Pope Francis on the poor and the planet

At his inaugural Mass in Saint Peter’s Square on March 19, 2013, the Jorge Mario Bergoglio acknowledged that, as Pope Francis, he “must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison,” citing Matthew 25:31-46.

So, Atticus Finch is a bigot

First, some disclaimers: I have not read the recently released novel “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee. Nor have I read Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” in decades. I have watched the film more recently. Thus, Atticus Finch, in my mind, is most like Gregory Peck’s character in the film. Because of the strong portrayal in the film, Atticus’s rendering in the novel is often confused with Peck’s role.

Charleston tragedy brings people together

On Wednesday, June 17, a 21-year-old white man killed nine black worshippers and wounded another by shooting up Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The dead included the church’s Senior Pastor and State Senator Clementa Pinckney, Susie Jackson, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Tywanza Sanders.

Grief is not enough

We experience grief in our most intimate losses, from the heart-wrenching death of a loved one to the unsettling loss of a job or a home. As personal as grief can be, it is also universal.

Grief is experienced globally when acts of nature or acts of war cause human suffering on a massive scale. Grief is experienced nationally when a beloved leader or celebrity dies.
Shared grief has the power to unite us. As a country, we grieved over the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Body and blood

While they’ve been acquainted for almost two years, the relationship between my neighbor and Jay has been awkward. At first, they would casually talk in the neighborhood when my neighbor, walking his dog, would encounter Jay on the street.

Gradually, Jay began stopping at my neighbor’s door, asking to use his cellphone, requesting a ride, and eventually asking for money.

George and Georgia on my mind

A bit over 40 years ago, when I was a “20-something” seminarian in Rome, I was asked to help out with a retreat for American Catholic high school students whose parents were assigned to the American base in Heidelberg, Germany. Every year, a fairly large group would travel over the Alps to Rome, where they were usually based at the Holiday Inn on the Via Aurelia. (Yes, there is such a place.) American seminarians from the Pontifical North American College would assist the youth ministers in putting on a memorable retreat, which included tours of Rome.

Model teacher in our midst

I was out to lunch with my daughter, Katie, when she encountered, working in the restaurant, a former student she had taught in her high school English class. As the young man seated us at our table, he turned to me and said, “Your daughter is a terrific teacher.”

The ISIS Crisis

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or just as the Islamic State, seemed to come out of nowhere in 2014. By mid-2015, ISIL controls areas of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Nigeria. ISIS has proclaimed itself a “worldwide caliphate” that “claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.”

The Brothers Tsarnaev and Sister Helen

The ancient Babylonian law code attributed to Hammurabi dates back to approximately 1754 b.c. This code contains the famous Law #196 (the lex talionis or “law of retaliation”): “If a man destroy the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye. If one break a man’s bone, they shall break his bone.”

This same Law of Retaliation is found in the Law of Moses, in Leviticus 24:20: “Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has disfigured a man, he shall be disfigured.”

Meting judgment and mercy

The other day I was waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant. Without a system in place to sort out the line, patrons had formed an orderly single-file queue.

While I was waiting, a group of people entered the restaurant and failed to notice the line. Before they could interrupt the queue, an elderly gentleman behind me barked, “The line is over here!” Startled by his gruff tone, the group realized their mistake and headed to the back of the line. “Thank you for correcting us,” one of them replied as they walked to the back.


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