Conversion and Racism

A Message from Father Tom:

These are difficult days. On top of the pandemic and the stress that places on our lives, we are confronted with: the terrible injustice of George Floyd’s being killed; the violence that is hurting innocent people as well as our police; and underlying it all, we are confronted with the grave societal inequalities in opportunity, in economic well-being, in respect, and in justice that have continued for generations.

There is deep anger, and a shortage of understanding and compassion from all corners.

Archbishop Jackels wrote of racism as sin on Monday:

1 June 2020 is a Day of Mourning and Lament to remember the people who suffer from the scourge of COVID-19. We might also mourn and lament those who suffer from the scourge of racism – George Floyd, members of the Tree of Life synagogue, shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, and…  

Catholics regard racism as evil, a grave sin that sickens the soul. If a person were guilty of this sin, it could result in eternal damnation; it’s that serious. We pray for an end to the scourge of COVID-19, and for a cure or vaccine. We pray, too, for conversion, our own included, especially if the scourge racism sickens the soul.

Archbishop Jackels’ statement on the National Day of Mourning & Lament

Conversion begins always in responding to the Holy Spirit’s call to recognize that I and you are equally created in goodness and cherished by God, no matter what. Being held in God’s love allows me to look into my soul, and admit my sin: what distances me from relationships, and delays the full experience of God’s Kingdom of justice, peace, and love for God’s family.

So we do pray for conversion from however and wherever racism, disrespect for human life and dignity, and injustice brings illness to our national and individual souls.

But in our partnership with God in revealing His Kingdom, we are called to act as well as pray. Where does Fr. Tom McDermott—sinner that I am—start acting? I have never nor do I think of myself as racist. Some would say that is the problem—I don’t see the systems of privilege that I have benefited from but others are denied—and therefore I don’t see how I am part of continuing those unjust systems.

Confident in the love of the Savior who died for me and you, my actions for ongoing conversion against any racism that is in me, begins in looking within Tom. Within at what I understand about myself, about the history of racism and racial inequalities, about the experience of those whose race and lives are very different from mine.

I invite you to join me in that prayerful reflection by:

  • reading the US Bishop’s pastoral letter against racism http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/upload/open-wide-our-hearts.pdf
  • reviewing how many voices of other cultures and races I hear through the authors I read, the blogs I follow, the editorialists I think about. Who shapes my thoughts?
  • noting what are my reactions to the news and images of violence, protests, and interviews to see how often I am making judgments about groups rather than individuals.  Whenever I see a group or action rather than a person, I risk objectifying a fellow child of God.

From that reflection, with prayer and Grace, will hopefully continue the conversion from sin to Christ-likeness that will always be needed by Tom and by the Kingdom of God. From greater awareness of my own sin, comes humility, compassion, and the salvation I need, and Christ asks. Do pray for each other, our country, those aggrieved by and victims of injustice, our law enforcement personnel and their families, and me.

Fr. Tom

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