Father Louis Vitale: Spiritual Warrior for Peace & Son of St. Francis

Today in San Francisco there is a memorial Mass for Father Louis Vitale, a Franciscan brother to St. Francis.  He died at 91 in Oakland about a month ago and was a peace activist dedicated to non-violence as a means to stand up to war and injustice. 

Louis Vitale, Megan Rice, Jim Haber at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, 2008, protesting the use of torture. Wikimedia Commons.

He said he was inspired by Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.  He co-founded Pace e Bene, “Peace and Good,” in 1989 a non-profit which developed training programs for nonviolent living and practice for both personal and social change. 

He went to jail over 400 times protesting against war and injustice.  In 2005, for standing with the Navajo Nation banning uranium mining; in 2006, protesting the torture of Abu Gharib at a US military facility that trained in interrogation methods; in 2009, protesting UAV Drone attacks in Pakistan, etc., etc.

I admired him from afar, living in the Chicago area and observing his leadership role as a Franciscan provincial standing up for justice even when some of his brothers were less than supportive. 

“Interview with Father Louis Vitale.” COAnews

Moving to Oakland, I was blessed to meet him on several occasions, and what I most remember about him was his joy.  Joy and justice-making need not be separated.  Photos show him smiling deeply when being handcuffed, as he was so often.

He was an exemplar of the spirit of his brother Francis who, in his poem to Brother Sun and Sister Moon translates the beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers” this way:

All praise be yours, my Lord, through those who grant pardon for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy are those who endure in peace,
By you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Louis was a contemporary model of courage, spiritual warriorhood and authentic manhood in the way of his mentor, St. Francis.  We thank him for his witness and his inner strength.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, p. 115.

And Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine.

Banner image: “Vitale demonstrating against weaponized drones just before being arrested at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada c. 2010 to 2012.” The sign he is holding says: “Jesus says Love Your Enemies. What does your church say?” Wikimedia Commons

Queries for Contemplation

How does the story of Father Louis Vitale inspire you to be strong in your commitment to peace-making and joy and the power of non-violence to build both?

Recommended Reading

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

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6 thoughts on “Father Louis Vitale: Spiritual Warrior for Peace & Son of St. Francis”

  1. Avatar

    I was blessed that got to know Father Louis. I met him at an action where we got arrested around Iraq and then we had to go to court. He was a joyful and fun person to be around. What a committed and beautiful soul! I give thanks that I got to spend time with him.

  2. Avatar

    I thank you for the story of Father Louis Vitale. It helped validate a choice I made last night. Not as grand, yet worth telling because small acts matter.

    We have several homeless, drug addicts/alcoholics on our streets. Last night I noticed an elder outside my workplace, face first in the pavement. One coworker called police. I choose to approach this man, after assessing safety, concerned it was more than intoxication. I followed my CPR training, checking for injuries. Having a coherent conversation he got up, walking away before police arrived. I relayed info to the officer, they knew him and would check on him.

    My coworkers then started yelling at me, telling me that approaching and offering assistance was too dangerous, that what I choose to do was wrong. Their reaction I saw as fear based. Most people are afraid to engage with those living in the streets; seeing them as unapproachable. Yes, some can be when high, acting erratic; however this was not the case.

    I’m wisely trained and this, along with my intuition helped discern what was safe for me to do. The Spirit of love, compelled me to respond, rather than just stand by in fear. These wounded souls are our brothers/sisters, like it or not; and I will not hide in fear of extending compassion; when I know it is safe. The choice of response is mine to make in any given moment; even if others disagree with it, lashing out at me.

  3. Avatar

    God bless Father Louis, another Spiritual Warrior for Peace & Justice, who among others in the past and present continue to inspire us to make this a more Loving, Peaceful, Just, Joyful world for our sister’s & brothers, and for Our beautiful Sacred Mother Earth & all Her creatures and graceful abundance…

  4. Avatar

    Thank you for educating me about this great man. Having been twice to the SOA I can feel the sacrednesses of the witness there to the souls lost. Wish I had known him. Peace comes through justice.

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