Br. Steve Herro's Blog
"THERE IS NO VIRTUE SO TRULY GREAT AND GOD LIKE, AS JUSTICE."
Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem., professed solemn vows to the Community of St. Norbert Abbey in 1991. For several years, he headed the justice and peace ministry of St. Norbert Abbey and presently serves as Manager of Mission and Ministry, Catholic Charities USA, Alexandria, VA. His current ministry connects him to national Catholic issues and Church ministers throughout the country.
DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro's own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of neither of the organizations, St. Norbert Abbey nor Catholic Charities USA, nor of any of the organizations' members.
May 1, 2015
Entry #39: "To constantly contemplate the mystery of mercy"
by Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.
What do the book The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart (2009), Pope Francis' Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (April 11, 2015), and 2015 Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD; "Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration & Systems of Exploitation") have in common?
EAD is sponsored by 59 Christian social action groups from every major Christian denomination. Conference of Majors Superiors for Men, an umbrella organization that serves dozens of Catholic male religious orders, including St. Norbert Abbey, is one of the co-sponsors. I should have known that I was going to be in for an interesting ride when one of the attendees stood up during the opening night and said, "We are going to spend the weekend learning about mass incarceration and lobbying Congress, but I see very few victims of mass incarceration here tonight." Would the weekend be yet another union of educated white middle class people? As Bill Bishop notes in The Big Sort, we do tend to live, study, work, worship, and recreate with people who tend to share our political leanings, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds.
As a strong introvert who goes out of his way to avoid crowds and meeting people that he will probably never see again, and who is guided by two of my mom's aphorisms "still water runs deep" and "empty tin cans make the most noise," I can relate to the opening night exclamation and Bishop's premise. Little did I know that I would end up spending a good chunk of the weekend with someone very different than me.
You see, Joel is a returning citizen from roughly 16 years in federal prisons. And he was part of our Wisconsin delegation, so I could not avoid him as we planned our lobby visits and visited Senate and Congressional offices. He has a bigger-than-life personality; at one time, I called him "Hollywood," a nickname he seemed to appreciate. His loud voice also dominated group conversations and his mind seemed to race from topic to topic. "Focus, Joel, focus," I reminded him more than once. And, he was a relative newcomer to Washington and the lobbying process, so he needed a lot of coaching. Indeed, I had my share of departure from my introverted, educated, Catholic, middle class cocoon.
And what does this have to do with Pope Francis' papal bull? "The Pope of Mercy" has struck again. He has stated several times that he does not expect to have a long tenure, so releasing a papal bull on the Jubilee Year of Mercy, to begin on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015, demonstrates that he is wasting no time in advancing his agenda of mercy. He begins his bull, "Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him..." But I am equally moved by his words, "...When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive..." (#3)
As our conference attendees learned about the prospect of eliminating minimum sentencing requirements in federal prisons for non-violent offenders, and met with Senators, Congressmen, and their aids to lobby for the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015 (S 502, HR 920), the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2015 (S 353, HR 706), and elimination of the 34,000 federal prison bed quota for immigrants, I figured that there would be no better way to legislatively enact the spirit of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. And I was proud to see that our own national Catholic leadership was putting its neck out in support of such legislation ("Catholic leaders express support for smarter sentencing, corrections acts").
Archived Blog Posts
- Entry #34: "Ferguson tragedy exposes broader need for nonviolent responses in moral decision making" (Archived January 5, 2015)
- Entry #33: "Who will you remember this All Saints' Day?" (Archived December 2, 2014)
- Entry #32: "Speak up now, or forever hold your peace!" (Archived November 1, 2014)
- Entry #31: "What do the Donald Sterling, ISIS overruns, and unaccompanied youth crises have in common?" (Archived October 1, 2014)
- Entry #30: "How will you remember the summer of 2014?" (Archived September 2, 2014)
- Entry #29: "Addressing privilege and personal prejudice" (Archived July 30, 2014)
- Entry #28: "Are you ready to be their friends?" (Archived June 30, 2104)
- Entry #27: "Two Popes, Two Voices for International Peace" (Archived June 2, 2014)
- Entry #26: "This Pope Gives Me (and a lot of Protestants) Hope" (Archived May 5, 2014)
- Entry #25: "What does it mean to 'take on the smell of the sheep'?" (Archived March 31, 2014)
- Entry #24: "Gimme Shelter has implications for respecting all of human life" (Archived March 3, 2014)
- Entry #23: "Lack of unemployment insurance threatens livelihood of 1.3 million U.S. workers" (Archived January 28, 2014)
- Entry #22: "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" (Archived January 2, 2014)
- Entry #21: "Inspirations from an hour of prayer in Washington, D.C.'s St. Matthew's Cathedral" (Archived December 3, 2013)
- Entry #20: "A victory for public will in U.S.-Syria relations" (Archived November 4, 2013)
- Entry #19: "Mobility for whom and what?" (Archived September 30, 2013)
- Entry #18: "What sources are influencing your position on comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S.?" (Archived September 3, 2013)
- Entry #17: "Head to the border, but not for Taco Bell" (Archived July 29, 2013)
- Entry #16: "Remember – they work for us" (Archived June 28, 2013)
- Entry #15: "To insure that justice flows like water" (Archived May 4, 2013)
- Entry #14: "Pope Francis gains early praise from Catholic social action figures" (Archived April 10, 2013)
- Entry #13: The moral impact of sequestration (Archived March 3, 2013)
- Entry #12: "My first U.S. Presidential Inauguration" (Archived February 2, 2013)
- Entry #11: "Time to vigorously embrace reduction of gun violence as a Catholic pro-life issue" (Archived January 8, 2013)
- Entry #10: "December is not too early to think about community gardens" (Archived December 4, 2012)
- Entry #9: "Vengeance ≠ Justice" (Archived November 5, 2012)
- Entry #8: "Is it a sin not to vote?" (Archived October 9, 2012)
- Entry #7: "Costing monarchies and election campaigns during an international economic downturn" (Archived September 9, 2012)
- Entry #6: "Neighborliness and the extreme summer weather of 2012" (Archived August 4, 2012)
- Entry #5: "Eph 6: 13-17 and a first round victory for DREAMers and their advocates" (Archived June 17, 2012)
- Entry #4: "Cultivating Joy, Gratitude and Compassion in Today's Church" (Archived May 12, 2012)
- Entry #3: "God is Neither Red Nor Blue" (Archived April 14, 2012)
- Entry #2: "Operation Rice Bowl Opens Doors to Understanding Global Development Issues" (Archived March 5, 2012)
- Entry #1: "We're 27! We're 27!" (Archived January 14, 2012)