And They Flew…

”Is the Lord in our midst or not?” (1 Exodus 17:7) Have we not been asking ourselves this question these days as did the Israelites? As we live through the unknowns of the coronavirus, the financial and economic uncertainties, the social distancing, the violence in our institutions and in our cities, we along with Pope Francis are heartbroken.

In our own Back of the Yards community, we continually hear the cries as lives are lost daily to gun violence. Yesterday, a group of our young men and women spoke of their frustrations, knowing racial distancing and the results of poverty have closed the doors of opportunity to them. They know this community lacks the resources to fulfill their dreams and hopes for a better future for themselves and their children. We are heartbroken for our families who know such trauma and isolation. “Is the Lord in our midst or not?”

We are so aware of individual and institutional woundedness everywhere, people crying out for reconciliation, for connections, for healing and hope. Yet we build walls, lock up those we fear, and close our eyes and hearts to our own wounds as well as the wounds within our Church.

Last week, Father Dave Kelly, Sister Janet Ryan, O.S.F., and I were invited by St. Giles Parish in Oak Park, Illinois, to join their staff in offering a mission to help touch these wounds and find healing. We opened the mission with a powerful lamentations ritual. The prepared readings and accompanying music brought all of us into the spirit of lament and crying for healing. We touched the wounds of physical and sexual abuse, the wounds of racism, and the wounds of our personal and social sin.

At the closing of the evening, we asked all to write a lament on a prepared card and place it in the “Lament/Prayer Basket.” A procession formed to the basket, with people appearing eager to name their hurt and drop it in the basket, adding theirs to the lament of the whole. Faces told of the depth of the lament, or the joy of letting it go and being united with the hurt of others, of not being alone in their pain.

Reconciliation was the theme for the second evening. Father Kelly shared a powerful reflection of being with those who have caused harm and those who are harmed, telling each with equal respect and concern. He told stories of the loneliness and feelings of not belonging that haunt our youth. Following the reflection we were invited into a place of healing — sacramental reconciliation or “safe” places within the church to talk with spiritual directors or other spiritual companions. The church was filled with voices sharing their hurts, their fears, their shame, their abuse and losses. There was no question that God was in our midst, embracing the wounded, healing, and being the light in the darkness. As the people left the gathering in silence, I felt the heaviness within many had lifted.

Our final evening brought us together again in song and reflection. For most of the evening we gathered in small circles. Guided by a circle keeper, people shared what had been challenging during this mission, and how to become a light of hope in this hurting, broken world.

Our Precious Blood spirituality calls us to be in those places where there is darkness, where pain cries out, where reconciliation is needed and healing can happen.

During the mission, we stood in those dark and ugly places. Some wept, but also began to embrace their own wounds and those of our Church — for only in touching the wounds can we begin to heal and be restored.

It has been a blessing to be connected with the people of St. Giles. It will be a growing relationship as they continue the Circles of Healing and Inclusion.

As we commit ourselves to be a Light of Hope in our Hurting World, we must take a long, loving look at those wounds. We must plunge into darkness, realizing we are in the “not yet” time, but always with the hope of the Resurrection. Sometimes we need a push … or a mission!

“Come to the Edge” by Christopher Logue

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“We’re comfortable back here,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“We’re too busy,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“It’s too high,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“We’re afraid,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“We’ll fall,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

And they did.

And he pushed them.

And they flew.

Story by Sister Donna Liette; originally published in the April 2020 issues of Cincinnati C.PP.S. Newsletter and The New Wine Press. Reprinted with permission.

Comments are closed.