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The “Why” of National Farm Worker Ministry

In the business world, there is a concept called “The Golden Circle,” and it states that the most successful organizations are built on why they do things.  When you look at the nuts and bolts, an organization is not successful because of how or what they do, but the why.  The mission.  The vision.  When […]

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The Pack the Theater Selfie Challenge Winner!

National Farm Worker Ministry is very proud to annouce a class of English Language Learners from North Asheboro Middle School as winners of the Pack the Theater Selfie Challenge!  These forty eight students and their four teachers took a field trip an hour and a half away to see Cesar Chavez in Winston-Salem, NC.  They […]

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Need a Friday Night Date? How about a date with Justice!

Friday night is traditionally known as date night but this Friday, March 28th, it is also the historic opening of Cesar Chavez.  Movie times and locations have been released here, so now is the time to get your tickets and secure your seat for this monumental occasion! Organize your viewing party now and get ready to […]

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9 More Days to Organize and 12 Days to Win the NFWM Swag Bag!

The award winning movie, Cesar Chavez, makes history by opening in theaters nationwide on March 28th!  Sneak peeks were released all over the country and the reviews are rolling in.  His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York stated: “I finally had the chance to watch Chavez, and it was worth the wait! I’ve […]

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Only 18 Days Left to Organize!

When Cesar Chavez first started organizing farm workers in the 1960′s, his first action was to hit the streets and talk to anyone and everyone who would listen.  Hit the streets with us! On March 28th, 2014, Cesar Chavez: An American Hero will be released in theaters across the country.  This is the first major motion picture […]

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Pack the Theater Selfie Contest!

It’s Better than the Oscars! On March 28th, 2014, Cesar Chavez: An American Hero will be released in theaters across the country.  Cesar Chavez: An American Hero is the first major motion picture depicting the accomplishments of a Mexican American icon in the United States. This powerful film gives light to the farm worker movement and […]

Cesar E. Chavez’ grave site and Memorial Garden at the National Chavez Center. (Photo courtesy of the National Chavez Center)

President Obama to Establish César E. Chávez National Monument

National Farm Worker Ministry Executive Director Virginia Nesmith, NFWM California Organizer Lucy Boutte, and founding NFWM Director Rev. Chris Hartmire and his wife Jane along with several other past and present board members of NFWM will be attending the establishment of the César E. Chávez  National Monument on Monday, October 8 in Keene, CA. President Barack Obama will […]

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Pioneers of the Farm Worker Movement Honored by Obama Administration

by NFWM Director Virginia Nesmith I was honored to be part of a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) event that lifted farm workers up for national recognition. On March 26th, the “Pioneers of the Farm Worker Movement” were inducted into the DOL’s Hall of Honor and the Cesar Chavez Auditorium was dedicated. The event was […]

President Obama Issues Proclamation Honoring Cesar Chavez

obamasigns_0.jpgOn the anniversary of Cesar Chavez’s birthday, March 31, President Barak Obama met with UFW President Arturo S. Rodriquez, UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, and members of the Chavez family in the White House Oval office. President Obama signed a proclamation honoring Cesar Chavez. Following the meeting, Arturo Rodriquez said, “We thank President Obama for honoring Cesar Chavez on this important day for millions of Americans. We thank the President for his concern for the farm workers who feed our nation every day, and for his strong support of immigration reform. No other change is more urgently needed, and would be more lasting.”

CLICK HERE for President Obama’s Proclamation
CLICK HERE to read statements of Arturo Rodriguez & Paul Chavez.
 
 

A Contemplative Day: Cesar Chavez’s Fasts for Righteousnes

This should be read before the walking meditation, and can be read by being passed from one participant to the next. Facilitator can choose to use 1-2 of the reflection questions or none at all.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

In this Beatitude, Jesus speaks to his disciples regarding righteousness in the most elemental terms possible. There are no physical sensations more primal than hunger and thirst. If a person is in dire thirst there is nothing she will not try in order to satisfy her craving. The reason for this is simple: without water a person will die. Hunger and thirst are regular parts of our lives, and they are instincts that save us from death. It is with this powerful language of hunger and thirst that Jesus confronts his listeners in the Sermon on the Mount.

cesarcross.jpgIn the original text there is a definite article before the word “righteousness.” This article is often not expressed in our English translations. A more accurate translation might read, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after the righteousness, for they shall be filled.” What does this mean? What is Jesus trying to communicate here? It seems that Jesus is confronting popular conceptions of righteousness, and promoting a specific type of righteousness. The righteousness that Jesus promotes is not an abstract righteousness, or dusty legality, but a deep and abiding righteousness that bears witness to the kingdom of heaven on earth, a truly new kingdom defined by forgiveness, peace, and hospitality. The righteousness that Jesus refers to in this Beatitude is the kingdom ethic promoted on the Sermon on the Mount. How are humans supposed to respond to this new ethic, this specific righteousness? We are supposed to desire it as we desire food. It is to be such a priority to us that we sense that we would starve without it.

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In “The Long, Hot Summer of 1967,” brooding political and social tensions erupted into violence across the U.S. Radical political rhetoric increasingly evoked violent imagery. Riots broke out in Detroit and Newark, and violence loomed over the fields of California. The popular vision of violent and rapid social change seduced some of the striking farm workers in César Chávez’s movement. They had grown tired of participating patiently in the non-violent struggle for justice. They began to carry weapons, threaten scabs with beatings, and commit acts of sabotage on police cars and farm machinery. César grieved this violent spirit and rebuked the strikers saying, “You reap what you sow; if we become violent with others, then we will become violent among ourselves. Social justice for the dignity of man cannot be won at the price of human life.” Despite his words, the longing for violence among the disgruntled farm workers only seemed to increase. Early in 1968 large scale violence seemed unavoidable. Cesar then began another form of rebuke, one that reveals profoundly what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

César’s non-violence was inspired by his Catholicism. Additionally, he had seen non-violence work in the Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle in the South. César understood that non-violence is truthful because it reveals Christ’s righteousness. For this reason, César understood the emerging militant tendencies of some members of the United Farm Workers union to be a move toward unrighteousness. Thus, as the leader of the farm worker movement, César announced that he would refuse food “until such a time as everyone ignored” him or “made up their minds that they were going to be committing to non-violence.” César announced his fast on February 18th, and told those near him that he had already been fasting for 4 days.

Day after day César lay in a bed declining food until the members of his cesarwalking.jpgunion convinced him that they were committed to the righteousness of non-violence. This fast became a defining moment for the farm worker movement. As César lay in bed, farm workers from all over California gathered around his quarters. The farm workers pitched tents near César’s house, creating a community. They began to share food among themselves and pray together. César’s fast was inaugurating a spiritual revival among the farm workers. On March 11th, the twenty-five day fast ended with a Mass, attended by 8,000 people. He broke bread with his mother and Senator Robert Kennedy. He began to fill his stomach again, because his hunger for righteousness was also being filled. After the liturgy, a statement written by César was read over the loud speakers. In the statement César wrote:

“The Fast was first for me and then for all of us in this Union. It was a fast for non-violence and a call to sacrifice. Our struggle is not easy. Those who oppose our cause are rich and powerful and they have many allies in high places. We are poor. Our allies are few. But we have something the rich do not own. We have our bodies and our spirits and the justice of our cause as our weapons. “It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life. I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act…is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice. God help us…”

César’s fast in the winter of 1968 provides a dramatic example of what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness. While Jesus may have been speaking metaphorically, César’s fast is a literal embodiment of experiencing hunger for the sake of righteousness. The righteousness of non-violence was so important to César that he expressed his longing for it through becoming physically hungry. His desire for the righteousness, both his own and that of the farm worker movement, are inspirational to farm worker advocates today.

Reflection Questions:

  • When were you most physically hungry in your life? Describe what it felt like. How does that experience influence how you understand this Beatitude?
  • How do you think that César’s faith helped sustain him during struggles that he saw in his 31 years of work with farm workers?
  • Why do you think that people are so quickly satisfied with their own righteousness? What do you think is at the root at the root of spiritual complacence?
  • Reflect on the statement that César had read after he broke his fast. How is it related to the Sermon on the Mount?
  • Do you think that Jesus was speaking metaphorically or literally when he said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled?”
  • Do you think César’s hunger for righteousness was filled?

page 13-16 of Witnesses to the Kingdom: The Beatitudes Embodied by Matthew Smalley. National Farm Worker Ministry 2005.

Contact us

National Farm Worker Ministry
P.O. Box 10645
112 Cox Ave., Ste. 208
Raleigh, NC 27605
Email us here
919-807-8707 (office)
919-807-8708 (fax)