A Nation In Mourning….Again!

To quote Thomas Paine, “These are times that try men (and women) souls.” We have experienced once again the horrors of mass shootings, in El Paso TX, and Dayton, OH. It should shake everyone’s being down to their souls. No other country, that is not at war or in civil strife, has suffered the casualties we have in the United States, from gun violence. People from around the world cannot understand how a country, so modern, like the United States, can let this bloodletting continue.

The answer is both simple and complicated. There are those in this country who feel they are losing control of it. That immigrants and of other races are taking what was once theirs; jobs, control of local governments. They see government, especially the Federal government taking away their lands, their jobs, for protection of the environment. They see gun ownership as the only means to protect what they see as their rights. This might only express some of the reasons why the country is so full of hate, so divided; and why some feel driven to pick up the gun.

But Jesus has said, “All who take the sword will die by the sword.” (MT 26:52). What is called for are laws to remove or at least control access to military style weapons. There also must be dialogue between peoples, to understand the desires, the needs, and the fears of all sides. We need a responsible government, whose goals are to preserve the general welfare, and not their own political power.

Jesus said that the primary commandment for his followers was to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. The second important commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. The challenge of these two commandments have always been before us. Never before in our society’s history, had meeting that challenge been so important!

Cardinal O’Malley Speaks Out on Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

Cardinal SeanCruxnow.com is reporting on comments made by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM CAP, Archbishop of Boston on the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has infected the presidential campaign this year.  In an interview he had with Irish media, he warned that such speech, demonizes a minority group, and can bring about unjust treatment.  He called on Americans to remember that it was that long ago, that our Irish immigrant ancestors were seen as a threat to America; and subjected to anti-immigrant treatment.  He called on Americans to stop blaming our current troubles on the immigrant, and instead work together to care for one another and find solutions together.

Welcome the Stranger.

 “When an alien resides with you in your land, do not molest him. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.  I, the Lord, am your God. ” (Leviticus 19: 33-34)

TrumpI have used the above quote from Leviticus in a previous quote, but unfortunately, it remains relevant to current events.  And I am speaking about comments made by Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, on prohibiting persons of the Muslim faith from entering this country.  And he does not seem to distinguishing between Muslims from a specific geographic location, and all Muslims.  His statement has set off a firestorm of comments, both in the media, and blogosphere!  Many comments were highly critical of Mr. Trump’s opinion, accusing him of violating America’s high ideals.

The sad truth is that since America’s earliest beginning’s, there has been an undercurrent of religious intolerance in the country’s history.  As far back as Puritan Boston, when Quakers were persecuted; even hung, like Mary Dyer, for their beliefs.  Baptists and Evangelicals were discriminated against in the state of Virginia, in the newly born United States.  Mormons were, attacked, murdered, and were driven out to the frontiers of the Republic.  There has always been a subtle discrimination against persons of the Jewish faith.  And Catholics should remember the fierce opposition to believers of our faith existed in this nation.  Some of the early state constitutions had amendments that prohibited persons who “swore allegiance to a foreign ruler (i.e.; the Pope,)” from holding public office.  Catholic schools, orphanages, and convents were attacked at times during urban riots.  When the great waves of Catholic immigrants started coming to our shores, the fear mongering grew to fever pitch.  A nativist party, founded in the 1800’s, and known popularly as the “Know Nothings”; with the aim of preventing immigration of German and Irish Catholics, and limiting the access to the political system only to Protestants.  We have grown as country, and religious liberty is enshrined in both our Constitution, and the body politic.  There have been and always will be tensions as we continue to explore what the ideal of religious liberty and tolerance means in a modern society that has both religious and secular segments to it.

Persons, such as Mr. Trump, are threatening that ideal, by playing to the fears of terrorism that is afflicting our country right now.  Michael Sean Winters, of the National Catholic Reporter, in an interesting recent post on this issue.  In the last few paragraphs, he speaks about the real threat of terror.  The real threat is not the death and destruction terrorists can inflict, but the changes they can cause in a society.  When out of fear, they cause a society, like the U.S., to abandon its ideals of personal freedom, of openness to all faiths, for severe, hard-handed security practices, and make us an armed camp.  When it causes a nation to demonize a whole religion; a whole people, and discriminates against them; then the terrorist wins.

To stand up to terrorism, means to have the courage to remain faithful to those social and political ideals that make us a unique people on the world stage.  As a community of believers, we American Catholics need to remember our own immigrant roots, and not give into fear.  During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are called to extend mercy; which we experience ourselves, to others.  We trust that God’s grace will help us overcome fear and anxiety, and we will welcome the stranger.

welcome the stranger

A Little Friar During the Night of Terror!

(MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

(MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

He walks among the wounded, and the dead.  The City of Lights has become the City of Fear.  The tears well up in the eyes of the little poor one, because he loves the French people.  His father made his fortune selling French cloth,and he had the name of his first-born son changed from Giovanni to Francisco to honor France.  In his youth, the little one would dress as a French troubadour, entertaining the young ladies of Assisi with French love songs.

He kneels down beside one of the wounded, who is crying in pain and fear.  He takes the person’s hand, bends over, and sings to him in French.  An EMT rushes towards the wounded person, he thinks he sees a dark robed friar kneeling over him.  He blinks and the friar is gone.  He kneels beside the injured, who is now quiet, and has a peaceful look on his face.  “Paix!”