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Thinking and writing at the intersection of faith and culture. We focus on both sacred and secular issues, and everything in between, because God does too.
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Solidarity Across Borders: Can You Help A Community In Need?

Tue, 07/07/2020 - 01:00

We all have been affected in multiple ways by this COVID-19 pandemic. The reality of this hard situation has forced us to change our lives and daily routines. As I look at this situation from my community in Bogotá, Colombia, there are certain brothers and sisters who have been particularly affected and are extremely vulnerable: migrants from Venezuela.

Here in Colombia there is a large Venezuelan community that had to flee from their country seeking a better life for themselves and their families. The socioeconomic and political crisis that has ravaged the country for nearly a decade has forced millions to flee to Colombia and elsewhere. Venezuela has suffered from mismanagement of the country’s oil reserves, hyperinflation of the local currency, and an authoritarian government marked by rampant corruption and violent repression. People are unable to  access healthcare, food, and other basic services, leading to one of the greatest exoduses of people in this century. As many as five million people have fled Venezuela since 2014.

Those who have made it to Colombia have worked hard and struggled, renting small rooms with the meager amount of money they earn day-to-day, often begging for food or money from people of good will. Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has made their difficult lives even more challenging. With Colombia in partial quarantine based on risk areas, they cannot get enough income for their basic needs such as food, rent and medicine. 

But even amid this current crisis, there is something that hasn’t changed in our nature as humans, and that is the urge towards solidarity. We have seen many examples of this around the world. Jesuits in Colombia have begun a project inspired by our faith and the call to justice. We invite you to join us in this project.

Jesuits in Bogotá have been visiting migrants in their homes regularly for the last several years, accompanying them spiritually and psychologically, and helping provide for some of the basic needs of recently arrived migrants such as medicine and food. Some of these migrants are in transit, while others seek to help their families in Venezuela. The reality is that they cannot afford all their needs and cover their basic necessities. 

The COVID-19 situation has moved our Jesuit community to discern what else we can do for this vulnerable population. We believe that God is calling us to assist the migrants in a deeper and more consistent way. But we cannot do this alone – we need the help and solidarity of others as well. We are reaching out to people for donations to help improve the lives of these migrants in this immensely challenging time for them.

Beyond providing basic necessities such as rent, food and medicine, we want to empower the migrants to be protagonists in their struggle to improve their lives and to grow in resiliency. For this reason, our project seeks to offer a holistic and sustainable formation program that can assure income for themselves in the future. We have received the help and collaboration of Jesuit Refugee Service to assess the complex reality of this migrant population and determine a plan for effective and meaningful support. 

The areas where we are planning to help going forward include the following:

  • Providing basic necessities such as food, rent, and medicine.
  • Promoting income-generating projects that allow the migrants to become more independent.
  • Continuing to provide spiritual and psychological formation to help the migrants grow in resilience.

We are grateful to God that we have received some help so far, but we know this COVID-19 situation will affect our community for months to come. More than ever before, we are trying to respond to the call of the former global leader of the Jesuits, Pedro Arrupe, SJ, to “Be men and women for others.” 

We invite you to join us in this project. If you want to collaborate, contribute, or learn more, send us an email at arrupe2020@gmail.com.

Categories: Things Jesuit

A Grace Too Powerful to Name: Forgiveness in Hamilton

Mon, 07/06/2020 - 01:53

Just a few months after I professed vows as a Jesuit, I was sitting at dinner in the Bronx. It’s considered a minor infraction to look at your phone at table, but curiosity got the better of me when I felt a notification buzz. My hands shook as I read it, and I ran to another table to ask my housemate what he was doing tomorrow. Confused, he started telling me his plans before I interrupted him with “No, you’re not. We’re going to see Hamilton.” I’d won the daily ticket lottery, which not only made them available at all but reduced the price from around $800 to a mere $10 (“Hamilton for a Hamilton”), perfect for a freshly vowed man of poverty. 

My housemate ran upstairs and came back wearing a Hamilton t-shirt and an enormous smile; he was already a superfan. I, on the other hand, barely knew it at all. This was unusual — I’d grown up as a musical theater kid, and even studied theater as one of my undergrad majors, but missed out on Hamilton because it premiered just as I became a novice. Typically when I see a musical, especially a big notable production, I’ve already memorized the soundtrack and formed an image of it in my head. But apart from the demo of the opening number that Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alex Lacamoire performed at the White House Poetry Jam in 2009, I hadn’t heard one note of the music, didn’t know the story beyond my knowledge of the American Revolution, and had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. 

Hamilton is dense with homages and callbacks to both theater (Shakespeare, Wagner, The Pirates of Penzance, Les Misérables, etc.), and hip-hop (Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Mobb Deep, Notorious B.I.G., Beyoncé, and others), but I quickly realized that this was so much more than simple self-indulgence. Miranda is clearly as big a theater nerd as I am, but takes ownership of these ideas, blending them with hip-hop in a sophisticated musical feat. The show is somehow able to pull all this together and flow at a breakneck pace without sacrificing accessibility. It’s beautiful even if you don’t know that it’s referencing Ja Rule and South Pacific

That was my reaction to Act I, a very intellectual appreciation. This sort of brainy response is how I usually experience theater these days, even very good theater. It’s hard for me to switch off the part of my brain that analyzes performance, design, and writing. I’m almost never emotionally affected when I’m sitting in the audience. 

So I was completely unprepared for Act II. I knew the broad strokes of Hamilton’s public life, but what ultimately got me was the culmination of his personal mistakes and tragedies in “It’s Quiet Uptown.” Hamilton becomes estranged from his wife Eliza after a very public infidelity that also ended his political career. When their son is killed, Alexander and Eliza struggle to mourn their child while there is still such a gulf between them. 

Hamilton hits bottom, and lets go of his pride. He pleads with Eliza, reprising a song from earlier in the show, but now singing her melody and recognizing that he’s unworthy of her. She stands, expressionless and motionless, as Alexander finally meets a problem he can’t talk his way out of. His words can’t fix these things. Nothing can. If she would just let him stay, let him be with her, that would be enough. He commits to doing the work.

Eliza’s sister Angelica narrates the moment as the couple stands forlorn in their garden. It’s perhaps the quietest moment in a show that can approach frenetic. Without changing her empty exhausted expression, Eliza subtly takes Alexander’s hand as the chorus, in lovely harmony, simply intones the word “forgiveness.”

And that’s where I lost it. I watched the rest of the show through tears, an emotional wreck just floating wherever they wanted to take me. 

Forgiveness is a hard thing to feature in a work of art because if it’s real, it often seems irrational from the outside. Unjustified. There’s so much work to be done to get the audience to an emotional place where the need to be forgiven is so strong that reason disengages and they can experience the relief and peace alongside the character. Watching Hamilton break into tears as Eliza finally returns his line of “it’s quiet uptown” doesn’t make any sense. Forgiveness often doesn’t. It goes against every instinct we have. That’s what makes it so beautiful. 

Angelica says of that moment, “there’s a grace too powerful to name.” Eliza may not believe Alexander’s pleas, but in that moment, she knows that she still loves him. Her forgiveness comes from love, not restitution. Freely given forgiveness to the undeserving is the essence of grace, and whether you want to name it or not, it can still crack through the cynical theatergoer who thought he was so smart.

Hamilton is now streaming on Disney+. If you are interested in an educational breakdown of how brilliant the musical structures of the show are, Howard Ho’s “How Hamilton Works” series is well worth your time. 

Categories: Things Jesuit

Getting Yoked with Jesus | One-Minute Homily

Sun, 07/05/2020 - 02:00

Jesus tells us to take his yoke, but what exactly does that mean? Martin Ngo, SJ, reflects on what it means to be yoked with Jesus in this week’s One-Minute Homily. Based on the readings for Sunday, July 5, 2020.

Alright, who wants to get yoked with Jesus?

Hi, I’m Martin, and this is my One-Minute Reflection.

Spoiler, we’re not talking about this yolked, or this yolk. The yoke in the Gospel today is like a harness for animals that allows them to pull a plow more effectively. But do we need that? We’re already working hard every day trying to be as productive as possible. That’s precisely Jesus’s point. Jesus understands what it means to labor and be burdened. What God wants more than anything is to give our soul rest.

You see, the yoke typically binds two animals together. That’s why a pair of oxen is called a yoke of oxen. The invitation then to share in Jesus’s yoke is a sacramental call to a life-sustaining relationship with Jesus. When we are bound to Jesus and learn to live in meekness and humility, what follows we find is a sense of refreshment in our soul, in our bodily being, no matter what we’re doing, no matter where we are in life. So, in that spirit, let’s get yoked with Jesus.

Categories: Things Jesuit

You’ll Never Walk Alone: Liverpool Wins the Premier League

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 01:18

Liverpool had never won the English Premier League (EPL) title until last Thursday, June 25th. The premier league only came about in the 1990-91 season. Before that, it was called the English First Division. Liverpool won that title 18 times, more than any other First Division club, before the league changed to the modern EPL. In other words, this legendary club and its fans have been waiting—no, thirsting—for a return to English glory. 

They’ve come close before. So close. Five times in the last 30 years, Liverpool FC ended their season in second place.

The Champions league title, however, has found its home in Liverpool twice in the past three decades. In 2005, Liverpool ceded three goals to AC Milan in the first half of play before roaring back in the second half with three goals of their own. Liverpool went on to win in penalties. The game is now dubbed the “Miracle of Istanbul.” 

Last year, Liverpool provided one of the greatest second rounds of Semi-final Champions League football the world has ever seen. Losing the first leg 3-0 to FC Barcelona, Liverpool needed to win by an unlikely four goal margin. Liverpool punished the powerhouse Spanish squad four to nothing. That game gave us one of the most memorable moments in recent soccer memory in the cheeky corner kick taken by 20-year-old Alexander Trent-Arnold. They went on to beat fellow England squad, Tottenham Hotspur in the final.

Fans rightly celebrated that Champions League victory, but it’s fair to say, this season, their hopes were set on taking home the league title. The squad had everything: an elite attacking force, a dynamic midfield, the best center back in the game, and the world’s best goalkeeper. They also had world class coach Jürgen Klopp, one of the most likeable people on soccer’s world stage. 1

Klopp’s squad completely dominated the season and brought home the title with seven games left to play—an almost nonexistent occurrence in England’s topflight league. They’ve hoped for this for 30 years, and that hope was fulfilled last Thursday.

***

Hope fulfilled—we can all use a little more of that these days. If you’re anything like me, then you’ve been struck by the dreadful feeling that things will just keep getting worse. This pandemic will never end. Our country will continue to descend into division and violent confrontations. The scourge of racism will never be uprooted from the nation’s soul.

But none of that is true.

We have to keep hope alive. Indeed, it’s what our faith is founded upon. As Paul writes to the Hebrews, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” 2 The resilience of Liverpool fans can teach us something about that hope. Their very anthem is like a message from God. From the depths of their hearts and at the tops of their lungs, the whole stadium sings that anthem together every match. It goes:

When you walk through a storm

Hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of a storm

There’s a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone 3

***

Liverpool waited 30 years for that title to come back to their beloved city. They had their hearts broken time and time again, but they continued to wait. And they did it together. That hope carried them to taking the title in 2020 of all years. I’m no lifelong Liverpool fan, but it’s something I’m celebrating.

Our hope needs to carry us on. For how long, we don’t know. If we pay attention, we can see the great things in our life that inspire hope. I take hope in the fact the pandemic is showing people how valuable we are to one another. Zoom meetups are useful, but I’ve rediscovered the value of hugging my loved ones in person. Live-streamed Masses help dull the pain of not attending, but nothing is better than actually receiving the Eucharist. 

This pandemic helps us to put these in perspective. Much like Liverpool’s 30-year absence from the top spot of English soccer made them long to be champions again, so does our absence from loved ones and cherished celebrations make us long for them even more. But in prayer, we can imagine Christ speaking the above lyrics to us. And we hope and trust that with him, we’ll never walk alone.

Categories: Things Jesuit

The MLB looks to Sprint to the Finish Line

Thu, 07/02/2020 - 01:33

Here we are at the beginning of July, and the United States is cautiously taking steps to resume some sense of normalcy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Restaurants and stores are opening up with limited capacity.  Schools are discussing how best to have students return for the fall semester.  And Major League Baseball is coming back, though it will look a little different than we’re used to.  Unlike the usual 162-game marathon of a season we get year after year, in 2020, we get a 60-game sprint to the finish.

This is going to be a wild and unpredictable ride, to say the least.  And that’s an exciting prospect.

The MLB season was originally slated to start on March 26th, and the league has been trying to find a safe way to implement a season since the pandemic began.

In early April, the MLB first proposed a schedule that would allow the league to come back as soon as it was safe.  Under that plan, every team would play in Phoenix, using a handful of different stadiums to host the games without spectators.  Eventually, the plan fell through in favor of one which had teams playing in their own stadiums (still empty) and only play teams a certain distance away.

On June 23rd, MLB agreed to proceed with a 60-game season after a months-long set of negotiations between the players and owners. Players were set to report to a modified Spring Training on July 1st (held out of teams’ home ballparks).  The season will officially start on July 23rd.  Baseball is back and the schedule is soon to be finalized.

A 60-game season will be fascinating to watch.  Every game will matter in determining the playoffs 1, especially since two-thirds of the season is spent playing the other teams in the division.  Teams that were on the brink of breaking out, like the White Sox, my favorites who have been rebuilding since 2016, have a new chance to make a push.  In such a short season, the best teams may not make the playoffs (as routinely happens in a 162-game season).  

The uncertainty of such a short season is what will make this season fascinating to watch.  Teams will primarily play intra-divisional games and will not directly know the strengths or weaknesses of teams from other divisions when they reach the postseason, making the October games more unpredictable than usual.  Anything can happen, and that at least gives me some hope.

With the state of the world, we could use some hope.  Our lives feel unpredictable, and pandemic statistics can toy with our emotions.  But when it comes to baseball, unpredictability isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  This season is filled with possibility.  Will we see someone hit .400 for the first time since Ted Williams in 1941?  Will a starter have a sub-1.50 ERA?  Will a few underdogs make it to the playoffs and maybe win it all?  With a short season, everything becomes more variable, and something peculiar is bound to happen.

Baseball will be competing with the NBA and NHL in July and the NFL in September.  And though many may have been discouraged by the two-and-a-half-month delay between the first season proposal and the final decision to play ball, the added tension of each game will be palpable and keep more people engaged.  And you can be sure that I will be watching.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Catholic 101: What is the Creed?

Wed, 07/01/2020 - 01:00

“Let us stand and profess our faith.”

Every Sunday at Mass, we stand as a congregation after the homily and recite the words of the Creed. “I believe in one God, the Father almighty…”

What exactly is the Creed? Where did it come from? What are we saying when we recite it? The truth is, the Creed is a huge topic, and many lines in the Creed were the product of tremendous debate and contention. You could take a whole graduate-level class on the contents of the Creed! This article is not going to unpack everything about the Creed. Not even close. This article is an introduction.

What the Creed is NOT.

First things first, let’s dispel some misguided ideas about the Creed. It is not a single, solitary summary of the entirety of the Catholic faith. In fact, it’s not even single. We use two Creeds regularly in the Catholic Church: the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed. These two Creeds aren’t contradictory, but they include different wording, and the Nicene Creed has more content.

Even the longer of the two, the Nicene Creed, doesn’t include a complete summary of the Catholic faith. For example, the Eucharist is never mentioned. And while the stanza on Jesus talks about his birth and Passion, it gives no mention to his teaching or miracles. What about Mary and the apostles? Barely mentioned. Yet those are all things that “We believe.” So, we can’t say that the Creed is a complete summary of the Catholic faith.

In fact, we also can’t say that the Creed is exclusively Catholic. A variety of Christian churches use the Creed: Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and more. When we profess belief in the “holy catholic Church” in the Creed, it’s important to note that the word catholic has a lower-case c.1 It means “universal,” not Roman Catholic. There’s even disagreement over what the word “catholic”/universal means in the context of the Creed, but it does point beyond a local church to belonging to something greater.

The last point to clarify is that the Creed is not lifted out of the pages of Scripture. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus didn’t address the crowd and say, “Those who want to follow me must believe the following things…” It’s not included among the letters of Paul nor the Acts of Apostles. We did not take the lines directly from any place in Scripture. Now, that’s not to say that the Creed goes against the Scriptures. It is certainly rooted in the Scriptures. But the composition of the Creed came centuries after the life of Jesus and the writing of the Scriptures.

So, you might be asking now, what exactly is the Creed?

What is the Creed?

The word “creed” itself comes from the first word in Latin: credo (“I believe.”). So we can certainly say that the Creed is something which we believe and hold to be true. Here’s how the Catechism of the Catholic Church begins its explanation:

“Whoever says ‘I believe’ says ‘I pledge myself to what I believe.’ Communion in faith needs a common language of faith, normative for all and uniting all in the same confession of faith.”

The Catechism goes on to say that the Creed is a “sign of recognition and communion between believers…a summary of the principle truths of the faith.” In other words, it’s a summary, even if it’s not a complete one. It’s a summary of the principle truths, the main ideas, the core tenants. It’s not everything, but it’s a lot of the most important stuff. 

And the Creed is a sign of recognition and communion between us. At Mass, we profess the same Creed all together. It’s a point of agreement. There might be issues in church teaching that we dispute (Lord knows there are lots of these!), but the Creed presents some that we can all agree on.

The Catechism further writes that the Creed “serves as the first and fundamental point of reference for catechesis.” It’s a starting point for learning about the faith. It’s like an elevator pitch. What do we believe as Catholics? Start with the Creed.

In fact, Christian missionaries have often embraced this as a starting point of evangelization. St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary of the 16th century, would begin by teaching the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Our Father, and the Hail Mary in any new town or village that he arrived at. Even today, the Creed is a fundamental component of RCIA.

In brief, the Creed is a concise summary of the principle truths that we agree on as a Church. It’s also our elevator pitch that serves as a starting point for introducing the faith.

Where did it come from?

If we didn’t lift the Creed straight off the pages of the New Testament, where did it come from? Let’s look at both the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.

The origins of the Apostle’s Creed have been lost in time. An ancient tradition held that on the day of Pentecost, the twelve apostles composed this Creed, with each apostle contributing one of the twelve articles. Today that tradition is no longer widely held. The earliest written versions that we have are from the 4th century, so it was likely composed later than the Apostolic era. The Catechism asserts that we can rightly call it the Apostle’s Creed not because the apostles wrote it, but because it is “rightly considered to be a faithful summary of the apostles’ faith.” 

The origins of the Nicene Creed are much better known. It was the product of the first two “Ecumenical Councils” in the history of the Church (Vatican II was the 21st, and most recent, Ecumenical Council). The First Council of Nicaea was held in modern-day Turkey in the year 325. The primary issue of the council was asserting the divinity of Jesus. Thus, this Council gave us lines about Jesus like: “God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.” But it didn’t give us the finished product that we pray today.

Over fifty years later, the Second Ecumenical Council was held in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) in 381. As a complement to the Council of Nicaea, this council made a point to assert Jesus’s humanity. It used the Creed approved at Nicaea and expanded on the descriptions of Jesus’s birth and Passion: “by the Holy Spirit [he] was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried.”

Constantinople also added significantly to the last half of the Creed, which recites what we believe about the Holy Spirit, “the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” And it added the final stanza on the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church,” along with references to baptism, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal life.

The Nicene Creed that we profess today is the finished version of what was begun in 325 at the council in Nicaea and finished in 381 in Constantinople.2

What are the principle truths in the Creed?

Every line of the Creed is packed with meaning, so it would take a lot more than an introductory article to outline all of the truths contained (and how we arrived at them). But let’s just highlight a few key points.3

For starters, the Creed is fundamentally Trinitarian. We profess our belief in one God, who is three persons: God the Father, Jesus Christ the only begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit.4 The first three stanzas are dedicated to each of the three persons of the Trinity.

As mentioned previously, the Creed asserts both the divinity and humanity of Jesus. Jesus is one person with two natures.5 He is fully human and fully divine. We also affirm a few fundamental truths about Jesus. The Incarnation: Jesus became human and was born to Mary. And Jesus’s Passion: He suffered, died, and rose from the dead. We confess in the Creed that Jesus’s life, passion, death, and resurrection are undertaken “for our salvation.”

Along with the truths about the Trinity, we also affirm the four “marks” of the Church in the Creed: it is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.” These marks are interconnected characteristics that the Church aspires to realize.6 With the Church, we further recognize the fundamental importance in our faith of baptism, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal life.

What do we do with it today?

At the end of reciting the Creed at Mass, the entire congregation proclaims “Amen.” It is our declaration of affirmation. “It is so!” We the people, the assembled faithful, affirm our common belief in the Creed. It is not the entirety of our faith, but it includes some of the most important, principle truths of what we believe.

Rooted in the Scriptures and written centuries ago, the Creed continues to hold meaning in our lives today. Spend time with it. Reflect on the words. Bring it to prayer. Because this is what we believe.

 

//

Cover image courtesy of Pixabay.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Christ: The Center of Our Life and Love | One-Minute Homily

Sun, 06/28/2020 - 02:00

Does Jesus say that we should love our family less? Ian Peoples, SJ, reflects on a challenging statement from Jesus and what it means for Jesus to be the center of our lives. Based on the readings for Sunday, June 28.

When all our love is in and through Christ, then our love is amplified beyond our own capabilities.

Hi, I’m Ian Peoples, and this is my One-Minute Reflection.

Jesus uses strong words in the gospel today, “whoever loves father, mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” But the important thing to remember is that Jesus is not asking us to love our family less; that love simply has to be oriented in and through Christ.

A Jesuit mentor of mine gave me an image I find helpful.

He described our relationships like the wheel of a bicycle.

All the spokes of the wheel pass through the hub. If any of the spokes do not pass through that center, it compromises the strength of the entire wheel.

It’s the same with our relationships. All of our relationships should pass through Christ, our hub, the center of our lives. If a relationship is not oriented through Christ, it simply compromises the strength of our love.

Christ needs to be the center of our life. Because when he is that hub, we are able to love people even more.

Categories: Things Jesuit

What God Promises During a Pandemic: My Month at The Pope Francis Center

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 02:33

Right after Easter, my month-long quarantine was interrupted. The Pope Francis Center in Detroit–a place where folks on the margins can get meals and other essentials–needed workers. Accustomed to relying on volunteers to help serve meals, stay-at-home orders put the Center in a bind. The pandemic had increased demand just as the staff was reduced to a handful of full-time workers. The head of the Center reached out to the Jesuits at Loyola University Chicago for assistance, and I was sent with one of my Jesuit brothers to fill in the gap for a month.

Most days, my main role was to assist in distributing food starting at 7 AM. Even with six foot social distancing gaps in the line, the guests moved quickly, requestinging coffee, orange juice, “bagel bags” and oatmeal. On our busiest days, we’d serve 500 meals in less than four hours. It felt like I was standing with Jesus and feeding the 5000. As I’d hand meals out the door, more and more and more guests would appear requesting anything we could offer. The cooks were so adept, though, the food never seemed to run out. It was both exhausting and exhilarating.

As I’ve previously imagined the scene of the multiplication, an orderly crowd peacefully received the miraculous feast. Matthew tells us that the disciples “gave the food to the crowds” and that “they all ate and were satisfied.”1  After a few days at the Center, I began to doubt the Evangelist’s easy resolution. A number of our guests suffered from various levels of mental illness, as must have been the case back in Jerusalem. A few were actively using drugs. Frequently, I was the target of particularly virulent flares of mental illness and experiences of withdrawal. One particular guest stands out.

She’d visit us almost every day, clearly suffering some sort of mental duress. One day, she actively rejected what I gave her three times in a row. First, she slapped a cup of orange juice across the street, spilling it everywhere. Then, she threw an orange into a dirty puddle on the side of the road. Finally, she took and immediately threw out a brand new pair of socks.

“Why are you doing that?” I asked her, “Look at all these people who would want that.” 

“Because I can,” she responded.

For a time, she channeled her inner Mary Poppins and began re-gifting the food I provided to the ever-fatter birds that circled around the Center each morning. “Don’t feed the birds,” we’d call out, as she strewed bowls of chili and bags of chips across the road. As her avian friends swooped in, it resembled a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Her actions weren’t always quite so docile. One morning, another staff member rushed in, panicked. “There’s a dumpster fire out there,” he said. “Literally or figuratively?” I asked. “Literally.” My friend the bird feeder seemed to have lit the match. Thankfully, the fire department arrived quickly.

Despite her open rejection of what I offered, and her refusal to stop feeding the birds, and her troubling acts of arson, I found myself growing particularly fond of her, excited to see her and talk to her and to offer her food each day.

I took the experience to Jesus, asking him, “why her? Why should I love her?” Jesus reminded me that the promise of resurrection is transformation. 

My brother has struggled for years with opioid addiction. On numerous occasions, he also flatly rejected offers of love my family and I gave him. Many times, he refused to do the things we asked. I even remember him playing with matches. Jesus reminded me of the ways he had invited me to ever greater love of my troubled brother. In my prayer, Jesus told me: 

“You struggled to love him, but now it’s easy to love her. Relish that.” 

God had transformed one of the great struggles of my life into a freedom for love I didn’t expect to have. 

Maybe that’s what resurrection looks like.

For the disciples, resurrection meant watching their friend being killed by corrupt authorities and, instead of cowering in fear, feeling emboldened to proclaim his name across the land. For me, resurrection has meant experiencing the anger and confusion and rejection brought about by my brother’s addiction, and finding in it God’s invitation to love with even more depth. What resurrection is God inviting for me as I mourn for a world torn apart by deadly racism and a persistent pandemic?

In this woman, God invited me to look in the face of mental illness and outright rejection and see the face of my brother. God called me to love them both anyway. So must we all.

-//-

Photo courtesy of the author.

Categories: Things Jesuit

“Why do you have to make everything about race?”

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 23:56

In my three years of teaching Catholic Social Teaching to high school juniors, white students frequently asked, “Why do you make everything about race?” It was a question I had asked at their age as well. In response, I attempted to offer some of the overwhelming statistical and historical evidence, but many of them were indeed overwhelmed by the sheer volume and preferred easier, less-challenging answers. I missed a pedagogical opportunity.

I wish I had asked them, “What’s spurring that question?” or “What causes you to ask that?” Given the latest surge in white attention to racial injustice, I think both questions are worth addressing: “What’s motivating that question?” and “How does race impact everything?” 

****

What’s motivating that question?

Upon reflection, I realized that whenever I asked someone, “Why do you always make it about race,” my real intention was to disrupt the conversation. I remember feeling cornered by the evidence, so I tried to spoil the dialogue rather than engage and learn. The question was a logical fallacy, a circular argument from ignorance. It was a desperate attempt to deny the realities of racism. 

Systemic and cultural racism confronts American mythology. America’s national mythology lauds individualism rooted in equal opportunity, one’s own hard work being the reason for one’s success. If systemic racism is real, however, the individualism myth quickly starts unraveling. 

White Americans did not achieve the American Dream merely by our own hands. I did not get to where I am in life only because of the hard work I have put in. Most white Americans haven’t. White families built generational wealth because federal, state, and local legislation ensured it. White people designed laws and cultures at the expense of individuals and communities of color. This is not to say that white people have not worked hard or there are no white people experiencing poverty. Rather, it recognizes that white people have had barriers removed for them and we have created barriers for people of color. 

Moreover, racism is not merely individual prejudice, so we cannot rely on self-improvement, or pulling oneself up by the color-blind bootstraps. White people are collectively responsible for undoing racism. This is not to say I am at fault for what happened before my lifetime. It is to say that now that I know the realities of systemic racism, I am responsible for challenging them.

“Why do you always make it about race?” is fundamentally about denial. If injustice or other outcomes are impacted by race, then other American myths begin to waver. 

****

Is everything about race?

“Why do you make everything about race?” attempts to reduce the argument so as to dismiss it. The faulty logic goes that if we can find one thing not about race, then the whole formula is false. Rather, the argument is better stated, “In the USA, race and racism impact almost every aspect of public life.” Here are a few examples of how race and racism are present in foundational structures of our society:

  1. The Declaration of Independence states: “[King George] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” In The Common Cause, Robert Parkinson explores how revolutionary leaders exaggerated and fully fabricated stories of Black and Indian revolts and massacres, all supposedly spurred by the British crown. Revolutionary leaders needed a uniting cause beyond just liberty–racial fear. Racial animosity helped to unite and win the American Revolution.
  2. In 1862, President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, creating our modern public college system. The federal government took Indigenous land through a mix of coerced treaties and race-based genocide, subsequently redistributing it to states for colleges. State universities continue to draw endowments and interest from those original land grants. Washington State University, for example, earned $4.5 million last year from timber harvests on their land. The Morrill Act coincided with the Homestead Act and the subsidizing of the Transcontinental Railway via the Pacific Railway Act. Together, these three acts dispossessed indigenous communities of tremendous wealth and cemented inequality.
  3. More recently, redlining, interstate highways, and gentrification have greatly and disproportionately impacted communities of color. Redlining comes from the 1930s policy of literally color-coding maps of cities for where banks could give out government-backed housing loans. Neighborhoods of color–even prominent, wealthy ones like Sugar Hillwere colored red. Post-WWII, veterans could use the GI Bill to purchase homes at low interest rates. Banks both legally and illegally refused loans to people of color. Because home ownership is one of the greatest drivers of individual and communal wealth, this process segregated neighborhoods, caused massive wealth inequality, and drove future racial wealth inequality. Today, depressed urban centers with communities of color are targeted for interstates and gentrification. Interstates–which allowed for the development of white-dominant suburbs–were developed along economic and racial guidelines. Black neighborhoods were to be sacrificed in order to build roads that primarily served white drivers. Gentrification causes housing prices to skyrocket primarily in urban communities of color, thus driving communities from their homes. These realities impact everything from publication education funding to small business opportunities to police violence.

These are just a few examples. Race and racism impact maternal healthcare, COVID19, access to banking, oil pipelines, environmental justice, and more. Racism is not merely feelings of animosity or prejudice between races. It is the dynamics woven into our political and economic structures meant to disadvantage and disenfranchise communities of color.

****

Ultimately, white people are called to anti-racism, to tear down the barriers to flourishing for people of color. Anti-racism does not mean that suddenly white people are oppressed. It means committing to challenging implicit biases, deconstructing structures, and creating socially just systems. This can seem a daunting task, both because of the sheer prevalence of racist structures and the way in which racism challenges broader beliefs about American identity. But given American commitment to ingenuity, dreaming, and hope, I am sure it is a challenge we can communally face.

Categories: Things Jesuit

DACA Supreme Court Decision: Uncertain Hope for Dreamers

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 01:34

Haga clic aquí para español.

Nineteen years is a long time to hold onto the uncertain hope that a dream will come true. Although it has seen many iterations, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors or DREAM Act first appeared nearly two decades ago in August 2001 as a bipartisan effort to provide a pathway to legal status for those who as minors migrated to the United States without authorization. For the over 700,000 Dreamers, the potential beneficiaries of the DREAM Act, their cause for hope just became more justifiable. 

Last Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of University of California, declaring the Trump administration’s order to end DACA, a program which has prevented removal of qualifying migrants, “arbitrary and capricious.” While the court’s ruling provides some relief, words like deferred and temporary remain the most apt for describing the suspense in which Dreamers continue to find themselves.  

In September 2001, just one month after the initial introduction of the DREAM Act, hopes were dashed. In the name of fighting terrorism, the dream of a secure future for thousands of young migrants suddenly became a nightmare of national security fueled by xenophobia. This bout of anti-immigrant sentiment has haunted our national discourse ever since, and incredibly, nineteen years later, the dream is still deferred but not lost.  

Although the DREAM Act has not yet been passed, a less controversial stopgap policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was enacted in 2012 by President Obama. DACA allows for the exercise of discretion to withhold legal prosecution of migration violations committed by children who had no choice in their parents’ decision to break the law. However, without authorization from Congress, DACA lacks a pathway to permanent residency. Requiring those eligible to apply every two years to prevent prosecution, it is merely a promise that DACA recipients will not be deported for now.

Life as a DACA Recipient

In the meantime, you, who have constantly wondered which will continue to be deferred, your dream or your deportation, have been my peer, my classmate, my coworker, and my friend. You have grown up alongside me, an American among Americans. Mexico, in fact, is more foreign to you than it is to me because I’ve had the privilege to travel there. For you a trip to see your abuelos for the first time in memory would be a one-way ticket with no way home.   

You are a Cub Scout. You pledge allegiance to the flag and promise to do your duty to God and your country. But which country? The United States is the only one you’ve ever known, but they say you belong somewhere else. Your mom took the risk of registering you for DACA trusting that the government would not deport an eight year old if it happened to renege on its promise. 

You are ready to go to college now. You’ve worked hard, I mean, real hard to get to this point. You won’t miss muddling through mounds of homework by yourself while Mom was cleaning somebody else’s house. Even if she had been there, she would be the first to admit that a 6th grade Honduran education can’t contend with A.P. English. You got the grades and you earned every one of them, but how can you pay international student tuition? No documents equals no financial aid. By the grace of God, a kind teacher, who has always looked out for you, asks friends to help fund a scholarship. Even so, each day leaves you wondering: Could I lose it all?

You can’t remember a time when you weren’t teaching Sunday school. By the time you were a teenager, you were leading the parish’s faith formation team. You may even have a vocation to the priesthood, but how can you discern when your status is undefined?

You attend one of the most elite universities in the U.S. You never utter a word about your status, but you’re sure they know. It’s clear that Spanish is your first language though it has now become a distant second, a piece of you that faded with the skin you shed to fit in here. Pilsen is far away now, but it will always be home. 

You are a loving parent and spouse. You have planted roots and grown up to provide shade for those you love.  Like nearly 30,000 other Dreamers, you work in an overwhelmed healthcare system in a time of great urgency. What country would deport a nurse at a time like this?  

What Can You Do?

Thwarting the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA, the court’s 5-4 opinion hinged upon the fact that the administration’s decision was not backed by sound legal justifications. As Chief Justice Roberts made clear, “We address only whether the [Department of Homeland Security] complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”

While the court’s decision certainly gives hope to DACA recipients, it does not eliminate the limbo in which they find themselves. Their residency status is still temporary, they must continue to apply for DACA regularly, and the executive branch could find a legally defensible alternative to end the program. What then is the solution? 

In his dissent of the court’s opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas observed, “The court could have made clear that the solution respondents seek must come from the legislative branch.” The U.S. Bishops have called for the passage of the Dream Act of 2019 (S. 874), which the House of Representatives passed last June. Now the Senate has the power to make it a law.  

Today we stand in solidarity with DACA recipients. If you were moved at all imagining yourself in the place of someone who had no choice in the matter of coming to this country, you should urge our Senators to pass the Dream Act of 2019. Contact your Senator today!

Categories: Things Jesuit

Decisión de la Corte Suprema sobre DACA: Esperanza Incierta para los Dreamers

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 00:32

Click here to read in English.

Diecinueve años es mucho tiempo para aferrarse a la incierta esperanza de que un sueño se haga realidad. Aunque han habido muchas versiones, el Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors o DREAM Act apareció por primera vez hace casi dos décadas en agosto de 2001, como un esfuerzo bipartidista para proporcionar un camino hacia el estatus legal para aquellos que como menores emigraron a los Estados Unidos sin autorización. Para los más de 700,000 Dreamers, los beneficiarios potenciales del DREAM Act, su razón para tener esperanza se volvió más justificable.

El jueves pasado, la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos emitió su decisión en el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional v. Regentes de la Universidad de California, declarando “arbitraria y caprichosa” la orden de la administración Trump de poner fin a DACA, un programa que ha impedido la deportación de inmigrantes calificados. Aunque el fallo de la corte brinda alivio, palabras como “diferido” y “temporal” siguen siendo las más adecuadas para describir el suspenso en el que los Dreamers continúan encontrándose.

En septiembre de 2001, sólo un mes después de la introducción inicial del DREAM Act, las esperanzas se desvanecieron. En nombre de la lucha contra el terrorismo, el sueño de un futuro seguro para miles de jóvenes inmigrantes se convirtió de repente en una pesadilla de seguridad nacional, alimentada por la xenofobia. Este episodio de sentimiento anti-inmigrante ha empapado nuestro discurso nacional desde entonces, e increíblemente, diecinueve años después, el sueño aún se difiere pero no se pierde.

Aunque el DREAM Act aún no se ha aprobado, el presidente Obama promulgó en 2012 una política provisional menos controvertida conocida como Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA permite el ejercicio de la discreción para retener el procesamiento legal de las violaciones de migración cometidas por niños que no tuvieron otra opción en la decisión de sus padres de violar la ley. Sin embargo, sin autorización del Congreso, DACA carece de un camino hacia la residencia permanente. Requerir a los elegibles presentar una solicitud cada dos años para evitar el procesamiento, es simplemente una promesa de que los beneficiarios de DACA no serán deportados por ahora.

La vida como beneficiario de DACA

Mientras tanto, tú, que siempre te has preguntado qué continuará siendo diferido, tu sueño, o tu deportación, has sido mi vecino, mi compañero de clase, de trabajo y mi amigo. Has crecido junto a mí, un estadounidense entre los estadounidenses. México, de hecho, es más extraño para ti que para mí porque he tenido el privilegio de viajar allá. Para ti, un viaje para ver a tus abuelos por primera vez en la memoria, podría ser un boleto de ida sin vuelta a casa.

Eres un Cub Scout. Juras tu lealtad a la bandera y prometes cumplir con tu deber con Dios y tu país. ¿Pero cuál país? Estados Unidos es el único que has conocido, pero dicen que perteneces a otro lugar. Tu madre se arriesgó a inscribirte en DACA confiando en que el gobierno cumpliría su promesa y no deportaría a un niño de ocho años.

Ahora estás listo para ir a la universidad. Has trabajado duro, de hecho, muy duro para llegar a este punto. No extrañarás los días en que te enredabas entre montones de tarea mientras Mamá limpiaba la casa de otra persona. Si ella hubiera estado allí, sería la primera en admitir que una educación hondureña de sexto grado no puede lidiar con A.P. English. Lograste las calificaciones y mereces cada una de ellas, pero ¿cómo puedes pagar la matrícula de los estudiantes internacionales? Ningún documento significa ninguna ayuda financiera. Por la gracia de Dios, una amable maestra, que siempre te ha cuidado, le pide a algunas amistades que ayuden a financiar una beca. Aun así, cada día te hace preguntarte: ¿Podría yo perderlo todo?

No puedes recordar un momento en que no estabas dando clases de catequesis. Cuando eras un adolescente, ya estabas liderando el equipo de catequistas de la parroquia. Incluso puedes tener una vocación al sacerdocio, pero ¿cómo puedes discernir cuando tu estatus no está definido?

Asistes a una de las universidades más elitistas de los EE. UU. Nunca pronuncias una palabra sobre tu estatus, pero estás segura de que la gente sabe. Estás claro que el español es tu primer idioma, aunque ahora ha pasado a una segunda y distante posición, un pedazito de ti que se desvaneció, junto a la piel de la que te despojaste para encajar aquí. Pilsen está lejos ahora, pero siempre será tu hogar.

Eres una madre y esposa cariñosa. Has plantado raíces y crecido para dar sombra a tus seres queridos. Al igual que casi otros 30,000 Dreamers, trabajas en un sistema de salud agobiado en un momento de gran urgencia. ¿Qué país deportaría a una enfermera en un momento como éste?

¿Qué puedes hacer?

Frustrando el intento de la administración Trump de terminar con DACA, la opinión de la corte 5-4 se basó en el hecho de que la decisión de la administración no estaba respaldada por justificaciones legales sólidas. Como el Presidente de la Corte Suprema, el juez Roberts, dejó claro: “Sólo abordamos si el [Departamento de Seguridad Nacional] cumplió con el requisito procesal de proporcionar una explicación razonada de su acción.”

Si bien la decisión de la corte ciertamente da esperanza a los beneficiarios de DACA, no elimina el limbo en el que se encuentran. Su estatus de residencia aún es temporal, tienen que continuar solicitando DACA regularmente y el poder ejecutivo podría encontrar una alternativa legalmente defendible para finalizar el programa. ¿Cuál es entonces la solución?

En su disidencia de la opinión de la corte, el juez Clarence Thomas observó: “La corte podría haber dejado en claro que la solución que buscan los encuestados debe provenir del poder legislativo.” Los obispos de los Estados Unidos han pedido la aprobación del Dream Act of 2019 (S. 874), que la Cámara de Representantes aprobó en junio pasado. Ahora el Senado tiene el poder de convertirlo en ley.

Hoy nos solidarizamos con los beneficiarios de DACA. Si te identificas con la decisión de venir a este país, insta a nuestros senadores a aprobar el Dream Act of 2019. ¡Póngase en contacto con su senador hoy!

Categories: Things Jesuit

God Knows Us and Stands with Us | One-Minute Homily

Sun, 06/21/2020 - 02:00

Jesus tells his disciples that God knows the number of hairs on their head. Jason Quino McCreery, SJ, reflects on what else God knows, including our worries and pain. Based on the readings for Sunday, June 21, 2020.

Do you know how many hairs are on your head? I’ve never actually counted.

Hi, I’m Jason Quino McCreery, and this is my One-Minute Reflection.

Jesus today tells the Twelve Apostles, do not be afraid for God knows even the number of hairs on your head. And when I imagine this scene, I can’t help but see one of the apostles saying, ‘that’s great, but not actually what I’m worried about.’

And we could say the same thing today. ‘That’s great, but I’m worried about the murder of George Floyd. I’m worried about the cops who killed Breonna Taylor whom have been neither charged nor fired. I’m worried about President Trump removing protections for transgender people to get access to healthcare. Do you not see these things? Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’

But Jesus only tells us, God knows. God knows, and God suffers with us. God will not snap the divine fingers and fix all of our problems. Christ has no hands but ours, no voice but ours. Am I willing to become like Christ, and take up my own cross? Am I willing to become like Simon of Cyrene, and carry my neighbor’s cross, because their body has been beaten and broken by the whips of oppressors? Some of us are just starting to see the suffering and injustice in our country; now we know. What will we do about it?

Categories: Things Jesuit

Juneteenth: A Day of Hope

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 01:05

Juneteenth is our time. I am seeing a ray of sunshine that is beaming down not only in the Black community but in the whole of America. I truly believe that, with the trauma of COVID-19, the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protest, America will become a better place due to the lessons learned from these events. As we are celebrating today, June 19th, Juneteenth, this holiday will be a celebration for hope and the concretization of justice. We will sing together: “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

This deep sense of hope that I feel helps me to remember that America belongs to all of us. We are called to make it a livable home with equality, equity, and justice for all. In her speech in St. Louis, on February 3rd, 1952, Josephine Baker said, “My people have a country of their own to go to if they choose… Africa… but, this America belongs to them just as much as it does to any of the white race… in some ways even more so, because they believe in hope.” 

Black people in America know how to pray and work for hope. Even if it is not here, we will always fight for it. As Coretta King, the wife of Dr. King would say, “Struggle is a never ending process. [Hope] is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” This is what happened on June 19th, 1865. 

June 19th As Black People’s Independence Day in America

155 years ago today, U.S. General Gordon Granger read a declaration of freedom for the Black slaves in Galveston, Texas. The proclamation stated: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Even though President Abraham Lincoln had ended slavery in Confederate states two years earlier with the Emancipation Proclamation, promulgation and enforcement had not reached Texas yet, where many slaveholders had brought their enslaved people to avoid the war.

As one of the oldest holidays celebrated in the Black community, June 19th remains also as a celebration of the history of Black people in America. The earliest commemorations date back to 1866, one year after the event. In that year, at a party with her parents, a little African American girl could not pronounce June 19th and said “Juneteenth,” which is how the celebration widely became known. 

The spirit of this celebration plays like a memorial symphony recalling the movements of history in the black community. As James Baldwin said

History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.  

From Juneteenth to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to President Obama’s affirmation “Yes We Can,” we continue to rally and remain motivated that change will come. The sense of hope that is maintained in the Black community is born from the resilience of suffering, injustice, centuries of inequalities and repression, yet, we never fail. 

Hope motivated us to fight for justice, run from inequality. As Frederick Douglas put it, “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” For the Black community, movement is necessary to make a difference and create a path to the future. 

In light of all that is going on in the country, we need to celebrate and come together as a community. Juneteenth this year should also be looked at as a way to celebrate freedom from the modern day systems of enslavement and systemic oppression, even if this freedom is not yet fully realized. 

As a Black man in America, I see hope as the biggest weapon that I can use to fight against systemic racism. When I wake to go jogging, go to the store, drive to school, hope is the only faith that helps me make it through. I have to hope that I will make it back home each day. As a Black body, hope gives me resilience to continue despite every dehumanizing structure oppressing and  suffocating me. 

Hope Is Black People’s Home

Even after the 400 years of desperation, oppression, and repression, Black people always find hope. Their presence in the street for more than three weeks has been a quest for hope. We believe that something good can always come from adversity.  

We are mourning the death of Rayshard Brooks who was killed by police on June 12,  in Atlanta, GA. We are still remembering the death of George Floyd on May 25 who was killed at the hands of police due to a lack of oxygen. The stories of many others in America still break our hearts. But we are also celebrating our freedom as a spring of hope today in America.

In the Black community, one is always able to see a ray of hope, even in the midst of today’s despair, racial injustice, and systemic racism that have become clearer in this last decade. With the epidemic of the virus of racial injustice, hope remains as the only vaccine that can cure these illnesses. We are soldiers of hope.

A Gallup poll from 2017 showed that the Black community had the lowest average life satisfaction compared to whites, Asians, and Hispanics, but we also had the highest anticipated life satisfaction. We can do it. 

Now is a moment of Kairos, divine timing for us to live with the audacity of hope in the midst of the chaos. This is a time that calls us to enter into a meditative conversation with themselves and uncover the unconscious biases that keep us from moving to a place of spiritual conversion, a  metanoia.  

The question is: Who do ‘we’ want to be for each other? 

Today, we are living in an aspirational ‘we’ as the project of America, striving to be united together. It may be tempting to run away from it. It is hard, but it is necessary. Sometimes we forget how new this journey is for us as humans, living in unity as a people of hope. 

Today, Juneteenth is more than a date. It is a place of hope for the Black community. It is our new Civil Rights Act of 2020. Our  new Declaration of Independence in 2020.

Juneteenth is like the resurrection. It is a promise, a celebration of “Freedom,” an aspiration of “I have a Dream,” a cry of “Yes We Can,” but also a plea of “I can’t Breathe” and a lamentation of “Black Lives Matter.”

As James Baldwin eloquently said on June 19, 1986, “I really do believe that we all become better than we are. I know we can. But when?” Now is the time to ask oneself, Who do I want to become, and how do I want to be remembered in history? Juneteenth is our time.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Ten Commandments for Catholic Twitter

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 01:55
    1. You shall not click “Tweet” until you pray to the Lord your God.
https://media.giphy.com/media/3o7bu2BBYmquvIAjio/source.mp4

We know it when we see it. We see others do it. We do it ourselves. Sometimes, we do not invite God into the tweet production process, and it shows. We tweet in vain. If God is not the writer of the text, then in vain do we write it. Is the tweet of God? If yes, click that enticing little blue button. If not, don’t.

Here’s a simple prayer we can use: “God, is this tweet for your greater glory? Does it reflect your love?” 

God’s still, soft voice in our hearts will tell us the answer. 

2. You shall not tweet in desolation.

St. Ignatius of Loyola identifies two sorts of movements in people’s souls: away from God (desolation) and towards God (consolation). If we are experiencing desolation, then we are distant from faith, hope, and love. It may not be the best time to make our thoughts known to the world. 

For example, let’s say you’ve had the worst day at work or school, followed by a car accident, concluding with a yelling match in your head with God (and/or yourself) for allowing it all to happen. You open the app and see a tweet that makes your blood boil. An evil grin forms and fingers begin to hit the keys so fast that you hardly know what you’re writing: you’ve crafted a reply that will make the devil look as wholesome as a kid from the Mary Poppins movie. Don’t do it! You’re in desolation!

An important exception (we Catholics love exceptions) is when we want to enlist our Catholic Twitter buddies in prayer support so that God can lift us out of desolation and into consolation. Fellow Catholics will be there for us when we need it. I see it happen all the time, and it warms my heart.

3. You shall rest from Twitter every seventh tweet.

Take a break every now and then. Jesus did. He went into the desert to pray alone with the Father. We need these moments away, too. There is no need to meet a daily or weekly quota of tweets. God will take care of the online Church in our absence.

While you’re away, try praying an Examen, a Lectio Divina, or an Imaginative Contemplation

4. You shall not split into factions.

Just as in New Testament times, we Catholics sometimes experience the temptation to sow discord by throwing our weight behind certain Catholic leaders while actively eviscerating others (see 1 Cor. 1:10-17). We sometimes go so far as to condemn each other online. It’s a trap! It does great damage to the body of Christ when we publicly dismember his body. Our union is ultimately in Jesus Christ alone. 

(Just the other day, someone called me a “heretic” on Twitter. This commandment is personal to me! We need less judgment and more dialogue.)  

5. You shall like your neighbor’s tweets as you want your neighbors to like your own.

There is no need to be stingy with a like or a retweet. Share the love. “Finding God in all things” means searching for God’s presence in the tweets of others. When you find God there, give it a like or a retweet or even reach out to others to let them know that the finger of God was at work in their Twitter game. 

6. You shall not commit Twitter adultery.

It’s not a dating site. You can’t fit your character into 280 characters. And don’t be trying to slide into each other’s DMs. There’s always Catholic Match or Catholic Singles if you are looking for a sacramental marriage, people of God. 

7. You shall tactfully denounce injustice and falsehood.

People are wrong online. A lot. Should we, therefore, denounce everything we think is erroneous on Twitter? No. Should we prayerfully discern if God is calling us to call out sin? Yes. 

The key is consolation/desolation. If you denounce in consolation, you’re in the clear. If you denounce in desolation, you’re in murky water.

Regardless, keep in mind that afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted is the work of a prophet, and all the baptized are prophets. So don’t be afraid to speak the truth in love. 

8. You shall crack that Catholic wit.

Twitter is a thinking space, and we Catholics are a thinking people. I have to confess that I’m not the best exemplar of this commandment, but you probably are! The Church and the world need your reparté, your clever takes, your biting humor–in love. The Sacraments sharpen the intellect, so it is no surprise that some of the greatest saints were also the wittiest. (You might even want to quote them in your tweets to spread their sassy wisdom.) 

Be like the saints, but on Twitter. Bring your A game. 

9. You shall preach the Gospel, but with fewer words.

“We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection, until you come again.” Let’s do it like it’s our job because, well, it is. Be funny. Be clever. Be generous with your hot takes. At the end of the day, though, tweet in the spirit of Jesus. 

10. You shall not be jealous of your neighbor’s tweets.

Some Catholics are really good at Twitter. You may find yourself comparing yourself to these phenoms and coming to the conclusion that you don’t measure up. In the Jesuits we call this nasty-but-all-too-human phenomenon “compare and despair.” It’s generally not a fruitful path to trod. 

Rather than “comparing and despairing,” I find it more productive to see a witty Catholic tweet or a trendy Catholic account and say to myself, “Wow. You’re good. Let’s be Catholic Twitter friends. Like and follow.” 

***

I hope you’ve found these recommendations helpful. However, at the end of the day, my Catholic Twitter vibe may not be your Catholic Twitter vibe. If you have “commandments” of your own to share, comment! Peace be with you. See you on the Twitterverse.

Categories: Things Jesuit

One Moment for One Thing: Make Room For Hope

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 02:33

Behold, I am making all things new” (Is 43:18 NRSV)

Neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Dale Archer, published a piece in the Journal of the American Psychological Association stating, “Hope is not a wish for things to get better, rather it is a belief that things will always get better.” As we face death and life, these moments trigger unfinished business in our lives that can lead to deep fears we are forced to face. Which might be healthy since it can become an invitation to do an introspective analysis and quite possibly heal wounds. These trepidations can also come from the evil spirit. However, it is said that living a hopeful life can be beneficial. 

There is a new normal we are now living in, and we cannot go back to the way things were. And yet, God will always be with us. 

Today, I introduce to you “One Moment for One Thing” a tiny space for you in your day to reflect, to pray, to consider where your heart is and how God is working in you. And today, I invite you to reflect on Hope. 

  •  What and where is my hope today? 
  •  What is it that I want to be reborn in my life? 
  • How can I let God be the one who resurrects me?

Fear can never have the last word. Just like death, which always leads to new life. The synonym for God is new life. Resurrection is a promise. Yet, the resurrected body will always be different.

-//-

Video Production by Matthew Bjorklund, S.J.

Front Page Photo by Ron Smith on Unsplash

Categories: Things Jesuit

Imagining a Better Economy Post COVID-19

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 01:38

The coronavirus pandemic has sent the economy into recession due to decreased demand and greater uncertainty. A growing number of American companies, including JCPenney, J.Crew, and Hertz, have filed for bankruptcy. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment. Economic sectors ranging from retail and travel to construction and auto have all been hit hard. Financial difficulties and emotional stress burden many unemployed Americans today. The pause in demand that caused this unemployment, however, can be an opportunity for us to examine how our consumption habits can have unintended adverse effects, especially on the environment. Rather than just going back to how things were, we can use this break from our habits of spending to be more intentional about caring for the environment.

Take the travel industry for example. Thousands who had been employed by airlines and hotels are now out of work. Travelers (consumers), through their spending, supported the wages of all these employees. Thus, we may think of traveling as a good, and in one sense, we travelers helped these employees earn a living. But we often do not consider the environmental cost of traveling. Carbon emissions from the modes of transport, the extra construction needed to support tourism infrastructure, and the trash generated from tourism can all be considered the price the environment pays for the travel industry. 

Furthermore, as jobs are automated, fewer people are employed by the industry while the consumption of resources remains at the same level, if not a higher one. Thus, we can ask whether supporting the travel industry through the consumption of its services is worth the environmental damage. We can ask the same question about retail, construction, auto, and all other industries that use natural resources and contribute to environmental damage.

We should examine whether the two goods that come from consumption, namely job creation and personal satisfaction, can be achieved through other means. First, let us consider the social good that consumption creates in providing others with a livelihood. What if, instead of spending $50 on a pair of jeans from JC Penny, you bought an eco-friendly item, such as a painting from a local artist. Or perhaps you could donate the $50 to your neighborhood’s tree planting program that employs a few workers to plant trees. Your money still goes to support the livelihood of another, but drastically reduces the environmental impact of the transaction. Certainly, buying a pair of jeans can be a necessity and cannot be avoided in certain instances, but most Americans have overflowing closets and do not need more clothes.

Secondly, we spend money on things that make us happy. Of course, poorer people spend most of their money on things that they need to live. But for most of us, the cult of consumerism has blurred the lines between needs and wants such that nearly everything might be justified as a necessity today. 

Let us go back to the example of travel. If you saved $500 from a flight ticket that you did not buy, but still want to keep the money in circulation for the sake of the economy, could you do something with that $500 that gives you the same amount of joy as traveling, but without the carbon footprint? 

Perhaps, you would be willing to buy pricier food from local farmers? Or you could use the money saved to purchase more expensive electricity generated from renewable sources? As for the joy of traveling itself, you could meet new people in your own city or visit local parks and museums more often. None of these is a perfect substitute for the actual experience of travel, but maybe the experience of the pandemic has taught us that we are capable of reducing our demand for travel.

If we are to create a new, environmentally-sustainable economy, we need to pursue complementary approaches to changing our habits of consumption. We need to reconsider what matters for a meaningful life. Do endless shopping sprees really make life better? Does traveling really widen our horizons, especially when it rarely includes meaningful interaction with locals in their daily lives? Could we relax and refresh ourselves by going camping at a nearby state or national park? 

Many of these alternatives would lead to aggregate changes that would benefit the environment. On a transcendental level, we can seek and find beauty, goodness, and truth without consuming goods that damage the environment. We can create jobs that help us tread lightly on this earth. These jobs are in community gardens, local breweries, bicycle tour companies, neighborhood sports leagues, art, and the like. Our post-COVID economy could sustain jobs for all while being conscious of our environmental footprint. 

Of course, I am not suggesting that we go back to living like cave people. Modern conveniences do make life better (or save lives in some instances). But we should make a distinction between wants and needs, and at some point, after our basic needs have been met, we should examine our consumption choices. As a whole economy, we also have to ask whether unbridled consumption is the only way to create jobs and to make life meaningful.

Photo by Şahin Yeşilyaprak on Unsplash

Categories: Things Jesuit

Corpus Christi: You Are What You Eat | One-Minute Homily

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 01:00

Today on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, David Romero, SJ, reflects on the Body of Christ that we receive and we are called to become. This week’s One-Minute Homily is based on the readings for Sunday, June 14.

If it’s true what they say—”you are what you eat”—then why haven’t I grown my grandmother’s pasta on my head?

Hi, I’m David Romero, and this is my One-Minute Homily.

I loved eating my grandmother’s food. And I loved watching how she would pour her very self into those meals out of love for us. We would share stories, and I grew to know more deeply who I am and where I come from.

Jesus says to us: I am the living bread come down from heaven”—the food he offers is his very self, body and blood. What my grandmother did for my family year after year, God wants to do today: to pour God’s life into us; to feed our deepest hunger, and to show us how interconnected we are. God’s story becomes our story.

And what’s our response? Let us become what we receive: Let us allow our lives to be taken, blessed, broken, and given for others. It’s who we are. It’s where we come from.

We are what we eat. We are the Body of Christ.

Categories: Things Jesuit

What Two Corgis on Instagram Can Teach Us About Racism

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 02:33

Escaping reality is easy when you’ve got a phone in your hands. With a few simple taps, we have the capacity to be under the sea on Disney+, in the old west on HBOGO, or in a Russian emperor’s estate on Hulu. We can look up old flings on Facebook, and we can scan Twitter for the latest trend. Most of it takes us away from the present moment in time, a balm for the overworked, overbored, and overstimulated.

One of our favorite fast escapes? #PetsofInstagram. Especially Ralph and George the corgis

Here they are, Ralph and George!

***

#BlackoutTuesday was perhaps misinterpreted by some, but in broad strokes, it was meant to clear Instagram out to elevate and amplify black voices. For many of us, that meant on #BlackoutTuesday when we scrolled through our feeds, we weren’t greeted by the usual taste of pictures of friends’ kids, of nuns in adoration, of morning sun dancing across the water, of a cityscape at sunset. We saw a trail of black squares punctuated by an occasional and essential post, cultivated by black content creators during this challenging time. 

Most of our Instagram networks participated, including our favorite Pets of Instagram, Ralph and George, a couple of corgis with charisma to spare. The day before #BlackoutTuesday, we were treated to images of Ralph licking a cake in celebration of his 7th birthday. Delightful and ridiculous.

The next day, a black square, and a caption: “We see you, we hear you, and we stand with you against racism and intolerance. #BlackoutTuesday.” 

And the comments came. They always come. One reads:

“Sorry I will have to unfollow Ralph and George. I always enjoyed the posts as a relief from political commentary since I can see it on too many other sites. Best Wishes.”

And another:

“Sorry I have to unfollow. I really enjoyed seeing the antics of Ralph and George. This is ur site and u can post what u want. But I do not wish to see political comments.”

What might two corgis (but really, their humans, who are Asian-American), who are the stars of an Instagram account with 321K followers, and who contribute to one of the greatest forms of escapism the Internet knows, say in response? This:

“…it is truly sad to us that denouncing racism this day and age is considered ‘political’ to some of our followers. We neither need nor want your apology, and suggest that you think about why this statement, simply standing against racism, makes you so uncomfortable.”

Overcome by corgis. The day after #BlackoutTuesday, our favorite Insta-pets were back – a picture of Ralph and George, side-by-side and tongues hanging out, captioned: “Better together. #SendingLoaf.”

***

It is both sad and an incredible act of privilege that people choose to cultivate such a deeply siloed experience in regards to the information they want to receive. It is sad that some live perfectly at peace while others face the chaos of the world every day. Even when millions of people gather over many days of protests in hundreds of cities. Even when we have the opportunity and, some might argue, the moral obligation to witness the killing of a black man at the hands of a law enforcement officer. Even then, people can opt out and escape. They can choose who to listen to, what to watch, and what images and outlets to reject. What’s more, people have the audacity to make demands that other content creators provide the grounds for comfort at a time when the world is necessarily and importantly uncomfortable. To silo oneself and to demand the upholding of that silo is an act of complacency in perpetuating division and, in this case, racism. 

It is true that in the wake of every tragedy and every evil, energy wanes and the message gets quieter or suppressed entirely. There may soon come a time when George Floyd isn’t discussed widely every day as he should be. When we collectively forget him, as we may have done with those lives taken before his. When we forget the matchstick moment we lived through, and we cultivate grounds for another incident to occur by our silence.  And we, all of us, cannot let that happen.

We must remain diligent in the work of ending racism. We call those who share our substantial privilege to do the same. We must encourage even Ralph and George to keep the witness and discussion alive. We must apologize and repent. We must continue saying that #BlackLivesMatter. We must read and discuss the books we so readily liked when we saw them gathered together in an image on social media. We must talk with each other, and most especially listen to the voices of people of color. We must continue demonstrating. We must vote. We must seek systemic reform, and we must seek a transformation of our minds and hearts.

Until that happens, we can’t fall back on our usual escape. We cannot retreat to our usual silos of comfort and complacency. We’ll keep enjoying #PetsOfInstagram from time to time, but then the work continues until the sin of racism is eradicated from the earth. 

-//-

This article was co-written by Danny Gustafson, SJ, and Eric Immel, SJ.

Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

Categories: Things Jesuit

6 Guidelines I’ve Learned for Talking About Race

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 02:00

How do we talk about race in the light of George Floyd’s murder and the surge of protests throughout the country? How do we talk about a legacy of racial violence that has recently manifested itself in the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery? How do I approach my family members, my friends, peers, colleagues, or co-workers? I write this post in the hope of providing helpful suggestions for white people engaging in conversations with other white people and people of color. I do not claim to be an expert or authority on racial dialogue. I offer these suggestions as a white male who has failed, sinned, and continues to grow in conversations about race I do have and choose not to have. 

  1. Do your empathy homework

Before we condemn any violence caused by the protests, or discuss the morality of looting, or anything surrounding police violence, we should ask  ourselves: “Have I taken the time to imagine what it would be like living in a black body in the U.S?” Have I imagined the immense fear when pulled over by the police? The sheer terror of what could result from jogging in my own neighborhood? Have I listened to the horrendous sound of gunshots that killed Ahmaud Arbery? Have I sat and stayed in the horror of watching a stoic knee pressed upon the neck of another human being for 8 minutes and 46 seconds?  

Of course, any thought experiment could never allow a non-black person to fully understand what it would be like to inhabit a black body, but it changes the nature of the conversation. I shift from a posture of defensiveness and over-intellectualizing to having a compassionate, open-heart.  I spent 8 years as a policy debater in high school, college, and as an assistant coach. I was exposed to contemporary race scholarship again and again, but I didn’t move away from a posture of defensiveness until I adopted a position of empathy. I was able to be more empathetic because of  a friendship with another debater who was black. My empathy continues to be nurtured by friendships with non-white people.

  1. Embrace the Discomfort

Talking about race is difficult and can make white people feel uncomfortable, helpless, or guilty.  A helpful way of overcoming this discomfort is to think of it like the pain of exercising our physical muscles. As race scholar and philosopher Jacquiline Scott explains, these conversations are hard because white people don’t often exercise their “racial muscles”. We opt for the easy way out or a “candy-bar” instead, talking about the impact of protesting and looting instead of focusing on the structure and history of racism in this country that devalues black life.  

If we don’t exercise our racial muscles, we will never develop the strength necessary to engage in the depthful, honest, and risky conversations needed. No matter how difficult engaging in these conversations might seem, it is miniscule compared to the suffering of victims of racial violence. The least I can do for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery is engage in an uncomfortable conversation about race with a family member who cringes at the term “white privilege.”

  1. Pray

These conversations take courage, a gift of the Holy Spirit. We must implore the Holy Spirit to give us the courage to be vulnerable. It also means having the courage to have a conversation with a person of color experiencing deep pain, sorrow, and fatigue at the legacy of racism in this country. 

A good place to start is with the account of the resurrected Jesus in the Gospel of John 20:19-23 where Jesus appears to the disciples in the locked upper room and comes bearing peace and the Holy Spirit. We can ask ourselves, “In what ways are we locked in our own upper room that prevents us from engaging wholeheartedly in racial dialogue? In what ways am I closed off from conversations about race? And where in my life do I need the Holy Spirit to give me courage and reveal the truth?” We can pray for the grace to have the Holy Spirit propel us out of the locked upper room and be sent forth as apostles promoting racial justice.  

  1. Have Intellectual Humility

Many times I’ve engaged in dialogue, not only about race, where I’ve already decided the outcome of the dialogue before the dialogue begins. When talking about race, I need to ask myself, “have I acknowledged the possibility that I could be wrong?” Or have I entered the conversation with the resolution that I will defend whatever I already believe regardless of what I hear?

  1. Be Slow to Judge Others

We need to move to spaces with friction and disharmony, but a major barrier to some white people having frank conversations about race is that they fear condemnation. This prevents dialogue from occurring and the opportunity to truly hear black rage, suffering, sorrow, and pain. They also might fear judgment from other white people who try to prove their own innocence by shifting the blame to others.

The task as I see it involves creating spaces for white people and people of color to freely and authentically communicate their beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. Frank and profound dialogue cannot occur in spaces where someone expects condemnation and harsh judgement. Once people have been allowed to speak freely compassionate correction, clarification, and hopefully conversion can occur. 

  1. Know that Dialogue Alone Isn’t Enough

While I know dialogue alone is not sufficient for racial justice, I do think it is an essential component. Without dialogue rooted in empathy, courage, prayer, and intellectual humility, we cannot achieve the potential progress described by the black Catholic theologian Bryan Massingale: 

Stay in the discomfort, the anxiety, the guilt, the shame, the anger. Because only when a critical mass of white folks are outraged, grieved and pained over the status quo – only when white people become upset enough to declare, “This cannot and will not be!” – only then will real change begin to become a possibility. 

*****

These are some guidelines that have helped me in my journey. If you find them helpful or would like to challenge me, please feel free to reach out and we can proceed in dialogue.

Categories: Things Jesuit

The Gospels: Not Your Typical Blockbuster | One-Minute Homily

Sun, 06/07/2020 - 02:00

The message of Jesus Christ doesn’t match what typically makes a blockbuster hit. Martin Ngo, SJ, reflects on Jesus’ message of love and peace in this week’s One-Minute Homily. Based on the readings for Sunday, June 7, 2020.

 

The Gospel has got to be the strangest blockbuster hit of all time.

Hi, I’m Marteen, and this is my One-Minute Reflection.

Jesus Christ; what a strange protagonist. He’s persecuted and killed only to make a triumphant comeback return to do what? To proclaim mercy and eternal life for anyone who turns to faith?! What kind of story is this?! We like to punish the bad guys.

Think about it. The last Avengers movie. What if after the Thanos snap, they find Thanos only to not condemn him, and to say, “We came all this way to let you know that we are slow to anger and rich in kindness.” Excuse me?! I didn’t pay $18.50 for this!

And yet, that’s the mind-boggling Good News. In Jesus, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit we can make peace with one another. That’s the reminder every time we gather at table together to break bread in Jesus’ name. And you know what? That’s the only blockbuster we need.

Categories: Things Jesuit

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