August 25, 2017

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Catholic families can promote healing in society

Sean GallagherThe shockwaves caused by deadly violence between protesters and counter-protesters on Aug. 11 and 12 in Charlottesville, Va., still reverberate in the consciences of people across our country.

That tragic confrontation was a sad reminder that, as Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in a statement about the incident, racism is “the ugly, original sin of our country, and illness that has never fully healed.”

We Catholic Americans should be all the more sensitive to this troubling reality and moved to change it by the help of God’s grace because of the checkered history of the Church in this country.

On the one hand, Catholics have experienced discrimination and social intimidation throughout American history from the same kind of hate groups that were represented in Charlottesville.

In recent years, Catholics applying their faith to their public lives have experienced pressure from secularizing forces in government and society in general.

At the same time, some Catholic Americans easily have given in to dehumanizing aspects of the culture that are not in accord with the Gospel.

Many Catholic Americans prior to the Civil War supported the practice of slave ownership or owned slaves themselves. This discrimination continued in the years afterward when many Catholics easily accepted the racist attitudes of the prevailing culture.

The dehumanization of others continues today in the actions of many Catholic Americans—myself included at times—by the acceptance of legalized abortion and euthanasia, or an embrace of a consumerist and materialist mentality in which the poor around the world and the environments in which they live are victims.

In the knowledge that we and our ancestors have been the victims of unjust discrimination, we Catholics can move forward in forgiveness, seeking only the common good of all.

And with the knowledge that we and our ancestors have involved ourselves in unjust discrimination, we can repent of our sins and move forward in faith, seeking with the help of God’s grace to treat all people as children of God created in his image and likeness.

G.K. Chesterton, an early 20th-century English Catholic convert, is said to have responded to the question, “What is wrong with the world?” put to readers of The Times of London by answering simply:

“Dear Sir,
I am.
G.K. Chesterton.”

The reform of society must begin in the individual human heart or it will never succeed. Seeking to change society through legislation or peaceful protest, let alone through intimidation or violence of the kind seen in Charlottesville, is doomed to failure.

The heart is formed, first and foremost, in the family. If we Catholic families embrace our faith more fully in our daily lives, if we avail ourselves of the rivers of grace found in prayer and the sacraments, then our homes will become powerhouses of positive change in the small corners of the world in which we live.

When we allow our hearts to be changed in this way through the help of God’s grace, then the light of faith will ultimately overcome the darkness of hatred. †

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