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Inside NCR

Missing peacemakers, and a truly super miracle

One secret of a good piece of writing is that it starts a discussion. In his Dec. 31-Jan.7 editorial, Managing Editor Tom Roberts sang the praises of the century’s peacemakers. He was obviously on the money because readers have been pointing out omissions as well as praising the tribute to those who put something big on the line for the elusive ideal of peace on earth.

One reader suggests Fr. John J. Hugo of Pittsburgh, long-time colleague of Dorothy Day, who wrote a book called The Gospel of Peace, among others. This cost him, “made him persona non grata with his fellow priests and bishops. He was banished to various rural parishes for many years.”

These and other suggestions raise the question of what, for the purpose of such a column, is a peacemaker. If you ask them, nearly everybody, including scoundrels, will say they are peacemakers. And nearly everybody would make a different list of favorites.

Wrote Fr. Kenneth E. Irrgang of St. Cloud, Minn., “I found it amazing that, of all the peacemakers you listed in your editorial … you overlooked Cesar Chavez.”

“This whole other category was overlooked,” responds Roberts, “because it is a whole other category.” If one spreads the definition too thinly, the encomium becomes empty.

Another writer laments the omission of Kathy and Jim McGinnis, “who spent years modeling and teaching peacemaking within the family and home.”

This writer continues: “Another whole category of peacemakers whose absence hit me the most is represented by those who have given their lives building peace between humans and the rest of the community of Earth life. They have cried out against the war we humans are waging against the forests, the air, rivers and oceans, meadows and wetlands, driving countless species to extinction, denuding the land and poisoning our children’s inheritance. My list is also not exhaustive but begins with names like Thomas Berry, Sr. Miriam Therese MacGillis, Brian Swimme, Sisters of Earth, Sr. Mary Southard, Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry, Lewis Thomas, Sr. Suzanne Golas, Fr. Sean McDonagh, Rosemary Radford Ruether, John Haught, Matthew Fox, Jim Conlon, Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, John Surette, Paula Gonzalez, Lou Niznk, Jay McDaniel, Paul Hawken.”

These and so many others.

In January 1999, as everyone knows, Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis. During that short stay he offered Mass in the local Trans World Dome. There were the usual great crowds, and the usual national outpouring of piety.

Trans World Dome is the home of the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League. They have not lost a home game there since the pope was there -- this despite a pathetic season previous to the papal intervention.

St. Louis fans, who know their football, have taken to taking pictures of His Holiness with them to big games. The biggest game so far (it will be over by the time you read this) is this Sunday, Jan. 23, against Tampa Bay, yes, at the home stadium.

If the Rams go on to win the Super Bowl, this will obviously be a miracle, and John Paul will already be one big step closer to canonization -- some saints have waited centuries for miracles like that.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, January 28, 2000