This year didn’t start off well. On January 3, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Twitter-taunted each other over their respective nuclear capabilities. The world braced itself as the Doomsday Clock inched closer to “midnight.” Humanity hadn’t been so close to collapse since the Cold War. Cooler heads prevailed, thank God, but 2018 was just getting started.
In February, we faced the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, becoming the deadliest high school shooting in US history. In April, it was discovered that some 87 million Facebook users were hacked by Cambridge Analytica. In May, the country faced a humanitarian crisis (and worldwide scorn) when more than 2,300 children were separated from their families after crossing the US southern border. The images of crying children in detention camps are emblazoned on our hearts still.
The rest of the year brought us no shortage of the unfortunate, from plane crashes to sex scandals to Roseanne Barr. But we’re still grateful. We have to be. In this season of gratitude, as a staff looking back at a tumultuous year, the following events gave our hearts a lift.
#MeToo at 1. It would be inaccurate to say that sexual misconduct in Hollywood started (or ended) with Harvey Weinstein. The vulnerable have been targeted in Tinseltown since silent films. But in 2017, a band of brave and righteously angry female actors took a simple hashtag and elevated it to a global movement and a rallying cry for equality. Male executives in the industry and beyond were put on alert. The rest of us are still in awe.
Survivors of Clergy Abuse. When US Catholics learned in August of a Pennsylvania grand jury’s report documenting priestly abuse of over 1,000 minors, it was like Boston revisited. Only a few shards of light could be found at that time: among them, the survivors who came forward and the angry religious who spoke out against the sins of the Church they love. As Jesuit Father Patrick Gilger wrote in a Vox article after the scandal broke, “I actually don’t feel that the bishops betrayed my trust, because they’ve never had it,” a sentiment shared by many.
First Responders. From the mass shooting at Texas’ Santa Fe High School in May to Hurricane Florence in September, our first line of defense has always been the brave women and men who face these unimaginable disasters head-on. Such bravery can only be described as God-given. Let us give thanks to the first responders who run into a crisis, fighting the very human instinct to run from it.
Young Activists. School shootings have become a political land mine, but this is so much deeper than a constitutional amendment. At its heart, it’s a right-to-life issue. The young people who survived the Parkland shooting, in particular Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, helped to organize the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC, for gun control earlier this year, and dared our elected officials to do more than pray. Although they were crudely labeled “crisis actors” by conspiracy theorists, the indignation of these young people is no act. They breathe life into 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe.”
Catholic Charities. The Rio Grande branch of Catholic Charities started Humanitarian Crisis Relief to address the influx of immigrants crossing our borders. Located at Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas, the center provides, according to its website, “a place for the countless men, women, children, and infant refugees to rest, have a warm meal, a shower, and change into clean clothing, as well as receive medicine and other supplies, before continuing onto their journey.” At a time when the immigration crisis has divided our nation, we are humbled by the work of Catholic Charities. Their numbers are stunning: As of 2015, they have assisted over 23,000 individuals.
Our Audience. Where would we be without the readers of our printed products, such as Franciscan Media books and this magazine? Even beyond our print family, those who engage with our social channels, our websites, and our e-newsletters, such as Minute Meditations and Saint of the Day, make up a vast, rich tapestry for which we are proud and grateful. From the smallest tweet to the most robust of web features, we have you in mind as we share the spirit of our founder.
The Franciscan Family. In this opulent and often grotesque century, living a life devoted to poverty and caring for the “least of us” must be a challenge. But the men and women who have given their lives to this calling still inspire us. Sts. Francis and Clare were revolutionaries—and they started a fire. It burns still. Their charism has become our charism.
A quote often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi is, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” There’s no evidence he wrote those words, but they are so integrally Franciscan that it doesn’t matter. As we look back on the year—and as we move closer to the next—let us be a light in the darkness for others.