I have been visiting Charleston, South Carolina, for a conference of people involved in classical education, who wished to honour my late husband, Stratford. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Harmony’. People of all Christian denominations were involved, and there was much discussion of how we can achieve unity and harmony within families and communities, without crushing the individual contribution of each person, each charism.
A key to this question is given in the Gospel for the Feast of St Bridget on July 23 this week (John 15:1-8). Jesus reminds us that he is the true vine. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it.”
Just down the road from the conference, is Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, where just over a month ago a crazed white supremacist shot nine black parishioners dead as they took part in a bible study. A number of us went down there to pray, for the dead, and for their families and friends. Outside the church is a large sign, which reads: “We forgive, as we are forgiven.”
The first impulse on being subjected to such horror is to judge the person we perceive as our enemy. Yet in the reading from Corinthians for the Feast of St Mary Magdalene on July 22, St Paul proposes a different perspective (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh… for anyone who is in Christ there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”
The parish of Mother Emanuel, indeed all of the black community here, have given witness to this perspective in the most powerful way possible. They did not ask for this attack. But they did ask for the grace to respond to it in a Christ-like way. In them it is clear that his words remain, and are fruitful.
Leonie Caldecott is the editor of MAGNIFICAT UK and Ireland
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