My dear parishioners,
We live in challenging times. The last two weeks have been especially difficult. This latest episode began with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, followed by weeks of protests for racial equality and justice in many cities and towns across our nation. Sadly, there has also been rioting and looting by a small minority. Thankfully, the demonstrations have been largely peaceful and have been a forceful witness to the need for significant change in our country and around the world.
All people have been horrified by the video of George Floyd laying in the street handcuffed while a police officer holds a knee on his neck for 8 minutes 46 seconds. It is heart wrenching to hear George Floyd saying over and over that he couldn’t breath. Towards, the end of his life George begins calling to his mother. This reminded me of Jesus hanging on the cross with his mother watching on from a distance. I thought of the Pietà in our church showing Mary holding the body of her murdered son.
With much shame, the Catholic Church has sometimes been guilty of enabling the institution of racism in America. When I was in Mt Angel Seminary in the 1990’s, we would gather for a Community Mass each morning before classes began. The priests on the faculty would take turns celebrating the Mass with the seminarians. One morning, a faculty member who taught Old Testament scripture, presided at the Mass. He was a Jesuit from the Maryland Province. During his homily, he began talking about what it was like growing up in Maryland. He said that, as a child, he had always been intrigued by the large iron rings attached to the wall in the back of his parish church. One day he asked one of the Jesuit priests what the rings were for. The priest told him that they had been used in the 1850’s by Catholic families who attended Mass on Sundays to chain up their slaves to the rings so that the family would be free to go forward for Mass. In the midst of recounting this piece of Catholic history in Maryland, the priest began to cry. He expressed the deep shame that he has always felt regarding the church’s role in the enabling, if not promoting, of slavery in those early days of our nation’s history.
We are all good people and we are all children of God. However, sometimes we can find ourselves taking a passive stance when it comes to racism in our society. Our police officers are, of course, dedicated, well trained professionals who put their lives at risk each day to protect all of us from harm. However, there are those few officers who engage in violence and brute force when it comes to dealing with minority peoples. Let us pray that all of the demonstrations will not be in vain and that systems will change so that police officers who do something wrong are held accountable. Let us pray for George Floyd and all minority people who have been brutalized and some times killed by officers who represent us. We pray that this systemic racism in our country be stopped. We are all brothers and sisters who are made in God’s image and are called to live in peace and harmony with one another. We can hardly wait for that to happen.
Fr. Bill Moisant, Pastor June 11, 2020