Social Justice


A Lenten Prayer: “Food that Nourishes”

The following prayer by Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem., was published in the national Lenten resource 21st Century Poverty Study Guide (page 14) sponsored by NETWORK: Advocates for Justice, Inspired by Catholic Sisters (reprinted with permission).


Creator God,

TreesOn the third day, you produced “…every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it.” Since the beginning of time, you have gifted us with seeds, soil, water, and sunlight to help us produce food that continues to nourish our body, soul, and mind.

For these gifts, we thank you.

The feeding of the human race involves millions of people who grow, pack, transport, and prepare food that has nourished our body, soul, and mind. Our morning cereal, midday sandwich, and evening rice could not be possible without the effort of so many of our neighbors.

For these providers and their efforts, we thank you.

Your son celebrated many meals with those he loved, people often excluded by others in the community. Around such tables, he and we grew and continue to grow in relationship with family, friends, and strangers. Bless those hosts who make such relationship building around a common table possible.

For these opportunities, we thank you.

For growers and consumers who share their resources with food pantries; for men, women, and youth who volunteer at food banks; for policy advocates who lobby on food security with our lawmakers—may they be sustained in their ministries.

For these community servants, we thank you.

For every man, woman, and child, in the United States and abroad suffering from lack of food security, that their material needs may be met. For the grace to discover Christ in service to those suffering from lack of nutrition, we thank you.

We offer this prayer through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

More opportunities to celebrate the season of Lent at St. Norbert Abbey »

Share the Journey

By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

Families affected by drought receive ration cards for a food distribution conducted by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) partner Caritas Hargeisa. CRS and Caritas are responding to the crisis through out the region. Photo by Nancy McNally/Catholic Relief Services (used with permission)

Families affected by drought receive ration cards for a food distribution conducted by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) partner Caritas Hargeisa. CRS and Caritas are responding to the crisis through out the region. Photo by Nancy McNally/Catholic Relief Services (used with permission)

I was mulling over the world refugee crisis before Pope Francis boldly preached his Midnight Mass homily on Christmas Eve (I was not the only one impressed by his words connecting the Holy Family to today’s refugee families; so were my Catholic, Lutheran, and Unitarian friends on Facebook). Pope Francis preached, in part:

So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones. In many cases this departure is filled with hope, hope for the future; yet for many others this departure can only have one name: survival. Surviving the Herods of today, who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, see no problem in shedding innocent blood.

“Another Year of Record Displacement” (Council on Foreign Relations, December 22, 2017) reported, in part:

Those with the greatest resources exercise the greatest responsibility. At the moment, there is a vacuum of leadership on the refugee question. … But in the main, the wealthiest countries in the world, led by the United States, are turning their backs on the problem, and that is very dangerous.

Though I live in the midst of the U.S. heartland, in a rather frigid and less culturally diverse section of the country, I am reminded of the extent of the refugee crisis in our Church and world. Three Somali leaders presented at our Bay Area Community Council meeting last month. We were surprised when we learned that 5,000 Somalis live in our community—about 2.5 percent of the population of our metro area. After several months of planning and one postponement, I am glad that I did not give up in attempting to arrange the Somalis’ presentation. I shared our positive experience with a local pastor. He replied that one of his congregants was producing a plan to ensure that every liturgy would have armed personnel to protect the churchgoers from an armed attack by Somalis, as one church in the Twin Cities has done. “Ugh,” I thought to myself. We have a long way to go.

National Migration Week 2018 Toolkit | Image courtesy USCCB (used with permission)

National Migration Week 2018 Toolkit | Image courtesy USCCB (used with permission)

2018 will be a very challenging year for the Church’s priority to “welcome the stranger.”

  • The security of 800,000 immigrant young people is threatened by a March deadline for Congress to regularize their status.
  • The president has cut the ceiling on refugees to be admitted to our country from 100,000 to 45,000 people.
  • Salvadorans, Haitans, and Nicaraguans given temporary permission to live in the U.S. following natural disasters in their countries have been told (or may be told in the very near future) that their welcome is over.

Our Church’s National Migration Week (January 7-13, 2018) resource toolkit offers some suggestions on how we can begin to change the tenor in our communities in an attempt to foster real communities of “encounter” with “the other.”

DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro’s own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of St. Norbert Abbey or of any other Norbertine.

“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”

—Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

Demonstrations and counterdemonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, touched our collective nerve last summer. At their outset in early July, I thought, “Wait—did I hear what I thought I heard?”

One month later, August 12-13, round two arrived—same city, similar actors, and more publicity and dangerous aftereffects. Divisions over ultranationalism and white supremacy stressed the nation.

What is an appropriate response by our faith communities to these occurrences? An opinion-editorial by a Catholic Latina theologian and a classic essay by a 1960s civil rights leader both bear consideration.

Nichole M. Flores, assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, wrote in “When the K.K.K. came to town, Catholics prayed. Now what?” (America magazine, July 12, 2017):

I am not naïve about the existence of racism in the United States. As a Mexican-American with brown skin, I have often experienced instances of racism. Until recently, however, I had imagined the K.K.K. as a fossil calcified in our national history, not as a living, active organism still instilling fear, marshaling intimidation and potentially inciting violence.

Flores asks how effectively the Church combats racism and bigotry. She mentions being pleasantly surprised when she received an invitation from an unexpected Catholic parish to attend a holy hour for peace and the end of racism and hatred. Flores wrote:

A holy hour against racial hatred is a profound way to begin this urgent mission of the church: rejecting racism in the clearest possible terms at all times and in all places. These prayers send us out to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all people of good will against racial terror that assaults human life, inhibits human flourishing and demolishes the common good.

One month later, after another weekend of tension between White nationalist demonstrators and counterdemonstrators in Charlottesville, the Catholic Mass that I attended on Saturday afternoon contained no references to the need for healing and reconciliation; the Unitarian Universalist gathering at which I spoke the following morning did include a period of silence before the start of the service for everyone to respectfully reflect about the ideological tensions facing our country.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

—Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

Martin Luther King Jr.Conversations revealed little references to the Charlottesville events in Green Bay area churches, but some comments on Facebook posts and online articles did reveal that religious leaders were calling the faithful to the need for unity and accord among our divided populations. When a Public Radio guest recommended that an initial response could be to read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” I fired up Google and read the 1963 classic. King wrote, in part:

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. … There was a time when the church was very powerful—in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society [emphasis added]. … Small in number, they were big in commitment.

Church folk in northeast Wisconsin cannot sit by idly when African-Americans, Jews, Muslims, and Latinos are being persecuted in the name of nationalism and white supremacy. What is preached from the pulpit and prayed for in the Universal Prayer of the Church at every Mass must connect the Scriptures and our current social successes and challenges. May what we hear on Sunday within the walls of our churches help inspire us to stomp out hatred and bigotry the rest of the week, every week.

DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro’s own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of St. Norbert Abbey or of any other Norbertine.

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