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  • "If I am bound to the belief that God is in control of the cosmos, and miracles can and do happen, then there is no 'hypothetical situation' wherein God's ability to perform miracles through the faithful actions of the merciful ceases to be a possibility."

    Joshua's above words continue to resonate with us, his family, friends and acquaintances seeking to live out that same belief. Though he is no longer with us bodily, we strive to faithfully remember and testify to Joshua's witness among us, through the establishment of The Joshua Casteel Foundation and other initiatives on which we will continue to provide update through this website. Thank you for joining us.

    "The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest." (Wisdom 4:7)

    Joshua was diagnosed in early November 2011 with stage IV lung cancer (adenocarcinoma), which ultimately took his life on August 25, 2012 at the age of 32. The many of us who survive and love him will continue to pursue the heavenly justice to which Joshua (in life, and now in death) testified.

THE LEAST OF THESE AND THE POWER OF LOVE

Today, the 25th of August, will have been three years since Joshua left this life for another, one that will have no end and is beyond any and all of our imaginations. He is without pain, sorrow, fear, or anything that would make his world less than perfect. How very hard it is to conceive of that as we attempt to go on in a world where sorrow, fear and death reigns in most parts of our planet. We hear or see glimpses in the news of the hatred, anger, and death around our globe where children have never seen nor cannot even imagine a world of peace where love and compassion are a part of common existence. Instead, parents have to watch them die, some through starvation while others become the victims of horrendous acts of savagery. Hatred, violence, and war are realities that these children and their families live with or die because of daily.

Joshua saw and experienced a small portion of this insanity and it not only changed his life forever, but took it as well. He became part of the collateral damage that the military talks of as the unfortunate necessity of war. He was not a civilian, but collateral damage never the less. We all know that this aspect of war is understated at best but more often than we would like to admit, the collateral damage incurred in war is a result of direct decisions made by the institution that had committed to protect their own as well as innocent civilians.. This was Joshua’s experience as well as thousands of others who lived and worked near the burn pits and were exposed to depleted uranium as well. As far as all those affected by war around the world hundreds of thousands to millions of people have become part of war’s collateral damage. Unfortunately there are more than I ever imagined in my company, a mother who had to watch her child die. Those of us who have experienced this tragedy knows that time seems to stop the moment we had to say goodbye, never to have the same relevancy in our lives again.

As others in my situation oftentimes say, “It seems like three days and yet thirty years ago all at the same time since going through the trauma of our loss. I understand that. Three days because the pain is still so raw and deep. Thirty years because it seems that long since I’ve seen his great smile or been able to talk with him face to face. But then again It feels like a hundred years since I’ve been able to hug him and hear him say “Hey Mamma”, his somewhat humorous but affectionate name for me. And harder yet, it feels like forever before I will be able to be with him again.

I know when I get to heaven and all the years of sorrow are behind me, my life and the sorrow and pain that filled it will actually appear to me as only a moment in time. That’s a promise from God that I believe fully and am so thankful for. But at present I’m still on this side of ‘forever after’ and locked within the bonds of time, so that very real ‘forever after’ still feels like an illusion, because I’ve not yet experienced it. That is simply reality and what I and so many others around the world live with day in and day out. I’m sure that sounds depressing and very honestly that part is at times. But thankfully that’s not all there is. (“We grieve but not as without hope.”)

But I have to remember that not everyone has the hope I live with which breaks my heart. I don’t know how they go on. The last few months have been hard for me for many reasons, besides the countdown to August 25th. I won’t go into all the reasons why, but two things have taken place this week that have given me yet another glimpse of that ‘hope’ we have in Christ, causing me to feel very grateful for the life I’ve been given.

This gratefulness exists in part because of what Joshua left behind He didn’t own much of anything besides books, ( lots of them), clothes, some keepsakes, and a truck. He was a graduate student when he was diagnosed with cancer. The truck went back to the bank, the clothes that I didn’t give away still hang in my closet or fill his suitcases, and the books, all still in boxes, fill up a big portion of the storage room in my basement. The books were some of his favorite earthly treasures. And the best part of them, somewhat like the body and the soul, he took to heaven with him (in his mind and heart), while their ‘bodies’ stayed behind in my basement. If you knew Joshua well at all you’ll understand the correlation.

So with possessions not of much consequence, the only other thing of real significance that he could have left behind is that which is not material, and can’t be seen or touched in a material kind of way. It is simply a ‘legacy of love’ possible only because of people and relationships that made his life meaningful and also gave him the opportunity to give and receive love. During his illness and after his death there were more people than we could have ever imagined that responded with love for him while also expressing appreciation for what Joshua had meant to them. We experienced that ‘circle of love’ throughout his illness and right up to his passing, finding out how powerful love is. It moved, inspired, and even helped to hold broken hearts together. People and love…the two most important things we can acquire, we found out, made him a very rich young man in life. And as heir to his ‘estate’ I have been the very fortunate recipient of those riches.

This week I had life changing experiences with five of the people from his ‘circle of love’ who continue to impact my life in deep and positive ways, which also allows me to feel something of the life of my son in the here and now. At first glance one might look at the external appearances of these five people and quickly categorize one as “the least of these” and the other four as “the best of these”. And in the way that Jesus pointed out this difference in the scriptures I suppose we could say that it is true of these five men. Four were given many gifts to use in this world while the one was given mostly obstacles in terms of his ability to succeed in making a living or impacting the world with the gifts and talents admired by our success driven culture.

The four are Joshua’s best friends whom he met while studying at Oxford in England while in college. Being young men of similar minds (intelligent and creative) and heart (all hold a strong faith in God) the connection was immediate for Joshua and a true gift from God. They created a strong bond that lasted until his death, and I might add to this day. They all serve on the Joshua Casteel Foundation Board. They are writers and lawyers, college professors and pre-med students. We could easily say that they are all succeeding in using their gifts well and are a success in their careers and in life.

The fifth young man I interacted with this week, Joshua met and befriended in high school. His name is Robert and he is a special needs young man who is two years older than Joshua. I believe I’m correct in saying that Joshua was one of the few good male friends he had in high school and most certainly the best friend he had during those years. They would talk often and we were able as a family to get to know him somewhat, thus seeing his fun sense of humor as well as his soft heart. He had a saying that he would often repeat to Joshua when he felt Joshua had something good happen in his life. He would say in his very genuine and yet funny way, “lucky… duck”, drawing the words out for emphasis. We all loved to hear his endearing tease and it became something we said to each other as well for fun and recollection of Robert.

I’m not quite sure when Robert’s faith journey began but he ended up attending the same church as our family attended during their high school years. He lived with his mother for many years and at present he is residing in a semi-assisted living situation and has a part time job. He is oftentimes sad or bored when I talk with him now. Joshua’s death hit him very hard. It is sometimes hard to understand his words, especially on the phone, where words can sound muffled and unclear. I imagine some may look at him in pity or silently give thanks that they are not in his position in life. A few may even make fun of him. And it might be hard for some people to say that he is succeeding in life. But, I have a very different opinion.

From the outside looking in, Joshua’s four college buddies and his high school friend seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum of life, but if one looks closer he or she might see that they are much more alike than they might appear at first glance. And in fact all five have something very powerful in common. I’m quite certain that they will ‘all’ leave what Joshua left behind when they leave this world, a very powerful ‘Legacy of Love’. (the kind of love we read about in the Bible)

“Love is patient, love is kind, is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on it’s own way, it is not resentful or irritable, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1st Corinthians 13: 4-7)

Most of us who read that chapter in the scriptures usually walk away feeling fairly small in our attempt at achieving that kind of love. And I’m not suggesting that all of these guys epitomize this description of divine love. There was only one man who walked this earth who could fill those shoes. And He still died on a cross shamed as a common criminal. But I will say that each one has exhibited many of those qualities over the time that I have known them and in particular this last week in relationship to me. Let me explain.

As a board for the JC Foundation we have to make many decisions concerning Joshua’s life and legacy. And after a year or two of meetings I began to feel a certain attitude coming from the four guys towards me relating to our decisions about Joshua’s image. It surfaced again as we were discussing an issue concerning the republication of his book, ‘Letters from Abu Ghraib’. So after what I felt had been a long period of time involving a series of things said that i felt justified my feelings, I decided to write the guys a letter. And I did so, in a direct and justifying way, asking for clarification of their feelings or respect for my opinions and the realization that I wanted the same things that they did. It was a rather strong letter and I was a little apprehensive in sending a confrontational e-mail, as we had not had any real problems up to that point. But as I told them, they meant too much to me to let resentment begin to build and ultimately hurt our relationships.

It took only a few hours for the first response to my letter to come back to me. He began his response by ‘thanking me’ for trusting them all enough to be honest with them about my feelings! The next thing he did was express his love for me. And then he went on to say that he was sorry that I had been feeling the way I had, but it was not how he felt about me or my attitudes and he didn’t know of any feelings from the other guys that would substantiate how I was feeling. There were more thoughts expressed and also helpful suggestions for the issues we were discussing concerning the book that really helped me see some things in a different light.

My offended heart melted immediately and I was so touched by his letter that I felt the effects for days. First Corinthians love… he had hit about four or five of its qualities in the first two sentences in his reply to me. I immediately felt an inward rebuke that it was I that had missed an important quality of love in my interactions with them… “love is kind and “believes all things” or in other translations “believes the best of others.” His response made me look at my own heart and realize that I didn’t “assume the best” about them. I could have just shared my feelings with them and simply ‘ask’ if what I was perceiving was accurate. That would have been much ‘kinder’ and would have offered respect and trust. I experienced the power of love from his words to me. It built me up and made me feel valuable and heard, but it also caused me to look at my own heart and learn.

The Power of Love

The 2nd response came about a week later. He had been out of town. His response was equally as gracious. He expressed sadness over the fact that I had been carrying the feelings I had and apologized for anything he had done to cause them. He also expressed his love for me and then went on to discuss the issues with the book in a way that did not demean my ideas nor did he try to defend his opinions. “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not arrogant, and does not seek it’s own”.

Then came my third response which was every bit as kind and gracious as the other two. He also expressed his love as well as acknowledging that he would never assume to know Joshua like I do as his mother and that he would always want to defer to me when it came to issues pertaining to him. He then reiterated how fortunate he felt to be a part of Joshua’s foundation. While I never want to depend solely on my own opinions in our decisions for the Foundation, I so appreciated the love and respect he gave to me in his response. Again, “Love is patient, love is kind, is not resentful, arrogant or boastful”.

By then I was feeling heartbroken that I had not trusted them, and that I had forgotten who they were as people, men of great kindness and integrity. My repentant heart led me to apologize to all of them. And refreshing my memory of who I had known them to be gave me a renewed sense of gratitude to God for the friends He had given to Joshua and then to me. Their love took me from feeling offended and distrusting to grateful and convinced of their love and respect for me. I could do nothing but thank God for the amazing relationships I am blessed to have with these four remarkable men, part of the riches Joshua left behind. I’m sure Joshua is smiling as he sees that I now know them even better and can see them as he does.

The power of Love!

A few days later Joshua’s friend from high school called me while I was doing some work on the computer. When I explained that to him he said, “Well, I’ll call you later then”. About ten to fifteen minutes later he called back. And to be honest I felt a little frustrated at being interrupted again. But just then I could ‘feel’ Joshua and almost hear his words. “It’s important that you talk to him, Mom”. So I began to talk with him and he told me that he was a little depressed and bored. And as usual he asked how I was doing, and said that he was praying for me. And then like always, he asked about each of the girls and reminded me that he was praying for them as well. We talked about it being the month that Joshua passed away, and he added that like me, it is a hard month for him as well. He reiterated again just how much he misses Joshua. We shared our grief together and I told him I’d be praying for him too.

After talking for about fifteen or twenty minutes, I thought I heard him say that he would be praying for me (again) and I responded with how much I appreciated his prayers. But he replied, “No, I mean, Can I pray for you right now”?

A little surprised I responded, “Yes, Robert, please do”. I was heartened but mostly humbled because it is something that he has done on other occasions. After he prayed for me and my family I prayed for him. And then we said our goodbyes.

As I have mentioned, it is oftentimes hard for me to understand Robert on the phone, BUT NOT WHEN HE PRAYS! I heard every deeply personal, specific, and sweet request he made to God for me and on our behalf as a family of three women. (and their families). Once again I was humbled and so touched by the love of this sweet young man who has stayed in touch with me since Joshua passed away, always reminding me of his prayers for me. This time, however, I realized how precious and needed his prayers really were, especially during this difficult month, but also because of the many months of physical pain that I had been going through. I was more discouraged than I had realized.

When I heard Joshua say, “It’s important that you talk with him”, I have to admit I felt it was probably for his sake, because his life is so hard and there are so few people in it. But after that call I realized how important the call was for me as well and all that Robert has to offer me, a compassionate, genuinely caring heart, with a childlike faith in God, that Jesus Himself said is “precious in the sight of God”. And might I add, his is a life that has meaning and love that is powerful.

The Power of Love

Jesus said, “When you do this unto the least of these, you do it unto Me”. I wonder when I think about that verse if the poor, the disabled, or the mentally challenged are really “the least of these”…especially when it comes to Love.? Who really are “the least of these”? I have to say that after I hung up the phone that morning I felt like it was me. I didn’t offer to pray for Robert first. He led me in the right way! He was my teacher. Robert doesn’t have a high profile job, he can’t drive a car, and he has a select few friends, but when it comes to love, he has it all. Like Joshua, he is rich in what matters. And he shared his riches freely and genuinely with me just as Joshua’s other four friends had. They all loved in their own ways.

As I reflected on all that had happened as a result of the phone calls with Robert I also realized a prayer had been answered. I was inspired to do something that I might not have thought about without talking to Robert that day. I had been thinking of a way to honor Joshua on August 25th by giving to others and showing love, something we started doing on the first anniversary of his passing which helped transform a very dark day in many people’s lives into a celebration of who he was and a realization that his life and love will still go on. And as a result of my conversations with Robert about his transportation, which is walking for him, I decided that it might be helpful and fun for him to have a bike to ride around town. So I mentioned the possibility to him and he said that he would like that, but that he would also need a helmet. He’s not only loving but also wise!!

So, hopefully on August 25th we will go on a bike and helmet purchasing expedition and the pictures will follow this writing. (If by chance that day doesn’t work out, keep a look-out in the next week or so for the pictures).

I can think of no better way to honor Joshua this August 25th than to continue doing what he did while he was on earth, loving others… from his friends to the Jihadist prisoner claiming to be his enemy. It was a heart of love and compassion that led Joshua to live the life he did while on this earth and the message I believe he wants us to continue to share with our words and our actions.

One way I’ve chosen to do that is to extend love to his friend Robert with a special gift and honor the love that he gives to those around him. In addition I know Joshua stands with me as I express my love and appreciation for his other four friends by honoring them as the men of God that they are and that he knows them to be. The JC Foundation will become what it is meant to be because of the bricks of love they have laid as its ‘foundation’.

So, thank you, Joseph, Jacob, Chad, Tim, and Robert! I love you all.

And thank you to all of Joshua’s friends and family whose love has continued on in many and various ways from that first dark day to the present. You have all shown clearly;

THE POWER OF LOVE.

Perspective is Everything

Two years ago on a very sad day in August, as Joshua lay sick and dying in a hospital in New York City, a very special woman who also bore cancer in her body and whom Joshua and I were extremely privileged to meet and eventually call our good friend said to me: “We both know who Joshua is, how he has lived his life, and the faith that has grounded him throughout his life. If we know there is something beyond our life here and Someone is in charge of the plan that decides when we get to begin the new life we’re promised, then we can never say that we ‘lost our battle’ to cancer.  Cancer is only the vehicle God may use to bring us home. It was how Joshua lived his life that enabled him to win the victory over cancer before it ever invaded his body. Cancer is actually irrelevant in the assessment of our lives or our deaths, if we look through the lens of what we know to be true.”

There is no doubt that Joshua’s personal victories were a result of free gifts from God, of faith and grace, which empowered him to do what he did.  Whether it be in Iraq facing his supposed enemy and choosing to see him as a man in need of redemption and love no different than himself, writing and speaking about the true nature of God’s design for his creation achieved through faith, hope, and love helping to produce true justice and peace, or ultimately winning his personal and final battle demonstrating great courage in the face of great suffering and ultimately death.  It is that grace put into action and fueled by the passion of love that we want to see carried on through the Joshua Casteel Foundation.

Since Joshua’s death we have seen God use his life and legacy to carry on the work that he so passionately lived out while he was still with us. We are currently working with a publishing company to publish a second version of Letters from Abu Ghraib and hope to reach a new and expanded audience.  Stanley Hauerwas has agreed to write an additional forward which we are very excited about.

We are also beginning negotiations with a young composer in the UK who is interested in turning Joshua’s first play, Returns, into an opera.  This will be an extremely creative, interesting, and exciting project to see come to life.

In addition, we have reached out to an excellent organization called Preemptive Love Coalition that has been on the ground in Iraq for years.  PLC provides lifesaving surgeries for children with major heart defects caused from the many environmental hazards of war.  Their motto is, “Pursuing peace, one heart at a time”.  We are very interested in their philosophy of loving unconditionally those who agree with us and those who don’t. In Jeremy Courtney’s words, “Love first and ask questions, later”.  Jeremy, the co-founder of PLC, is Joshua’s age and how I wish they could have met!!  Whether it is PLC or other organizations on the ground in Iraq, we plan to become involved in projects that will continue to aid the Iraqi people. This would be a specific dream of Joshua’s realized, thus hopefully bringing about a measure of reconciliation.

I have also recently been contacted by a writer friend of Joshua’s from the University of Iowa who is interested in writing an article for a major magazine about the military’s use of burn pits, using his story.  We’re very happy to see that the issue of the burn pits and its effects on soldiers has not gone away yet and we very much appreciate the opportunity to help her in her efforts to raise awareness. We continue to believe that enough public awareness and pressure put on those responsible for their existence will bring their use to an end.  It is certainly still one of our goals.

Lastly we are in the process of setting up a new and informative website that will serve our interested supporters and onlookers in a more concise and organized way.  We hope it will be inspirational, educational, and informative, as well as offer ways for you to get involved in helping to change the world in ways you never thought possible … to become dreamers with us, following in Joshua’s footsteps.

I have lately come to the realization that it is Joshua’s generation that is bringing a genuine, powerful, fresh, and deeply compassionate vision back to the church with an inclusive love that Jesus himself taught much more clearly than we have focused on for generations.  And I see a fearless but passionate commitment to live out, rather than just preach, the truth of Christ in a way that has real power to change people and ultimately the world.  But it is hard and demands sacrifice and oftentimes suffering. And yet I oftentimes still find myself feeling overwhelmed and afraid to move out into arenas that I’m unfamiliar with, especially at this stage of my life. And yet I have to ask myself: “Isn’t this the heritage of the ‘church alive’ that I long for and what I want my life’s legacy to be as well, regardless of the cost?”

With all of the above goals in mind our first official fund raising letter will soon be sent out to draw into our circle those people who also have a desire to follow through with such dreams and the works that Joshua had to leave unfinished but that we now have the opportunity to carry on.

So we hope this August 25th (the second anniversary of Josh’s death) you will maybe take some time to think about Joshua and the passions you shared to see the world become a more loving place.  We also hope you take the time to ask yourself (and God) if you feel called to join us as we endeavor to bring hope and help to those in need and make the dreams of helping to create peace and justice in the world more of a reality. Joshua was very convinced that he could not achieve his dreams alone, that he needed community to help him on his journey.  And we are convinced as well that it will take each of us doing our part – but doing it together – to see the world change.

Lastly, on August 25th in memory of and upon reflection of Joshua’s life and your relationship with him, I want to invite everyone who would like to join us to release balloons up to the heavens. And if you so wish tie on a personal note to Joshua or maybe your dreams or commitment of what you hope to do to bring about change in the world. If you do decide to take part in the balloon release it would be wonderful to receive pictures from you so we can post them as encouragement to everyone who may see them.  Posting on Facebook would be great as well.

In the same way that our friend refused to look at her cancer as something that she would ‘lose her life to’, I believe Joshua refused to lose his life to mediocrity or in the end believe that he ‘lost’ at all.  Rather he believed his suffering and death served a purpose and we hope to continue to carry out that purpose.  I hope you’ll join us in doing so.

I want to end this annual tribute to Joshua by linking to a song that I used in a talk I gave at a peace conference in Maryland where I chronicled his life and the heart of a ‘peacemaker’. The song, so worth listening to, encourages us all to move beyond our comfort zone in faith and ‘refuse to play it safe or do nothing’.  I hope it inspires you and brings back fond memories of your encounters with Joshua.

It’s entitled “I Refuse”…by Josh Wilson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B1Lv8k5pEc

- Kristi

 

August 25, 2014 - 2:24 PM

Little Brother Michael St. Jacques - Blessed Repose and Memory Eternal dearest brother Joshua Isaac Casteel!
Your presence and spirit are felt and continue to motivate us to look for better ways to be the men and women made in God’s image and likeness we have been called to be. Thank you so much for your life and the offering of your life for peace and the message and living out, crying out of the Gospel with our lives!

January 21, 2015 - 10:16 PM

Kumar - I agree..i wonder if Sowetan ga baone gore da blog is bmoneicg less popular because of this moderations tsa bona and they aggravate the situation ka tis complicated new look.Yoh gone are old days when I used to look forward to the da blog cause we would just go mad .i wish i could rewind to 2008/2009 when the blog was at its prime mxm.

January 25, 2015 - 10:27 PM

Michael Snow - Wow, this blew me away. I just watched a youtube video that was posted on the ‘Pacifist Fight Club’ site of Joshua’s testimony. His story, in rough outline, paralles my own (a generation earlier) and I wanted to find out more about him. I left a comment on the site noting his name was Yeshua. And now I find he died in his 33rd year.
I found that he was born in SD and raised in Iowa (my sequence was just the reverse!). I’m from south of Sioux Falls. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christian-pacifism-michael-snow/1000946312?ean=2940013328471

The Joshua Casteel Foundation: Update

It has been a while since we updated, but a lot has been going on behind the scenes of the Joshua Casteel Foundation!  We are now an official non-profit and are working hard to realize the legacy that Joshua left for us and thus, the mission ahead of us, which is to promote peace, justice and reconciliation and care for those impacted by war. As Joshua’s mother and the President of the Foundation, right now Kristi is leading our efforts.  Over the next few months Kristi will have the opportunity to testify on behalf of Joshua about the effects of the burn pits and speak about Joshua’s life and legacy of peace.  These events are open to the public and we hope that some of you will be able to participate:

(1) People’s Hearing on the Lasting Impact of the Iraq War

Moderated by Phil Donahue, creator and host of The Phil Donahue Show and Co-Director and Co-Producer of the film Body of War.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Doors open at 6:00 p.m.; Panel and Livestream at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Friends Meeting of Washington; 2111 Florida Avenue NW; Washington, DC 20008-1912

RSVP: http://bit.ly/1kv6MKn

Livestream: new.livestream.com/ccrjustice/righttoheal

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/491541417619041/

(2)   The 29th Annual Peace, Justice, & Environment Conference

Peace and Justice through the Generations:  Passing the Torch for a Better World

Friday, April 25th

St. Philips Episcopal Church

730 Bestgate Road, Annapolis, MD 21201

and

Saturday, April 26th

Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis

333 Dubois Road, Annapolis, MD 21401 • 410-266-8044

http://www.mupj.org/

(3) Returns

Joshua’s play Returns is going to be performed in Canton, Ohio over Memorial Day.

https://www.facebook.com/casteelreturns

(4) Bishop Dingman Award

Kristi will be present to support the 19th recipient of the Bishop Dingman Peace Award.

Catholic Peace Ministry’s Maurice J. Dingman Peace Award is given each year in memory and in honor of Maurice Dingman, the late bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines revered for his commitment to justice, peace and equality.

April 26, 2014 - 9:39 AM

Coralie Farlee - With a “.com” website, one would make the assumption that your organization is NOT 501(c)(3).

I asked you anout your tax- exempt status at the annapolis conference today.

Coralie farlee wilpf dc

May 22, 2014 - 3:04 PM

Chad N - Coralie,

Thank you so much for your interest, and for speaking with Kristi at the conference! The Joshua Casteel Foundation is incorporated as a non-profit corporation, and we are awaiting confirmation of our status as a 501(c)(3) before the IRS, which we have been assured is forthcoming. The website address predates the incorporation of the foundation, as it was initially a place for us to support Joshua prior to his passing. We are investigating purchasing “.org” addresses to clear up any confusion, though of course the use of a “.com” address has no bearing on our 501(c)(3) status.

I reply as a board member who has been working on our organizational matters, and would be happy to answer any further inquiries you may have at chad_nicholson@comcast.net.

Kind regards,
Chad

The Call for Peace Continues…

I received the following homily by Pope Francis from our good friends at Catholic Peace Fellowship at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. We are so grateful for all that they do day in and day out, year in and year out to promote the cause of peace, justice, and non-violence.

We are also so thankful as a foundation when religious leaders risk their own reputations and/or popularity by taking very unpopular stands on such important and controversial issues such as peace and non-violence, especially in the militarized culture of today’s world. It is more than rare to see such strength of conviction that stems so obviously from a heart of compassion and love as is the case with Pope Francis. He is more than a ‘breath of fresh air’ to the world, he is a true ‘gift from God’.

—————————————————————————————————–

Dear Friends,

Peace. We share with you Pope Francis’s words from this morning on war, peace and the Christian call.

In Christ,
The CPF Staff
- – -

Pope Francis: The Spirit of War Draws Us Away from God

“War is a scandal to be mourned every day. We see war in the newspapers ever and we’re used to reading about it: the number of its victims is just part of our daily accounts. We hold events to commemorate the centenary of the Great War and everyone is scandalized by the many millions of dead. But today it’s the same… instead of one great war, there are small wars everywhere. When we were children in Sunday School and we were told the story of Cain and Abel, we couldn’t accept that someone would kill their own brother. And yet today millions kill their own brothers and we’re used to it: there are entire peoples divided, killing each other over a piece of land, a racial hatred, an ambition.

Think of the children starving in refugee camps… these are the fruits of war. And then think of the great dining rooms, of the parties held by those who control the arms industry, who produce weapons. Compare a sick, starving child in a refugee camp with the big parties, the good life led by the masters of the arms trade. And remember, the Pope added, that the wars, the hatred, the hostility aren’t products we buy at the market: they’re right here, in our hearts. The Apostle James gives us a simple piece of advice: ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’ But the spirit of war, which draws us away from God, doesn’t just reside in distant parts of the world: the spirit of war comes from our own hearts.

Let us pray for peace, for that peace which seems to have been reduced to a word and nothing more. Let us follow James’ advice: ‘Recognize your misery.’ Let us recognize that misery which breeds wars within families, within neighborhoods, everywhere. How many of us weep when we read the newspapers, when we see the dead on television? This is what Christians should do today, in the face of war: we should weep, we should mourn.”

- Homily given by Pope Francis at the Casa San Marta on February 25, A.D. 2014 (*We are grateful for the English Translation provided by News.va)

Armistice Day…Joshua’s Witness Continues On

A few nights ago a friend sent me a link to the November 7th edition of the National Catholic Reporter Magazine. The article was encouraging discussion of the role of militarism in our country and in our churches. I was shocked to see that the article featured Joshua. It offered him as an example of someone who struggled with the big question of whether or not his identity as a follower of Christ conflicted with his identity as a soldier and how he came to the conclusion while serving as an interrogator at Abu Grhaib Prison that his first allegiance was to God and the message that Christ preached of “loving one’s enemies.”

While from the outside it may have appeared that Joshua’s decision to become a conscientious objector was formed and finalized in Iraq, in reality it was a lifelong journey that had several twists and turns that God led him on to build into his life a message of love and reconciliation vs. violence and retaliation. The journey ultimately cost him his life which Joshua willingly gave with the hope that his suffering would somehow bring redemption to the Iraqi people that had been devastated by the war he had been a part of.

What I am most thankful for in this holiday season of Thanksgiving is that God gave me a son whose deep faith and trust in God gave him the courage, love, and determination to follow Christ even when it cost him everything and to proclaim Christ’s message of love all the way to the cross. And I thank God that He continues to let his voice resonate with others continuing his message of hope for a changed world, one that embraces love rather than retreating to violence. My prayer is that he will stand as a symbol of courage and hope to others in the church that one voice, one life can make a difference.

Below is the article. I hope it inspires you to think deeply and to act courageously
God’s blessings to you all this Thanksgiving season and on this Armistice Day of Remembrance..

Kristi Casteel; for The Joshua Casteel Foundation

Editorial: Questioning our assent to militarism
NCR Editorial Staff | Nov. 7, 2013
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EDITORIAL Joshua Casteel was a young man of deep and serious intent who found himself confronting two conflicting realities in 2004: his role as a soldier and interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and his growing conviction the Gospel that was increasingly capturing his heart and his imagination told him the war and occupation were unjust.
Casteel was just 32 when he died of cancer in 2012, but he left behind a legacy of struggling with huge and demanding questions that would have filled several ordinary lifetimes. As a 2009 NCR profile described him, he had traveled the distance “from conservative evangelical to ardent Roman Catholic” and “from West Point appointee to crusading pacifist.”

His life remains significant today because of the compelling questions it raises for Christians living in the most militarized country on earth and especially for those within a church that maintains the apparatus for a military archdiocese. That Archdiocese for the Military Services is now asking U.S. Catholics to support it through a national collection. The questions are raised anew, starkly, in the provocative essay by Mark Scibilia-Carver. While we would have reservations about some of Scibilia-Carver’s conclusions, he is profoundly correct to place the appeal for money for the military archdiocese directly next to the words of three popes of recent years, all of whom unqualifiedly condemn state violence and even question whether a “just war” is possible in this era. The most recent declaration is from Pope Francis: “There can be no religious justification of violence in whatever way it manifests itself.”

Long overdue in the American church is a reasoned and deep discussion of U.S. militarism, the proper use of force, the state’s responsibility to protect and defend, and the role of people of faith in all of this. To this point, Catholic teaching has had little effect in distinguishing us from any other segment of society when it comes to participation in wars and militarism.

In 2012, the United States spent more on its military — $682 billion — than the next 10 countries — China, Russia, United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy and Brazil — combined. We are trying to extricate ourselves from the second of two wars that have cost our treasury — quite apart from the annual defense budget expenditures — more than $2 trillion already. According to a study by Harvard Kennedy School Professor Linda Bilmes, the total cost of those two wars, when considering the long-term costs of providing medical care for the thousands of injured veterans, will exceed $4 trillion.

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All of that far outstrips what the U.S. pays annually on entitlements. The defense budget itself is more expensive in a given year than any other single budget item, save for Social Security. And yet the military gets a relatively free pass when talk turns to budget cutting and deficit trimming.

Does a greater threat exist to religious liberty, family life, adherence to the heart of the Gospel than to allow the state and its military recruiters unfettered and unchallenged access to our children? Would we, without question, hand over lists of those in our schools to any other institution knowing that if the recruiters are successful, the children will ultimately be schooled in the ways of violence?

Yet our bishops have nothing to say.

The collection for the military archdiocese brings the glorification of militarism into the sanctuary. It asks U.S. Catholics to give assent to militarism to a degree that is breathtaking for a Christian denomination. We hope bishops resist the idea of flyovers or singing the national anthem at Mass. No one is suggesting that Catholics anywhere should go without spiritual guidance and support. We are strongly suggesting, however, that Catholics need to challenge the church’s unquestioning compliance with the pervasive demands of U.S. militarism.

A stubborn, persistent strain runs through Catholic history, highlighted in figures such as St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis of Assisi — whose lives gain new prominence today in the papacy of Francis — of conversion from war to the ways of the nonviolent Christ. Along with heroic military chaplains, the church has also sent on the path to sainthood the Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to join the German war effort in World War II because he found it unjust and incompatible with his understanding of the Christian Gospel. Those examples show, certainly, that the church can honor consciences variously formed and exercised.

But what kind of formation are we providing our young in this era of weapons of unimaginable destruction, in this age of drones and borderless wars, where assassination missions are carried out via robot within sovereign nations with whom we are not at war?

One of the more tragic elements in Casteel’s journey from warrior to pacifist was his failure to find a Catholic chaplain with whom he could discuss his growing reluctance to participate in war. He said he found commanding officers more sympathetic to his point of view and more willing to smooth the way to conscientious objector status than he encountered in any of the priests he consulted. Who would hesitate to hold up Casteel as possessing, in that scenario, the most compelling understanding of the Gospel?

Shouldn’t young Catholics, instead of hearing rousing support for the military from their pulpits and parish bulletins, be told that the nonviolent Christ and his command to love enemies might pose an obstacle to a military career?

This story appeared in the Nov 8-21, 2013 print issue under the headline: Questioning our assent to militarism .