Luke Hill is a writer and community organizer in Boston. He blogs at dotCommonweal and MassCommons.
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The New York Times has a useful timeline of events in Ferguson, Missouri since the August 9 killing of Michael Brown. Grantland's Rembert Browne has a gripping and harrowing personal account of his first 48 hours reporting in Ferguson. Recent racial profiling data from the office of the Missouri Attorney General gives a statistical snapshot of the institutionalized racism that exists in Ferguson. The Wall Street Journal reports that in a city where 2/3 of the residents are African-American, 50 of 53 police officers are white. By following #Ferguson on Twitter, not only can you get up-to-the-minute reporting of events on the ground, you also can get an introduction to a slew of talented journalists like the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery, the New Yorker's Jelani Cobb, the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Boston Globe's Akilah Johnson and others who can answer (and often, already have) just about any question you might have about the crisis centered on Ferguson.
I know a priest who once began a sermon on Matthew 25:31-46 by noting that in 30 years of ministry, every conversation he'd had about this parable eventually---and usually quickly---turned to the question, "Does that mean I have to give change to every beggar who asks?". Similarly, almost every discussion of institutionalized racism in America today eventually ends up with someone saying, "Are you calling me a racist? Because I didn't/don't have anything to do with _____ (fill in the blank: slavery, Jim Crow, racially exclusive housing covenants, Ferguson....).
There's a generation for whom Jimmy Carter is America's best-known and (perhaps) most beloved Sunday School teacher. For younger Americans, there's a good chance that Stephen Colbert now occupies that role.
In recent years, Colbert has so rarely spoken in public when not in character as "Stephen Colbert", that it's at first something of a shock to see him as himself in "Ask A Grown Man", a regular monthly feature of Rookie, an online magazine for teenage girls.
As deftly summarized in this article by Adam Serwer, there is a through line connecting last year's evisceration of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court's five man Catholic majority in Shelby County v. Holder to the infamous1857 Dred Scott decision written by the Court's first Catholic justice, Roger Taney.
Yesterday Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation raising the state's minimum wage from $8.00/hour to $11.00/hour, by Janury 1, 2017. That's the highest statewide minimum wage in the country. It means full-time minimum wage workers in the Bay State can look forward to an additional $6,000 in annual income.
Boston magazine's David Bernstein, one of the savviest political reporters in the commonwealth, noted earlier today that the minimum wage increase is further proof that Massachusetts has entered "a new Golden Age of Law-Making By Threat of Popular Vote", adding "I’m not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing, but it’s definitely a thing."
It's also a sign of the Catholic Church wielding political power in a different way than it sometimes has in the past. At the heart of the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition that gathered over 350,000 signatures to put initiatives to raise the Minimum Wage, and to create an Earned Sick Time benefit for all Massachusetts workers, before the legislature and the electorate are several faith-based community organizations affiliated with the Massachusetts Community Action Network. Other faith-based community organizations (including the Merrimack Valley Project where---full disclosure---I do some work) also participated in the campaign.
Dorothy Norwood began her gospel music career in 1943 and her solo recording career spans five decades. In the early 1960s she was part of The Caravans which, in the world of gospel music, is a more or less unimpeachable credential. (It's like being part of Miles Davis' first great quintet, or the championship Boston Celtics teams of the same era.)
Leon Neyfakh's article on "The Conservative Case Against the Death Penalty" deserves a wider audience that that of the Boston Globe (or Commonweal for that matter, but we do what we can).
Paul Wachter has a lovely piece on Grantland about "The Saint":
“If you were a player in Michigan, you had to play at St. Cecilia,” said Earl “The Twirl” Cureton, a Detroit native who won two NBA championships with the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets in a professional career spanning from 1980 to 1997. But even after he’d made the NBA, Cureton returned each summer to St. Cecilia’s to play in the church gym’s pro-am league.
There is something characteristically, beautifully and powerfully Catholic about CRS Rice Bowl.
Characteristically, because Rice Bowl is an intensely incarnate program. The flimsy, yet sturdy, fold-together Rice Bowl on the dining room table is something you can see and touch. The aromas of Rice Bowl's meatless dinner recipes fill the kitchen on Friday nights, stimulate the taste buds with flavors both new and familiar, and fill the stomach (or not, which provides its own lesson).
Beautifully, because Rice Bowl's educational materials are thoughtfully and artfully prepared. They're inviting to the eye and always feature, first and foremost, photographs of CRS beneficiaries from around the world and across the US. Unlike some charitable programs, Rice Bowl doesn't innundate its donor-participants with images of blank-eyed impoverished victims on the brink of death. Rather, Rice Bowl's photographs, stories and videos steadily and subtly offer images and reminders of the hope and joy that come from faith and love made incarnate.
Powerfully, first because Rice Bowl raises $7 million annually to support CRS programs in 40 countries around the world. (1/4 of money raised stays in local dioceses.) Second, because Rice Bowl deepens the meaning and practice of Lent...especially for children:
Sr. Cristina Scucchia of the Sisters of the Holy Family rocked the house and wowed the judges on the Italian edition of "The Voice" with her cover of Alicia Keys' chart-topping 2007 hit, "No One".
(Check out the reactions of the judges, especially at 1:04.)
It's a bit late---but not too late!---to start a new book as part of one's Lenten observance. If that's what you're looking for, Camille Lewis Brown's splendid little book, African Saints, African Stories: 40 Holy Men And Women would make an excellent choice.
The format of the book is simple and straightforward. First Brown provides a short (1-6 pp.) biography of the saint's life. Then she adds a brief passage from scripture, a prayer and questions for further reflection. It's a wonderful format for Lenten prayer, but serves equally well at any time of year. The book is divided into two sections: "Saints, Blesseds and Venerables" and "Saints in Waiting".
African Saints, African Stories is a powerful reminder of the depth and breadth of the formative African influence on Christianity. As Bishop Joseph Perry notes in his excellent foreword, "There is evidence of African contribution throughout Sacred Scripture. beginning with Genesis 2, where the sources of the Nile River are located, to the deacon Philip's baptism of the Ethiopian official in service to the Nubian queen, Candace, in Acts 8." That influence continues with the witness and ministries of the early African saints: