Saturday, December 25, 2010


Again some stops before getting into Quadragesimo Anno…

At some point in this blog I will claim that Liberation Theology is a part, if not the best of Catholic Social Teaching. Important points will be: method in doing Theology, the need for structural political change, concientizasion, (expands the notion of the moral as reasonable) and preferential option for the poor. I will also include Cesar Chavez for his non-violence theology and organizing methods, and recent attempts by Roman Catholic theologians to give direction in the struggle for immigration reform.

But who cares? Here’s an example. My cousin Meg got me an invitation to the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the grade school that I went to in River Forest, Illinois. It was founded by the Dominican Fathers as the parish school for St. Vincent Ferrer Church. The school and the parish were part of a Dominican presence in River Forest that included Rosary College for women – now called Dominican University, co-ed, the Dominican House of Studies (Pontifical Institute of Philosophy), and Trinity High School for girls. Rosary, Trinity, and St. Vincent Ferrer School were staffed and run by the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters. The House Studies now is part of Rosary – Dominican University.

St. Vincent Ferrer School started in 1940, but classes were held at Trinity. In 1941, the school building was completed, and I began my school career, first grade, in 1941. Our 1949 graduating class was the first to do eight years in the new school. My two brothers graduated from St. Vincent’s and my mother taught there for many years.

I was excited to go to the anniversary party. I had my mind set on not challenging anything and looked forward to possibly meeting old classmates. It wasn’t easy. The English Gothic church was full for the opening of the festivities. Vatican II hadn’t inspired any renovations except they did have an altar piece that faced the people. Since the House of Studies was turned over to Dominican University, the St. Vincent Ferrer Rectory has become a residence for Dominican priests not necessarily connected to the parish. Some of them participated in the Mass. The pastor is the Rev. Herb Hayek, O.P. whom I knew when he was a Dominican student. Strange, the last time I saw him Herbie was a kid with a sarcastic sense of humor. As an old man he does emit a sense of pastoral “gravitas.” Also in the procession to the altar was Kevin O’Rourke, O.P. former Dean of the Aquinas Institute in Dubuque. Leading the procession to the altar were the Knights of Columbus in full regalia. At communion time a knight with drawn sword stood at attention alongside each of the five or six priests distributing communion. A proud incorporation of the “conquista” into the celebration (sacrifice – the guy on the cross looked like a Native American). Was it Jesus that preached “the good news” of peace to be achieved by war or was it Caesar Augustus? Has anybody ever heard of Bartolome de las Casas, O.P.? I take it too seriously; it was comedy at its best.

After Mass I talked to Kevin O’Rourke, who is famous for saying that nurses should not be allowed to organize into a labor union. Kevin was using a walker; we said hello but neither of us was about to get into any kind of discussion. Secular priest, Mons. George Higgins of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, had already flattened him years ago in the debate over the nurses. I did feel guilty about it. A friend, stalwart of the Milwaukee Faith Community for Worker Justice, and champion of the nurses right to organize, Regina Williams, O.P. Ph.D., would have wanted me to at least make a few snarky remarks. Regina had recently passed away at 92 years of age. Associate and friend of Regina, Mike Crosby, O.F.M. Cap., presided at the funeral liturgy. No Heisman Trophy for Regina and her followers, but she would say that it’s not necessary.

The night was saved when we met John Lattner, 1953 Heisman Trophy winner, and his wife. We spent a half hour or so talking. John indicated gratitude to labor and the union he belonged to during the summers while he was at Notre Dame. To me he will always be superman. Also a conversation with high school classmate and St. Thomas scholar Albert Judy, O.P. was refreshing.

We went to England in November to celebrate the birth of our newest grandson, Matthew James Lange. (b. October 18, 2010) Joanne dragged me to a Sunday mass at the local Roman Catholic Church – St. Gertrude. Sean, our two year old grandson, provided entertainment when he escaped from the children’s area to say hello. He then ran down the center aisle with Joel in hot pursuit.

But besides Sean, Father Martin McCarthy’s homily was interesting. He talked about the establishment of the feast of Christ the King by Pius XI ( Quadragesimo Ano, 1931) in 1925. The homily was a reminder. Monsieur Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, the future Pius XI, was named Papal Nuncio to Poland after W.W.I by Benedict XV. Poland was very loyal to the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican and the Vatican therefore supported a strong and independent Poland – an ally in the fight against “communism” – Russia, Spain, and Mexico. Pius XI was dogged in his support of Poland in its struggle to stop an attempted takeover by the Russian Bolsheviks. He was a supporter of Marshall Pilsudski who, with the help of the Polish Jewish community, defeated the Bolsheviks.

The Feast of Christ the King was established to remind the world that its moral center was the Vatican headed by Christ’s Vicar, the Pope. (Vatican I 1870 declared the Pope infallible) The Encyclical announcing the feast, Quas Primas, states (Part IV, paragraph 12): “The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ Himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied.” (by the “Communists”) Also, (Part VI, paragraph 19) “When we pay honor to the princely dignity of Christ, men will doubtless be reminded that the Church, founded by Christ as a perfect society, has a natural and inalienable right to perfect freedom and immunity from the power of the state; and that in teaching, ruling, and guiding to eternal bliss those who belong to the Kingdom of Christ, she cannot be subject to any external power.” These are fitting comments for a Church founded by the Emperor Constantine.

This means that governments that oppose the Vatican are evil and those in favor are good. Support for fascists such as Franco in Spain, Dollfus in Austria, Salazar in Portugal and the dictator Pilsudski in Poland is not a surprise. Early Vatican social teaching did not see freedom of expression as fundamental. For example, the Vatican supported labor in so far as it is Roman Catholic and does not resort to strikes.

Questions to face: How did the U.S. Catholic Church react to the dilemmas presented by the Vatican to Roman Catholics living in a free society? The key concept of Quadragesimo Anno was “subsidiarity.” What is the American meaning of “subsidiarity?”

Myths are necessary to explain Faith, Hope and Love which are inexplicable. If a myth becomes absurd then it should be forgotten - e.g. limbo, and the Knights of Columbus. Valuable myths have positive palpable reality.

The fall elections seemed to squelch all hope for immigration reform. The dream act failed. Legislation that would free unions to organize is now nowhere in sight. In Wisconsin, the newly elected governor has openly declared war on the public service unions. There is a threat to turn Wisconsin into a - “right to work state.” A Wisconsin state legislator has proposed an “Arizona 1070 law.” “Where is there hope, Joanne,” asked a Voces Board Member.

We found it, myths but real - Christmas gifts:

We were doing our exercise walking at the Mayfair Mall when we met Barbara Toles, state legislator and Joanne’s former colleague. After brief greeting hugs, Barbara said, “It’s O.K. we’ve just got to work harder. We’ll get some new people in the legislature in two years.” We parted with hugs, Merry Christmas’s, smiles and good feelings.

Voces activist Primitivo Torres invited us to Trinity Guadalupe parish for the Sunday Mass celebrating the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was freezing, we were both sick with colds. Sanctuary had already done a vigil at the Church in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the four Church women murdered in El Salvador – why go? It was freezing cold, but we went. We arrived fifteen minutes early and the large 19th century Church was packed. We were lucky to find places to sit. Why did we have only about 20 people at our vigil? Before Mass a band and mariachis played for the Virgin – not the congregants. Mass began with Aztec dancers dancing up to the altar to pay homage to the Virgin. They were excellent performers – men, women and children – breathtaking. The band and the mariachis provided music for the Mass. At one point we had a complete dramatization of the Guadalupe story. I finally noticed that all the kids in attendance were dressed in costume. Girls were vested as the Virgin Guadalupe and the boys as Juan Diego. Pastor Jose Moreno, S.J. presided. Moreno who is also pastor at another nearby Latino church, serves as a jail chaplain and occasional math professor at Marquette, was worked up. During his homily he recounted the role of the Mexican priest Hidalgo and Church people in the fight for independence from Spain. All were under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “Que viva la Virgen” he shouted, “Que viva Mexico” he shouted again. We heard the “grito” of Hidalgo – of Mexico echoing through the centuries. Before their exciting and colorful exit, the Aztec dancers expressed reverence to the Virgin – the revised Goddess of Tepeyac. The ceremony was a merger of myths; the Trinity now included the Virgin. Moreno said that the story must be preserved, “it is part of our culture.”

After Mass we were invited to refreshments in the school building basement. We got in line for hot chocolate and tamales. It was freezing cold in the basement, but not for long. One of Joanne’s former students came up to her excitedly shouting, “¿Maestra, Maestra como esta?,” hugs all around. We sat with her and her family, but we received Guadalupe greetings from all. We were told that the celebration started the night before with instrumental music and singing. Some had maintained an all night vigil. Ya somos Guadalupanos, pues.

Posadas: Ascension Lutheran hosts vigils that we do before demonstrating at the ICE the next day. We do this once a month. Pastor Walter, who is from El Salvador, invited us to the Ascension’s Posada. Freezing cold, but we went. When we got to the church there weren’t many people. After a while we started the traditional songs in the church. More and more people showed up. Pastor Walter related the story of Mary and Joseph finding “no room at the inn” to migrants looking for sanctuary from poverty and violence. He encouraged us to be politically active in the quest for just immigration reform. We left the church and knocked on a couple doors looking for a “posada” for Mary and Joseph. The final stop was a house with a professionally printed sign on it stating, “We are Roman Catholics – No Soliciting.” Pastor Walter assured us it was OK. We sang our song pleading “posada.” A young man opened the door, listened, wished us “¡Felice Navidad!” and went back inside. We then went to the church basement for fellowship –hot chocolate and a full dinner. By now we had picked up about a hundred people for the banquette. Pastor Walter did the blessing. I felt the presence of the young man from Galilee who had no place to lay his head. (Lk. 9:58)

The Holy Angels Old Catholic Church did the full nine day novena for the Posada. A different family would host the posada each night and the final night would be at the church on Christmas Eve. The pastor, Father Alvaro, is a member of our “Comité Timon,” steering committee of the Milwaukee New Sanctuary Movement. Alvaro invited us to one of the posada nights. It took place at a modest south side home, a worker’s cottage, probably owned in the past by Polish immigrants. The yard was decorated with brightly illuminated snowmen and Santa Clause. We were ushered through the Christmas decorated house to the basement packed with people, men, women and children, including musicians. Father Alvaro introduced the ceremony. He explained that the trip by the Holy Family from Nazareth to Bethlehem where they were rejected is similar to their own migrant experience. He encouraged us to continue to be active in the struggle for justice. Alvaro then introduce us to the “ama de casa,” the hostess. She welcomed us, then lamented the failure of the “Dream Act.” She said we need to continue the struggle and develop better legislation. Alvaro took issue. He said the proposed law was a good one; we need to continue pressure to get it passed. We were asked to stand and say the Rosary. The Sorrowful Mysteries were introduced by a young woman who, at the same time, cared for a rambunctious ten year old son who had no place to run in the packed basement. Five different young “madres de familia” led each one of the five Mysteries. In between, the musicians provided accompaniment for hymns. The final Mystery, the Crucifixion, was introduced by one of the women with dampening eyes expressing a lament to claim that the Virgin witnessed the horror of the execution of her son out of love for us. Next the “Posada story” was dramatized with the traditional hymns. Mary and Joseph gained refuge and it was time to celebrate. The joy of families getting together was infectious. Hot chocolate, tacos and taquila were served. The host came up to us and introduced himself. “Ola maestra,” he said to Joanne, “Senior, - bienvenido a ustedes”. He was one of Joanne’s students at the technical college a few years ago.

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