Friday, July 30, 2010

Greetings from Omaha: O, What a Night!

Good day to you all, and greetings from the Archdiocese of Omaha.

Arrived safely last night. Decided to get a glass of wine at the hotel's lobby bar after I settled in. There was a piano bar with several people singing the "golden oldies." I picked up some of the conversations around the bar and, when the topic turned to politics, I heard some pretty sharp barbs aimed at the current administration and also heard some less-than-positive comments about two particular states' politicians. The two states? Massachusetts, my birth state where I grew up, and Illinois, my current state of residence.

One of the men came to the bar to pay for his drinks (many, I guessed) and asked where I hailed from. I told him, "Illinois," and then it all started. The invective against President Obama, Ted Kennedy, and John Kerry began. This was the last kind of conversation I needed after a long day. The man told me that there should be shooting stations set up along the US southern border. "The only way to clean up this immigration mess is to shoot them as they cross the border." I sat there as he continued his tirade. I predicted where it would all go. Eventually, he covered abortion, health care, immigration, and then he told me that I needed to join the "Tea Party." His views on the civil rights movement were stunning. His comments about "the blacks" were about all that I could take. I tried to engage in the conversation, bringing in my own positive experiences of what the Kennedy family did for the poor in Massachusetts and in the nation, as well as my own experience in my parish of African-Americans reaching out to the poor and disenfranchised. While he said that what we were doing at Saint James "was a good thing," he also told me that those "blacks" were the "good ones." He quoted some article he read recently about "those blacks making up 92% of the welfare rolls." "Have you ever seen a black man with a broken arm?" he asked. When I told him that I had seen people in Chicago—the urban poor—walking the streets of the city in obvious need of healthcare, he said, "No way, we take care of everyone in this country, whether or not they can afford it or not." "We don't need Obama's health care; he doesn't listen to the will of the American people."

His wife finally dragged him away. I bid him a blessed night, said that God was good, and when he turned around to look at me, I flashed him . . .

. . . the peace sign.

The bartender, a young woman who is working toward a degree in elementary education, then lamented about her experience, as she sees all kinds of people. "Unfortunately," she said, "people are either too far in one direction or too far in the other. No wonder we can't get anything done in this country." I reflected back that I felt that the experience in the Catholic Church mirrored her interpretation of the political scene.

What an experience, folks.

So, that was my evening. Today, I am all revved up to give a four-hour presentation to the priests of the Archdiocese. My topic is on the re-invention of the RCIA in parishes. I will try to help all re-capture the originating vision of the catechumenate as outlined in Ad Gentes from the Second Vatican Council. My aim, of course, is to allow people to dream a new dream for initiation; RCIA processes that are much less a course in Catholic teaching and much more a kind of "dynamic novitiate" into the Catholic way of believing, worshipping, and living.

Tomorrow, I will do something similar for the lay people of the Archdiocese. I look forward to sharing my comments with you on Monday.

I hope that your weekend is a peaceful one. Tea, anyone?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Maureen Grisanti Larison said...

Jerry, you are to be commended for your most charitable actions in dealing with such abusive language. You offered an amazing witness to Christ's peace in the face of bigotry and violence. God bless you for your kindness to a person so obviously in need of it!

It is sad that we cannot seem to converse with one another in a civil manner, both within the Church and within general society. Thank you for maintaining a respectful tone on your blog; it's good to know that there is at least one place where
we can hear and be heard in peace. May the rest of your weekend be filled with more positive interactions.

Charles Culbreth said...

You reflected the best "advice" humankind's ever been given, Jerry, that of Matthew 25. You regarded the poor fellow with dignity, respect and a hospitality that Christ commands of us. It's a crazy day with every new dawn; we must seize every moment to witness through humility. Have a great weekend.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your post today. I too feel the same way about polar opposites within the Catholic Church. Old, old school, or much more moderate. Also, my wife completed RCIA a little over a year ago and was often bogged down with course work without a welcoming feeling of community. I strongly support your thoughts on the topic. Thanks and TGIF.

Anonymous said...

Well WellWell I do not really know what to say except your experience is happening all over the USA. that includes within the catholic so-called community. The Eucharist is not really accepted for the reason Jesus instituted It: The Eucharist as His Body and Blood was supposed to be the bond of unity and Community among his followers. As far as that fellow is concerned you did well and I commend you but I cannot refrain from asking you a multiple choice question. 1. Was his wife a relative of Ann Coulter? 2.Is he a cousin of either Hannity, O"Reilly or Beck? 3. Is Spiro Agnew alive and well in Nebraska. One last question if he was catholic, Did his grand mother like Pius IX.? I think we really have to face some of these times with a sense of humour. Thanks again for your contibution to learning and hope in our CATHOLIC COMMUNITY!!!!

jdonliturgy said...

Jerry - you're a "saint" I probably would have argued with him. The rhetoric out there (or should I call it "invective" against common sense, tolerance and Christian charity is really, really loud. Look at the death threats against the judge by the people who didn't get their own way about the Arizona immigration law.

Some of my "Catholic" friends are also of this ilk - extremely right-wing politically. Frankly, I have a really hard time with people who have no sense of Church teaching or even the teachings of Jesus. I recently saw a bumper sticker that says it rather well: "The Christian Right is Often NEITHER."

Anonymous said...

Did you take that picture? It's gorgeous.