By Bishop Greg Kelly
Special to The Texas Catholic
A week ago…
An image appeared on TV and newspapers and social media platforms: a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of an African-American man already in custody. The expression on the face of the officer seemed nonchalant. While a man was dying: George Floyd, repeatedly telling the officers he was unable to breathe, asking for help, calling for his mother. We all know this story now.
A week later…
There have been so many images of protest and anger and violence, images of people at rallies and at prayer. I attended a gathering for prayer on Sunday evening along with Father Arthur Unachukwu, a service in front of Dallas Police Headquarters, with many Anglo and African-American pastors and faith leaders calling for change, speaking of the change needed on an individual basis, in the heart of each one of us; and change needed on an institutional level: in society, in cities and churches, in all the institutions where the effects and consequences of racism are woven into the fabric of things, often hidden from view.
The long and often forgotten history of racism in Dallas was recalled: a lynching in 1910 on Main Street near the arch welcoming people to the city; Ku Klux Klan Day at the State Fair, said to have always been a well-attended day; the single day reserved each year for African-Americans, who were excluded every other day until the 1960s. And the litany of names so familiar, ending with George Floyd — which hopefully will be the last one on that long list.
We listened and we prayed together, sometimes on our knees, sometimes with our arms extended: Christians and Jews, others as well. We prayed as brothers and sisters, struggling to be brothers and sisters, asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be brothers and sisters: to do right, to love justice, and to walk humbly with our God—and with one another, not only in that moment but more importantly in the days and weeks ahead. This familiar passage from Micah 6:8 invoked in the prayer service was also invoked in the US Bishops recent Pastoral Letter on Racism: Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.
Catholics were not present in great numbers as far as I could tell. I felt sorrow at this, also a sense of hope, that it was time to do something new, and that the Lord would lead us into that. Sunday was the celebration of the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit on the apostles in the upper room, the whole church gathered together and sent out to the world, the same Spirit given to all for the preaching of the gospel. We all came from that, even with all the divisions and sinfulness among Christians. The effects of that Spirit were evident in the ministers who spoke: white and black, male and female, all spoke with courage and passion and hope that we could be better, as a city and a church.
In the days between the Ascension and Pentecost, as the disciples gathered and prayed, Mary prayed with them. The bishops ended their letter with a prayer for her intercession. It is a good place to end this reflection:
Mary, friend and mother to all, through your Son, God has found a way to unite himself to every human being, called to be one people, sisters and brothers to each other. We ask for your help in calling on your Son, seeking forgiveness for the times when we have failed to love and respect one another. We ask for your help in obtaining from your Son the grace we need to overcome the evil of racism and to build a just society. We ask for your help in following your Son, so that prejudice and animosity will no longer infect our minds or hearts but will be replaced with a love that respects the dignity of each person. Mother of the Church, the Spirit of your Son Jesus warms our hearts: pray for us.
Bishop Greg Kelly is the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Dallas.