Dear Sisters and Brothers –
Last week, Stella and Brian, on the way home from the hospital with their two-day old daughter, stopped at St. Ignatius Church to give thanks to God for the healthy birth of their firstborn, Francesca Clare. After their prayer, they carried her over to the offices to request a blessing for her. Fortunately I was there.
“You know, of course,” I said to Stella, “that I can’t bless her unless I’m holding her,” shamelessly looking for a way to get the baby into my arms. It worked. So, with Francesca Clare safely cradled, her young parents, her paternal grandparents, and a couple of people in the office who were as smitten as the rest of us asked God to give her health and joy, a life filled with meaning and love, a vibrant relationship with Jesus, and more. The life of a priest is a good one.
The memory of those sweet moments wove in and out of my consciousness over the next days, filling me with gratitude and warmth and reminding me of God’s tenderness to me and to the world. And then the reports and images of what is now known simply as “Charlottesville” whiplashed my emotions: suddenly horror, at innocence and beauty being violated by malice and ugliness; anger that the life that God gives so freely and joyously was attacked by human beings spewing hatred and bigotry; and weariness that we continue to live with the fruit of what many have called the original sin of our great country, slavery.
Our hearts go out to Heather Heyer and to State Troopers, Jay Cullen and Burke Bates, who were killed as a result of these sickening events, as well as to their families. We hold them and the residents of Charlottesville – and even the perpetrators – in our prayers for peace, justice, healing, understanding, and more. But prayers will not be enough.
Racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and discrimination are morally evil. They are the antithesis of the Judeo-Christian tradition, which is grounded in love of God and of neighbor. They undermine the very foundation of our country and erode relationships among citizens. They generate hate and vengeance and rupture relationships and community and are, therefore, sinful.
As a faith community inspired by the Gospel of Jesus, we condemn in the strongest terms the actions and ideologies of the alt-right, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan. Further, we need to recommit ourselves to stand up against racism and offer support to its victims. As we face this evil as a Christian community, I invite members to join together to examine how we can live out our Christian call. As we do so, we must remember the promise of the Resurrection, life’s victory over death, a promise that does not come easily or immediately, but does come with a commitment to every kind of justice.
We are aware that white supremacy groups are planning actions on Saturday, August 26, at Crissy Field and on Sunday, August 27, at Civic Center in Berkeley. For those who will want to respond in ways that are faithful to our Christian call to non-violent witness to the Gospel of peace and justice, we will provide information and resources. Also, St. Agnes will host a silent peace vigil from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 24, on the steps of the church. You are invited to all or part of the prayer.
The sin that was committed in Charlottesville must not darken the hope that is the life given to Francesca Clare and to all of us. That hope rests with – and depends upon – us.
Let us pray for our country, for justice and peace for all.
And, of course,
oremus pro invicem.