Address to Orthodox-Catholic Ecumenical Gathering

catholic-orthodox-ecuminical-gathering-120925-097As a @CatholicRelief Global Fellow I visited Greece and Serbia in 2016 to witness the #RefugeeCrisis.  This past Monday, March 6, 2017 I had the opportunity to give the keynote address at the 2017 Orthodox-Catholic Ecumenical Gathering at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta.  The theme of this year’s gathering was Sowing the Seeds of Hope: The Plight of Refugees and Migrants.  The written text of my talk can be found on the Homilies and Talks page on my blog:  The video of my remarks may be found at this link: Address to Orthodox-Catholic Ecumenical Gathering.


Hostility and Cowardice are Not American Virtues

The Captain of a Greek Coast Guard Ship aiding refugees in the Documentary, “4.1 Miles”

#Refugees who are fleeing persecution or the violence and destruction of war deserve to be welcomed.  As I have stated before, it is in the National DNA of the American people to come to the aid of those who are in need, oppressed or desperate for safety.  When we have failed to live up to this National instinct, we have found ourselves on the wrong side of history and later spoke of our profound regret.  Take for instance, our country’s rejection of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.  After turning them away, many ended up dying in concentration camps at the hands of those they were trying to escape from.  We recall that time and action with shame.

Hostility toward people in need is  not an American characteristic or virtue.  Neither is cowardice.  Historically, Americans are willing to not only speak for those in need, but we have been willing to take risks to protect them.  I like to think of our country like the man who is willing to take a personal risk and step into difficult situations to protect those who are more vulnerable.  It is the country that we have tried to be in my lifetime.  But things are changing.

President Trump’s ill conceived, poorly executed, and legally questionable Executive Order barring refugees seeking safety in the United States, is an act of both hostility and cowardice that is antithetical to our American tradition.  Americans should be appalled, but for some reason 30%-40% of us are are not.  We should ask ourselves, ‘Is the extremely low probability of a terrorist entering the country a fair balance against the pain and suffering of millions of people?’  My answer is, ‘It is not.’  To let people suffer and die because we might have the slight risk of harm is not an American virtue, it is cowardice.

For a real look at the “dangerous” people that so many Americans are so very afraid of, take the time to view the documentary: 4.1 Miles.   It was made by Daphne Matziaraki and has been nominated for an Academy Award.  After watching it, just ask yourself, do these people deserve our hostility or should we really have such great fear of themI hope your answer on both questions is a firm NO!  Let’s tell our leaders that we can do more, bear more and be welcoming and brave Americans.

One Year Later

The Atlanta Downtown Connector – Jan. 20, 2016
A year ago today the weather in Atlanta was frosty and cold.  The threat of ice and snow caused businesses to send employees home hours early.  Today in Atlanta the tempature was 74 degrees; I played golf in short sleeves and many of my fellow golfers were in shorts!  

A year is a long time and at the same time it seems short.  It can be a time of joy and happiness or it can be a time of sorrow and pain.  We all get years, some good and some not as good but we only have so many.  Some people have 100, some 90 some 80, but some have only 10 (or less).  On balance, our years are more “good” than “bad” and that is a natural good for most of humankind.  This past year qualifies as a bad one for me.   My brother died at 57 years of age and then my mother died suddenly five months later at 90.  Death always depresses us at any time in our lives.  Years that I recall as ones that were “bad” are those in which I lost someone close to me that I loved (1963, 1964, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1980, 1994, 1995, 1998, 2016 twice).  I am 60 years old and have had 10 years in which I have lost a close loved one.  Don’t get me wrong, there are other years in which people that I knew, liked and cared a lot about died, and that’s common.  But these are the years that family members died; and it colors the year in a way that defies explaintion.

I am not sure where I am heading with this except to say that nothing that seems so bad  can actually destroy us and that on balance, we recall our lives with more happiness than sorrow.  For example, I have 50 “good” years and only 10 “bad” ones.  It doesn’t matter if it is the life or death of a loved one, our bank account, our politics, our sports or the weather, life is generally good, year in and year out. For that we should be thankful.

Did I say sports?  Speaking of sports, go Falcons!  I need a good year in 2017!   

Another Sad Day…

Helen Baxley Swope, October 22,1926 -December 16, 2016

My dear mother Helen passed away yesterday.  The picture here is from a painting my father had made sometime in the 1970’s.  I think Mom hated it but it was a good portrait of her in her late 40’s/early 50’s.  Despite her reservations about it, she let Dad hang it and it is still on the wall in their house.  It reminds me of my Mom, strong, beautiful and vibrant.

Mom led a long, productive, solidly middle class American life.  Born in the 1920’s she lived through the cataclysms of the depression and World War II before doing something unusual for a woman in her generation; graduating from Brenau College in 1950. Following her 1952 marriage to my father Paul she had three children whom she raised and pushed through school.  After we all left home, Mom volunteered at her church several days each week.  Her presence and dedication to Embry Hills UMC was so strong that people there started calling her St. Helen – in a admiring way.  A woman of many talents, she hand made over 30 full sized quilts along with dozens and dozens of needlepoint and crocheted items.

Mom was a strong woman, she endured the loss of her father in 1963, the death of her only brother in 1973 and then cared for her mother who had Alzheimer’s throughout the 1970’s (before we knew what Alzheimer’s was).  She also was a breast cancer survivor since 1977.  After a broken hip in 2010, she struggled with her health continuously.  When my brother died this past July, she said that when she died she would have some serious questions for him; I suspect he is trying to answer them right now!

Mom loved her family; her husband of 64 years, my sister, me, her in-laws, her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, all of whom she leaves behind.  She also loved Christmas.  The day of her fall that eventually led to her death, she had happily spent the day dragging my Dad from store to store to find the perfect Christmas gifts for her great-grand children and some sorority friends that she was to meet today for lunch. Her house wasn’t decorated until all 100+ Byer’s Caroler’s were on display and the tree was up and lit.  Mom, this Christmas is the first one in 91 years you will miss.  The gifts you picked out are still neatly placed on the bed upstairs, waiting to be wrapped.  We are all so very sad that you are gone.

It hasn’t been 24 hours since you died and I already miss you so much.  I’m going to miss your stories, your fierce pride in your grand and great-grand children, I’ll even miss the many, many questions about your vast array of technology (iPhone, iPads, PC, Kindle, etc.) but most of all I just miss you.  I know you now have  peace and are free of the pain that your aging and failing body had given to you.  I know you always loved me no matter what and I hope you know I always loved you.  Rest In Peace.

The #YearofMercy Comes to an End


This weekend the #YearofMercy announced by Pope Francis will come to an end.  The focus of the year was to have all people of good will reflect on God’s mercy toward us and how we are to extend mercy to others.  Recently I wrote a booklet containing a series of reflections for a tour of the Doors of Mercy in Atlanta.  I have been asked to post that booklet so others could have access to it.  It can be found here: Reflections at the Doors of Mercy.   Although the Year of Mercy is over, our need to extend loving kindness and compassion to one another in this troubled world continues.  Peace!

#Election2016 ends, at last!


Finally, the toxic and awful #Election2016 comes to a merciful end.  Like a huge number of Americans, I find both @HillaryClinton and @realDonaldTrump to be ill suited for the presidency.   According to most polls, the majority of Americans would prefer to have another option for the nation’s highest office – just about any other option!  Yet, we are stuck with these two major party candidates and one of them will become the president on January 20, 2017.   Continue reading “#Election2016 ends, at last!”

Progress Against Human Trafficking and Slavery 

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was part of a @CatholicRelief delegation that met with staff members of the U.S. Senators and Representatives to discuss H.R. 3226/S. 1968, which is the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act. This pending legislation requires publicly traded companies with revenues over $100 million to include in their SEC reporting statements that indicate they are working to ensure their supply chain is free from human trafficking and slavery.  Not all companies wait until legislation is passed to take right and moral actions.  One such company is Patagonia.  Watch the video to better understand the problem, a bit about Fair Trade and the good work Patagonia is doing.  If you don’t have 12 minutes, watch the short 2 minute version here: patagonia – Fair and Ethical Trade.

#CCGPoverty #FairTrade #CatholicRelief #EndTraffick