What do these people have in common? Tiger Woods, Oprah Winfrey, Condoleeza Rice, and Colin Powell. The answer is all too obvious, isn’t it? Each person listed is an African American who has accomplished wonders in his or her chosen field. Each stands out in enjoying tremendous respect from the general American population. There is no doubt about it. The black community has made tremendous strides over the last fifty years. The passage of the basic Civil Rights Bill in 1965 and other structural changes in American society have opened doors and windows and highways to improvement and betterment for the African American community.
Are black Americans satisfied? Of course not and they should not be. While it is wonderful that talented individuals have soared to the top of their field, and it is wonderful that there are so many of them, the fact remains that black communities across the United States are still marked by poverty, inadequate education and leading to limited upward mobility. Education is the key and when good education is tied in with fair and open employment, there is no limit to what this community can do in the next fifty years. But don’t expect them to be patient. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863 nearly 150 years ago.
The United States must keep pushing to achieve its full potential – equal education and equal opportunity for all of its people.
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Never in its 2,000 history have Catholic leaders in the Church had so much information at their fingertips about the condition of the Church in this part of the country, in that economic strata, in that age group, in that nationality. One aspect of the modern world is we do have statistics on everything and for the most part that is very good. However, statistics can also be frightening! That is especially true if these numbers unmask serious problems within the Church that in the past we have had a tendency to ignore.
One of those problems is the massive defection of people from the Catholic Church in the United States and in Western Europe over the last half century. There are many reasons for it, but I am not sure that our leaders are really grappling with those reasons. Among those departed, a very high percentage are today’s young people. Since we are such a big Church, it is hard to see at first glance how many have left us. Our churches in most parts of the country continue to be full. New parishes are being built every year, especially in the Southwest and West. But yet, departing, they are.
The loss of young people is both dramatic and tragic. At 82 years old, I am not in any position to tell people how to effectively reach this new generation, how to involve them, to motivate them, to instill in them a sense of pride in this awesome reality which is the Catholic Church. I do know one thing. They have to be much more involved than they are today.
It is good that we have youth organizations and youth activity but most of them are, in a sense, set aside. They are not in the main structure and flow of the life of the Church. I think that should be changed as quickly as possible. Our young people need to be given real responsibility in the life of the Church, and be made to feel that their views and ideas are listened to seriously and when documented with good reason acted upon.
Jesus started his public life at an age that, in the United States, he would have been blocked from running for the presidency. But start his public life, he did.
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“At three in the morning, he came walking towards them on the lake…and they were terrified.” Today’s Gospel is all about faith and trust, extraordinarily important virtues and when practiced with commitment, shore up our spiritual lives in our journey towards eternity with great power and strength.
The apostles saw Jesus coming towards them walking on the water and, as was so often the case prior to the Resurrection, they sadly mishandled the situation. They should have rejoiced, been confident and explosively happy at the sight. Instead, they were terrified! They lacked both faith and trust, although Peter will partially undo the damage later on in the narrative.
This scene is not just a beautiful, symbolic story of 2,000 years ago. Jesus is still walking towards us. He is still reaching out to us and challenging us to get out of the boat and to walk with him. When a note arrives from an old friend who is suffering difficulty and pain, that can very well be an invitation from Jesus to do like he did and to lessen the pain around him. Day after day, we see opportunities for little acts of kindness – to touch a person here with encouraging words, a warm embrazo, patient listening. The opportunities are just countless and when we respond properly and in faith, we are touching others or, more accurately, Jesus is touching them through us.
Stick with Jesus and you won’t sink.
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Yes, the film is the thing. Isn’t that what Shakespeare said, or something very much like it? I have always enjoyed good movies, but I never had the slightest desire to get into the process of learning how to make them. However, today’s generation is different. For reasons that are mysterious to me, there is a powerful and fascinating desire among a large percentage of young people to develop the skills connected with movie production. I found this an especially strong desire and tendency among young Hispanics. For this reason, a small school has developed over in East Austin called Austin School of Film and its main outreach program is called “Cine Joven.” There they are training scores of young bilingual children in technology, mentoring, acting, script writing and producing. They are even writing their own Telenovela for Spanish Speaking Television.
Why is this important? Regretfully, minority children frequently feel marginalized and that they are not part of the main flow of the society in which they live. Seeing themselves in the movies and making those movies themselves is an extraordinarily uplifting experience for these kids. My heartfelt congratulations to Anne Kelley who is the driving force behind this school. The address of the Austin School of Film is 1634 East Cesar Chavez, Austin, Texas 78702. Here is their website: http://www.austinfilmschool.org/
If you have any money left over from Christmas, send them a gift. If you don’t, send them a smaller gift!
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