Patrick Walsh

As Catholics we hold an inheritance of unimaginable love, mystery, and hope. We inhabit a world in dire need that treasure. And we serve a God of infinite love.  He commands us to share his grace to the ends of the earth; to family, friends, strangers, and enemies.

It is impossible to look at our world and deny its desperateness for God. Our church can be this conduit of divine healing, or we can choose to hold so tight to the gift that it is impossible to hand away.

Lately I’ve been sick at heart and embarrassed by our reaction to the terrible pain of black communities. It is like that gut wrenching feeling when your child is acting like a fool in public. I know there are countless acts of selflessness, and sincerity of heart going on person to person across our region. So many people are seeking to understand and help heal their communities.

But if our church’s reaction to this moment was judged by most of what is said on many Catholic media platforms and social media, I think God would find us lacking.

Presented with a horrific murder, we were invited to try to see others’ pain differently this time. A pain that spoke to so many more pains, long unheard and denied, was laid in front of us. We were given a moment to touch the palpable trauma of generations. The Holy Spirit was priming our hearts and communities to be vessels of his healing at this critical time.

And we complain about statues. We critique a family’s rage as they bury one of their own. We lament our own victimhood at our brother’s funeral. And our disrespect is on display for all those who mourn, to see.

We are in the midst of a great awakening to the ugly fruits of deeply rooted sin we all have some share in. These roots extend farther than we can see. We are called to follow them in humility to see where they lead. It is a spiritual journey we will never begin if we are busy complaining about our ideas and things being victimized.

Where in the Gospel does Christ talk about defending our rights and property? We are called to surrender both. Where in the Gospel does it call us to cross examine the pain of our brothers and sisters? We are commanded to respond to them proactively. Where in the Gospel does it diminish the devastating effects of being the “out group?” Christ is repetitively knocking people over the head with the importance of reversing their tendency to exclude people who are different.

We have become too modern. I think we’ve lost our connection to the mystery. We’ve lost the fire of Pentecost. The faith of the first martyrs is not blazing through us as it could be. We have inversed the cycle of love into our own ideas and our own institutions, when the message was always to be fountains overflowing. We don’t need our statues and symbols — we need the real thing.

A spiritual and generational wound was placed before us for healing and we largely met it with political talking points or silence. Souls are in front of us screaming through pain to finally be heard, and we are recalling all the ways we’re offended by their ideologies. When God called us to melt our hearts of stone, we had memes and ironclad excuses.

We need to remember where we come from and where we are going: an infinite God. We need to remember we believe in miracles. We work with a God of hope that lives in heaven, and in us.

Peter Maurin, co founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, stressed a literal interpretation of the Gospel. He lived a life of voluntary poverty, dedication to the poor and radical love. This is a level of spiritual maturity few have. He is a personal inspiration to me. Because although I’m here advocating a return to mystery of the early church, I’m usually answering God’s call with memes and excuses too.

Maurin writes in one of his “Easy Essays:” “According to St. Thomas Aquinas, man is more than an individual with individual rights; he is a person with personal duties toward God, himself, and his fellow man. As a person, man cannot serve God without serving the Common Good.”

I think our church could learn something about our vocation to serve the common good by remembering what it feels like to sit in front of Christ in a monstrance in a space built to remind us of God’s infinity. C.S. Lewis reminds us, “You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, art, civilizations — these are mortal and their life to ours is that of a gnat.  It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors and everlasting splendors.”

Christ, alive in the Eucharist, is alive in each person. Let’s listen to their pain, and let love lead us out of ourselves.

***

Patrick Walsh manages Martha’s Choice Marketplace, a choice model food pantry at Catholic Social Services’ Montgomery County Family Service Center. He can be reached at pwalsh@chs-adphila.org. More information about Martha’s Choice, a beneficiary of the Catholic Charities Appeal, can be found at www.marthaschoicemarketplace.com.