The American Way

Yesterday I was upset when I read the account of the deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos. The ICE enforcers should  be going after major criminals and not soft targets like a woman who has  regularly reported in as she was told to do. It seems as if the agents only want numbers, so they grab the easiest targets – namely, someone’s mother.

This heartless incident made me think of a poem written by Thomas Merton about a young woman from China who made her way into Hong Kong only to be sent back. The poem is entitled A Picture of Lee Ying. Here is part of what he said.

She must go back where she came from no more need be said

Whenever the authorities are alarmed everyone must return to China

We too know all about sorrow we have seen it in the movies

You have our sympathy Miss Lee Ying you must go where we are sorry for your future

Too bad some people get all the rough breaks the authorities regret

Refugees from China have caused alarm

When the authorities are alarmed what can you do

You can return to China

Their alarm is worse than your sorrow

I for one do not agree, if this is the new American way of dealing  with people seeking the life we enjoy.


O Antiphons for Ordinary Time

During the novena before Christmas the Church has us sing the wondrous O Antiphons. Each one revels in a title of the coming Messiah: Wonder-Counselor, Prince of Peace, etc.

Now Christmas has passed, even the three kings have left “by another route” to return to their own lands. Everything has returned to the regular routine. We are left in awe of the ordinary.

Ordinary Time is the name given to the liturgical periods between major seasons such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. I, for one, believe there should be O Antiphons for Ordinary Time. In terms of Jesus’ life, Ordinary Time corresponds to the days, months, and years when Jesus lived simply as “the son of  the carpenter.” Most of our days are filled with the routine and normal. We feel our lives are so ordinary, but really every day is a celebration steeped in the extraordinary. That these days run along in an orderly fashion is about the only ordinary thing about them. They are caught up, as is every other day of redemption, in the sacramental cycle of liturgy and grace – so very out of the ordinary.

Time is the most ordinary and the most extraordinary thing. And so, I’d like to propose O Antiphons for Ordinary Time. Because every single day is a day of grace, we can proclaim: “O, the glory of it! ” Every day is blessed because of our baptism and because it leads us toward the moment of our final summons. “O, the magnificence of so normal a cycle of life and death held together by each blessed breath!”

“O, the service we give to the near and dear, to the lonely and forsaken. Our hearts, our hearths, our time, and our treasure are recklessly spent on those in need of mercy.”

There are also the silent moments and the shared moments, the anxious and the glad moments.

“The great celebration of eternity is wrapped up in each moment of time. For our every ordinary day, O God, we praise you!”


Matthew and Consolation (Mt 5:4)

“Blessed the sorrowing; they shall be consoled.” Sometimes this beatitude is translated: “Blessed those who mourn.” This is the beatitude that enters our conscientiousness whenever we are faced with the death of a friend or loved one. The human heart cannot avoid the sorrow it feels at the prospect of losing someone held dear. And the Lord is confirming our natural reaction: “You will be consoled.” Our sorrow will be turned to joy.

However, unless one is in the midst of a sorrowful time, this beatitude isn’t too consoling. No one looks forward to sorrow or to mourning. We also mourn for other kinds of loss. Sorrow in the sense of regret or penance is not a negative, but a cause of great consolation (all around). The great announcement of Jesus was this: “Reform your lives, the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent!” This is a command that each of us should take seriously. By complying with it we will please Jesus and be worthy of entering his kingdom. Our sorrowing should also extend to all sin, to every sinner, to all social and institutional evil, to all malice, ill-will, scandal, and to every evil, all of which require repentance along with mercy. Those embroiled in any of these things will not necessarily recognize their state or what is happening to others because of their choices. If we do see the error, the sin, we are called to sorrow for it, to mourn it. Allow yourself to be grieved by offense to God, to be moved by the modern Ninevites who don’t know their moral right hand from their left. Take them to heart, suffer for them and with them. In this way you will console the heart of God and be consoled in turn. This is to possess the heart of God.

Among a set of sentences found around the tabernacle in each chapel of the Pauline Family, is one that speaks to this beatitude. It says: “Live with a penitent heart.” In other words, be constantly attentive to the sufferings around you be they an offense of God or simply a breach of good sense. Do not think of this as a morbid sentiment. This kind of sensitivity is beautiful and helps one develop a closeness to the heart of the Lord of Life who went so far as to die for the sins of humanity. In his human nature, Jesus was the great consolation of God.