Cardinal O’Malley’s Magnificent Address on Unity at Gordon College

One of the most remarkable addresses I have watched this year was on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of historic Gordon College (Massachusetts). Gordon College is the flagship evangelical college in New England. Like all such evangelical colleges it is openly growing into deeper relationship with Catholics with each passing year. This lecture marks one of the most wonderful calls to deep, public unity that I have seen within the leadership of our churches in the United States.

Please pray for the visit of Pope Francis in September. On his heart, besides all the public meetings that you will see, is his deep concern for unity with evangelicals. Cardinal O’Malley is one with all of us who are seeking first the kingdom of God. Let us pray and rejoice at such an address and the historic symbolism of where it was given.

I know that I say this often but this is address is worth every minute you can invest in watching it. I know the trend says that very few people will watch such a long speech on their computer. But if you love Christian unity this presentation is

Two Modern Films That Define Us as Americans, Part Two

11181470_oriIn complete contrast with American Sniper the new film McFarland USA is a Disney movie. It is also based on a true story. It is an against-all-odds story of the 1987 McFarland high school cross country team in an economically challenged community in the central valley of California. Some reviewers think the film is “corny” and hopelessly romanticized. I found it pure, unadulterated inspiration. Kevin Costner plays the lead role as a high school teacher and coach who is stuck in a small town with a largely Hispanic population of poor immigrant farm workers. (The issue of documented or undocumented people never arises in the movie but reality says both kinds of immigrants are in the story!) The story revolves around a family of four moving to this small California farm town of McFarland, which really is the name of the town. (McFarland is about ten miles from where one of my best friends lives, Rev. David Moorhead. David a Reformed Church in America church-planting pastor in Shafter.) Costner’s character takes a job as a science and physical

Alta Gracia – A Business Venture in the Developing World That Provides a Living Wage

about_workerEvery Sunday I record a program on PBS called “Religion & Ethics Weekly.” It is one of the finest programs I know on the major stories of the week in world religions. Several months ago I saw a broadcast that featured the story of Alta Gracia, an American company owned by a Catholic businessman in the U.S. Alta Gracia manufactures clothing. The owner is willing to make a smaller corporate profit in order to provide livable wages for his workers. He defines a livable wage as including the following:

Adequate money to provide for life’s essentials for an entire family: 

  • 3 Healthy Meals a Day
  • A Safe Home
  • Transportation
  • Healthcare
  • Education

The Workers’ Rights Consortium verifies that all workers at Alta Gracia receive a Living Wage, ensure that the workplace is safe and that workers’ rights are respected. Alta Gracia claims to be  the only clothing factory in the developing world that pays the people who make clothing a LIVING WAGE – more than 3X the minimum wage. 


Many of us have heard about the “name brands” and how they

Thomas Merton on the Catholicity of Ecumenism

IMG_2313Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a writer and Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, not too far from Louisville. His writings include such classics as The Seven Storey Mountain, New Seeds of Contemplation, and Zen and the Birds of Appetite. Merton is the author of more than seventy books that include poetry, personal journals, collections of letters, social criticism, and writings on peace, justice, and ecumenism.

When I first encountered Merton I had no earthly idea how to understand him or to make sense of his voluminous writing. (It strikes me that I am still working on this project and will never finish it.) Initially, Merton struck me as a liberal Christian because he embraced views on certain political and social views that were not conservative as such. Further more, I had no comprehension of how to make sense of his mysticism. Merton said, “The theology of love must seek to deal realistically with the evil and injustice in the world, and not merely to compromise with sin.” That sums up his overall perspective well.


The Emotive Cry for Community

UnknownMichael Novak, in his stirring memoir of a journey from left to right, devotes an entire chapter to community, as I noted yesterday. He writes: “One of life’s most time-consuming tasks is to achieve disagreement with an ideological opposite. Without blinking, you might object; ‘It’s not had to disagree. Heck! Most people do it all the time” (282). But aren’t disagreements really inevitable? After all we have different understandings of terms, widely varying perspectives on history, and unique sets of fears and rosy scenarios that we all entertain? But, says Michael Novak, “We are most often like two ships passing in the night” (282). Is he right? Could this really be true? I think so.

One of America’s most wise and important Catholic thinkers in the last century was the Jesuit John Courtney Murray. Novak says that Murray once said two people cannot (to use Novak’s description of Murray’s point) come to a “real disagreement without sticking to the argument for a very long time–maybe long enough to work through a case of brandy together as they ruminate.

The War on Poverty Fifty Years Later

n-LBJ-BIRTHDAY-large570Fifty years today (January 8, 1964), in his first State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson proposed a piece of legislation that came to be known as the “War on Poverty.” This legislation was proposed by the president in response to a national poverty rate that had reached around nineteen percent. The speech led the U.S. Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act, which then established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to administer the local application of federal funds targeted against poverty. As a part of Johnson’s vision of the Great Society the role of government in education and health care became federal policy.

Under President Clinton this “war” ended. Aspects of the Johnson policy still remain; e.g. Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America, Job Corps, etc. Some of these programs have worked better than others. But the major aspects of the original program ended in the 1990s. I would argue that the major reason they came to an end was the factual evidence that followed their initiation in the 1960s showed

“Crips and Bloods: Made in America” – A Disturbing Film That Needs to Be Seen

220px-Crips_and_Bloods-_Made_in_America_FilmPosterThe first image that you see, in the opening scenes of Stacy Peralta’s powerful documentary, “Crips and Bloods: Made in America,” is the central Los Angeles skyline turned upside down. I was enraptured with this image and thus was immediately taken into this urban scene in a unique visual way. It is both striking and unnerving. With this image of Los Angeles, Peralta telegraphs a theme that will resonate in chilling ways throughout this film–geography matters. Through the medium of this film you are entering a world that’s been truly turned upside down over the last five decades, the world we know as south central LA.

This geography has been more violent than any place of geography in the United States for the past twenty-five years. Into a social and cultural vacuum created by numerous social and familial problems arose the famous gangs that we know as the Crips (Blue) and the Bloods (Red) gangs. But where did this story begin? How could more people die in these few square miles than have died in most war zones

Mutuality and Kinship with Those on the Margins

Father Gregory “Greg” Joseph Boyle (1954) is an American Jesuit priest. He is the founder and Director of Homeboy Industries and the former pastor of Dolores Mission Church. Boyle earned his BA in English from Gonzaga University, an MA in English from Loyola Marymount University, a Master of Divinity from the Weston School of Theology, and a Sacred Theology Masters degree from the Jesuit School of Theology.[3] Before founding Homeboy Industries, Father Greg taught at Loyola High School and worked with Christian Base Communities in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He was appointed as Pastor of Dolores Mission in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1986 where he served through 1992. Following this, Fr. Greg spent time as Chaplain of the Islas Marias Penal Colony in Mexico and Folsom Prison, before returning to Los Angeles and Dolores Mission.

In this unique video Fr. Greg addresses what community and kinship really look like, especially with

James Meredith: An Idiosyncratic American

cvr9781451674729_9781451674729_lgYesterday I gave an overview of James Meredith’s new book, A Mission from God. Today I follow-up that blog with reflections on the final chapter of this moving civil rights memoir.

After telling about his interesting and rather eccentric life James Meredith begins his final chapter by writing:

I am an old man. I have spent almost eighty years on this earth. I hit the gym and take power walks almost every day, always wearing my Ole Miss baseball cap, and I’ve survived prostate cancer and many of the travails of old age. Shotgun pellets still dot my body, lying just under the skin like a harmless but abiding reminder of the sniper’s blast on that Mississippi roadside (June 6, 1966). Sometimes the pellets cause me considerable discomfort and occasionally they decide to just pop out of my body. I have seen cherished friends like Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King, Jr., get murdered by the beast of white supremacy, I have seen most of the lions of the civil rights era grow old and die, along

Our Global Future – How Will We Respond?

imagesGrowing population and poverty are inextricably linked together in the modern world. Very few Christians in America recognize this problem for what it is nor do they seriously discuss solutions and responses. It seems to me that a simple, basic expression of the love of God requires that we not only have this dialogue but that we prepare our churches and missions to respond to this moment of modern crisis. Can we do less?

In the poorest countries people generally have children at the highest rate, believing that their future is in their children. (It is hard for Westerner people to grasp this since our birth rate is declining rapidly and we are not even replacing our own population unless you include immigrants and undocumented workers who have larger families.) Very little of the financial aid that is given to less developed countries addresses the root problems or leads to sustainable, replicable changes.

In 1950 the industrialized nations were the most populous. But in the second half of the century birth rates plunged while those in the least developed