I don’t know about you, but I’ve been having a hard time finding the words to pray.
This has happened before. It’s usually when the issues and circumstances before me are too overwhelming and confusing.
What to pray for when it seems as if all is lost – like in the case of the recent hurricanes or the indiscriminant shooting of innocent people attending a concert.
Why O God?
I turned to the Psalms and found many that expressed my concern, anguish, anger and faith in the love of God.
Here’s one: Psalm 77
I cry aloud to You, O God, to the Eternal Listener,
that I might be heard. In the day of trouble I seek the Beloved; in the night my hand is stretched out in prayer; my soul yearns to be comforted.*
The phrase “my hand is stretched out in prayer;” reminds me of a prayer I wrote as a novice and hold in my heart at times like this . . .“with fingers of faith, I hold onto God’s hand in the dark.” It comforts me know that I can hold God’s hand and be steadied…to be comforted.
Yes, I know God’s hands are only tangible in the person of a friend, a sister, a stranger – like the woman who held the dying man’s hand in Las Vegas or the rescuer who held the hand of the girl until they were able to free her from the rubble of the school in Mexico.
Those are God’s hands.
Those are our hands.
Be the hands, heart and voice of our God who is ever beside us.
With fingers of faith, hold onto God’s hand in the dark.
*from Psalms for Praying by Nan Merrill, (2005, Continuum, New York, NY)
In today’s Gospel Jesus invites several people to follow him. They don’t see the urgency of this invitation and give all kinds of excuses for not responding. We might be tempted to criticize Jesus for not understanding their needs to bury a father or say good bye. And if we focus only on the surface, we will likely miss the more important invitation to participate in the Kingdom of God.
The same misunderstanding might happen if we only look at the surface of the “Take a Knee” movement. We are in danger of missing the deeper meaning. Many of us ask “why do these players want to disrespect our flag and, by extension, the men and women who fight or fought to preserve it?” This is a legitimate question but it misses what’s underneath the surface. The real question is “what is behind this action?” or “what compels them to do this?” When we get to the real question, we can begin to make progress in correcting it and enable the players (and their supporters) to stand up again.
This opportunity presented to us by the athletes is an opportunity to have real frank discussions about what is happening in our nation today. Yes, these athletes make millions of dollars but what about the communities where they grew up? They had the talent and drive to move beyond the poverty and violence. But most cannot.
At the Dominican Learning Center, we see the effects of poverty every day. Fathers who can’t support their families…mothers who have children in prison…men and women struggling with the effects of past addictions. These are the very real problems that exist behind the actions of the athletes.
Jesus invites us to follow him right now. Let’s accept that invitation and begin substantive discussion about what’s happening in our nation and take action to improve it. Then, our athletes and all of us can stand proudly once again and salute a “land of the free and a home of the brave.”
October 17, 2017: A Day to Heed the United Nation’s Call…
To eradicate poverty everywhere
To become an inclusive society
What will it take to meet this prophetic call?
A Commemoration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty: October 17, 2017
Thirty years ago the United Nations set October 17 as a day to raise awareness of and direct our energies towards the eradication of poverty throughout the globe. Carved in a commemorative stone is the conviction,
“Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights are respected is our solemn duty.”
These are the words of Fr. Joseph Wresinski. His life experience of poverty, hope and transformation may be an inspiration to all. Joseph was born in 1917 to immigrant parents in an internment camp outside Paris. His sister died in that camp of malnutrition, and his mother suffered humiliation from her dependence on donations. The intensity of this family’s experience of chronic poverty and social exclusion became a driving force in his life as a priest for all people. His chosen priestly residence was with the poor in a camp for the homeless. His efforts to build relationships with all people finally led him to gather together 100,000 people of all social backgrounds at the Human Rights and Liberty Trocadero Plaza in Paris, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948, to honor the victims of extreme poverty, violence and hunger.
Out of this ability to bring people together, Fr. Wresinski started the movement “ATD Fourth World “(All Together in Dignity). As an international movement that is active in 34 countries it remains a force in the determined effort to defeat poverty. In solidarity and collaboration with the most excluded families around the world, ATD designs and plans its projects with the participation of people living in persistent poverty. It has been demonstrated that the most disadvantaged people can be empowered to free themselves from the dependence and indignity of poverty when their courage and capacity for action are recognized, and when everyone takes responsibility for overcoming the prejudice and discrimination that continue to exclude people living in poverty.
The United Nations set the theme for this year’s commemoration appropriately as, “Answering the Call of October 17 to end poverty: A Path Toward Peaceful and Inclusive Societies.” It has been demonstrated that the poverty of some affects whole communities and leads to the destabilizing of civic structures. We are witnesses to the instability of our age, to a depersonalized world overrun with war, terrorism, human exploitation, and a self-centered will to power.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to end all poverty everywhere by 2030 seems too ambitious to many, but according to the Director-General of UNESCO it is achievable. Irina Bokova claims that success rests on political determination driven by solid knowledge about the causes, mechanisms, and consequences of poverty.
If we look at the magnitude of world and local poverty from a merely statistical reference we learn that 2.4 billion people survive on less than $2.00 a day; 1.6 billion people live in poverty; one half of the refugee population are children.
The poor have a voice. What do we hear them say about the situations that make poverty a systemic trap for them:
“I am not able to find work with my limited skills.
How will I feed my children?
I cannot support my children on low wages I make in 2 jobs
I am forced to choose between food and medicine in my senior years.
I am undocumented and am exploited by my employer.
I am opiad addicted and feel trapped.
My parents may be deported. Who will care for me?
I may be deported. Where do I belong?
The soup kitchen lost its grant. How will I eat?
We have lost everything in hurricanes, floods, etc.
I am hungry and no one feeds me, I want to learn and no one teaches me.
I don’t want bombs; I need bread.”
On the international level, children are the innocent victims of war and violence, famine and displacement. The hostilities in Syria, Yemen and Palestine lead us to wonder how children can live normal loving lives when fear is their emotional response to life. It is heart wrenching to know that children are dying each day of starvation, as I dump food in the garbage.
It is heartening to know that movements of solidarity and care are finding ways to change things. One movement close to my heart is Bread For The World. Its primary purpose is to end hunger everywhere. Although not political in intent, BFW is currently pushing Congress to respond to the spreading famine in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. The famine and displacements are reaching proportions that haven’t been seen since World War II. BFW Churches mobilize people to write letters to Congress and to visit their legislators to effect changes in policy.
Albert Nolan in his book “Hope in An Age of Despair,” 2010, reframes our option for the poor as an option for the cause of the poor. He writes, “Beyond our ability to be moved by the pain of the poor, as good as that is, we are to take sides against the cause of the rich; to choose to eliminate unjust economic structures that discriminate against the poor, but the poor themselves have to take up their own cause.”
Taking on the call to be in solidarity with the poor is a task and grace given to us by Jesus. “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sakes He became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8: 9).
As our own legislators are consumed with measures that will remove health care and safety nets for many, while Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have caused loss of life, destruction of homes, citizens in the entertainment and media industries hosted the telethon Hand-in-Hand, and raised millions of relief funds. The Global Citizens Festival, held in September in New York, was a gathering of 60,000 people of all ages, races and creeds calling for political and social change, with special efforts to defeat AIDS and poverty. As I watched these events on TV and saw faces radiating the joy of life, I wondered if we are witnessing a renaissance of goodness, a new age of spirit and unity!
Our prophetic Pope Francis tells us in his Encyclical “Laudato Si” “that the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together…affecting the most vulnerable people on the planet…the gravest effects are suffered by the poorest.”
As we commemorate this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, you may wish to Google some websites for the many heartening stories of solidarity. One story that touched me was that of the Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC). It began 15 years ago when parents and families walked in the rain to the juvenile courthouse, stood and gave voice to over 2,000 voiceless families to abolish the school to prison pipeline, thus reforming the juvenile justice system.
Finally, as we join with other alliances to fight poverty, secure inclusion and dignity for all, what would we write on our commemorative stone? Have we already done so in our Chapter mandates?
Justice Committee Announcement from the Eco-Justice Committee
October 4th is the Feast of Sr. Francis of Assisi. Read this short reflection from Sr. Jane Belanger on Care for Creation and how we, as Dominicans, can learn from Francis’ example to commit ourselves to both compassionate contemplation and Gospel-centered action to care for the Earth.
Click here for the October issue of Stop Trafficking!
As Congress returns from August recess, we are gearing up for debates on the federal budget. NETWORK is leading a national letter-writing campaign to Speaker Paul Ryan (a Catholic himself) letting him know that a budget that cuts protections for the most vulnerable families is out of line with Catholic teachings and values.
NETWORK is asking all Catholic Sisters (and Associates) to write a personal letter which includes the following:
Introduce yourself; be sure to include your religious order affiliation, where you are located, and a brief description of your ministry.
Choose an area or a few areas of the Trump budget that would have a particular impact on the people you minister to in your community or that resonate with your personal experience. Briefly explain the impact of the budget on you or your community using personal experiences when relevant.
Highlight the principles of Catholic Social Justice that apply to the issue areas you’ve mentioned and emphasize the importance of a faithful budget that uplifts human dignity and meets the needs of people at the margins.
Mail your letter to the NETWORK office by November 10, and we will deliver all of the letters to Speaker Ryan’s office on Capitol Hill.
NETWORK Lobby 25 E. Street NW Suite 200 Washington, DC 20001
DACA Action Alert from LCWR October 5 is the absolute deadline for DREAMers to register for DACA. NOW is the time to bring the Dream Act 2017 to the floor of the House for an up or down vote. Dreamers deserve it. We must demand it.
Ask Republican Representatives to Sign the Discharge Petition One hundred ninety-four Representatives have signed the discharge petition, which “discharges” H.R. 1084, the “Today’s American Dream Act” and substitutes the text of H.R. 3440, the “Dream Act 2017.” We need just 25 more Republicans to do the right thing—sign the discharge petition—and give the Dream Act 2017 a vote on the floor of the House.
Please call your Republican Representative today and every day until we get a vote. Urge her/him to do the right thing. If she/he supports DREAMers, then it’s time to step up and take action. SIGN the discharge petition and give the Dream Act 2017 an up or down vote.
There’s a famous quote that goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” I want to reverse that quote and say, “If you don’t kneel for something, you’ll stand for anything.”
The recent political debate has focused on NFL (and other athletic) players who have knelt during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice. I’ve seen both support and backlash in the news, on TV, and in endless posts and pictures on Facebook.
However, this protest is about much more than the National Anthem or the American flag. It’s about equality. It’s about justice. It’s about American lives. Where is the moral character of our country when white nationalists who protest are called “fine people” by the president, yet NFL players who peacefully protest injustice are scrutinized and called unpatriotic?
The actions of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi were often viewed as improper, disrespectful, or a mere charade. Yet their peaceful protests became the cornerstones behind major societal shifts.
By taking a knee and bringing attention to a national and moral injustice, these athletes are, by kneeling, standing for what they believe in. I am thankful that these professional athletes are using their platform and positions of influence to stir political discussion on an issue that is far too often swept under the rug. They are coming together, putting their fame and reputations on the line in order to speak out against racial injustice, peacefully.
Some say this display of protest causes division between fans and the public, further polarizing and dividing our country, and others say they prefer to view sporting games for entertainment, not politics. Yet when racial injustice is so clear and so present in our country, when young black men are being brutalized and killed in our streets, perhaps we do not have the privilege to ignore it as we enjoy a ball game.
Whether in prayer or protest, maybe it’s time we all take a knee against racial injustice.