“Welcoming The Stranger” At Prince of Peace Parish In Las Vegas

Back in 2000, the USCCB published a teaching document titled “Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity.”  The Bishops began their teaching thus:

On June 2, 2000, the Jubilee Day for Migrants and Refugees, Pope John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist in St. Peter’s Square for over 50,000 migrants, refugees, people on the move, and their chaplains from all over the world. The Eucharist drew that great diversity of people into unity in the communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, realizing a Jubilee Year hope for the Church: “to gather into one the dispersed children of God,” “to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth” (Jn 11:52; Eph 1:10).

This Church Guy experienced the ‘unity’ that only the Eucharist can bring in a special way recently.  This is what happened.

While traveling, I found myself in Las Vegas.  I needed to get to attend the Saturday vigil as I would be traveling all day Sunday.  The only Mass I could find that fit my schedule was at Prince of Peace Parish in the Diocese of Las Vegas.  I hailed a taxi and went there.  The only problem was that I was half an hour late (always call to verify Mass times when traveling!) and the Mass was in Spanish.  The Spanish was not so bad, but I needed time to acclimate myself, and the homily was not the place to start.  I was lost and feeling out of place.

Then a woman next to me noticed.  Quietly and nicely, she pulled out Unidos en Christo/United in Christ and pointed out where we were.  She flashed a “welcome” smile and went back to worshipping.  It took only a moment, but that simple, wordless gesture united me to that liturgy and to that community in a special way.

After Mass, I ran into the woman who “welcomed the stranger” and thanked her.  I explained that if I had had time I would have acclimated myself; she said that she was the same with English.

St. Therese talked about her little flowers – her shower of roses.  I think one of them landed on me that day.


“Men For Others”: An Uncertain Response To A Clarion Call?

How well has the Church responded to the radical call to justice articulated by Fr. Pedro Arrupe in his talk “Men For Others?”  This may be case of a road not taken, with a wealth of insight waiting for implementation.

Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. was the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus — the Jesuits.  On July 31, 1973, Fr. Arrupe addressed the Tenth International Congress of Jesuit Alumni of Europe.  The talk – “Men (and Women) For Others” — was a groundbreaking reflection about education for justice.

Fr. Arrupe’s talk was intended to answer a simple question — how does one educate for justice?

Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others; men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ – for the God-man who lived and died for all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce.

This kind of education goes directly counter to the prevailing educational trend practically everywhere in the world.  We Jesuits have always been heavily committed to the educational apostolate.  We still are.  What, then, shall we do?  Go with the current or against it?  I can think of no subject more appropriate than this for the General of the Jesuits to take up with the former students of Jesuits schools.

His discussion, however, extended well beyond pedagogy (in fact, there is no pedagogy per se in the talk). Fr. Arrupe bases his call for social justice on personal conversion:

When we are converted, when God effects in us the marvel of justification, we turn to God and our brothers and sisters in our innermost selves, and as a consequence sin in the strict sense is washed away from us.  However, the effects of sin continue their powerful domination over our “periphery,” and this, quite often, in a way that we are not even aware of.

Now, Christ did not come merely to free us from sin and flood the center of our person with his grace.  He came to win our entire self for God – including what I have called our “periphery.”  Christ came to do away not only with sin, but with its effects, even in this life; not only to give us his grace, but to show forth the power of his grace.

Sin dominates the periphery “quite often, in a way that we are not even aware of.”  The consequence of this sin is social injustice:

Let us see the meaning of this as it pertains to the relationship between personal conversion and structural reform.  If “personal conversion” is understood in the narrow sense of justification operative only at the very core of our person, it does not adequately represent the truth of the matter, for such justification is only the root, the beginning of a renewal, a reform of the structures at the “periphery” of our being, not only personal but social.

If we agree on this, conclusions fairly tumble forth.  For the structures of this world – our customs; our social, economic, and political systems; our commercial relations; in general, the institutions we have created for ourselves – insofar as they have injustice built into them, are the concrete forms in which sin is objectified.  They are the consequences of our sins throughout history, as well as the continuing stimulus and spur for further sin.

. . .

In short, interior conversion is not enough.  God’s grace calls us not only to win back our whole selves for God, but to win back our whole world for God.  We cannot separate personal conversion from structural social reform.

Fr. Arrupe reflects of the meaning of “structural social reform” in the remainder of his talk.  If social justice as understood by CST is a reflection of efforts to win back the World for God, does CST meet this standard?  From where, I sit I hear a lot about things people deserve (“rights”) and can demand from others and much of CST seems directed toward justifying whatever social and political programs promise more of those things.  That raises 2 questions:  (1) how is this demand for things consistent with Fr. Arrupe’s celebrated vision? and (2) can the social and political programs that provide these things (to at least some) become themselves concrete forms of concupiscence?

More later….