“I have a dream… that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world.”
Familiar? Yet these painful words were from Yolanda Renee King, the 9 year-old granddaughter of Martin Luther King at one of the many rallies of young people marching across America last Saturday to demand greater gun controls. Who was not moved by the passion of those marching, demanding change or “we will vote you out”? Similarly in Melbourne on Sunday, both young and old marched, calling on Australian leaders to work for justice for asylum seekers.
Over in Rome on Palm Sunday, Pope Francis was urging young people not to be silent and let their voices be heard, even in the face of “corrupt or silent elders”. He was speaking in response to a report from an assembly of 300 young Catholics who told the Vatican that they want a more transparent and authentic church, one with a bigger role for women and more wisdom about the benefits and challenges of technology. “Some young women feel that there is a lack of leading female role models within the church, and they too wish to give their intellectual and professional gifts to the church,” the report found.
In response he said: “The temptation to silence young people has always existed. There are many ways to silence them… to make them invisible… to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing.… to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive.”
Here this term, we have witnessed many occasions where our girls speak out for others, whether amongst their friends, in class, in meetings or assemblies, and even in Canberra for one student leader! The fundraising for Project Compassion has been our collective action for justice, with everyone invited over Lent to donate funds so Caritas Australia can act on our behalf and assist disadvantaged communities. (Our collection boxes remain open for extra donations!)
Last Friday night, ably led by the Social Justice student leaders, the Catholic Action Class organised a successful Trivia Quiz evening raising an amazing $1500. While all attending happily competed and delighted in correct answers, the joy quickly collapsed into dismay as the impact of the questions began to resonate: How many terrorist deaths in the world? Which country has the highest level of pollution? What is the highest cause of deaths in Australia?
The winners of this quiz were most certainly our young organisers. What a great way to educate for social justice. I remain impressed, as I recall yet another piece of wisdom from St Benedict’s Rule: “…the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger” (RB3:3). Jesus himself made it very clear: “Let the children come to Me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt 19:14)
Finally, in the words of Joan Chittister: “Lent is not a series of behaviours: it is a series of questions. Consequently, Easter is not simply a day of celebration: it is, as well, a day of decision. What is really to be decided is whether or not we ourselves will rise from the deadening grip of this world’s burnt-out systems to the light-giving time of God’s coming again, this time in us.”
We have many systems in need of new life, of God’s coming again, in and through us. Let us celebrate the hope and passion for change so evident in our young students. May we continue to be inspired and led by our girls.
Into Easter, out of breath
Something good is put to death
Something mad is going on
Something that was loved is gone
Far away somewhere somehow
Beauty's egg is hatching now.
- Michael Leunig -
With every blessing for Easter and the holiday break ahead.