Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Strong Exhortation

I'm reading a book called "The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage" about the lives of Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and Walker Percy who were Catholic justice workers. An excerpt Thomas Merton wrote about Harlem in the 1940's stood out to me strongly when I was reading today, especially as I go back to live in inner city Fresno this summer:

"...if Catholics were able to see Harlem, as they ought to see it, with the eyes of faith, they would not be able to stay away from such a place. Hundreds of priests and lay people would give up everything to go there and try to do something to relieve the tremendous misery, the poverty, sickness, degradation, and dereliction of a race that was being crushed and perverted, morally and physically, under the burden of a colossal economic injustice. Instead of seeing Christ suffering in His members, and instead of going to help Him, Who said: "Whatsoever you did to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me," we preferred our own comfort: we averted our eyes from such a spectacle, because it made us feel uneasy: the thought of so much dirt nauseated us- and we never stopped to think that we, perhaps, might be partly responsible for it."