The times call us to ‘Step out, stand up, and speak clearly’
By Fr. Ron Will
I hesitate to write about the killing of George Floyd because there are so many individuals and groups who have already made a statement, but we on the staff of Precious Blood Renewal Center feel compelled to join the voices crying out around the world for racial justice and for an end to police brutality, and because we have a circle of friends that may not hear those other statements.
The mission statement of the Renewal Center states: “We are a safe and sacred place, offering healing and hope, renewal and reconciliation, for all people.” That last phrase is taking on new meaning these days for me.
Likewise, Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus takes on a new meaning for me today. I realize I am that rich man. I didn’t kick Lazarus or abuse him, I just ignored him. I didn’t say or do anything to help him.
I first confess my own guilt and complacency. Then I commit to change. I think that we need to confess our own racism as a Precious Blood Community. Look at how few Members and Companions of color we have. What does that say about our attitude of welcome? How many of us are involved in ministry with people of color? It’s time for a change in ourselves; time to be honest about our own attitudes and re-direct those attitudes and actions.
I wish to let the picture of George Floyd under the knee of the police officer motivate me to speak up, to act up. In his eulogy at the funeral of George Floyd, Rev. Al Sharpton spoke powerfully of situations where people of color are under the knee of our systems.
The killing of George Floyd is a wake-up call for our Community. We must begin and continue to work for racial justice. In our Corporate Stances we have stated “Motivated by the blood of Christ and called to be ministers of reconciliation, we the Missionaries and Companions of the Precious Blood Kansas City Province affirm our belief in the sacredness of life.”
St. Boniface said: “In her voyage across the ocean of the world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course.” How can we keep our Community on the course that we have stated in our Corporate Stances?
In his “Letter to the Province on Our Work To End Hate,” Fr. Garry Richmeier wrote: “[Something] that helps us not give up is to do the work together. There is strength in numbers. This strength is not only the power to get something accomplished, but to give us as individuals strength of heart, soul, mind, and Spirit so we don’t weaken and give up.”
The author and social justice activist Adrienne Maree Brown has said: “Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.”
“Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.”
— Adrienne Maree Brown
Mother Teresa diagnosed the world’s ills in this way: “We’ve just forgotten that we belong to each other.”
St. Paul believed that corporate evil can only be confronted and overcome with corporate good.
Precious Blood Spirituality challenges us to hear and respond to the cry of the blood. George Floyd’s killing is an obvious example that challenges us. His killing will naturally fade from the news headlines as other events take their place, but we dare not allow it to fade from our hearts. Recently I heard a preacher ask, “Did you know that you could actually miss heaven by 18 inches? That’s the distance from the head to the heart.”
We are called to do more than wring our hands and say “how awful this situation is.” Some things that we can do include:
- Speak out against casual remarks that are contrary to our Catholic and Christian teachings that recognize that God created all men and women to be equal.
- Invest in communities of color and support Black-owned small businesses.
- Fight for equitable resources in our low-income community public schools and urban Catholic schools.
- Support honorable police officers and advocate for racial bias training and for discontinuing the excessive use of force by police.
- Be informed and act for justice.
- Confess your own racial prejudice and educate yourself. Pax Christi USA has an extensive list of anti-racism resources.
We are called to make a difference. Don’t let news accounts of riots and looting discourage us from taking constructive actions toward positive change. For every story of destruction, there are a dozen stories of peaceful demonstrations and people helping people. We are challenged to be one of those positive people. Remember the vision statement from the Precious Blood Companion Movement: Step out, stand up, and speak clearly about the Precious Blood of Jesus.
[Fr. Ron Will is priest of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood priest and spiritual director at Precious Blood Renewal Center, Liberty, Missouri.]