Tag Archives: justice

Hope amid upheaval

July 2, 2015

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The Cathedral of St. Paul, cathedral of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

The Cathedral of St. Paul, cathedral of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

I woke up the morning of June 15, and in typical morning fashion I scrolled my newsfeed. The first story I came across was the news that both Archbishop John Nienstedt and Bishop Lee Piché had resigned. I then read the comments that followed. Some were of those who had been advocating (and hoping) for resignation, and others were from those who felt they were mourning the loss of their shepherds.

I then began to examine my own conscience.

“What opinion do I have of this situation? What opinion should I have? I work in the trenches of the Church daily. My co-workers, our parishioners, the teens I serve — they will be talking, and Michelle, you need to be ready. You need an opinion — and a good, well-articulated one! What will you say if you someone asks you if it was right that they resigned?”

Neitzke

Michelle Neitzke

After some self reflection, I realized I didn’t have all the answers I wanted. I want to believe that truth will have its reign, that justice will be made known and that mercy will follow. I want to trust the decision of the bishops who resigned and that they were cooperating with their consciences. I want to trust that the Holy Spirit will appoint the right bishop to serve our archdiocese.

As of yet, those were the only conclusions I could come to. I resolved that this situation was, in a way, beyond me. I want answers just as much as the next person, but as of now, I still remain a spectator.

The questions that became pertinent to me were: How do I minister to the faithful who may be confused or hurt? How do I as a faithful daughter of the church, speak hope and truth to a local church that is bruised and hurting? How do I show them that I have trust and faith in the Church, the hierarchy, and the office of the episcopate, but yet at the same time realize the humanity and frailty of those who are appointed?

How do I show them that the church is constant, strong and as history shows, capable of enduring a storm? How do I tell of a God, who is full of mercy and who weeps with those who weep, a God whose heart beats with love and that bleeds with compassion for his children?

And yet, I know the world is watching, and local Church is asking:

Will the archdiocese recover?

Where do I place blame?

Can the Church withstand this?

In times turmoil, angst and scandal it is easy to look to the outside for answers and consolation. The answers do not come from the outside, but from the inside, and not even within those who hold offices in the Church, but in the Church herself, and how she prevails against the cursory and transient epochs of her time here on earth.

I believe that there is hope amidst upheaval and that the Church will endure.

The church can withstand this — but not because of the actions of man, but by the power of Christ and what is promised to us. The Church is not merely an institution — who is certainly subject to the struggle and sins of her human members — but a body of believers, who groan and travail until our final sanctification.

She exists now, and there at the same time.

She is in time, but rooted eternity,

is immanent, yet transcendent.

Suffering, while at the same time gloriously triumphant.

A shelter for its members, but is not contained by her walls.

She is ever ancient, and ever new.

And until the end of time, she will remain so.

And she will prevail.

I have promised and I will do it, says the Lord.

I really do believe this. I realize to many the beliefs I hold and the life I live is one of wonder. I have spent six years studying theology. I’m in my 20s and I have chosen to work for the Catholic Church, and so far, I have dedicated my career to it.

Many people unabashedly ask me, “Why would you work for that Church? The Church that can’t stay out of the headlines, and has many times been wounded by its own members?”

My answer to them is the same as it is to those who are angry, hurt and confused by the current events in our archdiocese.

The Church is a human body, but also a mystical body — mystical because its head is the one who is Glory Himself. Our Church is a pilgrim, susceptible to the failings of its members but never defeated by them. Imperfect now, but perfect then, and continually holding on to the promise of restoration and renewal. Christ will not abandon his church and the Holy Spirit will not be quenched. Renewal and sanctification are not far off possibilities but obtainable realities.

Hope is not mere sentimentality but a virtue, which certainly requires humility and trust. Hope demands that we trust not in ourselves, but in the power of God. Hope is not weak, but rooted in an expectant faith. Hope believes that God will deliver what he has promised. We hope in the glory to come, but are also aware that this glory can be present here and now, just as the sun  peeks rays of its light, God will show his glory through cloudy and dim circumstances. He will make things new.

My prayers are with the Church, and those who are confused, suffering, hurt and lost.

My hope is in Christ.

Michelle Neitzke is the director of senior high faith formation at All Saints in Lakeville.

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The Prodigal Father

March 6, 2013

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Liscensed under Creative Commons

Liscensed under Creative Commons

We all know the story of the prodigal son.  It seems to pop up in the liturgy this time of year and I have worn a crease in my bible in that spot so that it falls open to that story often.  Every time I read it I am brought to reflect on “who am I?” in the story.

There are times when I see myself as the one who ran off and enjoyed the pleasures of life and spent my life carelessly, but this time when my bible fell open to Luke 15, the resentful son seemed to look a lot like me.   Recently I was confronted with a disappointment in my life.  We all have them.  It could be that you are passed up for a promotion, or that your friend gets a new car, or that you weren’t invited to a social gathering or it could date back to being the last one picked on the playground some 30 years ago. We may have been wronged and we may want justice, but like the resentful son I can sometimes whine and only see my point of view.

It takes looking at this from the Father’s eyes for me to see myself.  I like to call him the Prodigal Father because it is from that perspective I need to see.

1prod·i·gal

adjective \?prä-di-g?l\Definition of PRODIGAL

: characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure : lavish

The word Prodigal means to spend lavishly.  The father in the story does spend extravagantly, but not in a wasteful way.  He spent lavishly on the wayward son by hosting the big party, but he also spent lavishly on the son who stayed home and worked dutifully.

‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.~ Luke 15:31

Everything is there for me too.

God spends lavishly on us.  A small detail in the Cana wedding story opened my eyes to this.  In that story the servants fill the water jars to the brim.  Have you ever seen a container filled to overflowing?  The liquid seems to fill the space above the confines of the cup or jar. There is sort of a surface tension that holds it in the glass.  It is so full it can’t be contained but it doesn’t spill over! That is how I imagine Gods love for me and how I have to try, time after time, to remember to love others and myself.

There is another point to the story that also caught me this time around.  The Father doesn’t hesitate to point out the bad behavior of his elder son.  He does so with so much love and an invitation to join the party.  This gives me cause to reflect on how we might rightly handle the injustices we face.  By seeing it from the father’s eyes we can see clearly that a behavior or situation may be wrong or need correcting, but if we can approach it with lavish love it goes a long way.

I am, once again, resolving to be the prodigal Mother, wife, employee and friend and spend lavishly when I feel like pouting.  I invite you, even in this season of Lent and self-denial – Spend Lavishly!

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14 murders. Serial killer. Florence. True-detective-story. Can’t go wrong!

March 14, 2012

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If you’ve ever wanted a reason to be glad you’re an American, read “The Monster of Florence.”

Italy has the judicial system from hell, and Doug Preston and Mario Spezi describe it the way Dante did — only this time it’s a true story.

The best-selling American novelist and the hard-working Italian reporter found out just how devilish that corrupt, ethics-barren system could be when they began investigating what appears to be serial killings in the hills around Florence.

Over the course of 14 years seven couples were found slain after parking in “lovers’ lane” types of spots in the scenic Tuscan hills. The males were shot with the same Beretta, the females pulled from the cars, killed, stripped and their sexual parts cut out with a knife and taken.

When I get to that latter part of a book, that’s when I usually toss it aside. But the misogyny here is not what “The Monster of Florence” is about.

It’s a page-turner

This is a nonfiction crime story told as well as any of the novels by Doug Preston (“Relic,” for example) that have sold millions. Once the authors start on the trail to see the murder cases solved and justice done, the tale is can’t-put-it-down reading.

Along with being a compelling story — who doesn’t want to find out who The Monster of Florence is ? — the ineptness and unprofessionalism of Italian police, investigators, judicial administrators and judges all turn the story on its head to the point where the reporters covering the story become accused of involvement in covering up the crime, and Spezi is suspected himself as being the Monster and gets thrown in jail.

But listen to this: He isn’t told what he’s being charged with.

In Italy, you can be arrested and the charges “sealed” because they are a “secret.”

And investigators can prevent you from talking with an attorney. In the meantime, the investigators leak the charges to the media, making up whatever they want without any evidence. The salacious Italian media eat it up with a spoon, not checking the statements, not demanding evidence.

Ever hear of Amanda Knox?

This book has been out for more than two years, so no, it’s not new. But there is a coincidence that makes this story fresh and worth reading.

Remember Amanda Knox? Spent four years in jail waiting for her murder trial to be held, was convicted, then the conviction thrown out on appeal?

The same investigator who jailed “The Monster of Florence” authors handled the Amanda Knox case.

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Gutsy black Catholic journalist found hero for racial justice in Minnesota bishop

January 30, 2012

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19th century newspaperman considered Catholicism key to racial justice and saw an advocate in the Archbishop of St. Paul

Daniel Rudd’s is a name you’ve likely never heard, but the one-time slave was a bold Catholic ahead of his time, and one who found a champion in none other than St. Paul’s Archbishop John Ireland.

Back in 1887, Rudd founded a black Catholic newspaper, the American Catholic Tribune, and from its pages he preached the unique message that the Catholic Church would play an essential role in the breaking down of the color line in the United States and in gaining racial equality for black people.

Historian Gary B. Agee’s recently released biography, “A Cry for Justice: Daniel Rudd and His Life in Black Catholicism, Journalism and Activism, 1854-1933” (University of Arkansas Press, 2012) captures that distinctive philosophy.

As a child Rudd was owned by a Catholic master and formed in faith along side white children in his parish in Bardstown, Ky. He became a free man after the Emancipation Proclamation, founded his newspaper in Cincinnati, and was one of the most well-known black Catholics of the late 19th century as he labored for justice and equality for people of color.

Born a century later, he might have been a prophet, too. He wrote this in 1888:

“We think we will live long enough to see a black man president of this Republic.”

 Journalist and evangelizer

Rudd believed in – and took pride in – the Catholic theology that taught “the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of all people.” That belief convinced Rudd that the Catholic Church was the best hope for blacks to have the same rights as whites.

Agee noted, “In July 1890, Rudd told a reporter of the Cincinnati Times-Star, ‘I have always been a Catholic and, feeling that I knew the teachings of the Catholic Church, I thought there could be no greater factor in solving the race problem than that matchless institution….’”

Rudd’s newspaper had a circulation of 10,000 at its high point, and he used its pages not just to cry out for racial justice but to evangelize his fellow blacks. He wrote that he had started the newspaper to “give the great Catholic Church a hearing and show that it is worthy of at least a fair consideration at the hands of our race, being as it is the only place on this continent where rich and poor, white and black, must drop prejudices at the threshold and go hand in hand to the altar.”

White readers both bought subscriptions and donated money to support the American Catholic Tribune. Agee states that Rudd used his newspaper “both to instruct and encourage African American Catholics as well as to proclaim Catholicism’s merits to prospective black converts. In this manner he served his black readers even as he attempted to shape his white readership’s perception of blacks.”

 Hero in an archbishop

Rudd was a gutsy editor who addressed the issue of women’s rights, demanded the blacks be hired when they can do a job just as well as whites, called for granting home rule for Ireland, and took to task a Catholic newspaper editor who claimed that whites were destined to rule America’s inferior black race.

Rudd sued a delicatessen for refusing to serve him (and won a $100 judgment). He founded the Colored Catholic Congress movement to prod black Catholics to take up collective action to demand racial equality, and he chided the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. to open its Catholic schools to blacks.

Not all Catholics of Rudd’s time bought the idea of the equality of the races. Not all Catholic bishops agreed with him either.

One who did, however, was Archbishop Ireland, who wasn’t shy about his feelings on the matter. The archbishop caused an uproar when in 1890 he preached on the subject to a packed house at St. Augustine Church in Washington, D.C., with members of Congress and other highly place politicians present.

St. Paul’s archbishop said that racial prejudice is a crime that Catholics must lift themselves above. He said whites need “lessons in charity, benevolence, justice and religion” in order to address “the race problem.”

Agee’s work goes into great detail about ArchbishopIreland’s views on racial prejudice, and notes that Rudd made sure the archbishop’s words were spread far and wide, quoting him in the columns he wrote for his own newspaper, urging other black publications to reprint the archbishop’s talk and lecturing on the topic around the United States.

Businessman, journalist, evangelist, and advocate for justice, his biography tells of the trials, the accomplishments, and the disappointments of a black Catholic who more American Catholics – black and white – should learn about.

 

 

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