Music and the Gospel: “Amerika,” Wintersleep

This week’s Spirit tells us the story of Father Tolton, the first African-American priest. It also touches on a time in American history when slavery existed and racism flourished. Unfortunately, despite the outlawing of slavery as well as the civil rights movement of the ’60s, recent events have shown that racism is still part of our society. Black Lives Matter; every person’s life matters. Accepting all who are different from us challenges us every day. Father Tolton gives an inspiring example of persevering against ignorance for the betterment of our communities and society.

Key Lyrics: What am I trying to find? / Are you alive, oh my Amerika? / Perennial with the Earth / And freedom, love, and law, and life / …It doesn’t mean that we can’t try / Fix me in your twilight eyes / So we can make a moment last

Questions: When have you experienced prejudice? How did you feel? Who in your school or city have you seen exposed to prejudice? How did you handle it? What are some ways you can combat prejudice in your school or city?

Continuing Romero’s Legacy of Denouncing Violence

We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs.

We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed

at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered

with newspapers in doorways.”

Every March 24th, the people of El Salvador celebrate Monseñor Oscar Romero’s life, his dedication to the poor and marginalized of El Salvador and the world, and his untiring denouncement of the structures of injustice and oppression. Romero grew up in San Miguel, El Salvador and studied theology in Rome. A quiet man who loved to study theology and liturgy, Romero was named Archbishop of El Salvador in 1977.

“Each time we look upon the poor, on the farm workers who harvest the

coffee, the sugarcane, or the cotton, or the farmer who joins the caravan of

workers looking to earn their savings for the year…..remember, there is the

face of Christ……..The face of Christ is among the sacks and baskets of the farm

worker; the face of Christ is among those who are tortured and mistreated in

the prisons; the face of Christ is dying of hunger in the children who have

nothing to eat; the face of Christ is in the poor who ask the church for their

voice to be heard. How can the church deny this request when it is Christ who

is telling us to speak for him?”

Photo courtesy of deeplifequotes (Flickr Creative Commons License)

Photo courtesy of deeplifequotes (Flickr Creative Commons License)

One month after being named Archbishop, Romero’s friend and progressive Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande was assassinated and no one was ever tried for the murder. This fit with a growing pattern of in El Salvador of leaders being killed for working with people experiencing poverty.  Convicted, Romero began speaking out against poverty, injustice, torture and assassinations. Traditionally, the church did not get involved in acts of the military and the politicians, but Romero became very outspoken. He saw how poor his people were while the wealthy became more wealthy. The censored press remained silent, but he spoke out. He gained a huge following of the Salvadoran people in part due to broadcasting his sermons across the country that advocated for the people in the name of Christ. He denounced the Salvadoran military and government and the United States government for financially supporting them.

The gospel is the great defender and proclaimer of all the great fundamental

rights of the person. The fundamental right to….food and water, shelter, protection, medicine,

education, work, rest, freedom, respect, dignity, fullness of life.”

Romero was assassinated on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass. The people picked up his work and continued to speak for justice. The work continues today while the canonization process to name Romero a saint progresses. On this 33rd anniversary of Monseñor Romero’s death, we have an opportunity to honor his legacy and recognize those who continue his work in the world.  

How can we denounce violence in our world today?

Who in our community needs advocacy to receive their fundamental human rights?

What does it mean to you that the anniversary of Romero’s death happens on Palm Sunday this year?

The Courage to Reach Out

4th Sunday of Lent

This world can be a hard place to be. This life can be a hard one to live. Yet God also offers us people to walk through this world and this life with, to help make it more bearable. When we are feeling down, hurt, wronged, or wrong, it is hard to reach out to God and the people we love. Our instinct, at times, is to pull deeper inside of ourselves and be even more isolated. It rarely works or helps for a sustained period of time. When we can find the courage to reach out to God, to nature, to our people, we are so often surprised by grace, comfort and love.

When the narrator in March 10th Spirit Magazine finds out she is pregnant, she immediately hides in fear. She was scared of being judged by God and the people who cared about her the most. She was strong enough to reach out to her friend, then her brother. When parents found out, she hid again. Her mother offered her not shouts of judgement, but welcomed her in with open arms of support. She reached out to her boyfriend, then the adoptive parents of her son. At the beginning, she felt alone and scared. By the end of her story, she felt loved and cared by a growing group of people. God was there every time she reached out for help. She was lost and is found.

In the Gospel story, the younger son in the parable left his family and squandered his money. He found himself in great need, hungry enough to be jealous of what the pigs were eating. He was alone, miserable and scared. Finally, he was brave enough to reach out to his father and ask for forgiveness. Instead of shouts of judgement, his father welcomed him back home with open arms and a banquet. God was there when he reached out for help. He was lost and is found.

The back of Spirit this week urges us to take four steps when consulting our conscience to discern right from wrong: focus, discern prayerfully, consult, act. Hiding can be our time of focus and prayerful discernment. It is important to be on our own in a quiet space where we can hear God whispering to us. Yet we also must be brave enough to move into a stage of consultation when we reach out to others who we know and trust. We are not alone in this life. God has surrounded us with people who care. The Catholic Church challenges us in its doctrine glean wisdom from our Scripture, our Tradition and our world. The truth can come out of brave, honest conversation with those around us.

We are human, and we will make mistakes that make us want to retreat from people we care about and hide. This Lent, when we find ourselves in that place of quiet, let us also find in the quiet the courage to reach out to others, knowing that God will be there with the people in our lives to welcome us in with open arms of love and support.

Photo by  olaerik via Creative Commons Licensure

Photo by olaerik via Creative Commons Licensure

When was a time that you went into hiding?

Speak of a time you were offered open arms when you were expecting shouts of judgement.

Who are the people God has given you to walk this period of your life with?

Who are the people you consult with on matters of discernment?