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Pope Francis recently stated, “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of human life.” I was struck by this black page when opening my summer Basilica Magazine, acknowledging that while the content was developed before May 25, the commitment was not lost. Some say the world changed after George Floyd died, while others rightfully say more are waking up and coming along.
To defend human life means recognizing and changing the circumstances for the most vulnerable. In this case, our neighbors for whom structural inequity and the historical preservation of white prosperity have kept down. For example, redlining—preventing Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities from owning homes wherever they choose—and a mounting education debt—opportunity gaps compounding over time to produce consistent achievement outcomes—protect and propel our white neighbors.
We can view Catholic Social Teaching’s seven pillars through an anti-racist lens. How are we preserving the life and dignity of human persons who are BIPOC? How do our BIPOC neighbors fully participate in our families and communities? To what extent are white neighbors exercising their responsibilities to defend BIPOC rights? How are white brothers and sisters tending to poor and vulnerable BIPOC communities? How are those with power preserving the dignity of work and rights of BIPOC workers? How are white neighbors standing in solidarity with BIPOC neighbors? How are white communities caring for BIPOC creation, whether life or the environment in which they live?
Here at The Basilica, various programs and changes have put our community on the path toward anti-racism. This Lenten season, The Basilica partnered with the University of St. Thomas on an educational series called “Becoming Human: Dismantling Racism.” The guiding theory is that the racial history we all inherit is dehumanizing for all of us. The only way to “become human” is to confront the legacy of white supremacy and undergo a process of transformation to engage more humanely in the world, especially across the color line. Look up the recordings here.
Beyond this, The Basilica secured a partnership with the Penumbra Theatre through educational workshops and ongoing support. Some of the work involved an immersive analysis of the ways The Basilica perpetuates or disrupts racism through its ministries and services. A core leadership team is developing to continue this ever-present work. Look for ways to get involved in this work over the coming year.
The founding of this country involved kidnapping and enslaving Africans and committing genocide against the Indigenous to steal their land. It can be overwhelming to reconcile with this history and our unconscious, perpetuating (in)actions. But acknowledging it and finding a place to work against it in our community is our calling as God’s children.
Parish Council, Vice Chair
The Basilica of Saint Mary
Pastoring during a pandemic is a unique, one of kind, never to be forgotten experience. I’m sure that all of us could substitute our own word for “pastoring” and this statement would ring true for all of us. We are in uncharted waters and trying to find our way through them without GPS or even a compass to guide us. Certainly there was nothing in my seminary experience or in my years of ministry that I can look to or lean on for guidance. And yet, somehow we are finding our way through it—often in fits and starts—occasionally stumbling—but, at least in my case, always with a clear sense that I am not alone. I feel the support of family, friends, colleagues, and parishioners. Also, and as importantly, I also have a clear sense that God is with me—that God is with all of us—during this time.
Now, I would like to tell you that the sense that God is with us during this time is always evident and enduring. Truth be told, however, there are times when I struggle to find and/or recognize God’s presence. Usually these times don’t last long, but they are real. Perhaps it is just me, but it is hard to look at the face of pain and suffering and death, and not wonder if and where God is in the midst of it. When I take these times with me to prayer, though, most often I find and feel God’s peaceful presence. And I realize anew that God is with us and for us, and has not and will not leave us alone.
Certainly there are people who would argue that the current pandemic is proof positive that God either can’t or won’t do something to “fix” it and make it better. I suspect there is little that I can say to these people that would change their mind. For myself, though, there are many things that are signs of God’s presence and grace, and I can’t ignore them. An ongoing challenge, though, is that I need to look through the “eyes of faith” in order to recognize these signs.
Now there is a need for clarity here. Seeing things through the eyes of faith does not mean wearing rose colored glasses and approaching things with a certain naiveté. Rather faith is the lens that helps all of us to see God’s hand at work in our lives and in our world, perhaps especially when that presence is not immediately obvious. As we read in Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is confident assurance of what we hope for; conviction about things we do not see.” Seeing with the eyes of faith, then, is nothing more, but certainly nothing less than believing that the God who loved us and our world into existence, will always hold us in love, and ultimately will bring us home to live with God forever.
Faith isn’t always an easy proposition, but I have never found anything to take its place. From my perspective it’s the thing that helps me to make sense of this life and to believe that there is something more and better that awaits us.