Veronica’s Veil

by Jean Stokan, Pax Christi USA National Council
White T-shirt, bleeding red through the heart
  A slight groaned movement, then none
    End of a pistol perched through the car window
       and a four-year-old girl in the back seat

          trying to comfort her mama.

There’s a place for such modern-day Veronica’s veils to be seared into the public consciousness.

Philando Castile,
beloved by 400 kids in the school where he worked each day, He knew their names. A gentle man from what’s been said. One precious life gone.

Alton Sterling, another.
I keep watching replays of his 15-year-old son weeping uncontrollably in the press conference at his mother’s side* but I’ve only been able to look at Alton’s close-range killing twice, pinned down and brutal.
There’s definitely a place for modern-day Veronica’s veils, now seared into the public consciousness.
While the killing of Black men by excessive, unnecessary police force
     is sadly nothing new.

Watching it live-streamed mattered this time.

Instead of naming “excessive force,” can “white privilege” become a household word?      and wrestled with?

Can the blinders of institutionalized racism be taken off? its effects dismantled?
Can we prevent yet another precious life from being lost?
It’s in our hands…
     In our words, when we break the silence
     In our feet, when we go marching
     It’s with our ears, when we stop to listen to the oceans of pain and anger
                     For many, Alton and Philando’s killings are
                          a whipping                        over open wounds
                                              generations old.
We who believe, know something transforms in a chalice
   Water and wine into the body and blood of Christ, when intermingled.
Something too happens when we draw so close to a people’s pain—and listen.
   Our tears and theirs fall into the same chalice. Intermingle
             and transform.
We cannot just watch Facebook images.
We have dozens of daily chances to draw close, wipe the brow and take Christ down from the cross:
          to listen to the agony
          to kiss the wound, then act on it
          to work for justice
          to offer a gesture of solidarity, and another, and another.
We can become one: “the Beloved Community.
Draw close now
              Hunger to be transformed.

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