Viral Social Media. January 21, 2019

When social media goes viral it can destroy lives. Yesterday before the 9:00 Mass, I read in the news feed about an incident captured on a phone video showing a verbally violent scene depicting a group of men shouting a variety of hateful rhetoric to the people around them. A group of teenagers from a Catholic high school ,on their way to the Match For Life in Washington, engaged these hostile men. While there was no physical violence, the small group of men representing a fringe group taunted the people and a Native American man present at the scene, began to chant and beat his drum, trying to defuse the situation.

It “appeared” on the video that the high school students were mocking this Native American, with one young man staring at him with a smile on his face. Immediately, the report stated that these high school students were shouting racially insensitive comments. The image of this young man staring down the Native American went viral, depicting him as contributing to a racially charged incident. The Catholic high apologized for their abhorrent behavior.

But a viewing of the entire video depicts a much more nuanced explanation. The young man, himself, defending his action saying he was just trying to be a peaceful presence. Unfortunately, millions of people saw the short video with no context and rushed to judgements. I reported the incident at mass after reading the apology issued by the authorities st the high school.

This young man and his family have encountered death threats and horribly violent language. Whatever happened, we only got a tiny snippet of a video with a judgement by people who didn’t see the whole video or wished to depict these catholic youth in a negative light.

Lives can be destroyed when images and videos are posted with literally no thought. These social media posts can literally haunt a person when trying to get into a college or search for a job. We all have to be careful how we carry ourselves in public and in large gatherings. People love to capture an image of something that will attract followers and with multiple responses. Little care is given to the ramifications or consequences. Some individuals have even resorted to suicide when they feel totally overwhelmed and trapped.

Social media is here to stay and has a vital role to play in conveying information and telling stories. But it must never be used to destroy people’s lives. When confronted by a group of individuals saying hateful things, it’s best to simply quietly move on, never engaging these deranged people. It’s impossible to have a rational discussion with people who have no conscience.

Peace. Fr. Frank

Journey of Migrants. January 6, 2019

Epiphany is about a journey, or several journeys, across lands and nations, guided by the light of a star. Their journeys lead to a child who promises to be a unifying force of love and justice for ALL people and nations. The Magi leave the child no longer looking in the skies for a guiding light, but within their hearts. These “foreigners” became believers and disciples of Christ, while the religious leaders of this Child denied Him. Epiphanies are experiences that enlighten, open up, our minds and hearts to God. This encounter compels us to “see” differently, taking new routes.

Millions of human beings are compelled to take new routes leaving their Homeland out of desperation, to simply survive forces of violence and poverty. It is easy for us who are comfortable and have the ability to freely choose to be mobile, changing routes to make life more meaningful. But if you are facing poverty, gang violence and human trafficking, crossing borders, legally or illegally, becomes the only option. You will do anything to protect your children. You will do anything to feed them and care for them if they are ill.

Migration has been a part of humanity, throughout our history, going back indefinitely. People leave countries to find freedom and the ability to follow dreams and desires. But abuse of power and unjust economies rooted in historical patterns of colonialism, are just two realities that FORCE people to migrate. Human rights: the right to have food, shelter, education and medical care are just the basic human rights which must be accorded to every human being. When these rights cannot be realized, instability results.

The problems of migration and immigration are complex and divisive. The ultimate solution is not in building high walls, even if the wall prevents desperate people from entering. They will find other ways. Simply preventing people from entering illegally will not solve the problem. It may even make matters worse. Getting to the root of the problem is the only solution: confronting the various injustices related to the economy, agriculture, imports, exports, land acquisition, to name a few. And ALL nations have contributed to these injustices, including our own.

Foreigners from the East got the message and changed their entire lives forever. All of us are rooted in other nations and cultures. Migration is a part of every human being’s history and this county of America was founded on welcoming immigrants. Those of us who love and follow Christ are called to a higher standard, the standard of the gospel. We are called to welcome the stranger and in doing so, we encounter Christ.

Peace. Blessed Epiphany, especially our Migrants…our neighbors.