The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vow of Nonviolence

I went to the Pax Christi Conference and took the Vow of Nonviolence. I have to admit that I was sort of half-hearted about it. No, I don't have any objections to the content--I truly believe in the nonviolence of Jesus. But I'm not really a "vows" type of guy (except for the big ones like marriage) and especially not in this context. You get a large crowd of people are they are all asked to take an oath, it just seems fishy to me, no matter how good the intention. I don't like the Pledge of Allegiance, either. I hadn't been discerning much about non-violence to the point where I could have felt ready to take a vow. I wasn't against it, but I just wasn't "there" yet. So I mumbled through it and just wasn't sure where I sat with it.

But I feel like I'm taking the vow every day now, little by little. I was very moved by Fr. John Dear's workshop session at the conference. He talked about our absolute addiction to violence. We always think that one more war, one more fight, one more argument, one more exchange of harsh words is going to solve our problems, but we are left wanting. You see, violence is not solely the realm of physical fighting. There is violence all over in our relationships, the way we talk, the way we act, the purchases we make, our lifestyle, you name it. It is both out in the open and hidden.

When we talk about people as if they were objects, we commit violence. When we squander the earth's resources, we commit violence. When we tear down instead of build up others, we commit violence.

I now feel it is the right thing to say, so while I may have said it half-heartedly at the conference, I am saying it right now for real. There is a part or two that I still stumble over and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it, but I'm living into it more each day. It's quite beautiful:

A Journey Toward Disarming the Heart


RECOGNIZING THE VIOLENCE IN MY OWN HEART, yet trusting in the goodness and mercy of God, I vow for one year to practice the nonviolence of Jesus who taught us in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God...You have learned how it was said, "You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy"; but I say to you, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven."

Before God the Creator and the Sanctifying Spirit, I vow to carry out in my life the love and example of Jesus

by striving for peace within myself and seeking to be a peacemaker in my daily life;

by accepting suffering rather than inflicting it;

by refusing to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence;

by persevering in nonviolence of tongue and heart;

by living conscientiously and simply so that I do not deprive others of the means to live;

by actively resisting evil and working nonviolently to abolish war and the causes of war from my own heart and from the face of the earth.

God, I trust in Your sustaining love and believe that just as You gave me the grace and desire to offer this, so You will also bestow abundant grace to fulfill it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Eucharistic Transformation

In my reading of Scripture, I've always thought that it was clear that the body of Jesus becomes bread.

What I've always been puzzled about is how--through 2,000 years of Church Tradition--we have come to think that it is the bread that becomes his body?

Isn't that backwards?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Getting Things Done

Getting cancer really changes things. Even if it's cancer-for-dummies like the form of thyroid cancer I have/had.

Things in your body change due to the treatments. It cracks me up that I can barely enjoy a bag of Doritos anymore. My mouth is just too dry from all of the radiation. I normally don't notice the dryness much, but with certain foods it is really apparent. Having to wash down some chips with water just to avoid choking isn't the same. It is actually a blessing in disguise: My multiple bag a week habit was not healthy and I wouldn't be surprised if that were a culprit in the cancer in the first place.

I also have this insane urge to get things done. It is like a surge in my body. Procrastination is a big non-issue. I have this incredible energy to get things done, like the clock's ticking. I have a profound understanding of how short life is, and I want to get some things done before I go. Like the old timers used to tell me: There'll be plenty of time to rest when I'm in the ground.

Is that healthy? Maybe not, but who's going to actually tell someone who has had cancer that to their face?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Eat It, Quick!

Once fruits and vegetables are picked off the vine, the clock starts ticking on their nutritional value. Within minutes, in some cases, the favinoids and other micro nutrients start breaking down.

Most of us in North America will probably never know the true taste of items such as coffee, bananas or pineapple. I would imagine at least several days go by after picking before any of those items appear on our store shelves. If they do arrive sooner, it is due to being flown in which is a massive problem for our carbon footprint!

You can eat fresh fruits and vegetables all year long, but if you aren't getting items that have been recently picked, you may be missing out on some important nutrition (not to mention flavor). Ironically, some frozen and canned items are preserved quicker than the fresh items in your store and may carry these nutrients better.

I encourage everyone out there to rotate some ultra-fresh items in your diet. A few times a year, go berry picking and eat the berries as you pick. Go to your garden and eat some things right off the plant--tomatoes, snap peas, lettuce and green beans are good candidates for that. At the very least, eat them within a few minutes of picking.

Our traditional ancestors ate a good portion of their diet right off the vine, and our bodies evolved to eat that way. While modern preservation and distribution methods have made life easier, they have come at a cost to quality. We could be missing out on some essential nutrition. Modern science does not yet have a good understanding of how this works, but in light of all this, eating fresh, whole foods is recommended.

Most traditional cultures also have a habit of going on a "fresh foods pilgrimage" several times a year. Some go wild berry picking, mushrooming or follow whatever the local delicacy is. They are in search of these amazing items picked ripe off the vine.

I write this after eating a fresh yellow squash that I just picked this morning. I cooked it up with some parsley that was just plucked out of the front yard. My body is soakin' it up! I also picked some radishes this morning. I almost never choose them at the salad bar, but I ate a few slices as I was cutting them up and they were absolutely delicious. If there is any vegetable that you don't like, try eating it fresh off the vine and you may reconsider your opinion. I bought some stalks of fresh broccoli last year, and couldn't stop eating them. Normally, I eat a few clumps from a veggie tray and need gobs of dressing to make it appealing. With the fresh stuff, I was wolfing it down and just couldn't stop.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I just got finished watching the film Romero last night. I haven't seen it in years, and it hit me a lot harder this time than it ever did before.

I find myself echoing the words of many liberation theologians--we have a faith that is rooted in the cross. How hard can it be to understand this faith when one of the central narratives is about a man who is marginalized, tortured and executed. Perhaps those who hunger and thirst for justice and liberation are the ones who "get it" better than the rest, regardless of whether they have the doctrinal statements at their disposal or not. It may be impossible to ever understand our faith without an experience of the cross, and that means that most of us in middle class lifestyles may only be dipping our toes in the water, at best (many of us do carry crosses, don't get me wrong, but there's a big difference between a typical suburban American life and what you see in Romero).

A lot of people are bored with typical American religious church services. If you want something that really grabs you by the collar and shakes you, watch Romero, where saying Mass was a matter of life or death and every word rings truer than you have ever heard it on Sunday morning. This is what the faith is about to me. Sunday Mass at the suburbs we're yawning . . . or maybe we're just practicing. It all unfolds when you are at those crisis points in life.

Maybe there's no other way to understand our faith than to walk in the footsteps of the man who was marginalized, tortured and executed. Perhaps it is an experience of the cross, a thirst for liberation, where a truer understanding is. Maybe true religious insight is simply not available without that.