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Posts Tagged ‘mourning’

Today is Dia de los Muertos.  While my family does not celebrate Dia de los Muertos, the importance of this holiday to so many Catholics—especially so many Catholics living in the United States—makes it a day of importance to me as well.

Inspired by the example of those for whom today is a day of remembering and honoring their beloved dead, I am thinking a lot about our collective memory not just as Catholics but also as persons living in the United States.  I am thinking about what it would look like for the Church to truly embody Metz’s desire for it to be the institutional bearer of the dangerous memory not just of Christ’s crucifixion, but also of the suffering of the living and the dead.  I am thinking about how we should be accountable to the memory not just of those whose names we knew, but also of those whose names have been forgotten and all but erased from consciousness.  What would it mean for the Church to be a body that remembers those whom the “official” histories of progress and patriotism forget?  To be a body that remembers the “crucified peoples” of history?  On Dia de los Muertos, I think it is especially important to ask these questions in light of the nearly forgotten fact of the lynching of Mexican-descended persons at the hands of white mobs and governmental bodies.  We have forgotten both that this happened and that such events were vitally important to the establishment both of U.S. borders and of U.S. identity.  Even worse, we have forgotten how much these victims of lynching resemble the suffering of Christ on the cross. (more…)

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Candles Burned at the Holy Sepulchre

“Prayer is an assault on the prevailing apathy with which we consistently and increasingly protect ourselves against hurt and disappointment until we finally reach the stage where nothing can touch us any more. … The moderate feelings of our day-to-day existence can scarcely be of any help here. We need to be stirred up by more extreme emotions: we need a prayer that embodies these feelings, that does not suppress them in any way but activates them against the gradual dominance of apathy.” (Johann Baptist Metz, The Courage to Pray.)

In a 2003 article titled “Violence, Mourning, and Politics” (Studies in Gender and Sexuality 4 (1), later published in Precarious Life (Verso, 2004)),  gender theorist and philosopher Judith Butler asks about the role of public mourning in the production of national identity.  On the one hand, mourning is a necessary, inescapable facet of our humanity: we are, by virtue of being human, vulnerable to one another.  Others make us who we are.  In Butler’s words, “each of us is constituted politically in part by virtue of the social vulnerability of our bodies—as a site of desire and physical vulnerability, as a site of a publicity at once assertive and exposed.”  (Theologians such as Catherine Mowry LaCugna, who herself follows John Macmurray — to mention only one among many strands of thought — likewise argue for a social openness of the person.)  Vulnerability — not individualism — is at the heart of what it means to be human.  Our bodies place us at the risk of touch, loss, and violence — at the risk of suffering violence, and at the risk of being instruments of violence: “Constituted as a social phenomenon in the public sphere, my body is and is not mine.” (more…)

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