Last Friday I read a news article, “Shooting at funeral home in Ecuador leaves four dead,” (by Diego Lopez Marina, Catholic News Agency, 5/19/23. Available online at https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/254364/shooting-at-funeral-home-in-ecuador-leaves-four-dead). It is not the first time I have heard of a shooting at a funeral. Reading the news, I asked myself, “Is nothing sacred?”
Even among the mafia didn’t there used to be an honor code that said you left people alone at times like funerals? I also think of people who protest in an aggressive way at military funerals. War is a terribly thing and should only be a last resort. During “the military intervention” in Afghanistan and Iraq people would protest at the funerals of active duty soldiers. Here, I do not want to be interpreted as saying people shouldn’t be allowed to protest against wars in peaceful ways. Just leave the families alone. They already know the pains of war in the loss of loved one. If one is going to protest in such situations, do it respectfully and not interfere with the family’s grieving.
I also think about the new techniques of what is done with human bodies after physical depth. The human body is no longer seen as part of the person (see my article “More on Respecting the Dead,” from March of this year.
My question, “is nothing sacred,” isn’t just about funerals. In my recent article, “Reverence Lost,” I spoke of reverence in terms of our attire. I could use the same title here. It is part of a much bigger loss of the sense of things being “sacred.”
I think of the escalation of vandalism in churches since Roe v. Wade was overturned. A search on www.catholicnewagency.com using the phrase “church vandalism” came up with almost 6,000 hits. Again, I do not want to take away someone’s right to protest. I seek only to ask them to do it in a respectful way. There is nothing respectful about breaking statues, windows, or spray painting “Jane’s revenge” on churches. Some of the vandalism doesn’t even indicate their issue. Breaking a statue says nothing about what they are objecting to. It does nothing to advance true dialogue on the issues (for more on dialogue, see my article, “Seeking Real Dialogue,” part of my series of articles, “Our Relationships with Others” on Pope Francis’ encyclical, Fratelli Tutti).
We can see the loss of the sense of the sacred on Sunday mornings. It used to be that stores were not open on Sunday mornings and there were not sports or other activities. Sunday was seen as a day for the Lord. Now, the stores are open (no one is forced to go shopping then but people are required to work) and sports and other activities are scheduled then. People who want to go to church are expected to give up church to participate in these activities. Sunday is no longer sacred (for more on Sunday as a day for the Lord see my article, “Keeping the Lord’s Day: What Does It Mean to Me?”).
It can be a slippery slope. When the birth control pill became acceptable to many, it was supposed to lead to less abortions. It hasn’t. In fact, search the internet and you can find stories that show the number of abortions is up. Why? Because of the loss of the sense of life as sacred. I believe in turn this has contributed to the increase in the number of mass shootings. If ending a life in the womb through abortion is okay, people begin to think shooting others they disagree with okay.
We need to look beyond the surface at these things (see my January 2023 article, “The Need for Depth”). We need to ask ourselves why people are doing these things? We need to ask ourselves how can we contribute to real dialogue on the issues.
Those who disagree with our church teaching say we need to be more tolerant but they want to silence us when we speak what we believe. They tolerant what they believe and what to cancel out anything else. In his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis speaks of how we search social media for people and/or material that agree with us and shut out anything else. This is not tolerance. (For more on what tolerance is, see my article, “Tolerance, Hate Speech, and Dialogue” from January 2021).
As I write this, I find myself getting “a little fired up.” I think this has a good side in that it flows from my passion to know and share God’s Truth. However, I know being “fired up” must be kept in check so that we can engage in true dialogue. I have no intention of letting the fire become acts of violence. So, instead of getting too fired up, I am going to end this article with a prayer.
People are losing the sense of the sacred.
Help us to always keep you at the center of our lives
that we may recognize all that you have given us as a gift,
a gift to be cherished.
Help us to always respect others,
even when they have forgotten the truth,
the truth as you give it to us.
Help us to be calm and compassionate.
Help us to bear the name of Christian
in a way that shows us to be your disciples.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.