For more than three months, since Michael Brown died, the St. Louis region has been filled with fear and anger, and sometimes violence.
Many say that peaceful protests are called for. Some say protests give thugs cover to loot and burn and costs the area jobs and income. Some say the police shoot first and ask questions later. One friend, a policeman's daughter, says calmly that no policeman she has ever known got up in the morning and said, "I'm going to kill someone today."
I have dipped my toes in the chaos of the Christmas-before-Advent scene. I've been to the mall once. I've landed on radio stations that play Christmas music around the clock -- and quickly popped in my Rosary CD to escape the noise. I've seen enough of commercialized Christmas even though I have actively avoided it this year.
Advent is the only antidote.
But Advent only comes to those who know how to get quiet. It hides from those who hurry. It won't be found in the crowded places and packed spaces of shopping aisles and city crosswalks.
"Hogan!" The shout chased me through the deepening twilight. "Hogan!" No matter; the streetlights were coming on, and I had to be home anyway.
I was about 8. Maybe 9. But I remember, because the episode was painful. "Hogan," in the made-up lingo of my circle of neighborhood boys, had become a hateful thing to be called. Of course there were more common profanities with which boys of that age experimented. But "hogan" was, at least for a time, the worst.
I'm not foolish enough to think that we live in the only era of human history in which bad news dominates the headlines. Yet, despite the persistent feeling of helplessness, we can't just move along acting like it's business as usual.
We have to look in the mirror.
"The problem with the world is me," G.K. Chesterton once said.
I'm not a person who seeks controversy. I don't enjoy conflict. But I also can't ignore that our Roman Catholic Church shows up in some of those headlines -- and that some of the news even within our Church isn't all positive.
It's difficult to deny that we live in a culture obsessed with dieting and exercising. It's easy for us to see how saturated our culture is with exercise and diet programs promising us all kinds of weight-loss achievement.
We have learned how to best engage these health-management programs to maximize our desired outcome. Most people who diet and exercise achieve greater results when they set before them a regiment that is tempered with daily discipline.
November begins with a celebration of saints and sinners (All Saints and All Souls) and concludes with the uniquely American feast of Thanksgiving, a "harvest festival" that recalls God's abundant goodness to us. November is a time to be especially grateful for the people (living and dead) who have gone before us and for the goodness and beauty of the earth that feeds, clothes and shelters us as we journey to our heavenly home.