Tuesday, August 25, 2020


This is the twenty-seventh in a series of periodic reflections on the "ordinary things" that many people do on a regular basis without much thought. During this pandemic, I am developing a need to "rage, rage" against haste and laziness and replace it with care and attention. My hope is to become personally more intentional about doing ordinary things with care and focused attention, while inspiring others to maybe do the same.


Go therefore to the crossroads and invite to the banquet 
as many as you can find. So the servants went out into
 the streets and gathered everyone they could find, both 
good and bad alike, and the wedding hall was filled 
with guests. 
Matthew 22:10 

There is such a thing as a problem within a problem! The pandemic is wearing on me, but behind it is something that is wearing on me even more! The "other something" is that constant drumbeat of some people looking for opportunities to exclude others instead of looking for ways to include them. 

The news is full of stories about racial injustice, anti-dreamer legislation, the political demonization of other points of view, ageism, sexism, anti-sexual orientation rhetoric, anti-science movements, climate denial, voter suppression, economic greed and ignored corruption. I believe it all comes from the fear of shortages and simple ignorance. The fear of shortages is basically a fear that there will not be enough for all of us, so I've got to protect what's coming to me. The "ignorance" response is basically a fear of having to revise one's map of reality to include new realities - if I don't see it, know about it and acknowledge it, it can't affect me! 

What makes me so sensitive to those "who's in/who's out" divisions that some people always seem to be wanting to make is that growing up I was on the outside most of the time looking for a way to get inside. Feeling excluded was a familiar feeling as a child, teenager and young adult. 

As a child, my frustrated and overwhelmed father would often let us know, in no uncertain terms, that we were a burden to him and that we were losers. "I'll be so glad when you kids are grown and out of here!" "You'll never amount to a hill of beans!"  

In grade school, I was so thin and small that I was teased about being a "runt." A "runt" was the last of the baby pigs to be born leaving it undersized and unable to fight the stronger ones for a place to nurse. "Runts" usually died! 

In minor seminary, in the suburbs of Kentucky's largest city, being born and raised in the country subjected us to the ridicule of the urban-born seminarians. "You hillbillies! You hicks!" 

In the early days of priesthood, I served in the home missions of our diocese where Catholics were only one-tenth of one-percent. Being Catholic was often like being a leper! People avoided you, whispered about you and snubbed you on a regular basis. 

I used to think all this was a curse and a burden to bear. However, what it was actually doing was preparing me for my major life's work - reaching out to and embracing the marginal of this world. 

As the pastor of the Cathedral, I got the chance to revitalize that parish by reaching out mainly to marginal Catholics: those who had fallen away from practicing their faith, divorced Catholics, gay and lesbian Catholics, recovering addicts, the poor,  immigrants and various other minorities. We grew from about 110 members to 2100 members in a 14 year period. While those who responded to our invitation, "we'll take anybody," were delighted to be included, there was a handful of mean people who wanted me to reject, condemn and shame those people lest I be known for "approving sin." 

When I am "inclusive" in my words and my deeds,  I believe I am on solid ground as a Christian. Does the Book of Genesis (1:27) not say, "so God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female he created them.". Did Jesus not teach us powerfully, in his central parables, about rejoicing over the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son? 

When I am "inclusive" in my words and in my deeds, I believe I am on solid ground as a Catholic." Does the very word "catholic" not means "universal" and "inclusive." We are not some American church! We are a church made up of people from every race, language and way of life on this planet!  

When I am "inclusive" in my words and in my deeds, I believe I am on solid ground as an American.  Does the Constitution itself not say, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?" Does the Statute of Liberty not proclaim for all the world to see,  Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Oh God! Deliver me from the fear of shortages and new realities. Help me be generous and keep my mind, heart and hands open, even when it hurts and becomes personally inconvenient!



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