May 31, 2020 — Today on Pentecost Sunday, Fr. Scott Santarosa, SJ, Provincial of Jesuits West, wrote a letter to Jesuits and Jesuit colleagues and friends on the death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement. “I hope we can be embarrassed and ashamed of ways we perpetuate injustice,” he wrote. “I hope we feel rage at the atrocities against George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and at other atrocities against our African American brothers and sisters that were overlooked or forgotten or unreported or unrecorded.”
Protesters in Minneapolis gather on May 27, 2020. (CNS photo/Eric Miller, Reuters)
“We pray and mourn for them, their families and our nation,” he wrote. Read the full text of Fr. Santarosa’s letter to Jesuits and their partners in ministry below and SP 2005-31 Pentecost:
May 31, 2020
The Feast of Pentecost
Dear Brothers and Friends,
“And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.” A noise like a strong, driving wind. Tongues of fire. These are images from our Scriptures today.
These are also images from the news, from cities all over our country, as people express rage at the violent death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis law enforcement — yet another atrocity committed against a black life in this country. As you watched the video of that brutality, I imagine you likewise felt rage, as did I.
I was moved this morning by an article in the LA Times written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He addresses the protests, the burning buildings, and the underlying racism this way: “I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.”
That reminds me of a comment made by a Jesuit recently during a listening session. He said that because of stay-at-home orders, there is less traffic, the air is cleaner and he can see more clearly the surrounding mountains where he lives. Likewise, in this time of the coronavirus we can see more clearly the unjust structures of our society. We must face the ugly social and economic truths that black and Latino/a people are affected by the virus at a disproportionate rate. We must realize we disinvest as a society in health and social services for people of color, and that our systems fail on every level to provide opportunities for those same people. And in our Church and our Society, we wrestle with our own history of racism and struggle on a daily basis toward equity, justice and reconciliation.
It is my ardent prayer these days that we can truly be responsible to this Moment. I hope that we can let the light in, to see the very air we breathe, in all of its ugly truth. I hope we can be embarrassed and ashamed of ways we perpetuate injustice. I hope we feel rage at the atrocities against George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and at other atrocities against our African American brothers and sisters that were overlooked or forgotten or unreported or unrecorded. I hope that we might double down on our commitment to the Universal Apostolic Preferences, to “walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice.”
We stand in solidarity with people of good will across our nation calling for justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Just as importantly, we pray and mourn for them, their families and our nation.
The miracle of Pentecost is that those present could suddenly speak the languages of those around them, and they could hear others — strangers — speak in their own tongue. It is God’s deep desire that we be One — with God, with the Son, with the Spirit. With one another. May that be our deep desire, too.
Scott Santarosa, SJ