On the Friday before St. Francis Day, I rolled down the familiar final stretch of Greenwich Road with my friend Ryan Elwood, excited to arrive at Agape after a long ride from New Jersey.
Turning onto the property, I was struck by the banner stretched across the trees, commanding: “DEFEND THE SACRED.” The banner alerted me, at a visceral level, to the fact that I was entering into a space of transformation; that I would not only encounter the sacred throughout my weekend stay, but also be charged to defend it in my daily life.
The spirit of Francis Day came into full bloom as I listened to Chief Arvol Looking Horse declare that “Standing Rock is Everywhere” and to Two Clouds and Chief Duane Perry of the Ramapough Lenape Nation narrate their struggle to maintain Split Rock Sweetwater prayer camp in the hostile context of Mahwah, New Jersey. I was charged to stand in solidarity with the Ramapough and all First Nations.
I cannot defend the sacred unless I first intimately sense its presence. The steady sound of drums, the chants of “Mni Wiconi”, and the clouds of smoldering sage, attuned my senses to the presence of the sacred.
All were touched by the sacred fire that burned both literally and symbolically throughout the day and into the following morning. May it burn in us forever, here and everywhere.
Jim Robinson, PhD candidate, Fordham School of Theology