Lift Every Voice: A Lenten Journey Toward Racial Justice

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Racial injustice is a gospel issue.

LIFT EVERY VOICE is a Lent 2016 blog addressing America’s original sin of racism through the lens of Ignatian spirituality and the daily readings. From Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday, voices from throughout the Ignatian network will lament racial injustice in our communities and reflect on how the Gospel calls us to repent, pray, and act in solidarity with those affected by an enduring legacy of systemic and personal racial discrimination.

The Lord’s Prayer, or the “Our Father,” invites us to live with our neighbor in tender, loving intimacy of Jesus’ relationship with the One Who Is. The Lord’s Prayer, or the “Our Father,” invites us to live with our neighbor in tender, loving intimacy of Jesus’ relationship with the One Who Is.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that if we are to begin praying this prayer truthfully, we must “overcome our divisions and oppositions.” Furthermore, before we even pray, “we must cleanse our hearts of false images drawn from ‘this world’ (#2779).”

For I was hungry and you gave me food….

More than a quarter of African-American households are food insecure. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

I’ve always hated the phrase, “The devil’s in the details.”

I’ve never understood why good people would allow for evil, or at best, mediocrity to rear its ugly head in conversations and strategies for equity. Our work towards building a just, more inclusive community more reflective of God’s image is stalled because our inconvenience is rationalized. “Well, we need to hire people of color, but they just don’t apply.” Or, “Fair trade is a good idea, but those companies are hard to get ahold of. Let’s just go with the people who called us back. They’re cheap and we can get our swag in 2 days!”

These readings come at a very interesting time: election season.

Neighborhoods are canvassed with signs broadcasting the names of candidates. Our doors are answered to the tune of, “Can I have a moment of your time?” We navigate social media, TV ads, and debates that often contain “false accusations” and “malicious speech” about opponents, social groups, and individuals in our society. It can be a time of coming together or a time of greater division.

I once asked my parents why they had decided to undertake the frightening and dangerous journey of leaving Mexico and illegally entering the United States. Their answer: por ti, por nuestros hijos. “For you, for our children.”
In that answer, they revealed to me that their sacrifices were eased by their immense hope. Even more astounding, they hoped in something physically invisible. They were willing to endure the pain, injustice and rejection that immigrants suffer in the Unites States for the sake of what are now their four Mexican-American children. They had faith that God would guide them in this journey and that we (their children) would fully flourish in this country.

The Gospel focuses us on a fundamental aspect of Christian life—making choices.

Jesus sets before would-be-disciples a daunting choice: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Embrace of the cross leads to life, attempts to avoid it end in death. Following Jesus means to go the distance, walk the entire ‘way,’ and walk it each day. This calls for unflinching self-scrutiny, reorienting our desires, re-scaling our values, re- centering our hopes, and embodying new habits and practices.

Repentance is a discipline Americans have never been good at practicing.

Our country was built on the backs of slaves, built on land belonging to Native Americans, built by conquest, and conquest rarely happens without violence. We burned this country into existence, forged it from fire, nourished it with blood. Our nation stands on ashes.

Authors Include:

M. Shawn Copeland, Ph.D.

M. Shawn Copeland, Ph.D.

Theology Professor, Boston College

Dr. M. Shawn Copeland is Professor of Systematic Theology at Boston College. She is a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), and a former Convener of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS), an interdisciplinary learned association of Black Catholic scholars.

Professor Copeland is a prolific author, with more than 100 publications to her credit, including "Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race and Being and The Subversive Power of Love: The Vision of Henriette Delille." She is the recipient of five honorary degrees as well as the Yves Congar Award for Excellence in Theology from Barry University, Miami, Florida, and the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Black Religious Scholars Group of the American Academy of Religion.

Dr. Copeland’s research interests include: 1) shifts in theological understanding of the human person and accords particular attention to body, gender, and race; 2) the African American Catholic experience, and 3) political or praxis based theologies.

Fred Pestello, Ph.D.

Fred Pestello, Ph.D.

President, St. Louis University

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., is the 33rd president of Saint Louis University. The first permanent lay president in the University’s nearly 200-year history, Dr. Pestello officially began his tenure at SLU on July 1, 2014.

Dr. Pestello is Jesuit educated and has spent the entirety of his 30-year career in Catholic higher education. He has been noted for upholding Jesuit values throughout his career, including his commitment to dialogue and inclusion both during and after campus protests at SLU in 2014.

Prior to coming to SLU, Dr. Pestello was the president of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. Dr. Pestello also spent nearly 25 years as a faculty member and provost at the University of Dayton.

Born and raised in Cleveland, Dr. Pestello has three degrees in sociology. He earned his bachelor‘s degree from the Jesuit institution John Carroll University in 1974, his master’s degree from the University of Akron in 1981, and his doctoral degree through a joint program of the University of Akron and Kent State University in 1985.

Maureen O’Connell, Ph.D.

Maureen O’Connell, Ph.D.

Assoc. Professor of Christian Ethics, LaSalle University

Maureen H. O’Connell is Chair of the Department of Religion at LaSalle University, where she is also an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics. She is the author of "Compassion: Loving Our Neighbor in an Age of Globalization" (Orbis, 2009) and "If These Walls Could Talk: Community Muralism and the Beauty of Justice" (Liturgical Press, 2012). Her current research explores racial identity formation, racism, and racial justice in Catholic institutions of higher education.

Dr. O’Connell previously taught for eight years in the Theology Department at Fordham University. She currently serves on the board of the Society for the Arts in Religious and Theological Studies and is a member of St. Vincent De Paul parish in Germantown, PA. She is also a member of POWER (Philadelphians Organizing to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild), an interfaith federation of 90 faith communities working to make Philadelphia a city of “just love” through fair wages for workers, funding for public schools, immigration reform, and decarceration.

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Racial injustice is a gospel issue.Join the Ignatian Solidarity Network in reflecting on this reality during Lent."...

Posted by Ignatian Solidarity Network on Friday, January 15, 2016