I didn’t get around to this brief story from the America magazine site yesterday (I HAVE BEEN BUSY), but it’s well worth a quick note:
More that 550 people gathered to attend a Mass organized by young Catholics and celebrated by Father Quinn Conners in Washington, D.C., to express their solidarity with refugees and immigrants.
The event was a result of grass-roots organization and social media promotion. After [the President] signed an executive order banning immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, Emily Conron and her friend Christopher Hale decided to coordinate a Mass to show a Catholic response to this form of religious discrimination.
“As Catholics we understand what religious persecution is,” said Ms. Conron. “It’s part of our history. We’ve seen it in so many Catholic communities in so many countries, and we’re not willing to let history repeat itself. So we felt it was important for specifically Catholics to come together and show solidarity. And what better way to do that than in the Mass?”
Now, these are more than just aw-shucks kids moved to spontaneously express their faith in opposition to this shameful executive order on immigration. As the article notes, Hale works for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a liberal advocacy group. So there’s some organization and use of symbolism going on here.
But I’m all for it. I’ve been saying for a while now that religious activists have some powerful tools at their disposal in the symbolism of the sacraments. At the very least, there are themes of healing, inclusivity, reconciliation, opposition to violence, and a relativization of the power of the world in any communion service. In baptism there is the offer of universal salvation, the recognition of common humanity, and a pledge of solidarity given by the church to the baptized. This is all at a minimum, and of course, any of these themes can be emphasized to suit the needs of the moment.
Lifting up the sacraments in protest won’t damage their meaning. Sacraments are a form of protest, albeit one worn very smooth by use in Christian communities over the course of two millennia. They provide a profound re-description of the world through God’s eyes, if properly done, one that can be deployed quite effectively when the powers-that-be are off on the wrong track. It’s certainly better than collapsing the religious content of political protest into “a traditional liberal-progressive laundry list,” as a friend calls it. Too often religious progressives empty their positions of anything beyond faith-based platitudes, which is a damn shame. There’s a lot of very useful stuff to be had in the tradition. The idea of judgment for wrongdoers, for one thing, as my friend says. (That’s in the sacraments too.)
Progressive believers would do well to expand their palette in providing alternative witness these days. We’re going to need it. I’d like to see more use of sacraments along these lines, and also expanded liturgy to meet the occasion. I’ll come back to that later, but for now: good start. More like this, please.+ + +