Have you seen the cover of the January issue of AMERICA magazine? The Pope is there with the headline “POLARIZATION IS NOT CATHOLIC”. Notice that all the letters are in upper case which takes the easy way out for the magazine at least at face value.
Polarization is not catholic for sure because catholic (small c) means universal; therefore, everyone is welcome and cannot be separated for any reason. Polarization is not Catholic is hardly correct, and right now the institutional Church has been fine with our divisions and polarities. Our church leaders have polarized the priests and the people in the pew with their very public rebuttals of Pope Francis and his pronouncements. Regional seminaries bring men together from various dioceses and some have Bishops who follow the Pope and some have Bishops who are publicly critical of the Pope, so they must have lively debates, or not.
Wherein lies the truth, and finding it is something every Dominican must be committed to for everyone’s sake. Disagreements might be healthy until they tear at the fabric of our universal truths. Some may say, how can they be universal if they are tearing us apart? Good question, how do we answer it? Study, listening to all sides, being well informed, searching for motivations and intentions and the best of all Prayer! Jesus warned us that we would be divided within our families and in our faith. As women and men of the Gospel, we must look and pray deeply to find the ways that Jesus has given us to really be catholic.
Despite what we might be seeing on TV, Thanksgiving comes before Christmas, but I guess that other than “Black Friday” advertisers cannot figure out a way to really market the holiday.
Or is their problem the fact that we have become aware in this 21st century that what happened in 1620 near a rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was just another way to exclude some folks who were not white Anglo Saxon Christians? So, are advertisers steering clear of making a big deal out of that event?
No matter what the issue is, we do have a day on our calendars that specifically demands a time of thanks giving. Right now it is demanded more than ever. We are searching for ways to see the good things around us in the midst of a whole lot of division, negativity, sickness, violence and hate.
When this Thanksgiving Day rolls around (tomorrow) and the only thing we can be thankful for is that we are still breathing……shout to the heights THANK YOU! It means we still have a chance to make a difference in all the right ways. It means we still have the opportunity to change some of the stuff we know should be changed. It means we can acknowledge that God can still work if we allow God to work.
Rev. Stephen Pugh, a minister of the Disciples of Christ Church wrote this prayer:
O God, when I have food,
help me remember those who are hungry.
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless.
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all.
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer.
help me to destroy my complacency,
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help,
by word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
Before coming to “rest” for 8 years in New Orleans, I traveled a lot for ministry, and all of those trips gave me a sack full of stories. One came to my mind as I listened to the Gospel on Sunday. It spoke about prayer, and so does the story I remembered.
We were on a flight coming from Orlando Florida and going to Newark, New Jersey. Right there sets the stage. Passengers included parents dead tired from walking Disney World; children in mourning because they would not get to walk Disney World and hug the mouse; regular customers (like me) just going about our business.
Seated behind me was an exhausted Mom, an older brother and a younger brother about five, and it was obvious the younger boy was not ready to go home. The kicking from behind of the seat next to me began fairly soon after take off and the sniffling began soon after that.
About an hour into the four hour flight, he began crying in earnest because he had realized there was no turning back. He cried himself to sleep after a short time for a short time, but when he awoke, it was louder and straight from the heart!
Just when we thought there would be no relief, a voice behind me from the 8 year old brother rose loud and clear that said, “Dear God, get us down from this sky!!”. A very loud “AMEN” resonated from the rest of us.
Now that is prayer! That is the kind of prayer we heard about in Sunday’s Gospel; straightforward, from the heart, no ruffles and flourishes, no grandiose pronouncements of praise and love and honor to God. It was a prayer that deeply acknowledged God’s power and a childlike trust that God will hear and God will do. Yes, it did take another hour, but the people on that plane knew God was with us! And we did indeed get out of that sky! AMEN.
I just finished reading Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body andSpirit written by Mary-Frances Winters. It was an unnerving presentation of the intergenerational impact of systemic racism. The author explores how the continued experience of inequities and injustices towards Black people have created physical and emotional tiredness in all Black people. Many times I consider the neighbors around the Peace Center and realize they are not so much resilient as they are resigned.
The book was difficult to read, and I found myself feeling more and more tired myself. Not the kind of tired that comes from hearing the same stories over and over again, or repeating the historical experiences that led to the racial environment still surrounding us every day; but the kind of tired that comes with trying every day to make change and seeing no differences, with trying to strip away the privileges that white people still possess and still deny every day that they have. It cannot be described as getting tired of being forced to let “them” get away with making white people feel guilt, but as getting tired of arguing not just with the obvious bigots and white supremacists but even more with the white people who say they don’t want to hear about it any more because they can’t do any more than they have been doing; or having any more discussions with white people who say they cannot read another book about racism and stop asking them to do so. There was a headline recently that said “ Most Black people want reparations. They [Black people] don’t believe America will give them any.” How many white people laughed and said, “Darned straight! I never did anything to them. What am I doing to them today? They need to just get over it! I am not giving them a single cent” Maybe it’s best thought of as the kind of the tiredness of people who are frustrated like me with the broken systems and just do not see any ways to repair them. But the trying is ours to do!
As Dominicans we are ever vigilant in our search for truth. Sometimes the truths we find make people uncomfortable. There is nothing more annoying than a white person in discomfort. We cannot tire of getting to the truth and getting the truth out. We cannot tire of speaking truth to power, someone named Catherine from a small town in Italy did that once, and the Pope listened. We cannot tire.
It’s been a difficult summer in our garden. A groundhog carried off our vegetables. All of them, save a few green tomatoes that are still desperately clinging to the vine, this late in September. They stare at us wondering if we notice their lingering presence. I don’t know when I’m going to get around to picking them off their brown scraggly vine and putting away the wire cages.
If it wasn’t for our dear neighbor Adriana, the postal service (such as it is) would have stopped delivery for lack of access to the mailbox. She was kind enough to wack away at our jungle with a machete. (I’m not kidding). Thank God she did, otherwise, I think people would think no one lived here. It was embarrassing.
We also have a raised flower bed out back by the kitchen door. We grow herbs there: basil, parsley, and a potted hibiscus plant. The basil has passed its peak and is dried out now, too late to gather seeds for next year. Out front, I’m not sure when we will be able to dig up the calla lily bulbs, there are too many of them and that’s a lot of back-bending work. “Why would you dig them up and replant them again in Spring in the first place?” —says me, the non-gardener. Might just have to leave them in all winter. Oh well.
We have excellent excuses: bad back, bad knees, heavy schedules, it’s raining, it’s going to rain, we can take care of it tomorrow, and of course ‘age”. You know the drill. These excuses are ways to explain to ourselves how some ordinary tasks of life can get away from us. And suddenly, you realize things are getting out of hand. Like taking out the trash and dragging the bin to the curb — sometimes keeping up the house is a drag.
Ah but then! A sunny day for once and just the right timing. I came home from the office one afternoon, pulled around the driveway to the back door and caught a glimpse of something emanating from the raised flower bed. WHAT THE HECK IS THAT? The color screamed out at me, I thought Adriana put something in there. Holy mackerel! It was the hibiscus itself — as brilliant as the sun itself! A fully opened erect, proud, intensely yellow circle shining like the sun, with sparkling raindrops that looked like jeweled ice.
Just look at that photo. Is it not shockingly beautiful? Look at the raindrops dancing on the petals. Notice how delicate the edges are and the ripples that undulate all around the surface. I loved this so much I took a picture and posted it to FaceBook with the caption: After the rain this morning the sun opened this version of itself.
This is a stunning shift in my soul. How is it that a simple flower that is here today and gone tomorrow, can move mountains of blah, I don’t feel like it? Mountains of I’ll get to it later.,
This stunning shift that lifts my soul into brightness, into energy, into AHHHHH. This shift reminds me of the quote from Meister Eckhart: “And suddenly you know: its time to start something new and trust the miracle of beginnings.”
I think I’ll empty the trash and pick those green tomatoes.