Racism. It’s not dead it is very much alive. It’s in every culture and in every race. It is a sin that is the least confessed by Catholics in the Church because we don’t see ourselves as racist. And when our country experiences some of the things that have come out in the news, we are faced with it again and even though we may not see it the way that other people see it, they are experiencing it and so we can’t dismiss it. How do we help our families that are experiencing this, we cannot say they shouldn’t feeling that way. How do we help them, how do we accompany them? How do we confront maybe what’s in me? We can’t dismiss this, it’s real.
Immigration reform. We know that the deportations have separated many of our families. And some of us don’t care about “those people that came in here illegally.” Well as Catholics we do. How do we celebrate family, the joy of being a family, knowing that some of our brothers and sisters are hurting because of the immigration policies that are broken in our country? And if [we] have trouble with it, maybe that’s something [we] need to take to Lent and pray over it. It is something that has divided us as a Church.
We have now this phenomenon of atheism that’s growing, especially among our young people. At one time our families were being hurt because the children were no longer practicing the faith that we brought them up in. Now in many of our families it isn’t just that they are not practicing that faith, but they don’t have it. You see the billboards now calling for people that are atheist to come together.
We will be facing in our state the issue of doctor assisted suicide. You know families where someone is lingering in illness, paralyzed, Alzheimer’s, terminal cancer and we know that some of those family members don’t want to see their families suffer and so they believe that the best option for them is to have doctor assisted suicide. And then we have the family members that don’t want to see their sick brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents suffer. We have a special teaching in our Church about embracing our dying, about walking with one another. We need to rediscover what our Church is teaching, about being together and working against laws and programs that promote doctor assisted suicide. They’re affecting our families today.
We have families that are being affected by domestic violence. Some who don’t even talk to us about that, they’re embarrassed, they’re afraid. In each of our parishes, poor and affluent, in every ethnic group, we have domestic violence. How do we walk with them in the midst of celebrating who we are as family? And in so many of our parishes, most in the last few years, there has been suicide, especially of young people. What are we doing to accompany those parents? What are we doing to accompany one another in addressing suicide which is so hurtful to our families?
Homosexuality. There is a lot of talk about gay marriage, but how do we as a Church, as a diocese, as a parish, see that person who is homosexual, who is a member of a family? How does the family see that person? That child? That sibling? That niece or nephew? How do we celebrate families knowing that many members who are homosexual are being excluded even from a family gathering? Or feel that they can’t join a family at Thanksgiving dinner because of what could be said about them. This is the reality that we are facing in our country and in the world.
One of the biggest problems that we have also in our communities is violence. Our people are living in fear, fear to let their children play in the front yard; fear to go into a shopping mall, fear to send their children to school. This is a reality that our people are facing. Human trafficking, sale and slavery especially of women and of children, of immigrants being taken advantage of, being taken from their families.
We have right now this fear of contagious diseases. Just a few months ago it was Ebola, now its measles. What are our families going through? How do we speak to it? How do we accompany them with the fears that they have? Not just about contagious deceases, about health care, about education and jobs. About the political situation in our country and in the world. We see such atrocities as burning people alive, of crucifying children, of burying people alive. We can’t forget that in the midst of celebrating family, that’s a reality. How do we bring that into our prayers, into the bettering of our own lives, our own families and neighborhoods?
Faithful Citizenship. In many of our places, our reality is the consequences of people not living their citizenship; not holding political leaders accountable, not electing the people that will serve all the people of the community. And so we have all these things, we can’t run away from them, it’s the realities that our families are facing every day.
So when we preach and when we teach we have to make note of these realities. We have to let them know that we know what they are living. We have to let them know that they are not alone. We have to let them know that if they want to talk, we’re there. We have to let them know that there may be organizations, there may be groups, there may be centers where they can get some help. We have to let them know that we care. And we have to do that because of the Gospel.