Musings on Redeeming the Soul of a Country

Pat Dual
Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

On July 30, 2020, we laid to rest another giant of the Civil Rights Movement, Congressman John L. Lewis. Speaker after speaker revealed a life lived from an early age with a mission “to do something” about the injustice of racism.  He made this choice at age 15 because as he wrote in his final letter to the country, 14 year old “Emmitt Till was his George Floyd, his Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor.”  He knew with great clarity “the potential brutality” that could be inflicted upon him and others who look like him for “no understandable reason.” For six decades, John Lewis took his own advice “to do something” in the struggle for peace and justice through his leadership in the Civil Rights movement. Even now in his death, he inspires a new generation, the Black Lives Matter movement, in its 21st century struggle against injustice.

As a 68-year-old Black woman raised in Virginia, I am very much aware of the struggle for racial equality and the civil rights movement. However, I must admit that the murder of George Floyd affected me more deeply than I am able to express in knowing that only the color of his skin gave “unspoken” permission for such brutality. How do you even process that kind of trauma?  I found that as much as I wanted to write to about what I was feeling—I could not.  The inspiration of hearing and reading about John Lewis’ life in recent days has contributed to helping me move further along in my own journey of “doing something” in the struggle to proclaim that Black lives matter!

In this June 7, 2020, photo provided by the Executive Office of District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, John Lewis looks over a section of 16th Street that’s been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington. The Washington Monument and the White House are visible in the distance. Lewis, a lion of the civil rights movement whose bloody beating by Alabama state troopers in 1965 helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation, and who went on to a long and celebrated career in Congress, died. He was 80. (Khalid Naji-Allah/Executive Office of the Mayor via AP)

Proclaiming that Black Lives Matter and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, in some ways, has become divisive. Some want to express their support of the statement that Black lives matter, but not the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) —associating it with violence, Marxist ideology or that it denigrates the traditional idea of family. Beyond the statement “Black Lives Matter,” I understand the principles of the Black Lives Matter movement, in essence as “promoting a world where every Black person has the social, economic and political power to thrive.  They promote freedom for all people regardless of race, gender identity, economic status, religion beliefs or not, and immigration status.”  What I have seen of legitimate leaders and followers of the BLM movement has been peaceful protests and the inclusion of all races and sexual orientations. Such inclusiveness might disturb some, but is that not part of what the Gospel is about—meeting people where they are without judgement of who they are.

I believe the Black Lives Matter movement has often been a target for disinformation.  Promoting disinformation has always been a strategy for discrediting anything or anyone that threatens the status quo and power structure. Openness to learning truth is the only way to combat disinformation.

Like Congressman John Lewis and leaders of the Civil Rights movement, I am inspired by this new, young, and diverse generation who continue “the good fight” proclaiming in the 21st century that Black lives do, indeed, matter!

I pray this time we are heard.

Pat Dual, OP

Posted in God Calling?, News

Introducing…A Song

Blog by Rev. Ron Kurzawa
I want to introduce you to a song. Some of you will already recognize this song but I strongly suspect for many this is a first. I am providing the words of this song, the full lyrics of its three verses. I ask that you read them slowly, carefully. Reflect on the content, what is being said. When you have done that, you will be ready for my comments below. And at the very end of this blog, I am also providing a link to enable you to actually listen to this song.

OK – here goes:

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land. 

So, what do you think? Good song? Strong lyrics? Expressive of the American Dream? Filled with the acknowledgement of God as the true Source of our strength? Yes, I believe all that and more.

And for those who do not know this song, it’s title is Lift Every Voice and Sing, originally a poem dating back to the early 1800’s and eventually transformed into song. And today it is often referred to as the Black National Anthem!

Truth be told, there is no one “Black National Anthem.” Can’t be. Technically, every national anthem across the great continent of Africa and across the island nations of the Caribbean would be a “Black”  national anthem. But this song has given voice to the longings, hopes and dreams of Black citizens of the United States. And as I contemplate the content of this song, these are rich and beautiful longings that capture the reality of history, words that make proper tribute to the Power and Presence of God. And now this song, probably unknown, unheard, unrecognized by so many is also upsetting so many.

The National Football League has decided that, if there is a season this year, it will begin with inclusion of this song. So, what’s the problem with adding another song to the beginning of a game? Well, some would suggest, we have only one national anthem. True — but — We are many people with diverse histories, background and traditions. That’s the beauty of America.

As a youngster, in a Slovak Parish and school, our public events were known to begin with the Slovak National Anthem in addition to the American. As a student in a mostly Polish college, the same held true for singing the Polish National Anthem.

When the Toronto sports teams or those from Montreal play games on our soil, we stand, include and even sing the Canadian National Anthem and when our teams are across the boarder, they afford us the same courtesy.

Bottom line – this is a good song, a beautiful song, a song of our brothers and sisters and now they want to share it with us. We can stand strong and tall and unified. We can and should stand together. And Lift Every Voice and Sing!
Meantime,
keep praying
and stay safe.
Posted in Just Reflecting, News

Memorial of St. Martha

Preaching by Sr. Theresa Fox, OP

Today we celebrate St. Martha. We know all about her as the practical woman doing the things that needed to be done – like cooking and serving the guests. But there is much more that we can learn from Martha. There was a depth to her that we don’t hear in Luke’s account of her.

In John’s passage Lazarus had died and Jesus wasn’t there to keep him from dying. When Martha heard that Jesus was on the way, she ran to meet him.  Her conversation with Jesus that day revealed her understanding of the depth of the meaning of life and death and resurrection.  She knew that Jesus could bring someone back to life after the person had died. She may have been present at one of those times. But she knew more. She had come to realize that there would be new life after a person’s time here on earth.

But there was even more. Martha had come to believe that Jesus was more than a holy man of God who could work miracles. She was able to profess her belief in Jesus as the Messiah. She was able to say, “I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

We so often judge Martha only on the Luken story. Her sister, Mary, had chosen the better part – sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his words. But John’s passage tells us so much more. Here is what these two readings teach me. It is so easy to judge a person by one perception of her/him. There is so much more that can be revealed if we just give the person a chance. After all each person has been created in the image of our loving God. So there is much good in that person whether or not we agree with the way they live their life, their political views, their race, or anything else that may be “different”. Recently I read this prayer on Facebook.

Dear God,
Give me eyes that see the best in people
A heart that forgives the worst
A mind that forgets the bad
And a soul that never loses faith.
Amen.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Peace and Justice Updates 7.29.2020

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons – July 30
Sign the Petition
Join U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking in our letter to Attorney General William Barr to protect children and prevent online trafficking and exploitation by funding and enforcing the Protect Our Children Act of 2008. You can read more in this short backgrounder and also mail in your own customized letter on your letterhead by downloading a word doc version of this letter.

Learn More
Please join USCCB and USCSAHT for World Day Against Trafficking Webinar – July 30th at 1pm EDT. You can learn about what local, national, and international groups are doing to combat human trafficking for labor and sexual slavery domestically and abroad.

Please click here to register.

Honoring the Legacy of John Lewis
Our nation just said goodbye to Congressman John Lewis, a man who dedicated his life to the fight for voting rights and equality.

John Lewis almost died in 1965 during the fight to pass the VRA — which was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. The decision gave states the power to close polling locations, institute their own voter ID laws, change district lines, and restrict early voting.

If you’re ready to stand up for voting rights and honor the late champion John Lewis, sign this petition to Congress calling for a full restoration of the Voting Rights Act — renamed in John’s honor — today.

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

John Lewis – Presente’

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

As I write this blog, thousands of tributes are recognizing John Lewis as an icon, giant, hero, “the conscience of Congress.”  This son of sharecroppers faced challenges at every turn, with racism as the theme.  He respectfully listened to his mother ask him “not to get in trouble,” but made the goal of his life to “get in good trouble.”

In 1956, he went to his local public library to get a library card and was told, “The library is for whites only, not for coloreds.” This event served as a catalyst for “good trouble,” addressing systemic racism every step on the way.  Sixty years later, John Lewis was awarded the National Book Award in 2016 for MARCH – Book 3.

All of us who are left behind receive patrimony from John Lewis—the gifts of courage, determination, resiliency, and the ability to forgive.

In 1965, Lewis joined hundreds in attempting to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge calling for an end to police brutality.  He suffered a fractured skull, but the blood spilled only fueled his determination to keep going, never give up, never give in.  Later he would be approached by the man who beat him. The man asked for forgiveness, and without hesitation, Lewis gave it. Courage, resilience, forgiveness came easily.

If you were keeping count, John Lewis was arrested 45 times, most recently on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. For all who hold this as an issue demanding our full attention, we have a voice that says, “Stand up, speak up, and never give in.”

In 2016, Lewis led 40 representatives in a sit-in on the House floor, seeking to force Congress to address gun violence following the Orlando massacre.  He called for universal background checks, elimination of military-style assault weapons, and high capacity magazines.  This was met with criticism and ridicule from across the aisle. As Dominicans who have taken a stand on gun control reform, his message to us is, “Keep it up.”  One cannot get in too much “good trouble.”

I was sad when John Lewis announced that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer late last year.  Using an appropriate metaphor, he said, “We have many bridges to cross.  I am going to fight it.”  I thought cancer did not stand a chance with John Lewis.  He won the race of a life well-lived, or as David Brooks termed it, “eulogy virtues” – those characteristics that people remember after you are gone.

We are left with many struggles for justice and peace in our world that sometimes seem insurmountable.  We are gifted with words of encouragement from one who lived those words.  In his memory, I hope we will work for the passage of a voting rights bill, comprehensive immigration legislation, and civil rights at every level.

His message to us is a message for the ages:

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 15: U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) (R) is presented with the 2010 Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama during an East Room event at the White House February 15, 2011 in Washington, DC. Obama presented the medal, the highest honor awarded to civilians, to twelve pioneers in sports, labor, politics and arts. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“You are light.  Never let anyone or any force dampen, dim or diminish your light!  Release the need to hate, to harbor division and the enticement of revenge.  Release all the bitterness.  Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle to overcome evil has already been won.”

May we continue the legacy of “good trouble.”

 

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog