The Golden Rule

Blog by Sr. Pat Connick, OP

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

                                            –“The New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus

When I was in public high school, we learned about the waves of immigration that took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries here in America.  We learned about ports of entry, in particular, Ellis Island in New York City, not far from the Statue of Liberty, that “mighty woman with a torch.”  I found out through conversation with my parents that, indeed, my father’s parents had come through that very port in 1893 from Ireland. (My mother’s parents had already come from Germany in the 1840’s.)   We also were encouraged to memorize the second half of this poem by Emma Lazarus, which was written to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.  

We need to screen properly, and with dignity, the people who seek to come to our country. 

We do not need to fear them simply for coming, for being displaced from their original countries by circumstances none of us would want to life through!

We need to think about what to do once they come to us. How can we prepare a welcome?

We do not need to call them an “invasion” or immediate cast suspicion upon their motivations without hearing what they have to say.

The myth is that we do not have enough to go around.

The truth is that together we will always have an abundance because of our synergy.

That where historically our strength as a nation has come forth…

I’m asking is that perhaps we all could try to follow more closely the “Golden Rule”, found in some closely related version in every religion:  “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” I find myself asking, “How would I want to be treated, if God forbid, I found myself in circumstances like…?”  

Indeed, my case, I need to do what has already been done for my family over 100 years ago:  I want “to lift a lamp beside the golden door” for those now 100 years later are experiencing the same thing that my ancestors already did. 

Can we not find a civilized way to discuss this issue for the sake of our brothers and sisters who still are fleeing oppression?  Will we not find that by opening our country to those who wish to live safe and productive lives, we will find new creative energy as a nation, just as we have in the past?

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

ALL SAINTS DAY Matthew 5:1-12a

Blog by Sr. Theresa Fox, OP

In the Gospel for All Saints Day Jesus names the beatitudes – that is “be attitudes” – attitudes of being – ways of acting. These are not laws. Instead they are named as guides for us as we journey through life. On All Saints Day we celebrate the feast of “a great multitude, which no one could count from every nation, race, people and tongue” (Revelation 7:9)

Some of the great multitude we knew. They were our parents, siblings, friends, Dominican Sisters. Just recently, several of our Dominican sisters of Peace joined this great multitude. This great multitude also includes people unknown to us – the innocent victims of war or violence, faithful parents who raised their children to live authentic lives, and then lived to a ripe old age, those who died of disease before living a full life, and so many more. The list goes on and on.

This great multitude are those who took the beatitudes seriously. In one way or another, they lived them. Some were known to be meek – slow to anger and quick to forgive. Others hungered for righteousness, marched and wrote letters to change unjust situations. Still others were peacemaker in his/her family. Many were persecuted for the sake of justice. Their attitudes and the way they lived during their lives on earth may not have made headlines. But God knew of their mercy or peacefulness or justice seeking. God called them to their reward of the fullness of heaven.

These beatitudes, bring us to today, All Saints Day. We remember those we knew who have died; we add those unknown, all who have not been officially canonized by the Church. We thank them for their lives. We thank them for their example.

But it can’t end there. We too are called to live as Jesus taught. We too are called to be peacemakers, clean of heart, merciful. We too are challenged to live the beatitudes – attitudes of being – ways of acting.

The question to ponder might be; for what beatitude will you be remembered?

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Stories to Tell

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

As we draw near to the celebration of All Souls’ Day, I find myself reflecting on some of the souls that have crossed our path down here at the Peace Center over these four years. Their lives had all been impacted by Hurricane Katrina and they now lived in Section 8 housing in the Pine Street Apartments.

Miss Janet was a wonderful Grandmother who loved to read and hoped we would start a book club at the center. In the interim she borrowed from our library and when her grandchildren came to visit she would gather as many books as possible to read to them while they stayed with her. She always returned the books and when she couldn’t manage to walk over she would send them via another resident. She died in the hospital in 2016.

Ms. Al hated to be called “Ms. Al”. Alpharetta was beset with many infirmities but she had never let them get the better of her. She was bound and determined to come to bingo at the center but it took a lot out of her. After a time she began to wonder if it was all worth it and slowly did less and less. She ended up in the hospital in 2017 where she died with family and friends around her.

Dianne was quite a character, and to hear her tell it she had once advised Ellen Degeneris to get out of stand up comedy in the Quarter and head to Hollywood. Seems Ellen frequented the bar where Dianne took care of the drinks; it would seem that  the advice was well heeded. We were never quite sure if the bartending came before or after she was a surgical nurse, but Dianne claimed both as her careers before Katrina. Dianne had many facets to her life and personality, and the word irascible was well applied to her. She loved to talk and only cared that you listen, not agree or disagree, but beware if you did disagree. Then according to her, you were never listening in the first place.  We knew she was starting to become weaker on the day she came to ask us to make sure she could give us her dogs if something happened. She died alone in her apartment in 2017.

Clifford was a man who loved life and had to make changes after Katrina that left him in a wheelchair with one leg amputated. By the time of his death he was a double amputee, but not even that stopped him from coming to play Bingo, going on our field trips and being with his friends. He thought it was great when there were hats as bingo prizes now and then; you never saw him without one. He died in the hospital in late 2017.

Gilbert was a great afficionado of the French Quarter and had many friends in the trendy Bywater. He biked everywhere until he suffered a stroke a year or so ago. It didn’t exactly stop him but it meant more time in rehab than he wanted. He had a quick wit and snappy repartee but was always the gentleman. He too had been a bartender and knew lots of things about the Quarter. His friends and family held a Celebration of Life at Vaughn’s Lounge in the Bywater. It was quite a send off.

Quite the characters all five of these folks, but they all taught us many things about being ourselves with the folks around the center, accepting people as they are and learning the value of telling stories.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

So Much More That Must Be Done: Part 2

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Last month, in my previous blog, I suggested that nothing less than a Reformation of the Priesthood was needed to begin a path toward restoring credibility in the Catholic hierarchy. Since then, much more has happened with the resignation of Cardinal Wuerl of Washington, DC and Pope Francis’s indication that he is investigating the case of Theodore McCarrick’s past behavior — who knew what and when. Not to mention what is happening throughout the Catholic world on the subject of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.

I have struggled to offer anything constructive on how we might recover from this devastating cancer. We laity have very little voice and almost no influence over what the bishops will do to correct their course going forward.  But there is so much more that needs to be done, that I wonder what would happen if we all wrote to our local bishops and offered some serious feedback about would help us as laity to feel there was any hope of recovery from this sin in our Church.

So here are a few seriously considered recommendations you could make to our bishops:

Stop blaming the gay community. This is the most blatant scapegoating and it is cheap and disrespectful of people who have nothing to do with the problem of pedophilia. Rather, recommend that your bishop focus on some serious revisions to his own understanding and Catholic understanding in general of human sexuality. It might be a bridge too far for many bishops to think that homosexuality is simply a particular place on the spectrum of human personality, but he could at least not blame gay people for this pedophilia problem.

Stop blaming celibacy. It is not for everyone, clearly, but you could point out that it is possible to live a healthy and productive celibate life, with the right support and committed community of friends.  The best way to choose a celibate life is to have great men and women who are examples of healthy and happy celibate lives as inspiration. Learn by good example. Celibacy is not for everyone so can we at least begin to talk about an option for a married priesthood? Bishops don’t seem to mind admitting formerly Anglican married priests into the Church. A serious examination of the double message of this practice is in order and an honest explanation is needed of why it’s okay for some priests to be married and other not.

While we are on the topic, maybe we should think twice about clerics teaching people about marriage and have couples with a successful marriage do that part for us.  Surely there are plenty of qualified and educated laity around. Teaching by example and lived experience is inspiring.

Stop talking and start listening. The time for empty words and a pledge to do better is over. To be honest, I don’t appreciate being invited by the hierarchy to join in a common prayer for healing and forgiveness. It seems pretty strange that a bishop would invite me to pray for forgiveness when he needs to be asking the laity for forgiveness.  I’m having a hard time taking bishops seriously who have no accountability for covering up pedophilia. Ask your bishop to listen to the pain and suffering this has caused victims and the rest of the laity as well. Can he stay at the table long enough to know their hurt at a deep and transformative level?

Stop thinking that present seminary education and priestly formation is adequate. A fearless and honest look at how priests are trained is essential. Ask your bishop to tell you how their men are being equipped for lifelong development of their own spirituality, pastoral skills, and how they can maintain a community of personal support. What is he doing to be a brother to his priests who are struggling or lonely or poorly suited to a ministry?

Finally, my last suggestion is that the hierarchy follow the traditional steps for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

  1. Examine your conscience. What sins of omission or commission do you need to own in order to make a good confession? Ask the Holy Spirit for help.
  2. Publicly admit the exact nature of your wrongs to the people of your diocese. Being able to admit wrong takes humility and a willingness to accept the consequences of your actions. Losing power can be scary, but it is not the end of the world. We, the laity, are very capable of forgiving, but not very tolerant of covering up sin.
  3. Express your remorse and contrition for offending God and the people whom you serve.
  4. Ask for the forgiveness of those who were abused, be willing to make amends to them, without a lawyer present, no matter how long ago the abuse took place.
  5. Do public penance and meaningful acts of contrition that demonstrate a sincere desire and openness to reform. Then follow that with action that begins to rebuild some credibility.

Reconciliation is possible, because in the very long haul, the people of God have been sustained by their faith in good times and in bad, during great trials and suffering. I believe that we have the potential for a new Church, a renewed, more humble Church.  But I think this one will take a very long time.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Victory is Ours: a Reflection on Holy Hope

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

Our small community hasn’t done the candle-lighting ritual before evening prayer for the past two months. In the candle’s place we have a small globe encircled by its stand, a ring of gold. We take the globe from its stand, and adjust its placement as we choose a country, a people, a region, where the Light of Christ seems dim and needful and we pray that the Light of the World will shine there with peace and healing and hope. It’s a way to keep us aware of Christ’s presence and promise in the midst of  the whirling winds of bad news and constant noise of things going bad, the winds and waves and fires and floods, our brothers and sisters imperiled and fleeing from war and terror, and the mounting anguish of hearts broken and lives ruined. It’s a way to bolster us in our Christian gift and task of bringing hope in Christ Jesus, the Light no darkness can vanquish.

There’s a Taize chant that I love, with words that foster my hope.

Goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate;             

Light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger that death;

Victory is ours, victory is ours, through him who loves us. (Repeat)

Victory is a bit martial sounding—a suggestion of a clash of armor heard in the distance– but it is a word that Christians use for the Paschal Mystery at work in history and eternity, with its great Feast celebrated at Easter.  As a religious metaphor, it always needs some careful trimming and more room to grow. And there is always the question, “Well, where is it, where can we see this victory?” because it wears a different face, God’s face.

Over recent weeks we have seen the ugly fissures scarring our American landscape and felt the fear that things may be falling apart. We will never know ourselves in the same way, never again sing “God Bless America” without taking a knee. We’re mystified at our own processes of self-destruction. We cannot explain ourselves to ourselves. Our nation and our world cry out for Truth, justice, and repentance.  Optimism is far too fragile a vehicle to sustain the transformation eternally offered us. Only hope in God’s presence and promises can carry us on that journey, which we can see is the Way of the Cross writ large, a hard path, and painful.

Our scholar brother Marie-Dominique Chenu once wrote, “You might say that when something new is beginning, when things shake and tumble, then (we) are most happy. For a special opportunity is being given to observe the Word of God at work in history. The “Nowness” of God is shaking up the world.”

God, the prime “mover and shaker” is at work in the rattling and rumbling of sin and death, stronger than all that threatens us. Victory is first and finally God’s work, and it seems for now that God is calling us to preach grace wherever and whenever it breaks through, and to “wait in joyful hope” as God-in-Christ gathers us all into the Light and the Peace surpassing all understanding.

Posted in Wednesday's Word