Day 21: Whose Life Is it Anyway?

I asked for and received a t-shirt for Christmas that features a drawing of St. Maximillian Kolbe and the words, “Your life is not about you.” St. Maximillian Kolbe, you may already know, was a Polish priest imprisoned at Auschwitz; he offered to take the place of a married man who had been ordered to starve in a bunker along with other prisoners. According to Christian Today, all of the other prisoners in the bunker died of starvation; Kolbe survived for two weeks but eventually was killed by an injection of carbolic acid.

The t-shirt is from Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire website. Bishop Barron is an author and theologian who sometimes appears to be speaking directly to me. Like, when I’m having a bad day and I’m mad at the world, I read something from Bishop Barron that kicks some sense into me.

The t-shirt has been sitting on a chair in my bedroom since the day after Christmas. I haven’t found the right moment to wear it. Work? No. The grocery store? No. It’s one of those fashion conundrums. When is it cool to wear a t-shirt featuring a dead priest and a statement declaring that your life is not your own? Still, I look at it every morning and every evening, and it makes me think.

It’s an odd concept for sure, telling yourself that your life isn’t about you. Well, who the heck is it about then? Why am I living this life if I’m doing it for someone else? It’s an uncomfortable statement until you mull it over, twist it every which way, and figure out how it pertains to you.

What does my t-shirt have to do with today’s Mass? Today was the Mass for Life at the Cathedral. Many times during the service, I thought about that t-shirt. Your life is not about you. How hard it is to think like that all the time. To be willing to starve to death so someone else can live. To have a baby that you didn’t plan.

Heck, sometimes I find it hard to give up the last piece of pizza to one of my kids, so who am I to tell other people that they should give up their lives as they know it and live instead for others? But that’s why I wanted the t-shirt. So I could be reminded. Maybe if we all reminded ourselves, we’d have more respect for life, our own and everyone else’s, at every stage.

Day 20: Judge Not, Lest…

I want to confess the sins of jumping to conclusions and posting on Facebook. Are these actual sins? Yes, they can certainly fall under the category of bearing false witness.

On Saturday evening, I read the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky’s apology for the behavior of some students who had attended the March for Life. I then went to five different news sources (Huffington Post and New York Times were among them) and read bits of disturbing information. It was enough to convince me that some wrong had been committed by boys from a Catholic high school. I posted the diocese’s apology letter, along with my thoughts that the boys’ behavior had been uncalled for.

By the time I woke up the next day, the dynamics of the story had already started to expand and change, and the chain of events seemed less clear, but the cyclone that is Facebook had already spun out of control. And it wasn’t just the alleged actions of the boys from Covington that caused people to become angry. In less than an hour, I read posts that frowned upon the right to life movement, Catholicism and all-boys’ schools.

Hey, wait a minute! I support the right to life movement, I’m Catholic and my son attends an all-boys’ school. Without realizing it, and in an attempt to point out offenses committed to other groups, people had offended me.

It just went downhill from there. By this morning, I felt lousy. Somewhere in the middle of Mass today, it finally hit me. We (and I’m using the pronoun broadly, so please don’t take offense if this doesn’t pertain to you) are just one big judgy society. We judge events, actions and people we don’t know. Man, we love to judge people we don’t know. Social media gives us this platform to say things that we ordinarily would only share with our closest confidantes.

It’s true! Sometimes I get involved in a heated discussion on social media and I think, “Hold on. I’ve never even met you!” It’s quite possible we have absolutely nothing in common, and yet I’m chattering at you like we’re sitting next to each other at the local bar. Why am I doing this to myself–and to you?

I had to take a few steps back this morning and realize that even posting the article and commenting on the situation without knowing everything that happened amounted to bearing false witness. And that false witness grows stronger as we feel more empowered by social media. We look at a hat or a smirk on someone’s face and we decide that person is a hate-mongering, privileged, smug, misogynistic teenager who clearly will grow into a really, really bad man. But do we stop to think, this kid is someone’s child?  Do we consider that, even if he was being disrespectful, he doesn’t deserve to have celebrities on Twitter insist that his name and location be released to the public? Do we realize that using foul language to describe a 16-year-old boy (there were some pretty nasty memes out there less than 24 hours after the story broke) only perpetuates the hate we claim to shun?

These words have been echoing in my ears all day: Judge not, lest ye be judged. Social media makes it easy for us to be judgy. We can say what we want as we hide behind a computer screen. But that’s no excuse.

Maybe this is the positive message I can take away from the last 72 hours. Judge not. Wait for the information to unfold. If it looks like a situation you want to call out, do so in a teachable way without hatred. And, for heaven’s sake, keep your finger off the “share” button.