Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Life is a mix of lament and sadness, joy and hope.




I'm a priest of 35 years - not a pollster, not a politician, not policeman. A priest's thoughts, observations and insights shouldn't be like everyone else's. Mind you, there comes a time in the spiritual life when you stop caring about everyone agreeing with you. This is my lament - my hope. Why post it then? Sometimes people write and say about a post: "You know, I never thought about it that way before." And while there are so many people spewing hate all over the internet, I think the cyber-world can handle this:

I'm feeling a lament for this young man and so many others like him who are crazed with racial hatred. I feel shame that there is so much divisive abhorrence of others in our country.*

Sadness that this young man dropped out of school in the 9th grade and that there was no rush to find and save him - like the Gospel woman who turned the house upside down to find the lost coin. (Luke 15: 8-10)

A lament that the president of our God-Fearing country has had to address the nation fourteen times after a massacre of some sort. And shame that some Americans hate him for it.

I'm feeling shame that via CNN the whole world is watching our exceptional country devolve into gun violence and death. Empires and great countries collapse from within.

I'm feeling sadness for the unwilling, stubborn, obstructionist, elected politicians who refuse to take-on the control of deadly weapons sales and who hate those who do raise their voices. Saint Catherine said, "Shout like you have a million voices." Too many good people are silent. 

I'm feeling shame for the people of this country whose only agenda and vote is to defend gun rights. Like the Second Amendment is more sacred than a verse from the Holy Gospel.



Lament for those people and places who continue to fly a flag whose history has become one of disgrace and who lie and call it only a  flag of  pride and heritage. Changes in gun laws indeed - but all the more - the changing of hearts. A lament that religion often fails in this regard.

Lament that there is so much fuss and fury in defending that flag while so much of  the world is burdened with crushing problems beyond imagining. Lament that some Americans don't care.  

Lament for the self-proclaimed Pro-Life people who fiercely defend the right of the baby to be born (I get it),  but who don't see our national veneration of guns as a life issue.

I'm feeling shame for the nation's clergy of all the denominations (especially conferences of bishops) who won't speak to this issue because they're afraid of the money-denying anger of the gun worshipers in their pews.



I'm feeling shame for our idolatrous and conscience-diminished country: that gun and weapons manufacturing, sales and ownership is enshrined and worshiped. The people who composed the Second Amendment could never have envisioned the weapons available to citizens today. I feel a deep sadness that so many ignore this.

I'm feeling shame that in our country there are still places where there are no background checks for gun customers. If the life of one child is saved!

I'm feeling deep shame that in our country there's an NRA - flooded with money, high level connections, lobbying influence, huge membership and loving-admiring support - but if it's any other group: Catholic Church, Jewish whatever, gay rights, black rights, women's rights, environmental protection - there's bitterness and resentment.

I'm feeling joy and hope when I hear people in Charleston  roaring their hymn about overcoming the darkness of violent hatred. 

I'm feeling hopeful when I hear the relatives of victims saying immediately to Mr. Roof, "You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you." These could possibly be the first words of healing and salvation this broken, desperate young man might hear.

I'm glad and felt a ray of hope when the South Carolina politician (who had five years in office) said, "I didn't do my job" in trying to have the confederate flag removed from the state capitol lawn. And glad the interviewing reporter was stunned into fifteen seconds of radio silence, not knowing how to handle or respond to such honesty!





I'm feeling hopeful as on Sunday the Mother Emanuel Church bells rang as if it were Easter morning - the church packed with brave, singing-souls: like a landscape scorched and despoiled by fire, blooming from the ground-up the next spring.





I feel hopeful and joyful because Christ is Risen! And the African American Christians gift-ed the whole country on Sunday with this announcement - like the Easter women running to tell the frightened men. And Jesus has trampled down all the power of arsenals and empire, power-abuse, lies and loathing. Now we wait in joyful hope for the full realization of his victory - glad for the rays we detect already in the lives of saints and good people everywhere. 

I feel hopeful when I meet people who know we're not the Confederate States of America but the United States of America. **

The psalm says: If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. I'm hopeful if even one hater hears that verse and in some reflective, conscience-raised way, takes it in.

I'm glad that the powerful preacher-man took Isaiah 54:17 as the basis of his Mother Emanuel Sunday sermon: No weapon forged against you will succeed.


*While I was chaplain to a school for young people in trouble for fifteen years, I asked a boy from a southern state about racism at home and what has happened to it after the years of Civil Rights legislation. He answered, "Oh all of that is still there; it's just quieter now." He was speaking too of his parents who were not yet forty. 

**I was on a seven hour flight from Dublin to New York years ago when as a young priest (and the Irish in those days were overly kind to the clergy) I was bumped up to first class. We weren't in the air fifteen minutes when the pretty lady next to me asked where I was from. When I indicated New York she launched into a monologue history lesson against the north as if the Civil War was still being fought full-flood. Somehow I thought it was my priestly duty to listen politely for those many hours despite the worst headache of my life. Today I would ring for the flight attendant and declare that I was too close to the front of the plane and that to avoid air sickness I would need to be returned to my humble seat in business class. 

34 comments:

  1. I feel saddness when ignorance causes people to blame guns for the problems of our culture. Man's inhumanity to man will occur with a gun, with a rock, with a stick or with the hand of man. We can only begin to save ourselves when we stop looking for things to blame 《guns》 instead of looking to cure the problem which sadly is our Original Sin stained human condition.

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    1. If everyone in this country were able to walk into a shop and buy a gun - no checks of criminal background or mental instability - would that make you feel better?

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    2. The Bill of Rights. Article II A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Every word matters: well-regulated. Well-regulated means subject to controls.

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    3. I think you missed the point! In a 1999 report the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms reported that 93% of gun crimes were committed with firearms obtained illegally. Approximately 80% of NRA members support backbround checks and waiting periods prior to weapon purchase. The problem is government can't regulate the illegal flow of weapons, drugs, etc... Allow the sane, moderate, law abiding citizen to be armed if they choose to defend themselves because the insane, extreme and lawlwss already have almost limitless access to weapons of every kind. Please use your pulpit to focus on the issue "humanity" instead of being distracted by the rhetoric of unaccomplishable gun control.

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    4. Priests should never accept the word "un-accomplishable."

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    5. I'm an introvert, which doesn't mean shy - I"m not shy - but that I don't shoot from the hip. I have to think, sometimes for hours or even days before responding to something. Sometimes it's not easy being an introvert in an extrovert world. So I"m thinking now: "please use your pulpit to focus..." No. Like people who are telling the pope to stay out of the environment/climate conversation and stick to theological/spiritual/moral issues. Not at all. There's the second amendment to the Bill of Rights, but before that is the FIRST amendment which guarantees free speech. It's wonderful! No one tells the pope or the lowest-rung priest what to talk about. The First Amendment: One of the diminishing bits of American brilliance!

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    6. Typical defensive hipocritical clerical response! You routinely try to guide or influence the thoughts and ideas of others. Someone simply 《suggests》 an avenue of preaching that contradicts your view and you make it a First ammendment issue. All Americans are free to speak their minds that includes suggesting ideas to you; you are welcome to take them or leave them! There is no need for such an aggressive and defensive response

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    7. Oh my! "Typical, defensive, hypocritical clerical response. You routinely try to guide or influence..." Please don't be burdened by me. But that you say I do these things "routinely" means you follow the posts here. Why? Why would you position yourself to become angered? There are a zillion blogs out there - don't bother with this one. Don't lose your peace over me.

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  2. Father, I agree with much of what you write hear in this post, however, I do feel that the right to bear arms is not the problem. The people who commit these atrocious acts of violence do so with illegally obtained or stolen weapons. The focus is on education to stamp out ignorance and on getting help for the psychologically unstable. I am glad that he is forgiven, but unfortunately, there will be others until there is a conversion of hearts.

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  3. I will focus on the positives. The forgiveness, the joining together of community, and their message of hope to the world.

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    1. I will focus on both. Like the prisoner in Shawshank Redemption who writes a letter a week to the politician until he gets funding for a prison library. In the movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon - Saint Francis is fixing up the broken church of San Damiano. His old dandy friend, all dressed in furs and silk trudges out through the snow to see what Francis is up to. He's impressed with Francis and says, "I want to join you." Francis responds: "I no longer believe in words." I get it.

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  4. The issue is not the "right to bear arms". The first task of government is to protect the people. And since we are allowed to own guns in our country then government had best protect us from those who want them who are criminals and/or mentally unstable.

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    1. Amen! But how? There are already laws in place for this, but as with everything else, the rules are bent, broken and disregarded. Criminals don't follow the law.

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    2. Living in the North, I am totally unaware that there is still that kind of racism in the South. It is quite unbelievable that this kind of hatred exists because of skin color. Have these people looked beyond their small towns with open eyes to really see the world today? We are more than a mixture of people who can be separated by a color, we are a cultural blend relying on each other's differences to learn and grow. I didn't even know they still flew the Confederate Flag. Sorry for my ignorance of modern bigotry.

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    3. I live in the North too - in Pennsylvania. I understand that the greatest number of new hate groups is not in any southern state but right here in Pennsylvania! Holy good God! my father would say.

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  5. There is much sadness in this all, but I am happy to read of the hope and joyfulness. The people of the Mother Emanuel Church are beacons of hope and role models in today's society where we practice "an eye for an eye" rather than "turn the other cheek"

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    1. You know, the commandment "eye for an eye" was actually an evolution of the primitive morality which said basically, "you knock down my fence and I'll burn down your village." Actually, that's the morality we're returning to. Our devolving. So the parishioners witnessing to the mercy of God and their own personal forgiveness is indeed a great gift to the world.

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  6. I've read and reread this several times, careful not to kiss your point. You clearly state in the beginning that these are your thoughts as a priest. And that is your right to make your feelings known. I applaud you for taking this on.

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  7. I met a woman whose parish was taken over by an order of extremely lean-right priests. I asked her simply, "How are the new priests in your parish doing?" She answered, "They all wear masks that you can never get past." There are lots of priests around who you'd never think had an independent thought or sense of things - as if an alive Holy Spirit would/could never stir them to something new or insightful. It's immature. The nuns used to be that way: Just say the same old - same old - and above all give no indication that you are a human being. The nuns dropped all of that decades ago - but not the priests. Thanks for your careful read. I don't put up anything that I haven't considered for many days. I never "shoot from the hip."

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    1. Amen! God bless you Father.

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  8. Mass murderers frequently aren’t particularly shy about the motives behind what they do — the nature of the crime they commit is attention-seeking, is an attempt to get news coverage for their cause, to use one local atrocity to create fear within an entire population. I am saddened by the fact that the media insists on trotting out “mental illness” and blaring out that phrase nonstop in the wake of any mass killing. The vast majority of people who commit acts of violence do not have a diagnosis of mental illness and, conversely, people who have mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. The suspect in the Charleston killings is a racist. And that is sad. But we shouldn't give him any other excuse than that. If he didn't have that hate in his being, then it wouldn't matter a lick if he had a gun or not. Many good people carry guns for the right reasons and most never kill anyone with them. Let's look at the human picture here, not the availability of guns. He could have killed these people with a machete.

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  9. Maybe. A PC matic commercial - do I have this right? they are a company that protects your computer contents??? And the ad is a pretty girl holding a semi-automatic across her chest while she reads off her message about computers - - which message is lost because we're checking out her semi-automatic military style whatever.???? That's a coutnry that is sick and incestuous and idolatrous of guns. I"m laughing too because I just heard that Donald Trump is soaring in the polls since he declared his candidacy and people say they'd vote for him because of his high name recognition and because he "speaks his mind," and I talk a little and pretty light about gun control as a priest and in the context of an almost-prayer and I get defensiveness. I'm thinking I need to move to Ireland - a farmer can own a gun and some levels of police. It's easier to get a gun in this country than a driver's license and all of the talk here in defense of guns or guns is not the problem (which of course they are not by themselves) still doesn't explain why this kind of repeated mass murdering is not happening in other first world countries. Our sale of super weapons to crazy people all over the world - weapons supermarket that we are - is still another question all together - another aspect of our love affair with weapons. Jesus will have the last word of course. I don't think he's pleased one bit. And for all the joy that heaven is suppose to be - I believe deeply that angels cry. And that the icons of the Mother of God all over the world are weeping - it's about weapons and their big money sale and not about who is having un-approved sex.

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    1. If you want to move to Ireland, so be it. Just be sure to keep up with your blog Father Morris.

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  10. Several big retail corporations have agreed to stop selling Confederate flag merchandise. Expect more as Americans realize the flag some see as "heritage" is actually a flag supporting oppression and hate. I will hold Walmart, Amazon and Sears and eBay in slightly higher esteem for their decision to remove this symbol of division from their merchandise offerings.

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    1. Does this mean we should take down gay pride flags also? They might be offensive to people also. Aren't we taking away freedom of expression?

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    2. I think the taking down of the Confederate Flag has to do with its placement on state property - which property in belongs to everyone, so to speak. And "everyone" includes the 40% African American community. The flag of "pride and heritage" was taken over by segregationists in the 1960's.

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  11. Looking forward to your next topic.

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  12. You are right Father, many times you say things in a way I have never thought of before. It causes me to expand my thoughts. And that's a good thing. I don't have to agree with everything that you say, but I appreciate and respect your opinions and wouldn't dare debate what are your own thoughts on a topic. Thanks for the education.

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  13. Father, you touch the lives of many people and make a difference where others fail to. I am thankful to you for your inspirational thoughts, for your candidness and your willingness to stand up for what you believe in without regard for what others might say. Many blessings to you.

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  14. Bless you too, Claudio. You know, as sad as it is, many priests, many, many priests are less than candid and really challenging of their Sunday congregations because they're afraid. Afraid that people won't give in the collection. Afraid some disgruntled soul will write a letter to the bishop or the papal nuncio in Washington, or the pope. American's love that little resort to power: "Let me speak to your manager." Or the priest will only be brave when he can back up what he's saying (usually about sexual things) with quotes from his favorite pope or saint. A woman who attends daily Mass told me that she went to Mass the morning of a great national calamity: an earthquake or explosion or plane crash, or massacre and the priest never mentioned it - not in the intercessions, not in his sermon, not at the start of Mass.....What's wrong? The priesthood is in need of a tremendous and deep renewal. And renewal for me doesn't mean the priests need a new devotion or dedication to official teachings, but priests need some deep human evolution. That would begin in seminary. I think we really need to get at what the Incarnation means: God became human.

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  15. Love is the thread, the common bond we all share. When stretched globally, the word will know peace.

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