Prophetic Episcopal Message Washes Up On Beach (Part 1)

by | Jul 15, 2022 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

The story echos one that appeared in the Washington Post earlier this year. A message in a bottle that traveled 3,200 miles helped heal a Maryland boy’s grief

I knew I had to write something about the escalating violence in our culture.

Then, as if discovering a bottle with a message, I found a truly prophetic document published by the U.S. Catholic Bishops more than a quarter-century ago.

In this Vincentian Mindwalk, I invite you to make your own judgment about how prophetic it was then … and still should be.

Consider these quotes from over a quarter of a century ago

Our families are torn by violence.  Our communities are destroyed by violence.  Our faith is tested by violence.  We have an obligation to respond.

Violence — in our homes, our schools and streets, our nation and world — is destroying the lives, dignity and hopes of millions of our sisters and brothers.

Fear of violence is paralyzing and polarizing our communities.

The celebration of violence in much of our media, music and even video games is poisoning our children.

Hostility, hatred, despair and indifference are at the heart of a growing culture of violence. 

Verbal violence in our families, communications and talk shows contribute to this culture of violence.

Our social fabric is being torn apart by a culture of violence that leaves children dead on our streets and families afraid in our homes.  Our society seems to be growing numb to human loss and suffering.

A nation born in a commitment to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is haunted by death, imprisoned by fear and caught up in the elusive pursuit of protection rather than happiness. 

It doesn’t have to be this way

It wasn’t always this way.  We can turn away from violence; we can build communities of greater peace.  It begins with a clear conviction:  respect for life. 

Respect for life is not just a slogan or a program; it is a fundamental moral principle flowing from our teaching on the dignity of the human person.  It is an approach to life that values people over things.

Respect for life must guide the choices we make as individuals and as a society: what we do and won’t do, what we value and consume, whom we admire and whose example we follow, what we support and what we oppose.

Respect for human life is the starting point for confronting a culture of violence. The Catholic community cannot ignore the moral and human costs of so much violence in our midst.

A call to conversion and framework for action

These brief reflections are a call to conversion and a framework for action.  They propose neither a sweeping plan nor specific programs.

They recognize the impressive efforts already underway in dioceses, parishes and schools.  They offer a word of support and gratitude for those already engaged in these efforts.

We believe the Catholic community brings strong convictions and vital experience which can enrich the national dialogue on how best to overcome the violence that is tearing our nation apart.

Talk is not enough

Words cannot stop weapons; statements will not contain hatred.

Yet commitment and conversion can change us and together we can change our culture and communities. 

Person by person, family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood, we must take our communities back from the evil and fear that come with so much violence.

We believe our faith in Jesus Christ gives us the values, vision and hope that can bring an important measure of peace to our hearts, our homes, and our streets.

Part two continues with a framework for action.

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk


1 Comment


    Thanks for sharing. Very true. It is only through conversion and commitment.

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