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Penn Magazine November 2017

The inaugural issue of Penn Magazine

NAD: Tell about the

NAD: Tell about the movie being planned about your life. On the website for that project there are quotes from Dorothy Day. Do you feel pretty strongly about the Catholic Worker, the poor, the service philosophy? RICHARD FLAMER: I feel strongly about Dorothy Day, the Catholic Worker, etc. but I am unhappy about the idea that the film will be about me. The truth is, the measure of our lives is in love; how well we can be disciples. It’s not about me, it’s the work. NAD: Please insert a link here to something you would like linked to, with a brief tag re: where that link goes: RICHARD FLAMER: Link to www.bishopruizproject.org Thank you. Richard The San Damiano Foundation Presents Night Into Day The Story of the Catholic Worker Community in Chiapas, Mexico a film by Gerard Thomas Straub 2008 The San Damiano Foundation P. O. Box 1693 • Burbank, CA 91507 Night into Day A Film about the Life and Work of Richard Flamer and the Catholic Worker Movement in Chiapas, Mexico Treatment by Jeremy Seifert “I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor.” -Dorothy Day Night into Day is the story of a man’s transformation – going from a soldier in Vietnam to a carpenter with Catholic Worker in Chiapas, Mexico – and how God works through broken, ordinary vessels to achieve mighty works of love and redemption. It’s the story of a soul’s journey to God through love of neighbor and the revelation that all of humanity, especially suffering humanity, is our neighbor and, ultimately, wrapped up in our redemption. Richard Flamer’s story is that of courage and sacrifice, surrendered to God in vulnerable trust and given to others in self-emptying love. Richard served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam as a tactical strategist for B-52 targeting, and although far removed from direct conflict, the reports of the effects of bombing began to haunt him. He returned to the States, like so many other Vets, wounded in spirit and hopeless. While at Goddard College in Vermont, he became a rare book dealer…a job which “did not hurt anyone.” Slowly he found himself being drawn into the anti-war movement as he met people who struggled for peace as hard as others struggled for war. He landed in jail with others from the Catholic Worker Movement for nonviolent civil disobedience at the SAC Airbase in Bellevue, Nebraska. “Cardinal Newman in the 19th century drew a distinction between real knowledge and notional knowledge. Notional knowledge is the assimilation of facts leading nowhere; whereas real knowledge is some mysterious alchemy whereby the truth of existence, including facts, leads one to moral development or simple actions on behalf of people, on behalf of actual needs.” -Daniel Berrigan, Absurd Convictions, Modest Hopes After this refreshing experience with Christians actively following Christ, Richard traveled to Nicaragua to experience first hand the lived reality of Liberation Theology. He spent time with Ernesto Cardenal, Minister of Culture and one of his customers in the rare books trade, and was deeply moved by his interpretation of the life and teachings of Christ and the movement in Nicaragua. Months later he sold the book shop and most of his belongings, moved to Guatemala and began studying Spanish. Richard worked for ten years as a 36/Penn Magazine/November 2017

photojournalist in Central America, covering the mass graves in Guatemala, the fighting in El Salvador, and the U.S. invasion of Panama. His photojournalism brought him alongside the work of various nonprofit organizations in Central America. He worked with Bishop Gerardo Flores during the return of Guatemalan refugees from camps in Mexico and with Bishop Samuel Ruiz in the refugee camps in Southern Mexico. All of these experiences drew him closer to the mission of the Catholic Worker and the life and spirituality of Dorothy Day. While in Central America, Richard’s mother died. He returned home to care for his father, an alcoholic who had remained sober for 30 years because of his wife. When she died, he began drinking again. During this time with his father, Richard converted to Catholicism because of the power and love he experienced through Christians working for peace justice in the name of Christ. After his father died, Richard fell into a deep depression from the pain of loss and the unshakable memories of war and death. The Catholic Worker community in Des Moines surrounded him with love and put his carpentry skills to work. This move eventually led him back to Chiapas to work with Habitat from Humanity and SYJAC (“Service to Our People” in Tso Tsil). “Everything we do can be found in the Sermon on the Mount. We simply try to serve the least among us, in a way that Dorothy Day would find fruitful. It is, I think, about atonement and redemption.” -Richard Flamer Chiapas “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?” -Dorothy Day Racism and the unjust gap between rich and poor divide the impoverished state of Chiapas, Mexico. Most of the Mayan Indians and other indigenous groups have been internally displaced and barely survive in wood slat and mud houses with dirt floors. These tiny homes, many without running water or electricity, are congested with eight to ten people who sleep together in one room. Most have access only to dirty water from a nearby stream for cooking, cleaning and drinking, and for dumping their own waste. Children readily die of diarrhea and dehydration, of tuberculosis, or of some other preventable or curable disease that stalks their malnourished bodies. Today there are approximately 12,080 displaced people in Chiapas, the majority of whom come from the Northern Jungle Region – municipalities of Tila, Tumbalá and Sabanilla, and from the Highlands Region, municipality of Chenalhó. Chiapas has a rural population of over 60% with a literacy rate at just 69%. Protectionist policies for Mexican farmers ended in 1982 under President Miguel de la Madrid. The problem was later exacerbated by the initiation of NAFTA in 1994, which effectively closed the market to Mexican farm goods. This crisis has forced thousands of Chiapans to abandon their homes and communities in search of a way out. For Via Pacis by Richard Flamer It has been seven years since I last wrote about THE CHI- APAS PROJECT for Via Pacis. For those not familiar with our work, my wife, Araceli Benitez Moya, a Zapotec woman and I live on a small farm we call “Casa de Camillo Torres” (named for what I like to think of as the first clerical victim of Vatican II. ) Our farm of just under 6 acres is mostly woodland covered with Pines and Oaks lying just over 7000’ altitude. Lover the last 6 years we have built a large wood shop, a house and, of late, a small laboratory for Araceli and her cooperative to mix, cook and make organic soaps, shampoos, oils, lotions, balms and traditional native medicines. Unfinished is a large structure which we hope to finish and rent out to delegations, students from the U.S. and religious workers here on retreat. We raise rabbits for meat, chickens for eggs and a large assortment of vegetables, herbs, flowers and medicinal plants. Over the last year we have added worms for our organic fertilizer which is mostly used for the 100 plus fruit trees I have planted after clearing out the underbrush and scrub from the woodlands. We deem ourselves “Catholic Workers” though in deference to the Mexican Government we don’t do much in the way of active resistance since the government can expel any foreigners for interfering in politics. Araceli, meanwhile, November 2017/Penn Magazine/37

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