Friday, November 30, 2012

Quote of the Day

Today we're called to walk together in a new way toward that land of promise, and to celebrate who we are and Whose we are. 
If we, as church, walk together... Don't let nobody separate you – that's one thing Black folk can teach you! Don't let folk divide you or, you know, 'Put the layfolk over here, and the clergy over here; put the bishops in one room and the clergy in the other room; put the women over here and the men over here.'

The church teaches us that the church is a family – it's a family of families – and the family got to stay together. And we know that if we do stay together – come here, brother – we know that if we do stay together; if we walk, and talk, and work and play and stand together in Jesus’ name, we’ll be who we say we are: truly Catholic...  
...and we shall overcome – overcome the poverty, overcome the loneliness, overcome the alienation, and build together a holy city, a new Jerusalem, a city set apart where they’ll know we are His because we love one another....
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Church, we'd be remiss to let November pass without mention that this has been Black Catholic History Month. 

Instituted in 1990, the annual celebration is always marked in November to align with the feast of St Martin de Porres – the first African to receive the honors of the altar in modern times – who was canonized by Blessed John XXIII fifty years ago this spring.

Much as today's ecclesial conversation tends to focus more on the Episcopal church as if it were Catholic, it's worth recalling that, right now, there are a million more African-American – and, now, so-called "African-African" – Catholics on these shores than the entire membership of the Episcopal church. 

To be sure, that's no commentary on another Christian community – just this one... because, see, when a church fails to celebrate, affirm and stand with its own, in-house attitudes of the sort send a signal to the outside world that there isn't much to celebrate, affirm or stand by within it. Fix that, and chances are a good many of the very grave challenges of these days – ones often blamed on external forces – would either vanish quick, or at least be considerably blunted. Put another way, when a convincing argument can be made that Barack Obama's done more to highlight the Black Catholic community than has the Holy See or the bulk of the leadership and faithful of the Stateside church over recent years... well, complete the sentence. (Perhaps that's why no less than a new cardinal has gone on-record as, "obviously," a POTUS fan.)

Albeit far from the spotlight and an ad intra chattering class that tends to be anything but diverse, our Black-Church's legacy is rich and – often with a vibrance and strength of witness one would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere – gratefully, even heroically, continues onward. Still, as the all-around state of affairs remains much the same as it was a quarter-century back, and in tribute to this month's observance, it's high time for a re-air of the source behind today's Quote: the luminous, provocative 1989 testimony unleashed on the US bishops by American Catholicism's most effective figure of unity in the post-Conciliar era – the brilliant and mighty Sister Thea Bowman, talking to the bench from a wheelchair nine months before her death at 52 from bone cancer....

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This might come as a surprise to some, but when folks ask who these pages would've loved to cover should this scribe have been around in their time, more than any other, there's your answer – even for an Italian kid whose only Southern home is in Philly, see, the preach above stands as an inspired text.

And as we turn into a new month, a closely-related milestone is soon upon us – raised as Bertha Bowman in a Methodist family in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Thea's 75th birthday would've been this December 29th.