This practice began a little less than a year ago, when yet another act of gun violence touched our city and our faith community. As the church, we focus on prayer, on care for the victim's family and on advocacy to change a system which perpetuates injustice. We look to the wisdom and action of faith heroes like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Archbishop Oscar Romero as we speak, as we march, as we call for action, as we work for change.
Several years ago, March 24th -- the date on which we remember the death and the life of Monseñor Oscar Romero -- fell on Palm Sunday. I was working at a suburban sister church to the urban church where I am currently a member, and with a great team of folks coordinated a Palm Sunday Peace March. My middle school son pulled out his marching snare and led all the Sunday School kids and brave adults around the block in freezing cold temperatures, singing. We carried a banner: When the Power of Love overcomes the Love of Power, the World will know Peace. We carried cardboard doves on sticks, with peace scriptures and pictures of our peace-heroes glued to the doves. We carried salt. We carried light (when the candles were not blowing out). We marched around that block waving palms, honoring Romero and giving praise to Jesus, the one who brings peace.
|Peace Scripture used on the Peace Doves|
I'm not sure what kinds of seeds were planted in the hearts and minds of the children on that Palm Peace Sunday. We can march for peace and the march itself can be a good and happy experience, even a learning experience; but how does the march impact who we are, what we say and what we do when we are not marching? How does marching as a community lead us to live as a peaceful and just community?
As Christians, we believe that our job in the world is to grow peace by planting love. We plant love with Sunday morning hugs, sack lunches for hungry children and after-school tutoring, with visits and warm meals. We plant love by marching with grieving families in the streets, by bringing seeds of hate into the light, by nurturing forgiveness and by working for justice. Romero said, "Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of the cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty."
After that Palm Sunday Peace March, I folded up the banner and tucked it away, thinking we might use it again someday. A few years ago, I borrowed it for an All Saints Peace march in the city. Since then, it has seen more than a few marches and has become the backdrop for gatherings at our church. When it shows up in a photo on Facebook or in the media, some of the kids (now adults) who painted it send me comments and ask questions and I wonder...what seeds were planted in the hearts and minds of the children as they marched for peace?
Thank you, Oscar Romero, for your light, your witness, your wisdom, your example.