In 2018, for the first time in nearly forty years, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published a pastoral letter against racism. Open Wide Our Hearts is a call to a humble and expansive love that respects human dignity and unites us all in Christ. Now, in Reading, Praying, Living The US Bishops' Open Wide Our Hearts, Alison Benders offers a resource designed to help parishes, RCIA programs, campus ministries, and Catholic readers unpack and grapple with this important document.
Benders provides background on the social doctrine that grounds the document, describes why it's so timely, and offers a plan for studying the letter, personally or as a group. In an engaging and accessible way, she walks readers through the scriptural, theological, and moral guidance needed to form our consciences and convert our hearts. And because the work of racial healing is a journey, not an event, each section of the guide also includes questions for personal reflection and attentive discussion and prayers for spiritual renewal or reconciliation.
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Racism is a sin that wounds and destroys lives. Catholics are not immune to it. When racism is present in our faith communities and families, we must denounce it and do everything we can to eradicate it. In 2018 the Catholic bishops of the United States acknowledged this much in a very important pastoral letter that echoed previous statements on this topic. The letter will have impact only if U.S. Catholics study it and take it to heart. Alison M. Benders’ Reading, Praying, Living the US Bishops’ Open Wide Our Hearts is a great resource to do exactly this. It explains the document’s structure, provides crucial background, and invites to prayerful engagement. The pastoral letter is thought provoking. This well-written guide stirs the heart and effectively moves the reader to action.
This book provokes the reader to create a more just community through a metanoia-a loving conversion regarding the issue of race. This transformation leads to confronting the structural sin of racism and transforming political, social, and economic structures so that every person can enrich the community with their personal gifts without having to leave their cultural heritage behind as the price of admission. In an age, when some faith traditions seek to retreat from what they see as the threat of a secular relativist public culture, Reading, Praying, Living the US Bishops' Open Wide Our Hearts to the contrary reminds us, at times in uncomfortable ways, that confronting and eliminating the scourge of racism is at the heart, not the periphery of being Christian.
In her latest book Reading, Praying, Living The US Bishops' Pastoral Letter Against Racism "Open Wide Our Hearts" A Faith Formation Guide, author Alison Mearns Benders offers a probing and immensely helpful companion guide to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop's latest encyclical on racism published in 2018. Drawing on her own journey toward enlightenment with regard to how racism disrupts genuine community, she walks alongside her readers pausing to give helpful context and background information furthering illuminating the rich teaching offered in the bishop's prophetic document. Indeed, this book is a timely gift offered to a divided church in need of healing.
Alison M. Benders is associate dean at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. She is the author of the award-winning Just Prayer: A Book of Hours for Peacemakers and Justice Seekers, published by Liturgical Press.