A Pope’s Parade, A Teenager’s Funeral

Photo Thanks to Krzysztof Puszczynski

Photo Thanks to Krzysztof Puszczynski

Last weekend the pope visited the United States, and I’m glad that he came. He surprised and taught people by his unsettling edging toward the unseen even while speaking with politicians and other leaders.

Among my other reasons for gladness was the post-papal reflective moment I had when I read something about our propensity for godmaking. The article said we are compulsive in our godmaking. And I thought that we are also compulsive in our ability to leave the least mentioned and the unfairly mentioned least and unfairly mentioned.

A compulsion is a behavior that a person repeats without considering that behavior. It’s a repetitive unconscious gesture. We are compulsive in our godmaking, where we raise people and things to ultimate status. And we are, on the other hand, compulsive in our predilection for maintaining disinherited people at bottoms and edges of society.

There is a strange juxtaposition between the constant coverage of the pontiff and the unending stream of violence in Chicago. When I read that article, I thought just for a moment about how my friend and pastoral colleague was attending a funeral of a 14-year-old boy in the neighborhood while the pope was parading down East Coast streets. I thought about the terrible sounds of tears muffling used to be joy for a mother and a father whose child was dead before he understood how to open his high school locker with speed or how to drive or how to kiss his girlfriend or how to write a poem with that precise phrase.

TyJuan will never attend a college class, publish a memoir, see the pride on his mother’s face when he introduces her to his spouse or to his firstborn. And there will be no parades when he visits a city, no pictures when he meets a head of state, no tears shed when he blesses. Those tears at his funeral weren’t his mother’s last tears, but neither will nations get to weep because of splendid gifts he offers to the world. His brightness is dimmed.

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