We rise together: Loras fearless
By Dr. Eby (TheLorian)
It’s a painful thing to criticize those we love. It’s a loving thing to walk with them on the hesitant, painful path of confession, remorse, and repair. I’m proud that Loras College has begun to shine its Catholic identity like a beacon from the hilltop of reconciliation, addressing not only a social need but a sacramental duty.
Reconciliation is hard – on the personal level and on the social level. It’s so hard that when we’re hit by claims of wrongdoing by our family members, by ourselves, by our country, or by our churches, we instinctively interpret them as attacks, hunker down, and arm for combat. The sacrament of reconciliation, however, invites us into a posture of compassionate companionship rather than the crouch of combat. This sacrament is a unique gift Catholicism offers our society, so strained by civil tension and historic harms.
Catholic reconciliation is a sacrament in which God demonstrates his love and mercy toward us through a ritual of confession and penance. This vehicle of God’s generosity and compassion reminds us that our wrongdoings do not define us if we are open to learn and grow, they only define us when we become hard-hearted toward others and chisel identities in stone. Reconciliation is about hope. Hope is about becoming better by grace. Becoming better is not an individual thought exercise, but happens in partnership with God and our communities. We rise together.
Reconciliation is part of Loras’ identity as a Catholic College. We do not run in fear from new perspectives or hunker down for a fight to protect ourselves, the Church, or God from revelations of history. God does not need our protection and the only way the Church or Catholic institutions like Loras are harmed is if they fail to heed God’s command to love one’s neighbor, do justice, and love mercy.
Though we are grieved in the knowledge that Bishop Loras was a slave-owner and appalled that the American Catholic Church often accepted slavery as an institution and legitimized many cases of human bondage, we do not run into the shadows of denial. Instead, the beacon of reconciliation leads us to speak honestly of the past, acknowledge the harmful legacies of our forefathers, and march confidently toward repairing relationships with the marginalized – a preferential option for the poor.
We need a kenosis (self-emptying) theology, instead of the diseased theologies of identity and consumption that lead us to exploit our fellow humans and the good earth. A kenosis theology invites us to have courage to face truth. It encourages strength, rather than frightened efforts to protect our identities by ignoring the oppressed. It insists we share from our abundance (Matt 10:8 – “what you receive as gift, give as gift”) rather than hoard it through frenzied fantasies of scarcity in the midst of abundance. It demands that we acknowledge the sins of our fathers even as we remember our debt to them with gratitude; that we confess our love for our neighbor by tending to their beaten body by the roadside, honoring stories of trauma at the hands of those who built things for our advantage. It means that we reach out sacramentally to the poor and marginalized – to Christ in them – to seek forgiveness by walking with them on the road to repair.
Then we’ll see Marie Louise praying for us, Loras, and for Bishop Matthias.