Safety is Not Peace and Security is Not Love”
A Pastoral Letter for the Church of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Diocese of St. Thomas of Villanova
My Brothers and Sisters, My family in Christ our God,
St. Paul assures us that God is the “Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort who consoles us in our affliction.” (2 Cor 1:3-4) We know that Christ showed and taught us that we are God’s hands of comfort to each other. And so our first act is to pray. Pray for the souls of those who lost their lives in the Orlando massacre this weekend and their families. Pray for the members of the LGBTQ community who are again targets of hate, pray for the family of God that know him through the prophet Mohammad again smeared by fear. Pray for our country so wounded over and over by violence and mass killings by guns of mass murder. Be the hands of God to those in these communities in your life. Let them know that God is love and we are of God because we love the way Jesus has loved us. (Jn 15:9-12)
But, our prayer and love calls us next to action. God’s kingdom needs to be built up by our hands who call ourselves God’s children. We, especially who claim Christ, must live a new birth, “a birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Pt 1: 3-9) We can not give into despair or failed attempts to claim justice for all, peace for all, compassion and acceptance for all. The deaths and sufferings of those victimized by hate, fear, and ignorance in Orlando, in South Carolina, in Connecticut, and across our land, will rise to a new life of hope and freedom, love and mercy, peace and real life, if we, by our hands and actions, give birth to that new life. The seeds of the martyrs is the life of the Church.
“Blessed are they who show mercy… blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice… blessed are the peacemakers.” (Mt 5: 1-12) These calls of Jesus are all active, not passive. We are called to do, to be, to make happen if we are to be called children of God. The venerable Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,
“How does peace come about? Through political treaties? Through big banks, through money? Or through universal…rearmament? Through none of these, for in the single reason that in all of them peace is confused with safety. There is no way to peace along the way to safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture. It can never be safe. To demand guarantees is to mistrust…Peace means to give oneself totally to the law of God. Battles are won, not with weapons but with God.”
To that end, we are called by our baptismal covenant to God to dare to seek peace and not just safety. Dare to risk our own security for the life and justice of the whole community and country. Practically speaking then, we as a people, and our Church in particular, is called, challenged, and committed to the following in the name of God and our Lord Jesus Christ:
1. To speak out against rhetoric of fear and bigotry whenever found. Do not let politics of fear and division cloud the call for inclusion and justice for members of any ethnic, religious, gender, sexual, or orientation group. To that end, those “pastors” who have called for violence and death toward members of the LGBTQ and/or other minority groups have made themselves anathema to the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray and await for your conversion of heart with open arms, but condemn your words and actions of the present.
2. To engage in the responsible citizenship of political action for the inclusion and justice of all people under the law in the United States. All must be seen as equal; all must be protected by law and by specific law if necessary. The addition of LGBTQ persons to the federal protection clause along with race, gender and religion is beyond its time. Those who introduce laws to exclude the rights and freedoms of persons due to race, religion, gender, economics, or orientation stand in moral opposition and grave social sin to love, peace, and justice, and will not go unchallenged by the Children of God. These include, but are not limited to the rights to work, be housed, vote, and love.
3. To engage in the struggle for serious and responsible gun control legislation and understanding in our country demanding responsibility to coincide with the rights of the Second Amendment. Peace is not safety and assault guns give weaponry and means of mass murder to hatred and fear. Assault style weapons and multi round clips are meant to kill people en mass and are unacceptable to a country to be guided by peace and law. Proper screening and vetting of persons before a weapon sale are responsible and reasonable. Those who live in the new life of the resurrection will not be tired or despaired in this fight anymore.
It is never too late to be peacemakers, to be seekers of justice, or to live as Children of God. May all those martyrs of fear and hate in our recent history pray now for us at the throne of Love Almighty. May their families be a source of inspiration and courage and may our call in faith as people of the resurrection spring forth now in new life for all, new life in freedom and courage, and justice for all. May our country become a community that is a circle growing ever wider to include all people of good will and loving mercy. I call on and support all our local faith communities to make this call real and a source of community with practical ideas to share. It only happens if we struggle through the labor and give birth to our dreams.
Prayerfully yours, one in mind and heart into God,
The Most Reverend Joseph Augustine Menna, AIHM
Bishop and Prior General
Order of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Diocese of St. Thomas of Villanova