The Third Sunday of Lent ~ “My House shall be a house of prayer for all nations!

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT ~ JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE March 7, 2021

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT ~ JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE ~ March 7, 2021

Once again, I rely heavily on our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay for his insights for today’s reflections.  First of all, he notes that John after the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee, Jesus and his friends returned for a short visit to Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, and shortly after that he set out for Jerusalem to observe the Passover feast.

This, Barclay observes, is quite interesting in John’s chronology of the life of Jesus is quite different from the other three gospels.  In them Jesus is depicted as going to Jerusalem only once—the Passover feast in which he was crucified, and his only visit to the holy city other than the one when he was a boy. But in John we find Jesus making frequent trips to Jerusalem, no fewer than three for Passovers. Barclay notes there’s no real contradiction—only different points of view.

Right at the beginning he shows us Jesus acting as God’s Messiah must act.  And he did. His anger is a terrifying thing. He formed a scourge out of cords and moved through those selling oxen and sheep and doves and the money changers sitting at their tables and drove them all out of temple and said, “Take these away and stop making my Father’s house a house of trade.”

The Passover was the greatest of all Jewish feasts. The law stated that every adult male who lived within fifteen miles of the holy city must attend. Now here are some facts that shaped Jesus’ anger. Astonishingly, it’s likely 2.25 million Jews sometimes assembled in Jerusalem in those days for Passover. And there was a tax that every Jew over 19 must pay—the Temple tax. It was one half shekel.  At that time, the  value of a half shekel was about 6 cents.  It was the equivalent of almost two days of  working man’s wages. In Palestine all kinds of currency were valid—from Greece and Egypt and Tyre and Sidon and Palestine.  But the Temple tax had to be paid The Jewish shekels; the foreign coins were considered unclean; they could be used to pay ordinary debts, but not debts to God.

So in the Temple courts sat the money-changers. If there trade had been straight forward, they would have been fulfilling an honest and necessary purpose.  But they charged to change the money and they charged get their change. The poor pilgrims couldn’t win.  The wealth that accrued from the Temple tax and from this and from this method of money-changing was—well—beyond belief.

It was estimated that the annual profit was about $100,000 for the Temple. And Barclay says that when Crasus captured Jerusalem in 54 B.C. he took from it $3,400,000 without coming near exhausting it.

What enraged Jesus was that pilgrims to the Passover who could ill afford it, were being fleeced at an exorbitant rate by the money-changers. It was a rampant and shameless social injustice—and what was worse it was being done in the name of religion.

Besides the money-changers, there were sellers of oxen and sheep and doves. Many pilgrims wanted to make a thank offering. Victims for the sacrifice could be bought in the temple court. But no. The law was that the animal had to be unblemished and, therefore, the Temple authorities set up appointed inspectors (muncheh) to examine the victims that were to be offered.  The fee was 1 cent. If the worshipper bought the animal outside the Temple, of course, it would be rejected. A pair of doves would cost about 4 cents outside but 75 cents inside.  Here again, was bare-faced extortion of the poor and humble pilgrims who, as Barclay says, were practically blackmailed into buying their victims in the Temple booths. It was that which moved Jesus into flaming anger.  St. Jerome thinks that the very sight of Jesus made the whip unnecessary. A certain fiery and starry light shone from his eyes and the majesty of the Godhead gleamed in his face.

Now, Barclay suggests there are at least three reasons why Jesus acted as he did.

First, God’s house—his Father’s house, as he said in John’s gospel—was being desecrated. In the Temple, there was worship without reverence. Worship without reverence can be a terrible thing.

When I attend Mass sometimes I find a priest who rushes through the Eucharistic Prayer in a distracted fashion—the most solemn part of the Mass, or who doesn’t say the words of Consecration reverently.  I ache inside for the priest, for myself and for the people who are not being edified.

Secondly, Jesus acted as he did to show that animal sacrifice and all that went into it was completely irrelevant.  For centuries the prophets were saying exactly that.  “Bring no more vain offerings” (Isaiah 1:11). “They love sacrifices; they sacrifice flesh and eat it; but the Lord has no delight in them.” (Hosea 8:2:12-16).

Thirdly, the Temple authorities were making the Court of the Gentiles into an uproar and a rabble where no one could pray. The lowing of the oxen, the bleating of the sheep, the cooing of the doves, the shouts of the hucksters, the jingling of the coins, the voices raised in bargaining disputes—all these combined to make the Court of the Gentiles a place where no one could worship. The conduct in the Temple court shut out the seeking Gentile from the presence of God. It may well be that this was most on Jesus’ mind. Jesus was moved to the depths of his heart because seeking pilgrims were being shut out from the presence of God. “Mark has Jesus say: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers   ” Mark 11:17).     pp.105 – 114.

Bishop Robert Barron:

 The most fundamental vocation of human beings is to give God right praise. In this act of adoration we become rigthtly ordered in ourselves. Accordingly sin is the suspension of right praise., a turning of the heart toward creatures rather than the Creator, which results in the disintegration of self and of society. All of the institutions of Israel—law, covenant, prophecy and Temple—were intended to bring the nation back in line to make Israel a priestly people.

Hence, the corruption of the Temple represented much more than simply an issue of social or institutional injustice. It was the compromising of the identity of Israel. Jesus comes to restore God’s holy people to right praise—and to turn inside out and upside down all forms of false worship. Thus, as you contemplate the image of Jesus cleansing the Temple, ask yourself the following question, “Precisely what or whom do I worship?”

And here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

 

Second Sunday of Lent ~ Have you been to the mountain?

The Second Sunday of Lent ~ February 28, 2021

Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountaintop and there they have ~ well ~ a “peak” experience extraordinaire. 

It’s a great story.  It contrasts with last week’s story of Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil.  Today Jesus is receiving a wonderful affirmation.

According to our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay, this story is another of the great hinges in Jesus’ life on earth—and we’ll see why. He was just about to set out for Jerusalem, setting his face toward the cross.

The story is cloaked in mystery. We can only try to understand. We usually associate this event with Mount Tabor, which is in the south of Galilee. However, Mark tells us this event happened eight days after events in Caesarea Philippi which is in the north. Not on that, Tabor is only about 1,000 feet high, and in the time of Jesus, Barclay indicates there was a fortress on top. It’s much more likely that this event took place amidst the eternal snows of Mount Hermon which is 9,200 high and much nearer Caesarea Philippi. 

Jesus took his favorite disciples, Peter, James and John up on the mountain to pray. On the mountain top, Moses and Elijah appeared to him. Moses was the great lawgiver of the people of Israel; Elijah was the greatest of the prophets. It was as if the princes of Israel’s life and thought and religion were affirming Jesus to go on.

There’s a vivid sentence here about the three apostles . . . .

            “When they were fully awake they saw his glory.”

 In life we miss so much because our minds are often asleep.

~ There are many of us who are so wrapped up in our own ideas that our minds are shut. “Someone may be knockin’ at the door” but we’re often like sleepers who will not awake.

~ There are others of us who refuse to think about anything. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” How many of us have thought things out and thought them through?

~ We can drug ourselves mentally against any disturbing thought until we are sound asleep that Big Brother can taken over. Ever seen the “Matrix or read Orwell’s 1984?

But life is full of things designed to awaken us.

~ There is sorrow. Often sorrow can rudely awaken us, but in a moment, through the tears, we will see the glory.

~ There is love. Barclay references a poem by Robert Browning telling of two people who fell in love: She looked at him; he looked at her—“and suddenly life awoke.” 

I remember a similar experience in reading Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain for the second time several years ago. When I finished it I found myself immersed in joyous tears for weeks on end—filled with love for Jesus that this young monk and elicited in me. This Lent, I’m trying to re-enable that experience.

~ There is a sense of need. It’s easy enough to live the routine life half asleep; then all of a sudden there comes some completely insoluble problem, some unanswerable question, some overwhelming temptation, some summons to an effort that we feel is beyond our strength. And that sense of need can awaken us to God.

We would do well to pray, “Lord, keep me always awake to you.” 

Source: William Barclay /Gospel of Mark pp. 210–11.

But here’s a couple of other observations from the February 2016 issue of the Magnificat liturgical magazine:

After the disciples witnessed Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah, this appears in the text . . . .

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice from the cloud . . .  (Mk: 9:8.)

The overshadowing of the divine Spirit does not darken, according to Saint Ambrose, but reveals secret things to the hearts of people. It is the luminous cloud the soaks us from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith sent by the voice of the almighty God.

The saint is talking about mystical experience that arise from deep prayer or centering prayer or even just experiencing an amazing sunset or an exhilarating conversation with a friend.

Anyway, what a gorgeous sentence that is “a luminous cloud that soaks us / from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith” . . .  Wow!  Think on that one.

Immediately following, we here from the cloud a voice that said,

       “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

You are my beloved son / my beloved daughter; listen to him!

It is a call to heed Jesus’ teaching about his Passion and our need to take up our cross and follow him: Jesus is the Messiah who suffers for us.  

You may never had a mountain top experience like Peter, James and John have had.  Even one mountain top experience  — one “peak experience” as Abraham Maslow likes to call them can be life-changing.

Any close encounter with God can be life-changing.

As I conclude, I encourage you to make the intention to be open to joyous experience of your own when such moments come.  When they come, embrace  them.  Try not to resist or deny them as many of us do.  Surrender to the moment and experience it as deeply and richly as you can.

And now before you go, here is a hymn based upon the words “This is my beloved Son: Hear him” Click here.

And here are today’s Mass Readings. Click here.

Acknowledgements: William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Mark                                                                                    Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001

Magnificat.com / Yonkers, NY

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

 

 

The Fidelity of Jesus: May we be faithful too!

The First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus ~ February 21, 2021

This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation.

This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.

Before I get into my own thoughts on this important opening story in the life of our Lord, I’d like to share some notes from our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay.

He says that the word to tempt in Greek peirazein has a different emphasis than its English counterpart. We always think of tempting as something bad. But peirazein has a different emphasis; it means to test.

One of the great Old Testament stories makes this clear. Remember how Abraham narrowly escaped sacrificing his only son Isaac?  God was testing him, not tempting him!

So, with Jesus, this whole incident was not so much a tempting as the testing of Jesus.

We have to note further where this test took place. The inhabited part of Judea stood on a central plateau that was the backbone of southern Palestine.  Between it and the Dead Sea stretched a terrible wilderness, thirty-five by fifteen miles.  It was called Jeshimmon, which means “the Devastation.”  The hills were like dust-heaps; the limestone looked blistered and peeling; the rocks bare and jagged, with heat like a vast furnace and ran out to the precipices. 1,200 feet high, that plunged down to the Dead Sea. It was in that awesome devastation that Jesus was tempted or rather the Father was shaping him — testing his mettle — for his mission.

Then there are these other points to take note .  .  .  .

First, all three gospel writers seem to stress the immediacy with which the temptations follow the baptism.  As Mark has it, “The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12).  Barclay suggests to us that we ought to be on guard when life brings us to the heights because that’s when we’re in the gravest danger of a fall.

Second, we should not regard this experience of Jesus as an outward experience. It was a struggle that went on in his own heart and mind and soul.  The proof is that there is no possible mountain from which all the mountains of the earth could be seen. This was an inner struggle.

It is through our inmost thoughts and desires that the tempter comes to us. His attack can be so real that we might almost see the devil.

(Pope Francis has said that Christian life is sometimes a battle. And then he cautioned when someone said “you’re so old-fashioned; the devil doesn’t exist, “Watch out! The devil exists. We must learn how to battle him in the 21st Century and must not be naïve. We must learn from the Gospel how to battle him.”)

Third, Barclay goes on, we must not think that Jesus conquered the tempter and that the tempter never came to him again.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. In Christian warfare, says Barclay as well as Pope Francis, there is no release.  Some people think they should get beyond that stage; Jesus himself never did, even in his last hour in Gethsemane.

Fourth, one thing stands out about this story—these temptations could only come to a person who had special powers and knew he had them.  We are always tempted through our gifts.  We can use our gifts for selfish purposes or we can use them in the service of others.

Fifth, the source must have been Jesus himself. He was alone in the wilderness.  No one was with him in his struggle, so he must have told his men about it.

We must always approach this story with a unique and utmost reverence, for it is laying bare his inmost heart and soul. And that is what I’ve always done in the following presentation written many years ago .  .  .

THIS IS A STORY about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a Father-God who loves us with an everlasting love.

This is a story of confrontation and testing.

Dramatic confrontation with the elements–blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.

There, he would shape his mission.  He was searching for the answer of the question:  What kind of spiritual leader would he be?

There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.

First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him.  Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: Our common dependence on the Father of all, who gives us our daily bread.

To interpret this, the first temptation presents physical attraction as the ultimate good, Jesus teaches us to seek bread from heaven. We continue to pray for and live by this daily bread.

Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple and have his angels come and raise him up.  He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders.  Things would be easier that way.  People would easily follow a clever magician.  But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.

The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the true order of the Father’s kingdom.

Jesus realized  his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all.   Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.

Again, as an interpretation, the second temptation is about fame and admiration—making a name for ourselves. In fact, Christ will throw himself down—in free and obedient conformity to the Father. Jesus will endure mockery instead of admiration. Christ did not cast himself down from this pinnacle of the temple . . . He did not tempt God, but he did descend into the abyss of death . . .and the desolation of the defenseless.

A third harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world.  You can be king of this world.

And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form.  They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.

The third temptation is for earthly power and rule. But the only crown that Jesus will wear will be made of thorns, his kingdom is “not of this world” (john 18:36).

As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal.  In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment.  And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.

In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine.  Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him.  We can go–provided that we–like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.

In this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?

The answer was:

To surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful.  God could have intervened on behalf of his own Son.  But that was out of the question.

The world could not accept God as a gentle Father.  They found his message of love much too demanding.  And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end.

He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father, not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.

Jesus had to suffer and die because, because tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard ~ and preached.

The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.

This is a powerful lesson  for those among us who would COERCE others into being good – as we see the proliferation of dictators across the globe today.

The false voices which Jesus tamed and quieted ~the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.

The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.

And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This  . . . . is the Jesus I know and love.

And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father.  Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.

And now, before you go, here’s  a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ On Eales’ Wings.  Click here.  It’s the text of Psalm 91 that says, For He will give His angels charge over you, To guard you in all your ways.”  Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them.              Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Matthew ~ Volume 1 revised edition                              Westminster Press Philadelphia / 1975 / pp. 62 -66.

The Jesus I know and Love ~ and I want You to know Him too!

Thursday after Ash Wednesday, March 7, 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

In the first reading, Moses says:

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. 

Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

Now here are my thoughts on Moses’ address to his people.  One often hears the words Choose Life as a Pro-Life message.  That’s important, but we’re invited to choose life again and again, every day.  This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and to deliver ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within our own home that damage the souls of our spouses and our children.

Let’s choose Life this day in the way we speak to and about the folks we meet today.

Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person.  We need to choose our words carefully.  To preside over ~ take responsibility for what comes out of our mouths.  To realize our words create life or death.

In today’s gospel, Jesus says,

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me. 

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?  (Luke 9: 22-25)

My reflection: Jesus gives us a koan here. That’s a Zen word  for a riddle given to a student to mull over until the the student gets the insight.

Try to get into it this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Copy it on a card and repeat it often until you get it.

Jesus’ message is so counter-cultural In our society people do anything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. There are even numbing pads so that you don’t feel it when you prick your finger for the Accu-check  for diabetes.  And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. Some folks do this by getting a hasty divorce to run away from our problems or by dumping a girlfriend who no longer suits us via way of a cruel text message.

Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it as our Savior, yes, but also as a model for us. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face a lot of suffering on his journey.  He knew  he would make people angry by proclaiming the truth he saw in his heart.  He knew that it would lead him to death, but he never strayed from the road to Jerusalem.

The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to. Jesus  accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.

He was a person of absolute integrity.  No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.

This is the Jesus I know and love:  The one who has the strength to love, no matter what.   He’s my Lord, my Savior, my mentor, if you will.  I would like very much to be like that.  How ’bout you?

Tomorrow we begin to reflect on Jesus’ forty-day retreat into the desert’ (the Mass text for this coming Sunday) to prepare for his mission.

Now before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie singing  the old hymn “Jesus walked the lonesome valley” Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings if you would like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Ashes to ashes, Dust to dust ~ Let Jesus raise you up!

Ash Wednesday 2021

Dear Friends,

Ash Wednesday is upon us once again. Easter  ~ Sunday April 4th.

So, you may ask ~ what are ashes all about?

We Catholics like symbols.  (So does Harry Potter.)

What can they tell us about life? And death?  And reality?

When the priest smears ashes on the penitent’s forehead he says one of two poignant phrases:

REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST AND UNTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN,

or  REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.

(However, if you are going to church to receive ashes this year, be aware of this change about how you will receive them. Yesterday, I noted because of the pandemic, the parades in New Orleans an Rio were cancelled, now you will have a different way of receiving ashes. You will not be touched in anyway on the forehead. The ashes will simply be sprinkled on your head as the priest or other minister say: “Remember that you are dust . . . “

So, it’s a sign of humility, a sign that we are part of the earth, that we are dust.

Are we to reflect and ask ~ Are we just dust?

Have we made an ash-heap of our life?

Are we sitting in an ash-heap?

Is there nothing but ruin, smoldering embers around us?

If so, do we despair?

Or can ~ do we dream of re-building?

Whether or not, the answers to these questions apply to us literally, it is important to humble ourselves before our God.

They could very well be true at any moment of our life.

I certainly can say ~ There but for the grace of God go I.

Now, I’m going to tell you a story from my own life to help explain what Lent is all about.

Some time ago, I was slicing some tomatoes and I put a tiny hole in the very end of my right index finger. It started to bleed a bit so I somehow managed to get a bandaid on it at that peculiar spot.

The next day I put some peroxide on it to see if it was infected and sure enough it was. So, I had to nurse my poor little finger for over a week till it got better! But then It didn’t and I had to do nurse it another few days.

Now, how does this relate to Lent?

Our souls can get hurt too.We hurt ourselves, as I did; we hurt others and we hurt God.

We can easily get an infection in our soul as well. We call that sin. The word sin comes from a Greek word in archery hamartia that means “to miss the mark”. What mark? Our best selves! The other thing about my poor little index finger is that it has a permanent scar—right at the end where I type. (I just checked the poor lil’ finger out a year later and, yes, the scar is still there.)  Sin does that too. It leaves its mark on us somehow, someway, even the small ones; they chip away at us.

I’ll tell you something else about me, a little more personal. I have been prone to yell at people. When I was a kid, I grew up in a home where I got yelled at a lot. I’m of Austrian heritage and that doesn’t help either. We Germanic folk are very abrupt people. The yelling shows up when I get frustrated with clerks on the phone who give me the run-around, I need to realize that other person has feelings and should be treated as a human being. I have also been known to yell at people in the sacristy when I was under pressure. That is a sinful condition too.

It took me some growing and challenging to be able to change.

And that is what Lent is about. Growing and changing. Listening to Jesus in the Scriptures. Then putting into action what we’ve heard.

Another part of Lent is asking for forgiveness. Forgiveness from God and forgiveness from those we’ve hurt. The Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) is a powerful place to receive the grace for healing and strength we need for that growth and change.

Lent, then, is a season of hope that ends in new Life, in risen Life.

It’s a time to TURN AROUND ~ to make a U-turn ~ when or if we realize our life has gone in the wrong direction.

That’s what the word con-version means.  To simply do a U-turn.

Turn around and head in a different direction.

To get going again.

To CHANGE, so you don’t keep on doing the same old thing and expect different results. 

It doesn’t do a Catholic much good who show up on Ash Wednesday, get a smudge of ashes without the intention of doing what they symbolize:  CHANGE what needs changing. That’s it!

And so, dear friend, don’t just give up something  for Lent. Get at the root of your life where you need to look at the real stuff.

I invite you to go deeper into the practice of your faith.

Make the sign of receiving ashes Mean Something!

Let it transform you from inside out.

The question is:  Do we ~ you and I ~ have the COURAGE TO CHANGE?

So, let’s do Lent well ~ together.

During Lent, be ready to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem.

Find out who this Jesus is ~ for you.

And what wisdom he has to offer us that will help us to change and enrich our lives for the better.

Whether you are  Catholic or not, perhaps you will find some  wisdom, some meaning for your life in these pages.  Join us as we walk the journey together as Jesus did ~ through suffering to death to new and risen life these six weeks of Lent 2021.

God of  pardon and of love,

We come to you this holy Lenten season,

begging for your Mercy and Love once again.

Please allow us the grace to open our ears to hear your Word,

to see you in the faces of one another ~ in family and in stranger,

and give us the grace to see what we need to change,

the courage to act upon it,

and to follow you on the way to Jerusalem.

Amen! 

Now, before you go, here’s a song about Ashes.  Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. And if you are going to church to receive ashes this year, be aware of this change about how you will receive them. Yesterday, I noted because of the pandemic, the parades in New Orleans an Rio were cancelled, now you will have a different way of receiving ashes. You will not be touched in anyway on the forehead. The ashes will simply be sprinkled on your head as the priest or other minister say: “Remember that you are dust . . . “. The pandemic has a way of influencing everything we do, it seems. Wear your mask; practice social distancing and get vaccinated and pray for those suffering from covid and those who care for them that Jesus will raise us all up!

And here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer  

Thursday~ The Jesus I know and Love

About Presidents and security and . . . You never know . . .

62ddd5c1-1dd8-b71b-0bf70c23a3528536I usually publish a blog for CARNIVAL! at this point as we are two days away from Ash Wednesday. But this is a sobering year with the coronavirus and it has taken all the fun out of CARNIVAL in both Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. No parades allowed. No alcohol on Bourbon Street!

But today is Presidents’ Day.  It’s always celebrated on the third Monday of February, but it originally was meant to mark George Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. It’s come to honor all presidents, past and present.

We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.

We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.

But our present times are difficult ones, with Covid 19 and trying to build back the economy. We’ve just had a transfer of power of two very different presidents and that didn’t go very smoothly. In fact there was violence involved with the attack on our beloved, sacred Capitol building on January 6th that we still have not recovered from.

Some of us, however, find some level of security in the midst of insecurity. Some of us roll with the punches better than others. We plod along not sure what will happen next. The ones who will be OK are those who are prepared. Who are always ready for life to change on a dime.

“To be at ease is to be unsafe.”

             ~ John Henry Cardinal Newman

Back in the fall of 2008, I had been getting to know some homeless people. I admire and respect the ones I have met because they look out for each other.   My whole perspective on my own worries has completely changed as a result. It has led me to profound gratitude and real compassion. I thought long and hard what it would be like to be homeless. And then I realized there are going to be many more.

 Our economy is based on the premise that we should buy, buy, buy – sell, sell, sell. It is not a godly economy.   In my opinion, our present American society is not a healthy one. In order for our economy to work we are constantly prodded to buy stuff. And the more we buy, the deeper in debt we get.  It’s foolish. Insane, actually. But this pandemic has taught many of us a different way. We’ve had to stay home and find our entertainments in simpler ways.

It could be a great grace; some will find God and turn to the one only God and away from the false idols of a material way and turn to a more spiritual way of life. They will have the opportunity perhaps for the first time to find meaning and love and authentic relationships. They will come to understand what life is for. Many will find Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life.   Hopefully the uncertainty we’ve been through this past year will bring us and our nation to our senses.

What will happen next? To you? To your job? To your family?

We need to look for certainty and security on a deeper level.

It would seem that having a sense of the presence of God in our life will give us a foundation that is not so easily shaken by uncertainty. The scriptures present Jesus as the one who can quiet the storms of life (Matthew 8:23-27); He can be the Rock, the foundation on which our life is built.

Failing to accept life on life’s terms can cause anxiety and depression whereas hope takes the bite out of uncertainty. Through thirty years of learning to cope with bipolar illness I have learned to keep going . . . no matter what. I call you, my reader, to the same faith and hope and love in every moment of your life. Only God can provide the security we need in uncertain times.

Jesus taught his disciples to accept uncertainty as something valuable. He told them “Take nothing on your journey but a walking stick — no food, no traveling bag, not a coin in purse” (Mark 6: 8-9). He wants his disciples to not place ultimate security in things (a warm tunic or some coins in your purse) but to find security in a well-lived, lifelong, open and trusting relationship with God.

For years now I have been calling us to repent of our sins of complacency and greed and idolatry and lust for power and preoccupation with hate and fear and violence that permeates our society. Every day I pray that God restore our beloved country to shining beacon on a hill we once was. I just invite you, I implore you: Let us pray  and restore our nation’s relationship with God and justice for all races and peoples in our land of immigrants and indigenous people.

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in distress. Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the sea. . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” (Ps 46)

And now, my prayer . . . .

Good and gracious God,

we come before you today to ask your blessing

upon this vast and great land of ours.

We are grateful that our republic has stood safe for 241 years now.

And so, we  ask your continued blessing upon us.

Please bless President Biden and all elected and government officials

that they would have the best interests of all of the people in mind and heart.

Let there be peace at home and peace throughout the world.  

For Yours, O God, is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.  

Amen!  

And now, before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and a Chorus singing “This Land is Your Land on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! True Love is faithful love ~ How do you measure up?

Flagler Beach Florida sunrise / bob traupman.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, EVERYONE!

We’ve been reflecting on St. Paul’s eloquent words about love from I Corinthians 13. And this is my final post on the subject.

Love is not pompous,

it is not inflated,

it does not seek its own interests,                                                                        it is not quick-tempered,                                                                                                                           \

it does not brood over injury,                                                                                                                                                                                           it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

Romantic love wears off in a few months.  True love requires fidelity and is long-lasting.  I often remember people I met briefly twenty or thirty years ago and there is still a place in my heart for them, even those who had rejected or hurt me.  And when I think of them I believe my prayer is able to touch them even now, either living or dead.

We think we know all about love. Yet Love is  an Art and a Discipline that is only learned and acquired by trial and error.  Thus, we have to learn how to love.  Or perhaps unlearn what we have learned in abusive homes  or families and find people who can teach us well.  I am profoundly grateful for the people who allowed my soul to unfold and blossom because of their love and in their love.

As I mentioned last time, I taught high school seniors (51 years ago!) that I had them read two books,  Erich Fromm’s Art of Loving and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Both books still should be required reading by anyone who wants to become a whole and healed human person.

Many of us keep focusing on finding the right object of our love.  Fromm — and Jesus — tell us that being a person who is capable of loving the stranger in the checkout line at the 7-11 or your sibling whose guts you can’t stand is the way we will learn to love.

Love is being free to love the one you’re with so you can be with the one you love.

It is just not possible to love some and hate others.  St. John says, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” (1 John 3:15)  

And yet, in today’s America, I wonder what kind of leadership and example we are setting for our children when some follow our political and business leaders who have sought to take revenge on their opponents instead of striving to be true noble patriots as was shown in the riots on our sacred Capitol on January 6th. 

Love is being able to see and respond to the loving energy of the universe and spread it around instead of trying to possess it for oneself.

Love is faithfully loving whomever God puts in our life at every turn of our life’s journey. A hard task sometimes. I know.

How often we fail.  But that’s what growth in love and Christian spirituality is all about. Sometimes it requires a heroic effort and sacrificial love ~ the love of Jesus, the Love of God for us.

So, what is LOVE?

There’s all kinds of love.  There’s romance that is the kind that pervades the soaps, the news stand magazines, the ones at the grocery store checkout counter. There’s erotic love.  There’s brotherly (or sisterly) love, the love of friends, neighborly love.  And then there’s sacrificial love.  There’s conditional and unconditional love.  There’s love that isn’t love at all.

But here’s a practical suggestion for you to make your own meaning.

At day’s end, reflect on the positive things — even the tiny little things in a chaotic, insane day.  Seek out where the LOVE was. Where was the LIFE?

Take a moment.  Reflect on your day.  Pick two incidents, however fleeting, however small that you might have missed at the time.  Savor them for a moment as you get ready for bed.  Those are the moments where love  and God has touched you.  Be ready to receive into your life and your heart the little moments of LIFE and LOVE that do happen even in the midst of the most terrible day and let them change your life.

It is not the destination that’s important; life and love happen along the way!

And so here’s my final prayer for this Valentine’s Day . . . .

Good and gracious God,

We live in a world that gives us so few models of faithful love.

Help us to learn the art and discipline of loving.

Help us to understand that we cannot love one person — even ourselves — unless we let love — rather than hate — flow from our heart to touch and heal and nourish those around us.

Heal us, Lord.

Let us trust in You, for you are the Source of all Love,

Your Love is flowing like a river giving life to everything and  every one along the way,

a river from our own hearts to everyone we meet this day. 

I also ask your blessing on all married couples and those engaged to be married.

It’s not easy to be faithful in this world today.

Pour out your abundant blessing upon them in all their struggles.

Renew their love and their joy this day and all the days of their lives. 

And please be with all those struggling with this corona virus and all those who protect them.

We give You thanks and praise this day.

Amen.

And now before you go, wouldn’t you like to hear a romantic melody for your beloved?  Well, here’s a very unique one: Cold Play’s True Love  Click here. 

With love

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Corinthians 13)  Savor each line and see how you measure up. . . .

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;

if I have all faith so as to move mountains

but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast

but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous,

Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,

it is not rude,

it does not seek its own interests,

it is not quick-tempered,

it does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

Love never fails.

So faith, hope, love remain, these three;

but the greatest of these is love.

     I Corinthians 13

Jilted Lovers or Joyous Love?

img_0951

mesa verde national park of southern colorado / march 2008 / bob traupman. 

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Our society finds it quite acceptable for people to hop into one relationship after another or just satisfy one’s needs by”hooking up”, maybe  — and hopefully not so much during this pandemic!

How many times have young people thought that this was the person of their dreams and been dumped by a rude text message ~ or done the dumping themselves?

I wonder how many marriages have ended when one spouse showed up in the kitchen and announced, “I want a divorce!”  No discussion.  No attempt to work out problems.  No mercy.  No forgiveness.   Over.  Done, after calling a divorce lawyer.

And what happens is that some may add one unsuccessful relationship on top of another.  As a result, our heart can become more and more wounded. And less and less trusting, less and less capable of loving .  . . unless somehow ~ someone (Someone? helps us find a way to believe again, to hope again.

So, let’s take a deeper look at the truth and the transforming power of St. Paul’s words in I Cor. 13 we’re reflecting on in this series “What is Love?”

LOVE . . .

. . .  it is not rude,

it does not seek its own interests,

it is not quick-tempered,

 it  does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

it bears all things.

believes all things,

hopes all things.

endures all things.

Love never fails.

We just have to learn to love anyway.

At least, that’s what St. Paul is getting at “Love does not brood over injuries.”

In the Art of Loving, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s classic book written in 1956, consider his statement that will blow most of us out of the water:

“Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person:  it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love.  If a person loves only one person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment  or an enlarged egotism . . . If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world; I love life.  If I can say to somebody else, “I love you,” I must be able to say”I love in you everybody.   I love through you the world, I love in you also myself”~ p. 39.)

This is, of course, is the heart of Jesus’ message, but many, if not most of us who say we’re his followers still don’t get it.

As tech opportunities for “communication” proliferate the less we communicate.  We communicate more and more on a superficial level.  You can’t really know someone through texting or on Facebook or in an email.  A person can present a false persona. The only real way to communicate with someone is to be in their presence using all our senses.

We need to learn, once again how to come to true intimacy ~ the coming together of two or more persons who have the courage open themselves to the transformative power of love.

If you are one who seeks that, I’m with you.   That’s what my writing is about. In fact,  the high school seniors whom I had in my religion classes fifty years ago were required to read that book along the Victor Frankl’s  Man’s Search for Meaning.

Good and gracious God,

we ask you to heal the hearts that are broken.

Help us to see even in the midst of our brokenness the depth of Your Love for us.

And may we see our brokenness when we reject Your love.

We may feel we cannot take the risk to open our hearts once more.

Give us the courage and strength to stop destructive patterns that lead only to more pain.

Give us hope, Lord.

Instead of seeking to find our true love,

let us simply become persons who love —

. . . whomever we’re with,

. . . to grow in our capacity to love

so that we can reach out to the whole world

as You do at every moment,

in every time and place.

To You, God of our understanding,

we give You praise, now and forever.

AMEN!

Now I suggest you take a second look at that tree weathering the mountaintop at 8000 feet.  It has been jilted by the weather.  But it still stands nobly and proudly — broken, gnarled and twisted; it’s a fine lesson for us of the meaning of life.

And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Corinthians 13) once again.   Savor each phrase and see how you measure up. . . .

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.   And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains  but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous. Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered,  does not brood over injury,it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.  So faith, hope love remain, these, but the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13

Now before you go, here’s a music video for you by Brandon Flowers “Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts.” Click Here.

With Love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

St. Paul’s Ode to Love ~ How do we measure up?

Many of us are thinking of our Valentine’s these days — our lovers,  intend-eds, spouses, classmates, mothers and also spouses remembering their deceased loved ones, even ~ or maybe especially during this pandemic. And maybe because of it, we won’t be able to visit them!

Hallmark would encourage us to “send the very best.”   And marketeers would like to get their greedy fingers on our credit cards for this one-day holiday, wouldn’t they? I don’t have a TV but I was in a doctor’s office this afternoon and saw a commercial for edible ‘floral’ arrangements’ that looked awfully tempting.

And later I stopped by the Post Office and as I was standing in line, I noticed this young black dude posting dozens of what looked like small pink cards and dropping them one by one in the mail bin. I went over to him and teased, “Are you sending those to all of your Valentines?” He turned around toward me and grinned, “I wish! he said.

But let’s go a little deeper here. What is true love, really?

I’ve officiated at the marriages of many young couples during my years as a priest have chosen  St. Paul’s Ode to Love for their wedding Mass.

It has  to be one of the most glorious pieces of prose of all time.

Take the time to take it in and see how you measure up.

. . . . If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love,

I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;

if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient,

love is kind.

It is not jealous,

Love is not pompous,

it is not inflated,

it is not rude,

it does not seek its own interests,

it is not quick-tempered,

it does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

Love never fails.

So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.

~ I Corinthians 13

Dearest God,

You are Love itself.

We give you thanks for the people in our lives who have loved-us-into-the-Persons-we-have-become.

We rejoice in them and remember them in love.

But so many of us are wounded because we have not experienced the parental love that would allow us to know how to love.

Help us take your apostle Paul’s words to heart that we may truly know the true meaning of love.

May we have a heart open to all persons, all of life, all of the universe.

To You Lord, be glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen!

Before  you go, take a moment to listen to Bette Midler’s “The Rose”. Click here. It’s a song  I’ve always favored ~ one of my generation. I think it sets the tone for what I wanted to say here.   Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen and have a great day!  It’s a song I’ve always attributed to Our Lady.

 I’ll be publishing two more Valentine’s blogs trying to unpack the meaning of St. Paul’s Ode to Love next week until Valentine’s Day Sunday, the 14th.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

St. Paul: A Vessel of Love filled with fire ~ What fills You with fire?

January 25th, 2021 ~ The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle

Paul was an amazing man. He was small of stature; he refused to depend on charity–thus, he worked as a tentmaker wherever he went.  After he was severely beaten, he was in constant pain, but went on and on and on, because, as I tried to learn from him . . . .

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

~ Philippians 4:13

Paul before his conversion was known as Saul of Tarsus, and as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles he says, “I persecuted this Way (i.e. Christians) to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.” And then he tells the story of his conversion on the way to Damascus, that a great light blinded him and he heard a voice asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (You can read the rest of the story in Acts 22: 1:16.) Or the alternative version given in the Mass readings below (Acts 9:1-22).

I enjoyed what St. John Chrysostom, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church, in the early church says about Paul in the divine office for today . . . .

Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists and in what virtue this particular animal is capable.  Each day he aimed even higher; each day he rose up with even greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him.  He summed up his attitude in his words: “I forget what lies behind me and I push on to what lies ahead.”  (There’s a lesson for us here, isn’t there?)

I never paid much attention to Paul until my later years.  And suddenly, I fell in love with him; thus, I’m writing this blog in his honor, despite the passages that show his Hebraic attitudes toward women and the misuse of his words about gay people. Here’s the reason . . . .

Chrysostom goes on to say that the most important point of all is . . . .

St. Paul knew himself to be loved by Christ.  Enjoying this love, he considers himself happier than anyone else . . . . He preferred to be thus loved and yet the least of all, or even among the damned, than to be without that love than be among the great and honored.  So too, in being loved by Christ he thought himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, the present and the future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet. (Another lesson for us, isn’t there, especially during this pandemic when we’re in lock-down mode for weeks on end?)

A few years ago, a priest-friend sent me a Christmas card with a favorite quote from St. Paul on the cover that I framed and still sits on my dining room table that I often glance at.  As I have had my own cup of suffering from long years of manic-depressive illness it means a great deal to me . . . .

My grace is sufficient for you,

for in weakness power reaches perfection.”  

And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead,

that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  

For when I am powerless, it is then I am strong.  

              (2 Cor. 12:9-10) 

You see, Paul has helped me love my Lord ~ or rather to realize in tears of joy that Jesus loves me deeply and richly ~ as I am, weak and sinful.  He has raised me up and heals me, granting me the wonderful grace to share his love as best I can at the tip of my cursor ~ if in no other way.

And so, dear friends, know that you, too, are loved, whether you know it or not.  Our God is love!  Know that–despite whatever else you’ve been taught, despite how guilty you may feel or how unworthy you think you are.  YOU ARE LOVED!  THIS IS A MEANINGFUL UNIVERSE!

We’ll let St. Catherine of Siena have the last word that really grabbed me, Paul “became a vessel of love filled with fire to carry and preach God’s Word.   Amen.  Amen!  

And now, before you go, here are the St. Louis Jesuits singing the Prayer of their Founder, “Take, Lord, and Receive.”  It’s a beautiful prayer and a beautiful song. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen for the slide show that accompanies it.

And here are all of today’s mass readings for today’s Feast, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Day of prayer for the legal protection for unborn children

 Today is the forty-eighth anniversary of Roe v Wade.

In light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic which may be peaking, and in view of the heightened pressures that law enforcement officers and others are currently facing in and around the Capitol, this year’s March for Life will look different.

The march, which was scheduled for January 29th will be largely live-streamed.

 

When it began in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade in 1973. the March for Life turned the nation’s conscience toward the particular horror of abortion and the taking of human life that it entails. The four decades since have seen millions of deaths from abortion in the United States alone.

In each of those deaths, the world lost a unique and irreplaceable person. (Planned Parenthood and others insists in calling it a fetus, not an unborn child or a person.) Doesn’t that ring rather ugly to you on your tongue?

We live in a world that does not recognize that and sacredness of every person’s life on this planet is sacred and inviolate.  It doesn’t understand this concept. In fact, it doesn’t understand the word ‘concept’ for the most part. (Many of us would do so for our pets, but not the unborn.)

But let’s stand down, stop the condemning and judging and seek light and understanding, forgiveness and wholeness, kindness and compassion  for young women in desperate situations who have no one to turn to and who may themselves be abandoned.

My sense is that the sin of those who are quick to condemn others is as great as those who bring violence and bloodshed into their very own bodies.

We ALL have much for which to ask forgiveness.  We ALL need to ask God to increase our capacity to love and turn away from condemnation. Mr. Biden made a very strong plea for that in his inaugural address.

The ones Jesus loves the most are the lost sheep of this world.  He would reach out to those who have had abortions!

The enemies of Jesus are those who justify themselves, the self-righteous, the hypocrites, the ones who know nothing of compassion, those who would not think of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes but would lash out with their tongue ~ sometimes by those who minister the Body of Christ at the altar!

St. John has said no one is without sin!  He also said that  “Anyone who hates his brother or sister is oneself a murderer.” (1 John 3:15) 

Are Christians only concerned with abortion? Do we champion the cause of life only until it’s born?

With an assault on people with terminal illnesses, special needs, the poor, migrants and refugees, minorities, and others, the call of the Christian to defend and advocate for life is real. Questions about capital punishment, euthanasia, war, torture, climate change, and other life issues are pressing and need clear answers.

President Trump was hailed for placing three pro-life judges on the Supreme Court but at the same time conducting filthy squalid, over-crowded camps for immigrant children and not being able to find their parents. That’s not exactly pro-life. And his anti-mask policy and failure to lead in a Covid epidemic is not exactly pro-life either as it has caused more casualties in our country than World War II. And Mr. Trump for some unknown reason revived the death penalty! Why?

And at the same time, even our Catholic bishops are knocking President Biden for his stand on abortion that is not extreme at all. We are seeing Democrats becoming pro-life now.

In an attempt to provide an answer to these questions, some have promoted a “consistent life ethic,” a type of seamless garment theory that was once taught by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Contemporary versions of the theory, therefore, have retrieved the rich doctrine of solidarity from the Catholic tradition.

In answer to the question about the Christian’s specific mission to serve and advocate for life, subsidiarity shows us the obvious: Before we can advocate about any other life issues, we must have life itself. The first and fundamental right that must be argued and defended, therefore, is the beginning of life.

And so, we must oppose abortion without confusion or uncertainty. It stands as the primary and perennial issue for the person who cherishes and respects life.

Then a solidarity compels us to care for the poor, the migrant and refugee, the person with special needs, and others who are helped by our attention and service. Such a solidarity urges us to work for peace, champion the rights of minorities, oppose capital punishment, and seek social harmony however we’re able.

None of these issues, however, are equal to abortion but all of them are connected to the dignity that abortion offends and they call for our intervention and action.

The above explanation can help the Christian who wants to be a true brother or sister to other people, or who wants to accompany and serve those who suffer, without being entrapped in only one issue.

And now I begin my prayer as I always do , , , , 

Heavenly Father,

I praise you and thank you for the gift of life

and of love that you share with me ~ with us.

On this Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children,

please allows us not to judge anyone who has had an abortion,

but to reach out with compassion to all with love and understanding.

And now, before you go, here’s the penitential hymn “Remember Your Love”  Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are the Mass readings for today, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

 

With Love

Bob Traupman

 contemplative writer

And P.S.  Don’t worry about the aborted children;  the innocent ones will shine like the stars in God’s kingdom.

The tragedy is that they will never set foot on this beautiful planet.

 

The Inauguration of Joseph R Biden Jr.

 

Tomorrow, we will inaugurate the 46th President of the United States of America—Joseph R. Biden, Jr . . . .

Some folks are rejoicing in his victory, while others were contesting his election to the point that many stormed the United States Capitol building to stop the solemn process of certifying  the electoral college votes. They were protesting that the election was stolen from Donald Trump and horrifying  damage was done to the Capitol building and they threatened the very lives of Senators and Representatives. Much of this was instigated by a far-right organization called QAnon, who it seems  was winning the influence of the president even in his phone calls to election officials in Georgia and the disruptors at the Capitol.

And because of that, much of the city of Washington is even now lockdown mode for fear of further violence. The image you see above with thousands of people at a previous inauguration won’t be repeated for Mr. Biden’s tomorrow for two reasons.

First, Mr. Biden, unlike his predecessor, does not want to draw large crowds because of the pandemic and become a super-spreadder of the virus.  And secondly, because the FBI and the District police have been warned of the possibility of further violence.  The inauguration itself and all of its festivities will be live-streamed with very few in live attendance.

So, I’ve musing about what his inaugural address might be like.  In addition to giving us a glimpse of his agenda, I’m sure he’ll make an effort to bring our nation together.

I came across some ideas while reading the alumni magazine of my seminary—Theological College of the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. from the spiritual writer Megan McKenna . . .

Every time we bring hope into a situation, every time we bring joy that shatters despair, every time we forgive others, and give them back their dignity, every time we listen to others and affirm them and their life, every time we speak the truth in public, every time we confront injustice, we are practicing resurrection. (Resurrection is about bringing new life where there’s decay or listlessness or despair.) 

I expect to hear words such as these in Joe Biden’s inaugural address tomorrow. He’s already shown that this is the kind of man he is. Joe has had to face personal tragedy in his life in the car accident that killed his first wife. On December 18, 1972, a few weeks after the election to the Senate, Biden’s wife Neilia and one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping. Neilia’s station wagon was hit by a tractor-trailor as she pulled out from an intersection. Their sons Beau and Hunter survived the accident and were taken to the hospital in fair condition, Beau with a broken leg and other wounds, and Hunter with a minor skull fracture and other head injuries.

And then he lost his son Beau who was the highly successful State Attorney for Delaware to cancer in 2015. But it only made Joe Biden more empathetic. He became sought out to deliver eulogies for Democrat and Republican leaders, and no leaders, all across the country. That’s the kind of president we are about to have for as long as God will allow us to have him. He’ll be the age that Pope Francis is now at the end of his term ~ 82 ~ and Francis is still going strong!

Wouldn’t it be lovely to hear words such as this—healing words, words of hope, inspiring words, uplifting words, from the next President of the United States?  That he would be able to listen?

Perhaps we will.  I hope and pray we will. (I was surprised when Ms. McKenna asked to become friends with me on Facebook.)

One of the roles of a president is to inspire the people of the country. Yes, to bring about resurrection.  To show us the way forward.  To offer hope.  To bring life!

It is up to the President to lead us in the work of healing. Should it not be one of his first orders of business to bring us together? To reach out to those with whom he disagrees and be magnanimous?    To bring us together again to be a president for all Americans—whites and blacks, Christians, Jews and Muslims, men and women, the poor and the rich; Latinos, LGBT folks, immigrants, and so many more?

I must say I’ve already been inspired by the men and women he has selected for his team. I just hope that Congress and the Senate will work with him for the good of the country and the world.

Joe Biden has remained a devout Catholic all of his life, going to Mass most Sundays, taking his children when they were young, often seen with his rosary beads wrapped around his fingers.  Some Catholics, including friends of mine, condemn him for receiving holy communion because of his liberal stand on abortion, though his bishop Francis Malooly of Delaware is supportive of him. (Malooly and I were in the seminary together and I pray for him whenever I celebrate Mass.)  Some other bishops and priests have actually refused communion to Joe when he came up to them in the communion line ~ something that Jesus would never do!  The National Catholic Reporter noted that it has been exactly 60 years since we had the last Catholic president, John F. Kennedy.

I’d also like to add a couple of program notes about Mr. Biden’s inauguration. He hasn’t chosen a cardinal, like the one who will be his pastor in Washington, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, but a long-term friend, Jesuit Father Leo O’Donovan, former president of Georgetown University, will deliver the invocation.

The priest, a friend of the Biden family, was the main celebrant at the funeral Mass for Biden’s son Beau in 2015 at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Wilmington, Delaware.

And he will also have a five-minute poem read. Only three other presidents have done so.

Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, will be making history during  the inaugural ceremony.

“The poem isn’t blind. It isn’t turning your back to the evidence of discord and division,” she said, though the poem will still focus on unity and hope — two points the Biden inaugural team asked the young poet to expand on.

Gorman, who’s Black and grew up in Los Angeles is a graduate of  Harvard University and became the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate. She was handpicked by incoming First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and will be just the sixth poet to read a piece at an inauguration, according to the Academy of American Poets.

According to the literary organization, only three presidents have had a poet read at their swearing-in ceremony: President John Kennedy in 1961, President Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997, and President Barack Obama 2009 and 2013. Gorman will add her name to that list, which includes Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Alexander and Robert Frost.

So, let’s sum up then. . . .

From  St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians for all of us . . . .

Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.

Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude.

Then God’s peace which is beyond all understanding, will guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, Brothers and Sisters, your thought should be directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise.

Live according to what you have heard me say and seen me do.

Then will the God of peace be with you.  (Phil. 4:6-9)

And now my prayer . . . .

Almighty God, Creator of the Universe,

We thank you for the 241 years we have been a strong, vibrant country.

We’ve been through wars—one that almost sundered our own land, and many of our young have fallen so that we could be free.

We’ve been through droughts and depressions, hurricanes, and all sorts of tests to our national will and just now the desecration of our own Capitol sanctioned by our very own leaders in an act of  insurrection; but we’re still more or less in one piece, dear God.

And now, we come to another moment of transition of power in our land.

Almighty God, we ask your blessing on Joseph R Biden, Jr. and Kamala Harris as they assume their office tomorrow..

Please open them to your guidance.

Send upon them your Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Wisdom,

the Spirit of justice, peace, and unity for all in our land.

And finally, dear God, we ask your blessing on all the peoples of our great country,

from east to west, from north to south, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours!

Amen!

And finally, dear Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris . . .

The Lord bless you and keep you!

The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!

The Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace! ~

And please grant Donald J. Trump and his family peace as well.

     (Numbers 6:23-26)  

And now, before you go, here’s a thrilling version of ‘God Bless America’ by Whitney Houston Click Here.  Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Legacy of a martyr ~ what are you willing to give your life for?

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On this coming Monday, January, 18, 2021, we will honor a great American ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was 39 when he was martyred on April 4, 1968.

On that fateful day, Dr. King took an assassin’s bullet that he knew was waiting for him at any time. It came while he was leading a strike for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.   He inspired and led the Civil Rights movement that acquired great change in our land.  This man is one of my mentors.  I was in his presence only once in 1963 when I was in the seminary in Baltimore.  Our Rector arranged for some of us to hear him speak when he came to Baltimore. Today, I have an image of him near my desk in my home.

He was a man who committed himself to nonviolence like Mohandas Gandhi, and also Jesus my Lord who died on the Cross for us, that Dr. King and I believe is the only way that justice and peace can be achieved.  Dr. King inspired ordinary folks, black and white, to stand up for their rights and to sit down and accept the vicious blows of police and others in their racial hatred. His organizers trained them to have the courage to go to jail for what they believed.

On, the day after his assassination on April 4, 1968, I formally entered the service of the Roman Catholic Church as an ordained deacon.  I was a seminary student at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The shrill sound of sirens all over the city mingled with the ancient chant melody of the Litany of the Saints as I lay prostrate on the floor of our chapel with my brothers to be ordained. As I looked up to this man and his ideals of justice and peace and freedom, I also wanted to absorb them into my body and soul, I sucked in a deep breath and pledged my life to Christ.

Today, in this land of America, the freedoms and ideals  that  Thomas Jefferson told us all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness are seriously in danger of  slipping  away from us. Just this week we witnessed the desecration of our Capitol instigated astonishingly by the President of the United States. Mobs of people broke into the Capitol and into the House of Representatives and the Senate chambers and threatened their members and ransacked some of their offices, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s.  Their intent was to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden. Their insistence was the election was stolen from President Trump..

Two days ago, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 with a vote of XXX, the House of Representatives drew up articles of impeachment for ‘High crimes and misdemeanors”in act of “incitement of insurrection”. “He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of government. He thereby betrayed his trust as president, to manifest injury of the people of the United States,” according to the documents of the House of Representative impeachment of Donald J. Trump.

Racism that was covert for centuries before it reared its ugly head and been condoned when it should have been severely condemned by President Trump, in Charlottesville, Virginia, the very home of Jefferson’s great University of Virginia, two years ago, in the bombings of Jewish Synagogues, in Muslim Mosques and violence in El Paso deliberately against brown people.

The number of race-based killings  and other incidents in our country in the last two years has been astounding — some by officers of the law. It has taken our young people to lead the way to and advocate for real change against gun violence led by the courageous leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

O God of Justice,
raise up men and women in our day who will inspire us               
and restore us to the original ideals of our nation.
Enable us to wake up from our slumber and see what we have lost, and safeguard our freedoms.
Give us the strength and courage to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to win this spiritual revolution of justice, peace and love that now lies before us in 2021.        
We ask you to watch over President Trump as he leaves office that he may face up his life and it’s consequences.                                     We also ask you bless President-elect Joe Biden and his incoming administration and our whole country that we may heal, come together and start anew in this new year of 2021.
We pray to you, God,  for You are the God who cries for justice for your children and who still hears the cries of those who know and realize they are poor without You.
We pray ~ for only You can can restore us to the ideal of freedom and justice FOR ALL.                                                              T
o You Glory and Honor and Power, now and forever, Amen!                                                                                      

May we call each other more than a generation later to the principles of Nonviolence Dr. King instilled in his followers.

They were trained to sit down on the ground and take blows of the police because they knew that Nonviolence was a more powerful weapon than guns and bombs.

Dr. King held no public office.  He persuaded us by the power of his words and the depth of his conviction.

And his willingness to give his life for what he believed in ~ no matter what.

Is there anything you are willing to give your life for?

I continually ask myself the same question and pray the answer is Yes!  (Or at least I hope so.)

It has been a generation since Dr. King delivered his most powerful and eloquent speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 that led subsequently to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law on June 2, 1964, I offer this video reflection from the History Channel on Dr. King’s “I have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial, followed by some powerful excerpts from that speech. Click here. 

Then follow with this excerpt from his speech. Click here.  Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

What in the world has happened to us?!

The police confronting Trump loyalists outside the Capitol on Wednesday.
The police confronting Trump loyalists outside the Capitol on Wednesday.Credit…Jason

In urging his supporters to see the routine act of certifying the election results as an illegal affront against him and against them, Mr. Trump helped set in motion hours of violence and chaos that continued as darkness fell on Wednesday. (The New York Times)

It all started this afternoon with with this  tirade by the president.

I was heartbroken today. For our country. For Donald Trump. For the members of the Congress who had their sacred space desecrated today and where afraid for their very lives as an angry mob invaded not only their outer chamber but even ravaged some of their offices and took selfies in Mike Pence’s presidential chair.

I was so devastated as I read what the President was screaming at the crowd to fire them up and send them to the Capitol, ending in violently storming the into the building and interrupting the most sacred proceedings of our democracy ~ the certification of the new President! The violence involved a killing inside the Capitol to further desecrate it.

Our country may not soon recover from this act of betrayal, this coup d’état as the whole world looks on in dismay and disgust.

It only happens in Third World countries.

President George W. Bush condemned what he called “mayhem” and a “violent assault on the Capitol.”

“This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic,” he said in a statement. “I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement.”

“Insurrection could do grave damage to our nation and reputation,” he added. “In the United States of America, it is the fundamental responsibility of every patriotic citizen to support the rule of law.”

(As I’m composing this  blog, in the background, I’m listening to the Senate certifying the election of Mr. Biden @ 12:38 am and some members are still objecting to the certification!

I’d like for us all, including the President, to reflect on these words from the first epistle of St. John . . . .

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.

If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God* whom he has not seen.

Now let’s think about that. “Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”

I’m thinking of the president at the moment and praying for him , because I believe that he needs a lot of love. He didn’t get it as a child and he has closed himself off from it (it would seem) all of his life. He’s a fear-laden man. And therefore he wants to punish others. Lashing out at others, He doesn’t know how to love or receive love. I pity his wife and his children; they seem to act in the same mold.

Sadly, he has done a great deal of harm and this last act today was a treasonous act of insurrection that he clearly plotted out and his mob executed. And he needs to be, for his good and for the good of his country, to be once and for all, to be held accountable.

This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

And that’s what we must do, brothers and sisters. We will have a devout Catholic inaugurated as president of the United States who attends Mass weekly and says his rosary and believes in compassion.

Now before you go, here’s a very hopeful Catholic song for you “City of God” Click Here

And you’ll be surprised how fitting today’s Mass readings are. Click here, if you’d like to reflect on them.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

 

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord ~ You are my beloved Son / You are my beloved Daughter

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

This feast is part of the epiphany cycle of feasts ….

It reveals a bit more of the meaning of the Incarnation of the Son of God, that is, our God entering our world and becoming flesh and blood like you and me.

By way of introduction, our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay offers a short commentary on today’s Gospel story from Matthew about the Baptism of Jesus . . . .

For thirty years Jesus waited patiently for the moment to embark on his mission. He waited for the hour to strike. And when John emerged, Jesus knew it was time.

Barclay asks why should this be so? For one very simple reason.

The Jews knew and used baptism only for proselytes who came from another faith. It was natural for the sin-stained proselyte to be baptized but no Jew ever conceived of a member of the chosen people, a son of Abraham, assured of God’s salvation, should ever need baptism. Baptism was for sinners, and no Jew ever conceived of himself as a sinner shut off from God. Now for the first time in their national history the Jews realized their own sin and their own pressing need for God. Never before had there been a unique national movement of penitence and search for God. This was the very moment for which Jesus was waiting and he slipped into the line of pilgrims waiting to be baptized by John. The others there were conscious of their sin and conscious of their need for God as never before.  In Jesus’ baptism, though not not for the purpose of repentance, he identified himself with the people he came to save.

When he approached John, he objected, saying, “I should be baptized by you” But Jesus replied, “Allow it for now for it is to fulfill all righteousness.” (Barclay Gospel of Matthew – Vol. I pp.59-60.)

Pope Benedict XVI also has an interesting commentary on this feast . . . .

The Baptism of Jesus was held in great importance by the apostolic community, in that circumstance, for the first time in history there was the manifestation of the Trinitarian Mystery in a clear and complete way, but also because that event began the public ministry of Jesus on the roads of Palestine. The Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan is the anticipation of his baptism of blood on the cross and it is the symbol of the entire sacramental activity by which the Redeemer will bring about the salvation of humanity.

This is why the early Church Fathers have dedicated such great interest in this feast, which is the most ancient after Easter:

Christ is baptized and the whole world is made holy,”sings today’s liturgy, “he wipes out the debt of our sins; we will all be purified by water and the Holy Spirit.” (Antiphon to the Benedictus) 

There is a strict relationship between the Baptism of Christ and our baptism. At the Jordan the heavens opened to indicate the Savior has opened the way of salvation and we can travel it thanks to our own new birth of water and Spirit (Jn 3:5) accomplished in baptism. The commitment that springs from baptism is therefore to “listen” to Jesus: to believe in him and gently follow him, doing his will. 

(As recorded in the “Meditation of the Day” in the Magnificat liturgical magazine January 2019 issue, p.179.)

Thus, God sent his only Son to become one with us.

What better way to do this than to show acceptance of the human condition by being baptized for the forgiveness of sin.

Jesus has no personal sin.  Yet he got in line with hundreds of pilgrims to be baptized by the prophet John by the River Jordan.

In this we see Jesus’ humility.  He is willing to accept ALL of the human condition.  He willingly presents himself for baptism.

Imagine this scene . . . .

There he is:  John at the edge of the desert, wading out into the waters of the Jordan River.

A crowd has gathered on the banks.  Jesus is among them.  He’s unknown at this time because he’s yet to begin his ministry.  He has chosen this meeting with the Prophet to inaugurate his own mission.

Jesus waits patiently amidst the crowd.  There’s a line of people eagerly waiting to meet individually with John. Jesus is to receive his baptism of repentance ~ not because there’s sin in him, but in order to model for us the authentic way to approach the Father.

He goes to the Baptist as a beggar because the Mystery is mercy.  Jesus surrenders to mercy by submitting himself to baptism in order to invite us to share in his relationship with the Father.

The Lord Jesus lowers himself in his baptism and, as Nothingness, acknowledges his Father so that we will never hesitate to do the same. (Source: Magnificat /Jan. 2019 issue p. 173.)

An astonishing thing happened; the two of them were privileged to a vision.  The sky opened up and John saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus like a dove and hover over him.

With that, a voice from the heavens said,

“You are my beloved Son;  with you I am well pleased.”

In our immersion into the waters of baptism, we are consecrated, set apart and made holy.  In Jesus’ immersion in the baptismal waters of the Jordan, the opposite becomes true.  Jesus consecrates, sets apart and makes holy the waters of baptism.  Jesus as Man consecrates the movement of divine grace that flows just as rivers flow.

Sometimes the river has abundant waters that give life to all living things that share its banks.  But sometimes the waters dry up and become like a desert.

So, too, with grace.  Grace flows like a river bringing wonderful fruit to all who drink and are immersed in it.  But sometimes grace  seemingly dries up and we live in a desert for a while.  But the river is still there, unseen; it just moves below the surface.

So we have to be willing to be immersed.  To be immersed in divine grace.  To be immersed in God.  To be immersed in love.

But that precisely is the problem.  We are scared of being immersed in love We are scared of being immersed in God.  We prefer to stand on the banks of the river and watch the waters of grace flow by, without having direct contact with it.

So this feast day is about us as well.  Don’t be afraid to be immersed in God.  Don’t be afraid to be immersed in love.

If we are immersed in God, in love, we will hear the voice of God say to us . . . .

“You are my beloved son.  You are my beloved daughter.  

Now, before you go, here’s the traditional spiritual Wade in the Water. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings: Click here.

With Love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer

 

 

 

The Feast of the Epiphany ~ Follow your Star!

The Feast of the Epiphany ~

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

Today’s feast day has two meanings.  In the Roman Church we celebrate the story of the Magi visiting Jesus and offering him gifts.  In the Eastern churches, they focus on the story of the Baptism of the Lord.  Both celebrate the manifestation, that is, the revelation of Jesus to the whole world.

St. Paul in today’s letter to the Ephesians proclaims that

“The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”  (Ephesians 3:6)

We focus on the story of the Magi in our celebration today.  In the Gospel of Christmas, the angels proclaim the Good News of Christ’s birth  to the shepherds, who were uneducated, poor folk.  The story from Luke indicates that the gospel is to be preached to the poor.

Today’s story is from Matthew.  The Magi are scholars and learned men.  They discern from their study of the heavens that the Messiah was to be born in their time and they would risk the search for him and offer their treasures.  The Magi represent all the peoples of the earth outside and beyond the Jewish experience.  Jesus is the Christ for everyone!

This Gospel story is about darkness and light. Brilliant light and terrible, fearful darkness.

The Magi were comfortable with the dark.  They knew how to find their way in the dark, because they could interpret the lights of the sky.  They were adventurers ~ seekers ~ explorers.

They represent all people who are at home in the world of the intellect.  All people who are willing to journey far to seek and find the truth. (Unfortunately, we live in a world where some of our leaders don’t bother with seeking truth and are afraid of science.)

The Magi went out into the night following the light, the great star which marked a singular event in human history.

They stopped to see Herod, expecting that he would welcome the light.  He couldn’t; he was filled with diabolical darkness; he could not abide the light of truth.  He tried to snuff out the life of the God-Man: Jesus the Light of the world.

Herod, the guy in charge, a king, was worried about the birth of a baby.  Herod was powerful, and yet, as Matthew says, “ . . . he was greatly troubled ~ not unlike some leaders today.”

What was Herod afraid of?  He knew that Jesus was going to make a difference in his world and was afraid that a change would mean losing the power he had.  He wanted Jesus gone before any of that could happen.  He liked things just the way they were, the proverbial “status quo.”

So Herod decreed that all firstborn males under two were to be killed.   Jesus and Mary and Joseph would have to flee into the night to find a safe place in a foreign land, the land of Egypt.  And so a shroud of violence would invade the innocence of the Christmas story.  Jesus and his family became political refugees. (Remember that fact if you are inclined to quickly condemn other political refugees.)

I’d like to try to penetrate the meaning of this sacred event by sharing excerpts of two articles that really impacted my faith and understanding of this great feast.

The great 19th Century  Danish philosopher-poet and theologian  Søren Kierkegaard, in an article entitled, Only a Rumor, states,

Although the scribes could explain where the Messiah should be born, they remained quite unperturbed in Jerusalem.  They did not accompany the Wise Men to seek him.  Similarly we may know the whole of Christianity, yet make no movement.  The power that moved Heaven and Earth leaves us completely unmoved.

What a difference!  The three kings had only a rumor to go by.  But it moved them to make that long journey.  The scribes were much better informed, much better versed.  They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many dons, but it did not make them move.  Who had more of the truth?  The three kings who followed a rumor, or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge?

What a vexation it must have been for the kings, that the scribes who gave them the news they wanted remained quiet in Jerusalem.  We are being mocked, the kings might have thought.  For indeed what an atrocious self-contradiction that the scribes should have the knowledge and yet remain unmoved.  This is as bad as if a person knows all about Christ and his teachings, and his own life expresses the opposite. 

Father Alfred Delp, the Jesuit priest imprisoned and executed by Hitler in 1945, whom we recently quoted in a powerful Advent article before Christmas, The Shaking Reality of Advent  concurs . . . .

The wise men. Whether they were really kings or just local eastern chieftains or learned astronomers is not important. The secret of these people is as plain as the shepherds. they are the men with clear eyes that probe things to the very depths. They have a real hunger and thirst for knowledge. They subordinated their lives to the end in view and they willingly journey to the ends of the earth, following a star, a sign, obeying an inner voice . . . . The compelling earnestness of their quest, the unshakable persistence of their search, the royal grandeur of their dedication ~ these are their secrets.  

And it is their message for us and their judgment of us. Why do so few ever see the star? Only because so few are looking for it .

What are we looking for anyway? And will we find a genuine yearning so strong that neither fatigue, nor distance, nor fear of the unknown, nor loneliness, nor ridicule will deter us?  

Where is our desire? Where is our risk to set out to find the meaning of our life? To find Jesus at our center? Where is our yearning? Hunger?  Thirst?  What star do you follow?

And so, listen to these  powerful words  from Isaiah in the first reading:

RISE UP IN SPLENDOR, DEAR PEOPLE OF GOD, YOUR LIGHT HAS COME.

THE GLORY OF THE LORD SHINES UPON YOU.

This feast is about a light that penetrates the most stubborn darkness of our lives.

This feast brings a Light to us all, if only we, like the Magi, would seek.

SEE DARKNESS COVERS THE EARTH

AND THICK CLOUDS COVER THE PEOPLES.

Violence seems to shroud our whole planet at times.

Some of us too are swallowed up by darkness, enshrouded by night, as happened to all of us this past year because of the pandemic.

Some of us live in  dysfunctional families.  That too can be terrible darkness, though we may not recognize it.  We may think that yelling and screaming are quite normal.

Some of us get up and work hard, day in and day out.  Perhaps it is work that we do not enjoy, perhaps even hate.  Perhaps our spirits are far away from our jobs.  We go to work trying to eke out a living, hoping to not be enshrouded by darkness. And because of the pandemic, so many lost their jobs or where in unemployment lines trying to apply for assistance!

And we know that there is darkness in the world.  Israelis refuse to seek peace with the Palestinians.

And there’s troubles in hotspots all over the world and in our own country.  People have been displaced by the wildfires in the Amazon and in California.  Hate seethes deep in the souls of neighbors a few blocks away from each other.

BUT UPON YOU THE LORD SHINES

AND OVER YOU APPEARS HIS GLORY.

Don’t despair of the darkness, dear friends.  Know that there is a Light that can penetrate it.

There was sadness and a thick veil of darkness over my own life for many years.  I had the good sense to move to the little bit of light that I could find.

A candle flame can be as bright as a great Nova when one is looking for light.

WE need the light of God’s truth in the world today.

NATIONS SHALL WALK BY YOUR LIGHT,

AND RULERS BY YOUR SHINING RADIANCE.

And finally, dear friends, out of the darkness came the Magi bringing gifts for the Light of the World.  Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Holy Child who was the Light.

But before we can give a gift, we must ~ often in the midst of the darkness ~ open our hands and our hearts to receive the gift God would give to us.  We must first receive before we can give.

Out of the darkness of your lives, you also can find gifts to give to the Lord and your family and friends.

What gifts do we bring?

Do we bring Jesus the gift of our adoration that the Magi did? The gift of our hearts?

These learned and influential people got down on their knees before this little child.

What or who receives the gift of OUR adoration and allegiance?

The world does not know how to adore God.  We adore so many other things.  Maybe we adore a favorite movie star or our favorite sports team when they’re winning at least, or a new sports car, a new home, a gifted child of our own.

Maybe we adore our career path, willing to do whatever it takes, even as we embrace the darkness along with it.

And so, this Epiphany Sunday, I pray . . . .

Dearest Lord,

When I get down on my knees on Sunday morning,

 I’ll be humbled by this story of the Wise Men who traveled from afar                                                                                                 and fell to their knees with their gifts for you.  

Please allow me ~ allow us – to be renewed in your love this day.  

May we live in your Light and share your Light                                                                                                                                             with our families, friends and neighbors, and, indeed, all the world!  

And please, as I’ve pleaded for years and years for our country, dear Lord, 

help us to remember that it is in You we trust.

and are the source of our justice,

and the reason for us to live in civility and good will.  

Renew us in your justice, love and peace.

To You be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

now and forever. Amen.

And before you go, here’s a beautiful rendition of ‘ O Holy Night’. Click Here.   (Remember to click on the < back arrow on the top left corner of your browser for the three remaining items I have for you below! enjoy!

Further, if you’re interested in the star of Bethlehem, you might read this article “Synchronicity and the Star of Bethlehem”  Click here.

And if you’d like an extra treat, do you remember the little drummer boy? Here he he is! Click here.

You can find today’s Mass readings at this link. Click here.

With love,  

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

What will 2021 bring to us? Better things for us all we hope!

St. Augustine, Florida at Christmastime / bob traupman / 2007

Dear friends,

When we were preparing for Y2K twenty-one years ago, I dreamed about “A New Humanity for a New Millennium.” So I thought I’d reprise most of last year’s post because it was so positive and we kinda need that positivity this year too, don’t you think?

And I wrote some really positive stuff about us humans, knowing full well we really didn’t warrant it back then.

Can we dust those thoughts off  now some twenty-one years later and give them a second look, a second shot . . . ?

. . . . Even though we have failed to live up to the potential of the human family, we nevertheless are called to a deeper faith and hope.  The work of Jesus is hardly begun.  The task of building a new humanity, partially begun in the first and second millennia, remains the agenda for the third.

As we reach beyond our self-imposed limits of sight, we can look beyond ~ look to the horizon ~ look where we’re headed.

Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin envisioned  humanity as evolving toward the “Omega Point,” a point of union of all of creation drawing together in Christ.  The Omega Point, Teilhard observes, is the endpoint of the historical process.

Perhaps we can see glimpses of this wonderful and exciting world view in the theology of St. Paul:

“There is no Jew or Greek . . . Christ is everything in all of you” (Col. 3:10).

And again:

“Let us profess the truth in love and grow toward the full maturity of Christ the head. Through him the whole body [the world?] grows and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:16)

Thus, we are part of something larger than ourselves. With each generation, we ARE growing closer to the goal of all humanity ~ complete and utter union with Christ ~ even though we don’t perceive it!

If we keep that in mind as we look forward in hope to 2021, as we climb out of a year still filled with worries about getting covid,  cooped up in our homes for weeks-on-end, trying to cope with loneliness, or perhaps reaching out to a friend or relative whose family member has passed, or wondering how to react to the racism that reared its ugly head throughout the summer and has impacted our police communities . . . .we can look upon this process with hope that, despite our failures in love, humanity will one day grow into loving relationship with all there is!

Can you feel it?  Can you peer down into the future of humanity and see that we are growing in our ability to love?  Or can  we only manage to be cynical about all of the devastation that so many humans now create for one another and our planet?

If there is one thing that we can learn in the opening movement of the Third Millennium,  it is that we live in the present moment, yet we are connected with a past with all of its achievement and failure, and with connection with a future with all of its hope and uncertainty! 

Yes! we must learn to live in the present moment!

The focus of renewing humanity has got to be with renewing ourselves ~ each and every one ~ of having faith in our own growth and hope in our own future. Of  realizing that each of us can be transformed again and again into a new person by receiving the grace of transformation that the incarnate and risen Christ extends to us, day in and day out, year in and year out.

Here’s Pope Francis in his New Year’s message this year . . . .

“No peace without a “culture of care”

In his message for the 54th World Day of Peace marked on  January 1st, Pope Francis offers the Church’s social doctrine as a “compass” to foster a culture of care for peace in the world.

Pope Francis appeals to the international community and everyone to foster a “culture of care” by advancing on the “path of fraternity, justice and peace between individuals, communities, peoples and nations.”

“There can be no peace without a culture of care.” In other words, we simply need to care for and about one another.

This evening, as I parked my car outside of my local Walmart, I heard a faint voice nearby cry, “I’m hungry.” I new I only had a few bucks in my wallet, but I walked over toward him and asked his first name, which was ‘Joe.'(I thought of St. Joseph as Pope Francis has declared 2021 a special year in honor of St. Joseph and all fathers.) And he was cold, I could tell; I asked him to tell me a little about what was happening, and then I gave him a little something. (I just had enough money to get what I needed in the store.) When I came out of the store, he was still there; I inquired what the first initial of his last name was so I could add him to my Evening Prayer list and prayed for all the other homeless folk I’ve met and are on my list as I drove home . . . .

Established by Pope St. Paul VI in 1967, the first World Day of Peace was observed on January 1st,1968.

Pope Francis said that “massive Covid-19 health crisis” has aggravated interrelated crises like climate, food, the economy and migration, causing great sorrow and suffering to many. He makes it an occasion to appeal to political leaders and the private sector to spare no effort to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines and to the essential technologies needed to care for the sick, the poor and those who are most vulnerable.

Alongside the pandemic, the Pope also notes a surge in various forms of nationalism, racism, hatred (xenophobia) and wars and conflicts that bring only death and destruction in their wake. These and other events of 2020, he says, have underscored the importance of caring for one another and for creation in our efforts to build a more fraternal society. Hence, “A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace” is a “way to combat the culture of indifference, waste and confrontation so prevalent in our time.”

The Holy Father traces the evolution of the Church’s Culture of Care from the first book of the Bible, to Jesus, through the early Church down to our times.

After the creation of the world, God entrusts it to Adam to “till it and keep it”. Cain’s response to God – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – after killing his brother, Abel, is a reminder that all of us are keepers of one another.

God’s protection of Cain, despite his crime, confirms the inviolable dignity of the person created in God’s image and likeness. Later, the institution of the Sabbath aimed to restore the social order and concern for the poor, while the Jubilee year provided a respite for the land, slaves and those in debt. All this, the Pope says, shows that “everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationship with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.”

The Christian concept of the person, the Pope says, fosters the pursuit of a fully human development. “Person always signifies relationship, not individualism; it affirms inclusion, not exclusion; unique and inviolable dignity, not exploitation.” “Each human person is an end in himself or herself, and never simply a means to be valued only for his or her usefulness.”

According to the “compass” of social principles of the Church, every aspect of social, political and economic life achieves its fullest end when placed at the service of the common good, which allows people to reach their fulfilment more fully and easily.

This highlights the need to listen to the cry of our brothers and sisters in need and the cry of the earth our common and care for them.

“A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be authentic if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings,” the Pope says, citing his encyclical.

“Peace, justice and care for creation are three inherently connected questions, which cannot be separated.”

In the face of our throw-away culture, with its growing inequalities both within and between nations, Pope Francis urges government leaders, and those of international organizations, business leaders, scientists, communicators and educators, to take up the principles of the Church’s social doctrine as a “compass”. It is capable of pointing out a common direction and ensuring “a more humane future” in the process of globalization

In this regard, the Pope calls for resources spent on arms, especially nuclear weapons, to be used for priorities such safety of individuals, the promotion of peace and integral human development, the fight against poverty, and the provision of health care. He says it would be a courageous decision to “establish a ‘Global Fund’ with the money spent on weapons and other military expenditures, in order to permanently eliminate hunger and contribute to the development of the poorest countries!”

This begins in the family where we learn how to live and relate to others in a spirit of mutual respect. Schools and universities, the communications media, as also religions and religious leaders are called to pass on a system of values based on the recognition of the dignity of each person, each linguistic, ethnic and religious community and each people.

Pope Francis concludes his message, urging “We never yield to the temptation to disregard others, especially those in greatest need, and to look the other way.” “Instead, may we strive daily, in concrete and practical ways, to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another.”

And now my prayer . . . 

Where are we, this New Year’s Day 2021, Lord?

Are we better or worse off than we were last year?

And what will 2021 bring for us?

Are we prepared for whatever it will bring?

Do we realize that . . . . “You never know . . . what the next minute will bring?”

Give us hope, Lord, this New Year’s Day.

A realistic hope that we might be a little kinder toward one another,

a little less self-centered,

a little more willing to go the extra mile for someone, even ~ or especially ~ a stranger.

Give us the strength to be ready for whatever may come . . .

~  in the next Congress and Administration?

~ or if the economy would get better or worse

~ if we lose our job or gain some success,

~ if we meet the girl of our dreams.

Give us the grace to be truly thankful ~ truly repentant ~ truly humble when we wake up this New Year’s morning.

This is my prayer, Lord, for me, for my friends, for our country, for our world.

This New Year’s morning may we pray as St. Francis taught us . . .

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen!

May it be so! may it be so for each of us and our country and the whole world!

 Now here’s the great song “Let there be peace on earth”. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings for the Feast of Mary, Mother of God. Click here.

A Happy and Blessed New Year, to you and your family! And stay safe!

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Fourth Day of Christmas ~ The Feast of the Holy Innocents ~ Rachel mourns for her children ~ still (and Day 3 of Kwanzaa)

The Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs ~ Monday, December 28, 2020

( and Day 3 of Kwanzaa) 

Herod the Great had been elected “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate in 40 B.C. When the Magi told him of the new King of the Jews, Herod could think of nothing but wiping out the threat to his throne. The Holy Innocents are those children who were brutally murdered by Herod as he sought the Christ Child. At his hand, the Church receives their first martyrs, thereby this feast three days after the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  

And because of  Herod’s act of terrorism among his own people, Joseph had to fly by night to Egypt with Mary and the young child Jesus. Thus, Jesus himself became a political refugee.

Today we think of other innocent children ~ some killed as the unborn are or have been. We also think of those innocent ones  gunned down Parkland, Florida and David Hogg, a survivor, and 2018 graduate, who has gone on to advocate for the end of gun violence. These are the statistics for this past year according to Gun Violence Archive . . .

Gun violence:  children under age 11  murdered 292  / injured 685 Teenagers murdered  1,092 / injured 3,010 / Mass shootings 610

Then there are children who are trafficked as boy soldiers or as prostitutes or as child laborers.

And what of the horror of children caught in war or in Syria or the Tsunami in Indonesia or the wildfires in California.

images-3And what of the child immigrants in our own country who are held in overcrowded, unhealthy detention camp for years without legal representation that caused two tragic deaths of 7-year-old Guatemalan boy followed by the death of an 8-year-old Guatemalan girl in the custody of Homeland Security.

And what of the DACA children? What will their fate be? They have known no other country but ours.

In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning,

of bitter weeping!

Rachel mourns her children

she refuses to be consoled

because her children are no more 

    ~  (Jer 31:15).  

You know, the infant Jesus was threatened by violence himself.  So, the Christmas story is not all sweetness and light. The Wise Men inquired of Herod where the newborn King of the Jews was born. Seething with diabolical fury because of his jealousy, Herod orders the massacre of all who resemble Jesus in gender and age.

 The Mass texts proclaim . . .

The Innocents were slaughtered as infants for Christ;

spotless, they follow the Lamb and sing for ever: Glory to you, O Lord.  

I would think the same is true for our own dear innocent children ~ not that all of them are Christian, but that will in their own way sing for ever.  

Psalm 124, also from today’s Mass, states,

“Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.”

 So, for many, an eternal life of happiness and a reunion with loved ones is indeed a consolation.  

And I conclude today with prayers from our dear Pope Francis  . . .

Child of Bethlehem, touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realize the gravity of this crime against humanity.  Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become child soldiers.

As we fix our gaze on the Holy Family of Nazareth as they were forced to become refugees, let us think of the tragedy of those migrants and refugees who are victims of rejection and exploitation of human trafficking and slave labor.    

Lord Jesus, as a little child you were a refugee yourself,

and a political one at that.

Thousands of innocent children were murdered.  

Millions of children die in our world because of other despots.

Because of cruelty and brutality and bullying goes on and on.

Lord, I have no idea what the future holds for children in our own country.

Please watch over them all and keep them safe.

We mourn for the children who have been gunned down,

or sick and died unattended while under the protection of Homeland Security.

And please watch over all children who are refugees,

or in war-torn countries or who are migrants on the road searching for a better home. 

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Now before you go, here’s a Christmas carol for you that reflects on the strife of the world.  Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Second Day of Christmas ~ St. Stephen’s Day ~ Heroic Love ~ How heroic is your love? (and the first day of Kwanzaa)

The Feast of St. Stephen ~ First Martyr, December 26, 2020

Today, December 26, is the second day of Christmas, and the first day of Kwanzaa (African-American).  May we learn about our own and each other’s celebrations.  It’s easy, just Google the word Kwanzaa.

For us Christians the mystery of Incarnation (God-becoming-human in the person of Jesus Christ) needs more than one day to celebrate.  Here is the second day of Christmas:  The Catholic liturgy centuries ago placed the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, the day after Jesus’ glorious feast to show that our faith is not sentimental but requires of us heroic, sacrificial love.  Stephen fearlessly witnessed in court (the word martyr means witness) his conviction that Jesus is  the Messiah, knowing that his testimony was his death sentence.

Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.       (Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59)

How heroic is our love, Lord?

Do we abandon people — our friends, our lovers, our spouses, our children when the going gets rough?

And I ask you please to be with those who’ve been abandoned by loved ones, Lord ~ children of alcoholic parents or kids who have gone through the foster care system and may never feel Your Love or those who have to prostitute themselves in order to survive.

Are we only concerned about our own survival?  What’s best for Number One — Me?

Are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of a friend in need — for You, Lord?  

Are you, elected officials willing to show any kind of heroic love for the sake of  our American people ~ black or white, rich or poor, Muslim, Christian or Jew, North, South, East or West, Wall Street or no street? 

And what about the DACA children or the immigrant children lost in the system? What about the Rohingya  people who are stateless and suffering untold violence and immigrants and refugees the world over?

Allow me the grace to witness to your love for me, Lord, to share it when I can.

Allow me the grace to do that this day, St. Stephen’s Day and every day. Stephen, a young man,  has always been one of my heroes, Lord.

We need such heroic love in our time, Lord, such heroic young people.

Inspire young women and men to be there for their friends in the hard times ahead.

Teach us to never abandon a friend, Lord.

And let my readers know that you love them, Lord,  and You will never abandon them either ~ no matter what.

Now, before you go, here is Mariah Carey singing “Hero.” Click here.   Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are all of today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

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The Birthday of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ~ 2020

While all things were

      in quiet silence,

And that night was

      in the midst of

   her swift course,

Thine Almighty Word,

     O Lord,

Leaped down out

of thy royal throne,

      Alleluia!

 ~ And the Word became flesh and lived among us.  John 1:14

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Dear Friends,

Our waiting is over.

Christmas is here!

My dearest Brothers and Sisters, I pause to think about you intimately at this moment. I have 397 of you on my email list and I’m aware some of you share with other friends. I also reach out to others on Twitter and Facebook. As my cursor crosses the page I’m thinking and praying for each of you wherever you are and yes, I do have one or two readers on other continents.

So on this Christmas Eve, let’s collectively think about where we’ve been this past year.  It’s been a helluva ride for every one of us trying to cope with this pandemic, hasn’t it? We’re all sheltering in place and getting “cabin fever” –though many have found good things from staying at home. The grim thing is that this disease is not something to play around with. I had heard a statistic that this is has been the deadliest year in US history and I just confirmed it.

So how do we celebrate Christmas against that background? How is all this affecting your own celebration of Christmas?

I want to share with you an excerpt from one of my favorite Advent authors —Brennan Manning entitled Shipwrecked at the Stable.  I shared it last year, but it has become more poignant this year. Think about the image of being shipwrecked for a moment. You’ve been to sea, and are now washed up on some beach somewhere—groggy, famished, thirsty, in rags, wondering  where the h – – you are, probably struggling along with other grumbling, annoying former shipmates; in other words: Lost! 

Our author begins . . . .

God entered into our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability and need. On a wintry night in an obscure cave, the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to him.

God comes as a newborn baby, giving us a chance to love him, making us feel that we have something to give him.

The world does not understand vulnerability. Neediness is rejected as incompetence and compassion is dismissed as unprofitable.

The Spanish author José Ortega puts it this way:

The man with the clear head is the man who frees himself from fantasy and looks life in the face, realizes that everything in it is problematic, and feels himself lost. (Like so many of us during this pandemic!) And this is the simple truth—that to life is to feel oneself lost. The shipwrecked have stood at the still-point of a turning world and discovered that the human heart is made for Jesus Christ and cannot really be content with less. 

We are made for Christ and nothing less will ever satisfy us. As Paul writes in Colossians 1:16, “All things were created by him and for him.” And further on, “There is only Christ: he is everything” (3:11). It is only in Christ that the heart finds true joy in created things.

Do you hear what the shipwrecked are saying? Let go of your paltry desires and expand your expectations. Christmas means that God has given us nothing less than himself and his name is Jesus Christ. Be unwilling next Christmas to settle for anything else. Don’t order “just a piece of toast” when eggs Benedict are on the menu. Don’t come with a thimble when God has nothing less to give you than the ocean of himself. Don’t be contented with a ‘nice’ Christmas when Jesus says, “It has pleased my Father to give you the Kingdom.”

You know, dear Readers, this is what I’ve been sharing with all my heart with you for years. To know Jesus and his heavenly Father is the sole reason for the existence for this Blog!

The shipwrecked have little in common with the landlocked. The landlocked have their own security system, a home base, credentials and credit cards, storehouses and barns, their self interest and investments intact. They never find themselves because they never really feel themselves lost.  (Like so many we know in politics these days.) “At Christmas, one despairs of finding a suitable gift for the landlocked. “They’re so hard to shop for; they have everything they need.”

The shipwrecked, on the contrary, reach out for that passing plank with the desperation of the drowning. Adrift on an angry sea, in a state of utter helplessness and vulnerability, the shipwrecked never asked what they could do to merit the plank, and inherit the kingdom of dry land. They knew that there was absolutely nothing any of them could do. Like little children, they simply received the plank as a gift. And little children are precisely those who haven’t done anything. “Unless you… become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

The shipwrecked at the stable are captivated by joy and wonder. They have found the treasure in the field of Bethlehem. The pearl of great price is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

So here we are at Christmas once again.

Dear Sisters and Brothers it’s time.

Open your heart.

Prepare yourself to be ready to receive your Lord into your heart as if for the first time—in humility and joy and wonder.  As you see from Brennan Manning’s wonderful story, Christmas is really not about giving gifts, but about receiving the one that Jesus wants to give you.

Be receptive to God as Mary was. She just said, a simple Yes! to the angel:

”I am the servant of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.”

I pray so very earnestly that you receive the special gift God wants to give you

Cleanse your heart of resentments—of preoccupations with unnecessary things. Keep your Christmas very simple this year.

And, I hope you have received something nourishing and sweet in the posts I’ve been able to create this Advent. They are my gift to you. There are many more to come.

May you have a good Christmas with your those you love—even you’re not able to be with them physically present to them this year.

I will remember each of you, your intentions and needs in my Christmas Masses.

Dearest Lord Jesus,
O how wonderful you are to me—to us.
May we be like children again for you said
that we must be childlike before the Father
and you called him Abba—Daddy.
Thank you, Jesus,
for my priesthood, for my home
for the food on my table,
for my little furry friend Shoney for the time you gave him to me,
for you my readers and so much more!
Please bless my friends and readers,
especially those who are missing a loved one this year,
or who are lonely or sick or in need in any way and those caring for them.
We ask you this, Jesus, as always,
in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

Now, before you go, here is a very special Christmas music video for you. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

If you would like the Scripture readings for any of the several Masses for Christmas.You’ll find a list of the Vigil, Mass at Night, at Dawn, etc.; click on the one(s) you want.Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

P. S. We’ll be back again on December 26th ~ The Feast of  St. Stephen and the Twelve Days of Christmas and the celebration of Kwanzaa!

Advent Day 23 – O Emmanuel, Where art thou?

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Wednesday of the fourth week of Advent

O Emmanuel,

Our King and Lawgiver,

The hope of nations and their Savior:

Come and save us,

O Lord our God!

~ The Eighth O-Antiphon

Emmanuel, they tell us you are “God-with-us.”

Where are you, Emmanuel?

Are you here?

Are you here in the messiness of our lives? 

In the midst of this pandemic?

Can you really ransom us from our captivities,

our slaveries to addictions, our hatreds and grudges and jealousies that eat us up and spit us out?

Our guilts, our “coulda, shoulda, wouldas — our druthers and regrets?

Our lethargy, our hopelessness, our slumber, our rage?

O Israel!  O America!

Do you want Emmanuel to come?

Do We want you to?  (Do I?)

Many languish in mourning in this pandemic, Emmanuel,

in exiles made by Wall Street and homelessness and sickness

and loneliness and selfishness.

Many a young heart mourns / aches for direction and meaning and love.

Prisoners waste away.  Such a waste of young lives!

Will you ransom their hearts, and souls Emmanuel?

Our hearts and souls?

Will you truly rain down justice as the psalmist says?

Yes, O come, Emmanuel!

Be God-with-us!

Even though we can sometimes hardly be with ourselves, Lord.

Captivate us, inhale us with Your love.

Dazzle us with hope and new life and possibility.

Yes, Emmanuel!  We believe you will come.

Maybe not today or tomorrow.

You will transform the secret longings of our souls.

We will dance and sing and embrace You and each other

because you came among us, Emmanuel.

You ARE with us, Emmanuel.

Because of  You our being becomes “being-in-love!”

We rejoice! We give thanks! We believe!

Come, Lord Jesus!  Yes, Lord Jesus, come.

 

Brothers and sisters, Christmas is two days away.  Let each one of us give thanks

– and receive again in a new way

such a precious, wondrous love,

such a wonderful gift.

Here is a YouTube presentation of the powerful hymn sung by Steve Green  “What wondrous love is this?

 And here are today’s Mass readings about ol’ Zechariah being struck dumb because . . .  Click here

 

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

Advent Day 22 ~ The shaking reality of Advent

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Tuesday of Fourth Week of Advent

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
Come and free the prisoners of darkness!

~ The O Antiphon for December 20th

Father Alfred Delp, S.J. aptly wrote two years after I was born about being shaken up, as so many of us feel in our world today, unsettled as we are by political events in our own country, especially this past year with the pandemic with hundreds of thousand of deaths and a contested election and having to spend days on end sheltering in place and the loneliness which that has brought about for so many of us.

Fr. Delp wrote with his hands in shackles in his prison cell in Berlin, just before he was hanged for high treason in 1945, three months before the war ended. His ashes were scattered on the winds; Hitler wanted him forgotten. (His writings were smuggled out of prison.) In a widely published article, The Shaking Reality of Advent, he wrote:

There is nothing we modern people need more than to be genuinely shaken up.

Where life is firm we need to have a sense of its firmness;

and where it is unstable and uncertain and has no basis, no foundation,

we need to know this too and endure it.

We may ask God why he sent us in this time,

why he has sent this whirlwind on the earth,

why he keeps us in this chaos where all appears hopeless

and dark and why there seems to be no end to this in sight.

I found Father Delp’s message considerably consoling in the light of what our country and our world situation is in at the moment. He goes on . . . .

Here is the message of Advent:

faced with him who is the Last,

the world will begin to shake.

The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by him, even if they are hounded from the earth. [ . . . . .]

 If we are inwardly unshaken, inwardly incapable of being genuinely shaken,

if we become obstinate and hard and superficial and cheap,

then God will himself intervene in world events and teach us what it means to be placed in this agitation and be stirred inwardly.

Remember, that Father Delp was talking about the disastrous times of war-torn Germany in 1945.

God of mercy and compassion,

our times are quite like the days Father Delp was writing about.

We, too, need to be shaken from our complacency.

Even in recent years ~ and this year too ~ hatred  and bullying and fear has increased among our people.

We need you, Lord!

Come among us once again and shake us up to the reality of your justice!

And as the O Antiphon shouts:

Free the prisoners of darkness among us ~  

The poor, those imprisoned unjustly, those without healthcare, the unemployed, those about to be evicted, the homeless,

the DREAMERS who’ve got a reprieve from being deported,

and migrants all over the world in search of safe harbor.

And so so many more crying out to us, pleading for mercy and our love.

     Come Lord Jesus and do not delay!  

And now, before you go, here’s Josh Groban singing J. S. Bach’s awesome Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer  

Alfred Delp, S.J. The Shaking Reality of Advent / translated by the Plough Publishing Company

 

Advent Day 21 ~ Depressed or lonely at Christmastime? (and the winter solstice)

St. Augustine Beach Florida

O come, thou dayspring, come and cheer

Our spirits by thine advent here;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

 And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O Antiphons

Monday of the fourth week of Advent  

There sometimes can be a lot of depression swirling around at Christmastime especially at the end of this loooong year when most of us have had to spend long days and nights pent up in our homes. I’ve talked to several friends who spoke to me about their loneliness in the past couple of days.

Some of us can feel lonelier because we’re expected to be cheerful and we may just not feel much Christmas joy, but instead may feel plain down in the dumps or like diving into the bottom of a bottle.

This blog is meant for us to notice and reach out to our friends and pray for them.

Let’s be with those who have lost a loved one and still miss them.

Let’s also remember kids who are shuffled back from one parent to another to “celebrate” the holidays; that’s got to be a terrible thing to do to children.

And what about service men and women away from their families and others who have to work long hours and come home to an empty house.

And so, may we pray:

There are sometimes dark clouds in our lives, Jesus.
Pierce the gloominess of our lives with Your very own Light.
May we allow You to dawn in us this day.
May we be ready for Your dawning in a new way in our lives this Christmas.
May this celebration of Your birth bring meaning and joy in the midst of our worries and concerns.
And may we BE the dawning of  your light and love and justice
in our homes, our neighborhoods, our jobs, our world.

And there are dark and ominous clouds over our world too, Lord.
Pierce our greed and hate, fear and complacency and violence with hope, Lord.
May we pray earnestly for a new dawn for our beloved country and our world.
May we BE the dawning of your light, your love and your justice in our land.

Lord Jesus, come!
We need Your Light and Your Love now more than ever. 

And earthy religions celebrate the Winter Solstice, the beginning of the ascendancy of the sun in the northern hemisphere on Monday, December 21 at 5:02 am. It happened before most of us put our toes on the floor this  morning at 5:02am for most of my readers.

(Christianity subsumed pagan celebrations into its own. Christmas trees  came to us from Germanic pagan customs. And actually, it’s because of the winter solstice that we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th at the time of the solstice. Remember St. John the Baptist saying, ” I must decrease; he must increase?” Thus, our Christmas celebration comes when the sun is on the ascendancy again, and we shared it with our ~ um ~ pagan sisters and brothers who celebrated it long before we did!)

And before you go, here’s ~ “His yoke is easy” from Handel’s Messiah. Click here. Be sure to turn up your  speakers and enter full screen. 

With love

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Fourth Sunday of Advent ~ Mary’s yes to God

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Fourth Sunday of Advent ~ December 20, 2020

Few things have ever been written in the history of the world that can approach the lyric beauty of the Gospel of Luke today. No matter how many times we read it, we are immersed in its majestic simplicity.

This moment in history had been foretold since the days of creation, when it was promised that a woman would give birth to the One who would vanquish the power of Satan. If the moment had been orchestrated by Madison Avenue, it would’ve been surrounded by pomp and circumstance, proclaimed far and wide. As usual, though, God’s ways are not our ways.

The word that had been awaited for centuries came silently as the sunrise, to a young girl in an obscure village, a young one who, until that moment,  had but one significant event to anticipate: She was to wed the local carpenter.

Now, with a few soft-spoken words from an angel,  and her “Fiat!, her resounding Yes, / her “let it be done according to thy word,”   she became the central figure in the plan of Redemption, without whom / God’s plan would not be fulfilled.

(God needed Mary’s YES!)

This was not the first time God had sent a messenger  to announce the birth of a child in extraordinary circumstances. Remember Sarah and her husband, Abraham?   They had exhausted every hope of having a child of their own, for they were far beyond the age of childbearing. But since nothing is impossible with God, Sarah conceived and bore a son whom they named Isaac, as God had directed.

Centuries later,  the scene is repeated: Zechariah and Elizabeth had despaired of having a child, for both were advanced in age. But Elizabeth conceived and bore a child, John the Baptist,whose entire life would be dedicated to one purpose ~ to prepare the way of the Lord. 

Now the centuries of prophecy are about to be fulfilled. Again, there is an unlikely conception, for Mary was yet a virgin. Again that this most unlikely of all births might become a reality, God’s intervention was needed. Gabriel, messenger of the Most High, assures her . . .

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born from of your womb will be called holy,  the Son of God.”

All that had transpired in salvation history up to this moment hung in the balance  waiting for this girl’s response:  She took her time. She questioned the angel. and then she finally said, Yes.  “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.”

And then the angel left her, leaving for her and Joseph to work out the details, some of which were going to be quite problematic.

We’ll hear the Nativity story in four days. Today, I invite you to think about the whole story,  as though you were thinking about it for the first time. Consider what a wild, crazy, loving thing God did!   God created us, when he didn’t have to, simply because he wanted to share his love and his joy. We sinned, rejected God,  decided to go our own way, and created a huge distance between God and us. You would think that God would say, “OK, have it your own way, then, but be prepared for the consequences.” But he didn’t. Instead, God decided to bridge that distance  and repair the damage that we did.

How? First of all, by becoming one of us. A real, living, breathing, in-the-flesh human being who was also God. And not by coming down in overpowering glory and majesty. No,  by being conceived in the womb of a young woman, a teenager, actually. And then by being born not in a palace but in a stable, a shelter for animals,  on the outskirts of a small town, in a country that was not one of the big players  in the power and politics of the time.

Does this make sense? Is this a normal way of behaving – considering that the person doing it is almighty God,  creator and Lord of the universe? No. this doesn’t make a shred of common sense. This is the action of someone absolutely consumed by infinite love for people  who were not acting lovably. We get so used to hearing this story that we say, “Well, sure, of course!” when it ought to take our breath away.

Today, as preparation for the great Christmas feast that’s coming in four days, let’s try to appreciate in anew the stunning immensity of God’s love for us ~ God’s desire to get us back when we were gone astray as the Christmas carol says.

Let us say Yes to God as Mary did.

A Yes that opens us up to his great love.

A Yes that shares his love with our family,

with our neighborhood,

with our work place,

with our country,

with all the world.

In a few days we will celebrate the birth of Mary’s child, a birth as striking in its simplicity as was the announcement by Gabriel.   Perhaps, during these few days,  we would do well to ask Mary to help us prepare our hearts for his coming, as she did. Better than anyone else, she knows how to do that.

And now, before you go, here’s the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with a glorious rendition of Handel’s “And the Glory of the Lord. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Advent Day 17 – The Burning Bush of the World (and Hanukkah Day 7)

st. augustine beach, florida

Advent Day 17 ~ Thursday of the third week of Advent –  (Hanukkah Day 7)

Advent themes are all about waiting for light to shine in our darkness.
For we who are Christians we await, Jesus, Yeshua, who is for us the Light of the World.
We prepare a place for him to shine in our own hearts this day.
We invite you to search out your own inner meaning whatever that might be.

On this the seventh day of Hanukkah we honor our Jewish brothers and sisters with these words
that appear in the Catholic liturgy just before Christmas, one of the magnificent O Antiphons:

O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel,

you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush

and on Mount Sinai gave him your law.

Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us.

And my prayer . . .

O Adonai*, we need you in our world more than ever!

You appeared in the burning bush long ago.

I remember this awesome sunrise over the ocean when I lived  some  years ago on St. Augustine Beach, Florida.

I’m reminded of the old sailor’s maxim:  “Red at night, a sailor’s delight; red in the morning, sailors take warning.”

Come with your refiner’s fire and burn your way into our hearts.

so we can prepare the way for the Messiah to come into our lives,

into our homes,

our workplace and marketplace,

our neighborhoods

and, most especially into our beloved country that so badly needs You right now,

and our waiting world!

Come Lord Jesus!

______

What are  the “O” Antiphons?”

If you’re interested in learning more about them, here’s a website that has information and recordings of all seven. Click here. (Skip the first half and scroll ALL the way down to the bottom for the O Antiphons themselves.  You will notice little speaker signs next to each one. If you click on those little music notes, it will play for you the actual chant melody for each O Antiphon.

But before you go, here’s O come, O come Emmanuel with the lyrics that are the seven O-Antiphons in English for your reflection.

And here are today’s Mass Readings. Click here.

* Adonai is one of the names the Jewish people use for God, meaning “Lord God Almighty.”

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 16 ~ In the Midst of the Mist of our Lives (and Hanukkah day 6)

photo (c) bob traupman 2007. all rights reseved

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

Misty mornings can be cool, Lord.

They can teach us about You, about us.

There’s lots of misty-ness in our lives, Lord.

We often don’t see anything very clearly.

But You are still there, our sun, the Son,
somehow, some way, penetrating  the fog, the mist.

Help us realize that mist is OK, Lord.
Misty-ness has its own beauty.

Thank You, Lord, for what it teaches us about You, about us.

Teach us to be patient, Lord, to wait.
To wait for the light, our light, Your light.
Come Lord, Jesus this Christmas
in our lives and in our world.

Your light will come, Jerusalem;
Your light will come, dear people of God;
the Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.
You will see his glory within you.
       – the Advent liturgy.

And now before you go, here is more from Handel’s Messiah. Click on this link >>> Rejoice Greatly O Daughter Zion!  ‘Tis Awesome! Be sure to enter full screen. 

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

photo bob traupman 2007. You may have noticed this like a follow-up on the theme and image  in yesterday’s blog:”Shadows.’ I began taking images on my Canon Powershot when i was living on St. Augustine Beach and you’ll see a few more of them in the next few days. I hope you enjoy them.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Advent Day 16 ~ The Lesson of the Shadows (and day 5 of Hanukkah)

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Advent Day 16 ~ Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

I have learned to be intrigued by the shadows of my life, Lord.
The stronger the light, the deeper the shadow.
I have come to realize there will always be shadows.

I must accept the shadows of my life as well as the light; they will just always be there.

And so I now  pause for a moment when a shadow greets me;
and take in its beauty.

Teach me to  stop and be confronted, to be changed,  by them.

This day, Lord, help me to realize what the shadows of my life can teach me about You and Your great love for me.

Editor’s note:  This was my very first blog post on December 5, 2007.                                                                                                                       

I had two priests write back and say: “Thank you, Bob.

I wonder what they were saying?

I pay a lot of attention to shadows in my photography.

It’s “both ~ and.” That’s the way life is.

Carl Jung in psychology got us to pay attention to the Shadow side of life.

And in one’s prayer life, the mystics like St. John of the Cross talk about the “dark night of the soul.”

If we deny the shadows are there, we’re in trouble.

If we embrace our Shadow, make friends with it,

we become whole.

And now before you go, here’s a selection from Handel’s Messiah to put you in an Advent mood

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

 

Advent Day 14 ~ Rejoice! The Lord is near! (and Hanukkah Day 3)

Third Sunday of Advent ~ Sunday December 13, 2020

In our Catholic liturgical calendar this is “Gaudete Sunday — the Sunday of Joy.    We’re more than half-way through Advent and the vestment color is Rose, rather than purple, the color of penitence.  So, we see the celebrant in rose vestments.

This is supposed to be a joyful time of year but . . . some us don’t see things clearly, or can’t speak up for ourselves or are disabled.  some of us are afraid ~ disillusioned ~ confused ~ depressed ~ lonely ~weak-kneed and in need of a good old-fashioned infusion of hope and joy, so . . .

Today’s first reading from Isaiah 61:1-2.10 sums up the joyful, hopeful mood of  this third Advent Sunday: 

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.  

Now to today’s Gospel story. . . 

Once again, I’d like to offer a simple commentary to help us understand the scripture a little. For the last two weeks we’ve heard the stories of St. Mark’s accounts of John the Baptist; today we hear from St. John. William Barclay, the great Presbyterian Scripture scholar says that a characteristic of a Fourth Gospel is that the emissaries of the Jews come to cross-question John. The word Jews occurs in this gospel over seventy times and the Jews are always in opposition; they are the ones who have set themselves against Jesus.

The agents who came to interview John were composed of two kinds of people. First, the priests and the Levites, Their interest was natural. As we said a week ago, John was the son of Zachariah, who was a priest. And the Hebraic priesthood was passed on from father to son; thus, John the Baptist was also a priest.

The whole thing shows how suspicious orthodoxy is of anything new. John didn’t conform to the normal ideas of a priest or a preacher.  (The same thing happens in the Church with stuff that’s new.)

So they went out to ask him questions. “Who are you?   “I am not the Christ—the Messiah”, he said. “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”
So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?

What do you have to say for yourself?”
He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,'” as Isaiah the prophet said.”

Some Pharisees were also sent.

They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”

John answered them, “I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

Second, there were the emissaries of the Pharisees. It may well be that behind them was the Sanhedrin—the Hebrew High Court, who were to scrutinize anyone who was suspected of being a false prophet.

There are two parts to our commentary here: What seemed strange to the Pharisees was that John was asking Jews to be washed while that was only required of Gentiles as they became Jews.

The second is this: “To untie the straps of sandals was slaves work. Barclay notes there was a Rabbinic saying that a disciple might do for a master anything that a servant did except only to untie his sandals. That was too menial a service even for a disciple to render, So John said in effect, “One is coming whose slave I am not fit to be.”

John’s function was simply to prepare the way. He was the great example of the man prepare to obliterate himself in order that Jesus, is Lord and Savior—and ours might be seen. God give us the grace to forget ourselves and to remember only Christ

John was simply the signpost, pointing the way toward Christ.  He was faithful even unto imprisonment and death to simply be the messenger.

My spiritual director some time ago suggested I pray to John the Baptist, and so I do so now . .  .

O John, how lovingly you served your Lord.

I am dumbfounded at my own lack of humility,  

my refusal to serve, the meagreness in the way I do serve.  

You inspire me, even in my later years to wait upon my God to act in my life,

to wait for him to do new things.  

Thank you, John, for your service-unto-death;

ask for the grace, the strength and the courage to also serve my Lord unto the end of my days.  

Amen. 

COME LORD JESUS!

To get you in a joyful mood I have a surprise for you: Here’s Andre Rieu with a grand orchestra and singers performing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers, enter full screen and prepare to be goosebumped!

 

And here are all the of the Readings for today’s Mass, if you’d like those as well. Click here.

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 1 Revised Edition                                                                              Westminster Press / Philadelphia 1975 / pp. 75-80.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 12 ~ The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe ~ God prefers the poor

Saturday of the Second Week of Advent ~

THE FEAST OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE (and Hanukkah Day 2)

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Today,we honor our sister and brothers in Mexico as they celebrate the appearance of the Mother of Jesus to a poor peasant native Mexican nearly five hundred years ago.

Today, may we unite ourselves in solidarity with all the peoples of North and South and Central America who rejoice in this feast day; indeed may we unite ourselves in solidarity with all the world’s poor.

Half way down is an interpretation of the symbolism of the image that of the woman who appeared on Juan Diego’s cloak.  That’s  truly amazing.  Be sure to check it out.  It converted a whole culture.

Here’s the charming story; it’s well worth the read:

An elderly Indian man named Chuauhtlatoczin (“Juan Diego” in Spanish) had a vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at Tepeyac, a squalid Indian village outside of Mexico City, 481 years ago. Mary directed Juan Diego to tell the bishop to build the church in Tepeyac. The Spanish bishop, however, dismissed the Indian’s tale as mere superstition. He asked that he bring some sort of proof, if he wanted to be taken seriously. Three days later, the Virgin Mary appeared again and told Juan Diego to pick the exquisitely beautiful roses that had miraculously bloomed amidst December snows, and take them as a sign to the bishop. When the Indian opened his poncho to present the roses to the bishop, the flowers poured out from his poncho to reveal an image of the Virgin Mary painted on the inside of the poncho.

That image hangs today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is venerated by millions of pilgrims from all over the world.

Significantly, Mary appeared not as a white-skinned, blue-eyed, blond-haired European Madonna but as a dark-skinned, brown-eyed, black-haired “Tonantzin,” the revered Indian Mother, and she spoke to Juan Diego not in cultured Castillian but in his own Nahuatal language. She spoke in the language of the powerless, disenfranchised, and despised Indians. She was then and is today, “La Morenita” – the Brown One. Her message to the bishop was that God’s church should be built out on the fringes of society, amidst the poor and the downtrodden. The vision challenged the powerful conquerors, the Spaniards of Mexico City, to change their way of thinking and acting. It challenged them to move out from their position of power and influence to the periphery; to leave their magnificent cathedral and build God’s house in Tepeyac – among the poor and the despised, away from the center of power and culture and education and the arts.

Guadalupe is a “vision” story and, like all such stories, tells us something about God and something about ourselves. More precisely, it tells us how God wants to be among us. St. Juan Diego’s vision of where God wants to be or whom we should listen to should come as no surprise to us. Throughout history, God has consistently chosen to be with poor people. In that respect, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s message to St. Juan Diego at Guadalupe is a restatement of Jesus’ mission: That God is in those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, naked, sick, stranger, and suffering. The challenge for us is to heed the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the message of Christ’s Gospel, and reach out to those who belong to the margins of our society.  – Source: The Manila Bulletin online.

O God, Father of mercies,

who placed your people under the singular protection

of your Son’s most holy Mother,

grant that all who invoke the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe

may seek with ever more lively faith

the progress of peoples in the way of justice and peace.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

~ The official prayer for the Feast

(May we lift up in prayer today those in our country ~ and certain media outlets ~ who have been known to demean the Mexican peoples that they would be uplifted by the Virgin’s message. And may we who celebrate this glorious feast today and attend holy Mass and pray for those who demean and cause hatred toward brown and black people everywhere. It truly IS the VISION message that Our Lady came to give us nearly five hundred years ago through a simple Mexican native man, overruling the Spanish Conquistadors and the Bishops: GOD PREFERS THE POOR!

Now here’s an explanation of the image . . . 

The image of Our Lady is actually an Aztec Pictograph

that was read and understood quickly by the Aztec Indians.

1.    THE LADY STOOD IN FRONT OF THE SUN

She was greater than the dreaded Huitzilopochtli, their sun-god of war.
2.    HER FOOT RESTED ON THE CRESCENT MOON
She had clearly crushed Quetzalcoatl,
the feathered serpent moon-god.
3.   THE STARS STREWN ACROSS THE MANTLE
She was greater than the stars of heaven which they worshiped.
She was a virgin and the Queen of the heavens for Virgo rests over her womb and the northern crown upon her head.
She appeared on December 12, 1531 and the stars that she wore are the constellations of the stars that appeared in the sky that day!
4.   THE BLUE‑GREEN HUE OF HER MANTLE
She was a Queen because she wears the color of royalty.
5.   THE BLACK CROSS ON THE BROOCH AT HER NECK
Her God was that of the Spanish Missionaries, Jesus Christ her son who died on the cross for all mankind.
6.   THE BLACK BELT
She was with child because she wore the Aztec Maternity Belt.
7.   THE FOUR PETAL FLOWER OVER THE WOMB
She was the Mother of God because the flower was a special symbol of
life, movement and deity-the center of the universe.
8. HER HANDS ARE JOINED IN PRAYER
She was not God but clearly there was one greater than Her and she pointed her finger to the cross on her brooch.
9. THE DESIGN ON HER ROSE COLORED GARMENT
She is the Queen of the Earth because she is wearing a contour map of Mexico telling the Indians exactly where the apparition took place.

10. The stars on Our Lady’s Mantle coincide with the constellations in the sky on December 12, 1531. All who have scientifically examined the image of Our Lady over the centuries confess that its properties are absolutely unique and so inexplicable in human terms that the image can only be supernatural!

Now in search of  a song to help celebrate the feast, the one I found was “Mananitas Guadalupe,” which means “break of day.” You’ll find them still at night, watching and waiting. Be patient. The Videographer will soon take you inside the church to witness something amazing for us gringos. Enjoy.

Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. CLICK HERE.

And here are today’s Mass readings. if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Advent Day 15 ~ Soar like an eagle!

The symbol for St. John is the eagle because he soars to the heights of mystical love

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

Isaiah is so amazing.  He offers hope. He sees imminent possibilities for the human race.

At times, he also warns and sometimes chastises.

I’ve always loved this scripture that appear in the Advent Mass texts:

God gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.

– Isaiah 40:30-31.  

So many of us become discouraged by life, especially after months and months of sheltering in place because of this pandemic. Many of us may lose our job or have been told that we no longer have the health benefits we once had for our family.

We grow older and have more aches and pains and worry more. Some of us are couch potatoes and don’t exercise enough and get more depressed.

After the weariness of this election, I’d say most of us could use an infusion of renewed strength for our personal lives and our families and hope for the future of our country.

In these latter days of Advent, think about the ways you can restore your vigor ~ or better ask the Lord to renew your strength! He will!  As he has done for me again and again and again! I’ve been down many times; but he never ceases to raise me up again.

And you might note that the symbol for John the evangelist is the eagle, because he soars to the heights of mystical glory in his writings. 

And today’s Gospel will comfort you too!  . . .

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves. 
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” 

The Advent season provides many texts to comfort us and offer us hope. God knows we need hope in our land today! and throughout the world.

I praise you, Lord, because you’ve restored my vigor in marvelous ways.  

You have renewed my strength again and again.  

Please allow our young people to soar as if on eagle’s wings, 

and our older folk to borne up on the wings of Your love, Lord.  

Yes, as I grow older, I’m ready to renew my priestly service to You, Lord,

as long as you grant me the grace, the vigor and the strength.  

Whatever You will, Lord. Whatever you will – for all of us! Amen.

Now, before you go, here is one of our great Catholic liturgical songs ~ “On Eagles’ Wings” Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.  

Here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. It’s the lovely feast of St. John of the Cross. (Below, I’ll provide you a link if you’d like to know some more about this lovely poet and co-founder of the reformed Carmelite Order alongside St. Teresa of Avila in the sixteenth century.) For today’s readings, Click here. 

 St.John of the Cross is known especially for his writings. He was mentored by and corresponded with the older Carmelite, Teresa of Avila. Both his poetry and his studies on the development of the  soul are considered the summit of all Spanish literature. Read more. 

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Advent Day 9 ~ Where are you going? Do ya know?

Advent Day 9 ~ Monday, December 7, 2020

“Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”  Isaiah 40:3

This image was taken on I-95 between St. Augustine and Jacksonville one misty December Sunday morning about 2 AM.  I was living in St. Augustine at the time (2006).

On my way home from “Father Bob’s night out,” I was so taken by the magic of the vista before me I had to pull off and capture it on my Canon Power Shot.

For me, even the Interstate can be a place for reflection. . .

I was thinking of John the Baptist’s message that also appeared in yesterday’s (Sunday’s) gospel:

“Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.”

And this was what I wrote back then, inspired by that moment on the side of a highway at 2 AM on a magical, mystical Sunday morning.

Where are we going, Lord?

Every day we’re on a journey that will not be complete until we meet You.

In our daily commutes, stuck in traffic, are we making progress in our spiritual journey, Lord?

Are we making a straight highway in the spiritual wasteland I sometimes think America is today, Lord?

John’s message was one of repentance.

When he said, “make straight his paths,” he meant  to clear a way for the coming of God into our hearts and souls.

Are we getting rid of the roadblocks that stop us from making progress.  Our addictions.  Our resentments. Our selfishness?

If we don’t make an effort to do that, our Christmas will be hollow, empty, Lord.

In all of our pre-Christmas bustle and hustle are we preparing a straight path for you to come
into our hearts, our homes, our workplace, our land, our world this Christmas?

What are we doing, Lord?  Really doing with our lives?

Where is our life’s journey taking us?

What is life really  all about?

I-95 at 2 AM can help us ponder that question.

I realized that was a special moment for me; a moment I seized.

Or rather seized me.

Carpe diem.

Thank you, Lord.

On Monday morning many commuters would return to  their frenzied  ~  furied  ~ hurried ~ harried ~unaware ~ unreflected lives  going to and fro and not knowing really where they’re going or what they were doing or why.

Time for You to change, dear friend?  Time for a change?

Now before you go,here’s another video from Godspell: Where are You Going? Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. (The First reading from Isaiah is a wonderful piece of prose; try reading it aloud.) Click here.

 With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 8 ~ The Messenger of the Son of God ~ You can be his messenger too!

Second Sunday of Advent~ December 6. 2020

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The emergence of John the Baptist, Scripture scholar William Barclay states, was like “the sudden sounding of the Voice of God.” Why? Because the prophets of Israel had been silent for four hundred years and the Jewish people were sadly conscious of that fact. And in today’s gospel, we find large crowds of people coming to hear John preach and to stand in line to be baptized by him.

He gave people hope and challenged people to do what they ought to do; to be what they could be in a time when the world was crazy and mixed up, very similar to our own time. But he also denounced evil wherever he found it, in the state, in among the religious leaders, among the crowd.

The baptist was a wiry character, living on the edge of the desert; he wore a shirt of camel’s hair in the hot sun, which would have been quite uncomfortable according to our standards.   The scriptures record that he also wore a leather belt around his waist and his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey. (Locusts are like grasshoppers.)   Have you ever had a chocolate-covered grasshopper? Actually they’re not bad. Kind of crunchy, very nutritious, with lots of protein.

People were beginning to think great things about John. Large crowds came to hear him.

His message: “Repent,  for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

(Yeah, I know.  You’ve heard that a zillion times before by street corner prophets.)

In our respectable Sunday assemblies, he would probably be looked upon with scorn;  he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Advance Man for the Son of God.  But that’s what he was.  (And we better pay attention to his message because it is critical for our own times.)

He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias, his wife, demanded his head on a platter.

John was a prophet . . .

Presbyterian Scripture scholar William Barclay offers this commentary on this gospel passage.

The Baptist’s message summoned his people to righteousness. He pointed beyond himself. It was the Jewish belief that Elijah would return before the Messiah would come, and he would be the herald of the coming King (Malachi 4:5).  So, they saw him as the new Elijah.

Then he makes this interesting observation: In ancient times in the East, the roads were bad.  Ordinary roads were no more than tracks. But Solomon built a causeway of black basalt stone that lead to Jerusalem for pilgrims.  They were built by the king and for the king and called “the king’s highway.”

A voice crying out in the wilderness

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

John was preparing the way for the king. The preacher, the teacher with the prophetic voice, points not to himself but to God.

He said he was not fit to carry the sandals of the one who was to come. Carrying sandals was the duty of a slave. John’s whole attitude was self-obliteration.  “He must increase; I must decrease,” John the evangelist would have him say.

Then John warned the Pharisees. he called them “a brood of vipers!” trying to flee the wrath to come. Barclay suggests John was thinking of the possibility of fire in the desert. A river of flame could sweep across the desert and snakes and scorpions and other creatures could be sent scurrying for their lives. (He called the Pharisees “A brood of Vipers.” Jesus said,  ” do not think you can say ‘ you have Abraham as your father.” And it was Jewish thought that the children of Abraham were safe from the “Wrath to come” simply by being Jews. But they were hedging their bets by coming to John for baptism!

Then came the promise. He said that “One would come to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The word for spirit  for the Jews was ruah,  meaning  breath; also meaning wind and, thus, power,  because wind drives ships. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of power.  The Spirit brought truth to God’s people.

And as for the fire, it connotes illumination, warmth, purification.  But there is also a threat.  The winnowing fan on the treshing floor will separate the wheat from the chaff.  In Christianity, there is no escape from the eternal choice.

In John. there is the basic demand: “REPENT!” And that is the basic demand of Jesus himself, “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  The Jewish word for repentance is itself interesting teshuba, from the verb shub, which means simply “to turn.”  Repentance is a turning away from evil and a turning towards God.  In Greek, the word is metanoia, and also means to turn around.  Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker that says “God allows U-turns.”  Repentance is always available. No case is hopeless for repentance; no one is beyond repentance. The Rabbis said, “Let not a man say, ‘Because I have sinned, no repair is possible for me’ but let him trust in God, and God will receive him.     (Barclay ~ The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 pp. 43-58.)

And so, the Christmas message is that Love has entered the world.

As we enter this second week of Advent, let’s ask ourselves:

How can I prepare the way for the Lord  (or Love) ? 

By being our own messenger of Jesus (or Love)

at home, at the office, in my neighborhood,

in our country, in our politics,

in our world  ~ during this coming week.

God’s message to us in the Christmas story is Love.

That’s why he was born, entering our world as a vulnerable baby.

And that’s why he died – vulnerable / bound / nailed –

because the Father wanted us to have evidence that he loved us.

And in turn, his message is . . .

Love one another as I have loved you.  

Try it. Be a messenger yourself this week in some little way.

Now, listen and watch Prepare the Way of the Lord  from Godspell. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen .Click here.  (Get a chuckle out of Jesus’ 1973 ‘Fro.)  

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

 

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Advent Day 5 ~ How Firm is your foundation? Is it on sand or rock?

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Today’s readings talk about how our God provides a firm foundation on which we can build.

The first read from Isaiah (28: 1-8)  . . . .

On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:

“A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just {. . .}

Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.

And here’s Jesus in today’s gospel: (Matthew 7: 24-27)

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house. 
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand. 
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house. 
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

Advent is a time for us to check the foundation of our house ~ our spiritual house. If we find that our house has termites or is built on sand rather than a solid foundation, we may be in trouble.  So, is your spiritual house on a solid foundation?

God is solid rock. He’s the best investment we can make, much more solid than Prudential’s Rock of Gibraltar. 

Now here’s my prayer .  .  .

Dear God,

You have shown us from the very beginning that you are our Rock,

and there is no other.

You showed that to Noah and to Abraham and Isaac and to Moses and Aaron,

and then down to the prophets and kings of Israel.

The prophets foretold the coming of the precursor about whom we will learn next Sunday. 

We ask you once again to be Our Rock and our Salvation, this day and always. Amen.

And today Jesus himself warns us to get our house in order and to check our foundations for he himself is our Rock ~ the Rock of Ages as the old hymn says it. And here it is for your listening pleasure click here. 

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer  

Advent Day 4 ~ Our God becomes flesh

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

IToday, let’s reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation ~ the Christmas portion of our faith. (Again if you don’t accept this as an article of faith, then just consider it as a beautiful story; it still has power and it still can have tremendous meaning for you.)

St. John says “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Jesus saves us as man.  If you look at the word “Incarnation” you’ll recognize the word  “carnal” ~ meat, flesh.  Our God became flesh.

“He emptied himself of his equality with God and became as humans are” (Philippians 2). The Father sent his Son into our world to identify with us. To become one of us and with us.

God likes us ~ the human race! In Jesus, a marriage is made between God and the human race. 

But this article of our Christian faith often doesn’t dawn on folks. Many think he was just play-acting ~ pretending to be human.

I offer this passage  (excerpted) from St. Gregory Nazianzen, bishop and doctor of the church in the fourth century from the Advent Office of Readings:

He [Jesus] takes to himself all that is human, except sin; i.e. unfaithfulness).

He comes forth as God, in the human nature he has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit.

“Spirit gave divinity, flesh receives it.

He who makes me rich is made poor;

he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of divinity.

He who was full is made empty;

he is emptied for a brief space of glory, that I may share in his fullness.”

We need God to become one of us and with us.

To help us like and love ourselves.

To realize that Love and Beauty and all good things are our destiny.

To invite us to our future instead of destroying ourselves.

If only we believed.

If only we believed.

(Please take a moment to read over this a couple of times to get the full import of what St. Gregory is saying in his poetry.)

And if you’re new to this Advent blog,  or would like a refresher, I recommend reading Welcome to Advent.Click here.  Please read this! I just re-read myself and you know what? It even motivated me to do this Advent even better! So I encourage ya to read it; it’s been updated too.   (And once again, don’t forget to click on the < back arrow on the top left-hand corner of your browser so you can come right back to this page!)

Take time today to allow this story of God’s love affair with the human race to touch you, embrace you, heal your heart and transform your life as it has mine.   

The season of Advent is about preparing our hearts once again for a deeper experience of Christ at Christmas. Here’s a wonderful hymn that supports today’s theme: “Let all mortal men keep silence. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d care to reflect on them. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Be Watchful! Be Alert! You don’t know when . . .

The First Sunday of Advent 2020 ~ November 29, 2020

Be Watchful! Be Alert! You don’t know when . . .

It’s kinda interesting. Advent begins at The End instead of The Beginning. The End of Age and the end of our lives. This blog and  today’s readings would have us think about these things.

At a certain point in life, the deep desires and cravings of our heart reach a point of eruption in us. Yet at the same time comes the awareness that we cannot bring about what we want—we don’t have inside us what’s needed to fulfill and satisfy our longings. And so, with our infinite yearnings we turn to the Infinite and cry, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.” Our experience of helplessness before our boundless human need moves us to ask for fellowship with God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The nature of our desire assures us as we enter into Advent that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. “The Lord of the house is coming” “Be watchful! Be Alert!”   (the December 2017 Magnificat liturgical magazine)

And so, the Church begins a New Year this Sunday as we turn from the Cycle A readings of the Gospel of Matthew to the Cycle B readings of the Gospel of Mark—the shortest of them all. And as tradition has it, we begin with “the End”—a warning of what is to come. The Gospel is from 13:33-37—just before Mark’s account of the Passion.

“Jesus said to his disciples: Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come” (13:33).

Be Watchful: Jesus will urge this again during his agony in Gethsemane.

A Fifth Century writer: If each person is ignorant of their own day of judgment, they will contend to be baptized at their final breath, as a result of which they will enter eternity bereft of good works—saved by faith but unable to manifest its works. [ . . .] Jesus adds all but saying, “The reason I did not tell you the day is so that, not knowing you might watch and pray and keep awake, showing that if people knew when they were going to die, all would be virtuous only at that hour.”

Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning” (13:35).

 The Lord may come in the evening as he does at the Last Supper. He may come at midnight as he does in the garden of Gethsemane when he was handed over by his betrayer. He may come when the cock crows—the time Peter denies him. Or he may come in the morning: the time of the Resurrection.

May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping” (13:36).

Mary Healy: “Jesus warns that he may come suddenly and find them sleeping—which is just what happened during the agony in Gethsemane (Mk 14:3-41). To be asleep signifies spiritual laziness and self-indulgence (Rom 11:8); to be awake is to be alive in faith (Rom 13:11; Eph 5:14).

St. Augustine: “It is clear that God takes no pleasure in condemning. His desire is to save, and he bears patiently with evil people in order to make them good. Do you despise him and think his judgment a matter of no account because he is good to you, because he is long-suffering and bears with you patiently, because he delays the day of reckoning and does not destroy you out of hand?”

“What I say to you, I say to all: ’Watch!’” (13:37).

The Scripture-scholar William Barclay would summarize this by saying Jesus’ words here tell us a couple of things about the doctrine of the Second Coming.

~ It tells us it contains a fact we forget or disregard at our peril.

~ it tells us that the imagery in which it is clothed is the imagery of Jesus’ own time and that to speculate on it is useless, when Jesus himself was content not to know. The one thing of which we can be sure is that history is going somewhere; there is a consummation to come.

~ It tells us that of all things to forget God and to become immersed in earth is most foolish. The wise person is one who never forgets that the need to be ready when the summons comes. If we live in that memory, the end will not be terror, but eternal joy.

The first reading from Isaiah is a wonderful piece of prose . . .

 You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever.

Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old.

No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.
Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!
Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people,
all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves,
and our guilt carries us away like the wind. (Isaiah 63)

Yes, we should be  . . .
prepared ~ watchful ~ alert ~ aware ~ awake
knowing what’s happening
. . .  but so many of us are asleep, Lord.
We tend to not recognize the signs of the times.
We often dull our senses; stay in our own little worlds,
choosing not to care.

We’re often complacent, Lord.
Many don’t want to be bothered pondering or praying about the real issues.
We’re into Cyber Monday bargains and wowed by the latest iphone.

But deep down we’re fearful and anxious, caused by threats
. . . of Covid 19, of losing our job having a lump in our breast 
losing health insurance because of Congress’ latest whim.Global warming / gun violence /
corruption in our government
China/ Iran / ISIS / cyber war.

“Stand erect,” the Gospel says.

Face your fears with courage.
Don’t fear the terror of the night (Psalm 91.)
That’s what Advent faith is all about . . .
Being vigilant.  Being prepared for anything life throws at us.
Standing proudly humble or humbly proud ~ no matter what.

That’s the kind of faith in life ~ in You, my God, that I seek.
I want it. I ask you for it.
Today I consent to it.
Amen.  So be it!

+ + + + +
There will  be fresh blog posts  (God willin’ n’ the creek don’t rise) almost every day of Advent till Christmas.

Why not make this Christmas season a special one for you ~ a meaningful one?

Now before you go, here’s a song to get you in an Advent mood Click here. enter full screen and turn up your speakers.  (But before you do that, notice that there is a < arrow of some sort on the top left-hand corner of your browser. Be sure to click on that once you’ve viewed the first video, so that it will bring you back to this page so you can view today’s readings on the link below it.)

(Here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love,
Have a wonderful Advent! I’ll see you again on Monday morning.
Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Advent Day 2 ~ Swords to plowshares ~ Guns to roses

The price of peace paid by the Prince of Peac
The price of peace paid by the Prince of Peace

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Dear Friends,

There’s a powerful sentence in Isaiah that has been quoted by statesmen seeking disarmament throughout the Twentieth Century . . . .

They shall beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not take up sword against nation,

nor will they train for war anymore. — Isaiah 2:4.

All of my adult life my writing and my prayer has been against war —

Viet Nam / the Balkans / the Gulf  War / Iraq / and now this never-ending war in Afghanistan.

Pope Paul VI, speaking before the United Nations General Assembly made an impassioned plea:

“No more war! Never again war!”

Pope John Paul II said the Iraq war was a defeat for humanity.

And Dwight David Eisenhower, the great general of Word War II and President of the U.S. said: “When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing.” 

Pope Francis in his New Year’s message at the beginning of this year wrote: 

 Peace, a journey of hope in the face of obstacles and trial

Peace is a great and precious value, the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family. Our world is paradoxically marked by “a perverse dichotomy that tries to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust, one that ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any form of dialogue.

Advent is a time to wish for peace ~ pray for peace ~ work for peace.

The Christmas story is about peace.  One of the titles of Jesus is “Prince of Peace as you see in this image on this side altar in the Anglican National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

But we become cynical about peace.

Many of us have our private little wars that we engage in every day with a sibling or a friend or co-worker.

Let’s “Practice peacefulness”, as a friend put it to me once.  Let’s stop the gossiping, giving people a chance. Try  to be kinder to the folks you interact with today.

The legend of St. Christopher carrying a child across a stream on a stormy night invites us to greet every human person as if they were Christ himself.

Think thoughts of peace.  Be peace.  At least try it today, the second day of Advent.

I will hear what the Lord God has to say,

a voice that speaks of peace,

peace for his people and his friends.

and those who turn to him in their hearts.

Mercy and faithfulness have met;

Justice and peace have embraced.

Faithfulness shall spring from the earth

and justice look down from heaven.

The Lord will make us prosper

and the earth shall yield its fruit.

Justice shall march before him

and peace shall follow his steps.

Psalm 85

And if you’re new to this Advent blog, or want to refresh your understanding of the season, I recommend reading >> Welcome to Advent to get a sense of why we spend four weeks preparing for our Christmas celebration and how it can help us deepen our spirituality. It can work whether you are a Catholic or just interested in your spirituality.  (In order to return to this page, you’ll need to use the back arrow <  on the top left-hand corner of your browser.)

Before you go here’s a great music video from people gathered from around the world ~ “Let there be peace on earth”. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. 

And here are today’s Mass readings; it’s the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. (Wish everybody you know whose name is Andrew a “happy name day!”   Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Let us give thanks for everything!

THANKSGIVING DAY 2020

In years past for my Thanksgiving blog, I made a list of some of the things for which I was thankful over the past year and have probably bored you by now with a list that hasn’t changed much at all. (I don’t tool around Ft. Lauderdale any more in my red Mitsubishi eclipse spyder convertible.)  I have a red 2011 mustang hard top instead, which I am very grateful to own along with the finance company.

So I’ve reached out to some old friends and asked them to share their thoughts with me and I’ll tell you how I know them.

 

Monsignor Jim Fetcher is the pastor of St. Sebastian’s  beachside parish here in Ft. Lauderdale and has been a friend and mentor of mine for a number of years . . .

I’m grateful that COVID-19 has given me an appreciation of people, even my “thorns,” because we’re all in this together, like it or not.” 

 

I’ve known Mrs. Chris DiComo  (and her husband Chuck) for about thirty years when I was stationed in St. Bartholomew’s parish they live in about thirty miles south of here in Miramar. We’ve kept a close personal friendship all these years . . .

“I am grateful that the Lord has seen fit to give me the strength to care for a loved one, while dealing with my own difficulties. In addition I am grateful for two wonderful sons and their wives, who are always there for me when I encounter a problem.”

 

I’ve known Mrs. Chris Lafser for about fifty years since my seminary years at Theological College in DC and then all the way through at different points and visiting at her home and watching her three children grow up. She and her husband Bill live in Richmond, Virginia. . . . .

“I am grateful for my family – For my loving husband, and my dear children, and now precious grandchildren. But for the last several years, I have been more and more aware of what a special gift my parents were.  They showed me that they loved me, shared their faith with actions, not just words, provided structure, safety and love.  They gave me confidence, encouragement, and discipline.  They were humble and kind, and exemplified hospitality and charity to all.  They were brave, and funny, fun-loving, and creative, hard working and generous.  It is because of their love that I can believe in the loving God.” 

 

I’ve known George Ducharme for sixty years now and he is one of my closest friends. We met at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Connecticut and he invited me to his home for thanksgiving because I was a Floridian and, though distance is an issue, we are as close as ever. He and his partner at Communitas, Pat Beeman, work with people with disabilities all over the state of Connecticut.  . . .

“Thank you for asking me to share a moment of Profound Gratitude!

For me Friday, August 21 is a special day for us! This day we (Pat Beeman and our Communitas Family) celebrated the stolen life of Richard LaPointe (age 74). I was his conservator till his death on 8/4/2020! Richard was imprisoned for 26 years for a crime he did not commit!  With the remarkable pro bono work of Centurion Ministries he was exonerated and freed in 2015!  He always had a smile and positive attitude for his 5 years of freedom! I am profoundly grateful to have had him in my life for 31 years!  Peace and Blessings.”

 

I’ve known Msgr. Ray East since I was in Washington, DC in the early 1980’s. He was a young priest at the time; I was 40.  I’ve always loved living in Washington. Ray and I became fast friends during that time and have been ever since. Today, he is the pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in southeast Washington across the river. Ray is black and the parish is largely a poor black parish. And he wrote this magnificent piece for us . . .

“Today, as I prepare for another funeral on Saturday, I am grateful for the MINISTRY OF BEREAVEMENT in this time of COVID19. I am grateful for God’s grace poured out on those front-line hospital personnel who hold the hands of the dying and close their eyes after their last agonizing breath. I am grateful for hospice nurses who come to my neighborhood late at night.  I’m thankful for police officers and medical examiners, and  for funeral home personnel who come to pick up the body of a loved one who has died at home.  I’m thankful for funeral directors who go the extra mile to make services affordable and dignified.

I am grateful for parishioners whose ministry involves sitting with families and patiently planning  funeral liturgies. I could not pastor without those members who are always ready to usher and read and cantor and play instruments and who clean up afterwards and get ready for the next funeral.  I am grateful for our deacon who always serves at the altar, accompanies me to the cemetery, and locks up the church after every funeral. I thank God for our Catholic Cemeteries personnel who help me find resources to bury the poor. I’m grateful for the un-thanked caretakers who dig the graves, cover them with earth and who keep the cemeteries beautiful. And finally I thank Our Creator for the bereavement ministry member, the hospice staff volunteer and the friend who calls the family a year later and asks: “How are YOU doing?”

I also asked two friends outside the United States to contribute as well.

I’ve known Marie Denis for the past twelve years or so since I’ve been living in this Condo Association. She’s a Canadian, living in Ottawa, and one of our “snowbirds”and a nearby neighbor of mine on the first floor when she comes south. My dog Shoney liked to go to her door to see what’s up.

‘’It is a pleasure to tell you how grateful I am to see two of my grand daughters with their little ones regularly. The four babies are 3 yrs to 8 weeks old. It’s a blessing for me and I thank God every day”

 

I mostly know Michael Moshe Shein, Esq. from Facebook because we’ve only met in person once outside the Broward County Jail as both of us were waiting to see inmates! Moshe and his family live in Israel but still has an office here in Fort Lauderdale. He keeps me up to date on their family Jewish customs. .  .

“B”H – I’m grateful, thank G-d to be able to connect with my friends and family worldwide through technology, even if I am not with them physically.”

 

Now there are two more.

This one is mine .  . .

“The day my little dog Shoney passed—this past May 23rd .  He shared my home and my life intimately for eleven years. If you’ve never had a furry companion, they have a way of burrowing a way into your heart. I was so thankful for the loving-kindness he gave to me all those years. His last day with us was the day before my 51st ordination anniversary so I’ll never forget him.”

 

And I leave the last word to my bishop, Bishop John Noonan of the Diocese of Orlando .  .  .

“Thanksgiving may be different this year; not having our families around us, but there is something that will never change and that is the meaning of Thanksgiving. Giving thanks is recognizing God’s grace in our lives. So let give thanks to God for the many gifts, family, friends, faith, freedom, forgiveness, peace, hope, love, and more.” 

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.

He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

  And now before you go, here’s a hymn for you, “For the Beauty of the Earth” Click here. 

Advent begins this Sunday. I will publish my blog for the first Sunday of Advent on Friday. Also Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC is in Rome to receive his red hat as a cardinal! He will be the first black cardinal in the U. S. Please pray for him.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

 

The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe

The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ                      King of the Universe                                                ~ Sunday November 22, 2020

Today’s feast is Good News for most of us who are weary (and fed up?) with all that’s gone down with the election and it’s aftermath and the Pandemic too.  There are two sections to my comments. First are those on the scriptures of the day followed by a reflection on the title of today’s Feast. I just did a bit of research in the liturgical archives: this feast has gotten an upgrade! Before it was just “The Feast of Christ the King.” Now it’s the Feast (we give it the fancy name of Solemnity) of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe.  That offers us a lot more richness for our spirituality and even our politics as you’ll see in a few moments.

In our last blog, we shared about the worldwide organization ONE devoted to caring for the poor, a humanitarian organization putting pressure on the governments of the world to do what they should be doing in caring for the least of society. 

Now here are the opening lines of today’s gospel . . . .

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. 
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome . . . .

Scripture scholar William Barclay, thinks this is one of the ‘most vivid’ parables Jesus ever told, and that his lesson is very clear—that God will judge us according to how we react to human need.  He won’t judge us by the amount of knowledge we’re able to cleverly use, or the fame or social status that we’ve acquired, or the wealth that we’ve somehow amassed, but the help we’ve given.  And he suggests that the parable describes how we should give.

Whatever we do, must be help in simple things. The things Jesus picks out—giving a hungry beggar a meal or a thirsty child a drink, welcoming a stranger or a new neighbor, cheering the sick, visiting a prisoner—are things anyone can do. These don’t require giving away hundreds or thousands of dollars or even just twenty. These are things we can do when we meet people every day.

The second point Jesus seems to make is that our giving must be uncalculating; that is, “so we could get our eternal reward” or get in the good graces of the bishop or the mayor!  Our attitude should simply be to help because we could not stop ourselves. To help as the result of a natural, instinctive reaction of a loving heart, without any calculation.

The attitude of those of those who failed to help was: “If we had known it was you we would’ve gladly helped, but we thought it was some common man not worth helping.” There are those who’ll help if they’ll get the praise and publicity, but that’s not help, it’s to pander to self-aggrandizement; it’s certainly not generosity.

*  *  *  *

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

And as we look forward to Thanksgiving and Advent and Christmas—the New Year and the upcoming inauguration of our new president, this feast brings us, not just a sigh of relief from all we’ve been through this past year and, for me at least, but an explosion of new hope and wonder as we realize we the implications of living in Jesus’ kin-dom here and now!

I was blown away by the insights of famed Franciscan author Father Richard Rohr’s recent book The Universal Christ from which I unabashedly quote extensively here.

I am making the whole of creation new . . .    It will come true . . . It is already done!             I am the Alpha and the Omega, both the Beginning and the End.                                            ~ Revelations 21:5-6

Jesus didn’t normally walk around Judea making “I AM” statements; if he did, he very soon would have ended up being stoned to death. He didn’t normally talk that way. But when we look at the phrase we all love, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” we see a very fair statement that should not offend or threaten anyone. He’s describing the “Way” by which all humans and all religions must allow matter and Spirit to operate as one.

Once we see that the Eternal Christ is the one talking in these passages, Jesus’ words about the nature of God—and those created in the image of God—seem full of deep hope and a broad vision for all of creation.

The leap of faith that the orthodox Christians made from the early period was that the eternal Christ presence was truly speaking through the person of Jesus. Divinity and humanity were somehow able to speak as one, for if the union of God and humankind is “true” in Jesus, there is hope that it might be true in all of us too. That is the big takeaway from having Jesus speak as the Eternal Christ. He is indeed “the pioneer and perfector of our faith,” as Hebrew puts it (12:2).

As the “Father of Orthodoxy,” St. Athanasius (296—375) wrote when the church had a more social, historical and revolutionary sense of itself: “God was consistent in working through man to reveal himself everywhere, as well as through the other parts of creation, so that nothing was left devoid of his Divinity and self-knowledge . . . so that the whole universe was filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters fill the sea”. ~ Athanasius De Incarnatione Verbe 45           

I have a note in the margin or Rohr’s book at that quote: WOW!!!

Athanasius was writing in the Fourth Century! Think about that when today we’ve seen images of  our blue planet taken from the moon; when scientists are discovering black holes and other solar systems beyond our own.  And mystics like Athanasius are still with us too!   And yet for a Christian—Catholic or otherwise—who clings only to Jesus as their personal savior in a “Jesus and me” kind of faith is much too myopic and narrow-minded—Rohr would say, and therefore missing the real depth of their faith.

As a counterpoint, he says, the Eastern church, has a sacred word for this process, which in the West we call “incarnation” or “salvation”.  They call it “divinization (theosis).  If that sounds provocative, Rohr suggests, know that they are building on 2 Peter 1:4 where the author says, “He has given us something very great and wonderful  . . . . you are able to share the divine nature!

Most Catholics and Protestants still think of the incarnation as a one-time and one-person event having to only with the person of Jesus of Nazareth, instead of a cosmic event that has soaked all of history in the Divine Presence from the very beginning.  Therefore, this implies . . .

·      That God is not an old man on a throne. God is Relationship itself, a dynamism of Infinite Love between Divine Diversity, as the doctrine of the Trinity demonstrates.    

·      That God’s infinite love has always included all that God created from the very beginning (Ephesians 1:3-14). The Torah  (first five books of the Hebrew bible) calls it “covenant love,” an unconditional agreement, both offered and consummated on God’s side (even if we don’t reciprocate)      

·      That the Divine “DNA” of the Creator is therefore held in all creatures.  What we call the “soul” of every creature could easily be seen as the self-knowledge of God in that creature!  It knows who it is and grows into its identity, just like as seed and egg.

Faith at its essential core is accepting that you are accepted! We cannot deeply know ourselves without knowing the One who made us, and cannot fully accept ourselves without accepting God’s radical acceptance of every part of ourselves. And God’s impossible acceptance of ourselves is easier to grasp if we first recognize the perfect unity of the human Jesus with the divine Christ. Start with Jesus, continue with yourself, and finally expand to everything else. As John says, “From the fullness (pleroma) we have all received grace upon grace “(1:16).

And for my concluding prayer this day, I rely on the wisdom of David in Psalm 37 . . . .

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.

For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.

Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and [fn]cultivate faithfulness

Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart

Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday

Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes

Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.

For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land

Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there

But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.    

When I prayed this psalm the other evening, it calmed me because of our present post-election / pre-inauguration quandary and anxiety, It was just perfect for what I was thinking and feeling. Perhaps for you as well.

I will offer my Mass on Sunday for all of you, my readers—for yours and your families’ needs and intentions, Blessings to you this day!

Now before you go, I’m offering you a choice of music.

The first is “Crown Him with Many Crowns with about 3,000 voices. Click here,

The second is “Worthy is the Lamb” by the Australian young people’s group Hilsong.  Clickhere, And here are the Mass readings for today’s Feast, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

Acknowledgements  . . . .
William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Matthew –Volume 2 revised edition / The Westminster Press Philadelphia 1958
Richard Rohr The Universal Christ / Convergent Books New York 2019

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

 

 

 

 

 

The Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael ~ Have you been touched by an angel?

Have you been one of those who’ve been fascinated by angels? Many have, whether they’ve been into religion or not. You may recall the popular TV series Touched by an Angel, starring Della Reese, Roma Downey, Toby Keith that ran from 1994- 2003.

 The Feast of the Archangel

Michael, Gabriel and  Raphael

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Angels have a very big role in the Bible and in our history. Angels have been declared a part of our dogmatic Catholic tradition;. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in Paragraph 328:

The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith.

The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition. For Jews, it’s impossible to not believe in the literal beings known as angels because the Old Testament makes numerous references to them. For them, it’s an article of faith that cannot be ignored if you want to be a sincere and devout Jew. Witness the angel that led Israel’s camp and protected them from Pharaoh.

The same is especially true of Christians. In addition to what is given to us in the Old Testament, almost every book of the New Testament shows us that the angels are a real and active force in our lives. And in the life of Jesus as man and his eternal existence as God has numerous encounters with the angels, you cannot believe in Jesus as Christ without encountering angels.

So what are angels? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in Paragraphs 329-330:

St. Augustine says: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel.’” With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they “always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” they are the “mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word”. (329)

As purely spiritual creatures, angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness. (330)

Christian doctrine thus teaches that the angels are spiritual beings who were created by God to serve him. Some say they can appear in human form and interact with us, but those bodies are only temporary illusions and pass away when their interaction with certain humans ends. As purely spiritual beings, angels thus do not have DNA and those bodies may feel tangible but are not part of the angelic nature and thus vanish after the encounter because they have no use for physical bodies as we do. (Think of Tobias’ encounter with Rafael). But as created beings, they exist within time as we do and do not know the future unless God reveals it to them.

What is the purpose of the angels?

The purpose of all of the angels is to serve, and praise God, worship, and pray to God. In the process of serving God, they also protect us, pray for us, inspire us, encourage us, and guide us during our journey on Earth. Some early Christian traditions indicate that even after our death, the angels continue to guide us in our journey to our final place, whether it is to Heaven or to Hell. It is speculative that those who have to go through the final state of purification on the way to Heaven known as Purgatory might also have their guardian angels (Psalm 91:9-12; Matthew 18:1-4,10) with them during their time of purification of sin.

And yes, everyone has a guardian angel. As Paragraph 336 of the Catechism tells us:

“From it’s beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.”

Our Guardian Angels love us and do everything within God’s Will to protect us from harm. Sometimes though we reject God’s protection, and by consequence theirs, when we reject God, we have to deal with the consequences of our sins when we do not repent.

Angels also pray for us. We see in Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 that the angels continue to sing and pray to God, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!” We also see in Tobit 12:12 and Revelation 5:8 and 8:3 that along with the Saints who are in Heaven, the angels serve as intercessors for us in prayer to God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:10 not to despise or bring harm to children, “for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

   Cf. Catholic 365.com for the above information.

St. Gregory the Great notes that angels do not have names unless and until they are given a mission from God to announce a message. There are untold millions of angels in heaven, all created as pure spirits, in continual praise and adoration of our God. Our faith tradition teaches us that God assigns to each of us a “guardian angel” to protect and guide us in our daily effort to grown in wisdom and grace. Scripture also makes clear that at great events of salvation history, God sends an “archangel” to proclaim a message.

The three Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are three of the seven archangels named in Sacred Scripture and all three have important roles in the history of salvation.

Saint Michael is the “Prince of the Heavenly Host,” the leader of all the angels. His name is Hebrew for “Who is like God?” and was the battle cry of the good angels against Lucifer and his followers when they rebelled against God. He is mentioned four times in the Bible, in Daniel 10 and 12, in the letter of Jude, and in Revelation.

Michael, whose forces cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell, is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil. Pope Leo XIII, in 1899, having had a prophetic vision of the evil that would be inflicted upon the Church and the world in the 20th century, instituted a prayer asking for Saint Michael’s protection to be said at the end of every Mass. (I’ll include that prayer at the bottom of this blog, though it was suppressed with the Vatican II changes in the liturgy.)

Christian tradition recognizes four offices of Saint Michael: (i) to fight against Satan (ii) to rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death. (iii) to be the champion of God’s people, (iv) to call away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment.

Gabriel is, he who stand before God.” (Luke 1, 19)

Saint Gabriel, whose name means “God’s strength,” is mentioned four times in the Bible. Most significant are Gabriel’s two mentions in the New Testament: to announce the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and at Incarnation of the Word when he announces to Mary that she will be the Mother of the Most High and again appeared to Joseph in a dream and guided them on their way to Egypt to flee from Herod’s clutches.

Christian tradition suggests that it is he who appeared to the shepherds, and also that it was he who “strengthened” Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.

“I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tob 12:15)

Saint Raphael, whose name means “God has healed” because of his healing of Tobias’ blindness in the Book of Tobit.  Tobit is the only book in which he is mentioned. His office is generally accepted by tradition to be that of healing and acts of mercy.

Raphael is also identified with the angel in John 5:1-4 who descended upon the pond and bestowed healing powers upon it so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity he was suffering.

And let’s not forget our unnamed guardian angels. I’ve dubbed my own guardian angel Claretia— after the famous guardian angel Clarence—in the old movie with Jimmy Stewart it’s a Wonderful Life. All I know is she’s gotten me out of a helluva a lot of scrapes—near car accidents and falls and all. That’s what guardian angels do for us, ya know. They just watch over us Their Feast Day for our guardian angels is October 2nd. Do you remember the prayer your mother taught you? (I don’t know whether young parents still teach their children this little prayer or not.) But you can teach it to them now.

Angel of God, my guardian dear,

to whom God’s love commits me here;

ever this day be at my side; to light, to guard, to rule, to guide. Amen

And here’s Psalm 91 that speaks of the protection of the angels . . . .

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

 You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
 A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

I have always recommended this psalm to people who were experiencing any kind of trauma, for them to pray often. It reflects what soldiers on the battlefield have often known: bullets whizzing by them and not harming them. Their angel protecting them!

And here’s this psalm set to music. Click here

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

And here’s the old prayer to St. Michael.

Saint Michael Archangel,
defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ~ September 14, 2020

 

Jesus had said this to his disciples shortly after his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I’m thinking about the issue of Dying to Self these September days because this favorite feast day of mine brings me back to a long association with the Cistercian Abbey of the Holy Cross in Berryville,Virginia, nestled on the Western side of the first ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the shore of the Shenandoah River. I’m also thinking of the issue of Dying to Self these September days because of some personal issues as I’m preparing to move back to my home diocese of Orlando.

If you name the trauma(s) that have altered your life over the years . . . how did you deal with them? How did they affect you? What about Dying to Self?  Can you ~ do you ~ do that?

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24.) Does this make sense to you?

For you? In another place, Jesus says to his disciples . . .

If any wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? (Luke 9:24-26 ~ NRSV)

Obviously, this is not the wisdom of the world with its emphasis on Power Prestige and Possessions. A priest-friend sent me a Christmas card a couple of years ago that I framed and placed on my dining room table —a quote of St. Paul’s:

My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection. And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am powerless, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Now here you have three koans to mull over, dear friends, and to try to grasp:

I / Unless a grain of wheat dies, it will not bear fruit.

II / Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. I

II / When I am powerless, then I am strong.

What is a koan, you might ask? A koan is a Zen saying often used by Buddhist monks to teach their novices: “To meditate on a koan is to engage in an active process, like that we engage in when we try to solve a mathematical problem. As in mathematics, the solution is supposed to come suddenly.”

So, rather than giving all your energy to the three P’s of the world, why not write these three Christian Scriptures on index cards and pull them out when you’re idle, waiting for something else to happen? Try it! You just might be enlightened, as I somehow receive the gift of some in wisdom, as I have from time to time when I have been attentive to my prayer-life.

Jesus, of course, shows us the way.  Let’s look at the famous “Kenosis” passage of Philippians Chapter 2:6-11 “Kenosis”—meaning here Jesus’ self-emptying . . .

Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

There it is, dear friends! Jesus gave his life for us. The movement was downward. Earthward. Earth-bound. Into the muck. Humility comes from the word humus, meaning muck. So, that’s what Dying to Self involves—getting down into the nitty-gritty of our lives and those of our loved ones and those we are called to serve. Being obedient to what life demands of us.  And beckons us to, whether we might like it not. Real Life elicits from our inner depths our best resources. Then . . .

Then . . . God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And so, too, with us! We will be lifted up! I have experienced this several times.

But Jesus is faithful! Dying and rising is a continual process in nature and in our lives as well. We are taken down in some burden or crisis but, through faith, we are lifted up again! This is the Paschal Mystery. The Pasch ~ Passover ~ Passage ~Transition ~Transformation ~ Change. The Dying and Rising of Jesus in our lives is celebrated for us Catholics throughout the liturgical year and in every Mass.

Think about how you have experienced—and continue to experience the Paschal Mystery ~ this dying and rising ~ in your own life. And so, dear friends, I will bring this missive to a close by returning to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and conclude with the wonderful words of the hymn Lift High the Cross. I remember when I first heard it. Trumpets and timpani sent shivers down my spine and goose bumps all over!

Lift high the cross The love of Christ proclaim,

Till all the world Adore His sacred name

Led on their way By this triumphant sign,

The hosts of God In conquering ranks combine. Refrain:

Each newborn servant Of the Crucified

Bears on the brow The seal of Him who died. Refrain

O Lord, once lifted On the glorious tree,

As Thou hast promised Draw the world to Thee. Refrain.

So shall our song Of triumph ever be:

Praise to the Crucified For victory. Refrain:

Now here is the hymn for your listening pleasure. Click here.  Be sure to turn up your speakers.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them.   Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Racism in America (part six)

national-memorial-peace-justice-lynching-montgomery-alabama-eji-08

We continue our series on Racism in America with four short articles this time. I hope you had a chance to dig into Bishop Mark Sykes’ courageous pastoral on racism and white supremacy that I published in Tuesday. If not, you can find it on the right side of my site at the top of the archive column.

The first one today is from Archbishop Wilton Gregory, of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.,who is black. The middle two are the New York Times 1619 Project, a large research project on slavery and its effects  on America life and our economy since its the first slave ship came to  our shores. And the last one is from the Sierra Club about how the Trump administration has made our air pollution worse especially on our black communities.

(The images on this page are taken from the Peace and Justice Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama to commemorate the lives of lynched and murdered black folk.) Hundreds of there names are memorialized on huge upside down bronze blocks and some of their ashes are there as well.

First, we hear from Archbishop Wilton Gregory . . . .

Our nation is in pain and in crisis, with angry, peaceful protesters demanding justice; with some lawless attacks on places and people; and with leaders who are failing us. At the same time, a deadly COVID-19 pandemic that touches all of us has exposed pervasive injustices which leave people and communities of color far more likely to suffer and die, lose work and wages, and risk their health and lives in essential jobs.

For Catholics and all believers, racism is more than a moral and national failure; it is a sin and a test of faith. Racism is America’s original sin, enduring legacy, and current crisis. Racist attitudes and actions, along with white supremacy and privilege, destroy the lives and diminish the dignity of African-Americans and so many other Americans. Racism also threatens the humanity of all of us and the common good. Racism divides us, reveals our lack of moral integrity, limits our capacity to act together, denies the talents and contributions of so many, and convicts us of violating the religious principles and the national values we proclaim.

~ Archbishop Wilton Gregory   ~ Racism in our Streets and Structures.

The next two articles are from the New York Times 1692 Project.

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The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.

A story of one black soldier coming back from war . .  .

The day of days for America and her allies. Crowds before the White House await the announcement.

I have received this afternoon a message from the Japanese government which specifies the unconditional surrender of Japan.

Reporters rush out to relay the news to an anxious world and touch off celebrations throughout the country. Joy is unconfined.

It’s February of 1946, and a young black man is sitting on a bus watching the Georgia pines fly past the windows. He’s on his way to see his wife, and he’s probably very excited, because he’s been away at war, and he hasn’t seen her in a very long time. He’d been fighting for this country in World War II, and just that day, he’d been honorably discharged for his service. But he is a black man who is returning to the Jim Crow South.

“You can never whip these birds if you don’t keep you and them separate..

“But to tell me that I don’t even have the right to fight to protect the white race —

“We are going to maintain segregated schools down in Dixie.

“Well, I think their aim is mixed marriages and becoming equal with the whites.

“You’ve got to keep your white and the black separate.”

What happened on that day is a story that will be told across the country.

Good morning. This is Orson Welles speaking. I’d like to read to you an affidavit.

It was a story that would actually change the course of history.

I, Isaac Woodard Jr., being duly sworn to depose and state as follows, that I am 27 years old and a veteran of the United States Army, having served 15 months in the South Pacific and earned one battle star. I was honorably discharged on February 12, 1942.

He’s riding the bus through Georgia.

At one hour out of Atlanta, the bus driver stopped at a small drugstore.

He wants to get off and use the restroom.

He stopped. I asked him if he had time to wait for me until I had a chance to go the restroom. He cursed and said no. When he cursed me, I cursed him back. When the bus got to —

The bus driver gets upset with him. They have a little bit of an argument. Woodard doesn’t think much of it. He goes to the bathroom, runs back to the bus, and the bus keeps going. But then, a few miles down the road, the bus stops, and the bus driver gets off the bus, and then calls and tells Woodard that he needs to get off the bus as well. So Woodard gets off the bus, and before he can even utter a word —

When the bus got to Aiken, he got off and went and got the police. They didn’t give me a chance to explain. The policeman struck me with a billy across my head and told me to shut up.

He’s struck in the head by a police officer.

— by my left arm and twisted it behind my back. I figured he was trying to make me resist. I did not resist against him. He asked me, was I discharged, and I told him yes. When I said yes, that is when he started beating me with a billy, hitting me across the top of the head. After that, I grabbed his billy and wrung it out of his hand. Another policeman came up and threw his gun on me and told me to drop the billy or he’d drop me, so I dropped the billy. After I dropped the billy, the second policeman held his gun on me while the other one was beating me.

And the blows keep coming, and they keep coming, to the point that Woodard loses consciousness.

Woodard is still wearing his crisp Army uniform. He’s been discharged just a few hours earlier. When he comes to, he’s in a jail.

I woke up next morning and could not see.

So Woodard’s beating was not at all unusual. World War II had done exactly what many white people had feared, that once black people were allowed to fight in the military, and when they traveled abroad and they experienced what it was like not to live under a system of racial apartheid, that it would be much harder to control them when they came back. Black men in their uniforms were seen as being unduly proud.

So these men who had served their country, who had come home proudly wearing the uniform to show their service for their country, would find that this actually made them a target of some of the most severe violence.

But what was unusual was what happened after. Woodard’s case was picked up by the N.A.A.C.P., and they take him on a bit of a tour. They take photographs of him. Those photographs are sent out to newspapers and to fundraising efforts, where they’re saying, look what happened to this man who served his country. It’s that spark that finally determines among millions of black people that enough is enough.

And that’s largely seen as one of the sparks of the modern civil rights movement.

We have people coming in from all over the country. I suspect that we will have — (garbled and unfinished sentence.)

The second sustained movement of black people trying to secure equal rights before the law and an equal place in this democracy.

During the early weeks of February 1960, the demonstrations that came to be called the sit-in movement exploded across the South.

Negro youngsters paraded with placards, handed out literature, and tried to sit in at lunch counters.

I think, honestly, many of us didn’t realize just how important our movement would grow to be.

Official reaction was both swift and severe.

Don’t blame a cracker in Georgia for your injustices. The government is responsible for the injustices. The government can bring these injustices to halt.

How long? Not long. Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Hallelujah!

And in 1968, 350 years after the introduction of the first enslaved Africans into the colonies. 

This Civil Rights Act is a challenge to all of us.

— Congress passes the last of the great civil rights legislation.

— to go work in our communities and our states, in our homes and in our hearts —

It ends legal discrimination on the basis of race from all aspects of American life.

— to eliminate the last vestiges of injustice in our beloved country.

We often think of the civil rights movement as being about black rights, but the civil rights movement was never just about the rights of black people. It was about making the ideals of the Constitution whole. And so when you look at the laws born out of black resistance, these laws are guaranteeing rights for all Americans.

This experience, which black Americans were having, did not go unnoticed by the rest of America.

I mean, basically every other rights struggle that we have seen . . .

Now we fought the public accommodations fight 10 years ago with the blacks. Are we going to have to start all over again with women?

Disability rights, gay rights, women’s rights —

That people with disabilities were still victims of segregation and discrimination.

— all come from the efforts of the black civil rights struggles.

Equal rights. Equals rights to have a job, to have respect, to not be viewed as a piece of meat.

No Americans will ever again be deprived of their basic guarantee of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Celebrations erupted on the steps of the Supreme Court.

One of its most momentous civil rights decisions. The Supreme Court found gay and lesbian Americans have a constitutional right to marry. The majority found its justification in the 14th Amendment, written after the Civil War to extend equal protection under law to freed slaves.

So we are raised to think about 1776 as the beginning of our democracy, but when that ship arrives on the horizon at Point Comfort in 1619, that decision made by the colonists to purchase that group of 20 to 30 human beings, that was a beginning too. And it would actually be those very people who were denied citizenship in their own country, who were denied the protections of our founding documents, who would fight the hardest and most successfully to make those ideals real, not just for themselves but for all Americans. It is black people who have been the perfectors of this democracy.

When I was a kid — it must have been in fifth or sixth grade. Our teacher gave us an assignment. It was a social studies class, and we were learning about different places that people came from, and this was her way of kind of telling the story of the great American melting pot. So she told us all to research our ancestral land and to write a small report about it, and then to draw a flag. I remember kind of looking up and making eye contact with the other black girl who was in the class, because we didn’t really have an ancestral land that we knew of. Slavery had made it so that we didn’t know where we came from in Africa. We didn’t have a specific country. And we could say that we were from the whole continent, but even so, there’s no such thing as an African flag. And so I remember going to the globe by my teacher’s desk — it was on the windowpane along the left side of the classroom — and spinning it to the continent of Africa and just picking a random African country.

So I went back to my desk, and I drew that random African country’s flag, and I wrote a report about it. And I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed, one, because I was lying, but I also felt ashamed because I felt like I should have some other country, and that all the other kids could trace their roots elsewhere, and I could only trace my roots to the country that had enslaved us.

I wish now that I could go back and talk to my younger self and tell her that she should not be ashamed, that this is her ancestral home, that she should be as proud to be an American as her dad was, and that she should boldly and proudly draw those stars and stripes and claim this country as her own.

0  ~ Unattributed

 

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What does a traffic jam in Atlanta have to do with segregation? Quite a lot.

By Kevin M. Kruse / August 14, 2019

Atlanta has some of the worst traffic in the United States. Drivers there average two hours each week mired in gridlock, hung up at countless spots, from the constantly clogged Georgia 400 to a complicated cluster of overpasses at Tom Moreland Interchange, better known as “Spaghetti Junction.” The Downtown Connector — a 12-to-14-lane mega-highway that in theory connects the city’s north to its south — regularly has three-mile-long traffic jams that last four hours or more. Commuters might assume they’re stuck there because some city planner made a mistake, but the heavy congestion actually stems from a great success.

In Atlanta, as in dozens of cities across America, daily congestion is a direct consequence of a century-long effort to segregate the races.

For much of the nation’s history, the campaign to keep African-Americans “in their place” socially and politically manifested itself in an effort to keep them quite literally in one place or another. Before the Civil War, white masters kept enslaved African-Americans close at hand to coerce their labor and guard against revolts. But with the abolition of slavery, the spatial relationship was reversed. Once they had no need to keep constant watch over African-Americans, whites wanted them out of sight. Civic planners pushed them into ghettos, and the segregation we know today became the rule.

At first the rule was overt, as Southern cities like Baltimore and Louisville enacted laws that mandated residential racial segregation. Such laws were eventually invalidated by the Supreme Court, but later measures achieved the same effect by more subtle means. During the New Deal, federal agencies like the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation and the Federal Housing Administration encouraged redlining practices that explicitly marked minority neighborhoods as risky investments and therefore discouraged bank loans, mortgages and insurance there. (President Trump just today was subtly encourage this again to his base.)Other policies simply targeted black communities for isolation and demolition. The postwar programs for urban renewal, for instance, destroyed black neighborhoods and displaced their residents with such regularity that African-Americans came to believe, in  James Baldwin’s memorable phrase, that “urban renewal means Negro removal.”

This intertwined history of infrastructure and racial inequality extended into the 1950s and 1960s with the creation of the Interstate highway system.. The federal government shouldered nine-tenths of the cost of the new Interstate highways, but local officials often had a say in selecting the path. As in most American cities in the decades after the Second World War, the new highways in Atlanta — local expressways at first, then Interstates — were steered along routes that bulldozed “blighted” neighborhoods that housed its poorest residents, almost always racial minorities.

This was a common practice not just in Southern cities like Jacksonville, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, Richmond and Tampa, but in countless metropolises across the country, including Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Syracuse and Washington.

While Interstates were regularly used to destroy black neighborhoods, they were also used to keep black and white neighborhoods apart. Today, major roads and highways serve as stark dividing lines between black and white sections in cities like Buffalo, Hartford, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. In Atlanta, the intent to segregate was crystal clear. Interstate 20, the east-west corridor that connects with I-75 and I-85 in Atlanta’s center, was deliberately plotted along a winding route in the late 1950s to serve, in the words of Mayor Bill Hartsfield, as “the boundary between the white and Negro communities” on the west side of town. Black neighborhoods, he hoped, would be hemmed in on one side of the new expressway, while white neighborhoods on the other side of it would be protected. Racial residential patterns have long since changed, of course, but the awkward path of I-20 remains in place.

By razing impoverished areas downtown and segregating the races in the western section, Atlanta’s leaders hoped to keep downtown and its surroundings a desirable locale for middle-class whites. Articulating a civic vision of racial peace and economic progress, Hartsfield bragged that Atlanta was the “City Too Busy to Hate.” But the so-called urban renewal and the new Interstates only helped speed white flight from Atlanta.

Over the 1960s, roughly 60,000 whites left the city, with many of them relocating in the suburbs along the northern rim. When another 100,000 whites left the city in the 1970s, it became a local joke that Atlanta had become “The City Too Busy Moving to Hate.”

As the new suburbs ballooned in size, traffic along the poorly placed highways became worse and worse. The obvious solution was mass transit — buses, light rail and trains that would more efficiently link the suburbs and the city — but that, too, faced opposition, largely for racial reasons. The white suburbanites had purposefully left the problems of the central city behind and worried that mass transit would bring them back.

Accordingly, suburbanites waged a sustained campaign against the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) from its inception. Residents of the nearly all-white Cobb County resoundingly rejected the system in a 1965 vote. In 1971, Gwinnett and Clayton Counties, which were then also overwhelmingly white, followed suit, voting down a proposal to join MARTA by nearly 4-1 margins, and keeping MARTA out became the default position of many local politicians. (Emmett Burton, a Cobb County commissioner, won praise for promising to “stock the Chattahoochee with piranha” if that were needed to keep MARTA away.) David Chesnut, the white chairman of MARTA, insisted in 1987 that suburban opposition to mass transit had been “90 percent a racial issue.” Because of that resistance, MARTA became a city-only service that did little to relieve commuter traffic. By the mid-1980s, white racists were joking that MARTA, with its heavily black ridership, stood for “Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta.”

Even as the suburbs became more racially diverse, they remained opposed to MARTA. After Gwinnett voted the system down again in 1990, a former Republican legislator later marveled at the arguments given by opponents. “They will come up with 12 different ways of saying they are not racist in public,” he told a reporter. “But you get them alone, behind a closed door, and you see this old blatant racism that we have had here for quite some time.”

African-American and white passengers on an Atlanta Transit Company trolley on April 23, 1956, shortly after the outlawing of segregation on all public buses. Horace Cort, via Associated Press.

Earlier this year, Gwinnett County voted MARTA down for a third time. Proponents had hoped that changes in the county’s racial composition, which was becoming less white, might make a difference. But the March initiative still failed by an eight-point margin. Officials discovered that some nonwhite suburbanites shared the isolationist instincts of earlier white suburbanites. One white property manager in her late 50s told a reporter that she voted against mass transit because it was used by poorer residents and immigrants, whom she called “illegals.” “Why should we pay for it?” she asked. “Why subsidize people who can’t manage their money and save up a dime to buy a car?”

In the end, Atlanta’s traffic is at a standstill because its attitude about transit is at a standstill, too. Fifty years after its Interstates were set down with an eye to segregation and its rapid-transit system was stunted by white flight, the city is still stalled in the past.

Kevin M. Kruse is a professor of history at Princeton University and the author of “White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism.

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“I Can’t Breathe”

What air pollution and police violence have in common

By Kendra Pierre Louis | July 15 2020

Published in Sierra the online magazine of the Sierra Club

Even in nonpandemic times, air pollution is deadly.

Each year, it kills more than 100,000 people in the United States and 5 million worldwide. Most deadly are the tiny particles that are byproducts of the fuels we burn to power our cars, generate electricity, and create the panoply of chemicals that make up modern life. Like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, they lodge deep in a person’s lungs, triggering a deadly cascade of health problems.

But mortality from air pollution is not evenly distributed: “Communities of color, and in particular poor communities of color, are more likely to live in places with poor air quality than their white, wealthier counterparts,” said Rachel Morello-Frosch, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. A pair of studies from the University of Michigan and the University of Montana published in 2015 in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that the high concentration of polluting industries in Black and Latino communities was the deliberate consequence of racist policies.

These same communities struggling to breathe are disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the research and analysis group APM Research Lab, Black Americans are especially susceptible to the disease, with a mortality rate that as of June 23 was 2.3 times higher than the rate for white Americans. Based on the race and ethnicity data of 93 percent of the 120,000 people who had died of COVID-19 in the United States, the researchers found that “if they had died of COVID-19 at the same rate as white Americans, at least 16,000 Black Americans, 2,200 Latino Americans, and 400 Indigenous Americans would still be alive.”

Some of these deaths can be attributed to broader social inequities. Black and Latino people, for example, are more likely to hold jobs—including many in health care—that have been declared essential services, putting them at greater risk of exposure to the disease. And because of systemic racism within health care, they’re less likely to be given adequate treatment when they become sick. Rana Zoe Mungin, a Black public school teacher in Brooklyn, was twice denied a COVID-19 test at a local hospital despite exhibiting symptoms. At one point, according to her family, she was told that she was merely having a panic attack. Mungin eventually died of COVID-19.

A growing body of research suggests that air pollution itself is an important factor in these deaths.

“We looked at whether counties that historically have higher levels of air pollution have a higher mortality rate for COVID-19,” said Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at Harvard University. “We found a statistically significant association.” Dominici was the senior author on a study on the subject that is currently out for peer review. Similar studies are being conducted in Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK, she said, “looking at the relationship between exposure to particulate matter and COVID mortality.” That the association seems to exist across different populations strengthens the likelihood that pollution is a factor.

To understand why, it helps to understand what air pollution does to the body—especially the fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5, which is created from burning oil, coal, and fracked gas. Over the long term, breathing in these particles can permanently damage the lungs, making it harder to breathe. COVID-19 also damages the lungs. Air pollution can damage the heart. COVID-19 also damages the heart. Breathing polluted air makes you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a disease that makes you more likely to die from COVID-19.

“You have almost these kinds of feedback loops where the health outcomes that are associated with poor air quality are also the same outcomes that can make populations susceptible to more severe symptoms and mortality risks from COVID-19,” Morello-Frosch said.

If air pollution is the bullet, systemic racism loaded the gun. Research by Morello-Frosch and others shows that while communities of color suffer higher overall levels of air pollution compared with predominantly white communities, it also matters where those communities are located. Segregated cities, such as Memphis and Chicago, have higher levels of air pollution overall than more integrated ones.

In the face of evidence that air pollution is harmful and air pollution during a pandemic is especially so, the Trump administration is making it easier for companies to pollute. Even as the number of COVID-19 deaths was beginning to rise, Trump’s EPA rejected recommendations to raise the national air quality standard for particulate matter and told polluters that it wouldn’t expect routine pollution monitoring and compliance because of the pandemic. Given what we know about how air pollution affects the lungs, Dominici said, “it’s not really the time to relax air pollution regulation and give license to pollute the air.

The movement that was sparked by George Floyd’s dying words, “I can’t breathe,” is now addressing air pollution as well as police violence. In Louisville, Kentucky, which has one of the highest asthma rates in the country, demands for environmental justice merged with demands for racial justice in the upstart senatorial campaign of state representative Charles Booker. Jamell Henderson, a professor at Brooklyn College and an activist with New York Communities for Change, said in a late-June press briefing, “It’s not just about police reform. It’s about educational reform, mental health reform, social service reform. It’s about health care reform and environmental justice reform.”

Now before you go, here’s a song from the black churches Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Racism in America (part five) ~ A bishop’s courage

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Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, kneels at El Paso’s Memorial Park holding a Black Lives Matter sign June 1. Seitz and other clergy from the diocese prayed and kneeled for eight minutes, the time George Floyd, an unarmed black man, spent under a police officer’s knee before dying May 25. (CNS/Courtesy of El Paso Diocese / Fernie Ceniceros

We continue with this series on Racism in America. I’m devoting this entire post to the prayerful thoughts and words of Bishop Mark Seitz who has been Bishop of El Paso, Texas, since 2013. Before that he was a priest, then an auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Dallas, having been born in Milwaukee in 1954. We’ll begin with this startling image of a bishop “taking a knee” for eight minutes along with some of his priests on June 1st, just days after the death of George Floyd along with his  accompanying statement. The image went viral and Pope Francis picked it up and called him to express his solidarity in prayer for caring for racial justice in America.

Think about that for a moment: a bishop “taking the knee”! How refreshing is that in the church in the US that for the most part has no courage at all.

I think that sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that Christianity is a dead letter religion. That it’s about things that happened a long time ago or about words on a page.

But every day at Mass, when I kneel before Jesus in the Eucharist, I’m reminded that he is alive and present. That Christianity is an event happening right now. The drama of salvation is something playing out every day. And we all have a role to play.

I taught liturgy in seminary. In good liturgy, our faith is brought to life. I think what we’ve seen play out over the last couple days is maybe a little bit like liturgy.

The other day I saw a video of a young white woman at a protest near the White House who put her body in front of a young kneeling black teenager as police officers in riot gear approached. As Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

It’s a scene of solidarity and self-giving that has played out across the country so many times in the last week. In El Paso, Texas, there were two young police officers who knelt down with protesters during a demonstration here and it helped defuse some tension.

There is something profoundly eucharistic about these moments and I’m so inspired by our young people. They are teaching us something.

When religion becomes stagnant, we can forget that the Word always comes to us crucified and powerless. As James Cone put it, in America, the Word comes tortured, black and lynched. Today, we meet Jesus in those tear-gassed, tased, strangled and snuffed out. That’s the reason why the church teaches a preferential option for the poor. And why the church stands up for life wherever and whenever it is devalued and threatened.

To say, as all who eat from the table of the Eucharist should be able to say, that black lives matter is just another way of repeating something we in the United States seem to so often forget, that God has a special love for the forgotten and oppressed.

Many are understandably upset by the destruction and looting. It’s true, none of us should crave the thrill of violence or revenge. That’s wrong. We also need to recognize that we are seeing the effects of centuries of sin and violence and rights denied playing themselves out. And frankly, civil rights are not enough. That’s the minimum and clearly, we’re not there yet. We also need to be building a society with housing, and education and health care and just wages for all as well as the right to migrate. And then we can begin to heal.

[ . . .]

I think leaders in the church today, and leaders everywhere really, should perhaps say a little less right now. Instead, we should stand with and give the microphone and listen to those who have been unheard for too long. To those who have suffered our shameful history of discrimination and racial profiling and police brutality. To those who are putting their bodies on the line in protest and in defense of others.

Let’s look at the grace in all of this. Look at the witness of those who are bravely taking up their parts in the drama of salvation unfolding in front of us. If we look past the static, they’re pointing the way to redemptive transformation. They are showing us what the reign of God looks like and what our country can look like when we all have a place at the table. Let’s encourage them. And pray with them. And thank them.

With grace, they are joining the living ranks of a long faith tradition of laborers for greater justice, like Moses, Jesus of Nazareth, Joan of Arc, Harriet Beecher Stowe, James Earl Chaney, Oscar Romero, Thea Bowman and so many others. Thank God. Thank God.

In August 3, 2019 there was a horrifying massacre at a Walmart in El Paso in which 22 people were gunned down by a white supremacist. As a result of that, Bishop Seitz wrote a pastoral letter for his people on both sides of the Rio Grande entitled Night will be No More. It’s long because it includes the history of the the colonial times to the present and the church’s role in white supremacism as well. For those of you who just want to read the highlights, I’ll denote those in the margins in color for you. But this is important stuff for us to know.

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Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever. 

(The Revelation to John 22, 5)

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,

Who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Rather, he emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

coming in human likeness;

and found human in appearance,

he humbled himself,

becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2, 5-8

Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Brothers and Sisters to Us

¡Lo que no nos deja dormir

es que nos han amenazado de Resurrección!

¡Porque en cada anochecer …

todavía seguimos amando la vida

y no aceptamos su muerte!

Julia Esquivel, Threatened with Resurrection

In memoriam.

Jordan /Andre /Arturo  /Jorge / Leo / Maribel / Adolfo / Sara

Angelina / Raul / Maria / Alexander / David / Luis

Maria / Ivan / Gloria / Elsa / Margie / Javier / Teresa

Juan de Dios

Pastoral Letter to the People of God in El Paso

Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever. 

(The Revelation to John 22, 5)

  • In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity. Amen.

Introduction

August 3rd, 2019: Matanza (massacre) en El Paso

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Why so far from my call for help,

from my cries of anguish?

Psalm 22, 2

  1. On August 3rd, 2019, El Paso was the scene of a massacre or matanza that left 22 dead, injured dozens and traumatized a binational community. Hate visited our community and Latino blood was spilled in sacrifice to the false god of white supremacy.

Dear reader, I would like to note here that this is a bishop using the word  WHITE SUPREMACY. He’s not afraid to name what the issue is right up front. 

  1. The killing became part of a growing litany of deadly shootings in the United States. It is a list so long that each mass murder competes for our attention and memory. What happened was swallowed up in a spectacle of debate on gun control that holds our children and families hostage. It made our community cannon fodder in a political battle rending the soul of our nation. Yet once the country’s attention moves on, who will remember the names of the dead?

  2. Faith assures us that because of the Resurrection of Jesus, death cannot have the last word, for ‘death no longer has power over him’ (Romans 6, 9). But to encounter meaning in the matanza (massacre) of August 3rd with integrity, we must brace ourselves for the task of naming truths which are uncomfortable and perhaps buried inside all of us.

4.After prayer and speaking with the People of God in the Church of El Paso, I have decided to write this letter on the theme of racism and white supremacy to reflect together on the evil that robbed us of 22 lives. God can only be calling our community to greater fidelity. Together we are called to discern the new paths of justice and mercy required of us and to rediscover our reasons for hope (cf. 1 Peter 3, 5).

  1. This letter comes shortly after the recent pastoral letter against racism by the bishops in the United States, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, which I recommend to our priests and community. My brothers in the episcopate have also published penetrating reflections on the intersection of race and violence, especially Bishop Edward Braxton.1This letter is an attempt to complement those efforts and to reflect on these issues from the perspective of the border.

  1. In the first part of this letter, I hope to bear some of the weight of the reality of racism that has been part of the experience of many here on our border. In the second part, we will shoulder this reality in the light of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. Finally, we will ask how grace can heal the shared wounds of our borderland community and transform the awful events of this summer into something meaningful.

  1. This may be hard. I know it will be difficult at times for me. Words like racism and white supremacy make us uncomfortable and anxious and I don’t use these labels lightly. We live in a brutally unforgiving culture where these words are tossed about like weapons. But perhaps we are also aware that these conversations may require changes to the way we think and live. Challenging racism and white supremacy, whether in our hearts or in society, is a Christian imperative and the cost of not facing these issues head on, weighs much more heavily on those who live the reality of discrimination.

  1. Perhaps we thought that prejudice and intolerance were a cancer of years past. Maybe we felt that El Paso was immune from the xenophobia ravaging the United States. On August 3rd, we were robbed of that innocence. But do not be afraid. The Lord Jesus can lead us through this dark moment into something bright and unexpected. For even if a whole army of hate should threaten us, if we are faithful to Jesus and hold on to love, in the words of the poet Julia Esquivel, what can they do but threaten us with Resurrection?

Part I

This is Racism

Do not stay far from me,

for trouble is near,

and there is no one to help.

Psalm 22, 12

  1. How do we begin to understand the El Paso matanza (massacre)? How should we think about racism and white supremacy?

  1. The never-ending mass shootings leave us feeling dazed, wounded, fearful and helpless. Causes and solutions seem evasive and our nation’s political life is broken. The Catholic Church in the United States supports the ban on assault weapons that lawmakers senselessly let expire in 2004 and our Church continues to advocate for reasonable regulations on firearms that Congress still won’t pass. The constant pressures on families and the embarrassing lack of access to mental healthcare in this country surely also play a role.

  1. But the mystery of evil motivating attacks like the El Paso matanza goes deeper than these. It is something more complex than laws and policies alone can fix. What else explains the perversity of attacks on African Americans, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and other communities?

  1. This mystery of evil also includes the base belief that some of us are more important, deserving and worthy than others. It includes the ugly conviction that this country and its history and opportunities and resources as well as our economic and political life belong more properly to ‘white’ people than to people of color. This is a perverse way of thinking that divides people based on heritage and tone of skin into ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’, paving the way to dehumanization.

In other words, racism.

  1. Racism can make a home in our hearts, distort our imagination and will, and express itself in individual actions of hatred and discrimination. Racism is one’s failure to give others the respect they are due on account of being created in the image and likeness of God. And it is more than that.

  1. If we are honest, racism is really about advancing, shoring up, and failing to oppose a system of white privilege and advantage based on skin color.When this system begins to shape our public choices, structure our common life together and becomes a tool of class, this is rightly called institutionalized racism. Action to build this system of hate and inaction to oppose its dismantling are what we rightly call white supremacy. This is the evil one and the ‘father of lies’ (John 8, 44) incarnate in our everyday choices and lifestyles, and our laws and institutions.

  1. The theologian Father Bryan Massingale has aptly named all of this soul sickness. Truly we suffer from a life-threatening case of hardening of the heart. In a day when we prefer to think that prejudice and intolerance are problems of the past, we still find acceptable groups to treat as less than human, to look down upon and to fear.

  1. A series of shootings — Roseburg, Charleston, Orlando, Pittsburgh, and Oak Creek, just to name a few — now undeniably demonstrates that our unwillingness to stamp out racism continues to accrue debts being paid for in blood, the blood of people of color and those we deem different. Abraham Lincoln’s anxious premonition about the terrible consequences of slavery seems to ring true — ‘if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

  1. The matanza in El Paso focused our attention on the grave racism directed at Latinos today, which has reached a dangerous fever pitch. Latinos now tell me that for the first time in their lives they feel unsafe, even in El Paso. They feel that they have targets on their backs because of their skin color and language. They feel that they are being made to live in their own home as a ‘stranger in a foreign land’ (Exodus 2, 22).

  1. Our highest elected officials have used the word ‘invasion’ and ‘killer’ over 500 times to refer to migrants treated migrant children as pawns on a crass political chessboard, insinuated that judges and legislators of color are un-American, and have made wall-building a core political project. In Pope Francis’ words, these ‘signs of meanness we see around us heighten our fear of the other.

  2. The same deadly pool of sin that motivates the attack on migrants seeking safety and refuge in our border community motivated the killing of our neighbors on August 3rd. Sin unites people around fear and hate.

  3. We must name and oppose the racism that has reared its head at the center of our public life and emboldened forces of darkness.

  1. This hatred of Latinos is not new. Ancient demons have been reawakened and old wounds opened. One of my brother bishops has rightly called racism ‘the ugly, original sin of our country, an illness never fully healed. The El Paso matanza is reminiscent of a long history of importation of hate here in this community, killings, matanzas and racism directed at Latinos, Asians, Blacks, Indigenous, mulattoes and mestizos in the southwest that goes back centuries. El Paso historian Dr. Yolanda Leyva has observed that the El Paso matanza ‘is the predictable outcome of 200 years of a White supremacist idea’s growth.’ It is a story often forcibly pushed underground.

  1. In the next section I will attempt to summarize some of the history of white supremacy in our borderland community, though it is not exhaustive. A sincere reckoning with our past and lamentation over it are essential for transformation. We need spaces in our churches and community to do that. As Bishop Mario Enrique Ríos noted when publishing the definitive account of the racially motivated massacres of the Guatemalan conflict, ‘The recovery of memory is irreplaceable in the work of winning peace  So the first step for all of us in El Paso is to recover a buried memory that lives in each of us. It is a story of race, deeply embedded in our society, yet deeply counter to Jesus’ life and teaching.

Part II

‘Heart-Sick’: The Legacy of Hate and White Supremacy on the Border

They open their mouths against me,

lions that rend and roar.

Psalm 22, 14

Tú no vales. You don’t count.

  1. We in the borderlands understand in our bones the reality of hate directed at Mexicans and how people can be ‘othered’. Our faith community was born in the fraught encounter between Indigenous communities and Spanish colonists, a ‘choque de culturas’. In that encounter, an insidious message was sent like the report of cannon fire throughout the American continent which reverberates to the present day: Tú no vales. You don’t count.

  1. A sober reading of the history of colonization can discern both the presence of a genuine Christian missionary impulse as well as the deployment of white supremacy and cultural oppression as tools of economic ambition, imperial adventurism and political expansion.

  1. The Spanish colonists who brought faith to the Americas also brought with them their own human circumstances intertwined with the ‘tricks and powers’ of the world. They came from the experience of a nation newly united just as much around Catholicism as a nationalism built on the violent subordination and expulsion of Jews and Muslims. They brought these exclusionary attitudes with them to the New World. It was in the encounter between the Spanish colonists and Indigenous communities that fateful identities were co-produced and sinful notions of civilizedversus uncivilizedand the invention of the savage were born. Such notions began a new era of a ‘heart-sick’ world. It was Pope Benedict XVI who told us that ‘it is not possible to forget the suffering and injustice inflicted by colonizers on the Indigenous populations, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled upon’

  1. Few things were more important in the story of race and the community in El Paso than Popé’s Pueblo Revolt in 1680. The successful revolution resulted in the expulsion of colonists from New Mexico to Paso del Norte where the provisional capital of the royal province was established. At this time, Paso del Norte also became home to the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, who have shaped the history of the borderlands ever since. The suffering, exploitation and divestment of culture, language, religious tradition and memory experienced by the Pueblo peoples at the hands of colonists and, yes, members and leaders of the Church, must be acknowledged. The pain and experience of estrangement is still experienced by some communities today.

  1. Rooted in our history, many here can rightly say that we did not cross the border but that the border crossed us. Even the Church in El Paso fell at different times under different national flags and under the jurisdiction of the Mexican dioceses of Guadalajara, Durango and then under Texas dioceses only after the Mexican-American War. ‘Manifest Destiny’ as well as shifting colonial, nationalistic and expansionist winds led to constantly shifting borders.

  1. In Latin America there has been more fluidity between races through inter-marriage and more blending of cultures and religions when compared to the experience of Native Americans and African Americans. Yet the attitudes of the Spanish colonizers included the erroneous notion of racial purity based on light skin, a belief which in some places continues today, even in internalized fashion. This type of racism collided in the borderlands with the more overt racism of the United States. This was the racism of the ‘one-drop theory’ (whereby one drop of African blood renders all descendants the members of a slave class) used to justify the criminal practice of chattel slavery. Both the racism that privileges lighter skin over Indigenous, Ladinos, Mulattoes and Mestizos as well as the racism based on hypo-descent used to subjugate African Americans linger troublingly on the border today.

  1. Prior to 1835, the area known as Texas was part of Mexico. American immigrants settled in the Mexican territory and brought with them Black slaves. By 1825 one out of five American immigrants living in Texas was an enslaved African.10Historians acknowledge that the most significant factor in determining the economic development and ideological orientation of Texas at the time was slavery.11The 1835 Texas Revolt and the establishment of the Republic of Texas in 1836, were driven, among other factors, by the will to protect the institution of Black slavery after its abolishment by Mexico in 1829.

  1. During this time, many Irish, too, arrived to escape the stifling racism they were subject to in the eastern United States. Many Irish felt more solidarity with Mexicans on account of their shared Catholic faith and shared experience of racial discrimination; the famous San Patricios battalion fought on the side of Mexico during the Mexican-American War. The coming of the railroad not long after the entrance of Texas into the United States in 1850 brought more Irish as well a large number of Chinese laborers into our region as part of the project to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. These workers were paid much less than their White counterparts and received the most dangerous and even deadly assignments. After the railroad was completed, the Chinese workers quickly became the target of racist anti-immigrant legislation and policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 one of the first examples of anti-immigrant legislation in US history.

  1. After its entry into the United States, Texas saw dramatic mass migration into the state from White settlers from other parts of the country. These settlers brought new industrial farming practices which cleared desert brush and cacti as well as the expansion of the railroad network and impressive economic growth. But they also brought with them harsh, prejudicial attitudes towards Mexicans, Mexican Americans and Indigenous in the region as well as legalized discrimination against African Americans. In their wake came ‘Juan Crow’ laws of segregation, the prohibition of then-common interracial marriage, new racial hierarchies, the dispossession of tribal communities, efforts to disenfranchise Mexican residents and a true campaign of terror. This campaign included the lynching and murder of likely thousands of Latinos, terror undertaken just as much by vigilantes as by official state actors like the Texas Rangers, and often in concert. What was it that they feared?

  1. Just one example of this campaign of terror was the Porvenir matanza, which took place only hours from El Paso in Presidio County. 15 men and boys of Mexican descent were murdered, with impunity, by vigilantes, army soldiers and Texas Rangers. In that moment of horror, did not Jesus look through the eyes of those young children at their victimizers and ask, ‘What do you fear?’ Their families, petrified, took their bodies across the river into Mexico for burial. This experience of persecution at the hands of state authorities was the experience of many families in this region. Their stories were brutally suppressed and their pain has been passed down in intergenerational trauma. The ripple effects of this campaign shape perceptions of law enforcement and immigration enforcement to this day in our region.

  1. We can see uncomfortable parallels in the treatment of asylum seekers from Mexico during the time of the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s and in current policies like the deployment of troops to the border, the punitive Remain in Mexico policy and the forced detention of families. Then as now, fears were callously whipped up and there was talk of ‘invasion’ which led to brutal actions against refugees. In 1913, ‘Texas governor Oscar Colquitt dispatched over 1,000 state militiamen and the Texas National Guard to appease residents of Brownsville and El Paso. These soldiers transformed the border into a militarized zone, replete with ‘barbed wire, spotlights, tanks, machine guns and airplanes used to surveil Mexican residents A prison camp was constructed for refugees across 48 acres at Fort Bliss, which included electrically charged barbed wire16. Deployments like these would happen again and again.

  1. The legacy of hate towards Latinos is not just part of the distant past. Many in our community are the proud children and grandchildren of braceros, Mexican workers who supplied agricultural labor needs from 1942 to 1964, including the time of the Second World War. Just as the Chinese were greeted with harsh repressive measures after the completion of the railroad, many braceros were forcibly deported back to Mexico after laying down roots here in the United States as part of the infamous Operation Wetback, the largest mass deportation in American history.

  1. Older generations of El Pasoans still talk about entrenched attitudes against Latinos and how the system was stacked against them growing up. Latinos were excluded from political life by a closed network dominated by White, wealthy men. Latino children at school didn’t see themselves, not in the faces of their teachers or school leadership, but only custodial and cafeteria staff. It was expected that they would be confined to schools and neighborhoods south of the I-10 highway. It was forbidden to speak Spanish outside the home or at least highly discouraged. Names were frequently anglicized and many were denied opportunities for higher education and pigeonholed for low-wage jobs. Many Native Americans felt even more homeless, doubly discriminated against, and sometimes still feel impelled to hide their roots.

  1. The wall is a powerful symbol in the story of race. It has helped to merge nationalistic vanities with racial projects. Wall building at the border didn’t start in 2016. El Pasoans have watched its growth in fits and starts. We saw steel barriers go up at the time of NAFTA; at the very moment when NAFTA ensured the right of wealth to cross the border freely we limited and criminalized human mobility.

  1. Some cannot understand the visceral reaction of many in the borderlands to the wall. It is not just a tool of national security. More than that, the wall is a symbol of exclusion, especially when allied to an overt politics of xenophobia. It is an open wound through the middle of our sister cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. The wall deepens racially charged perceptions of how we understand the border as well as Mexicans and migrants. It extends racist talk of an ‘invasion’. It perpetuates the racist myth that the area south of the border is dangerous and foreign and that we are merely passive observers in the growth of narco-violence and the trafficking of human beings and drugs. The wall is a physical reminder of the failure of two friendly nations to resolve their internal and bi-national issues in just and peaceful way. It validates James Baldwin’s fear that Americans are addicted to innocence. It is a destructive force on the environment. The wall kills families and children. There will be a day when after this wall has come crumbling down we will look back and remember the wall as a monument to hate.

  1. Everyday in El Paso there are subtle ways that the voice of the poor is removed from them. Our biases prevent us from seeing that the slow erosion through active neglect of our communities south of the I-10 highway, as well as the loss of schools,  housing, and culture to gentrification, are really an attack on the right to a good and dignified life. Our bias won’t let us feel within our bellies the injustice of the environmental contamination in the Chamizal and its effects on their children. Those communities, too, have every right to be, as Pope Saint Paul VI said, ‘artisans of their destiny.

  1. The Mexican farmworkers who pick our pecans, pistachios, onions, tomatillos and chiles often sleep on our streets downtown. Invisible to many of us on the street and in the fields, they labor to exhaustion to produce abundance on our tables but are still paid little more than slave wages, without adequate health, disability or retirement benefits. Why don’t we reward their efforts and their skills when the work they do is so essential for our life and health?

  1. After 9-11, our people felt the interrogating stares of authorities and fellow citizens, questioning whether they belonged. Today, darker skinned residents and citizens are routinely asked to show identity cards by border enforcement agents when crossing in the middle of the international bridge while lighter skinned individuals pass by unimpeded. Recently we saw the frightening presence of armed militia from outside our community herding migrants like cattle. Even some of our seminarians have talked about experiences in seminaries in different parts of the country where it was presumed that their academic preparation was inferior and when they were the butt of jokes suggesting that their families must know something about drug trafficking.

  1. This is a history of racism and its deadly effects. Why is there greater poverty, less access to education and health care and lower wages in our border community? Not because anyone is inherently inferior, criminal or lazy. But because on these criminal pretexts people on the border have had less opportunity. This is institutional racism.

  2. And yet the people of the borderlands are not victims. Resilience and dignity are the jewels in the crown of this long and ongoing struggle and are the mark of our people. The people of the borderlands have built a real community. Against walls and inequality and fear, we have maintained our vital connection with Ciudad Juárez (the city in Mexico just opposite El Paso on the other side of the Rio Grande). In spite of this story of oppression, railroads and highways are built, food is grown in abundance, our sons and daughters battle and die with valor in the armed services, our people build wind turbines and airplane consoles, we paint murals of beauty, we speak many languages, our young people are passionate about justice and the environment, we thrive in the desert.

  1. Great progress has been made in recent years, with the passage of civil rights legislation, victories in the courts, and hard won wins of civically engaged communities, genuine public servants and organizers in the workplace. Latinos have worked hard to build a more just society. Our schools and universities are more reflective of our population and are more bilingual. Our children have graduated from distinguished academic institutions to become fine theologians, teachers, doctors and lawyers. Our community has demonstrated remarkable hospitality to migrants and refugees. Borderland culture is more and more seen as an asset to celebrate rather than a deficit of which to be ashamed. Our Church has also made progress; Patrick Flores was named bishop of El Paso in 1978, the first Mexican American bishop in the United States. Latino/a theologians have long offered inspired insights on these matters. In my pastoral reflections here I stand upon their shoulders. Those in leadership in our diocesan church increasingly reflect our population. Our liturgies, with diverse language and song, more fully anticipate the diversity and unity of the Reign of God.

  1. The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo talk about how by the 1970s their people had dwindled in number to only around 400 members. Today, the community numbers around 2,000 and they have created worthy spaces to develop their economy and promote their cultural heritage. They have invested generously in renewing and restoring their mission church, where they were not even permitted to enter through the front door in the nineteenth century. Now during Mass they can proclaim the Scriptures and pray the Our Father in their native language. They can invoke the intercession of the canonized Kateri Tekakwitha through song and dance.

  1. In the aftermath of the matanza, we immediately saw the unique spirit of El Paso in an overwhelming community response, a people united in prayer and service, regardless of race, age, nationality, gender, religion or political belief. Yet August 3rd also reminded us that our achievements are to be defended and deepened, not taken for granted.

Purification of Memory

  1. Pope Saint John Paul II set an example for us all during the Jubilee Year 2000 when he asked pardon for the violation of ‘the rights of ethnic groups and peoples and ‘contempt for their cultures and tradition.  On many occasions leaders in the Church did little to disrupt patterns of sin that demonized those who thought differently. looked different and prayed differently. We often took the European experience of Christianity to be normative and failed to appreciate the ways that God was already at work, and still at work today, in indigenous peoples and cultures. We perpetuated damaging notions of power and the desire to dominate and so contributed to the exploitation of peoples and the environment. There are some who still feel estranged from the Church on account of those actions and omissions which diminished the credibility of the Gospel.

  1. I am grieved as I reflect upon this and I realize that and nothing I can say will undo that harm. Nor do I have the answers as to how we can move forward together. But I extend my hand in humility and friendship to those individuals and communities who feel estranged from the Church. I want you to know that the Church is with you and stands beside you in your work to build a more just world. I stand beside you and am ready to learn from you.

  1. The example and lives of the martyrs also shows us what genuine Christian witness is. We see this example in the lives of Saint Oscar Romero; Blessed Father Stanley Rother; the four Maryknoll women missionaries killed in El Salvador in 1980; the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter killed in El Salvador in 1989; our own San Pedro de Jesus Maldonado. In the spirit of these examples which make the Gospel credible I wish to build a bridge. They show us that true evangelization is ‘to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15, 13). Like them I pray that I may speak without fear when it is called for and help to give voice to those who have not been heard.

Part III

He Took the Form of a Slave

But you, LORD, do not stay far off;

my strength, come quickly to help me.

Psalm 22, 20

Tú vales. 

  1. Year after year, after fall winds bring cooler weather into our desert valley, the ground beneath us in El Paso literally begins to hum in the evenings. Throughout the land, danzantes and matachines are rehearsing their ritual dance in preparation for the explosion of rhythm, chant, theatre, light and color that will take place on the 12th of December. It is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The origins of devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe are veiled in mystery. But to generation after generation she reveals the solidarity and closeness of God.

Why do they dance?

  1. Perhaps like nowhere else, the people of our border community identify with Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is in shopping malls, restaurants, Ubers, hair salons and family altares. There is a beautiful Virgin in the Chamizal special to the women there who lost their manufacturing jobs, whom they lovingly call Nuestra Señora de los Desplazados, Our Lady of the Displaced.

  1. Despite everything others tell us, we in the borderlands know that this valley between the Sierra Madre and the Rocky Mountains is home to one binational cultural reality. We live in a state of in-betweenness, neither here nor there, ni de aquí ni de allá. The weight of a violent history, gross nationalisms, politics, walls, passports, the global economy and the legacy of race compete to define our people, to define us. To make our people feel like foreigners in a foreign land. Truly we are suffering from a heart sickness ‘that says we are able to be only one or the other.

  1. The dehumanization of Indigenous and Blacks, and the displacement of the American Indian meant that these communities were deprived of the narratives, land and religious traditions that gave their life consistency and meaning. New racialized narratives for self-understanding were forced upon them and they were forced to see themselves through the eyes of their masters. In order words, tú no vales. But no one has the right to impose that type of identity.

  1. Against that dehumanization, as once she said to San Juan Diego, who represented a people dehumanized and disenfranchised, Guadalupe says to our people today, ‘you count’, tú vales.

  1. To the refugee turned away at the border, she says ‘tú vales’ ~ you count. To the worker displaced by free trade, she says ‘tú vales’. To the border agent who envisioned giving your life in service to a just cause but now struggle in confusion, and to your family, she says ‘tú vales’. To the family with mixed immigration status, she says, ‘ustedes valen.’ To the millennial who left family and culture and tradition in search of success and the American dream but now feel empty inside, she says ‘tú vales’. To those at home in neither English or Spanish or who feel awkward at not knowing enough of either, she says ‘ustedes valen.’ To the family that bears the weight of intergenerational trauma expressed in depression, abuse and divorce, she says ‘ustedes valen’.

  1. Her simple message persuades us, as it did that day on Tepeyac, that she is the God-bearer, Theotokos. Only a woman such as this young, brown, mestiza empress, born on the edges of empire and who revealed herself anew on the edges of empire, could have convinced our people of the nearness and tenderness of God. She who shares in our in-betweenness. She is the Mestiza, who takes what is noble from each culture, elevates it and points out new ways towards reconciliation. She takes on our people’s pain and trauma and she transforms it to give birth to hope and redemption.

  1. Guadalupe teaches us how we might go about repairing the sin of racism. She shows us that our deepest identity is not given to us by empire, or politics or the economy or the colonist, but is a gift of God.

  2. Our identity is formed in the grace-filled relationships we freely pursue with God, others and Creation. In the words of Pope Francis, ‘human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself  On our border we have seen that racism radically undermines those relationships.

  1. The story of Guadalupe is the story of Jesus, who divested himself of the privileges of divinity, ‘taking the form of a slave’, to become flesh like us. His was a Jewish body that embodied Israel’s universal vocation to be a blessing for all the nations (cf. Genesis 28, 14). If after the Resurrection, the Church continues Jesus’ mission of restoring the ‘unity of the whole human race, then to speak of the Church and the Reign of God is to speak of inclusion and diversity. This is the very opposite of the racist obsession with whiteness and purity and the false promises of resurgent ethno-nationalisms. Understood in this way, racism is a sign of the anti-reign and baptism and the Eucharist are the graced gateway to a fully reconciled humanity.

  1. Every race and color and tribe and people and language and culture are threads in the vibrant and diverse tapestry of the Reign of God. Our suffering and pain and dispossession are transfigured in the Jesus who died on the Cross and who invites us to relocate our broken history, our imperfect lives, our desires and aspirations and our work for justice in the drama of His Reign which is unfolding all around us through the power of His Resurrection.

  1. That is the drama unfolding in the dance of the matachines each year. That is why they dance.

  1. With her knee raised in dance, Guadalupe invites us to leave behind fear and join her in the work of advancing justice in America with joy. We are called to die to an attitude of fear and rise with a will to encounter others in vulnerability, to appreciate the gifts of every culture and people, with a willingness to be changed for the better by right relationships with God, others and the earth. In the Resurrection of Our Lord, now ‘there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear’ (1 John 4, 18).

Part IV

They Threatened Us with Resurrection

All the ends of the earth

will remember and turn to the LORD;

All the families of nations

will bow low before him.

Psalm 22, 28

Our Responsibility to Build the Temple of Justice

  1. The validation that comes from Our Lady of Guadalupe is not static acceptance. Our Lady affirmed Juan Diego against dehumanization. And that affirmation came with a divine charge to make persistent petition before the authorities and build a temple. Guadalupe validates our desire to do good, our longing for transformation and our agency to enact good in the world. And she entrusts us with a mission. To those who know the pain of racism and injustice and live in that place neither here nor there, ni de aquí ni de allá, Our Lady of Guadalupe hands on a sacred petition from her Son, to be builders of a new Temple of Justice in the Americas, a Temple of a New Humanity.

  1. But as builders of the Temple of Justice here in the Americas, it is not enough to not be racist. Our reaction cannot be non-engagement. We must also make a commitment to be anti-racists in active solidarity with the suffering and excluded. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it well when he said, ‘I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. The same thing is said in the Mayan tradition, ‘In Lak’ech’, tú eres mi otro yo, or ‘you are my other self’. Guadalupe, the Mestiza, teaches us that our destinies are bound up with one another. We must take active steps to defend the human rights of everyone in our border community and their dignity against dehumanization as we work to forge a new humanity. What racism has divided, with the help of God, we can work to restore.

  1. The burden of the history of injustice on the border is heavy. We must wrestle deeply with this legacy, lament over it passionately, confront our own biases candidly and repudiate racism completely. God offers us the chance to build a new history where racism does not prevail. The ‘manifesto’ of hate and exclusion that entered our community can be countered with a manifesto of radical love and inclusion. I want to see an El Paso that addresses both the legacy of racism and one which builds more just structures to eradicate and overcome that history. A new history of respect for human rights, inclusion and bridge building. The Reign of God is reflected in a community that brings together the best of all cultures, where the aspirations of all find a home and where the needs of the poor are put first. If we do this, we can make a vitally needed contribution to the nation from our border, here on the edges of empire, towards turning the page on injustice and hate and white supremacy definitively.

  1. ‘God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone. We must work to ensure all our children have access to quality educational opportunities, eliminate inequality in the colonias, pass immigration reform, eradicate discrimination, guarantee universal access to health care, ensure the protection of all human life, end the scourge of gun violence, improve wages on both sides of the border, offer just and sustainable development opportunities, defend the environment and honor the dignity of every person. This is how we write a new chapter in our history of solidarity and friendship that future generations can remember with pride. This work of undoing racism and building a just society is holy, for it ‘contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family. It anticipates that day when ‘night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever.’

The Need for New Leadership

  1. This historical moment also requires a new kind of leadership to which I believe our border community can make a real contribution. In all fields, Latinos have risen to the heights of power. We should not fear power. Power has been given to us as stewards by our God, who asks of us to be co-creators in bringing about His Reign. But we must learn the use of power in new, creative and grace-filled ways, not reproducing the tactics and methods of domination and division that belong to the oppressor. This will require us to stand beside the poor as they find their voice and to take a supportive role in their work for justice. We must build each other up rather than seeking to outsmart and outflank; that is not the way of true leadership or of love. Love is spontaneous, unselfish, full of surprise, life-giving and forgiving. If we are to move our borderlands towards a reconciled community beyond faction and resentment, we must commit ourselves to a love which is not merely self-directed, a love which we must learn at the feet of Jesus of Nazareth.

  1. This new type of leadership must restore agency to those communities and individuals who have been victimized and also center their voices, memories and hopes in discerning the path ahead. In the coming months, I commit to engaging these voices more intentionally in hopes that together we can turn back the tide of racism in our border community.

Our Catholic Community, An Oasis of Justice

  1. The Catholic Church in El Paso must be on permanent mission, an ongoing conversion to the Lord, so that we might be salt and leaven in the work of justice in the borderlands. Charity and justice must be the work of each of our parishes, flowing from the Word of God, our baptismal commitment and our Communion at the Eucharistic table.

  1. Our pastors should take care in the celebration of Baptism, especially baptisms during the Eucharist on Sundays, to allow the profound symbols of the sacrament to shine with clarity. In the purifying waters we celebrate the radical transformation and equality that comes from renewal in Christ. In the anointing with holy oils we proclaim a reverence for human life without distinction. The strength of these symbols should flow into our daily parish life and work for justice.

  1. Likewise, in our celebration of Mass, pastors can lead our people to a deeper consciousness of the weight of communal and historical sin that we bring to the table of the Lord in the penitential rite. We should ask ourselves carefully who is yet not present, and whose cultures are not yet reflected at the banquet of the Lord that we celebrate at the altar. In our preaching and celebration, we should lead our people to greater awareness of the connection between the love of God celebrated in our temples, and the love of God to be practiced outside their doors, including work to end prejudice and discrimination.

Faithfulness to Our Identity

  1. I would like to thank our priests who showed tenderness in ministering to the dead and wounded on August 3rd. Some arrived to the scene before it was even secure. I thank the courageous first responders. I thank the leaders of the interfaith community who organized prayer and vigils and a space for our people to expose their pain to the healing power of grace. I am grateful to the community organizations that organized financial support and provided legal assistance. I thank our NGOs and public leaders who have deepened their work for justice. I thank the churches and organizations which refused to give into fear and continued to receive migrants. I thank the journalists who continue to work tirelessly to witness to what is occurring at the border with compassion and truthfulness. I thank our teachers and therapists and doctors for accompanying us on the road to healing. I thank our people for their resilient spirit. I thank God for His constant presence and faithfulness to us.

  1. I know God will never allow the hate that visited our community on August 3rd to have the last word. We must recommit ourselves to the hospitality and compassion that characterized our community long before we were attacked, with all the risk and vulnerability which that entails. We must continue to show the rest of the country that love is capable of mending every wound. What can they do but threaten us with Resurrection?

  1. If there is anyone who feels so alone, so isolated and so tortured that you feel your only way out is to succumb to the darkness of racism and violence and pick up a gun, I say to you today: there is a place for you in our community and our church. Lay aside your weapons of hate. Put away your fear. Here there is a teacher, a sister, a deacon, a priest, a counselor … a bishop, waiting to welcome you home and greet you with love. Tú vales.

  1. I also make a direct appeal to my brothers and sisters in Texas and those in positions of authority to spare Patrick Crusius from execution. Justice is certainly required. But the cycle of hate, blood and vengeance on the border must meet its end. While the scales of justice may seem to tilt in favor of the necessity of lethal retribution, God offers us yet another chance to choose life. Choose in a manner worthy of your humanity.

  1. In the absence of immigration reform, I also renew my appeal to the President of the United States, to the Members of Congress and to the jurists of our highest Courts. I beg you to listen to the voice of conscience and halt the deportation of all those who are not a danger to our communities, to stop the separation of families, and to end once and for all the turning back of refugees and death at the border.

Given this day, the 13th of October, the XXVIII Sunday in Ordinary Time and the vigil of Indigenous People’s Day, in the year of our Lord 2019.

Your servant in Christ,

Mark Joseph Seitz

Bishop of El Paso

Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe 

O Mary of Guadalupe, our Mother,

Consolation of our frail humanity,

We need you in this moment of pain,

Be with us here in El Paso.

You who accompany us on the journey of life,

Guiding us in joyful dance,

Be a bridge between heaven and earth,

Between us your sons and daughters.

Defend us from what would devour us,

And take away the promise of new life,

With arms of war and words that kill,

With racism personal and structural,

With massacres against innocents.

All of us are daughters and sons of the Most High,

Equal in dignity, deserving of respect,

Worthy of a place on this earth,

Worthy of the call to build your Temple of Justice.

With your protection and inspiration, 

We will write the next chapter of our history,

Weaving together a new beautiful tapestry, 

Across these great borderlands. 

Ask your beloved Son, dear Mother,

To bring the dawn of a new day,

To drive away the night,

A day when sorrow and mourning will flee,

Because they can only threaten us with Resurrection.

We place all this in your loving hands,

To bring to Christ, your Son and our Savior. 

And now before you go, here’s a great Latino song De Colores that expresses the inclusivity that we’re looking for. Click here. 

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer 

End Notes

Edward K. Braxton, How to come together in response to the gun violence epidemic, America (11 September 2019),

United States Conference of Bishops, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice (2000).

Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address (1865),

Pope Francis, Message for 2019 World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2019),

Charles J. Chaput, Statement of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap Regarding Racial Violence in Charlottesville, Virginia (2017),

Yolanda Leyva, The El Paso Shooting Is a Reminder of an Ugly Side of Texas History, Time (8 August 2019),

Arzobispado de Guatemala, Oficina de Derechos Humanos, Guatemala Nunca Más, Volumen I (Guatemala: ODHAG, 1998), p. XIV.

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 23 May 2007,

Randolph Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas,1821-1865 (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1991).

Stanford University’s Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project,

Monica Muñoz Martinez,The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in the Southwest (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018).

Pope Saint Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum progressio (1967), 65.

Day of Pardon, Universal Prayer: Confession of Sins and Asking for Forgiveness, 12 March 2000,.

The Holy See’s Commission For Religious Relations With the Jews, We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,  1998: ‘Despite the Christian preaching of love for all, even for one’s enemies, the prevailing mentality down the centuries penalized minorities and those who were in any way different.’

Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands La Frontera (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1999), p. 41.

Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato si’ (2015), 66.

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ‘Lumen gentium’ (1964), 1.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Commencement Address for Oberlin College, ‘Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution’ (1965),

Pope Saint John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus annus (1991), 31,

Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate (2009), 7.

See Bryan N. Massingale, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2010), p. 122-125.

Night Will Be No More

First published in El Paso, TX 2019

Copyright © Mark J. Seitz 2019

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

Every reasonable effort has been made to trace copyright holders of material reproduced in this publication, but if any have been inadvertently overlooked the Publishers would be glad to hear from them.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, Revised Edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. All Rights Reserved.

Racism in America ~ part four

shutterstock_242301130This is the fourth in my series in Racism in America. But we’ll take a darker turn here as we look at slavery, lynchings and beatings and some of the brutal things that we white people have done to black folk or should I say continue to do to black people. I began these few articles with the humble hope of making an effort at learning and sharing. Will you read with me again today.?

This is vitally important for our country. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, predicting it’s devastation. I’ve been imploring my readers since the inception of this blog in 2006 to enter into personal transformation for the sake of the transformation of our country. The images on this page are taken from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to the memory of enslaved Black people. (Some will find the images disturbing ~ if you got beyond the cover image, that is, you probably will be alright. There are three articles here. I will post three more on next Tuesday/

2016: The year racism and fear make a comeback 

by Rhina Guidos , Catholic News Service  Dec. 23, 2016

National Catholic Reporter

WASHINGTON — It began with the fatal shootings of unarmed black men and women by police. It was exacerbated in the summer when, on July 7, a gunman in Dallas opened fire on police during a march, killing five officers in a presumed act of retaliation.

Catholic church leaders such as Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta  (presently the Archbishop of Washington, D. C.) in August called on others “to resolve to address the issues that lie beneath these acts of violence.” But no one imagined then that frustrations about race and racism in the United States, which began with the police shootings, were about to get worse in the later part of 2016.

At a news conference during the U.S. bishops’ general assembly in Baltimore in November, Gregory said the reaction to the presidential election had added to an existing tension this year over matters of race in the country.

Those who work with multicultural communities, such as Jordan Denari Duffner, a research fellow at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, which studies Islamophobia, said comments made during the campaign led to “a general kind of anti-otherness that has emerged.” When it comes Islamophobia, she said, anyone who “looks Muslim,” be it because of the color of the skin or what they may wear, can evoke a reaction from others that can lead to attacks, she said.

This kind of “anti-otherness” in the air, some say, has resulted in a rise of hate and racism. The Southern Poverty Law Center said that 10 days after the election, almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation were recorded. Many took place in public places or places of worship, at work, at schools and even in grocery stores.

In a recent column for Catholic News Service, Gregory said “the belief that one group is superior to another due to race — is a grave moral disease whose recurrence, aggressiveness and persistence should frighten every one of us.” Racism has “clearly not been cured in our nation,” he said.

He warned that “whenever one can play on the fears of some people and depend upon the ignorance of others, racism flourishes. As a political strategy, such taunting may win votes, but it destroys national unity and our future.”

Economic inequality, which plagues different communities, he said, has been used to pit one group of people against another and “when one group is made to feel that its economic situation results from the coddling of another, the reaction is often a racist response,” Gregory said.

That’s when a country starts seeing attitudes such as “immigrants are taking our jobs” and “public aid only rewards laziness,” and “poor and struggling white people have been forgotten,” he said.

He added that “conditions necessary for the transmission of racism were thoroughly mixed with such attitudes during the recent election process. Left untreated, the prognosis is bleak.”

Sr. Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA, said this election “showed the racial but also economic polarization that our country is in the midst of” and which had become apparent earlier in the year.

Chappell, who is black and is a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, said she has never seen the level of violence and hatred against so many groups — Muslims, immigrants and others — as she saw during the election and which has caused much concern.

The Trump campaign, she said, has to acknowledge comments made that played into the fears of others and that helped propel some in the white supremacist movement. During his campaign, he called for a pause on admitting Muslim refugees into this country until, as he described it, a system was in place for “extreme vetting” of them. He talked about deporting immigrants who are in this country without legal permission.

President-elect Donald Trump has on several occasions said he is not racist and his transition team released a statement Nov. 29 saying he denounces racism in all its forms.

“To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds,” the statement said. “For anyone to conclude these senseless acts are the result of the election is disappointing and gives an excuse for their appalling behavior.”

But just to look at his Cabinet and administration picks, and one doesn’t get the sense that Trump or his picks are allies of people who are marginalized and oppressed, Chappell said.

“I don’t see signs of him reaching out to those communities that traditionally continue to suffer from oppression,” she said. “I hope he will. I am hopeful … I want to hold him at his word and so for me right now, we have to wait and see.”

“I question his motives,” she continued. “But on the other hand, I have faith, and I have to trust and wait and see how he responds in terms of really moving toward unifying America. I think we have to find a way as a country to again embrace that all are welcome, all have place and we just have to find a way to pull together because we are all brothers and sisters.”

Gregory said the new administration “must recognize and address the deadly impact that racism and racist behavior continues to inflict upon our nation and its people. Racist words and slogans can inflame violence and do great harm to the fabric of our country.”

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A black man accused of rape, a white officer in the Klan, and a 1936 lynching that went unpunished

By Michael S. Rosenwald  / July 19, 2020 The Washington Post

The lynching began with a knock on the door.

It was 3 a.m. on Sept. 12, 1936, a steamy late summer morning in Atlanta.

Thomas Finch and his family were sound asleep. Then, the knocking. When Finch’s father opened the front door, he found five white men standing there: two police officers and three other burly men the family had never seen before.

“We want your son Tom,” an officer said.

Finch got dressed and went with the officers. An hour later, he was dumped outside Grady Hospital, where he worked as an orderly. His face was pummeled. He was shot multiple times.

“Oh Lord,” he said, as nurses placed him on an operating table. “Oh Lord.”

Those were his last words. He was 28.

Authorities never investigated Finch’s death or charged anyone for it, and it was clear why. The horrific killing was orchestrated by one of the men on Finch’s doorstep — Samuel Roper, a pold then, upon retirement, Georgia’s chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.police officer who went on to lead the Georgia Bureau of Investigation an

At least 2,000 more black people were lynched by white mobs than previously reported, new research finds.

The circumstances of Finch’s lynching — one of more than 6,500 between 1865 and 1950 — were brought to light in 2017 by Carissa Aranda, a civil rights attorney in western Massachusetts who at the time was a Northeastern University law school student investigating cold cases for the school’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project.

As part of her investigation, Aranda examined an unpublished investigation into Finch’s death conducted by the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, a race reform organization founded in segregated Atlanta in 1919. She also tracked down Finch’s last known surviving relative: his niece, Joyce Finch-Morris. Now 71, she still lives in Atlanta, which became an epicenter of Black Lives Matter protests following the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks in June.

A Wendy’s in Atlanta burns June 13 after demonstrators protesting the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks set it on fire.

Finch also died in police custody. His niece knew little about his death until Aranda shared her findings. Now Finch-Morris finds herself wishing her parents and other relatives were around not just to learn what really happened that night in 1936, but to see the police brutality protests sweeping the country.

“As painful as his death was, they died knowing that their son, their brother, their uncle died with no recourse, with no justice whatsoever,” she said. “The difference now is that society is outraged. People are just tired of it. These things won’t just be swept under the rug like what happened to my uncle. We need justice.”

‘Calculated force’

One of seven children, Finch was a descendant of sharecroppers. In his early 20s, while his father supported the family as a haberdasher, Finch got a job as an orderly at Grady Hospital, which had two buildings — one for black patients, the other for whites. Finch worked in the white building.

Thomas Finch was killed in Atlanta police custody on Sept. 12, 1936.

Back in the 1930s, police officers in Atlanta openly lived double lives. When they weren’t in uniform, many wore the white robes of the Ku Klux Klan. The police department’s own history acknowledges that the “Klan-dominated police union” wasn’t officially abolished until 1947, though historians and criminologists say connections with white supremacy lasted even longer.

The day 30,000 white supremacists in KKK robes marched in the nation’s capital

“This was not unusual and limited to Georgia,” said Taimi Castle, a professor of justice studies at James Madison University and the author of an academic paper titled “Cops and the Klan.” “During the same period of time, in some jurisdictions all local officials were members, including the sheriff.”

When Finch was accused of rape, Roper caught the case.

Roper joined the Klan in the early 1920s, according to “A Measure of Freedom,” a 1950 Anti-Defamation League investigation of KKK involvement in anti-Semitism and white supremacy in America. While Roper served as a police officer and later the head of Georgia’s prestigious Bureau of Investigation, his local Klan titles included Exalted Cyclops and Imperial Nighthawk.

In 1949, 13 years after Finch’s lynching, Roper became Imperial Wizard of Georgia’s Klan organizations. The appointment was widely covered in Atlanta’s newspapers, which referred to him as Wizard Roper. “Roper has a reputation,” the Anti-Defamation League investigation said, “for planning his moves with calculated force.”

When Roper came to the Finch family’s home that September night, Finch asked why he was being arrested. All the officers would say was that there was an investigation underway. Finch was placed in a car and driven away. His wife, nervous about the strange 3 a.m. arrival of officers and several other unidentified men, called police headquarters and the county jail trying to find him.

Nobody knew where he had been taken.

‘It was very painful’

When Finch-Morris was growing up, her mother had told her that her uncle had been accused of raping a white woman and that he was lynched. But Finch-Morris’s father, even if he knew the whole story, didn’t talk much about his brother’s death.

“My father was a forthright person, but when I asked about this it was very painful for him, and he didn’t want to talk about it,” she said. “I knew he was going out with a white woman, and he was lynched. That’s it.”

Joyce Finch-Morris at her home in Atlanta. Her uncle Thomas Finch was lynched in Atlanta in 1936. Then a few years ago, Finch-Morris received a phone call from Aranda, the Northeastern University law school student.

Aranda had grown up in the South with dreams of becoming a civil rights attorney. Northeastern, with its renowned Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, was an ideal place. The clinic has investigated hundreds of lynchings, bringing closure to scores of families whose loved ones were killed without any justice at all.

Finch’s case was assigned to Aranda in 2017. Scraping through archives and news clippings, she was led to an unpublished and undated investigation into his death held in the archives of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, at the University of North Carolina’s Wilson Special Collections Library.

In the papers, Aranda found a document titled, in part, “Concerning the Death of Tom Finch.” The author was Arthur F. Raper, a white sociologist who studied lynching and investigated them for the commission. (There are other investigative reports in the commission files, though it is not clear whether Raper is also the author.)

One of the reports begins with an account of Finch being awakened by Roper and another officer.

“Where they had taken him,” the report says, “for what purpose, and by what authority, and why had they had found it necessary to beat him and shoot him to death are questions that invite investigation.”

Raper and the commission’s investigation was a thorough inquiry, the sort of investigation Atlanta police would have conducted had the murder victim been white. The idea that Finch raped Smith was dismissed by his supervisors, including white nurses and doctors who comforted the family and a sent floral wreath to his funeral.

The office where the alleged attack occurred was near a busy reception area.

“Everybody interviewed at the hospital,” one of the commission reports said, “were unanimous in their conviction that the alleged was not and could not have been committed. It is unbelievable that the woman would have submitted silently to such an attack when the slightest outcry would have brought a dozen people to her rescue.”

If Smith made up the attack, why did she do it? Raper’s report doesn’t pinpoint an exact motive, but Aranda, in her own report, wrote that Smith “and the Atlanta police detectives insisted on painting Finch as the stereotypical black rapist, a false image used by the press and law enforcement authorities to excuse of justify ‘vigilante’ lynchings.”

In the commission report, Raper noted that Smith “tends to desire publicity” and, on other visits to the hospital, was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as being “mentally subnormal and irresponsible” and unable to adequately state her name and address.

The day Smith alleged the attack to police, cars began to circle Finch’s home, honking their horns. Somewhere between his house and his arrival at Grady Hospital on the verge of death, Finch was beaten and shot.

In a newspaper article later that week, police told reporters that Finch attacked Roper and attempted to escape, prompting police to defend themselves and kill him.

Raper found that story nearly impossible to believe, because Roper had brought civilians to the house and especially because Finch was never taken to the police station, which was only a few blocks from Finch’s home. All of that, plus the allegation of rape by a white woman, suggested the “probability” that police and friends of the girl murdered Finch.

“It seems obvious,” Raper concluded, “that Finch was lynched.”

‘Everyone is speaking out’

Finch-Morris was startled when Aranda explained what happened to her uncle. The killing was also investigated by the Center for Investigative Reporting and WABE, an Atlanta NPR affiliate.

“It was all very, very shocking,” she said.

The lynching, of course. But also the role of the police.

“As far as I could tell, the KKK and the police were one and the same,” Finch-Morris said. “That’s just the way it was. There was no way for anybody to get any recourse.”

Nowadays, there is at least some chance. Officers are wearing body cameras. And citizens are wielding an important technological weapon against police brutality — cellphones that have recorded black Americans being beaten and killed by police, from George Floyd in Minneapolis to Brooks in Atlanta.

But something else important has changed, Finch-Morris added.

“It’s not just black people who are making their voices heard,” she said. “Now everyone is speaking out. That definitely didn’t happen back in 1936. That is progress.”

ls

This moment calls for a new consciousness: become an anti-racist

By Sister Nancy Sylvester SSIHM

The Global Sisters Report

It is hard to believe that we are entering the sixth month living with COVID19 and all of its unanticipated consequences. By basically stopping all of our usual ways of relating, working, shopping and traveling, a space opened for the eruption of systemic racism into the public consciousness. The brutal murder of George Floyd by police officers was shared around the world through social media and could not be dismissed or justified. It released centuries of anger and frustration due to the systemic oppression of people of color, caused by racist policies, programs and consciousness.

Suddenly protests peppered the country, asserting that Black Lives Matter and demanding that police brutality be addressed. Soon, statues of Confederate soldiers were being forcibly removed. Names of streets, buildings and military bases were being changed because they enshrined men who were held in esteem defending the South and its institution of slavery.

The response is as divided as we are as a country. Our president — seeing a campaign opportunity to run as the “law and order” candidate in a country under siege — is exploiting the Black Lives Matter movement and recasting the participants as those who would tear down our history, who are soft on crime.

However, the majority of our citizens see the long effects of slavery and are sympathetic to Black Lives Matter and support changes to racist policies, especially within the culture of police departments.

For me, I sense this is a rare opportunity to awaken, to transform our collective consciousness in ways that are more anti-racist. And this means each of us must do our own individual work.

Moving forward demands a new perspective, a new set of lenses, a new way of looking at what we thought we knew. It demands a new consciousness. Our hearts must become our organs of perception. The work will be different for those of us who benefitted from the legacy of white supremacy and those who suffered because of it. But all of us have to find the place within us where racism in its multiple forms exists, shapes us and persists.

Ibram X. Kendi’s bookHow to be an Antiracist, helps to get in touch with how racism permeates how we see the world, and it offers ways to uproot racism and inequality in our society — and in ourselves. Kendi’s basic theory is “that racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value that extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types.”

This shift of consciousness being asked of us is truly the work of contemplation.

Over these years of contemplative practice, I have become more aware of my own biases, my own assumptions about things. This awareness is never ending, as we are human, but it does soften how I take in new information that challenges me. Although I have through the years addressed white privilege in our society and in myself, I was caught off guard as I read Kendi’s book. I could feel the discomfort in me. I saw myself reacting and then opening up to understand how these various racist hierarchies lived within me. I realized I do not have to keep affirming this or that racist belief in myself. I felt a loosening of the hold it had on me.

If I had not been opening myself to the working of the Divine within me these years, I’m sure I would be responding differently — more defensively, trying to justify my way of thinking or simply dismissing Kendi’s theory as exaggerated and too simplistic.

Coming to my own realization, I, in turn, had a heightened awareness of how challenging and difficult this will be for those in the white community who are just coming to an awareness of white privilege. The letting go of being dominant and knowing that who I am and how I do things will no longer be normative will be gut wrenching. In addition, because this is coming in the middle of the pandemic, some will feel that this is the last straw — we have to deal with the pandemic, we are all hurting, we can’t address these issues as well!

I believe that the shift of consciousness to an antiracist one is the call of our time … a long overdue one … but one that will be difficult at best. But we can prepare for it.

Take time this summer and learn about the history of slavery and how systemic racism operates. Both Kendi’s book and James Cone’s bookThe Cross and the Lynching Tree, are excellent resources.

When you feel resistance:

Stop.
Name the feeling.
Explore why you are feeling that way.
Open yourself to seeing the reality of racism in yourself.

In the spirit of the Welcoming Prayer, allow yourself to be with that feeling until you can let it go.

After your contemplative sitting, be attentive during the day and gently observe how the shift of consciousness begins to settle into your body and into your behavior.

As discussion of issues of systemic racism become more prominent among your family and friends and more central to our political discourse, you might find yourself willing to engage with people who are still resisting seeing this as an issue. By consciously observing yourself face into your own experience of racism, you can better understand and offer insights to those who are just beginning the struggle.

Addressing how racism is woven into the fabric of our society and within ourselves from a contemplative heart is not an easy task. We will have to face into our fears.

Psalm 49 offers a more poetic way of doing just that.

Yes, even the wise are not immune to fear; yet, unlike the ignorant, the wise face their fears with resolve. Not running away, nor projecting them onto others.
They trace them to the source, rooting them out as weeds from a rose garden.
Thus, they do not trust in the riches of the world, but in the Treasure hidden in the heart.

[Nancy Sylvester is founder and director of the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue. She served in leadership of her own religious community, the Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe, Michigan, as well as in the presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Prior to that she was National Coordinator of Network, the national Catholic social justice lobby.]

Now, before you go,  here’s the African spiritual Amazing Grace for you by an African children’s choir. Click here.

 

Racism in America (part three) how can we learn about our role in it?

man-5273813_1920 (1)The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it

Amy Cooper knew exactly what she was doing. We all do. And that’s the problem.

by Bryan N. Massingale

I’ve shared two posts so far on the subject of Racism in America. The first one began with an essay that a friend of mine wrote during the early morning hours on the Fourth of July saying that as a person of color, he wanted to share a different point of view of our nation’s founding. That essay was followed by Frederic Douglas’ searing speech on the Fifth of July from a slave’s point of view.

The second post offered two articles, the first of which was about a woman, Jane Elliott, who spent 52 years teaching people about their prejudices in a famous “Blue Eyes / Brown Eyes ” experiment. The second one was about a Bishop in LittleRock, Arkansas and a priest in Atlanta both of whom had considerable experience teaching Catholics to get out of their comfort zones about racism.  I promised three blogs on this subject (this is the third.) But there is more to be done and I will publish at least one more next week.

Today let’s take some time to educate ourselves about our own role as white people in perpetuating racism in our country. This is an article that appeared in The National Catholic Reporter on June 1st, 2020, just after the Labor Day tragic murder of George Floyd. It’s written by Fr. Bryan N. Massingale is a theology professor at Fordham University in New York. He is the author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church.  So let’s dig into this. Some of this may be uncomfortable to some of you, but this is important for the good of our country and for you and all of us. So hang in there and do a bit of studying with us please!

“Every white person in this country — I do not care what he says or what she says — knows one thing. … They know that they would not like to be black here. If they know that, they know everything they need to know. And whatever else they may say is a lie.” — James Baldwin, “Speech at the University of California Berkeley,” 1979

It has never been easy to be black in America. Still, the past few months have pushed me to depths of outrage, pain and despondency that are unmatched in my 63 years of life. Look at what has transpired:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic showed that while all might be vulnerable, we are not equally vulnerable. Blacks, Latinos and Native peoples are the vast majority of those infected and killed by this virus. In some places, the levels of “disparity” (such a sanitizing word!) are catastrophic. But as tragic as this is, it was entirely predictable and even expected. The contributing factors for this vulnerability have been documented for decades: lack of insurance, less access to healthcare, negligent treatment from and by healthcare professionals, overcrowded housing, unsafe and unsanitary working conditions. All of this compounded by how the least paid and protected workers are now considered “essential” and must be exposed to the virus’ hazards. As a young black grocery clerk told me, “Essential is just a nice word for sacrificial.” Sacrificed for the comfort of those who can isolate and work from home, who are disproportionately white.

  • Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old black man, who was executed on Feb. 23 as three white men stalked him while he was jogging in Brunswick, Georgia. One of the killers had ties to local law enforcement. Only after public protests and the passing of 74 days were any arrests made and charges filed over this death.

  • Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, who was killed by Louisville police officers on March 13 after they kicked in the door of her apartment unannounced and without identifying themselves. Fearful for their lives, her boyfriend fired his lawfully possessed gun. Breonna was killed with eight bullets fired by three officers, under circumstances that have yet to be satisfactorily explained.

  • Christian Cooper, a young black man — a birdwatcher — who was reported to the police May 25 by Amy Cooper (no relation), a young white woman, who called 911 to say that “an African American man” was threatening her in New York’s Central Park merely because he had the gall to ask her to comply with the park’s posted regulations to leash her dog.

  • George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old African American man, who was brutally killed on May 25 in Minneapolis by a white police officer who knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, despite being restrained, despite the urgent requests of onlookers, despite his repeated desperate pleas: “I can’t breathe.”

  • Omar Jimenez, a black Latino CNN reporter, who was arrested on May 29 in the middle of doing live reports on events in Minneapolis, while a white CNN reporter doing the same thing, at the same time in the same neighborhood, was not only not arrested but was treated with “consummate politeness” by the authorities. The stark contrast was so jarring that Jimenez’s white colleagues noted that the only possible difference was the race of the reporters.

All of this weighs on my spirit. I try to pray, but inner quiet eludes me. I simply sit in silence on Pentecost weekend before a lit candle praying, “Come, Holy Spirit” as tears fall. Words fail me. I ponder the futility of speaking out, yet again, trying to think of how to say what has been said, what I have said, so often before.

Then it occurred to me. Amy Cooper holds the key.

The event in Central Park is not the most heinous listed above. The black man didn’t die — thankfully. Compared to the others, it has received little attention. But if you understand Amy Cooper, then all the rest, and much more, makes sense. And points the way forward.

 

White privilege                                                                                 

Let’s recall what Amy Cooper did. After a black man tells her to obey the posted signs that require her to leash her dog in a public park, she tells him she’s going to call the police “and I’m going to tell them that there’s an African American man threatening my life.” Then she does just that, calling 911 and saying, “There’s a man, an African American, he has a bicycle helmet. He is recording me and threatening me and my dog.” She continues, in a breathless voice, “I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble [a wooded area of Central Park]. Please send the cops immediately!” This despite the fact that Christian Cooper’s camera records the events and shows that he made no threatening moves toward her, spoke to her calmly and without insult, and kept his distance from her the whole time.

In short, she decided to call the police on a black man for nothing more than politely asking her to obey the park’s rules. And made up a lie to put him in danger.

She knew what she was doing. And so do we. The situation is completely “legible” as my academic colleagues would say. What did she and rest of us know? Why did she act as she did?

  • She assumed that her lies would be more credible than his truth.

  • She assumed that she would have the presumption of innocence.

  • She assumed that he, the black man, would have a presumption of guilt.

  • She assumed that the police would back her up.

  • She assumed that her race would be an advantage, that she would be believed because she is white. (By the way, this is what we mean by white privilege).

  • She assumed that she had the upper hand in this situation.

  • She assumed that she could use these deeply ingrained white fears to keep a black man in his place.

  • She assumed that if he protested his innocence against her, he would be seen as “playing the race card.”

  • She assumed that no one would accuse her of “playing the race card,” because no one accuses white people of playing the race card when using race to their advantage.

  • She assumed that he knew that any confrontation with the police would not go well for him.

  • She assumed that the frame of “black rapist” versus “white damsel in distress” would be clearly understood by everyone: the police, the press and the public.

  • She assumed that her knowledge of how white people view the world, and especially black men, would help her.

  • She assumed that a black man had no right to tell her what to do.

  • She assumed that the police officers would agree.

  • She assumed that even if the police made no arrest, that a lot of white people would take her side and believe her anyway.

  • She assumed that Christian Cooper could and would understand all of the above.

(And she was right. He clearly knew what was at stake, which is why he had the presence of mind to record what happened).

All of this was the almost instantaneous reasoning behind her actions. By her own admission, she acted out of reflex. No one taught Amy Cooper all of this. Likely, no one gave her an explicit class on how whiteness works in America. But she knew what she was doing.

And so do we. We understand her behavior. We know how our culture frames whiteness and folks of color. We know how race works in America.

The fundamental assumption behind all the others is that white people matter, or should matter, more than people of color. Certainly more than black people. That black lives don’t matter, or at least not as much as white lives. That’s the basic assumption behind Amy Cooper’s decisions, actions and words. That’s the basic assumption that links Christian Cooper with COVID-19, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Omar Jimenez.

Amy Cooper knew that. We all know that. So who taught her? Who taught us?

The Ways of Whiteness

This is where things may get uncomfortable for most of you, who I assume (and hope) will be white. Because just as no one gave her an explicit class on the ways of whiteness and how it works in society — and for her — most likely you never received a formal class or explanation either. It’s just something that you know, or better, that you realize on some distant yet real part of your brain. At some early age, you realized that no matter how bad things got for you, at least you would never be black. And it dawned on you, though you rarely consciously say it, that you would never want to be black. Because you realized, even without being explicitly told, that being white makes life easier. Even if you have to do some hard work along the way, at least you don’t have to carry the burden of blackness as a hindrance.

How did you, how did I, how did we all learn this? No one taught you. No one had to. It’s something that you absorbed just by living. Just by taking in subtle clues such as what the people in charge look like. Whose history you learned in school. What the bad guys look like on TV. The kind of jokes you heard. How your parents, grandparents and friends talked about people that didn’t look like you.

I can hear some of you protesting. You don’t want to admit this, especially your ability to make life rough for people of color. You don’t want to face it. But Amy Cooper made the truth plain and obvious. She knew deep in her soul that she lived in a country where things should work in the favor of white people. She knew the real deal. We all do.

That’s the reason for the grief, outrage, lament, anger, pain and fury that have been pouring into our nation’s streets. Because folks are tired. Not only of the individual outrages. But of the fundamental assumption that ties them all together: that black lives don’t matter and should not matter — at least not as much as white ones.

We struggle to admit that Amy Cooper reveals what W.E.B. Du Bois calls “the souls of white folks.” Because, to quote James Baldwin again, facing the truth “would reveal more about America to Americans than Americans want to know.” Or admit that they know.

What don’t we want to admit? That Amy Cooper is not simply a rogue white person or a mean-spirited white woman who did an odious thing. Yes, we should and must condemn her words and actions. But we don’t want to admit that there is a lot more to this story. That she knew, we all know, that she had the support of an unseen yet very real apparatus of collective thoughts, fears, beliefs, practices and history.

This is what we mean by systemic racism. I could call it white supremacy, although I know that white people find that term even more of a stumbling block than white privilege. Essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates gives the best short description of this complex reality called white supremacy. He describes it as “an age-old system in America which holds that whites should always be ensured that they will not sink to a certain level. And that level is the level occupied by black people.” Amy Cooper knew that. And so do we.

We don’t want to admit that Amy Cooper is not simply a bad white woman. We don’t want to face the truth about America that her words and actions betray. We don’t want to admit that present in Central Park that morning was the scaffolding of centuries-long accumulations of the benefits of whiteness. Benefits that burden people of color. Benefits that kill black and brown people.

Without facing this truth, Amy Cooper’s actions make no sense. She knew what she was doing. And so do we. Even if we do not want to admit it.

 

Where do we begin?

I understand the feelings of helplessness, confusion and even despondency that can afflict us. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem, by the immense weight of centuries of accumulated fear, resentment, privilege and righteous anger. It can be shocking to confront the vastness of this nation’s commitment to white benefit and advantage. Where do we begin?

Let me be more specific: what are white people to do now that they know that they know what Amy Cooper knows — assuming they want to do anything? (The reason for the specificity will become clear).

First, understand the difference between being uncomfortable and being threatened. There is no way to tell the truth about race in this country without white people becoming uncomfortable. Because the plain truth is that if it were up to people of color, racism would have been resolved, over and done, a long time ago. The only reason for racism’s persistence is that white people continue to benefit from it.

Repeat that last sentence. Make it your mantra. Because until the country accepts that truth, we will never move beyond superficial words and ineffective half-measures.

Systemic racism benefits white people. That’s the truth that Amy Cooper knew and that we all know. That truth supports all the assumptions that sustain the racial craziness and insanity in which we live. I know that bluntly stating that systemic racism benefits white people makes people — especially white people — uncomfortable. I also feel a pang of discomfort in being so direct. (I know the kinds of online comments and emails that are sure to follow.)

But avoiding and sugarcoating this truth is killing people of color. Silence for the sake of making white people comfortable is a luxury we can no longer afford.

If white people are unwilling to face very uncomfortable truths, then the country is doomed to remain what Abraham Lincoln called “a house divided.” And he warned that such a house cannot stand.

What to do next? Nothing. Sit in the discomfort this hard truth brings. Let it become agonizing. Let it move you to tears, to anger, to guilt, to shame, to embarrassment. Over what? Over your ignorance. Over the times you went along with something you knew was wrong. Or when you told a racist joke because you could. Because you knew that your white friends and family would let you get away with it, or even join in. Because you thought it was “just a joke.” Or the times you wouldn’t hire the person of color because you knew your white employees would have a problem with it and you didn’t want the hassle. Or when you knew the person of color was in the right, but it was easier not to upset your white friends. Or wealthy donors, who are almost always white. (By the way, the wealth disparity didn’t just happen nor is it due to black and brown folks’ laziness. Look at the complexions of our “essential workers” for proof.) Most of all, feel the guilt, the pain, the embarrassment over doing nothing and saying nothing when you witnessed obvious racism.

Stay in the discomfort, the anxiety, the guilt, the shame, the anger. Because only when a critical mass of white folks are outraged, grieved and pained over the status quo — only when white people become upset enough to declare, “This cannot and will not be!” — only then will real change begin to become a possibility.

Third, admit your ignorance and do something about itUnderstand that there is a lot about our history and about life that we’re going to have to unlearn. And learn over. Malcolm X said that the two factors responsible for American racism are greed and skillful miseducation. We have all been taught a sanitized version of America that masks our terrible racial history.

For example, most of my white students — and students of color, too — know nothing of the terror of lynching. They don’t know that for a 30-year period from 1885-1915, on average every third day a black person was brutally and savagely and publicly murdered by white mobs. This wasn’t taught, or it was taught to mean only that, in the words of a white student, “some people got beat up real bad.” (Note the passive voice, which obscures who did these beatings and why).

Yet without knowing this history, the Civil Rights Movement only becomes a feel-good story about desegregation and bringing races together — sharing schools, drinking fountains and (maybe) neighborhoods. The brutal, savage and sadistic violence that whites inflicted with impunity upon black — and brown and Asian — people in order to defend “white supremacy” (their words, not mine) is never faced. Nor do we have to face the truth that most racial violence in our history has been and continues to be inflicted by whites against people of color.

To create a different world, we must learn how this one came to be. And unlearn what we previously took for granted. This means that we have to read. And learn from the perspectives of people of color. (Not to toot my own horn, but my book Racial Justice and the Catholic Church is a good place to start).

Fourth, have the courage to confront your family and friends. I tell my white students that they will see and hear more naked racial bigotry than I do. Because when I am in the room, everyone knows how to act. Sociologist Joe Feagin documents how white people behave one way when on the “front stage,” that is, in public. But “backstage,” in the company of fellow whites, a different code of behavior prevails. Here racist acts and words are excused: “That’s just the way your father was raised.” “Your grandmother is of a different generation.” “It’s just a joke.” “But deep down, he’s really a good person.” “But if you ignore all that, he’s a really fun person to be with.” “You can’t choose your family, but you gotta love them anyway.” “It’s only once a year.” “I wish he wouldn’t talk that way. But you can’t change how people feel.”

I understand the desire to have peaceful or at least conflict-free relationships with family and friends. But as the Rev. Martin Luther King said so well, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Silence means consent. Or at least, complicity.

Until white people call out white people, there will always be safe places for racial ugliness to brew and fester. And people like Amy Cooper will continue to assume that white people will always have their backs, no matter what. And they won’t be wrong. And black people will continue to die.

Fifth, be “unconditionally pro-life.” These are the words of St. Pope John Paul II from his final pastoral visit to the United States. He summoned Catholics to “eradicate every form of racism” as part of their wholehearted and essential commitment to life.

This has a very serious consequence: You cannot vote for or support a president who is blatantly racist, mocks people of color, separates Latino families and consigns brown children into concentration camps, and still call yourself “pro-life.” We need to face, finally and at long last, the uncomfortable yet real overlap between the so-called “pro-life” movement and the advocates of racial intolerance.

In the name of our commitment to life, we must challenge not only these social policies, but also the attitude that cloaks support for racism under the guise of being “pro-life.” John Paul declared that racism is a life issue. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and the many black and brown victims of COVID-19 prove it. It is way past time for Catholics to become “unconditionally pro-life.”

Finally, pray. Yes, racism is a political issue and a social divide. But at its deepest level, racism is a soul sickness. It is a profound warping of the human spirit that enables human beings to create communities of callous indifference toward their darker sisters and brothers. Stripped to its core, white supremacy is a disturbing interior disease, a malformed consciousness that enables white people to not care for those who don’t look like them. As historian Paul Wachtel succinctly declares in his book Race in the Mind of America, “The real meaning of race comes down largely to this: Is this someone I should care about?

This soul sickness can only be healed by deep prayer. Yes, we need social reforms. We need equal educational opportunities, changed police practices, equitable access to health care, an end to employment and housing discrimination. But only an invasion of divine love will shatter the small images of God that enable us to live undisturbed by the racism that benefits some and terrorizes so many.

In her essay, “The Desire for God and the Transformative Power of Contemplation [6],”  Baltimore Carmelite Sr. Constance FitzGerald writes, “The time will come when God’s light will invade our lives and show us everything we have avoided seeing. Then will be manifest the confinement of our carefully constructed meanings, the limitations of our life projects, the fragility of the support systems or infrastructures on which we depend … [and] the darkness in our own heart.”

God’s love is subversive and destructive. It exposes self-serving political ideologies as shortsighted and corrosive.

And yet FitzGerald and the Carmelite tradition insist that God subverts our plans and projects for the sake of new life. FitzGerald relates how, through unmasking the shallowness of our “achievements,” God leads us to “new minds, as well as new intuitions, new wills, and passionate new desires.”

Perhaps, then, the grace of this dark time in our nation is that it reveals how racially toxic our politics, society and culture have truly become, in order to spur us to build a new culture based not on the exploitation of fear but on solidarity with and for the least among us.

We need to pray for a new infusion of the Spirit and for the courage to let this Spirit transform our hearts. Come, Holy Spirit!

(Do we dare to really make that our prayer?)

Is this enough?

I can hear some of you saying, “But is this enough?” I am under no illusion that these actions, by themselves, can erase the accumulated debris of centuries of commitment to white preference and black detriment. None of us can do all that is required at this moment.

But just because we cannot do everything doesn’t mean we should not do something. We are not as helpless as we fear. Moreover, helplessness is an emotion that we cannot afford to indulge. As James Baldwin believed, despair is an option that only the comfortable can afford to entertain.

We can create a new society, one where more and more people will challenge the assumptions of white racial privilege that sustain Amy Cooper’s universe. Our universe. One built on a different set of assumptions, one where all lives truly do matter because black lives finally will matter.

I end with the final words of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church:

Social life is made by human beings. The society we live in is the outcome of human choices and decisions. This means that human beings can change things. What humans break, divide, and separate, we can — with God’s help — also heal, unite, and restore.

What is now does not have to be. Therein lies the hope. And the challenge.

Come, Holy Spirit!
Fill the hearts of your faithful.
Enkindle within us the fire of your love.
Come, Holy Spirit!
Breathe into us a fiery passion for justice.
Especially for those who have the breath of life crushed from them.
Amen.  

And before you go, do you remember the scene in Rogers and Hammerstein’s movie South Pacific  when Ledie tells Emile that she cannot marry him? She says it’s not because of his island children (it is.) But she says she doesn’t know why. Then the young Navy Captain Joe sings “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear”

Click here for the entire scene. Be sure to enter fullscreen and turn up your speakers!  

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Racism in America ~ can we change for the better (part two)

Amid unrest, some say church can engage in fight against racism

A group of children near the White House in Washington hold up their fists in front of a Black Lives Matter sign June 7, 2020. (Credit: Joshua Roberts/Reuters via CNS.)

I’d like to continue our reflections on Racism in America with two articles that I’ve selected on the subject—one that was an experiment that has been used over the years to get people to realize their prejudices by the woman who developed them.

The second article is about how the Roman Catholic Church is and can possible assist in the future to combat racism.  Here’s the first one  . . .

A Teacher Held a Famous Racism Exercise in 1968. She’s Still at It.

The day after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Jane Elliott carried out the “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes” exercise in her classroom. Now, people are returning to her work.

Credit…Amrita Marina
By Alisha Haridasani Gupta

— Jane Elliott, a schoolteacher turned anti-racism educator

As protest against racism started sweeping across America and rest of the world, clips of Jane Elliott, a schoolteacher turned anti-racism educator, began circulating on social media.

Perhaps you’ve seen them.

In one grainy clip in 2001, Ms. Elliott, with her signature round glasses and clipped white hair, gets into such a heated argument with a white female college student during an educational exercise about racism that the uncomfortable and distraught woman starts crying and storms out of the classroom.

“You just exercised a freedom that none of these people of color have,” Ms. Elliott tells the student, sternly. “When these people of color get tired of racism, they can’t just walk out.”

Or maybe you’ve seen the 2018 video of Ms. Elliott in a round-table discussion on racism with the actress and producer Jada Pinkett Smith, Ms. Pinkett Smith’s daughter, Willow, and Ms. Pinkett Smith’s mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris.

“I’m not a white woman. I’m a faded Black person,” Ms. Elliott says, stunning the hosts. “My people moved far from the Equator, and that’s the only reason my skin is lighter.”

“Wow,” Ms. Pinkett Smith says back. “I’m with you, Jane!”

Ms. Elliott, now 87, said she started teaching about racism on April 5, 1968 — the day after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

At the time, she was a third-grade schoolteacher in the all-white Iowa town of Riceville, and the news of Dr. King’s death so shocked and moved her that she threw out the lesson plan for the next day and came up with a new one that would force the children to experience prejudice and discrimination firsthand.

In what is now known as the “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes” exercise, she split up her class into two groups based on an arbitrary characteristic: eye color. Those with blue eyes were better, smarter and superior to those with brown eyes, she told her students, and therefore they were entitled to perks, like more recess time and access to the water fountain.

Quickly, the dynamic of the room shifted. “I watched wonderful, thoughtful children turn into nasty, vicious, discriminating little third graders,” she explained, in a PBS documentary about her work.

The next day, she reversed the roles. Now the brown-eyed students were superior and had perks and the blue-eyed students were inferior.

For decades, Ms. Elliott repeated the exercise around the country, including in 1992 on the Oprah Winfrey Show and she would witness more or less the same outcome: people turning on each other on the basis of eye color.

Now, as the recent wave of demonstrations reaches every corner of the U. S., drawing more white people than previous protests against racism, Ms. Elliott’s work is thrust back in the spotlight.

And she’s sick and tired of it.

“I keep trying to tell people why racism has to stop, and they keep asking the same questions, like ‘How do we do that?’ and then continue to ignore the answers,” she said in a phone interview.

“It makes me really angry that I’ve been saying these things for 52 years.”   ( Seems theres’ a coincidence here: She began her work the same day I was ordained a deacon, the day after Dr. King was murdered and she’s been doing this as long as I’ve been a priest.)

Now here’s the second one . . . .

Amid unrest, some say church can engage in fight against racism

  • Rhina Guidos /Crux Now.com Jul 12, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Some bishops have denounced them. Others have embraced them. One held a sign with the words as he kneeled in a moment of prayer recalling the death of George Floyd, which sparked demonstrations and wide discussion about racial injustice in the United States.

Some Black Catholics believe the unrest and the ubiquitous words proclaiming that “Black Lives Matter” provide an opportunity for the Catholic Church in the United States to engage in an uncomfortable and long-overdue deep discussion and look at racism and racial injustice.

From his @PadreInAtlanta Twitter handle, Father Bruce Wilkinson, a retired priest, has been almost daily calling attention to and sometimes calling out those who attack those three words, including some bishops.

“They’ve the taken position from someone telling them that ‘this is a Marxist group and pro-abortion and pro-gay therefore we have to be against them,’” said Wilkinson in a July 8 interview with Catholic News Service. “There are some, I’m sure, involved in the (Black Lives Matter) political group that are about that, but that is far from the vast majority of people.”

Instead, what Wilkinson wants others to understand is those engaging with the words “Black Lives Matter,” including many Black Catholics like him and those who support them, “what they are seeking, especially in the Catholic Church, is to have racism be addressed.”

He points to a July 2 statement from Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, who spelled out in detail support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Speaking from his experience as a new pastor at an Oklahoma City parish in 2003, Taylor recalled how he arrived to tend to a community that was 95 percent Hispanic and had a weekend schedule with six Masses — three in English and three in Spanish. The Spanish-language Masses were packed, with people standing in the back, in the aisles and sometimes outside the church’s front door, he said, and though the English-language Masses were less than half full, they had the more desirable Sunday morning time slots.

“I asked what we would do if the tables were turned and we had English speakers standing in the back, along the aisles and outside the front door and they realized that of course, we would adjust the Sunday schedule to provide more English Masses. In that way, the eyes of these well-meaning people were opened to the hidden injustice embedded in our Sunday schedule,” he wrote.

“When I left that parish five years later, we had nine weekend Masses that better corresponded to the makeup of the parish: Seven in Spanish, one in English and one bilingual,” he said. “When people know that they matter, things begin to change.”

The bishop continued, saying that something similar is happening with the movement seeking to point out racial injustice.

“That is the contribution that the Black Lives Matter movement is offering to us today. All lives matter, of course, but as a society we don’t act that way — and that’s the point,” he wrote in his statement. “There are injustices embedded in the way our society is structured to which we are often blind. Most of my Anglo parishioners were aware of the crowding at the Spanish Masses, but they didn’t think of it as a problem, indeed viewing it from outside, they spoke with admiration of the fervor of their fellow parishioners and were blind to the underlying injustice.”

Looked at from a different vantage point, the injustice becomes clear, he said.

“In a similar way, most of us are aware of some of the disadvantages that come with being Black in America, but from the outside we tend to ascribe these disadvantages to internal factors within the African American community and we miss the point that if Black lives really mattered as much as white lives, our whole society would be structured differently,” he wrote.

The bishop pointed out in detail and with statistics structural injustices for Black Americans in law enforcement, health care, employment, and education.

It’s important that others take the time, as Taylor did, to think about, read about, and have a dialogue with parishioners of color to “come to understand what (Black Lives Matter) is, before they condemn something,” said Wilkinson.

Marcia Chatelain, a Georgetown University history professor, said the church has an opportunity to work toward the greater interracial justice the Black Lives Matter movement espouses.

“While they may not find themselves aligned with all the points that have been expressed, they really do have an incredible opportunity to engage in an important moral civic and social movement,” she said in a July 9 interview with CNS. “I would hope that, at some point, people would take time to really understand what they’re debating.”

Parishes also should be having difficult conversations about the ways that they may have benefited from slavery, segregation or other ways that have been or still are, detrimental to people of color in their localities, she said. But some might be reluctant to do so, Chatelain added, since some might find themselves “so proximate to the problem.”

And Wilkinson has been witness to some of it. As a retired priest, if he’s not helping out, he attends Masses without his collar or anything that would identify him as a priest and sits in the pews with the laity.

“What I have found is disconcerting,” he said. “I’ve noticed some people, if I’m in a church that’s predominantly white, look at me as if I’m not supposed to be there, to the point where at the sign of peace, I don’t even get approached. It’s not universal … but there’s been too many that I’ve gone to where it’s happened.”

Those are the kinds of experiences bishops and others in church hierarchy need to listen to so they can engage with the message some Catholics have found in the Black Lives Matter movement, he said. But that doesn’t begin to address the structural injustices that Taylor referred to, he added.

For Taylor, as for Wilkinson, the plight of Black Americans speaks to one of the church’s main teachings, and yet it is a situation not absent from the life of the church.

“If you and I are truly pro-life, we are obligated to work for the protection and respect for human life from the first moment of conception to natural death and every stage in between, and thus it is obvious that racism is a pro-life issue,” Taylor wrote.

“Racism is a sin,” he added, “and we have to admit that even as church, we have not been immune to racial bias and the blindness to structures of sin that affect how our own institutions are run.”

While it was easier to condemn acts that led to George Floyd’s death and the killing of many other people of color, he said, some could be “blind” to structural injustices that continue to harm others. Some also may fail to take into account the generational effects of slavery, segregation and the systemic use of violence, he explained, “including the lynching (publicly approved hangings) of more than 4,000 black men, women and children across 800 counties throughout the United States between 1877 and 1950.”

Those realities must be recognized and addressed in any attempt to combat racism, Taylor said.

“I hope this has helped you understand why it is so important for us to insist that Black Lives Matter and to view the task before us through the pro-life lens of our Christian belief in the God-given intrinsic dignity of every person, in this case Black people, rather than the more secular Marxist-inspired class struggle lens that some would propose and which sometimes gets disproportionate coverage in the news,” the bishop wrote.

For Chatelain, the task at hand is one that requires patience and diligence on the part of Catholics, one that goes beyond just recognizing what happened or reading a few books, “it has to be a lifelong struggle,” she said.

Making a commitment to that process requires making serious changes in personal behavior, pointing out racial injustices at work, institutions or even by family members, she said.

“I think we are at a moment of moral reckoning is this country,” she said.

The question is if the church is going to continue to be an observer in a social movement or is it going to look for an active path toward a search of justice “for people who are justly trying to experience the fullness that life should offer everyone?” she asked.

Wilkinson said that as pastors, priests are required to attend pastoral training sessions on how to deal with a wide array of topics, such as abortion, how to address immigration issues and how to address religious liberty, but once he asked whether they could discuss differences in culture and people of color.

“I was told that was too difficult,” he said. “If it’s too difficult and we’re people of faith, I just don’t see how we don’t trust God enough to lead us.”

Now, before you go, here’s an old spiritual from the Black community you might like to enjoy. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Racism in America ~can we change for the better?

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Usually, dear friends, I interrupt my blog service until the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th. However, on the morning of the Fourth of July last Saturday, I received an email from a friend from the church I had been attending before the coronavirus stopped us from attending church.  He was up in the middle of the night writing an essay about racism in America. (And when I read it there wasn’t a mis-spelling, or a grammar error; the essay was just plain compelling.

I had already posted a couple of external links on the subject on my Facebook page on racism, so he got me think—Hmmm—maybe I should write a blog or two on the subject. And so this is the result.

Many of my long-time readers may recall the story that I’ve often told that I was ordained a deacon for the Catholic Church the day after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. That was April 4th, 1968. I was a a seminary student at Theological College of the Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C.

At the beginning of the ordination ceremony, we ordinandi laid down on the marble floor before the bishop as the choir intoned the ancient Litany of the Saints, that particular day was mingled with the sounds of sirens wailing in the distance. I sucked in a few deep breaths and told myself I would try to follow that great man’s example and do something about racial justice.

The following month the “Poor Peoples Campaign” that Dr. King had conceived was marching toward Washington had arrived in D.C. and hurriedly constructed what was dubbed as “Resurrection City” on the National Mall. They received a permit for 3,000 folks to set up camp there. I had at times reported certain events for The Florida Catholic, the newspaper for the Orlando, Florida diocese to which I belonged. By the time I got on the Mall, it was a muddy mess. There were wooden sidewalks throughout, but I didn’t have the proper footwear to get around without slipping and sliding. I interviewed a few folks for our paper back home and went back to the seminary for a warm shower. I wasn’t particularly helpful, but at least I ventured out there where the action was.

What I propose to do here is, first share with you my friends essay. Since it’s quite controversial and he himself is a person of color I suggested to him that I not print his name so that he have no repercussions from his family or employer.

And then today also I’m going to share with you Frederick Douglas’  Fifth of July Speech. There was word today that his statue in Rochester, NY was toppled. 

Next week, I will share with some external links I posted on Facebook and two statements by the Bishops of the United States.

It has been said that this movement, sparred by the death of Mr. George Floyd is the largest and longest movement in US history. Let us pray it leads to fruitful change for the better.

Here’s my friend’s essay . . .

Dear Father Bob,

Thank you for sharing your insight and prayers helping us to recognize our national sin.

However, I’d like to offer a few thoughts you might want to consider in our national discussion about racism. First, racism and slavery was pressed upon peoples of color since the 1500s by European peoples, not the other way around. So by the time the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, abject subjugation of Black people and the systematic extinction of Indigenous peoples was the norm.People of color and their families who remained oppressed under this new independence actually ved an alternate historical reality—a Declaration of Indifference.

Four hundred years later, George Floyd’s senseless death by those sworn to protect him, as they idly watched the last breath snatched from him, is our testimony of said indifference. Photographs of the last 100 years record black men hanging from trees while many watched and posed with glee. Billie Holiday recalled seeing lynched black bodies hanging in trees while touring the south subsequently writing an anthem about these atrocities—Strange Fruit An anthem that became ignored. Holiday first performed the song at Café Society in 1939.

She said that singing it made her fearful of retaliation but, because its imagery reminded her of her father, she continued to sing the piece, making it a regular part of her live performances. Because of the power of the song, Josephson drew up some rules: Holiday would close with it; the waiters would stop all service in advance; the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday’s face; and there would be no encore. During the musical introduction to the song, Holiday stood with her eyes closed, as if she were evoking a prayer . . . .

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Southern trees bear a strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Pastoral scene of the gallant south

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop

Here is a strange and bitter crop

Racism is a product of our character defects. Dr. King revealed this truth when he said,  “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” When we live with a sense of entitled superiority rather than with empathy and compassion, we no longer see our brother or sister through God’s eyes, but with our own shortsightedness. Our human family on this earth becomes our “supply” and horrifically treated as such.

Racism then acts like a disease, an evil, contracted in every generation and a virus we can no longer afford.  Sadly those who are plagued with this insanity also suffer the worst kind of denial. A denial that blinds us from humanity and God.
”

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” 1John 4:20 (NIV)

Thomas Jefferson, a well accomplished man, while pondering the Declaration of Independence and staring out the window at his slaves toiling in the fields lived in the Nineteenth Century, the Age of Enlightenment, for whom I dare ask?

In the movie, Gone with the Wind, a 1939 epic set in the Civil War era around Atlanta that pits two dysfunctional families against each other in sordid romances. There’s been a movement afoot to address the difficult treatment the film depicts of black people and the condoning of slavery. 

Not unlike the dysfunctional relationships we have become all too familiar with today many of us have suffered a lifetime of  harm and abuse at the hands of a loved one or others, and  despite our conscious efforts we still remain unseen, unheard, and unloved.

That is what has happened with black folk who have served, first their “Mass’rs”, and then have been “put in their place” ever since, in ever nook and cranny of our country. Our nation has become—in that sense—like a dysfunctional family.

Thus, racism is a character defect that can never be improved only removed. Many a founding father’s perspective of the sacred document they helped forged, saw their own grandsons and granddaughters leading the South in indenturing slaves for their own aggrandizement. Moreover the following hundreds of years of oppressed living in black and brown communities developed their own generation’s stories.  Is it practical, fair or morally acceptable to gloss over our own racism if we truly love America today or our own honor and dignity?

Finding comfort in the founding fathers wisdom, has brought us to no avail, accept for those who continue to take the life and breath from our black brother, the liberty from our black sister, and the pursuit of happiness from our black children.

Addressing racism in America, will require a bedrock honest approach to this great dilemma and perhaps we may have to admit we have reached the point of exhaustion. Have reached the point of being sick and tired of being sick and tired and are willing to take fearless steps to remove our racial attitudes and the behaviors toward others that go with them? Can we find the courage to be accountable for our wrongs and humbly make amends to those we’ve harmed? Georgetown University has already taken a few steps to do that. We need a declaration that is God directed, rather than one that is politically motivated or self-referential..

May God’s Good Peace reign in our hearts through His Holy Spirit, and the unfailing Love of our Lord Jesus Christ, bring us deliverance from all evil. Help us Lord to be reconciled to You and to each other by the help of Your Holy Grace that unifies us. We ask this in Jesus Name, Amen.

Sincerely,

~ G

And now I turn you to another black man of another generation Frederick Douglas

What to the slave is the Fourth of July?

By Frederick Douglass

July 5th, 1852

The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th of July oration. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom.

I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men, and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. Cling to this day – cling to it, and to its principles, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. With them, nothing was settled that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were final; not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men.

Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in regard to them. My business, if I have any here today, is with the present. We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future.

Fellow citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?

I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me.

This Fourth of July is yours, not mineYou may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, is inhuman mockery. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?

Above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY.

Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery – the great sin and shame of America! I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less, would you persuade more, and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employments for my time and strength.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh! Had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, today, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. 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.

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Americans! Your republican politics are flagrantly inconsistent. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing, and a byword to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement, the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet, you cling to it, as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! Be warned! Be warned! A horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope.

God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end.
And change into a faithful friend
Each foe.

God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But all to manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his prison-house, the thrall
Go forth.

Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive –
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost. 

And now, before you go, here’s a song that my friend “G” chose for us to conclude with ~ “For the One” Click Here  

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer

Are we re-birthing America today?

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This little guy is enthralled by the words of Thomas Jefferson emblazoned on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial

Dear Friends, the boy in the image above was reading the Declaration of Independence emblazoned on the wall of the Jefferson Memorial when I visited there in October 2007.  He represents our future.

Have you ever read it?  (I offered you an image of it two days ago as it was emblazoned on the wall that this young man is reading; I’ll attach a full copy at the bottom of this post.)

Keith Carradine wrote (along with others) and composed an interesting song ten years ago about America.  I’ll write out the lyrics and then play the song for you in a few minutes. But first I’d like to offer my own comments on America today.

Ever since 2006 when I began this blog I’ve been pleading with my readers to pray for the spiritual transformation of our country. That was the year before the stock market crash and the bail-out of the big banks, the mortgage crisis, and the bailout of the auto industry. I’ve said it was necessary for us also to “pledge our lives, our fortunes and our honor” to save America. And it seems to me that is more and more the case when our political leaders abdicate their responsibilities, and now in the midst of this pandemic that has wrought fear in young and old alike and caused a great deal of economic hardship for millions of Americans.

Add on to that, we have the added crisis as the racial tension that has plagued us since the beginning of our country  has exploded once again in our midst. We’ve attempted to address it from time to time with the assistance of some great leaders and the passage of some legislation but this time, it seems to me, we must do some radical surgery to root it out of the soul of our country and our hearts. Each of us needs to do some soul-searching to look at our prejudices and our racism.

I still identify with Mr. Carradine’s song sentiments today.

I suggest that you read these lyrics and think about them and then listen to this powerful song sung by people all over the United States.

Then spend some time to reflect on our responsibilities this Fourth of July holiday on the future of our children and our country and let us ask ourselves what we are doing to help re-birth America.

BORN AGAIN AMERICAN
By Keith Carradine

Just a workin’ man without a job
It got shipped off to China via Washington, D.C.
And I know I’m nothin’ special, there are plenty more like me
Just the same
I thought I knew the rules of the game

I stood up for this country that I love
I came back from the desert to a wife and kids to feed
I’m not sayin’ Uncle Sam should give me what I need
My offer stands
I’ll pull my weight you give me half a chance

I went up to a congressman and said to him “you know
Our government is letting people down”
He said he’d need a lot of help to buck the status-quo
I said there was a bunch of us around

I’m a Born Again American, conceived in Liberty
My Bible and the Bill of Rights, my creed’s equality
I’m a Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me
And everyone who shares the dream from sea to shining sea

My brother’s welding chassis at the plant
He’s earning what our granddad did in 1948
While CEOs count bonuses behind the castle gates
How can they see
When all they care about’s the do re mi

It’s getting where there’s nowhere left to turn
Not since the crash of twenty-nine have things been so unfair
So many of our citizens are living in despair
The time has come
To reaffirm that hope’s not just for some

The promise of America’s surrendering to greed
The rule is just look out for number one
But brace yourself ‘cause some of us have sown a different seed
A harvest of the spirit has begun

I’m a Born Again American conceived in liberty
My Bible and The Bill Of Rights
My creed’s equality
A Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me
And everyone who shares the dream from sea to shining sea

It’s clear my country’s soul is on the line
She’s hungering for something that she lost along the way
The principle the framers called upon us to obey
That in this land
The people’s will must have the upper hand

I felt the calling once before and took a sacred vow
And faithful to that vow I have remained
I hear the calling once again, my country needs me now
And to her cause I have been re-ordained

I’m a Born Again American conceived in liberty
My Bible and the Bill Of Rights, all people living free
A Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me
And everyone who shares the dream
From sea to shining sea
And everyone who shares the dream
From sea to shining sea
A M E R I C A

Click here for the song.  Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endevoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative writer

A Prayer for the Fourth of July 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This is an actual image of one of the four panels of the words of Thomas Jefferson emblazoned upon the walls of perhaps America’s most sacred shrine, the Jefferson Memorial.
The image was taken in October 2007 on my first pilgrimage to pray for our country’s transformation.

As I offer my thoughts, I invite you to observe this Fourth of July by a deeper, interior observance of the heart.
Take time to make these words, of the Declaration of Independence, your own.
Realize, especially those of you who are young people, that these words conceived, founded and established our country.
What existed only in the minds and hearts of our founding fathers and mothers became the United States of America.
But, very sadly, it is my sense that we have wandered far away from this vision.
We don’t realize that we must constantly re-birth America — for good or for ill.

It is my sense that at this critical point of American history that we — each and every American — ought to revisit that moment of our founding.  And imagine what it was like.
Imagine their vision of what did not yet exist in the external world.
Imagine the courage they had.
Next to the Word of God, there are no words that are more sacred to me than these.
They are sacred because they reflected divine reality.
God blessed these words of Thomas Jefferson.   And our country was born on the Fourth of July 1776.

When I lived in Washington in the summer of 1979 when I was 36 years old, I would go often and sit in the rotunda of this sacred shrine and ponder the vision of these sacred words.
I’d like to share with you what was going on in my head and my heart 38 years ago and today in America in which we are so in much in need of unity and healing, and inspiring leadership.
They are faith-based thoughts.
I just share them because they lead me to a very positive view of our country and our world,
a view that resists the profound hatred and violence and self-indulgence of our comatose society.
As you ponder my thoughts ask yourself what vision of America, what vision of the world and our future do you yourself have?
What do you want for you, for your children, for our country, for our world, for our planet?

Dearest God,

I believe your Holy Spirit inspired these words:

WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL
AND ARE ENDOWED WITH CERTAIN INALIENABLE RIGHTS.
AMONG THESE ARE THE RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

As a Christian among other God-fearing women and men.
I address You and love You as my God.
You are my God.
But this means that You are not just my God, but the God of all those you have created.
You care about every person on this planet who has ever lived or who ever will;
Therefore, we are all equal in your sight.  We are all persons.
You conceived and created each human being from the very beginning in Your mind and heart with a unique identity, a body and soul, and you sustain each one of us today and for all eternity.

I have come to recognize that ALL of us are in Your family, dear God.
And that makes us but sisters and brothers.
Help me to embrace Your children on this planet in my heart.
Help me to want for every one what you have so generously provided for me –
a little place to call home,
simple food on my table,
a decent education
and decent health care.

Help me, God, to recognize and support
the right of every human person to life, liberty and the pursuit of other people’s happiness as well as my own.
Help me not to be only concerned about my own needs, my own family’s needs,
but to realize that we are all one family.
Yet we are torn apart by hatred and violence and bigotry and brother still kills brother.
Help us export love not hate, peace and development for all people, not war and destruction.

This is my daily prayer, heavenly Father, for the world in which I live.
I pray that you would allow me the grace in some small way to help bring that about.
To you, heavenly Father ~
Father of my Redeemer and elder brother Jesus ~
all honor and praise and thanksgiving, with the Holy Spirit, 
now and forever.
Amen!

IMG_0256

The Jefferson Memorial

This, dear friends, is my prayer for the world in which I live.
It has ever been such since my lazy summer  of ’79 in Washington and always will be.
I do not expect you to use my words as you pray.
I just invite you to make your own prayer.
Make this Fourth of July a re-dedication to our ideals.
We need God in our world today as we face the effects of covid 19 that continues to plague us.

I am presently away from home and intended to visit friends along my way, and have found all but one declining  to see me because they are choosing to remain quarentined.   And then there’s the double plague of racism that we also have to look into ourselves and see how each of us is infected by this virus that has been with us for so a long time. And it’s about time we faced up to it.

But we rely on ourselves and not on God.  Capitalism, by definition, can create that illusion.
I urge you to rebirth the vision of our founding fathers and mothers in your own heart this Fourth of July 2020.
We need to renew that vision, that commitment every year, indeed, very often from the mightiest to the lowest of our land.
And I warn you (me too), if we don’t constantly attend to our renewal,
we will lose what we have and are.
Great civilizations before us have collapsed because of their complacency.

Nevertheless, it is my sense that God will transform us if we pray and bind together!

Before the hotdogs and the baby back ribs and the fireworks, let’s be at prayer and reflection, this Fourth of July.
Ask God for guidance.  Ask forgiveness for taking all of this for granted.
We need God to bring us through these critical times.

And now, before you go, here’s a powerful song with historical images to inspire your reflection.  Click here.

Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.  Enjoy your celebration for we still have a beautiful land.

  (There will be two other posts to reflect on following this one.)

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer