At a moment with the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression of the 1930’s; a global pandemic reminiscent of one 100 years ago leading to a climate of fear of contagion, sickness and death; after people have been cooped up and socially isolated for 10 weeks… with churches, schools, parks, entertainment venues and other community centers closed; no sports; the discomfort and awkwardness of walking around with masks on our faces; government in apparent disarray- in the context of all this angry citizens are on the march in response to yet more incidents of the brutal killing of black men by white men.
Each time an atrocity connected with race presents itself we cannot help but be angry. And when the anger stirs some to violence we may find our anger losing its focus. Analysts seek to differentiate between protesters and looters; they remind us of the justice of the protesters’ cause as distinct from the criminal response to which the protests give some cover. To me it is hard to sort this out. To me what we see seems the result of ripping off a kind of societal Band-Aid, and pulling off the scab along with it. And the feeling of helplessness to make the larger situation better… well, all of the answers that have been put forward in the past seem inadequate and unsatisfying. There is this frightening fear that anything someone says is going to offend somebody… our “mea culpas” ring hollow, sounding like expressions of false piety. Our commitment “to work together to make things right” is a broken record. Some refer to slavery as our nation’s original sin. And like the original sin we talk about in church, this one has results that we can never escape- even if we come to the point of forgiveness, change and can access the grace to improve.
But we must never give up. During this time of civil unrest and moral outrage many of our leaders are searching for words to express solidarity and offer guidance. Rather than contribute too much to the multiplication of words, I invite you to ponder the words of Cardinal Cupich -
Tragedy does not eradicate hope. If there is anything we Christians take from our faith, it is that even the darkest deeds can be redeemed by love. And love is what is called for now. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Not the love of transactional friendships and cheap associations made by the click of a mouse button or an easy retweet. Signpost solidarity will not do. Only the hard work of familial love will set us on the path toward justice. The love we read about in Scripture. The love God has for his children, every one of us, even when we fail — especially when we fail. Because God knows what his children are capable of, not only how we can fail in our humanity, but even more how we can build it up. And it is up to us to show God, to show all our brothers and sisters, the neighbors we know and the ones we will never meet, how deeply we can love.
Please take time to view Cardinal Cupich's statement in it's entirety by following this link.
The Prayer of St Francis from 800 years ago seems almost cliché, but I can think of no better expression of the prayerful sentiment to which we are all called at this time. It is another “broken record,” perhaps, but one we dare not remove from the turntable:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
p.s. We are working to get you back into church for public Masses now that we have permission to begin organizing for this. The guidelines are complicated and require a number of antecedent steps prior to our being certified for this, guidelines intended to promote health and safety. Please be patient for just a little while longer. More to come.