True freedom leads to healthy patriotism

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

As I write, it is July 4, Independence Day in the United States. This American holiday is always accompanied with parades, fireworks, flag waving and a heightened sense of pride of country. And this is all good – to a point.

A love of country – whether that country be Russia, China, South Africa, India, the Philippians, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S., or any other nation – is a healthy, genuine love when it humbly understands that one’s own nation is an equal member in the world community of nations; and that it not only possesses virtues to celebrate, but also commits sins in need of repentance.

Slogans like “my country, right or wrong” and “love it or leave it” and “America first” and “American exceptionalism” reveal an unhealthy, arrogant, unenlightened and unholy nationalism which exaggerates the nation’s virtues – even attempting to display certain vices as virtues – all the while ignoring the nation’s sins.

Sadly, and dangerously, large segments of many nations hold to this unhealthy patriotism, which is not conducive to genuine freedom, but instead enables the forces of darkness to shackle the mind and soul of both individual adherents, and much of the nation, to a self-centered false sense of superiority which blocks God’s gift of inner spiritual freedom, and fosters serious obstacles to establishing a just and peaceful world community.

Many people understand freedom to mean doing whatever one wants to do. But that mentality is definitely not freedom, instead it’s what’s known as “license.” And license results when one’s ego is the driving force. “Don’t tell me what to do. I do what I want” is what people say and do whose lives are being steered by self-centered egoism. This attitude is not freeing, on the contrary it enslaves the person to her/his passions and greed.

And the same goes for nations. Many countries and corporations also have the selfish attitude of “I do what I want” with little regard for the freeing Catholic social teaching principles of solidarity, the common good, and the special option for the poor and vulnerable.

Mark Twain astutely said, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”

Governments seeking dangerous and unjust dominance by investing astronomical amounts of money in their military – at the expense of the poor and hungry – and companies that treat workers like mere cogs in the corporate wheel – who often labor in sweatshops – instead of like human beings with human rights, are not only enslaving others, they are unwittingly enslaving themselves.

Unlike secular culture, Jesus shows us that real freedom is not gained by seeking more and more pleasure, fame, money, and power for oneself and one’s country.

Rather “The Way” – the earliest name for the church – of Jesus is selfless love. In the Gospel Jesus teaches, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” And Jesus said, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

So, true freedom is not about you doing your thing and me doing my thing; it’s about doing God’s thing. We are not the center of the universe – God is. And when we as individuals, and as a nation, invite the Center of the universe to be the center of our lives and nation, we are then, and only then, free!

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at

Published in: on July 9, 2020 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Reflection for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Associate Director Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our July 6th newsletter

FAN friends at their local community farm

Jesus sat by the sea to teach with an agricultural parable. Why not? All Creation is home to him, and he likes to do the unexpected. So from a boat, he begins: “A sower went out to sow.” The parable is familiar to us, and while we acknowledge our rocky and thorny patches, we all want to be rich soil. But what the parable doesn’t describe is the consistent, patient work needed to produce abundant fruit.

Our small veggie garden is green and healthy. It has offered lettuce and arugula and will soon be more abundant. I’m not the gardener, but I know from watching that “sowing” involves more than throwing a seed on the ground. The gardener turns the soil, provides nutrients, plants seeds, fences for protection from squirrels, waters and weeds faithfully. In our spiritual gardens, Jesus is the sower, and we must hear and understand, listen and practice; i.e. do the work needed to bear fruit.

In this liturgical Ordinary Time, the circumstances in which we live and garden are anything but ordinary. Coronavirus unabated in this leaderless country; political divisions; protests against police brutality against people of color, especially Black men; a teetering economy with hardest impact (as always) on people who are poor, people of color, immigrants and refugees, disabled and elderly people–those who struggle to survive in what Pope Francis calls this “throwaway culture.” And yet– and yet– there are signs of new life sprouting. “. . . all creation is groaning,” not in despair, but “in labor pains.” Something new is trying to be born. Feel its heartbeat. See the promise in well-tended gardens. Do the work needed to have Jesus say, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears because they hear.” And by implication, “your hands because they work to produce abundant fruit.”

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on July 7, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Re-imagining Community

By Patrick Carolan

Patrick Carolan is a Catholic social justice advocate originally from Connecticut and is currently working with Vote Common Good as Director on Catholic outreach. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

On July 5th in 1852 Fredrick Douglas addressing an anti-slavery conference in New York said: “At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream …For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

Last weekend June 20th more than 2.5 million people from every state and over 140 countries gathered virtually as part of the Poor People’s Campaign’s call for a moral revival. At the same time, thousands upon thousands of people across the country and the world are participating in Black Lives Matter protests in support of radical change in our communities. Maybe we are finally moving beyond the gentle shower and into the storm of change that Douglas called for 168 years ago. When Poor People’s Campaign calls for a “Moral Revival” or Black Lives Matter call for “Defunding the Police” they are not just talking about passing pieces of legislation or tweaking regulations. They are talking about re-imaging, creating a new vision of how we do community. For Christians it is not really a new vision; it is the message that Jesus gave us throughout the Gospels. In Matthew 22:23 Jesus tells us: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.”

If we as people of faith are going to participate in this new/old creation we have to start with rethinking our theology. In his autobiography Douglas wrote “I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt slaveholding…hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity.” One of the core interpretations of our theology is the concept of domination. It starts with the precept that we as humans have domination over the rest of creation. Creation is there to serve us. Some of our great Christian theologians like Augustine and Aquinas argued that harming creation was wrong, not because it caused pain or harm to creation, which they argued had no spirituality, but because it separated us from God. This theology of domination didn’t end with the rest of creation. We created a theology of domination over each other based on skin color, sex, sexual identification or race. We believed in theology centered around a white Adam, a white Moses and a white Jesus which gave the power of control and domination to white males. I often tell people that on February 11, 1954 at 2:03am I won the lottery. I was born white cis-gendered male. No matter what I did or didn’t do for the rest of my life, I was always operating from a position of advantage. It is not my fault that I was born that way. It is my fault if I do nothing to bring about change.

Eight hundred years ago a simple, humble man lived in a small village in Italy. Francis of Assisi was not a brilliant scholar or theologian. He was not a gifted, prophetic orator or writer. He was a failed soldier and the son of a wealthy merchant. What he did have was a vision of a different way of looking at creation. A different interpretation of the teachings of Jesus. Francis believed in a mystical or a spiritual vision for all of the creative world as brother and sister. He described this in his Canticle of the Creatures. Francis saw himself as part of creation, as being in relationship with creation, and not having dominion over creation. He believed in the interconnectedness of all creation. The 13th century Franciscan theologian, Bonaventure taught that just as creation is reflected in God, God is reflected in creation. Makes you wonder what kind of God are we reflecting today. Francis didn’t, as the saying goes, “talk the talk” he “walked the walk.” He was alive during the 5th crusade. A time of war and hatred between Christians and Muslims. Francis left the comfort of his home in Assisi and traveled with a single companion to Damietta, Egypt where the endless fighting between Christian and Muslim troops was happening. He managed to find his way into the Muslim encampment. He did so knowing that in all probability he would be killed. But he was willing to risk his life to bring about peace. He found a way to meet with the Sultan Al-Kamal the leader of the Muslim army. Together they forged an alliance that helped bring about an end to the crusades. In Matthew 20:22 Jesus asks us “Can you drink of this cup I am going to drink?” Francis was willing to sacrifice his life to drink of the cup, are we?

In Jeremiah 22:3 we are told: “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor, the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” St. Bonaventure tells us that how we choose and what we choose makes a difference – first in what we become by our choices and second in what the world becomes by our choices. The question is, are we willing to wake up, to stand up, to speak up? Are we willing, as my friend Rev. Dr. Stephany Spaulding says, “to be not allies but accomplices.” Are we willing to get uncomfortable enough to finally accept the challenge that Fredrick Douglas laid down 168 years ago to not be the gentle shower, but to be the thunder, the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake?

St. Angela of Foligno, a 13th century Franciscan mystic, said: “My soul in an excess of wonder cried out: ‘This world is pregnant with God!’ Wherefore I understood how small is the whole of creation- that is, what is on this side and what is beyond the sea, the abyss, the sea itself, and everything else- but the power of God fills it all to overflowing.” Think about that image- the world pregnant with God overflowing with endless love. Each moment of creation as a new birth of God. God reflected in all creation. Every part of creation is considered sacred. That my brothers and sisters is the new vision, the new theology.

Peace and All Good

Published in: on July 3, 2020 at 10:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Learn From Me

Reflection for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our June 29th newsletter

As I reflect on the Readings of the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time that we celebrate the day after the Fourth of July this year, the country is in the midst of protests led by Black Lives Matter. The national unrest has been sparked by the latest killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of militarized, cruel police.

It is a moment of reckoning in our country, and one, I hope, that will bring change in our society, not only in the way police deal with black men but also a change in the way all people of color are treated and discriminated against for many generations.

It is also a moment of examination for me personally. As a follower of Jesus and Francis, I am reflecting and coming to terms with the fact that without being fully aware I have taken advantage of the privilege given to me by the simple fact that my skin color is white. My/our silence as white people and our lack of outrage at what has been happening for too long, has allowed the suffering of so many people of color to continue to go unpunished.

It is with these feelings that the invitation of Jesus in today’s Gospel, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” sounds like just what I need after days of unrest and soul searching, watching TV reports, reading newspapers and searching together as FAN staff, the best way to raise our voice in support of people who continue to be discriminated against. We need Jesus’ words and the reassurance that we can always take refuge in Him, that He will welcome us back, no matter what, even with our hearts heavy with guilt.

Jesus continues: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . . .For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Do we really learn from Jesus? Do we share the yoke of meekness and humility as he told us to? How do I share in it? Do I feel that I am in the Father as Jesus is and love the Father above everything else as He does and then love others as He loves us? I wonder.

Would there be so much injustice and inequality if we really had internalized the teaching of Jesus? If the Gospel values of the Sacredness of all life were our guide? What does it say of us, we who pride ourselves on being a country with Christian roots, really?

Words are cheap, prayers are not enough, faith without works is dead.

“Some people,” Aunt Emily answered sharply, “are so busy seeing all sides of every issue that they neutralize concern and prevent necessary action. There is no strength in seeing all sides unless you can act where real measurable injustice exists. A lot of academic talk just immobilizes the oppressed and maintains oppressors in their positions of power.” – Joy Kogawa, Obasan

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on June 30, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Judging the signs of the times

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

In the Gospel of Matthew, there is a scene where the Pharisees and Sadducees, in their desire to test Jesus, ask him to show them a sign. In reply to them, Jesus says that in the morning when the sky is red and threatening you say that today it will be stormy. “You know how to judge the appearance of the sky, but you cannot judge the signs of the times.”

Here we find Jesus rebuking the Pharisees and Sadducees for refusing to recognize in his stunning teachings and awesome deeds the unfolding of the Kingdom of God. They simply refuse to “judge the signs of the times.”

In the Second Vatican Council’s “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (“Gaudium Et Spes”), the world’s Catholic bishops wrote, “The Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.”

As you look around, near and far, what do you see as the signs of the times? Well, who can possibly say that these are not difficult times for so many of us – and for countless others tragic times. Consider the global pandemic of COVID-19 – resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of people suffering from sickness, job loss and debt.

Next, consider the protests around the world in response to the killings of numerous innocent black fellow human beings by some police officers, and the significant failure of local and national governments to adequately address these and other racial injustices.

Other signs of the times are the largely unaddressed life and death issues of ongoing wars, war preparation, the arms trade, nuclear weapons, the ecological devastation of climate change and pollution, hunger, poverty, unregulated raw capitalism, tremendous wealth disparity, lack of universal health care, human trafficking, child labor, unemployment, homelessness, refugees, death penalty, abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and the growth within many societies of a secularism that increasingly has no place for God.

And while it is morally inexcusable that most government and corporate officials just don’t seem to care, let us also not forget to examine our own consciences and seek genuine conversion from our own “selfish indifference” as Pope Francis warns.

Take to heart St. Mother Teresa’s encouraging words, “Everyone can do something.”

In prayer ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Read articles and documents on Catholic social teaching. Join or help start a parish social justice, peace and pro-life team. Be creative.

Recently three major national and international events converged to assist us in judging the signs of the times. On June 20, a digital social justice assembly sponsored by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call to Moral Revival was attended by over 2.5 million viewers.

This campaign is striving to correct the immoral interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, militarism, the war economy and ecological devastation (see:

Also on June 20 was World Refugee Day – a time to call our attention to the desperate plight of 70 million refugees and internally displaced persons fleeing war and persecution (see: and

And on June 18 the Vatican released “Journeying for the care of the common home,” coinciding with the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical letter “Laudato Si” – which encourages us to see that everything is interconnected, and that when any person or part of the environment is suffering it hurts all of us.

The above are genuine examples of “judging the signs of the times” and responding with active commitment to the supreme Gospel value of love – for God, for God’s suffering people, and for God’s wounded world.

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at

Published in: on June 27, 2020 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Ribbon Project 2020

The Peace Ribbon project is one woman’s vision that inspired tens of thousands. After being deeply affected by a visit to Hiroshima in 1975, Justine Merritt used her Christmas card list to invite 100 friends and relatives to join in wrapping a “Ribbon” around the Pentagon as a reminder that life is precious and nuclear war is unthinkable – a symbol of peace to surround a symbol of war.

What follows is a short reflection from FAN’s Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF as she was in attendance, helping to wrap a ribbon around Washington, D.C. in 1985.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

When nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, I was a child, totally unaware of the devastating, nightmare impacts on these cities and their populations. Later I heard adults say that horrifying as these were, the bombings brought about the end of WWII, so they were justified.

In time, as I learned more about the unspeakable suffering inflicted on innocent people, and the madness of the nuclear arms race, I was convinced that we must act to end this threat to humanity and Earth. In 1985, as a Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia, I helped to organize a group of our sisters traveling to Washington, DC to join the thousands of people of all ages carrying 24,000 banners to form a Ribbon Around the Pentagon, urging the abolition of nuclear weapons. We hoped that the United States, the only country who had used “the bomb”, would lead the world in dismantling these weapons. Other FAN members of a “certain age” may also have helped to wrap that ribbon around the Pentagon and hoped for an end to the arms race. Sadly, that hope was not fulfilled.

In August, 2020, as we observe the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, FAN promotes the 2020 virtual Peace Ribbon project of The Ribbon International. While this country and the world are engaged with many crises, we must not forget that nuclear war is still a real threat. We are invited to ask ourselves, “What can I not bear to think of as lost forever in a nuclear war”?

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

Published in: on June 26, 2020 at 9:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Can you love Jesus more than all else?

Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, David Seitz, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our June 22nd newsletter

The readings for the 13th Sunday this year are especially challenging. The Gospel beginning in Matthew Chapter 10:37 is, I believe, one of the most difficult teachings of Jesus.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”

Wow! Jesus has called out some of the most important human relationships, our intimate, immediate family; father, mother, son, daughter. As a parent I know the love I have for my daughters. I know the love and respect I have for my parents. It is hard to imagine, other than perhaps our spouses, a bond of love greater than these. Yet Jesus tells us unless we love him with a greater love we are not worthy of him.

This is one of those sayings of Jesus that let us know being His true follower is not easy. It is not all roses and sunshine. To be a true follower and to be worthy of Jesus could actually result in straining or even breaking our human relationships. This got me thinking. What are some of the relationships that I put over and above Jesus in my life? If the standard is the love I have for my family, what other “loves” do I have in my life that must be, not abandoned, but put under and subject to my love of Jesus?

How about my own ego? That self-love, the part of me that whispers in my ear and helps me rationalize my behavior or ideologies that might conflict with the Gospel? That part of me that I love so much that I’m not willing to love Jesus by keeping His commands. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” ( JN 14:15 ) “Whoever receives you receives me” (Mt 10:40), Jesus told his disciples, “What you bind on earth is bound in heaven and what you loose on earth is loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:19)

I learned a new word not long ago, Anthropocentric. This means putting the human person at the center, the end all be all, of what we do. This is loving humankind over and above God, it is not God centered. We live in a highly individualistic culture. Our culture has an anthropocentric worldview. We do not like being subject to authority, civil or religious. If I am asked to do something that goes against my ego, I rebel. “You can’t tell me what to do!” Often overlooking the common good as an infringement on my personal desires, we have lapsed into a mindset that if anything is suggested that goes against my personal desires, I have been offended and the one who has a different idea is hateful and intolerant. Sadly, tolerance itself often manifests the greatest degree of intolerance, as it proclaims you must agree with me, respect my ideology and beliefs, yet I am not obligated to respect yours. And so we love almost anything over and above Jesus.

This is a hard message to hear. I know that I, like many, read my own bias into the Gospel. I read my own bias into blog posts and messages people send me. We love our bias, and let’s be honest, they are often so ingrained in our subconscious that we deploy them without thought or reflection. This is where we need to pray for the grace of enlightenment and conversion. The Rule of Life for the Secular Franciscan tells me that “motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel itself calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.” (Article 7)

Our conversion is not a one-time event. It is a daily struggle, and as our Gospel passage tells us, “whoever does not take up his cross is not worthy of me.” How do we discover our bias and that which needs conversion in our life? We carry the cross of our passions. We carry the cross of those people who sometimes irritate us and do not agree with us. Can we carry that cross to meaningful dialog so that I can learn about the other, gain an understanding, begin to build a bridge? Can we pray for the grace each day to be open to the Holy Spirit and the willingness to recognize our bias and if necessary, carry the cross of the daily struggle to change what needs to be changed?

We are living in a moment of history that is asking all of us to examine our hidden bias. What is it that I love more than Jesus, that is an obstacle for me being his true follower? What is it in my life that is making me “not worthy” of Jesus and His gospel? We all love the compassionate, loving, kind and forgiving Jesus. We often tend to ignore the demanding “you’re either all in or you’re out” Jesus. “So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:16) Jesus admonished the Church of Laodicea. Looking back at the Gospel passage we can honestly lament, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (Jn 6:5) Thankfully, Jesus also has an answer to that question so we will not lose hope because of our fallen human nature. “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” (Mk 10:27)

David Seitz, OFS
FAN Board Member

Published in: on June 23, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Spreading the Message of God to Those with Hardened Ears and Hearts

Reflection for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our June 15th newsletter

The readings during these past weeks have shown how prophets and apostles accepted their mission to preach the word of God to hardened ears and hearts. And now so must we!

In the first reading this week, Jeremiah was distressed by the hushed voices of those who were his friends but were now plotting against him. Suddenly Jeremiah’s outlook shifts from lament to rejoicing: “But the lord is with me like a mighty champion, my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.” St. Oscar Romero compared Jeremiah’s prophetic work to that of the church in El Salvador, the work of calling out “whatever would enthrone sin in El Salvador’s history, calling sinners to be converted.” During a Sunday morning homily, he said to the people: “If you live out a Christianity that is good but that is not sufficient for our times, that doesn’t denounce injustice, that doesn’t reject the sins humankind commits, so as to be accepted by those classes, then you are not doing your duty, you are sinning, you are betraying your mission. The church is here to convert humankind.”

We are faced with many issues but the one that God is asking us to help people face right now, even though it has been going on for 400 years, is Racism. What takes us so long? In our preaching, bodily harm is not the worst thing that can happen to us, harm that penetrates to the inner person, heart and soul, is what is lethal. I believe if we trust in God, we will be spared the threats against the heart and soul. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We all have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of all willing to be co-workers with God…” Even though Dr. King meant this in regards to Racism, it applies to all the issues we want to overcome today. And it is a long list that I am sure you can put together yourself.

Like Jeremiah, Oscar Romero, and Martin Luther King we will find strength to accept the mission to share the word of God in the Eucharist and in the community that surrounds us and we will experience conversion. We can be people of the light if we open our ears and our hearts!

Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on June 16, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

My son lives in Georgia and is afraid

By Patrick Carolan

Patrick Carolan is a Catholic social justice advocate originally from Connecticut and is currently working with Vote Common Good as Director on Catholic outreach. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

My son, Delvon, is black and lives in Georgia. He is a funny, thoughtful young man with a mischievous smile, a good heart and caring soul. He also has long dreads and tattoos on both arms. His early life was challenging. Delvon was in and out of foster care until he was ten. He came to live with Stella and me as a foster child and a year later we adopted Delvon and his sister Briana. He was an average student who did what he needed to do to get by. Delvon often got into trouble in school not so much for his actions but because he argued with the teachers when he felt he was being disrespected. One teacher constantly mispronounced Delvon’s name. When my son challenged the teacher he was sent to the principal’s office and I was called. The teacher said that Delvon was disruptive and disrespectful. Delvon’s response was akin to ‘why should I respect you when you can’t even remember how to pronounce my name?’ The teacher said that he had a lot of students and you can’t expect him to remember every student’s name. Delvon replied: “why is it only the black kids’ names you forget how to pronounce?” What was most disturbing was the school administrators response. He defended the teacher and refused to acknowledge that the teachers’ actions were in any way racist.

Another time my son was at a skate park he noticed a couple of older kids bullying a younger small child. Delvon stepped up and told the bullies to leave the younger kid alone. The two bullies left but threatened Delvon saying they were coming back with their friends. Delvon left on his bike. As he was riding home he noticed two carloads of white kids chasing after him. They were trying to run him off the road yelling racist remarks. My son went into a corner store and told the owner what was happening. He called the police and wrote down the license plate. When the police officer came he wasn’t interested in talking to the store owner. He blamed my son, said these were good kids and my son should stay in his own neighborhood. When I spoke to the Captain of the police, he did not see his officers’ actions as racist.

We have all heard about the recent shooting in Georgia of Ahmaud Arbery, while out jogging. Like we have so many times before, we express outrage, offer prayers and thoughts and go about our business. Albert Einstein is credited with saying: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We rightfully place some blame on President Trump for creating such a divisive atmosphere where people like the attackers believe they are morally right in shooting a young black man just because. We do this without acknowledging that long before Trump was elected president, young black men were being lynched. We view these shootings as isolated incidents by deranged white racists, while we allow the systematic racism that is so ingrained into our society to continue and flourish. We all have blood on our hands. In his book How to be Antiracist, Dr. Kendi says “Critiquing racism is not activism.” It is not enough to say ‘I am not a racist’ we have to be actively anti-racist. Dr. Elisabeth Vasko in her book Beyond Apathy writes that we are complacent when we are willing to tolerate violence against the poor and the marginalized. She says, “We live in a society that is all too willing to tolerate violence. Violence, a communal problem, impacts the flourishing of all involved: victims, perpetrators, and bystanders.” We should all be outraged and saddened by the senseless shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. Just as we should be outraged that COVID-19 is affecting communities of color more dramatically than predominantly white communities.

In October 2018 my wife and I received a phone call. It was the call that every parent of a black child dreads and prays they never receive but anticipates receiving. The voice on the other end said, “Your son has been shot, he is in critical condition in the hospital.” He was shot trying to be a peacemaker, stepping in the middle of two people fighting. He lay there bleeding out while his girlfriend desperately tried to stop the bleeding with towels. A few minutes later the police arrived. Instead of helping my son, they treated him as if he was a criminal. They interrogated him asking him whether this was gang related or a drug buy gone bad. When the ambulance came the EMT yelled at the police saying Delvon was bleeding out why weren’t they doing anything to help him.

Thankfully my son survived. Today he works as a cook at a restaurant. His shift typically ends around 11 pm. Delvon lives about a mile from the restaurant so after his shift, he usually walks home. He should be able to walk home without fear of being stopped and questioned by the police or shot because someone saw him and assumed, because he is black, has dreads, and tattoos he must be a criminal, gang member, or drug dealer. Ahmaud Arbery was shot because the men who spotted him jogging didn’t see him as a child of God, as a brother but rather as ‘other.’

The 13th century Franciscan theologian St. Bonaventure tells us that how we choose and what we choose makes a difference – first in what we become by our choices and second what the world becomes by our choices. St Francis of Assisi taught that we are all connected through God and with God. We can choose to live in a world where we are all one with God. A world where Delvon can walk home at night without fear of being shot.

Patrick Carolan is a Catholic social justice advocate currently working with Vote Common Good as Director on Catholic outreach. He is originally from Connecticut and retired as FAN’s executive director in 2019. He writes a regular article for St Anthony’s Messenger.

Published in: on June 10, 2020 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

We are Eucharistic People!

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ by FAN Board Member, Sr. Margaret Magee OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our June 8th newsletter

Our readings for this Sunday’s Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, especially in this new reality of the COVID pandemic, challenge us to reflect and deepen our understanding of what it means to be and to participate in the Body of Christ, to be Eucharistic people.

Like many of you, when I began the mandated stay-at-home orders issued by our state government, one of the great absences I experienced was the opportunity to participate in the daily Eucharist. The lyrics of a Joni Mitchell song comes readily to mind, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” The transition to online Masses and Spiritual Communion is essential in preventing the spread of this deadly virus, yet they truly lack the communal and vibrant encounter that invites us to be Eucharistic people.

In our current reality, people are transitioning to important services like tele-health and tele-counseling. These are important as they offer healthcare providers and people the opportunity to check-in and monitor medical needs in these unprecedented and difficult times. However, personally, I believe that tele-spirituality, though essential at this time, does not have the same benefits and it also leaves much to be desired. Perhaps this is because of our spirituality and our being Eucharistic people, the Body of Christ, is not about providing or receiving services or “checking-in” with one another. Our life and spirituality is more of a sharing of oneness and being united in Christ.

The reading from the Book of Deuteronomy reminds us that the People of God have suffered great hungers and afflictions, yet God provides sustenance and nourishment. In this text we are reminded that “not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

As Franciscans, our life and our spirituality is not about bread alone, it’s about presence, participation and fraternitas, living in relationship that promotes the dignity, the integrity and the Christic presence that dwells in every human being. Christ is the living bread, the living Word and nourishment that we receive sacramentally and also in our interactions and relationships with one another.

Perhaps this new COVID reality provides us with lessons that our Eucharistic life is not limited and should not be limited to what happens inside the church building. St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407), Archbishop of Constantinople and an Early Church Father, taught that honoring Christ’s body must not only happen by adorning church buildings or while celebrating the Eucharist. More importantly it must happen on the streets, “Would you honor Christ’s body? Do not neglect Him when naked; do not, while you honor Him here [in the church] with silken garments, neglect Him perishing outside in the cold and naked. For what is the profit, if His table indeed is full of golden cups, but He perishes with hunger? For he who said: This is my body, and made it so by his words, also said: You saw me hungry and did not feed me, and inasmuch as you did not do it for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did not do it for me.”

As we reflect on our current reality, or what some refer to as the “new normal,” let us be attentive to what and who we are called to be for a world that is suffering and hungering for hope. Let us truly embody and be the Body of Christ, Eucharistic people, the nourishment, the life and courageous hope needed in our world.

Sr. Margaret Magee OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on June 9, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment