Author: Dana Dillon

Sr. Thea Bowman and the Hope of Unity

I was recently re-reading Bryan Massingale’s book Racial Justice and the Catholic Church and was reminded in that text of Sr. Thea Bowman’s speech to the US Catholic Bishops in 1989.  The entire speech can be heard here: I have watched it before and sometimes shown parts of it to my students, particularly for the power with which she captures the tension for Black Catholics between the experience of the Church as educator and therefore the bringer of not just opportunity but also the Gospel, and the experience of nonetheless feeling “like a motherless child” in a Church that...

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Suicide Prevention and the Catholic Moral Tradition

. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), whose motto for the month is “One conversation can change a life,” are reminding us how important it is that we talk more openly about suicide and its connection to depression and other mental illnesses. Far too often, those who struggle with mental illness are barred from getting the help that they need because of the stigma around mental illness and its treatment. We need to talk more openly and honestly about these issues and just how widespread they are. In fact, suicide rates in the US are now at a 30-year high. Suicide is, of course, a moral issue. That is true not only because suicide, if freely undertaken, is a major moral failing, but also because the ways that we speak about suicide and about mental illness and about one another can impact the likelihood of those who need help getting it (or not). In other words, how we talk about suicide is also a moral act. I would like to offer some guidance from the Catholic moral tradition. It is commonly and mistakenly reported that the Church teaches that suicide is always a mortal sin and unforgivable, and that those who die by suicide are in hell. It is crucial to nuance and correct this. In keeping with its vision...

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On Grief and Hope in Ordinary Time

Lectionary #90, Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time June is a time of year when, despite the sun and the warmth, and the generally relaxed pace of a college professor’s summertime life, I am haunted by grief. My mother died towards the end of June 1999, after a long battle with lung cancer. The days of June are marked with memories of lasts: her last hospital admission, her last release from the hospital, the last time her children were all gathered around her, the last time she saw each of her granddaughters, the last time she and I were really able to talk, before the end, where every breath was a battle for her. And, of course, that last terrible night where her breath left her body for the last time and we knew that there was nothing left to be done. So, with grief-filled June upon me, I admit that my first reaction to these readings was one of resentment. Why did God not send a prophet like Elijah to restore the breath to my mother’s body? Why did God not visit his people when my family and I were gathered around my mother’s deathbed in prayer? Why do I not get to pray with the psalmist “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me…. You changed my mourning into dancing”? How many of us, strong in...

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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Job 38:1, 8-11 Ps 107:23-31 (selections) 2 Cor 5:14-17 Mk 4:35-41 This week, with all the anticipation about the Holy Father’s ecological encyclical, it seems quite fitting that the readings point to the dominion of God over creation.  In the first reading, God reminds Job that the seas and storms are but a baby to be swaddled in the powerful divine hands. And in the gospel, Jesus has long since outgrown his own swaddling clothes and now follows in his Father’s footsteps: calming the storm with a rebuke and allaying the disciples’ fears. And we, with the disciples, stand...

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