The Gospel vs. H.R. 4437
Published: March 3, 2006
It has been a long time since this country heard a call to organized lawbreaking on this big a scale. Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's largest, urged parishioners on Ash Wednesday to devote the 40 days of Lent to fasting, prayer and reflection on the need for humane reform of immigration laws. If current efforts in Congress make it a felony to shield or offer support to illegal immigrants, Cardinal Mahony said, he will instruct his priests — and faithful lay Catholics — to defy the law.
The cardinal's focus of concern is H.R. 4437, a bill sponsored by James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and Peter King of New York. This grab bag legislation, which was recently passed by the House, would expand the definition of "alien smuggling" in a way that could theoretically include working in a soup kitchen, driving a friend to a bus stop or caring for a neighbor's baby. Similar language appears in legislation being considered by the Senate this week.
The enormous influx of illegal immigrants and the lack of a coherent federal policy to handle it have prompted a jumble of responses by state and local governments, stirred the passions of the nativist fringe, and reinforced anxieties since 9/11. Cardinal Mahony's defiance adds a moral dimension to what has largely been a debate about politics and economics. "As his disciples, we are called to attend to the last, littlest, lowest and least in society and in the church," he said.
The cardinal is right to argue that the government has no place criminalizing the charitable impulses of private institutions like his, whose mission is to help people with no questions asked. The Los Angeles Archdiocese, like other religious organizations across the country, runs a vast network of social service programs offering food and emergency shelter, child care, aid to immigrants and refugees, counseling services, and computer and job training. Through Catholic Charities and local parishes, the church is frequently the help of last resort for illegal immigrants in need. It should not be made an arm of the immigration police as well.
Cardinal Mahony's declaration of solidarity with illegal immigrants, for whom Lent is every day, is a startling call to civil disobedience, as courageous as it is timely. We hope it forestalls the day when works of mercy become a federal crime.
I keep looking at photos,
in a book on
photos of Julia Bates,
from when she was young, and newly married,
and then, after seventeen children.
Her mouth was firm even when young,
but in the later picture,
she looks angry,
and her mouth
is almost a caricature,
in its upside down curve.
She is heavy and well-set,
like a bulb in a pot.
She and her husband, Edward,
were happy and intimate
through "four decades of married life,"
so the photo is curious to me.
She is clearly posed.
Did she not see how firmly she sat?
Of course, seventeen children.
Eight survived to adulthood.
It is hard to imagine, and yet,
it seems their family life
was something to inspire,
and, yet, this photo.
She looks mean,
and not like someone
bringing forth so much life,
but, then, so much life was lost
in those days -
so much death -
we have no idea
and so her face
is a face that survives -
no face lift,
just the willingness
to handle pain
and continue to live -
Let me tell you what I saw.
Not exactly saw but felt.
A hill along a river was encircled by olive trees.
There two white walls, two stories tall, came together in a vee.
At the top where they joined there was one window.
It opened out onto a Spanish balcony.
Like a doll¹s house, the insides were exposed.
Stairways ascended to the single window.
One along the flank of each tall wall.
The house was buried in the ground beneath those ladders.
Kiva-like, it was full of daylight from a window in its earthroof.
A common space faced the pure privacy of rooms in slumber,
A palapa looking out into a well of light
Bounced within a plastered gully
Unroofed and gulping in the thick blue sky.
It was a lone house in the Andalucian countryside.
A flame in the darkness, a cave in the heat.
Designed for a landscape imagined before it was found
Like a poem at a loss for words.
The snow was fine at first.
Small grains fell like salt
In angled lines behind the slats of window blinds in early light.
She wasn¹t sure that it was really snow.
But after morning coffee and washing up
The flakes were fat and wet, emboldened by the day.
Bundled, mufflered, her collar turned against the cold
She walked the two blocks to the subway.
By nightfall, her one green mitten,
Fumbled near the stairs when she scrambled for her ticket
Was as lost to snow as if it never happened.
I like the following quote. It fits my mood.
"To control your cow, give it a bigger pasture."
Today is the first day in a long while that I actually felt well. What a thrill!!
I am continuing on in the world of Lincoln, still enthralled with this peek into history, and grateful that I didn't live when mothers and children so often died in childbirth, and if they survived that, then, succumbed to disease. I see that we live lives of ease, in comparison. I know stress is an issue in our times, but I don't think it can compare to life in the 1800's. I don't know how many times I have now read of Lincoln's shoulders shaking, as he sobbed in despair over the death of someone he loved. We are given many chances now, and I am feeling grateful for that tonight.