Saturday, December 01, 2012

Saints bring hope on World AIDS Day 2012

Patrons of the AIDS Pandemic by Lewis Williams, SFO

World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 supports everyone affected by HIV.  The day is dedicated to prevention and treatment, and honors those who died of AIDS -- more than 25 million people worldwide.

World AIDS Day holds great personal meaning for me. I lost many friends to AIDS when I was ministering in the LGBT community of San Francisco in the late 1980s. Back then there were no effective treatments and many gay men were dying of AIDS.

For those who want to learn about -- or remember -- what it was like, I recommend the new documentary We Were Here. With honesty and grace, the film revisits the arrival and impact of AIDS on San Francisco, revisiting the devastation of a gay generation lost to AIDS. For me everyone in the movie looked like someone I knew. ALL the faces were familiar! Watching it is both heartbreaking and inspirational.

I wrote about some of my AIDS ministry experiences for Christian Century magazine in an article titled “We Are the Church Alive, the Church with AIDS.” The article is reprinted in the book The Church with AIDS: Renewal in the Midst of Crisis, edited by Letty Russell.

The icon “Patrons of the AIDS Pandemic” by Lewis Williams shows two pairs of medieval male saints who faced disease epidemics together with friendship and faith. Their man-to-man bonds speak to the gay community, where AIDS has a disproportionately large impact. The couples stand on each side of a chestnut tree, a symbol of life after death.

“It is hoped that they offer solace to companions who have survived a loved one’s death, or to friends\family burdened by the death of two companions,” says the text accompanying the icon.

On the left are 13th-century Franciscans who ministered in an Italian leper colony: Blessed Bartolo Buonpedoni and Blessed Vivaldo. Bartolo got leprosy while caring for the sick, so he had to live in segregated housing. His loyal friend Vivaldo moved into the leper house with him, even though he himself did not contract the ailment. They lived together for 20 years until Bartolo’s death. Today there are effective treatments for leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease. AIDS has taken its place as a dreaded and stigmatized disease.

On the right stand 14th-century Carmelite monks St.Avertanus and Blessed Romeo, traveling companions who died together of the plague. Avertanus felt inspired to go to Rome, so he got permission to take Romeo with him. They faced rain and snow as they made an adventurous pilgrimage over the Alps from France to Italy. No Italian city would let them in, for an epidemic of plague was raging. Avertanus died first, followed a week later by Romeo.

The icon was painted by New Mexico artist Lewis Williams of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO). He studied with master iconographer Robert Lentz and has made social justice a theme of his icons.

Let us join in the following AIDS prayer by Diann L. Neu, Diann, cofounder and codirector of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER). It was published in Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations:

One Person: Compassionate Holy One, open our hearts and minds and hands so that we may connect ourselves to the global community of others responding to AIDS as we pray:
We remember all the women, men, and children in this country and around the world who are living with AIDS.

All: Justice demands that we remember and respond.

One: We remember all who care for people living and dying with AIDS in their homes, in hospices, and in support centers.

All: Justice demands that we remember and respond.

One: We remember all who are involved in research and hospital care that they may respect the dignity of each person.

All: Justice demands that we remember and respond.

One: We remember all partners who are left mourning for their beloved ones.

All: Justice demands that we remember and respond.

One: We remember all parents who learn the truth of their children’s lives through their process of facing death….
We remain vigilant,
Until a cure for AIDS is found,
Until those dying with AIDS are comforted,
Until truth sets us free,
Until love drives out injustice.
We shall not give up the fight.

candle rust animated Pictures, Images and Photos
In memory of: Brian Dose, Rev. Ron Russell-Coons, Scott B, Stephen Clover, Richard O’Dell, Bruce Bunger, Scott Galuteria, Kevin Y, Harold O, Ric Hand, Paul Francis, Rev. Larry Uhrig, Rev. Jim Sandmire, David C, Wayne Mielke, Rev. Dan Mahoney, Bill Knox, Sue H, Tom, Jesse Oden, Jim Veilleux, John from Axios, Robert P, Daven Balcomb, Dave Eckert, Martin Lounsberry, Mark S, David Castagna, Kevin Calegari, Rev. Rick Weatherly, Don K, Michael Mank, David Ward, Rev. Howard Wells, Rev. Howard Warren, Ken Bland, Lanny Dykes, Rob Eichberg, Virgil Hall, Randy Cypherd, Charles Hosley... and all others who lost their lives to HIV and AIDS.

More spiritual resources for World AIDS Day are available at:
World AIDS Day Campaign's Faith Advocacy Toolkit

MCC Global HIV and AIDS Ministry

Another beautiful artwork supporting people with AIDS is “Il Martir (The Martyr)” by Armando Lopez (pictured at left). For the story behind the painting, see my previous post, “Art honors AIDS martyrs on World AIDS Day.”

This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Patrons of the AIDS Pandemic and many other icons are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores

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