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Finding ‘Passion’ in the real world

Jessica Brock | Thursday, March 25, 2004

This is the true story of fifteen Notre Dame students picked to travel to Cuba for a week to find out what happens when people stop being silent and start acting Christian.For my theology class, I traveled to Cuba over Spring Break to study the Catholic Church. While staying one night at a retreat center, we saw some people watching a movie – “The Passion.” Those fifteen seconds that I watched Jesus’ feet being nailed to the cross stuck with me for the rest of the week as we traveled around listening to the stories of religious and lay people both on and off the island talk about life and the Church.Before going to Cuba and for the first couple of days I was there, I had the opinion that the Church in Cuba was not doing enough. I was disappointed by the lack of public protest and anti-Castro sermons from the pulpit. However, I now think differently. The Church is the only body in Cuba outside of the government that is recognized; this is both amazing and dangerous.On one side of the fence, the Church is allowed little freedom to work, and on the other the freedom can be taken away in a heartbeat by the government. The Church today in Cuba is able to provide social services for people that are not politically threatening like the elderly and AIDS victims. It also provides educational and social services to other groups in secret. The Church is working to restore families separated by 90 miles and 45 years. It works in a country that just arrested 75 political prisoners, where workers make $8 a month, where people don’t have free speech, press or assembly.Those religious people that do speak against the government have their phones tapped and their lives threatened. This is suffering for love’s sake. I realized that while I was pointing my finger at the Cuban Church, four fingers were pointing right back at me. I realized that while we are talking about “The Passion” over here, Cubans are living it.Americans often say they are thankful that they have the freedom to do and say what they wish. However, when I think about it, we don’t exercise these rights. Freedom of speech: how many of us, religious and lay people, fail to speak up about Iraq, homosexuality, women’s rights, migration and homelessness? Freedom of press: when was the last time you wrote an editorial article or contacted your senator or university president? Freedom of assembly: have you ever attended a protest or a city council meeting? I have not; I have failed. I think the Church has failed too. Rarely have I heard a controversial homily or seen a television advertisement promoting social justice from the Catholic Church. We have all of the resources we need – all of the resources Cubans would die for. Why are we afraid to be radical? Jesus is radical. It’s time the Church in the U.S. picked up its cross and started walking the road to Calvary with Cuba and other countries like it.One of the priests we spoke with in Cuba said, “On Judgment Day the bishops in Cuba will have a lot less questions to answer than those in the United States.” I think he’s right.

Jessica BrockjuniorPasquerilla EastMarch 24