"One does not help only one's own generation. Generation after generation, David pours enthusiasm into somber souls. Generation after generation, Samson arms weak souls with the strength of heroes." - The Hasidic Masters
As we begin National Catholic Sisters Week, this quote from the Hasidic Masters came to mind. For every student taught, patient comforted, homeless person helped, directee guided or senator visited, a sister has left a compassionate memory for years to follow. Recently, at a meeting in Chicago, a Viatorian brother, who serves on his community's council, informed me that he decided to pursue a social work career after serving as a volunteer in my social service program at Catholic Charities. That gives me energy on days that are challenging!
Sacred Space. What image comes to mind when you think of a sacred space?
For many, the image would be of a church, synagogue, or mosque. Special moments such as Baptisms, First Communions, and marriages are images that easily appear as sacred moments in a sacred space.
It was to such a sacred space that a young woman came on a Saturday in August a few years ago in Owensboro, Kentucky. The doors to this Catholic Church were open as usual, reflecting the desire of the parish to be open and accepting of all people. This young woman came to pray the Stations of the Cross as she frequently did in the past. She was alone with her thoughts and her God. What she did not know at the time was that she really was not alone.
"There is class warfare all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we are winning." - Warren Buffet
Recently, the newly-elected Mayor of New York, Bill deBlasio, came under criticism for keeping public schools in session on a day when New York City was hit by another snow storm. What was he thinking? His response, "…for many children in public schools, their lunch will be the only meal they will have on this day." Startling, but true. Government funded school lunch programs provide a hot, nutritious meal for millions of students around the country.
Last year, in an ill-advised decision, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965. This action eliminated the protections that millions of people of color, elderly, young voters, and the poor have depended on in states with the worst history of voting discrimination. This stunning decision has made it easier for voter discrimination to fly under the radar in the former Confederate States of America.
Sad to say, our country has grown accustomed to gun violence, as senseless tragedies mount. Over 30,000 people in the United States die from gunshot wounds each year, many of whom are children. After every tragedy, vigils and demonstrations are held, editorials written, speeches made on the urgent need for responsible gun control legislation. Like clockwork, NRA leadership steps forward to oppose common sense legislation, and congress, desiring money for political campaigns, caves in, and again no legislation is passed.
As with much legislation in Washington these days, the minimum wage proposal is fraught with disagreement, partisan posturing, and myth. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for several years, with no sign of moving up. If the 1968 federal minimum wage kept up with inflation, it would be $10.75 an hour today. Imagine working full time for $7.25 an hour and trying to pay for rent, utilities, food, transportation, and health insurance. As a result, many workers need government assistance with food stamps, housing assistance, or Medicaid to get by.
Joan Chittister once stated that unless sexist language was replaced by inclusive language, sexism would continue to be a part of everyday life. What is more basic than language? Language hurts and heals. Words that disrespect end relationships, and in some cases, stay with a person for a lifetime.
"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant." – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Preach the truth with love, I believe summarizes the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King. He "walked the talk" and died with his integrity intact. In his 39 years he was arrested, abandoned in the silence of fellow ministers, taunted with racial slurs, intimidated by attacks on his home, and misunderstood by politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Many of us are coping with the chilling, subzero weather. Fortunately, the heat in my home is working and the brutal cold will subside soon. What has not subsided is the chilling reality that human trafficking continues to flourish, with an estimated 21+ million victims worldwide.
The reality of sex and labor slaves will be the focus once again on January 11, when religious and social justice organizations initiate prayer services, wear white ribbons and call for strengthening laws to combat human trafficking. We do this for people like Barbara Amaya, who at the age of 12 became a sex slave.