This past weekend in America a the country witnessed the March for Our Lives, a demonstration of student activists calling for some sort of vague action to lower the probability of gun violence coast to coast. We are reminded of echoes of the annual March for Life and Civil Rights marches of decades ago with such action. My thinking, though, as much media coverage as this gets, the lasting impact it will have, much like the recent March for Women, will plateau as both marches have tended toward the more partisan rather than the universal. Both of the recent marches, as well meaning as they are, call for actions that are grounded in secular partisan interests rather than the universal dignity of the human person as image and likeness of the Divine, as I would observe in the pro-life and anti-segregationist marches.
This is not just by accident. Last Fall I attended a talk by Bishop Robert Barron as part of a Pro-Life Conference where we drew a straight line between Catholic Social Activism and its roots in a devout participation in the liturgy; that every effective change comes forth from the sanctuary. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the pinnacle of social activism in the Civil Rights days lined up with the pinnacle of Mass attendance in the American Church.
The Bishop notes that by actively participating in the Liturgy we are practicing the fruits of social justice – in our desegregated pews undivided by gender, age, race, or social status; our sitting and listening to our common story in the readings of the Old and New Testament; singing hymns together evocative of the angels who are always in harmony with each other; our sharing in the one Body and Blood of our Lord, the uniting of our voices in common Prayer to our one Heavenly Father; and the sharing of the sign of unconditional peace. After an hour or more of this display of equality and unity we are sent forth to bring this joy to the outside world. Is it, therefore, a coincidence that in these highly divisive times politically and socially, that mass attendance is at an all time low among Catholics? The Bishop exhorts us at the end of his talk, “do you want social justice? GO TO MASS!”
Without the light of Catholics to lead the true vision of social unity, we fall under the lead of secular social activists who run the risk of calling for a civil war as they make truth by force or truth by numbers the predominant theme in what should otherwise an enlightening debate for universal justice and security for all as part of the singular human fraternity. As we enter the highest liturgical time of the Church calendar, may we renew our devotion to the Liturgy and letting its effects be what really leads to lasting change in the world.
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