While there is much to criticize in current America, let us pause for a moment to meditate on the sparks and light that shine from among the 17 recent recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom honored by President Biden Thursday night.
Thomas Aquinas offers a stunning teaching when he says it is a great thing to do miracles, but it is a greater thing to live virtuously. I think it can be said that each of these people, through their work and the strength and virtue it took to sustain it, has lived virtuously. A thing greater than a miracle?
When people develop the sparks inside and steer them, in spite of nothingness and obstruction, to service, wonderful and praiseworthy things happen. Light and luminosity result that the rest of us can admire and be grateful for. And look inside to nurture the same within us.
One of the recipients, Sister Simone Campbell, a lawyer on behalf of the poor and oppressed, I know personally. An executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization, she headed the “Nuns on the Bus” movement advocating for healthcare, economic justice and immigration reform.
Her honor is not only richly deserved, but in many ways I see it as applicable to the many wonderful Catholic sisters of my generation who stood up and were counted without fanfare while standing for the poor and neglected, even when often being hounded by loud voices and well heeled forces on the right whether in church and society.
Simone is a perfect representative of these many solid women who walked their talk and made a life of justice-making inspired by Vatican II.
Not least among them is my former student, Sister Dorothy Stang who died a martyr in the Amazon for defending the forest and the peasants and the indigenous people of the forest. In her, as in so many, was a heart of courage and caring and generosity and a commitment of steel.
Other recipients of the presidential award include Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast in history and a prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety and victims of sexual assault. Fred Gray, attorney for Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King who said he was “the chief counsel for the protest movement.” Raul Yzaguirre a civil rights campion and president of National Council of La Raza for thirty years. Richard Trumpka, president of the AFL-CIO for more than a decade, advocate for social and economic justice. And many more you can look up here.*
Meditating on these people and their accomplishments is a prayer practice in itself. Meister Eckhart says: “Who is a good person? A good person praises good people.”
May we all turn our sparks into light and be luminaries for others.
See Matthew Fox, Meditations with Meister Eckhart, p. 128.
The Tao of Thomas Aquinas, pp. 97-100
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Queries for Contemplation
How do these recipients of the Presidential Freedom Medal inspire you? What difference does that make?
Meditations with Meister Eckhart: A Centering Book
A centering book by Matthew Fox. This book of simple but rich meditations exemplifies the deep yet playful creation-centered spirituality of Meister Eckhart, Meister Eckhart was a 13th-century Dominican preacher who was a mystic, prophet, feminist, activist, defender of the poor, and advocate of creation-centered spirituality, who was condemned shortly after he died.
“These quiet presentations of spirituality are remarkable for their immediacy and clarity.” –Publishers Weekly.