Bishop: Light in the Darkness Prayer Rally

June 14, 2020

Bishop Joensen

The following are remarks and a prayer offered by Bishop William Joensen at a June 13 prayer rally "Light in the Darkness," 

I join you in solidarity of Spirit as bishop and pastor of the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines, as a brother in Christ.  I am one also with the Catholic bishops of this country, who two years ago, in their message, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter against Racism,” observed that “every racist act—every such comment, every joke, every disparaging look as a reaction to the color of skin, ethnicity, or place of origin—is a failure to acknowledge another person as a brother or sister, created in the image of God” (OWH p. 4). 

 Further, “Racism can often be found in our hearts—in many cases placed there unwillingly or unknowingly by our upbringing and our culture. . . The cumulative effects of personal sins of racism have led to social structures of injustice and violence that makes us all accomplices in racism”  (OWH p. 5).  Certainly this is the case over the centuries within the Catholic Church, where complicity with slavery and the evil of racism extends well back to the 15th century, and persisted far too long after that (OWH p. 21).  Subsequent witness and messages by Catholic pastors and the people of God have gone partway toward making amends in accord with the truth of the Gospel, but we are still in need of conversion personally and communally.  We need God’s grace to live as Jesus taught, to love our sisters and brothers with hearts made whole by his mercy and reconciliation.  We must boldly go forward, reaching out and forging authentic relationships where we seek Jesus’ face and see each other as he see us.  And from there, we continue to examine where we as a society fail one another, where we perpetuate inequity, and we can work together to make things right (OWH 23).

Not only in Christ’s Church, but as we have seen all too well in recent weeks and months, “despite the great blessings of liberty this country, this state offers,” for many of our fellow citizens, for Dreamers and for others who cling to the dream of a just and loving society, interactions with the police are often tinged by fear and even danger” (paraphrase).  My brother bishops have also stated, “We reject harsh rhetoric that belittles and dehumanizes law enforcement personnel who labor to keep our communities safe.  We . . . condemn violent attacks against police” (OWH p. 5).

With you today, I believe that beyond any strategies, legislation, ordinances, and practices aimed at social justice for all, we must begin and end with prayer, for ultimately, it is our Triune God who alone can draw us into a more perfect union imaging his own Love and Justice. 

And so, I pray:

Father of Life, who brings forth diversity, goodness, and beauty in all you create, you have made us as the only beings after your own heart, a heart revealed in the Son you sent to us, Jesus, so that we might love you and one another.  Yet, with Azariah in the Book of Daniel, we acknowledge that while you are just in all you have done, and all your judgments are proper, our human judgments and deeds, including those of persons appointed and chosen to lead us, too often swerve from your truth, your love.  Though you promise to multiply offspring like the stars of heaven, we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation or state, brought low in the world this day because of our sins, including the sin of racism.

With the words of the Psalmist, we call out to you: “O God, you have rejected us, and broken us.  You have been angry; come back to us.  You have made the earth quake, torn it open.  Repair what is shattered, for it sways.  You have inflicted hardships on your people, made us drink a wine that dazed us” (Ps. 60:3-5).    Still, you are true to yourself: you will “have pity on the weak and the needy, and save the lives of the needy.  From oppression and violence [you redeem] their souls; to [you] their blood is dear” (Ps. 72:13-14).  To you, our very breath is dear.

Renew our minds and hearts and those of all in public office, so that in this great State of Iowa, the lowly and oppressed, the hurting and marginalized, the unborn and those whose days are numbered, might find in us reason to believe that you are a good God whose care and compassion endure forever.