Excerpts From A Reflection Offered by Dr. Paul Barker at All Saints Day Mass

Students, more than two thirds of you identify as Catholics. Let me provide a brief history lesson. The Maryland Colony was founded in the 1630s as safe haven for Catholics persecuted in England. In less than 70 years the tide turned; Mass and Catholic schools were outlawed in Maryland. In the 19thcentury, large numbers of Catholic immigrants began to arrive from Ireland and Germany. Many of you have ancestors among them. Anti-Catholic rhetoric was widespread. Catholics were deemed to be un-American and opposed to the principles of freedom and democracy. Less than a hundred years ago, a weekly newspaper, The Menace, focused exclusively on stirring up hatred against Catholics; it had a national circulation of 1.5 million. In 1928, Al Smith, a Catholic, ran for President and rumors arose that, if elected, he would be taking orders from the Pope. The same arguments circulated when John Kennedy ran for President.

Today, things are different; Catholics are very much part of the mainstream. Yes, Church scandals are a source of anger, sadness and embarrassment for those of us who identify as Catholic. Confidence in Catholic leadership is shaken. However, when it comes to broad acceptance of being identified as Catholic, most of us would struggle to recall a time when we felt persecuted for our faith. We spend little time thinking about who will speak up for us, who will protect us. We spend even less time in fear of an attack on our place of worship.

The events of the past weekend should jolt us out of any complacency.

Saturday's savage massacre in Pittsburgh is an attack on our American way of life and on all persons who believe in God. Coming just three years after Dylann Roof killed nine worshippers at AME Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and Devin Kelley gunned down 26 at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the murder of eleven people at worship at Tree of Life is the latest deadly episode of evil. This took place in a synagogue. News reports this weekend made frequent mention of an ugly surge in anti-Semitic violence across our nation in recent years. The Anti-Defamation League cites a 57% increase in 2017 alone. Clearly, this was an attack on people because they were Jews. Jewish people need no reminder what it's like to be singled out for hatred and persecution. We are, of course, outraged by the massacre. These times and our faith challenge us to do more. I expect many of you have heard the famous poem composed by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller. The poem reminds each of us of our responsibility for one another.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Our mission speaks of the responsibility we have for one another: "We (that's every person here) inspire our students to excel, serve, and love." That mission derives from our belief in Jesus Christ as Son of God, Son of Man and his clear command: "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Our Catholic social teaching rests on respect for the inherent dignity and worth of each human person. In our community, let us be a people who do more than pay lip service to love for others.

We thank God we are not all the same. We bring our unique selves to school every day. Look at that person to your left, to your right. Some fascinating differences ... some frustrating. Let's be clear, though, that Good Counsel cannot be the school for you if the way you choose to deal with difference is to be a hater.When we see the differences of race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, where you live, how much money your family has, you name it, our way has to be to choose to walk the path of respect and love for one another. Right now, perhaps you can think of where you need to change, where you need to reset a relationship. Do it. In our school, let's choose to live each common, ordinary, unspectacular day trying to inspire one another. That is in our power.

On Tuesday morning, we prayed the Kaddish. Let us bring this reflection to a close with another Jewish prayer. After each statement, I invite you to say, "We remember them." As you say those words, offer up in prayer the community of Tree of Life and all who have died at the hands of senseless violence. Think, too, on this All Saints' Day, of all who have gone before us, in our families and in this community of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. Let us pray.

At the rising of the sun and at its going down

We remember them.


At the blowing of the wind and the chill of winter

We remember them.


At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring

We remember them.


At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer

We remember them.


At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn

We remember them.


At the beginning of the year and when it ends

We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as

We remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength

We remember them.


When we are lost and sick at heart

We remember them.

When we have joy we crave to share

We remember them.

When we have decisions that are difficult to make

We remember them.

When we have achievements that are based on theirs

We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as

We remember them.