As you have likely heard, a serious act of vandalism occurred on St. Rose Church property early Monday morning. Specifically, there was extremely racist graffiti sprayed on the doors of the Church, as well as the doors of the St. Rose Parish Center. A car parked in the parking lot was also vandalized with spray paint.
The graffiti was very racist in nature and consisted of Swastikas, Nazi “SS” symbols, and the, “N word.” Obviously, this was very unsettling to all of us, but especially Fr. Titus, Fr. Raphael who lives with us, and Fr. Luke, a Ugandan priest who is visiting us. The police are conducting an investigation, although I’m unaware if there are any leads. Trinity Lutheran Church on Washington Way was also vandalized the same evening, so my sense is that this was a random act and not targeted at any specific person, however we are taking it seriously.
The Daily News has written a couple of stories, and three stations from Portland came to St. Rose to cover the incident. You can find the Daily News piece here. You can also see coverage from KOIN here from KATU here and Fox 12 here.
If you watch any of those videos you’ll see my response to the media has been to try and transform this into an opportunity to live the Gospel. If our faith teaches us anything, it is that God can bring good out of awful things. Just look at the crucifixion! The worst event in human history – human beings killing God – gave way to the resurrection, which is the most amazing thing that has happened in the history of the world.
This has already given way to some beautiful acts of kindness as many people from the community are reaching out to us. Thursday morning a group of protestant pastors came by St. Rose to pray for us and they were able to pray with Fr. Titus specifically. Other pastors have reached out to us on email and social media. These wonderful acts of unity and support go a long way to eclipse the disunity the graffiti caused.
You also have an opportunity to show your support this very weekend. Fr. Titus will be at Mass in Cathlamet, Castle Rock, and Kelso, and Fr. Luke will be at St. Rose all weekend. They are obviously hurt by the graffiti, but you can do a lot to help them heal by coming to Mass and thanking them for serving us. It takes courage for these men to come to our country to serve when this type of crime occurs. Even though this particular crime was directed towards Jewish people and those with "black" skin, I would also like you to consider attending Mass with our Latino community soon. This is unsettling for them as well. Most of this Mass is in Spanish, however I preach in English. I know your presence at this Mass will go a long way to help them feel safe and loved.
This event is very sad and disturbing in many ways, but we won’t give into to hopelessness and despair. We will use it to reaffirm our values and our faith, which teaches us that God came to establish a kingdom that includes all nations and, therefore, all races. We will use this to form and reinforce our consciences that this type of behavior is wrong, and I want to encourage all parents of young children to teach their kids that this type of behavior is beneath the Gospel.
In the Gospel two weeks ago, Jesus offered us the example of two men at prayer. One of these men is presented as a bad example. He was a Pharisee who offered a prayer of thanksgiving that he is not like the rest of humanity – deceitful, greedy, and adulterous (You can listen to the homily here). We need to fight the temptation pray like the pharisee by simply thanking God we are not like other people who might happen to be racist. If you or anyone else is above racism its only by the grace of God. It’s because you likely had a nice family that taught you well, or perhaps because of God’s grace you were able to rise above those things later on in life.
And, if anyone reading this does struggle with attitudes that might seem to be at least a little bit racist I’d like to encourage you to try to put those aside. It isn’t easy carrying around those attitudes. They lead to unnecessary anger and resentment. There is a better way to live, and God can heal you of those attitudes.