The Franciscan friars here at Sacred Heart are Members of the Franciscan Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. Our Provincial Minister, Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM, has sent out a thoughtful letter on a Franciscan response to this recent spate of violence. Sadly, this letter is all to pertinent, especially given the events of July 14th in Nice France. May their souls and all the souls of the Faithful rest in the mercy of God.
Sad to say that each day seems to be filled with more and more stories which indicate the spread of violence increasing on global, national, and local levels. This blanket of violence seems to be like a plague that knows no boundaries. In just the past week or so, we are repulsed to learn about the senseless loss of life in Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad, Orlando, Falcon Heights (Minnesota), Baton Rouge, and Dallas. People have been targeted and killed because of their religion, ethnicity, race, sexuality, and profession. The perpetrators of these killings seem to be filled with ignorance, fear, and hatred. They tragically disregard the intrinsic value of life and commit crimes against God and humanity.
We, Franciscan friars, must recognize that the current context of our world has a profound impact upon the way we choose to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the 21 st century. Now more than ever, we must choose peace, and we must witness to the value of non-violence. We must see ourselves first and foremost as instruments of peace, healing, and reconciliation. We are called to be bridge-builders. We enter into the midst of the ignorance, fear, and hatred, and we offer a different response — not an “eye-for-an eye” or a “get even” type of response, but rather an alternate approach that walks in the midst of suffering, injustice, pain, and death and calls out in a non-violent voice for understanding, dialogue, healing, justice, mercy, and peaceful resolutions.
As friars, our attitudes, words, and actions express our deeply held convictions. Each friar must resolve to intensify his relationship with God through individual and communal prayer, especially though the celebration of the Eucharist. As members of local fraternities-in-mission we must live at peace with one another in order to give credible witness to the people we serve. In our work and in our ministries, we must always promote peace, harmony, and the cause of justice. Our words should be expressed in ways that help to build-up and bring people together as opposed to the words — expressed all too frequently in these times — that tear down and cause disruption and divisions.
Fifty-three years ago within our country when basic human and civil rights were being denied to African-Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. writing from his prison cell in Birmingham, Alabama, reminded people of some fundamental truths. Dr. King wrote:
I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
His words challenged and united people then and they can hopefully do the same for us now. We must remember we are all sisters and brothers.