John's Jottings

Violence in Charlottesville

This past weekend I did not have to prepare a homily because at all the Liturgies the Deacons preached and they were quite good by the way.  I liked what Deacon Darrell said: “How do you spell faith, ‘r-i-s-k’”.  I really liked the concept, so this is just a commentary and observation about recent events.  

Not far from Virginia Beach in Charlottesville, VA was a march of of people who wanted to save a statue of a Confederate general that the city was going to dismantle. The city wanted to take it down because it represented a part of their history that they felt was appalling to the city’s history and the history of our country, they did not want others to think that they could possibly believe in the government of the Confederacy and its beliefs in slavery as an integral part of the economy.  Like many of us Americans when we don’t like something we have a protest, we gather likeminded people around us, carry signs, and have speakers.  In Virginia Beach, we just had such a protest.  A neighborhood decided they had enough of the Canadian Geese polluting their lake and their yards.  We are not talking about 3 or 4 geese but over 100 geese on one small lake.  The neighborhood went to the correct government agencies and filled out some 80 pages of environmental stuff, they had the geese removed and many of them were euthanized and used to for a food bank.  After it was publicized a group of geese lovers protested with signs and made a goose cemetery.  That is who we are and yes, we may disagree and maybe some people even rolled their eyes especially those in the neighborhood, none the less they could protest.  Now back to Charlottesville.  We were experiencing an American right, to protest, the difference is that many of the people protesting had a reputation of violence in the past and some even promoting the overthrow of the government or at least a separate nation just for people who are white, not Black, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, Catholic and especially not a Democrat.  Many of them believe that all races should stick to themselves and marry within their own race.  No wonder they do not like Catholics, 30% of the marriages here at St. Gregory are interracial.  

On the other side of the coin are a group that they called the anti-protester who are what some journalists have called “antifas” they are opposed to anything to do with fascism, racism, sexism, Republicans, Catholics and so on.  They are not afraid to use violence to get their point across.  They are willing to create chaos to stop someone they disagree with from speaking at Universities or Cities across the U.S.  They tend to want a society that is free of any regulations and laws that might keep a person from their individual moral agenda, allowing for a state that has no connections to religion or religious influence, almost an anarchist’s society. They also think everything and everybody is a racist.  Very interesting and they too have a penchant for violence.  

Ahhh, violence, violence is always born out of fear and or righteousness for a cause, which is also rooted in fear because the people for the “cause” are afraid of the contenders for that cause.  Fear has its place when we are stuck on a train track and train is coming, when we are in a dark alley and we see shadows of menacing looking people, fear has its place and we react to fear with fight or flight.  

As people of faith we are not to live in fear, for fear and faith do not and cannot work together.  What happens is if we live in fear it draws us deeper and deeper into it and before we know it we react out of fear and not faith.  Reacting in fear we are insecure about everything around us and most people become adversaries in which we are to fear, this living in fear leads to violence of all kinds from personal violence toward oneself, to outward violence toward others and some a bit of both, ask an alcoholic who use to get into fights when they got drunk.  We have a proclivity toward violence and of course it is all related to sin.  But that’s a sermon…

Let’s get back to Charlottesville, fear is the leading force causing the violence in that beautiful city.  People fearing, they are losing their power, and they even think their image of god demands they take up weapons.  So many people are afraid of others having too much power over them.  People fearing their children will believe or be sucked into the Fascists, or the liberals, or the Democrats or the Republicans or become Jewish or black and God forbid Catholics.  

All of this makes me rejoice that I know and love and serve Jesus Christ and have the Church to help direct me in the right and just direction.  Has the Church fallen into fear, yes and will continue to sometimes react out of fear, but if you go to the Sacred Scriptures and the teachings of the Church Fathers and powerful saints we began to see the truth of the teachings of Christ and His Church.  I see people like St. Francis who would be appalled by the violence and he was a soldier, but as his relationship grew with his God in Jesus Christ that became the last thing he saw as a working option.  He saw that love, service, forgiveness, prayer and sacrifice are the things that really change a world. We see St. John Bosco fearlessly reaching out to young tough street kids to bring them a sense of value in their lives that taught them to value themselves and others.  We see Mother Teresa of Calcutta who wandered about the violent streets of India and picked up the dying and elderly to take care of.  We can read stories of Missionaries especially those of the Jesuits who entered countries to bring the good news, countries so different than theirs that they had to present Jesus in different way than they would have to a European, knowing they would never see the people they love again.  Wonderfully fearless people.  We can learn from those great men and women when such violence happens around us.  We must work diligently on making sure God is the center of our life, and God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the primary relationship in our life.  It is when we drift away or never know this God of ours that we can put other gods before us, gods that are political, gods that are power, gods that are in our own image and likeness, gods that promote violence and even demand violence.  All this is related to pride and arrogance the more we live in that the less we can see beyond our own self.

Bono, the founder of the U2 band chants “There is no them, only us.”  and goes on to sing “Stop and Search for Meaning of Love.”   We are called to be Missionaries, to evangelize without fear, and it is not so difficult because the message is so sweet, so beautiful, it is a message of hope and even peace.  It is a message that Gods love, through Jesus Christ, is transformative, transforming our hearts our minds our spirits, healing us in both our bodies and souls.  This all comes about because of love, not romantic love, or love of self, even though we can grow into that in a healthy way, but a love that makes us look out of ourselves and we begin to look into the eyes of each person realizing they are creations of God despite their wounds, despite their leprosy, and anger, to love knowing there is not them, only us.  It must be a love that is rooted in the cross and the love Jesus Christ had for us, knowing this kind of love wounds us at times but having the faith that in the end is the Resurrection and the life.  Maybe, just maybe, if a bunch of us radical Catholics would have come out with sandwiches and drinks and invited those men, so heavily armed, to sit for a minute, and rest a bit and get them to talk about their families they left at home, to tell about their fears and loves and hates and to listen well, listen for the wounds and hurts.  Yes, maybe some would slam those sandwiches in your face and throw the water on top of it, some may curse you out but maybe one will hear the message of love, it might have been the young man who drove his car into the crowd and that is all we ask for like their torches someone had to light one of them to get them all started.  Let us love radically and without boundaries, dear Lord teach us to forgive.  

Brothers and Sisters how do you spell faith?  R-I-S-K.


God Bless all of you,

Fr. John, O.S.B.


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