First Down (May 27, 2018)

Dear Friends,

The last Monday in May is Memorial Day. Our country has this day to call its citizens to remember the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to serve this country and protect the freedoms that we are suppose to have. Sometimes thoughts turn towards the idea of the official start to summer, picnics, sales and having a three day weekend. Not all bad if we do these things with the remembrance of what Memorial Day is to be.

As a boy I remember conversations with my parents about what freedoms we had as American citizens. I lived during the Cold War, and Communism in many countries, was something that was seen as a danger. The biggest lesson was that in living in this country you had freedom to speak and do what you wanted to do with your lives. This was secured by people who were killed in service to their country. People would jump walls, crawl under fences; seek ways to escape a life with no freedom towards a life where freedom was present. To honor their deaths we were reminded to live responsibly this freedom given to us.

I think during these times we may have forgotten this gift of freedom of speech. Often in the news people are upset by what others have reportedly said. There seems to be forced apologies by well known people who are advised to say they are sorry, and word it in ways that makes it seem they are sincere. There is anger that is present when disagreements happen. A force can develop, even from good people who seek to attack people for their speech by placing people in categories, name calling, and really not engaging in listening to seek understanding of what one might really be trying say.

We used to mock governments who sought to control free speech. And it seems like a number of our citizens seek ways to silence people of opposing views. The freedom of speech won for us by those who have served our country means we also have the freedom to disagree, to enter into dialogue, to remember those words I may not agree with you but I will defend the right for the other to say their opinion.

Pope Francis has reminded the church leadership and others that respectful dialogue can happen in our discussions of faith. He stated that one should not say, “You should not say such a thing”, rather, he encourages us to speak what is true and do so with respect. Even our Catholic faith has struggled with trying to silence people who speak with voices that displease those with authority.

This Memorial Day I would hope that you can join me in reflection of the great gift of freedom by speaking one’s mind with charity, listening to other voices, even when it breaks our hearts or hurts our senses. Better for people to speak what is true in their minds rather than hide behind lies which only mask what one really believes.

We say thank you this Monday for those who preserved the precious gift of freedom. That is something the Gospel of Jesus Christ also gives to us.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric