World War II. As Sachiko’s story unfolds, the bowl becomes an image, a thread, an endowed object on the altar of memory and peace.”   

– Watch “Radioactive” available on Amazon Prime.  “From the 1870s through our 21st century, RADIOACTIVE tells the story of pioneering scientist Marie Curie (Rosamund Pike) through her extraordinary life and her enduring legacies – the passionate partnerships, her shining scientific breakthroughs, and the darker consequences that followed.” It did get mixed reviews but I found it interesting.

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