June 5, 2020

Reflection / Mike Krokos

Pentecost prayers for peace

Mike Krokos“Come, Holy Spirit: you are harmony; make us builders of unity. You always give yourself; grant us the courage to go out of ourselves, to love and help each other, in order to become one family. Amen.” (Pope Francis tweet on Pentecost)

Law enforcement officer-related homicides, peaceful protests around the country, then, unfortunately, civil unrest and looting in some cities—including in Indianapolis—and senseless deaths.

We also see the desecration and vandalism of places of worship like St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis and St. Patrick Cathedral in New York City.

Whether we like it or not, this is today’s reality: watching the news and reading about it is unsettling these days.

We, again, must ask the questions: Why? And how do we respond as a community of faith?

As a father of a teenage daughter and an 11-year-old son, I can vouch as a parent that it is a daunting task to help them grasp the seriousness of what our society is facing these days. But it is a conversation that must take place.

It’s not easy explaining how videos show a police officer overstepping the bounds of law enforcement in Minnesota as three other policemen watch, which led to the tragic death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American, who was in their custody.

And sadly, it’s not the first time law enforcement has been questioned about its practices and echoes of racism fill our society. Only last month, the shooting of 21-year-old Dreasjon “Sean” Reed, also African-American, by a member of the Indianapolis Metro Police Department led to the anger of some members of the community. The case is still under investigation.

As tragic as these situations and others similar to them are, we as people of faith must understand they can be teachable moments. But what do we tell our children?

We tell them we understand and support the peaceful protests that were initially scheduled to take place in Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Washington, New York, Los Angeles and other cities across our nation—protests meant to demonstrate how people of all races and faith traditions can come together as one to show solidarity against acts and situations they feel are terrible injustices.

As Archbishop Charles C. Thompson said in a statement on May 30 in response to the chaotic and tragic week, “As Christians, we cannot turn a blind eye to acts of racial violence and hatred. We are called to do what we can to end this injustice.”

Chairmen of several committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also voiced their concerns about Floyd’s death and other recent police actions.

“Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient,” the bishops said in a statement. “It is a real and present danger that must be met head on.

“As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference,” they said. “We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy and justice.

“Indifference is not an option,” they emphasized, and stated “unequivocally” that “racism is a life issue.”

The bishops in their statement pointed to their “Open Wide Our Hearts” pastoral against racism approved by the body of bishops in 2018. In it, they said: “For people of color, some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives.”

In our message to our children, we also need to make it clear that the looting, violence and unrest that occurred in several cities in the context of the protests caused more pain and anguish. It is not how we as Christians and as a civilized society should respond to injustices we see. We need to remind them an injustice leading to more injustice is not a Gospel value we practice as people of faith.

The actions of some led to injuries—even death—and to the destruction of property and businesses and to a sense of lawlessness.

We understand the anger many people feel, but our call as missionary disciples is to bring Christ to any situation—including these situations—to shine a light where darkness has overwhelmed the landscape.

We must also remind our children that prayer must be at the heart of our response. As I heard a priest recently share during a homily, “Prayer is an act of love.”

We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, and that tenet of faith is desperately needed today in society.

We may come from different walks of life and represent various races, but we are one family of God. As Pope Francis said, the feast of Pentecost reminds us of this truth.

Now more than ever, may that be so.

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the Earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”

(Mike Krokos is editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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