Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sermon on the Mount -- Live! In a Diner! In the Bronx!

Great story from NPR that a friend shared on Facebook.

Julio Diaz has managed to live out the values inherent in the Sermon on the Mount in a simple but profound way.  May God bless him.  For that matter, may God bless his mugger as well.  No telling how Julio's response may affect that kid for the rest of his life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Observe the Quiet, Observe the Birds

This morning, in the last few minutes before we were to leave for school, I found my nine-year-old son stationed in front of the glass door that overlooks the bird feeders on our back porch.  He was sitting there, cross-legged, and he whispered, "Quiet" as I entered the room.

We sat there for ten minutes, watching the birds.  Mostly finches, brown finches.  The dogs entered the room, and my son again whispered, "Quiet."  The dogs were uncharacteristically cooperative.  My wife came in.  "Quiet," my son said again.  My wife, too, cooperated.  We left the house with quiet good wishes to each other, a quiet closing of the door.

How frequently I forget that there's a sacrament to be had in watching birds eat their breakfast.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to Engage in Muslim-Bashing -- An Example From a Bishop

I've heard some wonderful Christmas homilies over the years.  Homilies that drew me again, in a fresh way, to the mystery and the beauty of the incarnation.  Homilies that have shown me how to look for Christ, how to find Christ, in all sorts of people and situations where I might otherwise (left to my own devices) miss God's presence.  Homilies that made me want to work harder at carrying Christ's love within me, as Mary carried her child, God-as-babe, in her womb.

Unfortunately, however, it appears that a homily at midnight mass can also be used to bash those of God's children who happen to be Muslim.

Here's a link to the homily that Bishop Thomas John Paprocki--who was installed as shepherd of the Springfield Diocese in Illinois (my diocese) last summer--delivered on December 24, 2010, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.

The bishop opened his homily by mentioning the execution of a Muslim general three centuries ago, an execution that occurred on Christmas day, and then the bishop proclaimed, "Merry Christmas!"  Here's an excerpt from a later section of the homily:
It doesn't help when our country plays politically correct games such as the security operations at our nation's airports.  You can't fight a war if you can't identify the enemy, and if 83-year-old great-grandmothers have to be treated the same way as Muslim Arabs from the Middle East with body scans and "enhanced pat-downs," then we're wasting a lot of time and money for nothing.  True, not every Muslim is a terrorist, but most terrorists these days are Muslims, and we ignore that fact at our peril.  

Yes, I know, the TSA's newest routine in airports is problematic at best.  And yes, Bishop Paprocki has stated in his homily that "not every Muslim is a terrorist."  Nonetheless, the bishop's primary  goal in this homily seems to be to instill in his listeners a fear of Muslims, a resentment of Muslims, a view of Muslims as an unpalatable "other."  As if there is not already enough of that in the air.  I'm reminded of my aged relative who used to tell me, frequently, "Now, I'm not saying that all black people are bad . . ." immediately before he charged full-speed ahead with his prejudice.

As much as I would hope for a higher standard from a bishop, I guess I'm hoping for too much.  Oh well, I know I'm a sinner, in need of God's mercy and love; I should not be too surprised to see this evidence of the bishop's sinfulness, too.

Spread the love that Christ came to earth to share, Bishop.  Please do not play to the worst prejudices out there.  Don't turn Lincoln's admonition to listen to "the better angels of our nature" on its ear by giving the Catholic faithful permission to view Muslims as a monolithic, less-than-human group.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Will Illinois Abolish the Death Penalty? Will The Bishops Fight Hard to Do So?

Both the state senate and house in Illinois are debating an official end to the death penalty.  (No executions have taken place since then Gov. George Ryan put a moratorium in place in 2000; two years later, just before leaving office, Ryan commuted the sentence of every prisoner who was then on death row in Illinois.  Nonetheless, the death penalty statutes remain on the book, and numerous individuals have been sentenced to death in Illinois during the last decade.)

The Catholic Conference of Illinois--the bishops' group--advocated last fall for an end to the death penalty, much to their credit.  That position is in keeping with the consistent ethic of life (sometimes also called "the seamless garment" approach to life issues).  Let's hope the bishops put at least as much energy into the fight to abolish the death penalty as they did when they were trying (just last month) to prevent Illinois citizens from enjoying marriage-equality rights.

A church that calls itself pro-life needs to fight--fight hard--when an opportunity arises to legislate the death penalty into oblivion.  The death penalty is part of the culture of death that John Paul II condemned; there's no way around that.

I wonder, though, how many supposedly "pro-life" politicians (Catholic and non-Catholic alike) will come out in support of the death penalty.  Too many, alas.  They need not worry about communion, however.  Even bishops who play politics with the Eucharist (unwisely and recklessly, I'd say) rarely if ever use it  when a legislator votes to support state-sponsored executions.  That's fine, I guess; I wish we could see an end to communion politics altogether.  But it's an interesting inconsistency, isn't it?