No Sympathy for the Devil

A little over a year ago, I wrote a reflection on how I felt about the Black Mass scheduled to happen at Harvard University. After reading Fr. James Martin's America op-ed 'Satanic Group Playing with Fire' I was reminded of how we as Christians tend to respond to all things satanic.

In addition to prayer, we write.

Here are my previously unpublished musings on that night the devil knocked on the door of Harvard Square:

Loving The Hell Out of Those I Dislike
"On each shoulder in her Massachusetts Hall office, perhaps a little angel and devil whispered in Harvard President Drew Faust's ear. Insult a group of people who follow the compassionate teachings of Jesus by allowing the Black Mass to happen at Harvard? Or, anger and incite worshippers of Satan before their big 'performance' by canceling it? Perhaps she chuckles at just how very Faustian this might seem.

And so, after hearing both sides, employing the gospel of academic freedom, with reluctance and disapproval, she determines the show, still must go on. (ie. #workisHELLtoday)

On this beautiful Monday at Harvard in mid-May, students are working on mapping the brain to improve Alzheimers treatment. Professors are improving the lives of learners in some of the poorest school districts across the country. Law students are providing pro bono service for entrepreneurial startups and a girl from Latin America is talking about how she's gonna run for office.

Sadly, none of this is front page news. Rather the country is talking about a small group of students in extension studies hosting a mockery of the Catholic mass. As a Harvard grad, employee, and Catholic, I am reluctant to publicly react, torn with how to act. There have always been issues I have had with Mother Church and issues I have had with Mother Harvard. Organizations led by people are inherently flawed and as a member of each community, it is unlikely to be completely happy with the full spectrum of their decisions. In general, I support the core tenets of both the Church and Harvard, yet this Black Mass conundrum has been a tough nut. So, what can be done here?

Friends have asked me how I feel about this and I've employed the serenity prayer during reflection of this issue: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.'

For me, the rub lies in the wisdom. Can I or can't I change this from happening? What is there to be said or done that hasn't already been voiced. Will I just be joining the chorus of "Dear President Faust" letters or might mine make that difference? Maybe even writing this article is exactly the kind of attention the Satanic Temple is looking to garner.

Well, countless serenity prayers have led to this perceived wisdom: I am going to love the hell out of those I dislike today. I'm going to love all those people who are desecrating Jesus, promoting religious intolerance -- and not feel hatred towards the Satanic Temple, cultural studies club or Harvard. Jesus might say, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." I say, "Father, help me to love better today." And this act of loving those we might want to hate is where the courage component of the Serenity Prayer comes in. The triumph of love, in communion with other followers of Christ, is the greatest weapon to evil. Tonight, Christians and allies from across the Harvard campus will be walking around the Yard, praying and convening at Memorial Church. Harvard will be alive with prayer and joy and LOVE. Religion will be in the air and the presence of Godliness and goodness will be ubiquitous. To those who criticize Harvard for being religiously intolerant, tonight presents both point and counterpoint.

I invite you all tonight, at 9 p.m. in St. Paul's Church or from afar, to collectively strengthen the spiritual soul of Harvard -- and with the greatest depths of courage, find serenity in the wisdom that we can make a difference and that good will always triumph over evil."

Note: The "Black Mass" never happened that night. St. Paul's Church saw one of its largest church crowds in recent history. I wrote this piece upon returning home and find the sentiment as relevant today as it did last year.