June 5, 2020
Following is a letter sent to campus by the Arrupe Jesuit Community:
“We are Crying for Breath: A Litany for Oxygen from a Haitian Jesuit.”
"I can’t breathe!” cried Eric Garner before dying on July 10, 2014 at the hands of the Police in Staten Island, New York. “I can’t breathe!” cried Freddy Gray before dying at the hands of the police in April, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland, “I can’t breathe!” cried George Floyd before dying this Monday, May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the hands of the police.”
- A poem by Patrick St. Jean, S.J., Loyola University, Chicago
At this wrenching hour, when our country is being torn by a pandemic that disproportionately affects the poor and by violence against people of color, it is the prayer of the Jesuit community that we all receive the grace of the prophet Elijah.
As he was able to listen discerningly to God, so let us listen to each other.
In the first book of Kings we read that Elijah was able to cast aside the noise of hurricane and earthquake to hear the whispering of God. Let us pray that all Americans be able to hear each other in the tumult of this moment.
The voice of St John XXII in his encyclical Pacem en Terris cries out: “First of all, it is necessary to speak of the order which should exist among people. Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person, by nature endowed with intelligence and free will. Indeed, precisely because they are a person, they have rights and obligations flowing directly from their very nature . . . the right of every human being to life is co-relative with the duty to preserve it.”
We of the Arrupe Jesuit Community believe that in the crisis of this moment, we need to remember that we have this balance of rights and obligations toward each other. We cannot regard anyone as less than fully human so that some of us can exercise rights with impunity. The balance that for each right there is a corresponding duty needs restoration in our world. As Pope St. Paul VI said, “What must be aimed at is complete humanism… there can be no progress toward the complete development of humanity without the simultaneous development of all humanity in the spirit of solidarity.”
As representatives on campus of the Society of Jesus, named as it is for the one whom we believe to have been the most inclusive person who has ever lived, we acknowledge that we ourselves have failed to live up this solidarity. Joined with our sisters and brothers who resolve to do better, we join you in striving to listen more fully to the grief and pain, the joys and hopes of all who suffer from the injustices of this moment.
Last Sunday was the feast of Pentecost, a celebration of the Christian belief that the life-giving breath of God is in the very air around us. Sadly, there are death dealing forces also in our air today: the infection of Covid-19 and the racism of people toward one another. Pentecost is a reminder that the breath of God is stronger than these other spirits. It is also a reminder that in bestowing the Holy Spirit upon the people, God relies on us to collaborate in the work of peace with justice. The Arrupe House Jesuits join the whole university in mourning for the brokenness brought into the very air we breathe by the physical sickness of the pandemic and the moral sickness of racism. We all stand together with the poor and the oppressed.
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