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For the past 16 years I have been walking with the incarcerated community. I currently facilitate listening circles in the California Men’s Colony.


I have learned a lot from the men and women who live behind bars. One of the important things is to lament. Lament means to have sorrow, to mourn and to regret often demonstratively. Every day I witness the heavy hearts of men and women who have caused harm, who carry shame for the responsibility of inflicting pain on others. Many of the men and women I walk with have taken a life and they know just how devastating the loss of a life is. They know in their hearts the value of a life. Every life.


This past Friday I was sitting in a circle with 20 men who were taking turns sharing what responsibility and accountability means to them. Raul, a former gang member shared with us that he had killed an innocent mother of 3 when he was trying to kill a rival gang member. He told us that taking her life robbed her of all of her potential and possibilities. He wept as he told us how he ruined her daughters lives and that he can never forgive himself. He is no longer a person who could hurt others, in fact he has dedicated his life to helping youth get free from gangs in an effort to honor her and her children. He intends to spend the rest of his life serving his community to try and make up for the impact of his actions. He knows the ripple effect of this horrible act of violence and his life is one of lament.


Every life is precious and sacred. Every single life lost to war is a tragedy. Who knows what potential and possibilities are buried with the child or mother or father.  We are all diminished by war.


And I would like to include in our circle of lament – our collective sorrow and mourning, the men and women who are killing others, including the soldiers who are dropping bombs.  All those who are taking their lives and causing suffering are being wounded in ways we can’t know or imagine. Theirs will be a deep moral injury that is very hard to heal. The impact will be felt in their homes and communities for possibly generations. This is a very real and often unrecognized tragedy too.


Lament. Today we are gathered here on this lawn to mourn together.  It is nearly impossible to process the horrors we are seeing every day and the death toll we are hearing. We are all facing empathetic distress and maybe a form of moral injury in our impotence to save lives and prevent suffering.


 We are all diminished by war and violence as we are one human family.


I want to thank every one of you for coming here today. For not denying the suffering. For not avoiding the pain. Thank you for showing up and participating in sorrow. I am so grateful to have a community to lament with. My heart is breaking, and I imagine yours is too. It seems to me that this is where we find the presence of Divine Love – in the midst of our mourning together. Let us not vilify anyone, but rather let us collectively and actively seek peace.


So, thank you for caring – for letting your heart break – for showing up – for loving humanity and knowing in your heart that every life is precious and sacred.  

Sister Greta

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Before lament can take hold, the person or entity must first recognize and acknowledge that a sin has been committed.  For instance, Jesus knocked on Laodicea’s door (several times).  How does she repent if she doesn’t think she did anything wrong?

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