JOINING A PUBLIC WITNESS IN WASHINGTON, DC
The invitation came on Sunday, the 7th: “Please join the Catholic faithful in a public witness to pray for the soul of George Floyd and the soul of America.” Should I go? The demonstration was the next day; not much time to weigh the relative merits of “bearing witness” against prudence in face of the continuing pandemic. On Monday morning, bearing witness won out, aided in no small part by a cool, sunny day, and the offer of a ride to downtown DC.
The crowd was large, multi-racial, 100% masked, and peaceful, with many in habits or clerical garb. Walking to join them, I fell into conversation with a masked white-haired cleric, and finally asked him: “Who are you?” “Seamus, OMI!” he boomed – Fr. Seamus Finn, one of the Oblates who works with us in managing province investments. He had recognized me; I was clueless as to his identity. (Hate those masks!) I met and greeted (elbow bumps) others I knew, including RSCJ’s from the Stuart Center.
Lafayette Square was the originally designated gathering place, but had been fenced off, so we stood outside. The program called for us to “begin with prayer exactly at noon,” and sure enough, at 12 o’clock, the cantor started us off, singing “There is a Balm in Gilead.” What came after was the ritual of the Liturgy of the Word. I found myself feeling and savoring the familiar movement of what we have been missing these past months: making together the Sign of the Cross; asking for mercy and reciting the Confiteor; listening and responding to the 1st reading (from Isaiah). Then, welcoming the Gospel with Alleluia! and hearing it proclaimed: “You are salt…; you are light. Let your light shine!” (Matt. 5:13,14)