My heart has been grieving this week. The murder of George Floyd—and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and more—was evil. I lament their horrific killings. May Jesus keep and hold each of them and their loved ones during this time of great suffering.
Our work at Seton Education Partners starts where justice, education, and faith intersect. Founded a little over a decade ago to work toward justice for children and families in underserved communities—our organization prioritizes a whole-child education that honors each person’s inherent dignity.
Our patron, Elizabeth Ann Seton, founded the first free Catholic school in this country more than 200 years ago—and an army of nuns, brothers, and priests followed suit by launching schools in marginalized communities, so that every child has a real chance at making it in America—and living a life of meaning and purpose.
Because of our Catholic roots, we believe that every life is sacred—every life. At our three (and growing) public charter schools in The Bronx, and in our network of thirteen Catholic schools in nine cities across the country, we serve more than 4,200 children. Nearly all are black and brown.
Our schools work with one child, one family, one community at a time. And we are convinced that each child, each teacher, each caregiver is made in the image and likeness of God. We stand in solidarity with them as our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we work for the day when never again will a man be brutally suffocated by another who doesn’t recognize each person’s inherent dignity. We mourn the loss of every life, now and always—and yes, we demand justice—giving God and others their due.
On Saturday, I watched a priest kneeling in prayer in front of the grocery store where we shop amidst so much anger. A peaceful protest of some 1,000 marchers had been met with tear gas and rubber bullets—and looting, fires, and violence ensued. When he was interviewed by a reporter, this Christian pastor said: “There’s so much welled-up anger. We’re all talking past each other.” When asked, “How do you fix it, father?” his reply was simple and profound: “With love.”
Explaining the anger, despair, and fear of so many to my eight-year-old daughter was challenging—and important. The following day, however, hundreds of people gathered to clean up as a real community—“la comunidad,” as my husband calls it. This allowed us to talk with her about what it really means to love—to will the good of the other—and to hope in goodness and for a country that can one day live up to its ideals.
Last Sunday, Catholics celebrated the Solemnity of Pentecost. My pastor made a connection with the Tower of Babel, when mankind was united against God in pride, and the Lord caused each person suddenly to begin speaking a different language—disrupting their work together. I fear the echoes of the Tower today—a country that is so deeply divided that we cannot fully hear or understand one another, even when we seem to speak the same tongue.
Jesus brought forth, in a new way for mankind, the antithesis of the Tower of Babel—the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. As we listened to the Pentecost hymnal solemnly sung, the lyrics resonated with me more deeply than they ever have before. I copy them below. And I pray: Come, oh Holy Spirit, come!
Holy Spirit, Lord of light,
From Thy clear celestial height
Thy pure beaming radiance give.
Come, Thou Father of the poor,
Come with treasures which endure,
Come, Thou Light of all that live.
Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul’s delightsome Guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.
Thou in toil art comfort sweet,
Pleasant coolness in the heat,
Solace in the midst of woe.
Light immortal, Light divine,
Visit Thou these hearts of Thine,
And our inmost being fill.
If Thou take Thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.
Heal our wounds; our strength renew;
On our dryness pour Thy dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away.
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
Thou, on those who evermore
Thee confess and Thee adore,
In Thy sevenfold gifts descend:
Give them comfort when they die,
Give them life with Thee on high;
Give them joys that never end.
Photo credit: DonStevie. See his photostream here.