Stories Seldom Heard
“Let us become the change we seek in the world.”
Welcome to Stories Seldom Heard. I would especially like to
welcome the Dominican Nuns of The Monastery of Mary the Queen and
the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois.
Many of us have seen the new movie about Pope Francis: “A Man of His
Word.” We got a sneak preview a few months ago when “60 Minutes”
extended their program to include clips from the film. From the
very beginning of Pope Francis’ time in office, his words and
actions on behalf of justice and mercy, have sent a clear message
throughout the world. But it is not just his message. It is part
of our Catholic tradition and DNA.
Pope Francis draws deeply from our Catholic tradition. He often
makes references to encyclicals, saints and former popes, especially
Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Pope Francis uses their words
effectively not only to remind us of our rich spiritual tradition as
Catholics and to direct our actions, but also to contemporize their
thoughts with his own experiences and examples. Pope Francis’
message concerning the church’s mission is clear. “A church without
charity and mercy is no longer the church of God.” These words
certainly resound in the writings of Pope John XXIII and Pope John
Paul II. “The church must use the medicine of mercy to heal,
forgive, draw together into one body all people” (1). “The mission
of the church is to be God’s mercy: to proclaim God’s mercy, to give
God’s mercy and to have its laws reflect God’s mercy” (2).
These words, along with scripture, are important to ponder. They
might sound inspiring, but to act on behalf of mercy and justice is
not an easy task. We, like Pope Francis, risk fierce criticism by
reaching out to the poor and desperate. Many hearts and judgments
have been softened because of the Pope’s total dedication to the
world’s poor. However, everyone does not admire him. Many of his
beliefs run contrary to the powers of this world. But the criticism
he receives doesn’t deter him from following the words of Jesus.
It might be easy to admire Pope Francis, but he is not calling for
admiration. Rather he is giving us daily examples of what it means
to be disciples of Jesus. Expose injustice. Ask for forgiveness.
Recognize our own sins of omission and make amends. Reach out to
refugees. A tough assignment! But to act with God’s mercy and
justice is always conflictual, both within ourselves and within our
societies. It’s a call for an examination of our consciences, to
deeper prayer and to action.
Sometimes it’s easier to look at other nations and name their sins.
Most of us will remember Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Much
later, we remember the enormous lines that snaked through the
countryside in 1994 when all races were permitted to vote in the
first fully democratic elections. The breakthrough seemed like a
miracle. However, we know the struggle for justice in South Africa
continues. As we look at our own nation today, we hear the sins of
our nation. There are many different points of view shouting from
the sidelines. It is that style of frustrated communication that
makes clear thinking, deep prayer and responsible action more
Hope in the Age of Despair
by Albert Nolan, O.P. is a collection of his essays and talks
concerning South Africa’s slow evolution towards justice. In order
for us to understand his essays better, Nolan includes important
historical information. It is not exactly what some people might
call “summer reading” if they are thinking of romance or mystery
novels. However, summer is a great time to read something serious
especially at this season of our lives. Nolan discusses many of the
same issues that are sitting on our doorsteps waiting to be
addressed: racism, structural injustice, anger, long-held
prejudices. Nolan also speaks from a faith perspective. By
exploring another nation’s issues, it is sometimes easier to see our
way through our own dilemmas.
Nolan paints a clear picture of the character and work of the
prophet. Prophets share God’s anger, sorrow, disappointment,
revulsion towards evil, sensitivity and seriousness about the
concrete events of their lives. They have an empathy with God that
enables them to see the world through God’s eyes. They think God’s
thoughts because they share God’s emotions and values. This is what
it means to be filled with the Spirit of God. This is what enables
us to read the signs of the times with honesty and truth. (3)
Honesty and truth can also question our motives and feelings that
lurk behind the anger or sorrow we feel when confronted by unjust
situations. Are we really seeing the situation from God’s point of
view or from our own? Have we made God into our image or have we
allowed God to reshape us into God’s likeness?
To address the critical issues in our lives honestly takes great
maturity. Each situation requires study which might also mean being
physically present to the situation. Consulting others, discussing
alterative possibilities and carefully planned actions reinforce a
positive outcome. Whether we are discussing our personal lives or
world events, prayer and the practice of nonviolent communication
are essential as we strive to move towards a resolution.
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall
Rosenberg, Ph.D. is an excellent place to begin our personal study
and practice of nonviolence. It is practical and easy to
understand. Each chapter offers examples of nonviolent
communication practices. I promise that serious study and
participating in the discussion material at the end of each chapter
will be enriching, revealing and slowly transforming. (4)
If we want to become the change we seek in the world, most of us
will need new tools to communicate well with those with whom we
disagree. Pope Benedict XVI said it well. “…in the desert, people
of faith are needed who, by the example of their own lives, point
the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive.” Pope Francis
continues this thought. “In these situations, we are called to be
living sources of water from which others can drink. At times this
becomes a heavy cross, but it was from the cross, from his pierced
side, that our Lord gave himself to us as a source of living water.
Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope” (5).
Walter, Mercy: The Essence of the Gospels and the Key to
Christian Life, Paulist Press, New York, 2013, p. 159
3. Nolan, O.P.,
Albert, Hope In An Age of Despair, Orbis Books, Maryknoll,
New York, 2009, p. 95
Ph.D, Marshall, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life,
Puddle Dancer Press, Encinita, CA, 2003.
Francis, Joy of the Gospel, USCCB, 2013, p.45.
Special thanks to Mary Ellen Green and Maria Hetherton who have
helped in editing this article. "Stories Seldom Heard" is a
monthly article written by Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P. Sister is a
Dominican Sister of San Rafael, California. This service is offered
to the Christian community to enrich one's personal and spiritual
life. The articles can be used for individual or group reflection.
If you would like to support this ministry, please send your
contributions to Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, c/o Sister
Patricia Bruno, O.P., 2517 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
To make changes or remove your name from “Stories Seldom Heard”
mailing list, please contact me at
email@example.com. Thank you. Bob McGraf