Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Working Catholic: Faith and Society by Bill Droel



The phrase new evangelization has entered the Catholic lexicon within the past dozen years or so. Despite a good intention, it has no traction and will soon be discarded. Well, it might catch on overseas, but in the United States it is a non-starter.

The first difficulty is the word evangelization. All Christians are expected to evangelize and a renewed emphasis on that privilege is timely. But in the U.S. the word itself is associated with a particular expression of Christianity and at this late date it cannot cross over into U.S. Catholicism.

The first Protestant denominations on our shores were European imports. They plateaued by about 1790. The growth denominations thereafter were Methodist and Baptist because their structure and style of worship were better suited to the less formal U.S. character. Their members and their clergy (including women) were not required to be highly educated or overly formal. The churches could be anywhere, not just in city central. It was not necessary to learn the entire history of Christianity; an individual’s commitment was primary. This movement, called evangelical Christianity, eventually influenced other denominations and significantly grew, even outside denominational categories. Today there are several branches and many twigs on the evangelical tree.

Ordinary U.S. Catholics associate the word evangelical with this specific Protestant movement, even if their contact with evangelicals is minimum. Catholics in the U.S. can learn from evangelicals. But Catholics are not evangelical, for good reasons. A U.S. Catholic—the regular worshiper or the infrequent worshiper—instinctually knows that he or she appropriates God’s revelation differently than evangelicals. The difference has to do with the manner of using Scripture, of looking at social issues, of becoming a Christian, of praying with others, of growing in faith and even of “going” to heaven. 

The second difficulty is the word new. What is its implied contrast? What was the old evangelization? Did it succeed or fail? What’s different this time around?

The thrust behind new evangelization is the relationship between faith and society. The backdrop is the Enlightenment of the 18th century or what today is called secularism. Today’s reality, according to many Catholic leaders, is a public square (culture, politics and economics) that ignores religious values or, in some cases, is hostile to them. A hyper-secular environment makes it hard for young adults to retain faith, these leaders conclude. The young adult default frame of reference is an unnourishing relativism. To a significant degree this analysis is correct. But it is not new.

The old evangelization occurred in Western Europe from about 1900 to 1965. The 2005 platform of Pope Benedict XVI was a final project of the old evangelization. Many Catholic leaders judge the old evangelization a failure because the rate of worship among Western European Catholics is shockingly low. The history, however, is complex and includes positives.

The old evangelization got stuck on the tension between Catholicism’s desire to influence the changing world and yet Catholicism’s rejection of the modern world. Church leaders wanted faith to make a difference in business, labor relations, public policy, young adult life and more. But their model was, let’s say, too influenced by Christendom. In looking outward at society, Church leaders also looked back with a desire to somehow recreate what they imagined happened before the Enlightenment.

Vatican II (1962-1965), a watershed moment in Catholicism, put aside nostalgia for a time when clergy had direct access to the centers of political and cultural power and for a time when lay people took specific direction from clergy about their conduct on boards of directors, in legislative halls, union meetings, hospital settings and more. Vatican II did not thereby say that all features or overtones of modern life are beyond criticism. But the old evangelization that looked like a church militant gives way to dialogue. According to the Vatican II model, faith relates to society when competent lay people—individually and collectively--go about their normal routines inside their normal settings, all the while allergic to injustice and disposed to mercy.

Admittedly, implementation of Vatican II depends on people who know their faith and sincerely try to live it. A 21st century effort in the U.S. could focus on educating and supporting such lay people. But the new evangelization campaign is not that effort. The phrase doesn’t communicate. The other obstacle, among those U.S. Catholics who have heard of new evangelization, is its association with conservative funding and conservative topics. This impression may not be entirely accurate or fair. Yet even if a better phrase is found, an effective evangelization among U.S. Catholics, especially among young adults, cannot so much as hint of returning to the glory years of yesterday.

Droel edits a newsletter on faith and work for National Center for the Laity (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629)


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A TIME FOR PRAYER – THE VISITATION MYSTERY

  
Forget the orange jumps suits and sandals, the uniformed armed guards, the sterile locked room… because for a couple of hours it is Beth-El Sanctuary.  You can sense Father Abraham’s spirit of faith supporting action.

   Once a month, Joanne and I visit the Kenosha Detention center for immigrants. It’s a cleansing but overwhelming experience.  The visiting program, the Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants, is sponsored and run by the Mercy sisters of Chicago.

   The prisoners are marched into the room and we sit around tables for discussion.  My first impression is – they are young men - these are just kids – what are they doing here?

   The discussions are serious – do you have family here – do you expect to be deported – what about your children?  There is not much Joanne and I can do; I often try to lighten the conversation and sometimes it’s an embarrassing failure.  A couple of weeks before Christmas we were talking to an inmate named Nicholas and a couple of others.  They talked about their families.  With an attempt at humor I said,

          How can we celebrate Christmas when Nichols is in jail?

          Get it – St. Nick? No one laughed including Joanne.  I thought I’d try again when our supervisor came to our table.  She listened to the ‘joke’ – tears came to her eyes, and she walked away.  To see Dads locked in prison at Christmas time is just painfully sad; a poor attempt at humor doesn’t help.  As always we prayed – faith and hope of liberation were still there despite imprisonment caused by of a broken immigration system.

“From the depths I call to you Yahweh, Lord listen to my call for help…” Psalm 130

   When the prisoners come to the table we introduce ourselves.  A young beardless man presented himself:

          I am Inocensio.
          Yes, I said –  as everyone, but what is your name? 
          Inocensio, (he said again– I got it)
          I’m Bill - good to meet you.  

Inocencio had signed deportation papers, but wants to see his mother before he leaves for his home country.  She is in Chicago and dying of cancer.  The Mercy Sisters promised to help.  We prayed.

“Yahweh, be my judge!  I go my way in my innocence, My trust in Yahweh never wavers.” Psalm 26

   I talked to the Center’s Chaplain, who is Muslim, about the dispute over prayer times at Ariens Manufacturing in Brillion, WI.  Muslim workers from Somalia walked off the job because of restrictions on prayer.  The chaplain was clearly moved.  He said he would do the same as the workers if he were in a similar situation.  “To pray is who I am – it’s a matter of identity.”  There are no prayer restrictions at the detention center.  

“O God, you are my God – for you I long! For you my body yearns, for you my soul thirsts.”  Psalm 63 

   I find it difficult to go to the immigration prison; I couldn’t do it alone, but it is a valuable religious experience.  It’s a time of energizing awareness – “concientizacion” in Spanish.  Prayer, justice and faith are intertwined. All the motivation a person might need in the struggle - jihad - to change the cruel and unjust immigration system is right there at Beth – El.

“To Yahweh belong earth and all it holds, the world and all who live in it; Yahweh founded it on the seas, based it firmly on over the rivers.” Psalm 24

  







Wednesday, January 20, 2016

PLANET EARTH - ON ALERT by Joan Bleidorn

                                                                                  
  
The Paris Climate Conference held in September 2015 is now over and the end result was that all 190 countries were in full agreement that the planet was in dire straights due to climate change.  It was agreed that global warming was caused primarily by human beings and their overuse of fossil fuels.  It was unanimously agreed that the science on this was in, and that all of us sharing this endangered planet must pull together, if we want to survive and leave a habitable place for our children and grandchildren.  These 190 countries agreed to make every effort to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius. This was an amazing accomplishment, which may not have occurred had the commitment been in the form of a treaty.  The measures taken by each country would be voluntary, but the incentive was there. President Obama knew that a treaty would be rejected by an obstructionist Congress.

The major responsibility for change must come from the wealthiest nations whose carbon footprint on the planet is the heaviest.  The inhabitants of poor nations are not to be held accountable for planetary damage, since their use of resources is at a bare minimum.

Young people, especially in the U.S. are stepping up to the plate to eliminate fossil fuels through the divestment movement.  College students all across the country are becoming increasingly active, and putting pressure on colleges to divest from fossil fuels. We are talking big money here, that could be put to better use by reinvesting in renewables like wind and solar power.  The activism of young people, including young children, is increasing, since they are well aware that they will be the ones inheriting a trashed planet, If things do not change.

We now clearly understand that since a mere 3% of the world's water supply is fresh water, it must be carefully conserved and not squandered. Fracking is a drastic misuse of our precious water, with huge amounts being pumped a mile underground, along with dangerous chemicals, to force natural gas to the surface.  In addition to the squandering of our water, fracking lays the foundation for earthquakes.  We now have some 7 billion people inhabiting a planet that can comfortably accommodate 4 billion.  The population is expected to skyrocket to as high as 14 billion, within decades.  We cannot survive without water; it is essential to life. But in spite of water shortages, corporations like Nestle can gain control of vast amounts for bottled water, to sell to those who can pay.  The poor are left without.  Meanwhile, Nestle leaves as a disastrous legacy millions upon millions of plastic bottles, which further damage the environment.  The lack of access to clean water for all threatens the stability of the planet.

Climate change brings extremes in weather, with floods in some areas, and drought in others.  These extremes will mean crops will fail, and there will not be enough food and water to sustain life, with resulting conflicts and wars. This is one of the major causes of the tragedy now occurring in Syria, a country that has seen years of drought, crop failures, and now faces mass starvation, while the rest of the world stands back and can't seem to consider anything other than a military solution.  War is never the answer. We will see increasing numbers of refugees fleeing devastated countries, in search of a safe place to live, unless we commit ourselves to doing our part to limit global warming.

It is said that a meat eater riding a bicycle does more damage to the environment than a vegetarian driving a Hummer.  This is no exaggeration. It takes massive amounts of our precious water to grow the grain to feed the cows which provide us with meat.  In Kewaunee County, Wisconsin alone, there are some 15 farms each with 10,000 cows, totaling some 150,000 cows per day eating grain and creating massive amounts of cow "poop", which then further damages or environment through methane in our soil and water.  This is one county alone, in Wisconsin.  If you want to do something really effective to protect the planet, cut down on the amount of meat you eat, or if you are really committed, cut it out completely. You could well experience a great boost to your health and well-being. It's worth a try, and you might find some garden and veggie burgers are actually very tasty.

The pollution caused by automobiles has hit the news within the past few weeks.  In Delhi, the pollution was so great, that all cars were pulled off the roads for a time.  In Beijing, the same unbearable pollution forced the authorities to close the schools for several days, and force cars off the roads.  In some cities, only a certain number of cars were allowed on the road, because life had becoming unbearable because of polluted air.  You know there is something drastically wrong when you can't go out-side without wearing a mask. 

Driving less is an immeasurably good way to help lessen climate change.  Cities like New York are so well equipped with mass transit that many New Yorkers, or even most, can get along without a car.  They are walkers, bikers, and heavy users of mass transit.  They are, incidentally, for the most part, much healthier than the rest of us in other cities in the U.S.  They walk, while many of us drive everywhere.  We could start small, and leave our car in the garage one day a week if possible, and move up from there.  Everybody could benefit, if there are fewer cars on the road, with cleaner air, fewer accidents, and less stress on the road. Take the bus. You'll like it.  You don't have to circle round and round on busy downtown streets, trying to find a parking spot, where you shell out $6.00 or more, hoping you won't find a parking ticket waiting for you when you get back.  Life can be less stressful.  Try it.  Pretend you are a New Yorker.

Pope Francis in his encyclical LAUDATO SI, warns us about the consumerism in our society, and we know he is talking about us American shoppers whose     basements, attics, and closets are stuffed with 'bargains' we got at the Mall.  Two for price of one, when we don't even need one. We might want to divest ourselves of this excess, and find we have gained living space that was formerly housing unneeded 'stuff.'  I think they call it downsizing.  It's worth a try.  We might even find breathing easier, as some of those bargains at the Mall contain some of the 7000 dangerous chemicals found in the average home.

What exactly is a somewhat spoiled middle class American adult to do to help lessen an undeniably heavy carbon footprint on the planet? Many of us are eager for change, eagerly waiting for someone to do something, someone else, oblivious to the fact that that someone must be US, and it must be NOW.  Otherwise, we cannot in good conscience look our children and grandchildren in the eye, knowingthey will be the ones to face the consequences of climate change. Do something. Anything. Start small. Good luck!

Joan Bleidorn, a Canadian-born United States citizen, is an activist in the Peace movement and advocates for immigrant and worker justice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.






Tuesday, January 12, 2016

ST. POPE JOHN XXIII – A CHALLENGE TO INJUSTICE AND WAR


Woodcut by Carlos Hermosilla Alvarez
Chilean, 1905 - 1991
Juan XXIII, 1978
84.6.1
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joel H Rosenthal
Collection of the Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University

   Marquette’s Haggerty Art Museum holds a beautiful and intricate woodcut portrait of Pope John XIII by Chilean Carlos Hermosilla Alvarez. (1905 -1991)  The woodcut was displayed at the Haggerty in an exhibition titled, “Que es hispanico?” (What is Hispanic?), from September to December this last year.  

   As described in the Haggerty brochure by Scott Dale, the artist is a “Chilean poet, humanitarian, beloved art professor, realist, print maker, and graphic artist.” The bold portrait expresses fortitude and hope emerging from tragedy yet human potential.  The background of the portrait shows the crosses of Calvary, the suffering face of the crucified Jesus, Vatican’s St. Peter’s and Pope Benedict XV.  The title of John XIII’s encyclical Peace on Earth appears in Spanish – Paz en la Tierra.  The ‘z’ in Paz is reversed – it must be that typos in wood cuts are irreversible.  Carlos Hermosilla Alvarez experienced what he expresses in art. Scott Dale reports that Hermosilla Alvarez suffered physically from various serious ailments.  The artist, like the poet Pablo Neruda, also had to endure the violent, U.S. sponsored regime of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

   We can relate to the artist’s message today.  The crosses in the background and the suffering face of Jesus mirror the suffering of undocumented children and families torn apart by a broken immigration system. Alvarez experienced the injustices and suffering perpetrated on the Chilean people after the September 11 golpe del estado in 1973 by Augusto Pinochet.

   The forgotten Pope Benedict XV appears in the background. Scott Dale in the Haggerty brochure says John XXIII referred to Benedict XV as “the most sympathetic of the popes he had met.” Their common bond is understandable.  John XIII as a chaplain and hospital orderly experienced the horrors of World War I.  Benedict XV did what he could do to alleviate the suffering and offered a peace proposal that was rejected by the warring nations.  Even French Dominican A.G. Sertillanges, O.P. preached against the peace proposal,[1] but after the war U.S. president Wilson used it as a model for his fourteen point path to peace.[2]  

   John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris, written just before he died, (Peace on Earth, 1963) continues his struggle for peace by setting a strong theme for Vatican II. The woodcut has the Spanish title in the background of the portrait – Paz en la Tierra. In Pacem in Terris, John sees the way to peace through justice.  He elaborates on previous papal encyclicals by stating that workers have the right and duty to form unions.  Also the public has the duty to support unions. (1:44)  This is certainly in opposition to the Pinochet regime.

    St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican as a background for the woodcut is a reminder of the Vatican II Council.  John XXIII in his opening speech emphasized mercy rather than condemnation. This too is the theme for the present pope.  Francis has called for a holy year of mercy.    

   Documents of Vatican II attempted to break down barriers so all could cooperate and work for peace.  It offered reconciliation with atheists, Protestants, and non-Christians.  Dictator of Spain, Franco, favored by Pius XII, received a cold shoulder from John XXIII and the Council. The Vatican’s cooperation with the injustice of fascism was ended. John XXIII on his death bed said:

The secret of my ministry is in the crucifix….Those open arms have been the program of my pontificate: they mean that Christ died for all, for all.  No one is excluded from his love, from his forgiveness.” [3]

   John XXIII and Vatican Council II attempted to change the identity of the Roman Catholic Church from self-absorbing righteous piousness to ecumenism in search of justice and peace.





[1] Thomas F. O’Meara, O.P. and Paul Philbert, O.P., Scanning the Signs of the Times, ATF Ltd. Hindmarsh. SA 5007, 2013, p.3.

[2] Greg Tobin, The Good Pope, HarperOne, 2012, p. 45.

[3] Thomas Cahill, Pope John XXIII, Penguin, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 2002.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

THE FUNDAMENTALIST APPROACH TO SCRIPTURE


   For the most part Roman Catholic theology has shied away from fundamentalism, but when it has fallen into the mire of literal interpretation of scripture the results have been disaster. The worst of course is the reading of the New Testament as blaming the Jews for Jesus crucifixion by the Romans.  A root cause of the holocaust is distorted Christian theology.

   An editorial in the National Catholic Reporter “US church leadership is in transition” (NCR, Dec. 4-17, 2015) urged U.S. bishops to get in line with the leadership of Pope Francis.  In support of the argument, NCR resorts to a fundamentalist analysis:

"Francis’ approach should have the ring of familiarity to anyone who wanders through the stories of our sacred texts and is taken with Jesus’ risky encounter with the masters of law of his own time."

I am not a scripture scholar, but I find the NCR use of the “sacred texts” troubling.   

Petersdom von Engelsburg gesehen.jpg

   Vatican II document “Nostra Aetate” (1965) states:

"Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be represented as rejected by God or accursed, as if that follows from Holy Scripture." #4

Despite Vatican II and “Nostra Aetate,” the NCR editorial is an indication that there still is a problem.  I have heard many homilies that underline the gospels narrative of Jesus’ antipathy to the Pharisees indicating a “risky” clash of ideas.

   The gospels are not historical works but an interpretation of Faith with a prime reference to Jesus of Nazareth. After the destruction of the Temple by the Romans (70 C.E.), the gospel writers found themselves in competition with the rabbinic movement.  Which Jewish sect would prevail?   Originally the Jesus vs. “masters of the law” stories in the New Testament may have been simply rough politics.  After Emperor Constantine’s Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.) declared Jesus God and man, politics moved to dogma.


Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin.jpg
Add c"Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin" by I, Jean-Christophe BENOIST. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin.jpg#/media/File:Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin.jpgaption


    What do we know about the historical Jesus’ attitude towards the law of his faith?   Jesus as an associate of John the Baptist may have been a strong advocate of the importance of the law.  The Gospel of Matthew relates the story of Jesus the law giver – he places stronger demands than people are accustomed to, and he also said, “till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one stroke will disappear from the law.” (Mt. 5)  Discussions and debates about the law are not uncommon among rabbis; to say that they were “risky” requires fundamentalist conflation with the passion stories.

   Then there is the story in all three synoptic Gospels of Jesus’ encounter with “masters of the law” (Mk. 12:28-34, Lk. 10:25-28, Mt. 22:34-40).  The question was “What is the greatest commandment of the Law?”  All agreed – “God is one - love God and your neighbor as yourself.” (Duet. 6:4, - Lev. 19:18)  Jesus and his disciples would have had this memorized since childhood.  The story has a ring of truth.

In consideration of politics of the present - again “Nostra Aetate” #3…

"Although in the course of centuries many quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this most Sacred Synod urges all to forget the past to strive sincerely for mutual understanding.  On behalf of all mankind, let them make common cause of safeguarding and fostering social justice, moral values, peace, and freedom."  


File:Benito Mussolini Face.jpg
Benito_Mussolini_Face.jpg ‎(200 × 303 pixels, file size: 13 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)

   It’s a sad situation; if it is acceptable for liberals to refer to questionable stories to support their cause, why not give the same license to conservatives to condemn some other Semitic people who might be Muslims?  Pius XI in tearfully lamenting Mussolini’s anti-Jewish laws, and perhaps his own complicity, recognized that, with Abraham as father, “Spiritually we are all Semites.” *

Pope John XXIII - 1959.jpg
Pope John XXIII

   And therefore the narrow-minded racism of contemporary politics prompts us to remember Pope John XXIII’s Vatican II. (1962 – 1965)  The Council emphasized ecumenism – the universality of humankind - during the most dangerous part of the cold war.  Perhaps this was an important reason the world survived.  Current times demand a revived ecumenism if we are to survive the new surge of nationalism and violence based at least partly on religious fundamentalism.  The closing of the Chanukah celebration provides a lesson for all from the Jewish Scriptures: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit said the Lord of Hosts.” Zechariah 4: 1-7.

*David I. Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, Random House, New York, 2014, p. 120
    

  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Working Catholic: Who Is Next? by Bill Droel







Image result for nazi symbol

There has always been a strain of anti-Catholicism in our country. For example, Catholics were attacked (verbally, quasi-legally and even violently) through the mid-1800s by public leaders and small groups. The U.S., it was said, is for natives, not for papist immigrants. During the 1850s an entire political party, The Know Nothings, ran on this anti-Catholic platform; supported by vile religious slurs in newspapers, scandalous cartoons and discrimination signs in places of employment and housing. In the 1920s another nationwide group formed to oppose Catholicism. It had strong chapters in the Midwest (especially in Indiana) and the West. Its name was Ku Klux Klan. In the 1950s the violence-prone KKK became associated with anti-black sentiment in the South.

KKK.svg
Ku Klux Klan symbol
Catholics gained acceptance during World War II and thereafter through their contributions to our country’s struggle against Nazi ideology (a movement that wanted a so-called pure race). 

Catholics were respected after the War because of their stance against communist ideology (another movement with exclusionary tendencies). The 1960 election of President John Kennedy (1917-1963) symbolized acceptance for Catholics. Although U.S. Catholics now surpass other Christian denominations in education attainment and average income, it is a mistake to think our country is free from Catholic-haters.

Given our history in this beautiful country, Catholic citizens should be on the front lines in protest against anyone who says an entire religious group is unwelcome on our shores.

A nation by definition has a responsibility to secure its borders. At the same time our nation is founded on the premise that a fresh start begins here. Further, the U.S. is proud of its history as a “beacon on a hill” and proud of its national poem: “…from her beacon hand glows world-wide welcome.” The U.S. regularly tells other nations to practice pluralism. The U.S. on occasion even scolds intolerant nations. And, as during World War II, the U.S. is sometimes willing to take up arms against a nation that persecutes an entire group of people because of their religion or ethnicity.

It is proper and necessary for the U.S. to turn away some foreign individuals from our harbors, or our airports, or our Canadian and Mexican borders. An individual should normally not enjoy our land of liberty if they do not qualify, particularly if they pose a threat to national security. To turn away an entire ethnic or religious group, however, violates the very freedom our country espouses.

Image for the news result

  Donald Trump, the showman from Queens, New York, belongs to a comparatively small Christian denomination. Its members—like Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Baptists and others—should be on guard against nativist exclusionary rhetoric. For once notions of a pure group or impure group gain credence, any group could be next. It was once Jews, Catholics before that, Muslims now. The religious group to which Trump belongs, should his prejudice spread further, might soon hear: “You’re fired. Get outta here.”


Droel edits INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a newsletter about faith and work.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

An Alienated Culture by Dr. Francisco Enriquez




Que es Hispanico?  What is Hispanic?
(Haggerty Museum, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI)

One of the paintings under the sub-title, 'Religion' is The Holy Family During the Journey into Egypt by Miguel Cabrera, 1715-1760’s.

It depicts a very European Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing from Herod as it was recommended by the angel who warned Joseph (Matthew 2:13).  Mary, who is wearing a fancy brown hat and beautiful blue tunic is holding baby Jesus in a very relaxed way. She is riding on a donkey that has stopped to drink water from a creek.  Joseph is holding Jesus’s hand who is holding a round fruit in his hand.

They are surrounded by chubby little blond angels and by a more mature angel who is walking with them.  There are no other families with them, no other refugees.  The scene appears to be taking place in a beautiful location, in the early evening hours and they are clearly facing the sunset which explains the details of their faces and the angel’s.

Mr.  Cabrera does not appear to be trying to convey a sense of urgency or alertness, which is what you would expect from a family who is running away from a governor who is trying to destroy your child. Neither does he appear to have created this painting with the average Mexican in mind.  He was clearly painting for the Spaniards or those who pretended to be of Spanish ancestry.  And the message was “we are not concerned, we are not even rushing”; the story was supposed to represent an “escape from danger” but in the here and now, we own this country [Mexico], its people and its resources and therefore we take our time and we enjoy it whenever we so desire, even if we are supposed to be in danger.

This is a contrasting story when compared to the real dangers that people from Mexico and Latin America have been escaping from.  Just to name a few ones:  the North America Free Trade Agreements that inundated the Mexican markets with government subsided corn, leaving the small Mexican farmers no chance of competition.  The final consumers of illegal drugs in the US who provide the incentive for the cruel and heartless drug cartels to terrorize, kidnap, rape and assassinate civilians in Mexico, Central and South America.  The firearms industry that has sold the weapons used by the drug dealers and that are used daily to intimidate and kill people who get in their way. The local governments that are in bed with the cartels and the firearm industry, etc.

When we think of families running for their lives, and for the lives of their children, the images of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya  are more likely to come to our mind.  According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 500,000 migrants have fled to Greece and Turkey, many of them in flimsy boats or rafts,  a “truly biblical migration” that has not faced a humane response with the exception of Germany.  Many European countries such as Hungary, Austria and Britain have closed their doors to immigrants and now France and the US have hardened to the appeals of refugees.

This situation is not new; in May 1939, the United States, Cuba and other countries closed their doors to 930 Jewish refugees from Europe on the St. Luis Ship from Hamburg.  They were returned to Antwerp, Belgium, where many subsequently died in the Jewish Holocaust.

When we think of refugees, the image of a 3 year old Syrian boy, Aylan, who washed up on beach in Turkey would be more appropriate at representing the struggle of refugees.  I doubt that Mr. Cabrera, even if he lived in this day and age would have chosen that one for his painting.

Dr. Francisco Enriquez is a pediatrician in the inner city of Milwaukee. 

Attributed to Miguel Cabrera, Mexican, 1695-1768
The Holy Family During the Journey into Egypt, 1715-1760s
Oil on copper, 34 1/4 x 28 in.  72.20
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Bader
Collection of the Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University