On Easter Sunday of this year (2017) I arrived at Canticle Farm (www.canticlefarm.org), an urban food growing and spiritual center in Oakland, California. I was a little early for the service and I couldn’t find anybody. I had been told by my friend Daniel Schindleman-Schone, that they would have a meaningful, alternative service. I was visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, my 37-year home, and this sounded good to me. As I was standing on the front porch, knocking on the front door, a man in monk’s robes and a few others arrived for the services. The monk held out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Louie Vitale.” Well my jaw dropped. THE Louie Vitale was standing on this porch with me. All of my activist life, I’d heard of his leadership and activism in the great causes of Peace and Nonviolence. And here he was. And here he is now, Lovers, on this very special episode of Love in a Dangerous Time.
For centuries, Catholic priests have found their way into the most challenging and dangerous projects of the Holy Spirit. Where would we be without the towering contributions of John Dear, Gustavo Gutierrez, Roy Bourgeois and Daniel & Phil Berrigan?
One who stands in that line is Father Louie Vitale. Louie is a Franciscan priest who has been at the center of anti-war, liberationist, nonviolent activities for most of his 85 years. He is among the founders of School of the Americas Watch, The Nevada Desert Experience, Pace e Bene (www.paceebene.org), which promotes nonviolence through training, publishing and actions. He spent years working to end the Vietnam war, and with the United Farm Workers in their fight for security and dignity of farm workers.
We speak with Louie about his long life of service and struggle on the occasion of the publication of Love is What Matters: Writings on Peace and Nonviolence, a collection of Louie’s writings over the decades, many of which were penned in jail.
As we look at the work of the Church, both Catholic and Protestant, we like to admire people like Fr. Louie, who fight on so selflessly, but a life lived like Louie’s must cause us to ask ourselves, “What should I be doing?”
Louie has been arrested over 400 times. (What the hell have I done….?)
In 2012, Louie was given an honorary doctorate from Catholic Theological Union, in Chicago. After two other honorees gave their scholarly, inspiring, acceptance speeches, it was Louie’s turn. He strode to the microphone and said, “I’ve discovered in my life, that love is what matters in the end. And all that I can say is, ‘I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.’” Needless to say, he brought the house down.
One little tip for you, Lovers. Listen to this episode sitting in front of a mirror. I’m just sayin’.