In response to the racial crisis plaguing our country, Msgr. Trapp was kind enough to invite the seminarians to join prayerfully and peacefully at Detroit Police Headquarters over the past weeks. It was a privilege to attend and represent the Church here in Detroit as a candidate for Holy Orders. As I was carrying the crucifix towards the protestors the first words that came to my mind were from John 12:32 “and when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” At every Mass, when the priest lifts up the precious Body and Blood of Christ, we exalt and glorify our Sacred Lord, the remedy for our sins and the sins of the whole world. The death that must occur here is our sinful inclination towards racism.
Our human conscience must be purged to a greater purity. This occurs to us through hearing the word of God and frequent infusion of grace through sacraments. Being a seminarian at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, it is part of our formation program to minister to people of various needs, irrespective of their race or country of origin or their state of life.
Throughout the Christian tradition, the pastoral presence has always been seen as a continuation of the ministry of Jesus through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. St. John Paul II’s letter, Pastores Dabo Vobis, he writes “the Church is by her very nature the ‘memorial’ or ‘sacrament’ of the presence and action of Jesus Christ in our midst and on our behalf.” We are formed to imitate the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was pierced out of love for you and me. At Mass, the paschal mystery of our Lord’s passion is represented mystically to us, and Christ ransoms us from our sins. The perfect image of such a love and sacrifice is seen on the crucifix.
The first day, when I was carrying the crucifix, I experienced so much hate and anger in the air around. Leaders spoke eloquently in foul language of their personal agendas and disagreements with leaders of the nation. They have been longing for social justice. The secular view of understanding of social justice is the divorce of social and personal responsibility, whereas the Catholic Church’s great social encyclicals, from Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum to John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus, emphasize again and again that there can be no separation of social justice from personal virtue, as there can be no divorce between the sphere of social responsibility and that of personal responsibility. The Church understands social justice as a continuity of the personal and the social, the secular world does not. As I held the crucifix, I was moved to meditate on and pray with the last seven words of Christ from the cross.
Our human hearts and minds can never fully grasp the degree of the forgiveness and love of God poured out for us through Jesus Christ. Being at the protests on the third day, a young man in his mid-twenties came up to me to have a conversation about the mercy of God. We spoke for about five minutes and he asked if he would be forgiven by God for leaving the Church and living a secular life for the past eight years. I told him continually that of course God would forgive him! God never gets exhausted in forgiving us when we turn back to Him with a desire to be totally His own. He was moved to tears and asked me if he could receive the sacrament of reconciliation. I took him to Msgr. Trapp for him to receive the sacrament and shared the details of nearby churches in the area.
This joy that comes from winning one person for Christ is inexpressible for me. This experience reminds me precisely of the goal of the pastoral dimension in seminary formation, which I saw lived out in the priests that were present with me during these protests. I continue to aspire to model my life around these good men in order to bring peoples of all races and colors closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and His infinite mercy, and I am deeply humbled to wear the clerical attire that identifies me to the public as a man who is set apart to serve Him.
Written By Michael Bruno, Seminarian at Sacred Heart Major Seminary