We Have a Voice and a Vote

 

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

I have been reading John Lewis’s memoir Walking with the Wind and could probably copy into this blog almost every passage. But this one caught my attention in light of the current situation in our country:

When I care about something, when I commit to it, I am prepared to take the long hard road, knowing it may not happen today or tomorrow, but ultimately, eventually, it will happen. That’s what faith is all about…. Some battles are long and hard, and you have to have staying power. Firecrackers go off in a flash and leave nothing but ashes. I prefer a pilot light—the flame is nothing flashy, but once it is lit, it doesn’t go out. It burns steadily, and it burns forever.

This need to stay with it, to hold tight, must grow stronger in all of us, I think. Right now with the “quiet” health crisis of COVID 19 when we are not rushing out to buy essential items and finding empty shelves, and we do not see so many lines of people waiting to get into the store themselves; when we can find lots of hand sanitizers, digital thermometers, disinfectant wipes, and TOILET PAPER; these days make us relax, make us think it’s not so bad anymore. We have seen what thinking that way has gotten us. Who needs to wear a mask, right?

We apply some of that “quiet” to the issues of the protests and Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and we speak about how it will all be over soon and we can stop talking about racism. Then there is another police shooting, of a Black suspect or a police officer, and we are smacked right back into the chaos.

Many of the books I am reading now, written in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, could have been written today in 2020. Very little has changed and very few white minds have conceded how much evil exists because of the systems in which we live, get educated, make a living, raise a family, pray and socialize.

Over the next couple of months we are going to have to dig deep inside ourselves and find out just what it is that makes living in a democracy a good thing for everyone, not just a few. It will sometimes be painful, sometimes hurtful, but if we do it for the best reasons it can only be helpful and life giving.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

I bet you think you know the answer to that question, right?  Our whole approach to life is the practice of peace: being peace, building peace, preaching peace.

So why am I feeling a little bit like I am at war? At war with the stress of the pandemic, the resulting sense of chaos, or lack of direction, the uncertainty, anxiety, and tension of sheltering in place all the time.  As part of our Assembly Chapter Planning Committee, I’m deeply embedded in the processes we need to create in order to form a spirit-led direction for the next six years and plan an election process that will truly discern who might lead us into the future as Dominican Sisters of Peace. A very demanding task!

NOT ONLY THAT, the eruption of racial violence, Black Lives Matter protests and my own awakening to the long list of ways I enjoy the privilege of being a white person has been heavy on my heart. ON TOP OF THAT, we are getting close to election day and I am quite concerned that we will have to endure another four years of rising division, a President who cannot tell the difference between lies and truth, and who wraps himself in a pseudo “pro-life” posture. In my opinion.

It’s enough to drive you crazy. It feels like everything is falling apart.

Pema Chodron, a Buddhist monk, wrote a beautiful book: “When Things Fall Apart.” I’ve had it quite a while now and just went back to it to seek out her wisdom once again.

She offered me this wonderful, balanced perspective: “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy… Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all.”

It’s the not knowing part that speaks to me, as a person who likes to know, to understand, to have a plan and a mission. My dad was a great problem-solver. He believed that if you kept working at understanding something that was broken, you could eventually figure out how to fix it. He could fix anything: electrical, plumbing, motors, washing machines, bicycles.  I come by my urge to problem-solve from him.  And he never went to war over a broken pipe or flat tire.

I’m trying to peacefully be comfortable with that not knowing part. It’s a new way of practicing peace for me.

Dear God, I need your help to embrace this peaceful way of not knowing. Yes, in your wisdom, things do fall apart and then they come back together again. Help me to have room in myself to not know when or how we will emerge from chaos, from pandemic, from social conflict and division. Help me to recognize when I am at war with all that is falling apart. Help me to be a person who practices peace in all things.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Weekly Word

Boomers or Bust

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

Those of us who are labeled “Baby Boomers”, those folks born between the years 1946 and 1964, are legion and are living longer so we are impacting all levels of our economy, our society, our churches.

We benefited from the “The Greatest Generation” returning from WWII and moving the economy into an incredible upward trend, again at all levels. We blew it in the 80s when we got greedy and now are facing our role in Climate Change, the housing market, the bank closures, the educational system, and so much more; and an awful lot of us are in denial of our responsibility for these things.

But we are also “Busters” of some of the myths around what has made our country great. Yes, maybe we do argue with the younger generation too much and try to make them think the same ways we all used to, but some of us are truly “woke” (that is not a typo), and we are the inheritors of Vatican II, the Civil Rights act, anti-war protests, questioning everything and anyone in authority. We cannot and will not take anything for granted anymore.

We have read and learned more about the “sin history” of this country than we ever did in our classrooms of the 50s, 60s, and 70s; a lot of us don’t know what to do with this new found knowledge. It has been frightening, disturbing, uncomfortable to say the least. But we have been learning it and have decisions to make. What will we do with what we now know and how can we use what we now know to make a difference?

As always, I have turned to reading and have found books I never saw before but maybe that was only because I am ready for them now. Among them are Walking with the Wind a memoir by John Lewis. Stamped from the Beginning by Ibraim Kendi and Fire on the Mountain by James Baldwin. We thought we were pretty cool in the 60s when our class had to read Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. I remember being present in Washington in 1972 for the inaugural Mass celebrating the creation of the National Office of Black Catholics, and it took me a long while to understand the need for such an office. I mean, wasn’t a Catholic a Catholic? Little did we know we had barely scratched the surface of race relations, racism and what it really meant to be white.

If we persist in our resistance to inform ourselves, to “re-educate” ourselves, we will never understand why athletes kneel on their playing fields; why “All Lives Matter” is really a sign of ignorance not of support; why avoiding difficult conversations about race or LGBTQ issues or the right to life in all of its aspects will achieve nothing.

As Dominicans we are challenged to do our homework and by the principle of disputatio which expects us to listen to all sides, to hear all sides. True practice of this leads us deeper and challenges us to listen more deeply. It does not demand that we agree with everything we hear but that we have learned where someone is really rooted. How many of us just throw up our hands, shake our heads, walk away and consider the other person too liberal or too conservative and pretty much a lost cause?  As Dominicans we must challenge others, family, friends and other Dominicans to make sure that what we are preaching is giving the message of truth and not just of “well this is how I learned it” and “so it must be true”. All around us so many are fearful, feeling hopeless and having great doubts about how God could really be present in the midst of all this. So, we have a great challenge facing us as women and men of the Truth. God is good!

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Breaking Through

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Many of you are aware that after the murder of George Floyd, the congregation launched an effort to condemn racism and brutality by the police, by publishing a statement from the Leadership Team and also by promoting the display of a yard sign that read: Racism is a Sin. Period.  These signs were distributed all over, to our motherhouses, ministries, private homes, and many other places around the country.

Some of them were stolen, right off the lawn, and I wondered about that. Was it because someone really wanted to display the sign, sharing our feeling that this was something that we all need to address? Or, were some of them stolen, as a way to quash the message.  I’ll never really know. I tend to think people wanted to use them.  But then that’s stealing. Maybe we needed a sign that read Stealing is a Sin. Period.J

But now that seems to have subsided and our remaining signs stand as a continuing reminder. A moral reminder of an immoral thing.

Since then, I had the opportunity to read and listen to Fr. Brian Massingale, a theologian at Fordham, who has written extensively on white privilege. Being an African American man himself, his words hold a special credibility for me, and I have felt a kind of breaking through in a way I haven’t before. I owe a debt of gratitude to him for his wisdom and his kind way of holding up to white people what we most need to hear.

He makes me uncomfortable.  And that’s his mission: to make white people feel the discomfort of being white. Because it is white privilege that holds black people captive, holds black people prisoner in a system that is working just fine. A system that is effective in maintaining economic inequality, educational inequality, and healthcare inequality.

Father Massingale reminds us that rarely– if ever– are young white men arrested or run down and murdered for jogging through a neighborhood or walking down the street, or for going into a store to buy some candy, or even for selling cigarettes illegally on the street.  This does not happen to white people.  Black people are murdered every day and the perpetrators get away with it. The list is too long.

Fr. Massingale talked about the time he went to substitute in a parish to celebrate Mass and the people there asked, “Where is the priest? You can’t be the priest, you’re black.” This is part of the breaking through for me, not that I did not know this existed before, but now I cannot blow it off as the foolishness of stupid people. “You can’t be the priest, you’re black,” rings in me in a new place now. This is what black folks hear all the time. And I don’t. Being white is not a threat to my life.

A small crack in my white armor is breaking through. I’m hoping that this is the hope that Colette Parker expressed this week in her blog. Optimism? Maybe, on some days. Hope, always. I hope that I can continue to see the experience of people of color more through their eyes and not through mine. Not possible? Maybe. But the breaking through is important for me. I hope that I can tolerate my discomfort long enough that breakthrough keeps happening and I see with new eyes.

Posted in Weekly Word

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